Many business leaders are excited about artificial intelligence, but when it comes to investing in technology, they can feel spellbound, annoyed, and bewildered. It doesn’t have to be this way. We asked people who work closely with AI solutions to share their experiences on the best approaches to selling AI 00 the right AI, at the right time, to business leaders.
For starters, it’s imperative to “show ‘cognitive courtesy,’” advises Bjorn Austraat, senior vice president and head of AI acceleration at Truist. “Invest time and effort up front to translate difficult technical concepts into plain English. Similarly, create a compelling and properly framed vision for all project participants to ensure alignment and productive collaboration.”
Austraat explains that he uses a “simple phrase” to advance the AI vision. Ask, “’Whose life is going to get better, by how much, and how do we know?’” he says. “If you can really answer that question, you’ve covered all the bases, from framing to deployment to value proposition to political air coverage.”
This clarity of vision is highly recommended by other industry leaders. “The key to selling AI lies in a clear and simple explanation of the business case,” agrees Ben Hookway, CEO of Relative Insight. “With consumer data flooding in from all directions, much of it is text-based. All of this qualitative text data can, and should, have a strategic influence on brand strategy, product development, customer service, marketing, communications, and more. Much of this data is real-time and extremely valuable in helping drive a real understanding of exactly how customers are feeling.”
In Austraat’s industry, financial services, “explanation trumps model performance,” he adds. “In particularly sensitive areas, such as credit underwriting, banks and other financial services institutions must balance a desire to innovate and use cutting-edge AI with reasonable regulatory expectations around explainability, robustness, and fairness. The best solution doesn’t always win, especially if it’s a black box.”
It’s also important to impress business leaders that successful AI can take the business in new and potentially positive directions. “Companies are not looking to buy sensors, cameras, or artificial intelligence solutions; they are looking for a total solution that solves a business problem,” according to Ken Mills, CEO of EPIC iO. “If you’re trying to sell sensors or video cameras to businesses, my advice is to partner with consultants or solution providers who can provide comprehensive answers to business problems.”
AI is all about facilitating processes,” says Umesh Sachdev, co-founder and CEO of Uniphore. “Whether it’s solving customer problems, eliminating manual tasks, or making more accurate predictions, AI complements human effort so humans can work, interact, and innovate more efficiently.”
It goes even further: With the rise of powerful AI solutions, such as conversational AI, that provide “customers and employees access to heightened problem-solving capabilities, the world as we know it will fundamentally change,” Robb writes. Wilson, founder of OneReach. .ai in his latest book, The Age of Invisible Machines. Business leaders need to understand that AI cannot be successful in the long term as single, disjointed projects. This “requires a holistic commitment that touches all aspects of your business. Random acts of technology, such as deploying disparate machines that exist in isolation, will overwhelm your workforce and customers, leading to low adoption rates. However, a fully integrated approach can lead to a whole new paradigm of productivity with unprecedented potential.”
Ultimately, the potential is huge, which may astound even the most AI-savvy people. “Creative automation used to be a reasonably magical innovation in digital marketing,” says Peter Gordon, global director of AI products at Hogarth Worldwide. “But nothing compares to writing the weirdest sentence you can think of, something like ‘teddy bear on a skateboard in the middle of Times Square,’ and seeing the AI instantly generate a perfect photorealistic image of your idea. Or talk to an impressively perceptive Steve Jobs chatbot that really feels like a personal conversation. And there is much more to come.”
Overcoming executive nervousness about AI is also key to successfully selling the technology. People’s first reactions to AI “are maybe a kind of magical fear,” Gordon says. It’s important for business leaders to understand that AI technology “allows them to do what they do best: empower ideation processes to create brand ideas that have never been seen before.”
Where and how to start? Keep it clear and simple, Wilson advises. “The easiest way to start is usually to automate internally first; Start small by automating individual tasks and skills, not entire jobs. The simpler you make your starting point, the sooner you can test and iterate. The sooner you test and iterate, the sooner you can implement an internal solution. You will continue to test and iterate on that solution, using the momentum to find new skills to develop, test, iterate, and deliver. As your legs grow, you’ll often mess around, but that’s part of the process, too.”
AI succeeds when it addresses pronounced business problems or creates new opportunities. “When companies consider AI, it’s because they have a need,” says Sachdev. “Some process is draining their resources or compromising their relationship with their customers, and they want to fix it as easily and cost-effectively as possible. Look for sticking points. What areas within a business process are slowing things down or putting an undue burden on customers or employees? What results would a company like to improve and what prevents them from achieving them?
For example, the friction points that are addressable by AI are associated with the customer experience. “If customers are struggling on the front-end, perhaps AI can guide them by selecting relevant content based on their past purchases and search histories,” says Sachdev. “If customer service is the problem, there are a lot of possibilities to explore. AI can help identify customer intent, improve self-service interactions, and even assist agents during live interactions. You can audit conversations for compliance and analyze them for quality assurance. In all cases, it saves human workers time and effort.”