Artificial intelligence (A.I.) has become one of the hottest topics in business recently, with developers building the technology into everything from cars to refrigerators. Some have expressed skepticism about AI's potential, but early product offerings have revealed technology that appears to actually enhance the work professionals do rather than replace it.

Jamie Domenici, Salesforce's VP of Small Business, is excited about the way A.I. is affecting sales and marketing. I sat down with her at this year's Dreamforce in San Francisco, where attendees got a close up look at the company's new A.I. tool Einstein, which the company is embedding into its products and services. She spoke to me about how A.I. stands to improve efficiency for many salespeople and marketers.

Filtering Leads

Without automation, sales professionals can waste days sorting through leads and following up. A.I. built into sales platforms can help filter through those leads based on data patterns. The end result is a list of leads that may be more likely to eventually buy your product or service. Perhaps the best part is that A.I. tools are essentially providing advice on what the salesperson should do next.

"I used to run operations at a small business and the biggest challenge was not setting up our system to use Salesforce," Domenici says. "It wasn't building up automation. It was helping my salespeople know what to do."

Better Customer Interactions

Customer service is already a top priority for many businesses, whether they're still taking calls in house or they've outsourced their call centers. Bigger brands have started to use data analytics to personalize their customer service, leading customers to expect that level of customization when they call for help. A.I. can help even the busiest call centers create a more helpful customer experience.

"Say you are talking with a customer and they have a problem," Domenici says. "What if you have a list of articles and an article that's most relevant is already sitting at the top of your feed, and it's telling you nine out of ten times people who have this problem did this? Think about how much easier that is (as a customer service rep). You don't have to guess, you don't have to research, you don't have to spend the time looking. Just go to the answer that's up for you."

Insight into Website Interactions

Analytics can follow customer behavior, including website visits and shopping cart abandonment. However, that information is useless unless sales and marketing teams put it to good use. A.I. tools can automate that process, providing real-time alerts when previous leads are visiting a business's website. That information can then prompt a follow-up, leading to a meaningful conversation about the prospect's concerns and interests.

"Train your sales rep how to use that information," Domenici says. "Once you have it, you can know everything your customers are viewing. It's really powerful."

Improving Your Inbox and Event Scheduling

The inbox is an important part of almost every professional's daily work. In many cases, A.I. is now already automatically synching with your calendar, presenting dates that are available for sales meetings and more. Instead of wasting valuable time comparing schedules via email, A.I. lets potential clients see available times and schedule meetings.

"I think we're just beginning to see the powers of AI and we're on a long journey that's going to be really exciting," Domenici says. "Way down the road there are things like VR and I think they're doing incredible things with that, but this notion of this technology embedded into every single thing that you do? I think it's a huge next step."

Automation can empower sales and marketing professionals with the tools they need to close deals. As artificial intelligence becomes a more integral part of everything businesses do, companies will find it important to learn as much as possible about customer interests and behaviors to be able to create sales pitches and marketing campaigns that get results.