Augmented Intelligence and the Future of Selling

By Greg Kaplan

In today’s digital era, sales teams miss or beat their quotas by how they use their data. The problem with data, however, is that entering information into Salesforce has become a time drain for salespeople. As Bluewolf found in its fifth-annual The State of Salesforce report, 79 percent of salespeople regularly spend time during their work day inputting the same data into multiple systems.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, sales leaders can not only streamline data entry for salespeople, but also get more bang for their buck with the data housed in CRM.

That’s because Augmented Intelligence (AI) makes it possible for a sales team to access all kinds of data about the digital behavior of potential buyers – including habits, preferences, and purchase history – and put it to use at every stage of the sales cycle. With the combined AI capabilities of IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein, sales can instantly access actionable analytics from every channel – social, email, mobile, Web – to understand what prospects want and when they’re likely to buy.

The best part? Because of AI’s unique and far-reaching capabilities, the definition of a successful sales organization is changing. Reps no longer must spend hours entering data into Salesforce. We can think of AI as a type of digital assistant for sales that eliminates the daily tasks that burden sellers and selling organizations – searching, organizing, and interpreting data – to connect with prospects and customers.

For example, Augmented Intelligence enables salespeople to warm up cold calls with meaningful insights that personalize their conversations. IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein can work together to provide relevant insights for every individual customer or prospect. To do this, Watson analyzes all available external data, pulling out the right pieces of information to share with Einstein, which will then analyze them in the context of specific contacts to suggest the next best action and prioritize the pipeline.

As AI continues to improve how we sell, sales managers have an ever-increasing responsibility to change their sales culture. The ability to define and share best practices for analyzing customer data is a priority for 68 percent of salespeople – the highest of any function.

Integrating intelligent capabilities into your sales organization is a smart investment in your salespeople. The use of intelligent applications and better forecasting results in greater efficiency and achievement of higher revenue goals. Among companies whose core CRM applications are intelligent (able to anticipate and either take or suggest the next action), 66 percent say their forecasting accuracy has improved in the past 12 months. And that, in turn, fosters more confident salespeople, who are twice as likely to believe they’ll exceed their goals when their forecasting accuracy has improved in the past year (according to results of The State of Salesforce report).

With the recent media blitz of AI initiatives and growing news coverage of AI’s rapid adoption rates, it’s easy to feel intimidated by the next phase in cloud computing, but don’t be. IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein APIs can be customized to fit the needs of sales organizations of any size and industry. Start with Bluewolf’s AI Blueprint to build the business case and roadmap for AI in your organization.

Greg Kaplan is global chief revenue officer for Bluewolf, an IBM Company. He single-handedly built and manages Bluewolf’s global sales organization, which sells strategic services into accounts of all shapes and sizes in the Salesforce market and is on the path to becoming a multibillion-dollar business.

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