By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
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This week’s episode is entitled “Will AI Replace Sales Professionals? Finding The Right Balance Between Sales Automation and a Human Touch” and our guest is David Keane,Founder and CEO at Bigtincan.
We’re seeing such an emergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning in sales and marketing and over the last six to eight months, we’ve seen a lot more companies say they feel like it’s successful, something they can actually get their arms around and use. It seems to me that part of that is taking what we think of as big data and all this information out there and prioritizing the right data, prioritizing data that we can get access to quickly, that you can make a decision on it and hopefully continue to engage and mobilize the prospects. I ask David how thinks about that and how you take big opportunity and make it real and make it right now for customers. This and a lot more!
Listen in or read the entire conversation below:
Matt: Thanks everyone for joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio. Really appreciate everyone joining another episode. We are here every week live at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. And for those of you joining us live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thanks so much for making us a part of your work day.
If you have stumbled upon this episode, found us on the iTunes store or Google Play or wherever find podcasts are sold and available. Thanks very much for joining us as well. Paul, I was just writing up, we’re getting close to 200 episodes. We’ve been doing this over four years and I was writing up some lessons and best practices from having done the podcast for so long. I think part of the lesson for me is just consistency. Right? Just doing this, having a process, having great guests, like we do today and just being consistent about doing it.
Paul: Well, don’t jump in and finish the book yet because your guest has got some great insights I’m told here.
Matt: I know he does and one of the things I was mentioning and just the importance of consistency and sticking with it. I think last year, we saw more downloads last year for the episode than we saw in the first three years combined. So sometimes it just takes a little bit of time to build that up.
And if you want to check out some of those past episodes, the last 195 plus, you can check them out at SalesPipelineRadio.com where we’re featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing today. Absolutely no different, very excited to have with us David Keane. He’s the founder and CEO of Bigtincan. David, thanks so much for joining us today.
David: Oh Matt, you’re welcome. So glad to be here. Should we talk about surfing first?
Paul: He sounds like he’s got an Aussie or a New Zealand accent so he must be well-versed in surfing down there.
David: Matt, you got to be careful. It’s really great to be on the show. You guys do an amazing job. I think the information really helps everybody and it’s really great to be here.
Matt: Well, so talk a little bit about Bigtincan. I mean you guys, your origins are in the smartphone industry and you guys all over the B2B space now. Talk a little bit about the evolution of a company and what you guys offer the, B2B sales and marketing today.
David: Yeah, no problem. So as you can tell from my crazy accent, we actually did start in Australia in 2011. And we really started right when there was a confluence of really interesting technology changes affecting, we thought, every B2B buyer, seller interaction, that there was this need for sellers to be better prepared and more informed when they work with a smarter and smarter buyer.
If you think about the engagement folks have today in the B2B world, the ad buyers are getting a lot prepared, they’re getting educated by all the wonderful marketing technology you often talk about Matt, and they are often more prepared than ever before. And it has got to a point whereby many customer facing sales teams, just didn’t have what it took to be prepared and ready to actually have a valuable conversation with that potential buyer. And that really caused all kinds of stresses and strains in that connection to the point whereby in many of those engagements, the sales person was left with very little to talk about it except maybe the price of the solution that they sell.
So Bigtincan was created from the very beginning, to focus on how can we use the power of smart software and hope to talk a bit about our view of some of that in a minute, but how we can use software new ways to automatically empower people to have the right knowledge and the right information and the right content. So when they do engage with that smarter and better educated buyer, they are ready to be more successful.
That was the beginning of the company and that transition from the Australian beginnings of the company, to now being based out of Boston, Massachusetts. Not too many ways around Boston, but we’re working on that I think. We see that this opportunity is impacting every engagement pretty much in B2B today.
Matt: Absolutely. Well, I think we’re seeing such an emergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning in sales and marketing and I want to have you talk a little bit about, over the last six to eight months, we’ve seen a lot more companies feel like it’s successful, something they can actually get their arms around and use. It seems to me that part of that is taking what we think of as big data and all this information out there and prioritizing the right data, prioritizing data that we can get access to quickly, that you can make a decision on it and hopefully continue to engage and mobilize the prospects. How do you guys think about that and how you take big opportunity and make it real and make it right now for your customers?
David: Yeah. I think it’s really interesting the way you talk about that and a lot of technology that just does appear often has had years and years of work to get it to that point. And we’ve seen something very similar happen with AI and machine learning type technology. But if we step back a bit and think about why that even matters at all, what’s a reason that matters?
