(888) 815-0802Sign In
revenue - Home page(888) 815-0802

AI’s Impact on Sales Strategy [Episode 1162]

In this episode, Alastair Woolcock and Howard engage in a thought-provoking conversation about the impact of generative AI on sales strategies, highlighting findings from Gartner Peer Community research. They explore the challenges faced by sales leaders, including market competition, budget limitations, and the need for organizational alignment. The discussion delves into how generative AI can address these challenges by empowering sales teams with better research capabilities, enabling them to understand market competition more effectively, and providing continuous training and support to improve their skills. The episode concludes with a reminder to focus on helping sales reps deliver value to customers in the moment, as these interactions are crucial for success in today’s sales landscape.


Podcast Transcript:



Welcome back everyone to this week’s Sales Strategy enablement podcast. I’m Alastair Woolcock joined by pioneer and founder and all things future in revenue science and AI. Howard, how are you doing? I’m doing fabulous. How are you, Alastair? 


I’m great. I am excited today, Howard, because it is just you and I and it isn’t often you and I get to spend the time on the podcast and actually just talk about some of the latest trends we are directly seeing in sales, certainly in AI right now. And yeah, I’m just looking forward to this next 20 odd minutes or so. Love it. Let’s have fun. Yep. 


Like our regular episodes, I do want to start off with a little bit of external data that was interesting to me. Gartner and Gartner Peer Insights, which is users like end user companies. They just released a report in the last 60 days on what are the latest trends that sales leaders are thinking about. 




And in one way, it was unsurprising to me. In another way, I thought this is a shift that’s beginning to occur. And I just want to read off exactly what their opening statements were. And that is the 54 percent of sales leaders personally think the market competition may pose their biggest challenge to their objectives in this fiscal year. And 48 percent think that budget is going to be a big problem for them on restrictions.


And another 44 percent think that alignment within their orgs Now, in some ways, Howard, I’d sit there and go, okay insert any single year you’ve ever had in sales and life and those things and go, okay, yes, market competition, I need more money. And yeah, I always want better alignment in an org.




Those aren’t exactly new, but I do think generative more than ever and AI more than ever is actually allowing more people, more companies to have more competition. And the way in which you would hire and what you would hire for is shifting because the same things that worked a year ago, aren’t going to work anymore. But what’s your reaction when you read that? 


I think much like you, I’m not surprised by any of that. Competition has always been something that if you’re a sales leader, you better be thinking about and better be thinking about how to stay ahead. So it’s not just about competing. How do you beat your competition?


How do you make sure you bring differentiated value so that your prospects and customers clearly understand the value you bring every day? And yeah, I think the thing that I’ve seen more than anything else in the last 18 months is that generative has created a lot of buyer confusion. 




I think the first six months was incredibly exciting. Everybody wanted to try it and touch it and they, everybody got on ChatGPT and then came the open source models and the idea that anyone could build on top of an open source model. And then the custom GPTs that you can build on open AI. And then this influx of companies that are building point solutions, using generative AI to solve problems.


At the same time, companies are looking at their internal resources and building generative solutions as well. So there’s just been a tremendous amount of activity. Unfortunately, I think it’s led to a lot of buyer confusion. Companies are claiming they can do everything today and can use generative to build workflow as well as content.




I think that that sort of thing, while incredibly exciting. We’ve seen the cycle before you end up engaging with these companies, you buy their products, the companies disappear. They don’t deliver the value that they want that you’re promised. There’s the stage of disillusionment talking Gartner language.


So I just think that a lot of things are happening at once and buyer beware, ask a lot more questions. So I think you’re hitting on a key point and I actually want to double click on a little bit. When I think of generative AI, we know right now, one of the biggest barriers for customers looking at vendors, looking at technologies in this space. So much. 


Is data security compliance, right? Like they’re going, okay, I don’t quite understand it. And that’s always going to be front and center. Most CIOs are trying to ramp up and understand that right now, but it’s the thing that follows them that I actually find interesting and is hitting the nail on the head of what you’re saying, Howard.




And that is that again, from a customer buyer perspective, almost 40 percent are saying, I actually have really limited understanding of the technology and what it’s going to do for me. And I think that’s, that’s the number two thing right after compliance, right? And security. And so you sit there and go how should companies, I’m an enterprise today.


