April 25, 2024

Navigating the AI Revolution: The Levels of AI Maturity for Sales Organizations

Jessica Denny
Navigating the AI Revolution: The Levels of AI Maturity for Sales Organizations

The AI revolution is here. Forward-thinking GTM leaders are already building a data foundation to power AI and honing their strategies. 

It’s not a question of if your sales organization will embrace AI, but when. To echo that,  92% of business and IT executives surveyed believe their organization needs to shift to an AI-first operating model within the next year to stay competitive, according to a 2024 Avanade AI Readiness Report.

To understand how AI will impact your organization, it’s helpful to look at another example where AI has become prevalent: the self-driving car industry. This industry employs a framework for The 6 Levels of Vehicle Autonomy, created by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and adopted by The Department of Transportation.

The driving automation framework sets you up to understand the levels of AI Maturity for GTM organizations. The GTM AI Maturity Curve explains the levels of AI and automation for sales organizations and shows the potential impacts of increasing your organization's AI maturity.

The 6 Levels of Vehicle Autonomy

Level 0 is a car without any automation at all, and Level 1 is a car with a single automated system like cruise control. These are going to be your older cars.  A human is required for almost every function of driving.

When you reach Level 2 you have multiple layers of automation like cruise control and lane assist, but none of these systems talk to each other and there is no central brain to manage the car as a whole. The driver is still monitoring these systems and can take control at any time.

For example, you're driving down the highway with cruise control and lane assist on. You want to take over lane assist so you turn your wheel, but lane assist doesn't override cruise control and you keep accelerating into another car. The systems are completely separate and still require a human to manage the systems and drive the car.

At Level 3 you have all those automation working together and making informed decisions. Think of a Tesla that can drive easily on the highway, adjust speed, navigate traffic, etc. The human can override but the automation system can perform most driving tasks.

At Level 4 the human is no longer the driver and the vehicle can operate in self-driving mode. This would look like Tesla's full self-driving capabilities. You can get into a Tesla and tell it where it take you, and it will. Although it might be dicey at moments, it can do it.

Description of each level of the 6 Levels of Vehicle Autonomy from  the Society of Automotive Engineers
Credit: the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)

How does this apply to go-to-market AI technology?

Levels of AI Maturity for GTM Organizations

AI-driven automation will fuel your organization’s ability to stay ahead of the competition and future-proof your business. But to effectively leverage AI and automation you have to first understand where you are today. Inspired by the 6 levels of driving automation, People.ai created a framework for understanding and evaluating GTM AI maturity.

There are five levels of AI maturity for sales organizations:

  • Level 0: No Automation
  • Level 1: Minimal Automation
  • Level 2: Partial Automation
  • Level 3: Advanced Automation
  • Level 4: High Automation

If you're at Level 0 (No Automation) or Level 1 (Minimal Automation) today, you're relying on your AEs to do almost all, if not all, of the manual processes (enter contacts into Salesforce, add meetings, etc.). These levels represent no automation (level 0) or minimal automation (level 1) and a lot of time is spent on administrative tasks.

AI maturity starts with data. To get from one level to the next, you have to build and strengthen your data foundation to feed AI models in Level 3 and beyond. Building that foundation looks like capturing data from all the activities across your GTM function through automation. Then, AI will match those activities from all those sources into your CRM.

At Level 2 (Partial Automation), you have the data flowing. Most people on level 2 today require Ops or BI teams to analyze the data. Sales leaders ask questions and operations teams spend hours pulling data and analyzing to gather insights around win rates, which personas we’re engaging, and how qualified our deals are using medic. A human being is required to do all that analysis.

The jump from level 2 to 3 is where you’ll experience the biggest leap in productivity, effectiveness–leveraging the complete picture of your GTM–to make smarter, data-driven decisions. 

The progression to Level 3 (Advanced Automation) is so impactful because AI analyzes the data for you. Saying it significantly shortens the time it takes to analyze the data is a massive understatement. Sales leaders and teams can get the insights they need instantly and spend more time on the bigger picture.

At Level 3 you no longer have to be a brilliant data scientist to get the information you want. You don't have to be an ops specialist who knows how to run pivot tables in Excel to use this technology. You can be an average sales leader and get answers to queries like, “Get me up to speed on this deal. Provide a high-level overview of strengths, weaknesses, and key personas” or “What are the top risks within this deal and how should I mitigate them?” It’s a powerful way to democratize your data by giving access to your frontline leaders, senior leaders, and even your AEs to go and use it to better manage their business.

And finally, Level 4 is high automation. At this level, AI is generating and completing actions, and next steps with the option to override. 

The key to progressing to a higher level is creating a framework to capture, clean, and match more data into your CRM. Relevant, quality data.

5 Levels of AI Maturity in Sales Organizations

10X Your Sales Teams Effectiveness at Level 3

Most organizations right now are around level 1 or 2. But organizations that are thriving in this AI-enhanced world–at level 3–have figured out a few key things:

  • They unlocked productivity within their teams by automating as much as possible.
  • They’ve optimized their processes by streamlining workflows.
  • They’ve unified their data across multiple sources to maximize efficiency.  
  • They have great visibility into their organization. Knowing right away which AEs and deals need attention.

They achieve this through automating the capture, cleaning, enriching, and matching  of sales activity data across the GTM organization into their CRM. This forms a data foundation, which their central AI then uses to surface powerful insights, risks, and opportunities, unlocking the complete story of their GTM.

But what are the specific things these Level 3 organizations can do? Let’s compare some of the most important areas of sales: account planning, deal inspection, coaching, forecasting, and prospecting. 

The Future of AI for Sales is Here. Are you Ready?

As you can imagine, the productivity gains from levels 1 and 2 to level 3 are significant. Embracing advanced AI capabilities allows your organization to streamline operations, maximize efficiency, and achieve sustainable growth in competitive markets.

Now imagine if you don’t leverage AI across your GTM function, but your competitors do. They will move exponentially faster than you in the market. It will be nearly impossible to keep pace.

Success with AI starts by understanding where your organization is today. Take the GTM AI Maturity Assessment to find out where your organization lands!

Learn all of the ways People.ai can  drive revenue growth for your business