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Source: Unsplash/Stephen Dawson

Harvard Business Review

How businesses can use AI tools to boost their sales

Harvard Business Review
Emerging Technology, Sales
9 minute Read

by Jim Dickie, Boris Groysberg, Benson P. Shapiro, and Barry Trailer

Though more and more companies are applying sophisticated technology to sales processes, research suggests that most aren’t using it effectively (and some don’t even use it at all). Even customer-relationship-management systems, which digitally savvy sales organisations have had in place for decades, aren’t being fully taken advantage of. In Sales Mastery’s 2022 Sales Performance Scorecard survey of 332 sales managers, 15% of respondents reported that their companies were not actively using CRM, and 42% stated that they were using it only for storing information about customers and prospects.

No wonder salespeople have been struggling. According to global surveys of nearly 1,000 sales leaders by CSO Insights, the percentage of salespeople meeting their annual quotas fell from 63% to 57% from 2012 to 2019. When the leaders were asked to evaluate their teams’ performance in 16 distinct sales activities, they said their teams were less effective at 15 of those tasks than they had been five years earlier. And according to the sales executives we talk to, lately the performance of salespeople has gotten even worse.

Part of the problem is that buying processes have been evolving faster than selling processes. Buyers are better informed than ever, with access to a wide range of online resources that help them evaluate products before ever meeting with a salesperson. Another factor may be that sales reps spend too much time doing things that don’t directly involve selling. The Sales Mastery 2022 survey found that on average salespeople devoted only 32% of their time to selling — and 68% to non-revenue-producing activities.

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