Selling AI Solutions: Why AI Sales Processes Fail

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Selling AI Solutions is challenging but there are some reasons why AI companies struggle. AI startups often fall into the trap of generating lots of AI tourists, leads who are interested in AI but not interested in buying yet. We’ve discussed this “trap” at length and how you can avoid it. But the root question is: why are you struggling to sell AI Solutions? Why do AI companies get their sales process wrong and is this a unique challenge for AI companies or do many B2B companies struggle with their sales process.

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Long Sales Cycles Mean Poor Sales Processes

You don’t need to look any further than the length of B2B sales cycles which often stretch as long as 9 months or more to see that sales cycles and processes are a challenge across the industry. I’ve worked with a lot of AI companies and their sales processes often look like this:

  1. Demo Meeting. This is an hour long pitch and demo or multiple different use cases and ways the software works. 
  2. Tech Meeting: This is where the AI company asks to speak to IT about integration. It’s a very technical discussion. 
  3. Proposal. This is usually a statement of work (SOW) or proposal that is sent to the company. 
  4. Negotiation
  5. Close: Win/Lose

Selling AI SolutionsThis is many AI companies ‘ideal” process but often what they find is that they get bogged down in the first two meetings. IT has lots of questions about the tech, how it works and how it integrates etc. Or, the line of business isn’t sure which use case to start with and has some ideas of use cases they might try. If this sales cycle sounds familiar, you have a problem and a very long sales cycle with lots of POCs and pilots before you manage to go into production.

Fundamentally, you are struggling to sell AI solutions because you have a sales process problem. The sales process I mention above is all about the tech company and their software not about the buyer. Even the use case is not clear by the time you get to the negotiation phase so how is the buyer supposed to calculate their ROI?

To Sell AI Solutions You Need to Know Your Market

You need to take the time to know your market and build a profile of your target buyers. Once you do this, then you can build a sales cycle focused on your target buyer’s pain points and how you address them. How can you sell an AI solution, if you don’t know the problem it’s solving! 

Selling AI Solutions

Qualify First 

There are many different acronyms for this approach (MEDDIC is a common one) but setting aside these buzzwords, you need to compare a lead with your ideal buyer first. Do they have the problem you solve? Do they fit your market? Then you can move on to look at their title (to validate authority) and check they have a budget (you don’t need to talk numbers but they need to know you aren’t free). Don’t be afraid to say “no” at this stage, you will be saving yourself a lot of time if you do.

Once you do your homework, you will end up with a sales process that looks something like this (it needs to be customised quite a bit):

  1. Qualify. Does the lead match your market and buyer persona? 
  2. Proposal. This is a pitch based on their pain point and how you fix it. It might include a demo but is not a demo.  
  3. Negotiation. Help them understand the ROI. 
  4. Close. Win/Lose.
If you’d like to learn more about how to selling AI solutions, you can read a guide here (no download required) or you can download the full guide “How to Market and Sell AI Software” below. 

How to Market and Sell B2B AI Software

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