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ATD Blog

Bridging the AI Gap in Sales: Is Your Organization Ready?

Monday, November 6, 2023

It turns out, AI has already taken over. No, not in a dystopian sense, but certainly in the content of our news feed and in the battle for our attention. Practical AI tools for businesses are booming, showing incredible promise to revolutionize commercial applications. Business leaders now realize that AI-driven sales processes may hold the key to future commercial success, driving peak productivity and organizational effectiveness. Yet, the question remains: Are companies truly ready to embrace AI as a fundamental component of their commercial operations?

The Gap Between AI Readiness and the Perceived Importance of AI

SBI gathered some interesting insights from a live training cohort on how go-to-market (GTM) sales executives perceive the importance of AI in future GTM processes compared with the AI readiness of their respective companies. What we discovered was a big gap between these two perspectives based on the responses to our survey.

As many as 70 percent of respondents expect that AI will begin to play a significant role in GTM processes within the next 12 months. However, 87 percent of respondents admitted that they have not yet experimented with AI applications or don’t know what to do with it. Ninety-four precent of respondents showed interest in integrating AI into sales programs in the near future.

Yet, only 19 percent of these companies have guidelines and policies on the use of AI, and a mere 6 percent already have AI training programs in place.

Despite all the supposed interest that most sales professionals have in AI implementation, just 19 percent of respondents feel that their leaders truly understand the potential of AI and have a clear plan to harness it.


This disparity between the perceived importance of AI and how prepared companies are to implement it may indicate that AI adoption in GTM processes is still in its infancy among key decision makers. There may be a huge opportunity for business leaders to seize a competitive advantage in the market if their AI implementation goes well.

Where to Start With AI?

While it’s clear that much groundwork needs to be done before AI implementation can be standardized across company functions, there is a lot of value in exploring and experimenting with AI use cases early to see how sales teams can benefit from it.


For example, some forward-thinking sales representatives are already using applications like ChatGPT to do detailed, hyper-focused research and gather information on prospects, and it is more commonly used in improving email personalization and content customization. Using AI to prepare for sales calls and improve sales conversations shows significant promise, and using AI as a real-time coach and sounding board can deliver immediate benefits. The use of AI is evolving to become a valuable co-pilot to help guide real-time sales interactions.

Early adopters that are integrating the tools into their organizations will benefit from these early learnings and likely progress ahead of their competitors. But to companies that are taking their first steps toward experimenting with AI, we recommend starting with areas that have high-potential returns and where the stakes are relatively low.

AI Sales Playbooks and Training

AI technology is rapidly evolving, and the level of comfort and understanding of the tools varies greatly across most organizations. Companies experimenting with it should do so with caution to avoid common pitfalls—like double-checking AI output for false information and bias and ensuring confidential information is protected following company policies.

At a minimum, companies must provide standard use cases and guidelines for organizational use and train their teams on effective use of the tools. Managers and leaders need to understand appropriate use and be trained to oversee and coach the appropriate use of the tools.

About the Author

Ray Makela is the general manager of SRG, a part of SBI. He oversees all training client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation, and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.

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