What Watson and Einstein Mean for B2B Sales Teams

The introduction of AI-based capabilities into CRM systems such as IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein is set to dramatically increase the effectiveness of B2B sales and marketing teams.

Machines are rising; and, therein lies an opportunity for sales leaders.

In March this year, Salesforce and IBM announced a deal that would integrate Salesforce Einstein with IBM Watson, a form of AI geared toward understanding unstructured information such as human language as opposed to computer language. For Marc Benioff, Salesforce’s CEO, the partnership caps a series of high profile acquisitions in the AI and workplace productivity spaces. His counterpart, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, announced IBM was strategically investing in Bluewolf through a new practice to help clients deploy the combined IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein solution.

AI for Everything versus AI for Everyone

While the depth and scope of IBM Watson’s capabilities have been described as “AI for everything”, Salesforce Einstein has been positioning itself as “Artificial Intelligence for everyone”. Within a year of its launch, the adoption of Salesforce Einstein has grown at a staggering pace and AI usage is increasing rapidly, in part thanks to its strategic collaboration with IBM. A study conducted by IDC suggests that over 80% of B2B sales teams are currently considering using artificial intelligence to improve the way they score leads and opportunities while 87% are looking at AI to enhance their reporting and forecasting. Einstein and Watson, though very different in their core functionalities, can act as a pair of virtual data scientists that connect to transform customer engagement across marketing, sales and customer service.

Currently a number of enterprises deploying AI in their sales and marketing processes are often placing “account-based everything” at the core of their automation. As CRM platforms incorporate AI into their automation capabilities, sales teams should expect their lead-to-revenue management tools to gain more teeth.

For example, the Einstein High Velocity Sales Cloud is frequently used by B2B sales teams to automate the capture of activity data or score leads. Einstein Analytics helps businesses make more informed decisions on campaign performance.  And this appears to be only the beginning. “AI is the next platform,” claimed Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. “All future applications, all future capabilities for all companies will be built on AI.”

But IBM and Salesforce are not the only ones surfing the AI wave. An entire new generation of data-driven sales and marketing software vendors are leveraging AI to change the way businesses operate.

AI Assistants to Streamline Sales

Sales managers may choose from a variety of AI tools to improve or expedite their sales, from gatherings the latest news on a prospect, or detecting an event that may impact the course of a deal.

Toronto-based Nudge leverages machine learning to source news and social updates on both the individual and account-level decision makers by filtering data from across the web. This in turn helps sales reps have more informed conversations with their prospects and relate more effectively to a customer’s specific context.

Other AI assistants have made a niche for themselves by simplifying the tedious process of updating a CRM or facilitating sales training and coaching.  Gong.io for instance allows sales managers to record their teams sales calls. Moreover, San Mateo-based People.ai helps teams manage their time more effectively by applying natural language processing to emails, meetings and calls.

AI for Sales Leaders

Beyond automating workflows, simplifying tasks or recording activities, one, if not the most promising aspects of new AI platforms like Einstein and Watson are the way the allow sales leaders to leverage the predictive and prescriptive capabilities of AI. Sales leaders can derive valuable action-based insights on anything from resource allocation to compensation management and budget planning. For example Cien – a sales productivity app that complements Salesforce Einstein – goes beyond automating the capture of activity data or scoring leads. The app, which looks and behaves more like a fitness tracker for sales teams rather than a traditional business analytics tool, can calculate the optimal balance between inside and outside sales reps or measure the intangible, human factors that impact sales, feeding teams with personalized suggestions and actions that help a team achieve its goals.  

Beyond the Scope of Human Intelligence

As  Ray Wang, Principal Analyst and Founder of Constellation Research, points out, AI and machine learning demonstrate “the most potential in not only democratizing decisions, but also augmenting sales teams with actionable insight.” 

And whether it’s through platforms like Einstein and Watson or standalone apps like Nudge or Cien,  AI is poised to dramatically increase the effectiveness of B2B sales and marketing teams by going beyond the scope of human intelligence.

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