Selling with AI
Generative AI applications have immense potential for sales teams
By Sam Richter
Artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for several decades and was first coined in 1956 by John McCarthy. Its use as a practical tool probably dates to Alan Turing, the brilliant British mathematician best known for breaking Nazi Germany’s Enigma code during World War II and for creating the Turing Test.
Yet as a salesperson, AI probably hasn’t entered your mainstream lexicon until earlier this year. Even though you work in the electronics and technology industry, you probably first heard the term “generative AI” and more specifically, OpenAI’s language model ChatGPT.
What is generative AI? In its simplest form, think of generative AI — particularly large language models (LLMs) like GPT — as supercharged versions of the auto-suggest feature you experience when conducting a Google search. LLMs are trained on vast amounts of text data, learning to predict the likelihood of a word given its preceding context.
An LLM learns from the patterns featured in the data it uses for its training. OpenAI has not disclosed the data it uses, yet suffice it to say it is millions of websites, books, articles, research reports and more.
LLMs make predictions based on patterns they have learned. For instance, given the prompt “the color of the sky is,” the model will likely suggest “blue” as the next word. This prediction is based on the frequency with which “the color of the sky is blue” occurs in the LLM’s data.
What makes an LLM different and more powerful than any previous auto-suggest, however, is that the algorithms consider the context. For example, if the phrase is “at sunset, the color of the sky is,” the model is more likely to suggest “orange” or “red” as the next word. The LLM does not understand the concept of a sunset or the sky changing color. Yet, it has learned from the data that the words “orange” and “red” often follow the phrase “the sky is” when the word “sunset” is mentioned earlier in a given sentence.
The preceding is probably more than you needed to know about LLMs and how ChatGPT can be a tool in your business and sales arsenal. Yet it is essential to understand how LLMs work and that programs like ChatGPT are not some super-powered magical resources. LLMs do not understand the world as humans do. They do not have experience, and even though amazingly impressive, an LLM’s ability to provide context is limited to the statistical prediction models used in its training. In business, particularly sales, we know that tone of voice, non-verbal reactions, the meeting environment and many more variables are all imperative in how you communicate, present your message and ensure relevant value.
While LLMs have the potential to make the “order taker salesperson” obsolete — because a customer could enter a product type into a custom-trained LLM and the prediction model could suggest the correct part to go with that product — for the value-based salesperson, LLMs like ChatGPT will not replace your job. However, if you don’t leverage these new technologies, salespeople who know how to use LLMs like ChatGPT will replace your job.
ChatGPT is a game changer for businesspeople and salespeople who understand how to use it effectively. It can create massive efficiencies. It can take complex documents and make them easier to understand. It can make your communication clear, and even help you craft emails, LinkedIn posts and comments, proposals, strategic plans and articles. And, in case you are wondering, I did use ChatGPT to help write an outline for this article, yet all that you’re reading was written by me.
Accessing a LLM
Before you can take advantage of a LLM, you have to know where to go to access one. The good news is, it is super easy. The Bing search engine, www.bing.com, uses ChatGPT to help it produce generative search results (Bing is a Microsoft product, and Microsoft is the primary investor in OpenAI). Enter a search query or ask a question in the Bing search form. The results page will include a ChatGPTgenerated answer; below that, you will find a list of traditional search results.
Like Bing, Google, www.google.com, has its own LLM called Bard. Just like Bing, when you enter a search query or ask a question in the Google search form, if Google determines Bard can help answer the question, you will first see a LLM-produced result followed by a traditional list of search results.
You can access ChatGPT directly by creating a free account at https://chat.openai.com. You can also purchase a premium account to leverage the latest ChatGPT LLM models and advanced features like plug-ins.
To use on a mobile device, for Apple iPhone or iPad users, you can visit the App Store and download the official ChatGPT app. For Android mobile devices, you can access your ChatGPT account using your mobile web browser. The following are some ways you and your organization can take advantage of LLMs, generative AI and ChatGPT.
Streamlining pre-call research
ChatGPT is not a search engine. It is not a powerful sales intel resource like SearchLink. ai, found inside the ERA website at era.org/era-searchlink/. Unlike ERA SearchLink.ai, ChatGPT cannot find decision-makers. It is not programmed to find the various synonyms and responsibilities of different job titles. It cannot find a person’s contact information (in fact, it is prohibited from doing so). It cannot access current events, so it will not help you discover sales triggers. And because ChatGPT’s dataset does not include any information post- 2021, it won’t help you find relevant information about a prospect or customer on its own.
However, what it can do is streamline the data-gathering process by helping you better understand the information that you do find. For example, you could:
- Ask ChatGPT to summarize a prospect’s website
- Copy/paste a person’s LinkedIn profile information into ChatGPT and have it summarized
- Enter an article web address, or better, copy/paste the article content into ChatGPT and in your prompt ask for a summary of the key points
- Use a ChatGPT plug-in that allows you to upload PDF files and then upload a prospect or customer’s product sheets, manuals, annual reports, etc., and then ask ChatGPT to summarize the information
Using ChatGPT in this way can help you analyze data, spot patterns and generate insights, ensuring you have the necessary intelligence before any sales call or communication.
In your ChatGPT prompt, enter relevant information about your prospect or customer and let ChatGPT craft an email, letter or LinkedIn message, and even write a telephone script.
