AI To Impact

PODCAST: COVID 19 | Redefining Digital Enterprises

Episode 13: Digital Sales Enablement is a gamechanger in the
post-COVID era

Listening time: 11 minutes

Digital Sales Enablement is a gamechanger in the post-COVID era

In order to bring more value to the table in post COVID times, B2B sales organisations today are continuously looking out for the right insights to pursue the right opportunities. And that’s why digital sales enablement powered by AI becomes all the more important. To start with, AI can eliminate bias, rule out wrong choices to identify the right ones and make right ones better. The enterprises which are adapting to this change will emerge leaders, predicts Jim.

Aruna: Hi there. You’re listening to the AI to Impact by BRIDGEi2i, a podcast on AI for the digital enterprise. My name is Aruna Babu, and I’m a transformation consultant who spent a good part of the last decade crafting strategy that marries business technology and user needs.

We’re obviously in the middle of a crisis and almost every aspect of life as we knew it has changed in the past couple of months. And in our AI to impact podcast, we’ve been talking with AI and analytics leaders, digital transformation advisors, as well as BRIDGEi2i business leaders to understand their point of view on the current situation, it’s impact on various industries and how enterprises can maintain business continuity while building resilience.

So there we have with us Jim Dickie, who has close to three decades of sales and marketing management experience. Jim began his career with IBM and Sterling software, and then went on to launch two very successful software companies. He’s an independent research fellow for sales mastery and was formerly the cofounder of CSO insights.

From over 25 years of research experience, his findings have become the benchmark for tracking the evolution of how the role of sales is changing. The challenges that are impacting sales performance, and most importantly, what companies are doing to address those issues.

Hi, Jim, thank you so much for talking to us.

Jim: My pleasure. I do join you today.

Aruna: So, it’s a difficult time. So, here’s a thought: This ongoing crisis has changed how sellers engage with buyers. How do you see B2B sales transforming in this scenario?

Jim: I think we’re into that. That’s the million dollar question worldwide right now. You know, we’re getting a lot of calls from our research clients going back through and saying, you know, what are the lessons we’ve learned from the past that we can be applying today?

And it was funny cause I was going through a book that my business partner Barry Trailer and I wrote back in 2002. So, this was right after the internet bubble exploded. And one of the people we interviewed for that book was a gentleman named Jerry Younger Ben. He was president and COO of a software company called Checkpoint.

And one of the things he said back then, which I think is very apropos today, was he said, the thing that’s become more pronounced today, again, this is 2002, is that the markets continuing to question. Are you adding value from the customer through partners? Through the whole relationship they’re asking, is there a value? Is there something I really, really need? And if they can’t answer yes, they’re not going to move forward.

And I think that’s really prophetic for where we are today, because there are a whole lot of B2B buyers out there today and they’ve got needs, you know, they have, they still have challenges that they’re trying to address.

And right now their CFO of the companies become the CF now. And there, and by the way, the finance person’s doing their job, they’re saying, ‘Hey, I will start writing checks out when I start seeing checks coming back in’. And so it’s two messages. Now, the B2B seller clearly has to go out and articulate the value of their solution, but they’ve also gotta be able to go out and articulate additional value, you know, because otherwise the CFO’s going to go, ‘I get that you need this, but couldn’t we just wait until 2021. Couldn’t we just wait until we see, you know, the lights on the horizon in 2022’, and that’s now a Sales who’s challenged to deal with. And it’s interesting. A friend of mine, Jo Battista has gone over to Dell Computer and his title is Chief Creatologist.

Aruna: Wow!

Jim: And so what he’s thinking about is, what are all the other assets that Dell has besides the products we sell that we could bring to the table to add value to the customer? Do we have relationships with suppliers or other clients? Do we have business processes we developed internally, do we have patents on certain technologies? You know, what else is there? And I think that’s really going to be a fundamental thing. That’s going to decide who comes out of this crisis in the best shape is who’s doing the best job of, of doing the full value story.

Aruna: Got it. So, I would imagine businesses are looking for more relevant insights on how do they identify opportunities. I mean, while there’s also tremendous pressure to bring additional value to the table, I guess it’s also that much more relevant to actually find out the right insights to get the right opportunities identified. Right. I mean, does that make sense? So, do you think there’s going to be more investment in sales analytics programs?

Jim: Absolutely…Well, there better be, you know, whatever. You know, we all probably did sales kickoff meetings back in January. You know, at least in the States, we did in the beginning of the fiscal year. So we bring everybody together and we roll out all the strategies and the tactics. And we say, here are the people you’re going to go call on, and here’s the messaging that you want to use. And here’s how you can go and differentiate between us and the competition. And here’s how you’re going to cost justify this. And everybody got trained and you know what? I’m willing to bet in the vast majority of companies worldwide now, all of those strategies and tactics, are obsolete. Everything has changed. So the question then becomes, how do I find out what is working? You know, how do I go in and drill into the process?

We’re not thinking twice about going to the head of product development in our company and go ‘debug the product, I want you to have a bulletproof product that meets customer expectations that doesn’t fail. That doesn’t cause us customer satisfaction issues’, and we all get that.

