Salesforce released its third annual State of Sales report today, a compendium of insights, trends, and surveys from over 2,900 sales professionals worldwide. It’s chock full of interesting facts and figures, but one of the biggest takeaways is that artificial intelligence — specifically as it relates to opportunity insights, lead prioritization, and guided selling — is gaining slow but steady ground in the sales industry, and sales teams expect it to become pervasive by 2020.

“AI is one of the most exciting fields today,” Gilad Raichstain, vice president of product management at Salesforce, told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “We’re seeing how it’s impacting the business world.”

The industry is bullish on AI’s ability to close sales and boost the bottom line. Nearly half of all salespeople surveyed said that AI has a role to play in guided selling capabilities, like opportunity rankings (i.e., highlighting customers with high sales potential) and suggested next steps (tips and ideas to help clinch a deal). Of the “high-performing” salespeople surveyed, that number was 62 percent.

“Without the help of AI, sales teams are doing all these things that are taking time out of selling and building relationships with customers,” Gilad said. “They’re spending a third of their time doing selling. With AI tools, you want high enough accuracy that you can complete things automatically and build trust and relationships with customers.”

In fact, Salesforce says that 76 percent of teams using AI have increased the size of their staff since 2015. That’s compared to sales…

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