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In this episode of the CPSA Social Selling and Tech show we'll discuss the interconnectedness between sales, data and machine learning. Listen in to hear how adopting AI-based tools and tactics can drive more leads and revenue.
Our guest is Gabe Larsen, V.P. Marketing Strategy and host of the #Playmaker Podcast at InsideSales.com.
Listen to this episode of the CPSA Social Selling and Tech Podcast and read the transcript:
Bill Banham: Welcome to the latest episode of the CPSAs Social Selling and Tech show, I'm your host today, Bill Banham, and I'm joined today by Gabe Larsen, VP at Inside Sales Labs. In this episode, Gabe will consider the role of AI in sales. Gabe, welcome to the show.
Gabe Larsen: Bill, I'm a big podcaster myself and I'm excited to be on your show.
Bill Banham: You are. And we're going to talk about that later, but for those people who haven't heard of you, if there are a couple out there, to start please, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Gabe Larsen: Sure. Sure, so I've been at InsideSales.com for about five years now, and Inside Sales is the leader in sales acceleration technology driven by artificial intelligence, or AI, which is what we're going to be talking about today. I've had a myriad of roles here at Inside Sales, but currently I run what we call Inside Sales labs, that's our research and best practice here at Inside Sales. And prior to my stint here, I spent a few years overseas in the middle east doing some consulting and then was a financial analyst over in New York with Goldman Sachs, so I bounced around a little bit but love the topic of AI and sale.
Bill Banham: Okay, let us roll our sleeves up then Gabe and get into this. Can you tell us a bit about Insight Sales labs and how you're using data to help sales people sale more?
Gabe Larsen: Absolutely, absolutely, so as I mentioned, Inside Sales, one of our real specialities is this idea of using data to help people sell more. It really has a two areas that we do. We basically have sales technology that people use and what they get out of that is hopefully some productivity. They'll be able to do their job as a sales person a little bit better. They'll be able to place some phone calls through a system or send some emails through a scheduled plan or be able to kind of optimize their workflow so they can follow up on prospects a little bit better.
But what they don't realize as often is that all of this data, all the interactions that they have, every time a lead status is moved or a deal stage moves, all that data is assembled in what we call our naturalistic database, and it's got about 100 billion sales interactions, now, and it accumulates more every day. And all of that data that is pushed back to the user to see if can't help them, not replace them and I know we'll talk about that in just a minute, but help them be a little bit smarter about what they do? Who they do it to? And how they do it?
So just one example is this idea if I'm a sales rep and I sit down and I say, how should I approach my day. Well, with the system that we're designing, again enablement, then you'd understand who from that account is more optimal than others. Then you'd know, which type of communication method you may have the most likelihood of being able to engage with somebody. Or when should you place a phone call or when should you send an email. It's those types of small pieces that enable a sales rep to sale more using bold technology and AI. Does that make sense?
Bill Banham: It does. Thank you very much. Now, let's delve a bit further into that. So your CRM has AI functionality. How has it improved the way people are selling?
Gabe Larsen: I just touched on that a little bit in my last statement. The problem I think of sales has been, in the past, it's been too subjective. And again, I think we don't to go far to the other side. We don't want to go into where robots are replacing us. There's this place in the middle where, and I am a big Avengers guy, although there's been so many Avengers movies, sometimes I get overdone. But the Iron Man analogy comes to mind here and it is ... Iron Man, you've got a gentleman who puts on a suit and becomes a super hero. What we want to do with sales is exactly that. We want to take the subjective sales person who is guessing about what they should do, how they should do it and we want to encompass them or encapsulate them with a machine so they become a super salesperson.
So let me just give you a couple other, just tactical, examples of how our technology, and again, we don't actually offer ... it's not a CRM, we actually attach it to a CRM, so if you have a sales force, if you have a Microsoft dynamics, we actually attach on to that and provide these sales acceleration tools with some data to power it, but here's a couple quick examples, just so you can visualize how sales reps are using AI to see real results. And this is the problem Bill, it's like you know it better than everybody, it's like AI, AI, AI everybody's talking about it and I think in a lot of cases, it's a fluffy. It's a little not real. Is it actually doing anything in sales? So I want to give you just three examples, and I'll make them short, of how salespeople are actually using AI to achieve real results. One is on the prospecting side and I mentioned phone calls as an example, but what if I told you as sales rep if you placed a call to a particular prospect and let's say that call, the number was unidentified or it was a disconnected phone number. What the AI engine could do is, when another sales rep from another company calls that same number, before they do, they'll get an alert that says that phone number is disconnected. Very much like the recommendation engine on Amazon.com. When I go there to purchase something on Amazon, I go ahead and purchase it but it recommends something to me down there on the bottom and it's based on my past behavior but it's actually also based on what other people like me do, and you're going to see this more and more, and it's the secret sauce to InsideSales.com, is cross-company data.
Utilizing what other people do to help us all be a little bit better. So that's one on phone call and I mimic that on email. Again, I just want to go tactical for a minute. I know all of us know how to send an email, and some of us think we know when to send an email that's optimal. But what if I could tell you that when you send an email addressed to a certain type of person or persona, I could tell you don't send it right now. I'll send it to that person in an hour or 45 minutes because I've bee monitoring this email address across the platform. And when they typically engage with an email is at 5:45 Eastern time so I'm going to drop in it their inbox just then. Again, very tactical but it boosts your conversation rates, it boosts the response rates and just those three or four more conversations can really lead to more deals.
