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New Research Reveals the Future of Sales and AI

4 min readJune 30, 2020

The Revenue.io Selling Forward Conference brought together the world’s top sales and marketing thought leaders, attracting thousands of executives, managers, and reps from across the tech landscape. In over 20 sessions across two days, the speakers discussed the strategies, tactics and technologies needed for “the next normal.” They covered how sellers can expect to succeed in Q3, Q4 and beyond, as well as the challenges and opportunities they will face.

To better understand how technology companies have approached the economic uncertainty from a sales and marketing perspective, we also surveyed attendees of the Selling Forward conference. In total, 1,050 unique responses were gathered from sales and marketing leaders, primarily from B2B software companies.

Respondents answered questions surrounding the impact of COVID-19 on their business, how they have reacted to the challenges, and their future outlook. Participants were also asked about AI and their perceptions of it.

On Working Remote

  • 84.4% feel that teams are as productive or even more productive when working remote
  • 22% reported that there will “never be a complete return to in-office working.”
  • Just 28% expected that most people would be back in the office by Q3 2020, and 20% expected it to be Q1 2021 or later.

On Technology Needs by Sales Teams

  • The number one need for sales leaders in 2020 is “operational efficiency,” followed closely by “better sales performance”
  • “Cost cutting and value” ranks second-lowest, consistent with the economic optimism expressed by participants

On AI and Sales

  • Just 3.68% called AI a “sales job killer”
  • 34% said AI definitely improves sales performance if applied correctly
  • 36% reported that AI can potentially improve sales performance.

On Adjustments and Economic Rebound

  • 62.7% of sales teams have had some change to their target buyers, industries, or sectors.
  • 19% expected a rebound in Q3, while the rest anticipate the rebound to come in Q4 2020 or beyond.

To see the entire report, download it for free here.

Remote Work

The overwhelming majority (84.42%) felt that sales teams are either as productive or even more productive when working remotely. This positive outlook is perhaps shaping a new perspective on in-office work. Not only is work from home a success, but it appears that many feel comfortable doing it.

Of the remainder, 28% predict that they will be back in the office by sometime between July and the end of September, whereas the rest expect it to happen in Q1 2021 or even later.

Teams are also finding new efficiencies in remote work. With companies like Twitter, Square, UpWork, Facebook and Coinbase all shifting to remote forever and remote-first policies, it is clear that dispersed teams will be much more prevalent in the future.

Economic Impact on Selling

It comes at no surprise that 80% of the respondents reported that their businesses had taken a hit as a result of the economic downturn. However, opinions are split as to when they will recover. Only 19% expect to see a rebound as quickly as Q3 of this year, 33% think it will happen in Q4, and the rest predict it will happen sometime in 2021.

Generally, there has also been a shift in target buyers, industries, and/or sectors as a result of economic changes. However, they were not as significant as expected. A mere 4.48% reported a “significant” change, 58% had made some changes, and 37% said that they hadn’t changed a thing.

This perhaps correlates with the positive outlook, with teams believing that markets will return to their previous positions and buyers will normalize within them.

Positive Economic Outlook

Regardless of when a rebound is expected, positivity and confidence about the future is extremely high, with over 75% of respondents indicating that they are optimistic. 51% said their future outlook was positive, with an additional 24% saying they were “very positive.” In fact, only 5.68% held a negative outlook. Seeing as the vast majority of respondents were in B2B organizations, this is especially exciting.

The Role of AI In The Future of Sales

Naturally, the current climate necessitates sales performance improvement, and technology is one of the main drivers of change within a sales organization. When asked about where they would use technology to benefit their teams, 33% reported that they would use it to achieve greater operational efficiency. Another 16% said they would use it to scale without additional hiring.

Both of these are an indicator that teams still anticipate growth and expansion, and perhaps are looking to do more with less. In these days of reduced budgets and cost control, sales technology can actually produce a positive ROI rather than becoming a cost center. It is technologies like AI that are proven to help teams to generate more revenue.

It also looks like AI is being viewed in a positive light. Just 3.68% of respondents called AI a job killer. Moreso, over ⅓ said that they completely believe that AI improves sales performance and 36% reported that they think it can potentially improve sales performance.

Understandably without many teams employing AI, and not many salespeople being exposed to it, when asked about their confidence that AI would make teams more efficient and effective in the future, 48% they weren’t sure. However, 39% said it would.

In the end, although most sales teams were impacted by the COVID pandemic, the vast majority were able to successfully pivot. Organizations have found their stride in remote selling and are even positive about what’s to come. In fact, forward-looking teams have turned to AI to achieve scale and growth when the time comes.

To read the full report and get all the data, download it here.