AI in Sales Will Change the Marketing Funnel – Get Ready!

 In Artificial Intelligence

Marketing’s relationship with sales has changed a lot in the last 15 years. Well-defined lead stages including MQLs and SALs are what many B2B marketing organizations now structure themselves around. Both sales and marketing have significantly increased their efficiency. Marketing now provides sales with leads that are well defined, and forces metrics around campaign efforts to optimize results.

However, now that the overall revenue funnel approach is maturing, flaws are starting to show. Marketing has grown more sophisticated in understanding buyers from earliest signs of interest, through to qualification. However, sales has generally worked with much less insight into buyer motivations.

The handover from sales to marketing

When marketing hands over leads to sales, often the lack of insights quickly becomes apparent. Unless interest is high enough to drive an immediate purchase, sales is stuck in an endless sequence of “just wanted to check in” emails until they finally give up and recycle the lead to marketing.

The stoppage is not because the buyer has stopped providing hints as to their interest; they are likely just as active as when they were first qualified by marketing’s lead scoring rules. However, salespeople are generally blind to that insight, or at least blind to any useful way. And you can’t really blame them. Data is often delivered with a firehose, making it difficult to draw insights from it.

AI can make salespeople more powerful

Everything is about to change with the advent of artificial intelligence in sales. AI can easily watch a whole range of activities and point out the best opportunities for outreach. By continuously watching for the best moments to connect, an AI system allows every salesperson to seem like a diligent, helpful, and timely advisor. Sales needs to adopt what marketing has been doing consistently and take advantage of buyer data.

Marketing

AI can enable sales to make use of insights into buyer behavior, and thereby more targeted outreach. We will see sales being able to focus on individual pain points of individual buyers within an organization. Account-based marketing and account-based sales strategies have focussed on buyer personalization for some time . However, a focus on individual pain points puts more pressure on marketing and changes how we’ve approached the definition of the revenue funnel.

Rather than a single point of handoff for a lead, marketing will need to focus on the continued generation of insights into buyer pain points. Each marketing interaction can provide an opportunity for sales to start a conversation and a relationship with one person at an organization. Even once a conversation has started, marketing can continue to unearth more opportunities for sales to show value and build trust.

A new role for marketing

The new role for marketing is very different. It’s no longer about simply getting MQLs and then an over-the-fence handoff to sales. Instead, it’s a long-term relationship with the buyer whereby marketing uses its tools of mass communication and message definition to source moments when buyers might need some form of assistance. A deep relationship between marketing and sales, enabled by artificial intelligence, will enable teams to find the best opportunities to build trusted relationships.

It’s a major change for marketing, but it’s a change we all need to be ready for.

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Experienced SaaS CTO. Founded and guided the building of Eloqua to a market leading position in Marketing Automation. Now Co-founder and CTO at Nudge. Author of the book “Digital Body Language" with a passion for innovation, cloud computing and software evolution.
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