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How machine learning and AI are empowering CRM software

5 min read
Jason Gabbard
Director, Product Management Conga
Man working on two laptops

The world of sales is poised to be revolutionized by artificial intelligence (AI) technology. With the IDC projecting that worldwide revenues from AI will reach $97.9 billion by 2023, this technology is going to become more prevalent. But how does AI fold into customer relationship management (CRM) sales? And how will AI and CRM affect each other? In this blog post, we’ll cover the many ways that AI is transforming the world of CRM, and how it’s expected to continue doing so in the near future.

The benefits of combining AI and CRM

AI is a catchall phrase that includes things like predictive analytics, Internet of Things, machine learning, language processing, deep learning, and big data. You're already using AI without realizing it. Every time you do a Google search or scroll through your Facebook feed, AI is in the background personalizing your online experience. As a result of these "in the background" technologies, consumers are becoming accustomed to living in a world that adjusts to their preferences and needs. 

Modern human sales teams are now competing against high-performing teams that use the latest AI tech to help boost their productivity. AI is a digital colleague that does things like take over mundane tasks, give sales teams deeper insights into their customer base, and help with cross-team collaboration. With that in mind, it becomes clear why the combined powers of machine learning and CRM have the potential to transform the way sales teams operate. 

Automate mundane tasks

According to a study conducted by Inside Sales, 64 percent of salespeople spend most of their time on non-revenue generating tasks such as arranging their schedules and account maintenance. AI can help sales reps by automating several manual tasks, making sales teams more effective and productive:

  • Completely automates data entry — something that takes up 17 percent of a salesperson’s day
  • Automatically logs lead engagement interactions such as phone calls and emails
  • Communicates with customers for you through technology such as chatbots 
  • Generates customized emails and communication to current and potential customers

Although AI automation has been one of the biggest productivity boosters of recent times, it can be overlooked or treated with skepticism. "Using AI to auto-generate a weekly status report or pick the top five emails in your inbox doesn't have the same wow factor as, say, curing a disease would, which is why these near-term, practical uses go unnoticed," says Craig Roth, Research Vice President of Gartner. 

However, these benefits shouldn't be disregarded, with a recent report finding that businesses can thank AI for a 44 percent increase in their teams' productivity. High-performing sales teams are already using AI to generate reports, collate documents, create call lists for hot leads, and automate data entry into CRMs.

Hyper-personalized communication

Businesses are also using AI to enhance prospect and customer experiences, and to help sales teams make high-level decisions quickly and accurately. Additionally, CRM technology is becoming smarter, learning from interactions with the data. AI algorithms within CRMs help sales reps by automating segmentation, purchase history, online interactions, and other attributes.

For example, a CRM can flag a sales rep when a prospect has opened an email. The sales rep can then place a perfectly-timed call when the prospect has them top of mind. “AI...work together to provide insights from historical CRM and company data, or even external data sources across industries and verticals. These insights will play a major role in empowering sales reps and enabling them to (make) the right decisions to close deals fast," said Srivatsan Venkatesan, Freshsales CRM product head.

Suffice to say that AI is critical in helping high-performing sales teams with lead scoring and flagging which leads are ready to go through the next stage of the sales cycle. These processes take the guesswork out of their sales process by telling sales teams next steps to close deals. In order for sales teams to stay ahead of their competitors and close more deals than ever before, while still delivering a top-notch buying experience, they must go beyond using their CRM as an expensive Rolodex. AI should be looked upon as a tool that helps sales teams get that extra edge in a highly competitive environment.

Increase customer trust

When it comes to making and closing a sale, customer trust is paramount. Yet trust for salespeople is abysmal: only 3 percent of people regard them as trustworthy. It seems that salespeople have their work cut out for them when they attempt to foster a genuine connection with a potential lead. So why don’t more people trust salespeople? A big part of this mistrust may lie in the fact that sales teams don’t communicate quickly or efficiently enough — or in a manner that demonstrates a desire for true human connection. 

It might seem counterintuitive that the solution to mistrust among potential leads is to automate the sales process, but it’s not as risky as one might think. AI enhances the human aspect of sales — it doesn’t simply replace it. Yes, AI gives CRM the potential to automate time-consuming busy work, giving salespeople more time for customer interaction. And yes, personalized communication helps customers receive emails that are tailored to them. But a large driver of customer trust can be found in the data insights and reporting:

  • Predict customer behavior, such as what a lead needs depending on where they are in the sales funnel
  • Catch human error and anomalies before the lead sees it and loses confidence in the salesperson
  • Offer leads special offers depending on their history
  • Keep lead information centralized, so you know when you last communicated with them, and what was discussed
  • Communicate with potential leads wherever they might be, whether that’s through chatbots, emails, or phone calls

When salespeople have the tools to communicate more effectively, they can invest in customer relationships. This puts an emphasis on customer retention instead of just customer acquisition, as leads are encouraged to stay with a company they’ve trusted from the get-go. In fact, in a study of CRM users, 47 percent say customer retention was significantly impacted by the software.

CRM puts an emphasis not just on lead generation and acquisition, but on their long-term relationship in your company. When powered by AI, CRM is an investment in customer trust for the long haul. 

The larger digital transformation conversation

The advance of AI technology in sales organizations is just one piece of the greater digital transformation wave hitting the business world. Leaders in advanced stages of digital transformation are connecting systems to customers, enabling automation to reduce unnecessary manual processes, and quickly analyzing new data to identify areas of opportunity. As a result, digital transformation leaders are now collecting massive amounts of data, and that data is impossible to leverage effectively if it lives across systems and clouds that are not consistent or connected. 

Companies must invest in the right technologies as they make their transformation to ensure the increased amount of data they are collecting is connected across systems, so that it may be analyzed, understood, and integrated back in the business to deliver its full potential. 

As AI spending increases around the world, companies have begun investing in CRM software. Today, there are many options out there for AI-driven CRM software, including the following brands:

  • ZOHO
  • Zendesk
  • Salesforce
  • Freshsales
  • Adobe
  • Oracle
  • Conga

Conga provides a connected suite of digital transformation solutions, helping organizations to simplify user experiences and increase productivity through visual process automation. Learn more about how Conga is transforming business processes and modernizing businesses through digital transformation.

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