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The Future of Sales Enablement & AI [Ep. 80]

Everyone’s talking about AI right now, but figuring out the best ways to actually utilize AI is what RevOps teams need to focus on. Luckily, Steve Hallowell (VP of Strategic Services at Highspot) is back with us to discuss the future state of enablement and the implications of AI across the industry. We also talk about how AI can be used to simplify the data that sales reps have to deal with, and how AI can help change behavior and prioritize actions to make the most impactful change.

Podcast Transcript:

Speaker 1: Welcome back, everybody to this week’s RevOps Podcast. I’m Alastair Woolcock, CSR0. Joined by me is Howard Brown, CEO and founder, and the Pioneer in Revenue Science and augmented Human Intelligence. We’re super happy to have us with us today. Steve Hallowell from Highspot, Steve is VP Strategic Services, and joining us to de lean into part 2 of our conversation on the future state now of where enablement’s headed, the implications of what we think is gonna happen with AI, and a few more things.

Steve, it is fantastic to have you back with us. Thank you. Pleasure to be here. Now we made a great conversation last time, really, you’re talking about to see the operational discipline that are essential. Right?

How do we not just produce content for content sake, but how those sales ops, able to do knobs, Actually, we think through the aggregation of content, how it supports the behavior that people go through, and how that behavior links to an action. Because I think as you said to everybody, most adults, unless we see a benefit from it, unless we know there’s a benefit that we’re gonna get from doing the activity, we’re probably not gonna undertake it. And as we look at the world here today, right, 20 23, like, where everybody’s well aware, news headlines every day, is, you know, that’s changing. These are gonna be completely different. This is, like, the next this is this generation’s Internet moment with AI and all these fanciful things that are gonna happen.

What are you seeing? And and let’s just talk a little bit about, you know, what what can we practically expect here in 20 23 or maybe the 24, 36 months, what’s what are you thinking about here at the high spot?

Speaker 0: You know, so as as we talked a bit about the last 1, I mean, I think this this focus on operational rigor, enablement, I think it’s gonna be key. I think the the enablement teams, they can demonstrate that operational rigor for the ones that are gonna shine. Yeah. With regard to AI, you know, it’s it it’s interesting. There there certainly are some things where the where AI is place where AI is super helpful.

1 of the things that we already do in the platform today is just smart recommendation. What’s the content that is working? What are your peers using most? How do you surface that at the right time in a sales cycle to make it easy for folks to find the stuff that matters. So that’s content and training.

You know what? I do say that AI is gonna come last to this piece of the the the journey. You know, last time we talked about 3 buckets of software, there’s the the top funnel work, which is heavily data driven, high volumes of data. There’s the end of funnel forecasting looking at high volume of opportunities and, like, interesting places to to apply AI there. You know, it’s interesting even at very, very large companies When when you start to to extend that that what you can do predictively in different sales cycles, you don’t have the number of data points you need even with think, fortune 50 companies in the size of their sales organizations, to feed the AI models to do some of the things you kinda wish you could do.

And so in addition, I think there’s so many teams who work at pretty foundational pieces to getting their enablement right that AI is not gonna help with the foundation. I think AI can be pretty useful When I have the strong foundation in place, and now I’m trying to tune and optimize, that’s pretty cool. We’ve certainly seen there’s a couple startups out there that will do things like have an AI bot give you feedback on a video recording, for example. Mhmm. And I think directly to a certain level feedback?

That’s great. Save the manager some time. No manager loves sitting and providing feedback on videos. But let’s be honest with ourselves just as if you ever looked at the the Chad GP, you know, output in terms of what they actually do, you know, it can go so far, and it can’t go beyond. And so —

Speaker 1: That’s right.

Speaker 0: — great to take some of the workout. That’s awesome. Get some of the feedback. I think as a is a very safe practice environment where the AI is never gonna criticize you and nobody has to see the results. There’s certainly some value to that.

There’s value in just me as a rep, getting up and and practicing my pitch and doing it over again. And if and if AI can give you a little encouragement to do that, that’s fantastic. Well, let’s not confuse that with the type of coaching that a great manager is actually gonna yeah. So III would say I’m a I’m a I work for a technology company. We have AI.

I proceed with caution on a I mean, let me say that, you know, in in this space.

Speaker 1: And Howard, when I think of the conversations, you know, we look at and and even what we we see in product revolutions and things like that across across the market. I think to Steve’s point, and you said it last episode as well, if you’re not focused on the experience, AI is great. I’m I’m an advocate for AI. Steve, I’d probably push the omeadow maybe less conservatively than you might on that, but but it is you know, I’d still go back to if it is it automating a step? Is it simplifying a step?

