At the risk of being proven embarrassingly wrong, I think that history will find that 2016 was a seminal year for sales automation technology. It was the year that the third wave of sales automation technology broke into the mainstream.
- Wave 1: Client-server and desktop based sales systems
- Wave 2: Web 2.0 and API-based sales systems
- Wave 3: Algorithmic sales automation with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence
2016 was the year in which all of the major SFA vendors either announced or released embedded predictive analytics and artificial intelligence capabilities into their SFA products. Predictive analytics for sales removes the uncertainty inherent in lead scoring and sales forecasting, replacing human-educated guessing with algorithmic machine learning models.
Gartner also reviewed the first commercially available sales bots. I think that sales bots, which Gartner calls Virtual Digital Sales Assistants (VDSA), will be a transformative technology. VDSA will become the primary interface by which sales representatives manage their work. When combined with artificial intelligence systems, VDSA will become the cognitive system that removes much of the inefficiencies common in B2B sales processes.
In 2016, Gartner continued to see improvement in systems that automate decision making with guided selling capabilities and sales acceleration systems.
These technologies are united by two themes: algorithms remove the inefficiencies that are common in decision making, and they add a higher level of process automation than previously provided by legacy sales technology.
Wave 3 SFA technologies are not particularly new– some sales predictive analytics providers have been in business for more than 5 years. But to date, their solutions have been largely enjoyed only by high-tech and software companies.
This is changing. Given recent interest in these technologies from companies outside of high-tech, I think that mainstream acceptance of algorithmic sales automation has begun. This interest, combined with the new algorithmic offerings from the large sales vendors, means that the market for sales technology has permanently shifted. Thus, I fearlessly predict that 2016 will be deemed the year that algorithmic sales automation broke into the mainstream.
Gartner clients can read more about algorithmic sales automation here.
On the note of fearless predictions, my Gartner colleague Todd Berkowitz has created an excellent list of predictions that are relevant to anyone involved in the technology of sales and marketing.
I cannot possibly improve his list. Todd is very good at highlighting which developments are worthy of more attention and at explaining how these developments apply to technology vendors’ sales and marketing processes. Please follow him on social channels, if you are not already doing so.