10 Ways Artificial Intelligence Can Help Your Team Increase Sales From crunching data to grinding out grunt work, AI can multiply your team's availability and effectiveness to do the critical, human part of sales that computers can't.

By Michael Georgiou

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Want more sales? Of course you do. Every company in the world has people working on ways to find more leads and close more deals. But some companies are turning to a new approach: Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Many companies use software to schedule meetings, write and send emails, organize contacts, remind sales team members about outreach, and more. AI can go beyond those efforts to help your sales team become more effective.

1.) Help close.

Certain behaviors close deals, and AI can help find them. Software can tell you which of your team members are closing the most deals, of course. Maybe you then study what that person is doing so other team members can follow suit. But AI can take this action to a new level, recording calls and gathering emails to identify exactly what language or action is closing deals -- not just for one customer, but for different types of customers.

2.) Train the team.

Sales must be taught as both an art and a science. Sales managers are often too busy to train their teams, but studies show reinforced training over time creates the most high-performing employees. AI programs can assist with training at various stages. (While not paired with AI, Walmart is using Virtual Reality, training team members by simulating real-world experiences.)

3.) Critique performance.

AI can also identify weaknesses in the approach of team members. This isn't just about helping them close deals, as we've just mentioned, but about figuring out each person's challenges. For example, maybe Joe struggles with Product X -- but only during a specific segment of the sales cycle or when the lead is considering the company down the street. AI can report this information so Joe can get training specific to his challenges.

4.) Evaluate prospects.

Artificial Intelligence can be used to help identify behaviors that indicate a customer is a warmer lead. What if your sales team started with leads that are already good prospects? AI can report whether someone is actively searching for the tool or solution you offer. Based on buying signals, sales reps can prioritize leads and focus efforts on the most likely.

5.) Analyze customers.

Customer insights go deeper than sales. AI programs can tell you that a customer is a good lead, but also why he or she fits that category, giving your team members insight about that person, which leads to a stronger connection and better customer service.

Related: How AI Changed Customer Service in the IT industry

6.) Keep things warm.

When a deal isn't working, it's critical to understand why. Your CRM might alert you that an opportunity is growing cold. But what turned that potential customer away? AI can produce those answers to help your team prevent slowdown or cool-down.

7.) Find leads.

Scraping data and then crunching it can help your team find and serve leads. More than 40 percent of salespeople say prospecting is the most challenging part of their job. Buying lists isn't a good return on investment. Even if 50 percent of the contact information on those lists is valid (which it probably isn't), more than half of those people don't want to hear from you anyway. AI can learn the behaviors of people who buy your service or product and find them for you.

8.) Maintain other systems.

Sales teams find themselves entering data because they need the insights hidden inside it -- but they shouldn't. Typing up information into a CRM is tedious and time-consuming. AI can manage this menial task, freeing up sales team members for other work.

Related: Automatic Insights: How AI and Machine Learning Improve Customer Service

9.) Manage conversations.

Chatbots can do the talking for you. Customer service staff and sales team members often answer the same repeated questions. Chatbots can handle the initial calls, outreach, answers, and more, handing off more critical work to human team members.

10.) Tell the future.

Well, sort of -- forecasting, anyway. One of AI's primary uses is to analyze mounds of data. AI programs can help your managers predict conditions, giving them the power to meet targets and allocate budgets.

AI can be part of the sales team.

Sales reps only spend one-third (or less, according to some) of their time selling. Consider how much time sales reps spend just gathering data, entering it in, leaving a voicemail or sending an email. It takes eight cold calls to reach a prospect. Relying on AI means offloading some of the grunt work. The sales part comes during actual, live human conversation.

Related: Ready or Not, It's Time to Embrace AI

And companies are taking note. A 2016 Gartner study showed that by 2020, at least 30 percent of companies globally will use AI in at least one fragment of their sales processes. Meanwhile, 87 percent of current AI adopters said they are using or will use AI for sales forecasting and email marketing.

Only humans can close a sale.

All the talk about AI often has people wondering where humans fit in. While some of us would rather talk to a robot most of the time anyway, humans still have a vital role to play, connecting brands and companies with customers. The best sales reps can explain the value of something to a variety of audiences. While AI programs can help those sales team members, it still struggles with context in language and behavior. An AI program won't be able to draw on an anecdote from one of your other customers and share that with Sue, who's thinking about buying. In short, humans are more relatable: They won't be going away anytime soon.

Michael Georgiou

Co-Founder and CMO of Imaginovation

Michael Georgiou is the the co-founder and CMO of Imaginovation, a full-service digital agency based out of Raleigh, N.C.

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