David was the CEO of a company that designed, fabricated, and assembled curtain walls for commercial office buildings. He had a three-million-dollar annual budget to grow the company and increase its value for investors and shareholders.
The conventional way of growing his company was hiring sales and marketing staff and investing in business development activities. However, as he was aware that people disenchanted with their jobs were quitting in large numbers during the pandemic, he’d probably face a meager retention rate and continuous hiring. Therefore, he believed that in addition to sales and marketing, investing in human resources for continuous onboarding and training was inevitable.
In addition to the low retention rate, he had another problem. Inflation was picking up, and new employees were asking for higher salaries and compensation. Therefore, constant hiring and training would incur significant financial overhead, which would lead to a very low profit margin or even a negative cash flow.
All things considered, he had a challenging road ahead and a virtually impossible equation for growth. Not knowing what to do, he felt frustrated.
Have you ever been in David’s shoes? What would you recommend that he do? Should he forge ahead with his plan? How could he grow his company without investing too much in hiring sales and marketing staff?
David was dreaming about an alternative universe where he could invest in hiring one “rock star” sales rep, virtually clone her knowledge and capabilities, and distribute it to all of his leads and prospects? Like his rock star sales rep, his “virtual sales rep” could compile his prospects’ preferences and requirements, build trust, and move them down in his sales funnel to close deals. But unlike his rock star sales rep, his “virtual sales rep” would not be bound to one location: It could be virtually presented to all of his prospects.
Make the impossible possible… with AI
The good news is that you can create that alternative world today with the help of artificial intelligence (AI)—branch of science in which scientists design computer systems that mimic human intelligence. Depending on your business strategy (offense, defense, sustain), you can create AI systems that augment your capabilities and bring your business, investors, and shareholders a significant return on investment.
In David’s case, for instance, an AI-powered curtain wall sales configurator can help his team intelligently bid on and win more projects. He can also put his sales configurator into the hands of his prospects (architects) to more effectively and efficiently design and communicate with building owners for approval. In this case, David’s deal closure would simply be a byproduct of helping architects create better designs. Tens of thousands of architects could work and benefit from a virtual sales rep, which is how David can also grow his company while maintaining nearly constant overhead.
Let me provide an example of a CEO, entrepreneur, and leader in technology investing in AI today.
Gilles Caussade is the CEO of ConXtech, a construction technology company that is changing how it designs and builds structures. With a limited number of steel beams, column sections, and proprietary connections called ”collars,” the company can build small and large structures in a fraction of the time it takes to build conventional steel structures.
Similar to David, Gilles faces challenges growing his company. This is what he had to say about his company’s AI strategy:
“My AI strategy for the company is straightforward: I’m investing in developing and rolling out AI technology within ConXtech, and more importantly, within the design and engineering community worldwide. Therefore, when architects or structural engineers are working on a building, they can receive almost immediate feedback on their design with ConXtech technology. Instead of limiting this AI tool to internal use, our current vision is to enable all architects, engineers, and designers to use it when they look at the ConXtech solution.
AI will make their lives easier and help them to reach an optimal decision more quickly. Using AI, we get tremendous leverage during the sales process, which will, in the end, increase our revenue without increasing our overhead. This technology can accelerate market penetration, brand recognition, and ultimately the company’s growth, and as a result, increase technology adoption across the construction industry.”
How can you leverage AI in your company?
With the power of AI, you, like Gilles, can grow your company while maintaining low overhead. But how? Below are three steps you should take:
- Learn what AI is: The first step is to learn what AI is and is not and what it can or cannot do for your company. Reading AI books written for CEOs and company executives, taking courses and workshops, and talking to AI experts can help you build a foundation of AI knowledge.
- Find use cases: Then, you need to find AI use cases based on your business strategy in the market. This step is critical to the success of your project. I strongly recommend to CEOs and executives to find AI uses in a full- or half-day workshop facilitated by trusted AI experts and business leaders. The goal of such a workshop is for participants to brainstorm ideas, assess their technical feasibility and business viability, and select the easiest one with the most return on investment (at least 5X-10X ROI) for execution.
- Develop an AI solution: Next, you should develop a technology solution to verify the technical feasibility and business viability of your use case before scaling it across your company or distributing it to your prospects. Building an AI solution is both an art and a science. I highly recommend working with AI consultants to develop the right solution for your business.
AI is one of the most powerful and underutilized emerging technologies. A technology that will enable you to augment your capabilities and differentiate them in the market. The key to success is being open-minded about discovering AI opportunities and developing technologies in the areas that give you an edge to beat your competition.
To your success!
Written by Mehdi Nourbakhsh, Ph.D.
Have you read?
HOW HELPING EMPLOYEES HAVE FUN TOGETHER CAN BENEFIT THE BOTTOM LINE by Aliza Knox.
Building The Growth Advantage by Bob Lisser.
Are CEOs in the construction industry deploying their foresight by Dr. Manoj Joshi.
Google’s Myth of Losing Social Capital in Hybrid Work by Dr. Gleb Tsipursky.