How should I be thinking about evaluating this? Because everybody’s saying, Oh, you need generative. You need an AI thing. And I think there’s a bit of a pulse of you just got to have something to check the box to say, I did something right now. And that’s the disillusionment. But how do you, how would you coach an enterprise to evaluate this?


And actually connect the dots to a result. I do think that there needs to be more thought leadership around the concerns that you are bringing up. 




Like we’re expecting the government to intervene or somebody to intervene and say what should and can’t and will be done. I guess like using an analogy, when you get prescribed a medication, you open up the medication box and there’s a, Pamphlet that has, 470 warnings, including this could possibly kill you.


I think that there has to be some disclosure at what the benefits, obviously what symptoms we’re going to cure, what problems we’re going to solve, but also be very straight about. What are the potential dangers that utilizing this technology may create if you plug in all of your data, or if, for example a model somehow is biased or creates, a variety of challenges.


So again, things are moving really fast, but you’re not going to take an experimental drug without knowing some of the side effects. 




Look, you’re putting your entire business, your gold, your data in the hands of these models. Maybe understand a little bit more, maybe try to figure out what are the negative side effects or potential negative side effects. I hear you loud and clear on prescription. I think it’s a great analogy. I’m just not sure everybody actually understands that, when they’re opening up that bottle, how much they should be taking. I think that I think there is mass overload right now of. Let’s face it we saw boom of Gen AI vendors at the beginning of 2023.


I, I could probably out of a hundred take any bet right now and suggest that 70 of them aren’t with us in the beginning of 2020, 70 of them aren’t with us in 2024. And so again, back to that hype and I just think, these enterprises, everybody’s rushing towards, I got to check the box. 




I got to take the drug, I’m going to open it up and I’m just going to do it. And yet it’s that old fashioned story. Your data is probably the most valuable thing you have in your company. Do you understand how to do something? And as much as I am concerned, for example, of what Google is doing with Gemini and all of that, and they’ve not hit the mark with their generative models yet.


I will say they, they do seem to be taking the most deliberate approach, at least externally, observationally. To looking at behavior, looking at bias, looking at those things. And those are very real things we’ve seen in models. We’ve even tried internally. And I think we all need to be aware of bias and behavior within there.


Because boy, what happens if you push out a wrong reference point to a case study, what if you mistate a factual piece of information to a potential buyer and they buy something and there was a factual record, what’s the contractual risk on them? 




All of those are real. Things I saw one just a couple of weeks ago. There was a company that was sending references out of customers. They didn’t even have because the generative model was producing them. That were the, that would be the ideal reference. It’s just stuff that’s happening right now. 


Remarkable. Yeah. Look I think that it’s dependent on buyers today, again, to go through the same vigor with. New vendors as they do their existing. So you mentioned the a hundred companies, 70 of them not being there anymore, I think being on the side of a established company. What we have seen is a great deal of these small vendors that build point solutions now realizing that they don’t have anything there and either want a company like Revenue.io to acquire them or to hire them. 




Because I think look, everybody at the beginning was just build something really quickly. What we now know is that the barrier to entry on most of this is very low, but if it’s not central to workflow, if you’re not utilizing generative in your, how your employees do their job on a daily basis and find areas that you can use generative.


As a multiplier, then it’s really a standalone thing that you’re trying to plug all these different pieces together and the problem is, how does that all work together? Who’s watching your data? Who’s watching your process? How are you measuring the effectiveness of these generative activities, this generative content to your point? A bad reference or a company that didn’t even provide a reference that’s a danger and that’s a negative impact to a company. 




That’s false advertising. And that kind of thing can negatively impact your results, your credibility and trust. So make sure that when you’re thinking about the technology. You’re working with vendors who you have a preexisting relationship with or have a whole solution that provides value isn’t just building a point solution that you have to plug in. They’re not concerned about everything else that your company does. Maybe that’s overly cautious. 


I think it’s actually spot on because I think, when existing data sets are important, existing models are important, and then let’s push the envelope off of those. Don’t get too spun up on the shiny object syndrome. That’s going to, that’s going to bite. Now, as we take this back to the sales leader, Howard, and we talked to all the concern about market competition.




They’re concerned about how they apply a budget, they’re concerned about roles, there’s a subcategory inside there of, a lot of sales leaders are concerned about how am I going to get my talent up to speed, how am I people up to speed. And that’s because in this past year we have seen a lot of sales teams get rationalized. You’ve seen a lot of people that have top graded. You’ve seen a lot of those changes in companies around the world.


