Apr 302022
 

 

 

I posted an article on Sales Enablement recently. Much of the modern software used in that niche utilizes Artificial Intelligence (AI). So let us focus on AI now.

 

What Is AI?

Firstly, let us understand what AI is. Most of us will think back (forward?) to Arnold, Terminator and Skynet and why not? Machine Learning is a subset of AI, but more precisely Artificial Intelligence is programming that teaches a system to mimic human behaviour and actions, but obviously at a faster and more effective manner that brings with it the consistency of a machine. More completely, AI is a series of networks that leverages statistics and instructions over and over to emulate humans. It is designed to improve overtime as well because the more ‘experiences’ (a.k.a. statistics) it has the more complete it becomes.

One more thing, AI may be all the rage now, but it is hardly new. This notion goes back to Alan Turing and the 1950s. For an early application look up ELIZA from the 1960s.

So What (For Sales)?

The end goal, however, remains somewhat elusive. Systems are not perfect. It is thought that perfection has been attained when humans cannot fathom whether they are dealing with a machine or a human being and results are impeccable. If AI, therefore, includes Machine Learning, analytics, natural language, simulation, learning and interaction then how can it help the profession of sales? Here the idea is to take all the information and transaction in sales – conversations, e-mails, responses or lack thereof, every CRM entry, every sale, every lost deal, et cetra – and put them into one place in order to help the seller. The goal is to identify the correct course of action, the next step, the way to help customers and sellers and to win business. Is it possible? To some extent the answer is yes. The hesitation, however, stems from the unpredictability of human psychology and of course different cultures and needs or wants. Yet, AI is supposed to learn those too because after all, it is all data translated to action.

 

So, Is AI Going To Take Over The World And Rid Us Of Our Jobs (And Sustenance)?

Maybe. Still, as of today the reality on the ground is that AI is here to assist, help, improve and enhance the seller’s efforts not replace it. Put that way, would anyone argue against help? Which salesperson would claim he or she does not need help? One issue, that one can foresee easily, is that AI may be trained to be biased to think like a seller or a vendor. To be successful, this writer supposes, AI needs to think like a customer or prospect. That is the way to successfully sell after all.

 

So Which Are The Tools?

Like any other category, AI solutions are bound to be comprised of the good, the bad and the so-so and trials, proofs of concept and honest assessments are a must. It is smart to gauge results, ask the user community (the sales team) honestly and measure revenue enhancement before committing. Randomly picked, because TNG and SugarCRM are as good or bad as any other to keep an eye on, I have bookmarked this in order to track the revenue for my ‘proof is in the pudding’ hobby tracking, but truthfully the market will speak sooner or later.

 

One last thing. Candidly put whether effective or not, the reality is that the market for AI-driven solutions in sales is going to expand. Just keep in mind how much salespeople have traditionally disliked using CRM and yet the parallel expansion and growth of the sector! One factor that speaks to my hypothesis is the growth of AI in other niches. With increased adoption of AI in healthcare, customer service, arts and more the concept is becoming mainstream, which means more revenue for the sector to enable improvement and also for more people to become more comfortable with the notion.

 

Here goes a list of vendors and providers in the Sales AI space:

 

  • Affinity (including Nudge.ai) – A tracking CRM for industries where relationships are important.
  • Conversica – Provider of a conversational AI. Claims that all its AI Assistants are more accurate than a human. Suited for business development and marketing.
  • Clari – An opportunity management and forecasting tool to offer better visibility to sales teams.
  • Drift – Sales and Marketing conversation at the right time with the appropriate content plus insights especially for inbounds.
  • Exceed.AI (Part of Genesys) – Similar to drift geared towards inbound prospects and leads for sales and marketing, it automatically picks up the conversation, sets appointments and updates Calendars.
  • Gong.AI – Captures and analyzes customer interactions for insights and next steps.
  • Heyday – Tuned for retail, Heyday’s AI connects inventory and catalogue to customer search results and nudges sales to connect with customers when most appropriate.
  • Introhive – Relationship intelligence that leverages CRM to reveal ones network and relationships with customers.
  • Kixie – Automates calling and texting of the names in CRM and records and tracks the events.
  • People.ai – Provides persona-specific productivity tools and provides insights.
  • SalesDirector.ai – Offers predictive insights into sales team’s pipeline and customer interactions.
  • Salesforce – Salesforce, the leader in CRM, has embedded AI in much of its solutions for insights and automation.
  • Saleswhale (Part Of 6Sense) – An AI assistant to engage with and follow-up with leads.
  • VeloxyIO – A platform that integrates e-mail, CRM and calling into one solution and view.
  • Zendesk – Engage with and support customers across a myriad of channels and keep all interactions in one place.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: AI technology companies that are made to be acquired as opposed to being there long-term to help customers.

