The hottest sales trend of the year is called prescriptive sales. This technology-driven trend is the result of adding a layer of artificial intelligence (AI) on top of traditional customer relationship management (CRM) software. Suddenly the software is not just a portal through which you can see basic numbers about your sales performance, it is also able to make intelligent recommendations for how to improve your results.
I wanted to know more about this growing trend and what impact it might have on the sales industry. So I caught up with Base CRM founder and CEO Uzi Shmilovici, a thought leader in prescriptive sales technology.
Q: Is prescriptive sales a fad that will go away with the next big technology leap? Or is this a new norm for sales departments?
Shmilovici: At the heart of it, prescriptive sales insights inform sales leaders on concrete actions they can take to dramatically increase their sales. Prescriptive analytics is here to stay. There’s an inherent business value to it that is long lasting so it is hard to imagine that going away.
As technology continues to advance, we’re able to collect more data that will produce more accurate data points. We’re entering an era where sales is no longer solely measured by revenue and sales departments are following call count metrics, lead yield, initial response time, and more. These metrics paired with prescriptive insights can have a trajectory shifting impact that can’t be denied.
Q: How does a sales person decide when to follow the data-driven advice generated by the AI program and when to go with their instincts about how to close a deal?
Shmilovici: Just like self driving cars, AI in sales is going to be right most of the time, meaning more than a human being. There are cases in which a salesperson will have more context about a situation and might make a better decision. This is the classic argument of art vs. science. The purpose of these technologies is to help sales leaders and people make better decisions, not to replace them.
It is also the job of an AI program to provide supporting evidence with the recommendation. Rather than saying, “Reduce your average lead response time to 27 minutes,” the sales intelligence layer must present the evidence showing how this will make an impact on the business. You can’t replace the human element of sales, but you can recommend concrete process changes that may not otherwise be realized with traditional sales reporting.
Q: A lot of CRM platforms are trying to get on the AI train, what is the biggest difference between the products that have been released to-date?
Shmilovici: Few CRM applications embed AI features within their products (for instance, Smart Opportunity Scoring, which both Base and Salesforce Einstein have). The purpose of these features is to forecast the likelihood of hitting a goal or winning a deal. They are predictive in nature. Apollo is a separate product which focused on prescriptive analytics. It uses a significantly larger data set to prescribe what actions sales leaders should take in order to accelerate sales.
One of the biggest problems businesses will face in the next few years is extracting data from individual point solutions and then connecting each of these data points to produce prescriptive insights. A lot of CRM platforms offer basic lead, contact and opportunity management. However, click to dial, email tracking, and calendar management are all supplied by point solution vendors. This produces data silo situations where your dialer has no idea who you’ve emailed, let alone where the opportunity is in the sales process. You see lots of products jumping on the AI train, but at the end of the day, the insights will only be as good as the data collected. This starts with adoption by salespeople, and continues by having an all-in-one solution and companies who recognize this will reap the benefits in the not so distant future.
Q: Where is this technology headed? Can you make a prediction about sales software in five years?
Shmilovici: The software for sales people is going to move away from the low-adoption, old school interface of forms on top of forms. On one hand, we will see an Uber-level experience on the user applications, with simplified design and smart contextual experiences, and on the other side of it, we’ll see incredible insight products like Apollo that take the data generated by the field to deliver transformational insights.
Proper data collection starts with the experience you deliver to end users, which is the sales rep. We’re accustomed to software experiences that are intuitive, clean and easy to use. Consumer software companies understand this and as a result we have seamless experiences on web and mobile devices. These seamless experiences will continue to influence the enterprise software space. Companies that want to play in the the prescriptive analytics space will have to adopt consumer grade interfaces. The data gathered from these seamless experiences will produce rich insights for sales leaders and enable them to make smarter decisions for their organization.
Q: Base has not been quiet about challenging Salesforce, but does their size give them a unique advantage?
Shmilovici: The incumbents always enjoy a size and brand advantage. This is why it is of utmost importance for the disruptor to introduce a product that is step-function better, which the slow moving incumbent can’t catch up to. This is why even though Salesforce is much larger and well known, Base already beats them in multi-million dollar deals, because the product superiority is so glaring. Making a decision to go with an outdated cloud product just doesn’t make sense.