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AI-guided selling is the future. Is your company ready?

In the Summer 2021 Release, Seismic announced the launch of its artificial intelligence (AI) engine, Seismic Aura. The AI engine combines human intelligence with machine intelligence to create more impactful buyer engagement. Seismic Aura is a response to increasingly complex sales cycles and greater demand for seller productivity. 

I was recently joined by Seismic Chief Product Officer Krish Mantripragada to discuss the ins and outs of AI-guided selling, what it means for sellers and marketers, as well as Seismic’s vision for AI in sales. Highlights from our conversation can be found below. 

The shift to the cloud was transformational for businesses. When you think of AI, is this a shift that will fundamentally change how we use data?

Krish: Yes—this is a generational shift in technology. It’s one of those waves as big as the internet because today we’re used to systems that continuously generate various amounts of data. The footprint that each of us has across the different systems we use is just exploding.

It’s a perfect storm in terms of availability of data and the comfort level in sharing this data set, as well as the evolution of processing technologies, the drop in processing power costs, and the rise in processing power capabilities.

This is what’s creating such a generational shift. The core algorithms of AI and underlying technology have been around for some time, but the confluence of cloud computing, cheap data storage, and the proliferation of devices and methods has made it easier to take advantage of the power of AI.

There’s an argument to be made that AI-guided selling can help growing companies reach new heights. Can you explain how AI can help companies become even more successful? 

Krish: The hardest part of getting to the number one position is staying there. There may be great success, but there’s always something to improve upon.

So the way we look at AI is not either/or, but the combination of human and machine intelligence. Your organization has a lot of best practices and institutional knowledge—has accumulated great insights from past experiences and based on that, has devised best practices and core competencies in several areas.

AI helps augment that because there are many other datasets—much larger datasets and many more patterns that may not be obvious to the human eye and that can have a material impact. 

While some companies may have been great in terms of generating success, the business environment changes, new challenges emerge, and products evolve. So, it’s a constantly changing, adaptive environment that may be beyond the human ability to analyze and evaluate all of the implications. It’s the combination of AI and human intelligence that can help companies that are already good to become even better. 

Can AI help businesses forecast and anticipate these changes before they arise? 

Krish: The short answer is Yes. The idea is to leverage the different signals that are becoming available from various interactions to get smarter and prepare for the changes.

For example, what has dominated the past 18-24 months is the shift to digital. When you talk about completely digital, there are numerous engagement channels that have surged in usage, from email and social media to Zoom.

Each of these provides us with new levels of data and insights that never existed before. So, how do you identify patterns and behaviors that are resonating, and result in successful behaviors, from those that don’t? When you’re interacting with a client over Zoom or a social channel, what is the best form of engagement? How do you personalize the interactions and make them more relevant?

These are all patterns that AI can help analyze and predict based on past behaviors. Collective intelligence can identify early warning signals when things don’t resonate or suggest the channels that are most appropriate for a particular scenario.

Can sellers maintain their authenticity with buyers if they’re leveraging recommendations from artificial intelligence?

Krish: The job of AI and recommendation engines is to make the right recommendation to the seller at the right time—something that goes beyond what the seller may be able to determine by themself.

For example, if a seller is working on a particular account at a specific stage in the life cycle, AI can run against other similar selling situations where certain behaviors have resulted in positive outcomes and use that information to make a smart recommendation.

Ultimately the power lies in the hand of the seller as to whether they choose to take advantage of these recommendations, or if they want to personalize and tailor them to their needs.

We’ve discussed how AI will benefit sellers, but what impact will it have on buyers? What should they know about AI-guided selling?

Krish: If you look at things from a buyer’s perspective, demands from them are only continuing to increase. They’re more informed and more knowledgeable about competitive situations, offerings, technologies, the problems they need to solve, and so on.

So buyers increasingly expect an intelligent, contextual experience from their sellers. If the seller doesn’t meet these expectations in the very first interaction, then they’ve already lost the deal.

