Updated: Jul 28, 2021
Empower salespeople with AI
Last year I participated in my first open innovation challenge, the TD Ameritrade Innovation Quest. The purpose of the contest was to empower salespeople with artificial intelligence - AI. TDA wanted to enable their financial advisors to achieve greater success and better serve their clients. Specifically, their instructions were:
"discover innovative technology ideas that can transform the way advisors do business and interact with their clients."
There were three winners out of 600 entrants in the contest, and I wasn't one of them. However, it was a blast using my designing thinking skills, and I believe you will find the information I gleaned valuable to empower salespeople through AI. After all, in the world of innovation
There is no failure. You either win or learn.
In the preparations to submit my idea, I did what all design thinkers do - I started with user interviews. My users included the leader from the department that supported advisors, advisors, and customers. Inquisitively, I dug into what was working, what wasn't, and how their experience could be improved. Through this collaboration and identifying key areas and themes, I discovered five ways AI can inspire hope for the future.
AI inspires hope for the future when leaders shift the focus from eliminating positions to empowering people. @KarenZeigler
While your company may not have financial advisors, I believe you'll find it applicable to your sales team, executives, or any high-profile employee role. But before we jump into the five ways, lets dream about how the day of such empowered salesperson would go. Let me tell you the story of David and his superstar AI assistant Betti. Betti, the name I gave my idea, stood for Building Extraordinary Trust Through Intelligence. After all, sales are built on trust.
Sales is not about selling anymore but about building trust and educating. -Siva Devaki
Envision a New Day for the AI-empowered salesperson
A stellar start
David arrives at the office with a smile on his face. He slept extremely well after a busy evening of coaching his daughters soccer game and celebratory dinner after they won. In addition to a contentment with his family life, David had also found a calm in his work life with his new assistant Betti. Normally, his morning commute consisted of anxiously going over the things he mustn't forget on the days agenda. Now, he enjoyed his favorite personal growth podcast. Confident that Betti has everything organized and ready for him to hit the ground running. His morning starts with a meeting to review of all the work that Betti has completed throughout the evening while he was away. Here's a short list of work completed for David's review and execution:
Betti starts David's morning by reciting his appointments for the day and the promises he has made to clients to accomplish todays deliverables.
Betti has drafted follow-up emails from yesterdays meetings including additional sales brochures, regulatory documentation, and forms for signature..
Financial transactions are qued for execution based on prior client meetings.
Regarding today's prospect meetings Betti has prepared research, appropriate brochures, important sales tips, and the paperwork to close the sale. Betti has also set reminders of important things David should remember to ask about in 2nd or 3rd meetings - such as the clients vacation, ill parent or important business meeting.
Betti has also completed some research for an upcoming clients birthday present, the hotel arrangements for his next travel appointment, and leisure options for down time while he's traveling.
David handles all the reviews and presses send on the emails and transactions in the que. All with time to breathe and refocus before welcoming his first client into his office.
A productive day and peaceful evening
While David is meeting with his clients, Betti is meticulously taking notes and providing crucial prompts. Prompts that provide valuable sales, compliance and behavioral science tips that help David look downright genius. Betti also calls clients to confirm tomorrows appointments, begins filing today's notes into Davids CRM, his calendar and client's online file. At the end of the day, she recaps the work she has completed with David and reviews tomorrows schedule. Reminded by Betti's recitation, David adds a couple more items to her to do list before shutting down his computer for the day. Betti thanks David for the work and gives him one last reminder. Don't forget to pick up roses for your wife on the way home - just because. David heads out the door with the same peace of mind he walked in with. He's ready for a great evening relaxing at home.
Five ways to empower salespeople with AI
1. Top of Class Administrative Assistant
While we may have Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa AI has a long way to go in terms of replacing the administrative assistant of the pre-personal computing era. The position of secretary is vanishing, but before the age of personal computing, administrative assistants were the mainstay of professionals. They did far more than type their documents. And the added workload their disappearance dumped on professionals was the beginning of the increased stress and anxiety that is epidemic in companies today. Here are is a short list of some of the everyday activities administrative assistants were responsible for that AI has the potential to absorb:
Scheduled, reschedule, and confirmed appointments
Research locations, speakers, catering and the of planning events
Take notes in meetings, handled the filing of those notes, added vital information from those notes to your calendar or to do list, ensuring that you followed through on all you said you would do.
And speaking of follow-through - AI assistants access the cloud for documents for signature, brochures or specs about products discussed and a whole plethora of useful sales tools. Then automatically draft an email with attachments ready for the salesperson to review and send.
Execute system transactions on specified dates. In the financial world, this could be trades, transfers to savings, etc. with the review and push of a button.
Reminded you of special client birthdays and events and would even do the shopping for you.