For example, prompt ChatGPT with information about a prospect, the company’s pain points and/or issues that are going on in their industry (e.g., hiring employees). Then enter your company’s solutions to those pain points. Ask ChatGPT to craft addressing potential objections and suggesting relevant products or services. The more you can personalize your messages based on what the other person cares about, the more effective your communication and the more credible you become. ChatGPT can also help you improve your communication skills by suggesting appropriate language, tonality or phrasing to convey your message effectively. Ask ChatGPT to review an existing email chain (copy and paste the content into ChatGPT) and suggest follow-up responses. You can even ask ChatGPT to create an email sequence you would send prospects about a specific solution.
Make follow-up easy (and fun)
Another way to leverage ChatGPT is in your value-add follow-up messages. We know that statistically, most salespeople stop contacting a prospect after three attempts. Yet we also know that most prospects don’t respond until somewhere between the fifth and twelfth messages. So how do you stay in touch with prospects and even existing customers in ways where you’re only sometimes selling and instead, provide value to them?
Leverage ChatGPT to craft follow-up messages based on information the other person cares about. Find an article about their company and send a congratulatory note. Locate a research report about their industry and send them a “stumbled across this online and immediately thought of you” message. Seventy percent of your communication should be about providing value to them, while only 30 percent of your communication should be selling.
You can automate the value-add follow-up with the “Follow-Up GPT” feature inside the ERA SearchLink.ai tool. It will help you find an article. Then without even reading the article, copy/paste the article link into the “Craft A Follow-Up Message” section, add in any personal notes and instantly it will create a message that you can copy, revise and send to your prospect and clients via email or LinkedIn message. Spend 30 minutes weekly on value-add messages, and you will dramatically differentiate yourself from the competition. Before ChatGPT, you could most likely send three messages in 30 minutes because you would need to find the article, read the article and then craft an email. With the ERA SearchLink.ai Follow-Up GPT feature, you can prepare 15 messages or more in 30 minutes.
Enter information about your company and product into ChatGPT. Then enter that you are a salesperson for the company, and you would like ChatGPT to act as a potential customer – make sure to provide details about whom that might be; for example, your customer might be an electrical engineer at an EV charging station manufacturer. Then in your prompt, ask ChatGPT to role-play different scenarios. For instance, tell ChatGPT to play the role of a prospect with an existing supplier. Or ask it to play the role of a prospect too busy to take your call. Try different scenarios you’ve experienced in real life and practice how you would respond to ChatGPT’s responses.
While not directly a salesperson’s role, most salespeople receive phone calls and emails from customers asking for help. Many third-party customer support automation programs are on the market, and more are introduced daily. According to Oracle, 80 percent of businesses are planning to use chatbots in the next year, so if your company doesn’t have one, you’ll be at a competitive and efficiency disadvantage. These chatbot systems allow you to upload your current FAQs, manuals, etc., and will enable you to create your own LLM. Embedded onto your website, a well-created customer support chatbot provides 24/7 answers to customer questions — even complex answers that would previously most likely begin with the customer taking time away from a salesperson. This dramatically improves customer satisfaction and allows salespeople to spend their time finding and winning more business.
Proceed with a bit of caution
As you integrate LLMs like ChatGPT into your business model and sales process, it’s also important to remember the following:
ChatGPT is a habitual liar. It doesn’t mean to be, yet you’ll find that as you use ChatGPT, it will sometimes completely make up information yet communicate it in a confident manner that appears as fact. Make sure you double-check any data that ChatGPT presents by entering the name of the study or data points into Google (use quotation marks around phrases for the best results) to ensure that the cited information appears in credible publications.
Don’t represent ChatGPT-generated content as your own. Yes, ChatGPT can create articles and blog posts for you. However, it’s best to use ChatGPT to craft an outline, or if you use it to compose a paragraph, rewrite the content so it’s in your voice and you can add your experience and stories. If you copy/paste out of ChatGPT, it’s okay to let the other person know that ChatGPT helped you. In any communication, transparency builds trust and helps eliminate misunderstandings.
ChatGPT can be biased. Remember, ChatGPT is based on mathematical models and lacks emotions and empathy. Any content created by ChatGPT should be carefully reviewed to ensure it does not contain language that your audience might deem offensive or discriminatory or use examples that portray someone or something in a negative way.
Data privacy and security. ChatGPT theoretically stores your prompt inputs and uses them to improve its LLM. To be blunt, no one knows what happens to the information you share with it.
From streamlining the sales research and communication process to creating efficiencies that allow salespeople to spend time on more valueadded tasks, generative AI and ChatGPT offer immense potential for sales teams. Yet remember that people do business with people whom they like and trust. People do business with people who provide relevant value. People do business with people who have experience and who can share stories of how they’ve helped others achieve similar goals and alleviate similar fears.
Like email, the internet, CRM, databases and other technologies that have transformed business and how salespeople work, ChatGPT will disrupt industries, companies and jobs. Those who know the proper balance between leveraging AI/LLM tools and providing the value that only humans can provide are the ones who will improve their performance and, ultimately, their company’s bottom line.
About the author
Sam Richter, CSP, CSAE, is the creator of Intel Engine and ERA SearchLink.ai. He is also a national Hall of Fame speaker, a best-selling author and founder of KnowMore. Learn more at www.samrichter.com.