Buyers are looking for the right content that’s contextual and fully aligned to address their business challenges. Essentially buyers expect an engaging content experience that is purposeful and to the point.  

Even the best of the best sellers get surprised by opportunities or risks that they may not have anticipated. So, AI is an assistant to make sellers’ lives easier, rather than replace them.

Krish Mantripragada, CPO | Seismic

One of the common concerns about automation and artificial intelligence is that these technologies will replace workers. Should sales professionals be concerned that AI is coming for their jobs?

Krish: The winning combination involves both human intelligence and machine intelligence. If I’m a seller, any tool or assistance that I can get that will make me more productive, I’m all ears.

Sellers are looking to make their selling experiences easier and more productive, and close more deals. It’s like turbo-charging the behavior of the most productive sales reps and institutionalizing and democratizing it.

AI has the power to sift through much larger, more complex datasets and look for patterns that you as an individual may not be able to identify. Even the best of the best sellers get surprised by opportunities or risks that they may not have anticipated. So, AI is an assistant to make sellers’ lives easier, rather than replace them.

Artificial intelligence is a technology that improves over time, as it aggregates more data. For companies that adopt AI-guided selling today, how might their future look in five to ten years?

Krish: Every time there’s an interaction or engagement, new forms of data become available. You leave breadcrumbs behind that can tell a lot about how that interaction went.

Data will only continue to grow and businesses that take advantage of these datasets and use them as a competitive advantage will be the ones that are going to win.

Companies that adopt AI early will be able to differentiate themselves from their competitors because the more data you leverage, the more patterns you discover, the smarter your recommendations become, and ultimately the more deals you’ll close.  

How will AI benefit marketers and help build synergies with sellers?

Krish: At any large B2B company, you have thousands of sales reps working in multiple geographies, responsible for hundreds of products, and serving multiple industries.

You may be dealing with customers in different stages of sales cycles. Marketers constantly struggle to figure out what content will be most effective for a given scenario, seller, and environment. This is a challenge that’s ideally suited for AI technology.

You can collectively analyze signals from combinatorial data to help marketers figure out the effectiveness of content, its relevance to specific sales stages, and even the format or preferable channel for activation. AI helps marketers better understand different sales scenarios and prepare them to better serve the needs of their sellers.

AI has been around in sales and marketing technology for some time now. What is Seismic doing differently?

Krish: Content is king. We have always been about creating tools to enable sellers with the right content, at the right time, at the right place in the right formats so they can be most productive in engaging with their buyers.

We have been capturing lots of data around content usage in different situations and the interactions with buyers across different channels. We are combining this data with data we capture from other systems such as CRM, Marketing automation, etc. that help us contextualize the selling situation.

When AI is applied to these combined datasets, you can make very targeted recommendations for specific pieces of content in specific sales situations. And we do this at scale so not just a few, but every seller in the organization is armed with this intelligence to optimize their engagement. This is truly unique to Seismic.

What most excites you about Seismic Aura?

Krish: I’m most excited to be able to help sellers in the moment. Today, sellers are increasingly being challenged to build meaningful relationships with customers in new ways over digital channels remotely.

They need to take advantage of any differentiation they can get to foster connections with their buyers.

Seismic Aura is an omnipresent digital assistant that constantly evaluates different seller actions, constantly absorbing the context and using it to make intelligent recommendations to empower sellers and make them more productive.

I’m excited for sellers to be able to take advantage of a powerful, intuitive tool and look forward to seeing how they push the limits in using it to make their customer engagements more meaningful. 

If you’d like to read more about Seismic Aura and AI-guided selling, visit our resource page. 

Tony Smith
Tony Smith
Sr. Content Strategist
Tony Smith is a Senior Content Strategist at Seismic where he creates blog and thought leadership content. He has 12 years of experience as a marketing and communications professional, and is passionate about using storytelling to help customers solve their business challenges.

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