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October 19, 2023·10 min read

The Ultimate Guide to AI in Sales

AI in sales is inevitable. To succeed, sellers must embrace AI, prepare for its effects, and leverage it to free themselves from monotony, fostering more human connections.

Did an elementary school teacher ever tell you you needed to learn long division because “you won’t always have a calculator in your pocket?” Little did they know how ubiquitous smartphones would become. Today, it’s far less efficient to do back-of-the-napkin arithmetic—sure, you theoretically could. But it’s a waste of time.

We’re reaching the same inflection point with AI in sales.

Today, AI in sales is the calculator in math class. It will expand rapidly into the sales process in ways you must be ready for. If you’re not learning it, you’re, at best, wasting time and, at worst, going to be left behind.

We get it. Adopting new tech can be tough. It’s not as big of a step as you think—in fact, the sales tools you use daily are likely already using AI, so you may already be using it in your regular workflows, even if you don’t realize it.

Getting significant efficiency gains is just a matter of bringing AI from the background of your sales tools to the foreground of your work. And with some practice, ChatGPT can become your new email-, LinkedIn-message- and video-script-generating BFF.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about using AI in sales, from standard terms to AI use cases to tips for adoption. Let’s dig in.

Vidyard Prospector using AI to auto generate prospecting emails to targeted accounts.
Outbound Sales, Automated. Vidyard Prospector using AI to auto generate prospecting emails to targeted accounts. Spend less time hunting leads and more time hitting quota with Vidyard Prospector. Learn More
  1. Contents
  2. What’s the Difference Between AI, LLMs, and ChatGPT?
  3. Why Use AI in Sales?
  4. 5 Key Impacts of Using AI in Sales—A Nuanced Take
  5. Will AI Replace Salespeople?
  6. Easy Ways to Start Using AI Today
  7. How Will AI Affect Sales Management?
  8. Top 9 AI Use Cases for Sellers
  9. Final Thoughts: The Future of AI in Sales

What’s the Difference Between AI, LLMs, and ChatGPT?

The words “AI,” “generative AI,” “ChatGPT,” and “large language model” are not actually synonymous—even though folks sometimes use them interchangeably. Let’s break them down.

Artificial intelligence (AI): Computer systems capable of performing tasks that usually require human intelligence, such as learning, reasoning, and problem-solving. AI development began in the 1950s, with early research focusing on rule-based approaches—aka solving math formulas the way a human would. Machine learning (ML) is a form of AI.

Generative AI: An AI technique that “learns” from datasets and can be prompted to create new content—such as text, images, video, and code—that resembles but doesn’t precisely replicate the data it was trained on and is often powered by an LLM.

Large language model (LLM): A specialized type of generative AI consisting of a neural network with specific parameters trained on vast amounts of text and capable of creating new text. (At the most superficial level, it uses math to predict the next word.)

GPT: “Generative pre-trained transformer,” the name of a series of LLMs created by OpenAI. The most current version is GPT-4, which ChatGPT is built on top of.

ChatGPT: A chatbot, built as a layer on top of OpenAI’s GPT-4, that can respond to prompts and conversationally interact with humans. (Check out our Really, Ridiculously Good Guide to ChatGPT).

Why Use AI in Sales?

Imagine a world without the telephone or the Internet. To do your job tomorrow, you must print out your contact list and drive around town in your Buick, knocking on doors. How much slower do you think you’d be as a salesperson?

AI will make the way we sell today feel just as inhibited as selling without the telephone. Today, written language tasks take up more than half of total work time, which can be easily made more efficient through automation and AI. In fact, Accenture estimates that AI could increase business productivity by as much as 40% by 2035.

It will eliminate a whole class of activities and activity logging used to drive salespeople up the wall. Learning to use AI means saving time, staying competitive, and future-proofing your skills.

5 Key Impacts of Using AI in Sales—A Nuanced Take

I believe there are five key ways in which AI will bring new value to the sales process, as shown in the table below.

And while the majority of these changes will be positive, as with all new technologies, there will be unintended consequences. It’s vital to get ahead of these and potentially mitigate them. You’ll thrive in this new AI era by understanding what’s coming and preparing for whatever AI might bring, both the positive and the potential negative.

Value of AI in Sales

Benefits for Sales Teams

Potential Negative Repercussions

Greater EfficiencyAI can automate repetitive tasks like prospecting and emailing, allowing sales professionals to be strategic.