And so we’ve talked about the dangers of generative, but also when I think of a sales leader today, I go, Hey, you need to be smarter and better educated about your market competition. You need to ramp and you’ve got to drive engagement to your reps better. And I got to give them more amp bats in time.


And these seem like just slam dunk use cases for this technology right now. So maybe go one by one. You think of first market competition. How would you say, how would you advise somebody to use generative AI to improve their reps, knowledge of market competition? 




Yeah, look, I think if you’re not using generative AI to help your reps do research, do prospect and consolidate data, provide things like summaries of conversations like this or podcasts or zoom meetings.


You’re falling behind because the amount of time and energy it’s going to take for your reps to do those manual tasks. Your competitors, they’re already utilizing it for that. So we talk a lot about automation and generative AI replacing human beings. It’s going to replace the human beings that aren’t using this technology, right?


So figure out how to use technology like generative to create content, but don’t remove the human being from it. This is all about augmenting. Human intelligence. This is about augmenting human performance. So make sure that the human. 




Is equipped with the technology, not replaced by the technology. So training people, how to use this technology to deliver better performance, making sure that when you’re using generative and AI, focus on the things that human beings don’t want to be doing repetitive tasks that don’t involve building connection, building relationships, figure out how to use this for research because the research is incredible.


You can add your ICP and persona. You can find out about a company’s 10 K. You can research what the CEO is saying in a matter of minutes so that you understand that the problems that company is trying to solve or what their primary objectives are, what are the three bets that they’re making in the fiscal quarter. And if you understand that having a conversation with them, you can Is that much more fruitful because you’re talking about them, not you. 




And this is what the incredible advantage that this technology provides is the ability to do this kind of research, just summarize, to give you that insight that takes traditionally much longer.


I’ll pause there and let you add on. I, I think you’re so spot on. And I also think your sales leaders often think of this in the sense of, okay, so now I can give more analysis to my reps and they’ll be more informed. Yes. That’s I agree, but what that informed status does, it gives confidence to a rep.


And I know we all think that reps are like that. They lean in. They always, they want to just can’t stop talking, stuff like that. But anybody that’s ever run large sales or as you find most sales reps are highly fragile. They’re like flowers. You’ve got to treat them just right, water them just right.


And they bloom and look beautiful when all the things line up, but a lot can take them down and their confidence gets eradicated and the pedals fall off. 




So anything I can build to build confidence into them to line up to that buyer expectation, which is things like what you just said, understanding the company, where are they going, what’s going on. So when they’re on that random call. They just have a little bit more confidence and understanding of the situation. 


I’m going to, I’m going to take what you said and I’m going to reframe it a little bit. What I would say is that the profession, any forward facing, customer facing, prospect facing job is incredibly difficult today. Incredible. Because buyers do so much research online. They do so much cruising through review sites going on LinkedIn, listening to what other experts have to say. 




And you think about a sales rep and I’m going to push back a little bit on the flower analogy because I don’t know of any other profession besides sales and support that all day long are dealing with people.


Saying no to them saying absolutely no, the amount of rejection that a sales person has to face on a daily basis, I think would injure most people’s ego. Part number two, a supporter success rep all day long is dealing with people who have problems that you cannot solve because you don’t have all the information.


This is what makes these technologies so wonderful is you’re actually to your point. You’re arming them with more information so that they can actually be helpful because I can’t imagine anything feeling worse than people coming at me with problems all day long and I cannot help them because I don’t have the information to be successful or reaching out to buyers today, who have more information than I have a seller because my company hasn’t trained me properly on everything about my product, everything about their business and everything about my competitor. 




Yes, I’m going to be as fragile as a flower because that is horrendous. So the pressure we put on our reps our forward facing teams without arming them with the data, the insights that they need to deliver better experiences.


It’s unfathomable. That’s why I’m so excited about what we build here. It’s literally helping people meet the moment, which builds their self esteem, allows them to deliver better results, and you don’t churn your employees as quickly. I couldn’t agree more. And Howard, I’m, when I think of behavior, I think of all of these tools.


I think of what we’re building. It should be a confidence booster. It should allow people to just be better versions of themselves. 




The best conversations I’ve ever had in my life with anybody is where people are being themselves because they feel confident enough to do it. That’s an exciting thing.