Imagine the productivity and creative power leaders could unleash for salespeople! As the world goes paperless, all of these are possible. If Nest can figure out my air conditioning temperature preferences in under two weeks, then an AI assistant can learn my hotel preferences, find the perfect gift for a golf lover, or remind me to ask the customer about their vacation in Michigan.
2. World-Class Sales Coach
In my first career as VP at Bank of America, it was my responsibility to be a sales coach for my team. As the problem-solver and turn-around Queen for low performing offices, I would often find myself observing sales associates. It's likely as a leader, you play similar roles or oversee those that do. Therefore, you understand it doesn't take long to notice additional questions you would have asked, products sold, or objections adverted with simple shifts in the conversation. While as team leaders, we can't always be sitting next to our sales associates coaching them to sales success, AI can be that ever-present coach and aid.
Whether your company hires Grant Cardone, Colleen Stanley, or any of the other top 30 sales gurus, you know this - sales is a process. And process automation is among the top three ways AI supports companies. Although data has done wonders providing diagnostic and interactive visualization after the fact, intelligence in the form of a sales coach will be a game-changer. From qualifying to demonstrating value, to overcoming objections, AI can be an everpresent sales coach to guide salespeople through the sales process to success.
3. Premier Customer Care
Depending on the size of your organization, sales and service are separate departments or all-in-one. Nonetheless, customer care is essential. Whether one person is handling sales and service or sales hands-off tasks to service is irrelevant for the discussion here. What is relevant is the distinction between customer service and customer experience.
Service provides something of value that the customer didn't have before their interaction with your company representative. Examples include answers to their questions, solutions to their problems, transactions completed, products, or services for an unmet need. On the other hand, experience provides a feeling that they didn't have before their interaction. Examples include joy, peace of mind, cared for, valued, or confidence in themselves.
Service is (or should be) constant and unchanging. The answer is the answer, and the product is the product. Conversely, the experience is about connecting with the human spirit. It's the feeling one human (the customer) receives from the humans in your organization and the physical environment. While AI can play a role in the experience, such as keeping the lighting, temperature, and coffee made in a perfect setting, AI can play a more significant role in the service. Such as providing answers, matching products to customer needs, and executing transactions. The more automated these service items become, the better. The less thought and energy salespeople put into rote service items, the more they can create an experience that keeps customers coming back again and again.
4. Perfect Compliance Officer
The average cost of noncompliance is $14.82 million annually. Huge in comparison to AI's average MVP costs of between $35,000-$100,000, depending on the project size and complexity. Nonetheless, I've never met a salesperson who starts their day, asking, "How can I cost my company millions of dollars and ruin my career today?" It's just not the general intent of the majority of corporate salespeople. Another statement you don't hear a salesperson make is, "I can't wait for the next compliance training?" The real salesperson - one who loves taking care of clients' needs and getting paid well to do it - would prefer to focus all their energy on sales.
Given the excess burden compliance places on companies and salespeople, there is a tremendous opportunity for AI to be a superhero. Examples include:
Delivering and documenting appropriate disclosures to clients
Obtaining signature on compliance document
Alerting advisors of potential violations during client conversations (after all Betti is already taking notes for the CRM) Any missteps in language can be corrected on the spot with further documentation and disclosures as needed.
Even the notes themselves are compliance requirements for financial advisors, and they may be for others.
Ensure the meeting of all parameters. For example, in the investing world, there are many requirements necessary for the sale of certain products. Betti can make sure liquidity, net worth, and other requirements are met.
5. Leading Behavioral Scientist
Similar to the Sales Coach highlighted above, AI can assimilate the leading behavioral science sales techniques. Whether it's the sales process or behavioral science, there are clear steps for increasing sales success. Steps that AI is adept at following and can be created to guide salespeople. Such things as
Show multiple product options - behavioral science shows that two choices can increase sales by as much as 66%.
Share what others are doing. Storytelling is compelling social proof that sells.
Remind salesperson that the likelihood of sales increases the faster the response and the right amount of follow-up.
AI can schedule directly into CRM the prime time for making sales calls.
There is a long list of ways behavioral science can be used to improve sales. The challenge for leaders is how to equip salespeople with the knowledge in the most efficient way possible. Equip them in a way that is a benefit and not a burden. In reality, not all salespeople want to pursue a degree in behavioral science, but all salespeople want to succeed. AI is an opportunity for leaders to do just that.
Unleash the real power of AI - the ability to empower people
Whether you start with one of the above, a combination, or tackle them all at once AI is a powerful tool. A tool that is multiplied and maximized by every salesperson that it empowers. When leaders unleash the power of AI, they give the ability to succeed to every salesperson. It's more than training, based on the persons' ability to absorb the information. It's about assistance in real-time in meaningful ways. AI has the power to help leaders assist those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better. It may very well have the most significant impact on employee well-being and company success than anything experienced thus far.