Conversica, the leading provider of sales conversion management software for marketing, inside sales and sales, announced today that research indicates inside sales reps spend less than a fifth of their time closing sales. In its blog “Are your inside sales reps spending only 20% of their time closing?” the company is recommending ways to dramatically increase the effort spent on closing deals versus following up on leads.

“Every sales manager wants their reps spending more time engaging qualified prospects and closing deals,” comments Mark Bradley, Conversica’s CEO. “But with the increasing volume of inbound leads and required follow-up, inside sales reps are only spending 20% of their effort on closing. To drive sales effectiveness, that ratio needs to be swapped.”

Marketing departments are using good content, social outreach and marketing automation to generate more and more inbound leads, but the vast majority are far from “hot.” This means inside sales reps must go through the tedious process of research, email outreach and power dialing to find those prospects ready to engage in a sales cycle. There’s a better way, using artificial intelligence (AI) to automate lead engagement and qualification.

“There have been enormous advances in artificial intelligence in the past ten years,” Bradley notes. “Mark Benioff of Salesforce recently forecasted that we’re in an AI Spring. To quote him, ‘I think for every company, the revolution in data science will fundamentally change how we run our business.’ We agree that AI will be one of the keys to increased success for both Sales and Marketing.”

AI has advanced in research labs and universities for years and is now working its way into real applications that are making companies more effective and efficient. Applied artificial intelligence is now going beyond just automating repetitive tasks, to replacing what have been perceived as necessarily human activities. According to the blog, for example, AI is capable of answering sophisticated customer service questions, scheduling meetings with multiple parties, and, today, is having real conversations over email with prospective customers.

While this may sound new and a bit unbelievable, AI lead conversion 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.” Landers concludes. “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. Natural, two-way conversations driven by a persistent but consistent virtual assistant are generating an average of 50% engagement with leads. Even the most hardened skeptic has to take notice of that number.”