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After Dreamforce 2017: Be Pragmatic about Artificial Intelligence for CRM Sales

by Tad Travis  |  November 9, 2017  |  Submit a Comment

It was impossible to escape talk about CRM artificial intelligence at Dreamforce this year.  Be it Salesforce’s improvements to Sales Cloud with Einstein, or the multiple roadmap conversations I had with Salesforce ISV’s, AI is now the number one topic in CRM Sales technology.

No deep prognostication this:  AI will definitely be an essential, permanent element of sales technology. Whether it is AI for lead scoring, or AI for recommend next best actions on deals, or pricing optimization, or a salesbot that completes automates mundane tasks for representatives, the future is present.

AI, particularly in the form of predictive analytics, is already embraced by certain sectors, like high tech firms.  They’ve been using predictive analytics for lead scoring for so long, they are on their second or third provider already.

However, before we fall in love with this technology, we need to remember an important point.  Sales processes are messy.  They are full of inefficiencies, uncertainty, and risk.  And I love sales for that reason.  It is a challenge, and one that can be quite noble at times. But things are changing. Selling cannot always be an art.

The quest for revenue certainty, which is as subtle twist on the traditional goal of revenue growth, can no longer be an academic exercise now.  Revenue certainty requires sales execution certainty.

Therefore, the greatest relevance, in the near term, of this technology is something that is mundane but nonetheless important. AI will serve to smooth-out some of the rough edges that make selling risky and arduous.  For example, if algorithms can process a new email from a prospect for buyer sentiment, and then immediately update the health score of a large deal, sellers will benefit. Sellers get a clearer picture of the deal’s health faster than they will by relying on traditional evaluation methods alone.

So, my best advice is to prepare for the future, but maintain a measured perspective and have modest expectations.  Rather than thinking about using the technology to merely drive out inefficiencies (which it does), or thinking that it will magically fix your sales processes, take a more practical approach.  Focus on a more durable corporate objective, like revenue certainty.  And then build an incremental roadmap for AI that will augment and improve specific selling motions that support that big picture objective.

Category: crm  crmsales  customer-experience  sales-enablement  salestech  

Tad Travis
Research Director
1 year at Gartner
15 years IT Industry

Tad Travis is a Director in Gartner Research. He is responsible for managing the Sales Performance Management (SPM) sector of Gartner's CRM research practice. His research focuses primarily on SPM tools and capabilities to drive sales effectiveness and efficiency in all industries. Read Full Bio




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