Well, I think at the macro level, our economy, of course, we seem to be operating in a pretty strong economy right now. That economy is moving much faster than ever before. We expect our customer facing workers in B2B and really in many parts of our economy, to be able to engage with this smarter buyer. And after the wonderful, great recession we had in 2008, a lot of the roles that we used to have that would provide some additional support and information and insights to that sales person to help them get ready to actually work with a buyer, many of those roles are gone and probably gone for good.
So where we can think about this new approach with data science and AI and machine learning, whatever you call it, is that we can now start to use computers and software to be able to provide guidance and input to help that person get better prepared for when they engage with that smarter buyer. And that can have a pretty big impact in two areas.
Of course, fun story guys, that I can remember the 1990s, which is a long time ago. But back in the 1990s, sales teams used to have assistants that would actually help the salesperson to be prepared and ready to engage with their customer, give them access to give insights and information, maybe do some bit of research for them, so they could focus on the relationship and the connection they had to make with their buyer.
And we fast forward to today, again, those roles are no longer there. So this AI, this machine learning approach can now actually help guide a sales person, help them get better prepared, help them to have the right insights and knowledge so they can have a better chance of closing a deal.
And that sounds pretty straight forward and certainly we’re seeing that approach becoming, I would say more and more understood, an inevitable future. Think in the way we use our smart phones today and those virtual assistants that we, and not say their names on the radio because we’ll have all of the phones beeping up around the world. But those assistants are using your phone, the way you use them to give you guidance is absolutely the model that we see working for your customer facing B2B sales people.
But the second side of that, the other side of that coin is actually really interesting to enterprise organizations. And that’s where you can get that big data you talked about, Matt. When you could start to say, hey, we now know what is actually happening when we have those engagements with potential customers. We know how our customer facing teams are actually working. We know what skills they have and maybe they don’t have and we can start to use that big data to make recommendations or provide guidance that can help that person to do better the next time they engage.
And so where we have seen that growth you talked about over the last, certainly the last 12 months, there’s been organizations realizing, gee, this can really work. It can work to make every engagement more successful. It can make every person more productive. And again, in our world and tight economy where we just can’t keep hiring people, we’ve got to think about how we can make each person more successful.
But also we can now get these insights into what’s happening in the buyer-seller dynamic, the actual moment of truth when buyers and sellers work together and meet each other. Now for many organizations, particularly some, even some larger companies where, whether it be marketing or sales operations, they would love to have that data to understand what’s going on in that connection and its been missing, technology is.
Let’s get serious about AI, let’s think about machine learning and data science as better ways to help empower both sides of that connection. When a buyer and seller meet, at that point in time, make that some are better prepared, better equipped, and then let’s help the business to understand what’s going on in that moment of truth.
Matt: We’re talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with David Keane. He’s the founder and CEO of Bigtincan and he wants to give insights into what the opportunity right now is with AI. And I think, David, you’re talking a lot about this, seeing the benefits of the sales organization. It seems like this can directly impact marketing campaigns. I also, just a lot of what you’re talking about seems like it could be directly applicable and just as valuable to a product team. Right? I mean, those insights and how you react to them, it could be done on a phone, in a meeting, in an email, in the product you’re interacting with online or in mobile. Where do you see the most application? Is it in the sales environment or do you see marketing and product uses to this as well?
David: I think what we’re seeing is the mega trend here is that marketing and product, they need to know what’s happening when a salesperson meets a customer and for, I mean, you guys can comment but for almost as long as I can remember, the marketing and product organizations saw the sales engagement with the customer as this black hole. They could never see into it. They map out this process for lead generation and nurturing and moving a customer forward and they had this lovely flowchart and they get to the buyer meets the seller and there’d be this little black box around it and you’d hope that a good job was done.
So what we see happening is these two things working together. We know that marketing groups and product groups need to know that the message they are crafting, diligently crafting, puts huge effort into designing is being relayed in the right way. Because if they know it is and it’s not working for some reason, the results aren’t there, they can fine tune their message.
If they’re always worried, gee, we did a great job with this idea and this approach, but I’m scared to sales team messed it up when they presented to the customer. They’re not sure if it’s their message or it’s the delivery of the message that’s a problem. So we see an opportunity for the folks that are creating this view, they are building that message. They are crafting that content to have this insight into what actually goes on in engagement.