But why isn’t the CEO coming down to the VP of Sales and going ‘debug the process, I want you to figure out the new messaging. I want you to figure out the new audiences. I want you to figure out now what role the CFO is playing in the decision-making process and what do we do about that and how do we build shareholder value? So I think we’re going to have to go in and do a lot more analysis and we can’t just make these decisions based on hunches, which we tend to do in sales way too much. We’ve got, I actually have metrics. And so we’ve got to have data on what’s the representative of the new norm. Then I think we can make the right choices.

Aruna: Got it. Okay. So while we go and understand processes better and, you know, look for those insights and look at doing that analysis, do you think, you know, we’ve been hearing a lot about sales enablement becoming a lot more digitally enabled, do you think that’s true? Do you think that’s actually something that’s happening because salespeople are actually not able to step out and so on and so forth?

Jim: Well, it’s interesting because we just finished our second annual AI for sales stuff. And this is something we’ve gotten interested in over the last four or five years. I’ve been an editor for CRM magazine since it started 22 years ago. So I’ve been following the space, you know, for a long, long time. And, and what we’ve seen is there’s been a lot of technology innovations come out.

But if you went to a company, you know, five years ago, six years ago, and you said, what are the top three benefits you’re getting from your core CRM investment? So whatever CRM system using. 10th or 11th on the list is, it’s increasing revenues. So, you know, what is traditional CRM doing? Well, it’s improving the communications between reps and their managers. It’s streamlining the forecast process. I will debate with you that it’s improving the forecast process because in the last couple of years, when we asked companies, what’s the outcome of, of forecast deals, the win rates been around 47%. And if you and I went to Vegas and were able to get into a casino today and go up to the craps tables and make a pass, that’s the odds of winning, are 49.3% right? And so when the odds of winning at craps are better than closing a forecast, by the way you created. That’s an issue. But with the AI, for sales things, all of a sudden there’s a new set of capabilities and a new set of power out there. And I think that’s really the key thing on it right now, because to utilize AI, to do some of that analysis.

AI has got a number of advantages, first off, it doesn’t come with any preconceived biases. You know, if you talk to people and you sit there and say, ‘Hey, let’s figure out what we want to do today. You know, Product Development is going to have a bias because they want to develop the product a certain way. Marketing is going to have a bias because they think the buyer’s reacting a certain way. So we all come to things we’ve our biases. We also, as people tend to be limited in our thinking and we tend to get bored if we’re focused on an issue way too long. The key thing about AI is you can come up with the algorithms and AI just starts exploring vast number of alternatives.

And I always remember Thomas Edison, you know, he was the inventor of the light bulb. You know, when he came up, they were talking to him about and said, you know, you failed so many times. And he says, I didn’t fail. He says, I figured out 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb. That’s a unique person who can take that kind of failure. And I think that really what we’re seeing right now with AI is it’s coming through and it’s saying, we’re going to do some analysis. We’re going to do it. We’re going to disregard if we find a million ways that doesn’t work, that’s okay. As long as we find two or three or four that do work and then machine learning kicks in, I think that’s the wildcard in all this, because once you find something that does work, then it goes through and starts saying, how do I make this better by myself?

And so it will improve the algorithms. And I think that’s really where we start to get the insights. And yeah, the things that I think the new ones, generation of AI power tools are going to transform all aspects of customer lifecycle management over time. And in our study, we did a third of the people we said that the 500 companies had implemented AI for sales. The third were evaluating and the third had no interest now. I totally meant I biased the data because the market penetration is not 33%, 33% of companies don’t have AI for sales.

Aruna: Right.

Jim: But the people that are early adopters are generating results we have never seen before. And over 92% of those companies said AI is going to be either a game changer in their marketplace or a critical addition to CRM. Whereas on the opposite side, we haven’t bothered to take a look at, I asked majority felt and we can get by without it it’ll be a nice to have. So the people that are actually using it know something that people who haven’t evaluated don’t know. And I think that’s going to be an issue.

Okay. So that was actually super interesting. I think I’m going to quote you on the craps stable anecdote at least a couple of times. Thank you so much Jim for taking the time. It was an absolute pleasure.

Jim: My pleasure.

Aruna: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the AI to Impact podcast.

That was such a great conversation with Jim Dickie. From companies hiring chief creatogists to continuously deliver additional value to customers, to decision making, becoming more and more data driven. The B2B sales landscape was all set to transform. We’ll be back in later episodes with more such conversations with thought leaders. Do subscribe if you’d like to stay in the know. Once again, thank you so much for tuning in. I’ll catch you next time. Bye bye.

2020 will long be remembered for the pandemic that wreaked havoc on the global economy and disrupted communities and businesses in unprecedented ways. In our latest podcast series: COVID19 | Redefining Digital Enterprises, we will be interacting with several thought leaders, BRIDGEi2i Business Heads, Domain Experts, and reputed AI and analytics leaders to understand the various challenges emerging out of this crisis and the way forward for enterprises in the new world order. Tune in to know more!

Meet the Speaker

Jim Dickie

Jim Dickie, Sales Transformation Leader

Jim Dickie is a Sales Transformation analyst, AI thought leader and keynote speaker. Jim began his career with IBM and Sterling Software, and then went on to launch two very successful software companies. He is an independent research fellow for Sales Mastery and was formerly the cofounder of CSO insights. He has over three decades of sales and marketing management experience and is widely respected for his ideas on Digital Sales Transformation. His research and publications have led the way in finding sales challenges before organisations today and focus on right solutions.