Partner Sales Acceleration Blog | Allbound

SaaS and AI: How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing SaaS Channel Sales

Written by Scott Salkin | November 22, 2016

Artificial intelligence is growing at a very rapid pace. Imagine back five or ten years, when cellphones were nothing compared to what they are today. Technology is outpacing our abilities to use it to its extent, and as a whole we’re playing catch-up.

What that means for us in the channel is that we need to stay up to speed on the latest and greatest technological breakthroughs. Take search assistants for instance. If you really think about it, were “Ask Jeeves” and Microsoft’s “Clippy” just MVP versions of Siri, Alexa and even Watson? And what is it that’s changed, allowing us to capitalize on these technologies, that can also make it easier to drive channel sales?

Machine Learning

According to some experts out there, one of the fundamental flaws of machine learning and artificial intelligence is that computers are only as smart as the people programming them. Similarly, tools like marketing automation systems are only as automated as the people building the campaigns and creating the content. In other words, AI is only as powerful as its HI (human intelligence). Just like almost all of the artificial intelligence used in SaaS sales and marketing, it’s of the cognitive AI format. That being, it learns by repeated actions of the users.

But wait, there’s more: a computer will not always do what you want it to do, but will do exactly what you tell it to do. In other words, be aware of what you’re asking for, and how you’re asking for it. Murphy’s Law can come into play here as well, where if there’s more than one way to go about asking AI to perform an action, it’ll take the option that you didn’t want it to.

Combining these two aspects we arrive at machine learning. We can either teach AI to work for us, or teach it to work against us (cue scary robot uprising music). Granted, SaaS channel AI will not develop into a menacing robotic overlords, but if we repeatedly use incorrect actions with our AI it will learn those bad habits as well. Whenever you’re working with AI, think A) how could my actions be interpreted so that similar situations in the future will be handled correctly, and B) have I performed this particular task before and if so, how did I take care of it previously?

Through repeated and correct use, AI can indeed become smarter. It can analyze data such as customer behavior patterns and clue you in on what marketing tactics were most beneficial. Or look at data on customer history and let you know which customers and products will be the most profitable to target next.

Search Assistants

On top of our own AI for SaaS channel sales use, there is other AI in use that can impact our business model. Those are the rapidly rising search assistants. The three major mobile companies all have their own flair, but whether it’s Apple, Google, or Microsoft, it all boils down to the same thing. AI is now involved in searching for product solutions. Your prospective customers are searching by voice, and it is going through a text to speech processor before actually being sent to the search engine.

This might not seem like a big deal, but if you think about your personal use for a search assistant, it might become more clear. Chances are, the more complicated the words are, the more likely they are to be mistaken. End users either consciously or subconsciously use simpler and shorter words when searching with an assistant, because it’s a higher likelihood that they will be heard correctly.

So if you’re targeting complex or long-tail search strings, you have a lower chance of seeing traffic through search assistants. This isn’t a bad thing, after all if you’re targeting these high-level options you are also targeting someone at a computer instead of a mobile device. But if you don’t also have simple search strings within your SaaS channel sales model, you’re missing a crucial component of the market. And as discussed before, technology use is ever growing, so sitting out of search assistant traffic is only going to be a bigger problem the longer you wait.

What does this mean for the future of SaaS channel sales? Well when we take a look at how you can leverage AI for your channel, it becomes evident. AI can help you notice trends in your channel, and also pick up on voids where you can focus more energy. Use AI to your advantage to increase SaaS channel sales.