But at the same time, we want to do that in a way where this approach to smart software is helping that sales person to use it in the right way. And we think we have a pretty unique time right now in our market where, again, back to what you said at the beginning of this conversation, the last year, the last six months, this is technology that is now practical to be implemented and that means that you’re going to see leaders in B2B, again, amongst other sectors saying, right, it’s time for us to differentiate before our competitors do.
Matt: I agree. We’ve got to take a quick break, pay some bills, we’ll be right back with more with David Keane from Bigtincan and we’re going to be talking about just helping marketers and sales professionals embrace a more complex world as a way of differentiating and I also want to find out how the heck he named his company. We’ll be right back, this is Pipeline Radio.
Paul: Okay. Back to our discussion about AI and the good news is that no matter how smart the robots get, they’re never going to replace us producers and engineers because how else could we do shows like this?
Matt: Well, you couldn’t and it’s great that you bring that up Paul, because in the blog post, I don’t know when we’re putting up, it might be up tomorrow, might be up next week. One of my lessons and recommendations is that you need a sidekick, right? I mean, you can have a cohost for the show. I signed up to do the podcast, I did not expect to have a Paul Roberts as part of this. But you’re my Andy Richter, man. I mean, this has been a lot of fun for us. Occasionally people won’t show up and we’ll just kind of riff on things. But I think it adds a layer of interest and humor and it’s been a lot of fun.
Paul: I’d wonder really from your guests, every sales organization, whether they admit it or not, probably wishes they could have robots selling their products here because they never get sick. They always have the exact same spiel. They listen at the appropriate times here. But how do you get around that human factor, that interaction? How do you add humor and things like that into an AI experience?
David: Well, maybe you don’t. Maybe what you do is you empower the person. You empower that sales person to do what they’re really good at, which is understanding that human connection, understanding what really makes that person respond. And using the AI, I think we might call our new AI, the Andy, the Andy AI.
But the idea that it can be the sidekick, it can be the helper, it can help you to get ready. It can help you to get set so that when you have that engagement, you can be as prepared as possible. You can be as empowered as possible to then do the bits you have to do and then focus on the bits that, you said it right, no computer is going to do in our lifetimes, which is do the actual human connection part of this.
I have another way of thinking about that, which I’d like to run past you and see if you guys like this approach. But in many ways we think of this new approach for helping sellers a bit like the way we think about some of the driver assistance or self-driving type tools you see in today’s cars, those motor vehicles. Those tools, whether it be lane keep assist or some kind of emergency braking or smart GPS. These tools are all designed so that the driver could actually focus more on the road and what’s important. They’re designed to assist the driver when things may be going a little bit wrong. They’re there to make sure that the driver gets the optimal use of their humanness, to be able to be successful in their task.
Now we see sales AI doing a very similar thing, providing that level of assistance, that guidance, that support, so that the sales person can win a deal, can focus on a customer need, can get the insight they can only get from that human connection. And I do believe that as we think more about where this can impact that buyer-seller dynamic. If we’re able to use AI in the right way, I think about it often the way we use these smart assistants on our phones that tell us what the weather is going to be like in Chicago when we head out there, this kind of stuff.
It’s wonderful insights that you can get instantly. So sales AI will have a very similar approach. It will help that person as an assistant, Andy, to help to make them feel confident that they can be affective as possible in that customer engagement.
Paul: I love that. Yeah, and I agree with you. I think that, especially for that complex sale, we no longer think of salespeople as just being the gates to information. But the best ones are actually guides and sherpas along the process. They’re trusted advisors. And I think that, it’s certainly, I think artificial intelligence can help translate some of the, what’s going on in the market. But I think that, there’s an awful lot of B2B selling, to be very difficult to do without that human touch.
Related to that though, our guest today on Sales Pipeline Radio, the founder and CEO, Bigtincan, David Keane, I wanted to ask you about the level of complexity that this implies about sales and marketing today. I mean, we talk to a lot of companies and CMOs and chief revenue officers. And they wish that things were simple again. They wished that they could just generate leads and send them to sales team and just have a follow-up script. It could be that that was never actually effective.
What do you say to companies that look at this opportunity, look at software like this and they’re trying to figure out how to, for lack of a description, embrace the discomfort and change and create an appetite for complexity that ultimately leads to a very, very good place, but there’s certainly a learning curve to get there?
David: I think that’s a really interesting question and of course, challenging because we live in a very complex world. If we look at the everyday engagements that we all have as human beings in our lives, we’re doing all kinds of things that were just impossible a generation ago. But the way to think about this is that this technology is simply designed to make it easier.
