You know the age-old saying, “There’s no I in team”? That same concept applies to a high-performing sales team. Consistently meeting sales goals is a team effort. Each sales rep might set and meet their personal goals, but reaping the rewards as a business requires the whole company to be on board.

Unfortunately, the way sales reps spend their time can be a significant roadblock to the group’s success. The majority of their days are spent – not selling. According to Salesforce’s State of the Sales report, 66% of sales reps’ day is eaten up by mundane administrative tasks such as manually entering data, generating quotes and proposals, and other types of downtime. Combine this with the current labor shortage, and it’s more important than ever that every member of a sales team is as productive as possible.

According to Forrester, sales productivity can also be hindered by the effects of the pandemic and the move to remote working. But it doesn’t stop there; sales reps can also be challenged by:

Missed technology opportunities

Selecting the right technology and tools can prove tricky, especially when a company has used the same solutions for decades. No matter how great the functions and features are, getting the whole team on board with a new tool can require tremendous effort. Plan a gradual training process, so sales reps can learn individual functions one at a time, rather than being thrown to the wolves. You’ll see much better adoption rates with a slow build-up.

The other key to success is finding technology that was designed specifically for the distribution industry. Work with your sales team to find tools that will benefit them the most and truly skyrocket productivity.

Discomfort selling virtually

Selling virtually is a big change for most sales reps. The remote world has required them to learn new skills and different relationship-building techniques rapidly. In fact, Forrester’s latest sales activity study found that 54% of reps said not interacting with a client face-to-face has hindered their ability to meet their quotas.

Lack of visibility into B2B buyers’ actions

The B2B buyers of today want the ease and convenience of personal shopping when they make business purchases. Buyers are now doing their research before consulting with reps. Without involvement and visibility in the buyer’s journey every step of the way, sales reps may miss out on opportunities to provide an exemplary customer experience.

In addition, oftentimes the tools that sales reps are utilizing don’t provide the right data at the right time, resulting in time with clients being spent inefficiently. Combine B2B buyers’ new self-efficiency with difficulty accessing the valuable data quickly, and it’s no wonder why sales reps’ feel like they’re floundering.

How AI Can Help

Distributors are the perfect candidate for artificial intelligence (AI), given the vast amount of data they have. AI solutions made for distributors offer insights into buyer interactions while also centralizing data into a single platform. When armed with insights from this data, sales reps can have more informed, productive conversations with new, old and prospective customers.

Focused efforts

AI can help sales reps sell smarter — not harder. Think of AI as a sales rep’s assistant. With an assist from AI, sales reps can identify the right needs of customers at the right time, enhancing the customer experience and preventing churn. The technology also increases the quality and quantity of customer interactions. For example, AI can identify when a customer is due to reorder and prompt a sales rep to follow up. These insights can help sales and customer service reps stay on their toes and check in with high-potential sales opportunities that might have otherwise slipped under the radar.

Comprehensive view of all B2B buyer activity

AI is poised to transform buyer activity for distributors by providing visibility into all silos of customer data and interactions, no matter where they happened: buying and shopping data from inside sales, outside sales, ecommerce, customer service, marketing and counter sales. No more floundering around, looking for valuable information while on the phone with a customer. Instead, all the data is accessible in one easy-to-navigate place.

Easily track sales efforts

Long gone are the days of manual data entry. With AI, updating data isn’t cumbersome and time-consuming — because AI does all the hard work. With just the click of a button, the solution can update key information, such as who was called, when the conversation took place and what was discussed. While sales reps’ productivity increases, the valuable data that will only make the AI smarter and more informed for future sales also does.

Proactive selling

With the power of AI, sales reps gain crucial visibility into a customer’s entire history with a distributor. AI can then point sales reps to opportunities that most warrant the sales team’s attention, such as predictions about what customers will buy, and when and where they will buy it.

Rather than call accounts on fixed intervals, the AI-empowered sales rep will call each account when they are primed to buy, due for reordering or at risk of churning. The solution can also identify opportunities for cross-selling and upselling. AI ensures that reps only spend time chasing sales opportunities that they can win.

The right AI-enabled solution can help your team meet customer needs, streamline sales processes, give managers visibility into the sales pipeline, increase conversions, sell more to existing customers and, ultimately, propel productivity past the pandemic.