Now I will bring us back though is I want to ask you the second point to this. The first is we need to arm our reps to help salespeople. You want to know about market competition? You should be using Generative. To align to market competition at this point. And anybody’s curious how to align those datasets should just ping Howard and I will happily take you through how to break build, use those datasets, what that looks like, but the second piece is, the budget piece and then the effectiveness of our reps, talent acquisition is top of mind and recruitment.


Skills training and talent acquisition represents 60 and 52%. Respectively of concerns of CSOs and CROs globally out of 1300 that were asked. So they know we got to elevate the knowledge of the competition. 




We know we need to smell a sell smarter and be better and more confident AEs. Second point, how do you now use AI and generative technologies and talent and in skills gap training? Look, there’s, it’s not an easy challenge, right? There’s so many opinions on how to do that today. I think as you look across your organization and you think about all the people you have, are they all trying to solve the job of hopefully most revenue teams, which is.


Figure out how to best solve your customer’s problems, build something your customers can not live without. And if you’re doing that, it requires building the product, but it also requires training your personnel on the value that they deliver to their customer. And that’s a lot of information because depending on who you sell to and how many verticals you’re in, that’s a lot of information, right?




So the ability to utilize technologies that provide not just training when you’re on boarded, but continual training, micro learning. If I’m in a conversation and you train me on what I need to know, if post conversation, your system is able to surface the areas that you can improve on. That is the stuff that you need to invest in.


That is the stuff that you need to enable the team. If you’re doing that to your earlier point, you’re building self esteem, you’re getting a more informed rep. They’re able to deliver more value and you’ll see better results. And I’m going to, I’m going to bring out one sage old piece of advice on this Howard.


And again, I’m going to use an analogy, hopefully you prefer this one better than the flower. When you think of training, you think of a name and all of that, let’s talk ice cream for a second. I always used to say this in terms of cognitive overload. 




It’s a very real thing we all encounter. And how many enablement leaders and training tools and all of these things that they’re about give more, book more time, do more session train, get your new hires. Just so they understand everything. How many people remember the stat I shared at the beginning of this call, like the listeners you listening into this podcast right now.


What’s the first number we shared on this call today? I bet most people don’t even know and you lose knowledge very quickly. What were we even talking about? Was it a number of, was it number of hours sleep, slept? What was it? It was, the first one was market competition. And the 54 percent of sales leaders worry about this coming year.


That was the first thing. But back to the ice cream thing, even if you don’t want to believe us, the people forget, they struggle to retain and struggle to execute. Think of an ice cream shop, and why is it still today, that while bubblegum lobster blueberry ice cream is a very real and actually quite delightful ice cream flavor you can get in Bar Harbor, Maine in the summertime.




The reality is that over 90 percent of consumers still buy what? Chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry. And when you wander in an ice cream shop, and you’re faced with a hundred choices of flavors of ice cream, people default back to what they’re most comfortable with. 


And so if training, and enablement, and I want to improve the productivity of my reps, and I want to improve the interaction that are happening, it’s not about what I do on Friday, What I do on the Monday morning prep calls, what I do there, all of that helps, but we now live in a technology where if I can help you now in that moment, do better, you’re likely to do something else the same way in an ice cream shop.




Why do I give you the spoon with the blueberry lobster ice cream? Because you tried it, you’re fed it in that moment. And you just might actually buy it. That moment, that instantaneous reaction to what is happening between two parties. That is the future of sales. That is exactly where AI is going. I love it.


I love it. And I’m getting in line for some lobster bubble gum, like disgusting ice cream, but I’ll try it. I’ll try it. I’ll try any. I’m not going to buy a full cone. To your point. I’ll taste I’ll take that moment to taste it. Sounds good. Sounds like there may be a compliance thing we have to go through there on the on the ice cream testing, Howard, we are nearly out of time here.




You and I can go on all day, but I think it was important for us just to dive into the audience today on these latest trends from, sales leaders over 1300 that are saying this worldwide, hang in our final advice. Final advice, make sure you’re focusing on helping your reps deliver value to your customers in the moment.


There are so few moments that sales people have today to actually interact with their customers or prospects because customers want less interaction. They want more self service and they want to Make sure you’re arming them to meet that moment because if you miss that moment, you may never get another shot again.


Thank you everybody listening in today. Thank you for the special report, our immense advice as always, and please remember to like and subscribe. See you on the next episode. 




Thanks everyone. Don’t forget to like and subscribe!