Today, prospecting is a manual process that requires time-consuming personalization in order to stand a reasonable chance of obtaining a positive response. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way – artificial intelligence is rapidly changing the way we interact with others and providing tools that will enable you to dramatically enhance your prospecting capabilities.
A brief history of AI
Long before the advent of artificial intelligence, objects were imagined as intelligent beings. Ancient Greek myths described robots, while Chinese and Egyptian engineers constructed automata. Ancient philosophers attempted to describe human thinking as a symbolic system, and these are the origins of modern artificial intelligence. In 1956, the term "artificial intelligence" was coined at a conference at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where the field of AI was formally founded.
Many scientists, like MIT's Marvin Minsky, were extremely optimistic. However, achieving artificial intelligence was a complicated process. Government funding and interest in AI dropped off following several reports that criticized progress in the field, known as the "AI winter" between 1974 and 1980. The field later revived in the 1980s when the British government began funding it again in part to compete against the Japanese. In 1987 to 1993, there was another major winter that coincided with the crash of the market for some of the early general-purpose computers, as well as reduced government funding.
Following that, research began to pick up again, and in 1997, IBM's Deep Blue defeated Russian grandmaster Garry Kasparov to become the first computer to defeat a chess champion. A computer system created by IBM called Watson won Jeopardy in 2011 after defeating Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.
AI is depicted in Hollywood movies and science fiction novels as humanoid robots that take over the world, however, the current advancement of AI technologies isn't that terrifying. Artificial intelligence has evolved to provide a variety of benefits across numerous industries. In every field, there is high demand for AI technology – including systems that can automate, learn, assist lawyers, notify risks, and perform research. AI is specifically used in healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and banking – but also in marketing!
Identifying and reaching out to prospects
Most people with established sales methods use a similar approach to find and connect with new prospects.
As a first step, you need to consider what your ideal customer profile looks like. You’re likely looking at your CRM data or reports from your Sales Ops team to know your top industries and customers to target their competitors.
Depending on the size of your organization, you may have invested in an external database, or you may use a tool like Sales Navigator to find your ideal prospects. The next step is crafting the all-important first stage email for a promising contact using LinkedIn or a multi-stage contact tool.
Not too fast there. In between, we have to check your CRM activity to make sure there isn't anything happening with the contact already. It happens to all of us – after doing all the research you find the perfect lead only to discover another territory manager already has that lead in their hands. As long as the lead is clear, it is safe to move on to the next step.
In your email, you will likely include information you have gathered about your prospect online, such as what they studied or where they attended school. Something that will help you establish a personal connection. If it's a particularly hot prospect, perhaps you spend a few extra minutes researching and personalizing the email with a reference to a recent news article or financial results of their company. Unfortunately, your competitors are doing the same thing, and so this is no longer a differentiator for you – your prospect is likely getting a few of these every day.
There you have it – a typical prospecting journey from start to finish. Often manual and clunky, and it sometimes feels like sales leadership doesn't appreciate the amount of effort needed for this phase of the sales journey, with low yields. Is "prospecting more" or "it's a numbers game" something you've heard before?
The challenges of prospecting
Though there have been many shortcuts developed over the years, the prospecting process is a tedious and time-consuming process that, let's be honest, no one enjoys.
- It takes a lot of time
- Response rate is low, or even worse, unsubscribe requests!
- Changing between multiple applications such as Salesforce, LinkedIn, and Sales Navigator
- There is a lack of data and insights – the best intel comes from years of experience and real-world experience
- Having the resilience to do this every day with a fresh outlook
As you read through the list, I'm sure you're nodding your head in agreement.
AI personalization: What is it and why should I care?
The purpose of AI personalization is to categorize and extract valuable insights from sets of data. As part of sales prospecting, an AI solution will help you identify your best-fit accounts, identify new contacts, and personalize your outreach.
For each individual contact, imagine your perfect, well-researched message. You can have half a day's work done in just a few clicks.
The impact of AI on prospecting
By leveraging AI correctly in personalization, the quantity versus quality dichotomy can be resolved. While prospecting can be a numbers game, the thought and insight required to personalize messages severely limit the number of messages that can be sent and the number of connections that can be made.
The use of artificial intelligence can help you overcome this problem and reach out to a large quantity of people with highly personalized messages with hardly any effort. A dream come true, right?
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