More time can be spent on high-value activities. Discovery calls become validation calls.

Job displacement: Automation almost certainly will reduce demand for some sales roles, particularly entry-level ones focusing on repetitive tasks.

Low-value activities will be eliminated.

Improved Decision-makingAI analytics can help identify trends, predict customer behavior, and optimize pricing strategies. Aka, no more pitching the wrong package or long, drawn-out negotiations.Data privacy concerns: The increased use of AI can raise concerns about data privacy and security. Will prospects be creeped out when AI knows too much about them?
Personalized CommunicationAI can tailor messaging and content to individual prospects, increasing engagement and conversions. It’s all that research you do on social instantly.Over-reliance on technology: Sales professionals may lose the human touch and creativity in sales engagements. It’ll undoubtedly increase spam for a time. And maybe inspire powerful AI-blocking filters.
Better Lead PrioritizationAI can analyze data to score and prioritize leads, ensuring sales teams focus on high-value prospects. Not just better scores. These are genuinely insightful tips for prioritizing your day like a seasoned coach.Implementation challenges: Integrating AI technologies can be complex and costly, especially for smaller businesses. And it’ll move so fast it’ll be challenging to keep up.
Faster Sales CyclesAI-powered tools can streamline the sales process, helping you close deals faster and reduce cycle times. Imagine having the call, then the proposal is done by the time you get off.

Bad salespeople will still be bad salespeople, and AI won’t make them better, just more efficient at being bad.

Ethical considerations: AI-driven decision-making may introduce biases or unfair practices, leading to ethical dilemmas or legal challenges.

Procurement teams are also leveraging AI to understand you, the seller. They will know your margins and what your other customers paid, potentially adding more objections to the deal.

Will AI Replace Salespeople?

If AI can write, call, and produce video scripts—what’s your place in all this? Are you even still necessary to the sales process?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is it’s complicated.

Here’s the hard truth. AI might create some reshuffling in sales teams. But it won’t be quite as dark or dystopian as you might fear. Unlike in the movies, your AI assistant isn’t going to fire you and take your job 🤖.

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That said, AI tools can potentially reduce the need for many tasks salespeople perform today. The good news? They’ll be the repetitive and labor-intensive ones. Think data entry, cold calling, cold emailing, and, gasp, updating your sales pipeline.

This may mean that entry-level BDR or SDR roles gradually start to disappear, or they’ll change significantly since these roles primarily consist of calling and emailing. While this change may be difficult for some to navigate, it will ultimately result in better outcomes for both people and business, including greater efficiency, fewer monotonous tasks, and more time for human sales engagement. Paradoxically, by engaging AI, salespeople will have more time to be human. This human element will become increasingly valuable because delegating to AI is impossible. What would you do differently if freed from all monotonous activities?

If you’re concerned about your role, now’s a great time to start upskilling. Below, we share some practical tips for AI adoption in your workflows—and help future-proof yourself.

Easy Ways to Start Using AI Today

  • Make AI your sales writing assistant: Are you struggling with a great subject line or LinkedIn message? Let AI do the brainstorming. Make an account on OpenAI and check out our guide on writing AI sales prompts to learn how to generate winning sales copy for every phase of the buyer’s journey.
  • Create better video content with AI:Mastering video selling will be key to competing in the new sales landscape. Use AI to help generate compelling video scripts for your video outreach.
  • Get fast feedback: When your manager’s busy, you can get AI to coach you. Feed your call or video transcripts into ChatGPT or your AI tool of choice and ask it to provide feedback and suggestions to help you improve. If AI generates those scripts, start a new session. Once it realizes it didn’t write it, it’s brutal.
  • Automate your prospecting efforts: If you’re part of a small team, a full-cycle account executive, or even a founder at a startup, having to take on the role of lead gen and prospecting is daunting. Luckily, there are AI-powered prospecting tools to help you build your targeted lists, write your cold emails, and perfectly timed follow-ups for you.
Vidyard Prospector using AI to auto generate prospecting emails to targeted accounts.
Outbound Sales, Automated. Vidyard Prospector using AI to auto generate prospecting emails to targeted accounts. Spend less time hunting leads and more time hitting quota with Vidyard Prospector. Learn More

While AI will change what the sales landscape looks like, there will always be demand for empathetic, human sellers—and those are the skills that remain critical over the next few years.

