Salespeople operate in constantly shifting environments. Every day they contend with new situations and changing information, and no two customers are the same. 

To remain in control, companies deploy CRM systems as their system of record, or "single source of truth." CRM systems house plentiful data, and there are more than enough reports and charts. 

But sometimes that compounds the problem.  

Often the glut of data makes it hard to assess what is relevant and what is just noise. While easy to generate, reports and charts are often hard to interpret.

Artificial Intelligence: Over Promised, Under Delivered

An abundance of product offerings using artificial intelligence or predictive analytics have recently emerged as potential solutions to the problem.  

However, in the context of enterprise sales, these approaches fall short in two ways. First, enterprise sales is a small data problem, not a big data problem — there is not enough consistent data for an individual rep to draw accurate conclusions. 

Secondly, any functioning artificial intelligence system must first be taught the intelligence. The system needs a base of knowledge from which it can make assertions based on data, and it needs to understand the context of the problem it is solving.  

Google’s driverless car had its first accident in February, "because it did not know that a bus was less likely to give way in traffic than a car."  No one had taught it that.

The Limitations of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence has made great strides in automating tasks, but to truly improve the way we sell, we need to learn from every engagement, understand the next best action in the context of the task at hand, and provide knowledge and coaching, in real-time, based on what has empirically worked in the past.

Relying on AI to deliver the insights can limit the salespeople working with AI-enabled solutions to information and courses of action that the machine “knows.” 

The dynamic nature of sales engagements and the differences between every customer requires solutions that identify and adapt to those differences, solutions that learn and grow by assimilating the experiences and outcomes so that others can benefit from the knowledge gained — based on the ‘muscle memory’ of millions of successful and failed sales engagements. That concept is called “augmented intelligence.”

Augmented intelligence is information technology that enhances the performance of the people who use it, that increases engagement by improving productivity, while also evolving as the knowledge base of the users grows. It starts with knowledge embedded and codified "in the box" and improves with the learning that comes from using the technology.

The Risk of Oversimplification

The problem with the artificial intelligence found in many black box solutions is that it reduces complex processes (like customer engagement) to simple if-then equations, which rarely if ever represent what’s really happening. In fact, in its oversimplification, AI may even impair progress.

Most sales people understand that they need to connect with the right people and take inventory of the business problems those stakeholders and their influencers care about most. They need to identify the pain points that their buyer is ready to spend money solving and then they need to demonstrate that their solution solves the problem equally or better than the competition.   

In a complex B2B sale, that can mean analysis of a lot of data.    

Successful selling requires context and insights. Solutions must parse out the most important data and then present it in context, so that sales people can leverage the information quickly and productively.

Augmented Intelligence Helps Salespeople Evolve

Augmented intelligence improves on traditional AI. Augmented intelligence solutions act as an extension of the people using them. 

Software with augmented intelligence can follow a salesperson through the sales process, and adapt to each new step of the customer journey in real-time. Unlike artificial intelligence alone, augmented intelligence doesn’t follow a predefined set of instructions, but anticipates actions, and when combined with insights, can deliver guidance for a broad range of situations.  

Sales people need to make decisions, or present solutions, that work best for their customer, on the spot, in-real time. Making that decision requires a clear understanding of the customer's problems, whether and how the solution they are selling can fix that problem, and the potential obstacles that might arise moving forward. 

A complex B2B sale can involve hundreds of moving parts. Augmented intelligence analyzes the landscape and proposes a path forward, while still offering transparency to allow the sales person make the most informed possible decision, and coaching them with prescribed guidance on what they should do next.

Delivering Tangible Benefits

Some large B2B sales enterprises employ tens of thousands of sales people, introducing human resource complexities not present in smaller organizations. Augmented intelligence ensure consistency across the sales organization, a common language and processes, things like all sales people gaining access to the right decision makers, and disqualifying opportunities early that should not be pursued.   

Our research shows that businesses in the US lose $579 billion annually attending meetings that never go anywhere. For some enterprises, the cost savings of not chasing deals that are eventually lost are substantial. The research further highlights that for every $1 million sold, the cost of lost deal pursuit is $218,000.

CRM engagement is always a hot button. The reluctance of sales people to populate CRM systems is famous. The cause may be that the value garnered from the effort is less valuable than the time saved not making the effort. 

We've all heard the statistic that 87 percent of sales training is lost within the first 30 days after attending a training event. Augmented intelligence delivers just in time, situation or engagement specific training, which other training or simulation environments cannot replicate.  

This reduces the time to onboard new sales people since they will get the coaching they need, when they need it most. Spending countless hours onboarding to prepare them for the multitude of situations they will face in the field is ineffective — better to get them into the field immediately, learning on the job. 

Bridging the Gap Between Sales People and Software

Sales is too much of an art form to rely completely on a machine, but the business imperatives of speed and insight make technology essential. Augmented intelligence bridges the gap between salesperson and software to make sales people more proficient at their jobs, more professional in their engagements and more valuable to their customers — which, ultimately, is our primary goal.