The sales automation revolution: an interview on AI in sales

48 aa-isp-interview

There’s a revolution coming for businesses. A revolution where sales automation will be the key to either seeing success for falling behind.

SalesHero CEO, Stefan Groschupf sat down with AA-ISP’s Bob Perkins to discuss everything sales AI. They go over its developments and capabilities and where Stefan sees sales automation making the biggest impact in sales organizations.

Listen in on the interview or read the transcript below

Bob: Hey everyone, it’s Bob Perkins with Inside Sales Studio bringing you a special episode and an interview on artificial intelligence. With us today, we have Stefan Groschupf. Stefan, how are you doing?

Stefan: Good. Good morning Bob.  

Bob: Good morning. Stefan is the founder and CEO of SalesHero, they’re a supporter of AA-ISP.  

This whole thing, Stefan, on artificial intelligence is coming on so strong. And it’s just not a new technology, it’s something that potentially can change the way we sell, how we sell and it’s going to help us sell better.  

And I think it’s going to actually help the profession of sales grow. A lot of people think “AI robots are going to take over selling.” It may take over pieces of it, but I think it’s going to help us.

The Martech landscape has grown and surged in the last few years. What’s the current state of the Salestech landscape and what direction is it headed?

Stefan: There will be a very similar development in the Salestech landscape that happened over the last decade with marketing technology. We went from relying on gut instinct to know what was working to developing a data-driven approach and a lot of tools developed because of that.

What is critical is that we recognize that our sales reps are extremely busy with all the tools they have to maintain. An average seller uses four and a half tools on a day-to-day basis.

It’s really important to understand that our sellers are extroverts. If you look at the typical personality profile, like a Myers Briggs, sales reps are hired because they’re great at building relationships with customers, at talking and pitching the product. Now making them data entry robots and yelling at them if they don’t complete their Salesforce updates is not the right approach.

On the other hand, the innovations in sales technology are very exciting. However, I think we need to recognize we’re really working with a different type of target audience. Instead of making their lives more difficult and preventing them from spending time with customers, we must invest in technology that can simplify their lives and give them more time to be with customers.

Nobody likes to talk to a robot. If I call my bank, I don’t like speaking with a robot. So the key here is learning how we can support our people and give them more time with their customers.

Bob: Now you mentioned helping them enter information into a CRM. Who wouldn’t love to not have to do CRM? The best salespeople avoid it.

Thinking about AI for sales, what do you think are realistic or maybe unrealistic expectations of what AI can do for selling?

Stefan: Even though there are incredible innovations in the AI space, I think we all have to stay realistic.

Sales reps will not be replaced by AI. And as I just mentioned, I don’t like interacting with a robot on the phone or even per email. There’s a bigger opportunity to take away these pesky tasks that sales rep steps do every day. As you just said, updating Salesforce, rather than making these AI algorithms customer-facing.

At this point, I think the real opportunity is to help our sales reps with mundane tasks or help them to make the right decision rather than replacing the human touch with robots.

Bob: I was at a conference last week, and I spoke on rehumanize selling. I think that AI can help us do that, we’ve gotten away from the human-to-human piece, partly because of all this other stuff we have to do. So, I would agree with you.

What are some examples of technology that you’re seeing emerge relative to AI?

Stefan: Now for every company “AI” is the new buzzword. Like five years ago “big data” was everywhere and five years before that you put “social” or “mobile” everywhere. It’s important to be careful, not every company that does data analytics is doing AI.

The exciting innovations in artificial intelligence that are coming up now, is the concept of deep learning. This is where a massive amount of data storage and compute is used to simulate the human brain, where we have neural networks stacked on top of each other. So this, for me, is real AI.

There are now new capabilities around natural language understanding. AI that’s able to understand the intent of an email and then autonomously scheduling a meeting. It could also differentiate between a phone number, job title or address within an email and then can extract that data straight out of the email and update it in the CRM. Because nobody likes to copy-paste that data over.

Sales automation is capable of tackling all sorts of processes, but also what’s fascinating about this deep learning technology is that you can make fantastic recommendations. It requires enough data but helping you to understand which customers are at the right point in the buying cycle and also understanding which product might be most relevant.

For these systems to work you’d bring in datasets like online behavior, CRM data and historical success of sales reps which the AI can use to accurately predict and recommend next steps for better success. Who wouldn’t love to call a customer that is ready to buy at the right time? AI can help us be more precise and augment our intelligence.

