Artificial intelligence has proved to be an indispensable tool in boosting the B2B sell-side. Here’s how.
If you’re a B2B company, you’ll probably realize the need for leads beyond anything else. Essential in driving sales, but hampered severely by the pandemic, generating leads has become a major challenge for business-to-business sales organizations lacking the know-how to reach new potential clients.
This has made it even harder for potential clients to connect with such firms early in the buying process, as a result of which companies are being forced to shift to selling remotely – via emails, video conferencing, online chats or phone calls. In fact, by 2025, Gartner predicts almost 80% of all B2B sales interactions to take place digitally.
The Kearney study
To this end, consulting giant Kearney conducted a study in 2020 asking B2B sales agents what the biggest obstacles to growth were. Over 40% of the agents pointed to the need for leads to generate higher top-line growth with SMEs, while the lack of leads with newer customers was seen as the second-biggest challenge.
Image source: Kearney
On the buy-side, COVID-19 seems to have made consumer behavior even more unpredictable. Kearney writes: “Many B2B buyers are conducting their own research and discovery before engaging with potential vendors—turning to extensive Web searches as well as other publications and blogs now that the pandemic has put face-to-face conversations somewhat out of reach. Unfortunately, this means that many leads are only identified after B2B customers are halfway through their decision-making process.”
The rise of the digital wave in B2B selling thus makes analyzing individual data points even more important. A vast data set can now be perused to “uncover important insights about factors such as buying intent and event triggers.”
Aspects of artificial intelligence, such as automated processing, reasoning, and deriving insights are now an integral part of B2B sales. A study from the Harvard Business Review recently confirmed the positive impact of AI in B2B sales: including 50% more leads for calls, 70% shorter calls, and a 50% drop in costs. The biggest takeaway from this exercise, however, has been the mercurial rise of account-based management (ABM) software.
ABM platforms are those which offer features such as account-based analytics, advanced personalization, marketing automation, or sales and marketing alignment. Over 70% of ABM platform leaders, reports Kearney, found a return on investment (ROI) of over 10% higher than in traditional sales and marketing approaches, with 45% even saying their ROIs had been doubled.
The ABM industry, valued at about $650 million in 2018, is expected to rise to almost $1.2 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of almost 13%. Early adopters – media, telecom, and IT – are expected to spearhead this growth.
- AI-powered ABM platforms: Electronics giant Panasonic, for example, has been using an AI-powered ABM platform to connect buyer insights and intent information across customer journeys for a while now. US-based electronics giant Dell too reports that AI-based ABM platforms allow them to be eight times more likely to open an opportunity, achieving a mind-boggling 350% increase in average deal size as well.
- AI-powered predictive analytics in marketing automation: Kearney reports: “Social media platform Facebook uses its tool Lookalike Audience, an AI-based analysis of common qualities such as demographic information or interests, to help companies find people who are similar to their existing customers.”
- AI-powered customer relationship management (CRM): Japanese electronics giant Epson reported a 240% increase in customer response rate and a 75% rise in the number of qualified leads by using AI-automated email communications. US software firm Hubspot’s use of AI-based chatbots has helped streamline their customer interaction process drastically.
Kearney writes: “Using AI in sales, especially to generate leads, is a major driver for business growth with existing customers and with new prospects. And in a world where most interactions are digital, AI-technology becomes even more important.”