Artificial intelligence in B2B sales: Impact on the sales process
Authors: Heiko Fischer, Sven Seidenstricker, Thomas Berger, Timo Holopainen
Abstract: Digitalization is a driving force for innovation in the business-to-business (B2B) environment and profoundly changes the way companies do business. It affects the entire value chain of a company and can be used for automating human tasks. For instance, previous research indicates that 40% of all sales tasks can be automated. Thus the digital transformation in sales has the potential to improve a firm’s performance. Depending on its development level, digitalization in sales can assist or even replace numerous sales tasks. Therefore, using digital solutions in sales can be seen as an essential trigger to competitive advantage. Recent developments in research and practice have revealed that especially artificial intelligence (AI) has gained increasing attention in the sales domain. A challenging issue in this domain is how AI affects the sales process and how it can be applied meaningfully in B2B sales. Thus, our paper aims to investigate how AI can be used along the sales process and how it can improve sales practices.To explore this, we conduct systematic literature research in scientific databases such as Business Source Premier, Science Direct, Emerald, Springer Online Library, Wiley Online Library, and Google Scholar, supplementing the findings with a qualitative research approach. Analyzing this literature focused on digital transformation in sales, we find that the application and benefits of AI depend on the sales process step. For this reason, we conduct research on B2B sales process models, compare them, and choose a reference model for the evaluation of AI in B2B sales. Moreover, we present common definitions of AI and show how this technology is usually applied in B2B sales. Afterward, we combine the sales process with use cases of AI. For each step, we present use cases in detail and explain their benefits for sales. For instance, we find that especially tasks with traditionally high human involvement are challenging to automate. In particular, in complex sales situations, the human salesperson may not be entirely replaced by digital technologies, while routine tasks can be carried out with the help of digital technologies. Our paper closes with a discussion and conclusion. Summing up, the proposed paper analyzes different viewpoints of the sales process in the digital sales literature. We can conclude that the main focus of our paper will be presenting the application of AI along the sales cycle. Our research closes with a discussion and conclusion and gives recommendations for practice and academia.
Keywords: sales, digital, B2B, emerging technology, sales process
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