AI Sales and Marketing Applications for Distributors and Manufacturers + Mini Survey #2

NFPA members will get the opportunity to learn about AI from Mike Marks of Indian River Consulting Group, who will be leading an interactive workshop titled Application of AI Technologies to Industrial Companies at the NFPA 2024 Industry & Economic Outlook Conference – Register Now!


By Mike Marks
Indian River Consulting Group

It’s hard to separate the hype from reality when it comes to technology that we don’t understand – especially Artificial Intelligence (AI). While AI technology is rapidly evolving, there are applications already in use by many organizations.

What is AI? My previous article for NFPA News, All You Want to Know About AI and Its Applications for Your Organization, provides a broad overview, who is using it and possible benefits of AI adoption.

Most distributors are still exploring the use of AI and are slow to adopt any AI platforms. Research by Modern Distribution Management found that 62% of distributors have yet to apply AI to any part of their business and only 25% have applied a single use case.

However, a majority (55%) of distributors have a clear interest in the potential of AI, as shown by the latest AI research by Distribution Strategy Group. They report that distributors are looking into applications in supply chain and warehouse, finance, HR, sales, marketing and customer service. However, the DSG survey found that the most common use cases for AI in distribution were in sales and marketing, including improving the website and ecommerce experience.

This article will provide examples of applications for AI in sales and marketing currently used in distribution.

AI applications for sales and marketing  

  1. Quote Management
    AI can be used to quickly build a complex quote from a provided list. It also simplifies the process of quoting complex products that require sourcing, engineering, and project management. AI can also help reps to reach out to customers at the right time by analyzing each customer’s ordering patterns to alert reps regarding an anticipated reorder.
  2. Sales Enablement
    Many companies are already using CRM. Adding AI capabilities can supercharge the data from your CRM to increase the number of qualified leads for a field rep to turn into a meaningful prospect.
    AI can help your sales team evaluate incoming leads to determine if they’re worth pursuing. If the leads are found to be recurring business, they can be diverted to your inside sales force, freeing up time for outside sales to generate new business. And Lights Out Order Processing, or LOOP, can take email orders and automatically enter them as they come in. These simplified workflows have the added benefit of generating buy-in from your sales force and increasing CRM adoption rates.
    Image-based AI applications, such as Google Gemini, can be helpful for customers who may have trouble describing a complex or unfamiliar product, such as a specific fitting. The multi-modal app can help sales reps by receiving a detailed description of a photo the customers provide from their phone.
  3. Cross-Selling and Upselling
    AI models can improve opportunities for cross-selling and upselling by quickly making recommendations to sales reps as they engage with customers. This improves the sales process for customers and can increase the order value by the recommendation of related products or suggested substitutes.
  4. Marketing
    AI can boost the sales process by using AI-generated videos for customer engagement. AI tools, like Google’s Performance Max campaigns, can also help organizations improve the performance of specific campaigns. This tool can analyze the content of the campaign landing

NFPA’s AI initiatives for fluid power distribution and manufacturing

Members surveyed at the NFPA Annual Conference provided a list of industry-wide initiatives, as well as suggestions for specific member company support. We will be sending out surveys to help in prioritizing these initiatives and helping further NFPA efforts to support the fluid power industry in its AI journey. 

NFPA members will get the opportunity to learn more about AI and participate in NFPA’s AI initiatives at the NFPA 2024 Industry & Economic Outlook Conference. Attendees can participate in an interactive workshop, Application of AI Technologies to Industrial Companies. Mike Marks of Indian River Consulting Group will talk about how AI works and where to start. You’ll take away solid advice on piloting and deploying valuable tools and a wealth of resources to use in your journey into AI.

Registration for the NFPA Industry & Economic Outlook Conference is now open.  We look forward to seeing you at the conference. Also, watch for the next AI post and survey. 

Mike Marks is the founding partner of the Indian River Consulting Group. Prior to founding IRCG, Marks worked in distribution management for more than 20 years. His narrow focus in B2B channel-driven markets has created an extensive number of deep executive relationships within business verticals such as construction, industrial, OEM, agricultural, and healthcare. Reach Mike at ircg.com.

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