This is the first post in a series of five that identifies marketing and sales lead management challenges, and how AI-driven lead conversion can help.

Maybe you need to give each of your inside sales reps a virtual sales assistant! A dynamic team member that does all the inbound lead management, freeing your sales reps to focus on conversations and closes. Artificial intelligence (AI) is making this possible through natural, two-way email dialogues that engage leads, qualify them and set meetings for the sales team.  AI has advanced in research labs and universities for years and is now working its way into real applications that make us more effective and efficient. Applied artificial intelligence is now going beyond just automating repetitive tasks, to replacing what we have perceived as necessarily human activities. For example, AI is answering sophisticated customer service questions, scheduling meetings with multiple parties, and in our case, having real conversations over email with prospective customers.

While this may sound new and a bit unbelievable, AI lead engagement software has been used successfully by more than 8,000 sales reps over the last five years to convert leads into opportunities and boost sales team productivity.  The results so far are impressive: AI-driven lead conversion has helped generate nearly $8 billion in sales revenue for the companies using the technology.

Most sales people will agree that quickly and persistently following up on inbound marketing leads is essential to building a good pipeline and capitalizing on the work that marketing has done to create those leads. However, getting people on the phone is hard, and the drudgery of working through 200 leads a day wears on even the best rep. As a result, reps tend to cherry-pick what appear to be the best leads, follow-up a few times with those, and then jump to the next batch of inbounds. As a result, many leads don’t get that human touch that’s essential to converting them into customers.

Did you know that 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales? So how do you quickly find the 21% that will? AI lead engagement software changes the game, by ensuring every lead gets consistent and persistent outreach to drive up conversion rates. How? Through a virtual sales assistant that engages prospects in natural, two-way email conversations to qualify leads before handing them over to sales.

100% of prospects will receive personalized email outreach with the AI responding to each request individually. It does this by reading replies to emails and interpreting the lead’s intention and sentiment, based upon learning from millions of such conversations. Email messages are crafted in response to a lead’s initial inquiry and sound like they are coming from a real person. The virtual sales assistant is able to quickly identify the hot leads, allowing the sales team to focus on those that have an expressed interest in buying. This type of interactive lead engagement encourages prospects to share more information and agree more often to take a meeting with a sales rep.

The moment the virtual assistant software identifies an opportunity, it alerts a sales rep, sharing what it has learned from the lead, such as the best phone number to use, the best time to call and purchase requirements.

So how does this inside sales technique change the equation for inside sales reps? Instead of spending 80% of their time following up and 20% closing conversations, AI lead engagement software flips this around: reps spend 80% of their time having real conversations with interested prospects, which is where the real human adds all the value!

In next week’s blog, discover how you may be missing out on very real sales opportunities because of inefficient lead follow up.