The What and Why of this thing called AI

by | Apr 27, 2023

By Matt Iveson, Business Development Director

Chat GPT, Google Bard and Microsoft Copilot to name some of the big ones. It’s already getting busy in the AI space.

Are we excited?

Not really. AI is often trumpeted as a panacea that’s going to change industries and be the death-nell for many professions in fields such as the law and accountancy, and as much as I might welcome the reduction in fees, it’s yet to deliver on these promises.

And what of the sales professional? How is it going to impact/revolutionise/transform/eradicate (delete as applicable) their key role in keeping the economy humming?

Well, first let’s start with some clarification;

There’s no such thing as Artificial Intelligence

I would often announce this heresy to stunned senior management types when I worked in the field of data and analytics, the response was telling, either a worried furrowing of the brow or a knowing, slight nod of the head.

The reaction usually telegraphed the level of understanding that lay behind the gesture.
Did they know the dark secret that all that lay behind the curtain was machine learning, perhaps structured, but nothing more complex than a guess at what to do next, from a list of possible options (albeit a list as extensive as the entire internet these days).

At the end of the day it’s a neat algorithmic trick. It has some really useful applications from allowing a bank to calculate account risk at a line item level, or to allow an insurer to calculate each individual customers correct risk premium. Tasks which were ludicrously difficult or impossible before machine learning and required grouping customers based on assumptions, rather than a tailored calculation.


But, what does it mean for the sales leaders and their teams?

My best answer is that it’s another tool in the armoury, nothing more, nothing less.  Like all its predecessors it has the capability to save time and bring a level of efficiency. 

What do I mean? 

I think it has the capability to automate some of the administrative tasks that are necessary. 

It’ll help with timely and accurate population of the CRM with important information.

It could help to improve forecast accuracy by comparing the salespersons perception of the deal stage against activities and comparative metrics from other opportunities.

Used within chatbot style technologies, it’ll help customer success by signposting support assets and directing customers within learning portals.

It might even make useful suggestions for which pieces of collateral it would be appropriate to share with a customer at a given stage in their buying cycle.

And for those of us that struggle to put together a visually appealing presentation, features such as Copilot will help us to create something that looks less like something done by a toddler with a fistful of crayons.

But please notice that these are all tasks that can be grouped into the “what” category.

AI/Machine learning can play a role in some sales.  It very effectively helps me with online purchases by making suggestions for products based on my online activity and on occasion is very good at upselling me.

But it can’t do the things that sit in the box marked “why?”.

And for me that’s the key.

The “why” is where value lives.

It’s how you tap into the business and personal benefits you’ll deliver to your client.

It’s where you differentiate your offering.

It’s the difference between a compelling proposal that communicates value and a word salad that marks you out as an also ran.

And, it’s where all manner of your soft skills are deployed to get under the skin of the customers you work with, the problems you solve for them and the relationships you build.

As good as an AI is, can it do all that?

To paraphrase the words of Hal from 2001 a Space Odyssey:

“I’m sorry Matt, I’m afraid I can’t do that”