Over the last year, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become an increasingly hot topic in the trade show industry. As a result, MBB-Consulting Group has carried out research and held a senior round table in London to delve deeper into this subject. In the last months, one thing has become clear – AI is not just a buzzword, it’s a new form of technology with the power to transform our business model.
But what would a concrete function of AI actually look like? Lately, Holger Friesz provided his views and insights on the topic AI during an extremely interesting presentation at our senior round table in London which I would like to share with you!
Looking at the event industry from the outside, I’ll see a huge potential for the use of advanced technology. I spoke to quite a lot of industry professionals with great ideas on how AI will support them in the future. Once I asked them, if they would be ready to move ahead now or within a year’s time, the majority pulled back. Why?
I kept on analysing the situation. I was curious, where is the event industry as a whole today and how will the path to an AI aided event business look like? While there are almost countless possibilities, how AI can make our lives easier, I would like to demonstrate the path within one particular part of the business: in Sales. From my point of view, there are three Phases to excel in Sales with the help of technology. The majority of event professionals I was talking to are still struggling to complete Phase I.
Phase I: Understand your clients.
While this sounds really trivial, this is actually one of the key differentiators of good and bad salespeople. Knowing your clients, means, you have a system in place (let’s call it CRM ;-)) which not only allows you to save your client data, but actually categorize and segment them, create lists and run manual selected campaigns. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many Sales Executives fail in this area, simply because they are not data specialists. They are “human interaction experts”. A good CRM can help already quite a lot here. Once you add additional information, i.e. # of events attended, opportunities, event operations related information, etc. your talk tracks and discussions will refine. The more you know about your customer, the better you can consult. It’s a win/win situation.
Phase II: Understand patterns of your client base and identify white spaces.
Knowing your key accounts by heart is important, but won’t help if you want to improve your sales process across a huge client base. So, phase two is all about identifying gaps and patterns within segments or clients in a more sophisticated way. To do this you need proper BI-Tools, which gain access to your CRM system, allow you to analyse, slice and dice your data in a cube. As a best practice recommendation, you should feedback your learnings from the BI analysis into your core CRM data, i.e. by using customized or user defined fields. This allows your reps to easily search and filter for predefined patterns and act accordingly.
In the example to the right, clients A, B, C and D have some comment buying patterns, however, the gap analysis shows, that B and D have upsell potential. Transfer this list on a larger scale and you will be almost ready to execute a campaign list for your sales reps, knowing which customers to contact and what to sell. From a client’s point of view, sales will not be perceived as “warehouse offers” – it is targeted to their needs à perceived as consultative sales.
Phase III: Let AI tell you what to do.
In Phase III, you have exceeded the human capabilities of finding patterns to generate recommendations for your sales team or for your clients based on ‘obvious’ patterns. It’s time to introduce AI. Data is – we all know it – the new currency worldwide and it is also available everywhere, however not in a format to work on. Without diving too deep into technical, we are moving by now from a “Data Warehouse” with a set format in the data base to a “data lake” – where data is stored in its original format. In our example here, we are not only looking at what we know based on our own CRM system, we are now opening it up to the web. On Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and many other platforms data is shared openly which allows profiling individuals. Of course, this is nothing a human can do any more within a reasonable effort. AI is fast and precise. As a result, your Sales patterns will transform. In the age of AI, you will open the CRM and the AI will tell you exactly, who you will need to call (and when) and about what product or service you should talk to sell.
This is an ultimate win/win situation. Although data needs to be “traded”, as a customer, my time will be spent very wisely as I’m most likely get only calls and emails about topics, I am really interested in.
Do we still need humans?
YES! As I mentioned above. Good Salespeople have usually one great attribute: They can manage human interactions, feel with and read their prospects. Clients don’t by products or services, especially when they are pricy. They buy trust & relationships. AI will empower the reps of the future to have better and more meaningful conversations. Higher efficiency and less waste of time & money.
A few years back, I was working with a company that had started to use AI to predict upsell potential on the one side and identify clients at risk (churn) on the other side in real time. My teams had been prioritizing these selections and where able to increase sales by 30%, as well as avoid churn in 20% of the cases, resulting in a steep revenue growth. The future is close.
The event industry is on a good path to AI. First, we have to understand and manage the basics, implement smart technologies to enhance our capabilities and then get help by AI.