AI in CRM scores big with sales and marketing leads

CRM artificial intelligence revolutionizes the sales process

Until a few years ago, the term artificial intelligence conjured up images of The Terminator movies, or, for older science-fiction fans, 2001: A Space Odyssey's HAL 9000 computer.

Today, AI is no longer fiction. It penetrates everyday life, with virtual assistants such as Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa, self-driving cars and map apps. The convergence of big data and processing engines has given rise to AI in CRM. Some vendors brand their products -- SAP Leonardo, Salesforce Einstein, IBM Watson -- while others skip the "smart" name and just call it what it is: CRM AI, or human-tuned algorithms paired with machine learning technology.  

The first and perhaps most effective application of AI in CRM is lead scoring, which has long assisted salespeople in choosing the most-likely-to-buy customers to call on. In the past, plain old algorithms aligned the leads with static rules set by humans. With AI, lead scoring starts with the algorithms then takes into account user-defined factors. In theory, AI will teach itself how to weigh each factor that goes into a salesperson's lead scores and derive better lists than "dumb" algorithms could on their own. That's the hope.

Then come AI-powered virtual assistants that will automate tasks for sales and service workers, chatbots assisting customers in simple tasks and routing communications to the right humans, and content-generation tools creating one-to-one personalized marketing materials to help seal the deal. Apps that can do some of these tasks already are available for some CRM platforms, and we predict they'll be widespread in a matter of months.

This handbook offers a snapshot of where we are with AI in CRM and how C-suite leaders should think about using the technology for better sales, service and marketing in their own organizations.