If you implement AI and machine learning and data science in a way that makes that connection, that buyer-seller dynamic more complex, I would say you’re doing it wrong. The principle of this technology is to make that engagement simpler, is so that human being is able to get the assistance they need and support and data and insights they need, when they need it, rather than just dumping it all in some big treasure trove of data. It’s going to be the right information at the right time, so that they can focus on what they need to do.
And the outcome of this is a simpler world and I think that’s something that we’re going to innately understand ourselves as we engage more in our everyday consumer lives, with similar kinds of approaches. But the one thing I will say, which is really important to understand is that to make this work successfully, we need to remember these things are just computer programs. They’re fancy, smart computer programs, but they’re just computer programs. They need to have the data and the data is where enterprise organizations and I believe every organization is going to continue to build up the value.
So focus on your data, get the data there, build models around the data to make it easier and what you’ll find is data science and AI can actually really have an impact in how your sellers work and how your business marketing, sales managers, operational teams as high up as the executive C-suite. They can get insights into what’s happening in that black box of buyer-seller dynamic.
Matt: I love that. We’re running out of time with our guest today. I did want to make sure we asked you the question, Bigtincan is one of my favorite brand names in B2B. Where did that come from?
David: Yeah. I’ve got a few stories for you, my friend, but let me start off with this one. When you start a new company, finding a name for a company is really tricky, particularly in today’s world when if you want a .com email address, you find out pretty quickly that most dot com are gone. In fact, .coms for almost every language are gone. You can look at .coms in Hindi, you can look at .coms in almost every language. They’re all gone.
Then many organizations make up a name and I’m sure you’ve had a few folks you’ve talked to, had a new name for a company, made up a particular word by joining things together or creating a new way of describing a sound. If the challenge with that was, it’s easy to forget those names. We wanted two things. We wanted a name people would remember.
So hopefully all you folks out there all over the world listening to the radio stream will remember Bigtincan. But also we wanted to indicate that it is the Bigtincan into which you could put your stuff and have it handled properly. So that was the reason, and it stuck. We found our customers really like it. We found that it’s really helping to indicate what we do and it’s getting our whole team something to really bring us together and we think about our vision of making every buyer-seller engagement better through making folks feel more confident and being more effective.
Matt: Well, easy to remember and hard to miss sell. Those are a couple of things I think a lot of people find really insightful in a good brand name. Last question for you before we let you go here today. We’re starting a new series, content series at Heinz marketing called, the longer I live and the more mistakes I make. And the whole idea is to tap into just a wealth of experience that people across B2B have. And if I were to ask you, as you look back at your career, what’s maybe one thing that you have learned through experience that is some sage advice doe people early in their career, that you might give out.
David: I think when your younger, you think you can solve all problems instantly, easily. But the reality is sometimes you’ve got to solve them one by one. And I have learned through many, many interesting engagements that if you break things down into small chunks and just do them and don’t get stressed over it, just relax, do the stuff you can do, do it well, focus one by one, actually time goes by and you get a better result. The alternative is getting yourself all stressed over trying to achieve some massive thing in a short period of time, it’s hard to do and the best way to leave it with you.
Matt: I love it. I want to thank our guest today, David Keane, the founder and CEO of Bigtincan, an actual surfer here, Paul, joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio, so thanks so much. If you liked this conversation, if you like, I particularly like David’s answer to the complexity question, talking about technology in a way of simplifying the next steps and creating clarity.
If you want to share this conversation with your peers in sales and marketing and your sales and marketing team, you’ll find it up at salespipelineradio.com in just a couple of days. Make sure you join us next week. I’m really excited. We’ve got Lisa Gschwandtner, she was the executive editor of Selling Power Magazine. We’re going to be talking about the importance of editing. I think we see so much content out in the world today, lots of content in different formats.
Matt: Lisa is one of the best editors I know, and she’s going to be talking about what that means and why it’s so important for B2B marketing and sales. Until then, on behalf of my sidekick and great producer, Paul, this is Matt Hunt. Thanks for joining us. Another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.
Sales Pipeline Radio is hosted by Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing which is a program on the Funnel Radio Channel.
Sales Pipeline Radio is sponsored and produced by Heinz Marketing on the Funnel Radio Channel. I interview the best and brightest minds in sales and Marketing. If you would like to be a guest on Sales Pipeline Radio send an email to Sheena.