Bob: It’s interesting, the growth potential when you think of marketing automation. It helped grow the SDR/BDR role. We added salespeople because we were getting more leads. If sales automation can get us better leads, I think again we’ll have the need for more salespeople. Much like the computer in the 80s; people thought it was gonna replace people, but instead, it spawned a whole new revolution of IT and a lot of other jobs.

So let’s let’s talk about implementing AI. What are some of the challenges that a leader might face?

Stefan: It’s not as much of a technology challenge, but a change management challenge. It’s really important that you bring your people along. AI is a scary topic, lots of people are afraid they’ll be replaced.

It’s really important to bring them in very early on. So what we do is bring everybody into a room and do a Use Case Discovery Workshop. We ask “Here’s what the technology can do. Where do you guys have the biggest pain?”

Most often sales leaders push tools onto their team from the top-down. The perception from the sales rep is, “Oh, here’s another tool that’s observing me.” Turn this situation around and ask your team for suggestions on how to use this innovative technology to help address the challenges they are facing.

So it’s really about change management, getting people to overcome these fears and then focus on high-value use cases, rather than what this feels good for you as the sales leader.

Bob: I recall back in the early CRM days we had to do change management for that as well.

Let’s talk about success stories you’ve seen in the field that might help people watching this interview. Can you share any successful implementation stories or examples and then any tips on how to get started?

Stefan: There are many, so ping me if you wanna know more. But maybe just as a headline: IDC predicts that by 2020, AI in combination with CRM and sales overall will increase revenue by $1.1 trillion.

These are fantastic uses cases. It starts by getting your CRM data quality up because you’re using sales automation for CRM updates. That will then trigger better quality marketing and sales automation, better forecasting, and so on. Our product helps people save an hour a day on these tasks. They spend more time calling customers and are focusing on closing deals.

We had customers with SDR teams that spend 30 percent of their time just scheduling meetings. It takes four emails to schedule meetings. And let’s be honest, it’s just two humans between two machines. The sales rep has a calendar and the customer has another one, and they have to figure out if Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday works better. So those are things that could be helped through sales automation.

You don’t want to automate away the human conversation. But other things like CRM updates, scheduling, cross and up-sell recommendations, best next steps recommendations are all things that can be incredibly valuable. We frequently see tens of millions dollars in ROI in larger sales organizations and significant cost reduction. With the same amount of people, you can work so much more pipeline.

Bob: That’s great. I want to end though with learning a little bit more about SalesHero. I know you’ve attended AA-ISP events, we’ve partnered together on many things and we appreciate your support.

But just a minute ago, you mentioned saving people quite a bit of time with the scheduling feature of our sales automation platform. Can you tell us specifically what SalesHero does to help sales reps?

Stefan: Let’s take a step back. So I built a market leading company in big data analytics, raised $100 million in venture capital and went from zero to the market leader in seven years. But as a tech guy, I had to run a sales organization and, boy, that was hard.

So the idea for SalesHero came from an older observation we had there. What we’re building is a sales automation platform that uses advanced artificial intelligence algorithms to automate pesky tasks that sales reps don’t like to do. Fifty-nine percent of a sales reps’ time is spent doing administration work. Only 37 percent of their time is spent with their customers and that’s our KPI. We want to increase the time sales reps spend with customers.

We do a whole bunch of things, but for the end-user, our product is personified as a personal assistant we call Robin. So every sales rep now has a personal system that helps to schedule meetings with the customers, does CRM updates, provides them with best next steps or finds their next customer.

And the beauty is that our system continuously learns from the individual sales rep, not the whole organization. Which is really critical, because the way Johnny sells is very different from the way Susan sells. So Robin learns from you, the seller, and then helps you every day by doing the tasks that you have to do, but that aren’t helping you drive revenue.

Bob: I want to hire Robin. I need Robin. Well Stefan, thanks so much for sharing this great information on AI.

If you’d like, what’s the best way for somebody’s seeing this interview to contact you or reach out to you.

Stefan: Just head to our website, SaleHero.ai. Follow us on LinkedIn, we have a lot of really interesting information there. I think it’s fast moving, at this point. Sales automation makes a very big competitive difference, so don’t miss out there.

By Jessica Munday

Content Marketing Specialist at SalesHero, writing about technology, sales, AI and the future of business!

Published Dec 13, 2018

Posted in Innovation

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