The New Era of AI-Powered Lead Qualification


Written by Ilan Kasan

Co-founder and CEO at

Dec 18, 2017

The SDRs, sales development reps (also called LDRs, lead development reps), play an important role in a company’s sales process. Many companies rely on SDRs to establish the initial relationship and trust with a prospect. They are ultimately responsible for pushing qualified opportunities into the sales pipeline so the sales reps can focus on closing more deals.

This work is tedious, manual, and error-prone. Depending on the business, it can take up to several months and many touch points to turn a lead into an opportunity. Research shows that if a lead is not followed up within the first 5 minutes, there is a 10x decrease in actually hearing back from the lead (source HBR /

Where the Process Stands

The current SDR process is inefficient. So much so, that 75% of reps time is spent chasing unqualified leads and 71% of leads are never pursued or worked properly (source: HBS, Oracle research).

Today, SDRs are playing a balancing act of selling, dealing with objections, and qualifying leads. This means that each rep invests a lot of time and energy on the viability of the opportunity, as every lead that comes into the system needs to be engaged with, nurtured, and then assessed. Timely, personalized, and contextual response and follow up is critical when engaging each lead. As a result, the only way companies can scale is by hiring additional reps to send more emails and make more calls. Adding reps is neither relieving the situation nor making the process more efficient. These inefficiencies and misalignments lead to many missed opportunities and a waste of resources.


Future of Sales Automation

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and conversational technology is dramatically changing sales automation and will play a key role in lead capturing, nurturing, and qualification.

How so? Automated two-way intelligent conversations will replace much of the SDRs manual work that was mentioned above. Instead of SDRs researching each lead and spending time following up, handling objections and asking relevant questions to qualify them, an automated and smart assistant will do it for them. AI-driven bots will handle the tedious work, so reps can focus on more important tasks.

For example, a potential prospect asks to see a demo. According to the company sales playbook, more information is required to determine if it is worth the time to show a demo. Based on what the bot knows about the lead so far, it will ask for the missing details required to qualify him, i.e. the number of employees at his company. The SDR bot will analyze the response and decide whether the conversation with the lead should continue, end, or be sent back to nurturing. This process will continue until the lead is handed over to a real person to set up a demo and continue the nurturing process.

With machine learning, the lead qualification process can be optimized over time based on input from reps, and the success and failure of prior interactions. This allows human reps to focus on the highly qualified opportunities. It also allows companies to check and test various messages at scale, and find out the optimal path to qualification. Using AI, each conversation can be tailored for each lead by adjusting the timing, language used, and the content of the conversation.

An AI-Led Strategy

Adopting an automated AI-led strategy will benefit your company in many ways such as maximizing your marketing investments and reducing overall costs. Conversational technology enables sales teams to generate more pipeline and revenue per rep, work every lead, remove repetitive, error-prone tasks, and focus on the best opportunities – like a virtual assistant to your sales and marketing teams.

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If you’re ever at a really boring cocktail party, use this one question to liven it up: “How long will it be until artificial intelligence takes everyone’s jobs?” Every person within earshot will suddenly be pouring out their visceral reactions. “In thirty years we’ll all be replaced!” or “Never! There are some jobs robots will never be able to do!” There. You’ve done your job. Smile and sip your cocktail.