Apr 182022
 

 

Sales Enablement has been quite an oft-discussed concept in sales circles for the last decade or so. As the name suggests the concept should be simple. Sales Enablement is the who, what, where, when and how of enabling sales (defined here broadly as inside, outside, SME, enterprise, BDR, etc.) to achieve its goals in general and quota targets specifically. Simple enough. Yet, there is a lot more to helping sales, and indeed the whole company, deliver the value message to customers.

Personally, Sales Enablement for me is anything and everything that enables sales. As such, and for me, marketing is sales enablement. A company executive travelling or getting on the telephone with a salesperson to aid his or her effort is sales enablement. Training is sales enablement, et cetra.

However, there is a niche and segment for Sales Enablement all to its own in the marketplace. The segment is large given how the addressable market is vast. The number of vendors vying for a piece of the pie is large because sales is so crucial to everything everybody does. These vendors and suppliers define the market more narrowly than my definition and seek to inhabit the more focused and accepted definition of what the marketplace for their solutions is.

This narrower definition speaks to tools, solutions, programs, software and content that allow the Sales team to find prospects or take a top of the funnel prospect and convert it to a paying customer at the bottom of the funnel. Yes, it is still multi-disciplinary and multi-faceted, but defined more narrowly than my definition above. And with the advent of technology, Sales Enablement in the hands of its official suppliers and vendors has become more technical, more up-to-the-minute as pertains to the needs of the individual accessing it and more relevant for the type of sale it is accessed for and, notwithstanding the automation of much of it, has become more advanced and scientific. That automation piece is actually important because salespersons do not always have the will or time to engage with the technology proactively. it is a win for the sales team’s time and also insurance that the rights steps are being taken when the solution triggers events in an optimal sequence. Modern AI-powered solutions do wonders sometimes.

The more focused definition is fine and here you will find a list of the vendors in the space as of today. The sentence says ‘as of today’ because by the time this writer finishes this paragraph and hits the ‘publish’ button half a dozen vendors have sold themselves, merged or failed rendering the list dated. This is only half a joke. Another half a joke is how a company that is in Sales Enablement could not enable its sales team to take over the world (yet wants to help everyone else do the same). Yes, it is understood that many companies do not seek to remain or grow. Like any sector, half of the companies out there seek to be acquired and cash out. Here is another quip: it is said (by me) that any company with a a.ai domain is flashing a sign saying ‘buy me! buy me!!’

The list is coming shortly, but first a few bullet points on why Sales Enablement is seriously important and a comment on its integration with other departments.

 

Why are companies adopting formal Sales Enablement programs and solutions?

 

Sales is not an insular position. It needs and feeds everyone else at the company. From the management team to Marketing and Delivery sales needs to be hand in glove with everybody else. Sales and other departments need to be in sync. The right Sales Enablement environment enables this aspect. This is internal alignment.

Similarly, sales needs to be in sync with its prospects and customers. Sales needs to supply the right impetus, content and information to its customers – whether the two parties are speaking currently and directly with one another or not. Sales Enablement needs to ensure that the two sides (supply and demand) are related and relevant. This is external alignment.

Finally, all of this should be measurable and accountable. How many videos professionally filmed and uploaded by companies have you seen that despite clearly having cost time and a monetary bundle in preparation, lighting, filming and editing have a paltry one hundred views (half of which is the producing team)? Isn’t something amiss? Yes, there is. It is not serving the needs of sales or its customers obviously. How many leads from Marketing were garbage? How many quality leads were mishandled by Sales? Why are people not responding to content? These are mere examples of a mismatched Sales Enablement piece of the puzzle that is not performing and is screaming for a programmatic review, be it content-wise, consumption-wise or perhaps even forming an accessibility point-of-view challenge. Things need to be measurable so they can be manageable so we improve and consistently recaliber.

Finally, Sales Enablement should be integrated. The more all the sets of data, material and processes are integrated the more likely for them to actually work, to be leveraged by sales, to save the requisite time and ultimately to contribute rather than detract. Moreover, when all solutions are integrated the company can better measure the effectiveness and garner insight into what is working and what is not at scale.

Perhaps an ancillary reason to adopt these solutions is to recruit salespersons in the first place. Obviously, enablement tools help the team be successful, earn more and treat customers correctly, but what a recruitment tool? A company adopting the right tech can expect to have more successful sales teams and give people more reasons to work there, right? After all, this whole article is about adding value.

