Many of my clients across industries are working on leveraging AI to help salespeople do more. Successful implementation scenarios have one thing in common: selling is guided by AI. In other words, AI isn’t replacing sales reps, but rather, it’s improving their chances to succeed.


So, what, then, is the role of AI in sales? It should help reps by providing timely insights derived from data, and provide predictions about a customer’s propensity to buy or churn, their potential, and the right timing to engage them (among other things). The aim is to help sales reps develop deeper relationships with their customers. Salman Mukhtar and I contemplated these ideas and more during our presentation at the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative Conference. We discussed the following guiding principles:

  • An AI-based solution must provide superior results. If the models are just marginally better than what an unassisted salesperson may achieve, then why bother? Each organization must set a minimum threshold for model performance and determine the lift it expects.
  • The models must be interpretable. A salesperson will act on a recommendation generated by AI only if she understands why it’s being made. For example, a customer is likely to buy because other customers with the same consumption profile buy.
  • How the recommendations are being made is important. Whether it’s using an app, a tool or a CRM solution, the delivery must be simple, the recommendations must be in context with where the customers are in their life cycle, and, most importantly, they must be actionable.
  • AI should not ask the rep to do something fundamentally different. The guidance must work with the existing processes.
  • Lastly, involving your first-line sales managers in the process is critical to driving success. It’s better to start small and be successful before being more ambitious. It’s important that they understand and support the organization’s objective. 

By following these key principles, you can seamlessly integrate AI into your team’s selling process, letting it supercharge your sales force and drive more results for your firm.