Artificial intelligence (AI) had a coming out party of sorts in 2016. Even though it has been in development for decades, this year, with the perfect combination of cheap computing power and access to increasing amounts of data, it seems AI’s time has come.
Its first foray in business has been directed at making salespeople more efficient at every level of the sales workflow. If you think about it, it makes sense to start with the part of the company that drives revenue. Certainly the vendors recognize that, says Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research, who is working on the impact of AI on work.
He sees humans struggling with information overload. As we gather ever increasing amounts of information, it requires machine processing power to help make sense of that growing pile of data. “AI is hopefully going to help alleviate that by filtering information and automating tasks,” Lepofsky said.
It’s certainly having an impact in the startup community. Just this week, we saw Conversica, a company that has built a virtual sales assistant on top of artificial intelligence underpinnings, land a $34 million investment. The tool takes advantage of natural language processing, an inference engine and natural language generation — fairly sophisticated AI technology — to undertake initial email contact with sales leads.
Meanwhile Tact, a company started by a CRM industry veteran, raised $15 million to apply intelligence to the planning and execution part of a salesperson’s day. Using AI, it aims to help sales staff work in a more logical and efficient way, rather than be slaves to their CRM tools.