 

 

Is there a list of providers and vendors in this space?

 

With that said and without further ado, here is a list of companies in the space. As mentioned, this is narrowly defined and offerings such as marketing-only, training-only or CRM are omitted.  One further ado: Having not personally used all these solutions, inclusion does not equal warrantee that it does what it says. My experience is that several are quite useful and helpful. A few are a waste of time and have proven themselves to be a nuisance. The advice goes doubly for readers who are not in the USA. Contact data are more scarce internationally in many of these tools and process norms do differ from country to country. Review and analysis before buying are your friends.

  • Adapt – Real-time customer data that integrates with your CRM
  • Apollo – Find prospects, segment them and connect with them
  • Bombora – Buyers’ intent data to understand who is looking to buy
  • CallMiner – Analyses your communication with your customers to drive your actions
  • Chorus – Conversation intelligence to analyse sales meetings and suggest improvements. Owned by Zoominfo since 2021
  • Cognism – Market and Sales intelligence including contact information and intent data
  • D&B Hoovers – Contact information including areas of responsibility and job titles
  • Datanyze – Contact information for businesses and which solutions they use
  • DealHub.io – Share information and quotations with customers, automate steps and track engagement
  • Demandbase – Connects first and third-party data for one view of accounts – now includes InsideView for CRM data management
  • DiscoverOrg – Contact information and profiles that is integrated with your CRM. Part of Zoominfo
  • Dooly – Organizes opportunity notes and fields and syncs them into Salesforce to share with others
  • Enablix – Connect Sales and Marketing content for data-driven decisions on what content is needed next. Also measures engagement
  • Enthu – Analyses team’s calls and collates them for management for intervention, training or other insights
  • ExecVision – Conversation intelligence and mining platform in multiple languages
  • Global Database – An international business directory
  • Gong – Captures and analyses customer interactions to determine best course of action and areas of hit and miss
  • Groove – Automates sales activities and lightens the administrative burden of sales. It also automates action items
  • Guru – Create, share and access data and within the sales workflow
  • Highspot – Combines content, customer engagement and knowledge sharing in multiple languages
  • InsideSales.com – Playbooks for sales to optimize sales interactions including appropriate contacts and triggers
  • Jiminny – A coaching tool to record, analyse, track and learn from your customer conversations to enable improvement and analytics
  • Klue – A competitor insight platform compiled from internal and external sources
  • Lead 411 – Company and employee contact information and triggers
  • Leadgenius – Scale your outbound by finding the right contacts and lists
  • LeadIQ – Targetted information on potential leads integrated with CRM
  • Lessonly – An eLearning solution including presentation, tracking and assignments. Purchased by Seismic in 2021
  • LinkedIn (Sales Navigator) – A professional networking and communication social media. LinkedIn is a part of Microsoft
  • Lusha – Identify a prospect’s e-mail and telephone number, especially in the USA. It acts as a browser extension
  • Mediafly – Create and enhance your presentations, including trackable links and analytics
  • MindTickle – Identify the right sales behaviour and train the team on it
  • Observe – An analysis of your customers’ audio calls and text communication to derive sentiment signals
  • Outreach – Helps create and manage sales workflows and track them
  • SalesHood – A Learning Management System (LMS) that includes testing and tracking
  • SalesIntel – Helps you identify your prospects with buying intent and provides contact information
  • Seamless – Finds your prospects’ contact and LinkedIn information
  • Seismic – A content management platform that allows Marketing to create and customize sales-related material and for the sales team to discover and brand it for a particular engagement
  • Showpad – Sales content management, training and coaching in one. Track content usage by the customers as well
  • 6Sense – Uncovers buying behaviour and information based on web activity, which triggers for ABM efforts
  • Slintel – A market intelligence and buyer intent. Part of 6Sense now
  • TechTarget – Identify target contacts and acquire their contact information
  • Uplead – Business and contact data including e-mail verification
  • Volley – Convert leads into customer using intent data and personalization
  • Zoominfo – 360 degree view of customers including intent data and hierarchies

 

Any names missing? Let me know.

One final important note: All applications should be tested for ease of use. Salespeople are busy and dislike spending time when a software is not user friendly. All purchase decisions should take this, as well as utility, into consideration. Need to heavily configure? Need to code? Need to wait minutes for it to load? Need to complete a curriculum to use the application? Need to become versed in boolean search parameters? Skip the tool.

 

*Things That Need To Go Away: Sales Enablement solutions that make the sales team neither more effective nor more efficient