And then lastly, I'm on my soapbox just a little bit. Promise I'll end, but the last one is it's not just about prospecting. You could move into the pipeline as you actually start working towards close deals and one that is really fun one that we've been playing with, is just proper pipeline management and forecasting. So a lot of reps, they struggle to figure out, what should I forecast and why and sometimes it's a little bit of a guess. With AI and data, we can look at an opportunity and say, hey I know you think it's supposed to close ... you forecasted it at 90% but based on the behavior of that opportunity, it's move deal stages back and forth. Based on the number of contacts and the interactions you've had, it's actually more likely to close at a 60%. And that kind of forecast accuracy could be a game changer for the company. So I didn't mean to go to long there, Bill, but I wanted to see if we couldn't get out what are some tactical ways that people are really suing AI to get real results.
Bill Banham: Within that answer there, you very much focused on the role of the human within these new processes and with all of this technology at their disposal. What would you say, however, to those people who have the fears that AI is soon going to replace huge numbers of salespeople?
Gabe Larsen: I don't know if it's ... I can see the fear and I think there is something out there that obviously makes people think that. We did a study called the State of AI and we actually asked people about some of this type of stuff. We said, "what do you think about AI and how do you think it's going to happen". For the most part, I think people aren't too concerned that AI will completely replace their jobs, at least in sales. My tidbit is, what I kind of mentioned a little bit earlier, when it comes to AI, first and foremost, we've got find a way to enable us, make us better and I think we need to start thinking about not reporting to robots, but becoming Iron Men. Super salespeople so that we jump into our seat and all of a sudden, we're being supported as we do things a lot more effectively.
With that said, certainly, I think there will be places where AI may start to infringe on certain sales responsibilities and certain sales tasks, and one place you're seeing that already start to crop up just a little bit, is in the inbound response concept. When someone goes to a website and they respond to a lead that says, hey please contact me. Couple cool technologies out there to figure out, hey can we bypass an initial, someone who qualifies that and can we immediately use AI to qualify it and pass it directly to the sales team. So you're seeing some infringement there on potential replacement, but for the most part, I'm seeing more about enabling, and I don't think you'll ever be able to get away from the human, and truthfully, we need to be careful of that. We should focus enabling the human rather than just replacing the human.
Bill Banham: The sales leaders, any advice on implementing the use of AI in the sales organizations?
Gabe Larsen: I think the big advice is, number one, you just got to be a little bit consciences. I think it's become such as buzz word out there that if you're not careful, I think you're going to get caught up in the buzz and you're going to miss the boat because you're going to run into fluff. My recommendation is look at it as a path, and that path should basically have four steps in our minds. Number one, go for productivity first. You're not going to get AI unless you actually start capturing data. So instrument your sellers so that you actually start capture data. Number two, figure out who you should be going after. Go figure out your optimal buyers. What the demographics and the information and then prioritize them and use data to do it.
Once you've got that, you're getting down the path but number three is you got to go after your sellers. Who are you're top people? What DNA does great look like? How can you match greatness with optimal contacts or prospects to double that revenue or hit your number more effectively? And then last but not least, step number four is you start looking at post sales activities. Cross-sell, up seller, some other custom AI questions where AI can really come in and affect you.
So productivity, step one. Step two is profile your buyer, step three your sellers. And then step four, figure what else you want a hand with AI. That is where AI can really bring real results.
Bill Banham: We will be publishing this particular in early 2018, so I'd love to hear from you just a couple of tidbits just about particular technology brands, perhaps, or new strategies that you think will be happening in the world of AI and sales in the next 12 months.
Gabe Larsen: So much. This is it. I can see why every company is starting to say ... we've been doing it for about a decade and thus the 100 billion sales interactions in the database. Long story short, things I'm really passionate about which I think will be going to come out in AI .. one is around intent. When you think about optimal buyers, what a lot of people have gone to is looking at what past accounts are good. What past accounts have actually closed and you try to find more of those. That's kind of what AI has been influencing in. Intent data adds a whole other level on that. What if I could tell you, we've looked at all your accounts and these are the ones most likely to buy from you and we have this intent data.
They've been searching for AI in sales on forbes.com, so not only are they your top account, but we know that they've got actual behaviors or activities ... and that intent data with prioritization data. The other thing I just ... we've never gotten real deep into this here at Inside Sales. We played with it a little bit but I love to train and coach and I just feel like training and coaching and sales is so on the cusp of disruption. We sit down in a room and we talk about something, more like school atmosphere. You're going to see live coaching. You're going to see someone on a phone with psychometric capabilities. We're going to be studying both the seller and the buyer. We're going to figure out the personalities of both and you'll see real-time coaching on phone calls about what you can do differently. Phone calls, demonstrations, interactions, anything that's digital. Training has to be disruptive. We've got to make it more real-time and we got to use data to do it.
Those are two that I'm a little bit passionate about. One, that inside sales is getting that deep into and the other, I'm just passionate about training and coaching.
Bill Banham: Okay, so it would be remiss of me before we wrap things up on this interview to not mention that the fact that you're also a podcast host of the popular Play Maker show. Briefly tell us about the format and some of the topics that you address on that.
Gabe Larsen: So Play Maker we've been doing for about a year, 150 plus episodes. It's been fantastic. Playmakers are just a different type of breed. They don't sell using subjectivity and guessing, they use data and science and so we pull on guests twice a week. We talk about all things sales. Sales operations and demand generation and how data and science can help people sell more, so that's kind of the gist of it and would love for you to tune in and join the revolution.
Bill Banham: Perfect. Well, that just leaves me to say for today, Gabe Larsen, thank you for being a guest on the Social Selling and Tech Show.
Gabe Larsen: Hey, really appreciate it.
Bill Banham: And listeners, until next time, happy selling.
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