How Will AI Affect Sales Management?

It’s not just entry-level roles that will be impacted by AI—sales management will have to adapt, too. Many sales managers are very numbers-driven (Have you updated your pipeline yet? Upped your commit?), but what’s going to be required in the future is a human approach to sales leadership. AI can handle the numbers, but it can’t manage people.

Gone are the days of a “Wolf of Wall Street”-esque sales manager banging the drum about activity and quota. In the future, managers will be valued for their human discernment, coaching skills, and ability to maintain the consistent voice of the brand.

If you’re a sales manager, now might be the time to ask yourself, “What’s the value of my role as a manager?” Better yet, get your team to provide feedback on the kind of sales coaching and support they’d find valuable. Start thinking beyond the quota to figure out how you can help your team sell better.

Top 9 AI Use Cases for Sellers

AI is already baked into many sales tools—including many of the ones you probably already use daily. Here are a few key AI applications you can experiment with in your regular workflows.

  1. CRM and Sales Automation: Your company can use AI to help manage customer relationships, automate tasks, and provide data-driven insights to optimize sales performance. For example, automatically logging activities, writing summaries of calls to save in Salesforce, better commit forecasts, and so on.
  2. Sales Enablement and Analytics: ChatGPT can summarize and analyze call logs and provide feedback. Try using AI to analyze sales calls, meetings, and content, providing concrete recommendations for improved communication and deal closure.
  3. Lead Generation and List Building:AI-powered lead generation tools let you set your territory and target audience and build you a targeted list of prospects you can engage with right away.
  4. Lead Scoring and Prioritization: With AI integrated into your lead and intent-scoring tools, your tools can more effectively digest data points about who’s in the market for a solution like yours and analyze prospect behavior—ensuring that you focus your effort on the highest-value leads.
  5. Chatbots and Conversational AISales and marketing teams can set up AI-powered chatbots to engage with website visitors, qualify leads, and assist customers, streamlining communication and support and handing off to you if it’s qualified.
  6. Marketing Automation and Personalization: Marketers can use AI to create personalized marketing campaigns, optimize content, and improve conversion rates.
  7. TL;CR (Too Long; ChatGPT Read): Leverage ChatGPT to summarize long-form texts to save time. ChatGPT can analyze lengthy email threads, whitepapers, and other materials. Just copy and paste the text and ask it to summarize, identify the parts that matter to you, or whatever else you hope to learn.
  8. Mastering Sales Role-Play: Want to sharpen your sales skills but dread role-playing with your boss? For a unique approach to sales training, try sales role-playing with ChatGPT. Run through sales scenarios, practice your pitch, and navigate as many tricky objections as possible. It can even share tips on improving (provided you’re willing to take feedback from a robot).
  9. Social Media: Today, go-to-market teams can already use AI to analyze social media data, track brand sentiment, and inform marketing strategies. In the future, sellers will also embrace their own brand and use AI to help with social posts, enabling you to communicate your ideas quickly, like a Canva for text posts.

Final Thoughts: The Future of AI in Sales

Do you remember when you were first allowed—encouraged, even—to use a calculator in math class? You not only could work a whole lot faster, but it also freed up your brain to tackle more significant, more complicated problems that would have taken ages to work out on paper.

AI will do the same thing for sales—and it’ll be nothing short of a superpower. Everyone will get their own assistant and, like using a calculator, it’ll free you up to tackle more interesting problems. Using AI will release you from the parts of the sales process that have been manual and monotonous and enable you to spend more time engaging in human connection.

Ready to get started? We have many guides and resources to support you on your journey. You’ve got this.

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Vidyard Prospector using AI to auto generate prospecting emails to targeted accounts.
Outbound Sales, Automated. Vidyard Prospector using AI to auto generate prospecting emails to targeted accounts. Spend less time hunting leads and more time hitting quota with Vidyard Prospector. Learn More

This post was originally published on July 17, 2023. It was updated on October 19, 2023.

Jesse Ariss

Jesse Ariss

Jesse is a digital marketer and creative content strategist with a passion for storytelling. Harnessing his background in video marketing and social media, Jesse cooks up engaging content for salespeople, keeping them up-to-date on the ever-evolving sales technology landscape. Most recently, Jesse has been spending his time researching the implications of Artificial Intelligence, and how it's rapidly changing the way we sell.