A world where sellers deal on average with at least 8 different technologies that we can give them time. How is AI gonna simplify that world? How is it going to actually change the experience and and not just experience for the sake of changing experience. Experiences is getting a different result, a better result. Right?

As I think there’s a lot of hyperbole, right, Just like, oh, wait, hey, it’s cool. It can do something. Great. But if if it’s only giving me input to a, you know, grade 6 level, and they gotta sell at a great, you know, 14 level. I have a disconnect.

So so Howard, as you think of AI, you think of where this market’s going how practical is it? What what’s gonna happen here? You live in this world of revenue science and application of AI?

Speaker 2: Yeah. So I would say I’m probably a a little bit less conservative in my view of it. To me, I think about artificial intelligence as a tool to augment human intelligence. It’s not to replace. And let’s not take what is incredibly helpful as it relates to compute power and storage and pattern recognition which is incredibly helpful because I don’t want my reps to be data scientists.

I don’t want them crunching data. I want them engaging in human relationships, in problem solving, in thought leadership. That’s where I want them focused. So can we use AI to look across all the content, all the conversations, all the emails and help identify the patterns that deliver better outcomes that nudge a rep along to those better outcomes that help them see what they should be sending, what they should be talking about based on past experiences that delivered better results. That’s where I see artificial intelligence augmenting human intelligence and providing a better customer experience and a better worker experience.

Let’s use AI to help our reps to help human beings move along and progress rather than replace. I think it’s that mindset that’s critical.

Speaker 0: I’ll tell you what I would love to see that I I don’t think it existed in the market at least onto my knowledge yet, but I’d love for somebody to go build it. Which is, you know, I think sales managers are just overwhelmed with data. Right? So much data from as you said before, so many different systems coming out of sales manager. Sales managers don’t wanna be spending their time sifting through that.

And my sense is that it actually would be to a degree automatable to say, For Mary, here’s the thing that Mary really needs to work out. We’ve seen her data across a whole bunch of stuff. Here are the 1 or 2 places you really Mary really needs to focus. To get better. And I know there’s a couple of people who are kind of, you know, experimenting in this in this realm, but I haven’t seen a really compelling solution on that yet.

I actually think that would be a powerful application of AI because it is about How do you take lots of desperate data, synthesize it, and make it really actual?

Speaker 2: I I don’t know if that was a t ball for us or a softball, but that’s

Speaker 0: — Not not valuable. You got someone there. I’d love to see if that’s cool.

Speaker 2: Exactly what revenue dot I o does. We literally, literally, process conversation minding entire journey, and then we provide that feedback so that reps work on exactly those areas of improvement, and we do it in real time. So if I am engaging with you, Steve, and I haven’t asked you there, I question that’s going to move the conversation forward based on past experiences, that’s what we surface. If you continue to make the same mistake, we subscribing you to that best practice library so that you can hear either yourself or others better handle that. So that’s exactly what we do at revenue dot I o.

So I’m glad you’re looking for it.

Speaker 0: Alright. Fantastic. Glad to you up there. Grinks me up.

Speaker 1: Yo, Steve, you’ve you’ve mentioned, of course, the importance of the behavior aspects. Sorry. We’re trying to change the behavior again. Right? That’s what it’s what it’s germane to enablement.

And I think I’m other people get confused when they think of behavior, actually. I think they often think a behavior is, did they send an asset at a certain time? Which is important. Like, that’s that’s a that’s a task in a buying process that we know will translate to potentially a better outcome, and that’s of massively forwards. But when I think of future state of enablement, I really think of an ops, how am I taking persona specific pieces?

How am I contextualizing and how am I actually shifting the behavior? Because we’re all relatively senior folks or aging, let’s say it that way in the market. We would require different things depending on what we’re doing versus, you know, the 22 year old, and and those things tend to get lumped together, you know, and not paying attention to the personalization that’s needed, not paying attention to the uniqueness of that behavior and the pattern recognition that is needed. And that’s where I think AI is gonna make a big difference. It pattern recognizes better as most people are terrible at pattern recognition.

And so now you can pick up on those patterns You can simplify that for a sales leader and say, well, here’s the patterns that are gonna be really successful. Apply these for your use case, and we can shift behavior. We can line up then all the neighborhood and then ops behind that. That that’s a thing that could be done right now. If you have the data and you know how to build those models.


Speaker 0: You know, I in my world, I tend to think of behaviors more aggregated than where you were going. You know, I’d focus on a complete action with a cuss so If I’m having a first meeting and as part of that first meeting, I need to understand what in this customer’s business is is gonna you know, where where do they have pain that might lead them to to make their purchase? I need to teach them enough about our product that they’re interested in having another meeting. The that I just have to roll that into a behavior that I need to get better at at that and and and then and then and then advancing. And, you know, I find For most companies, if you get too micro with those behaviors, if you you focus on answering just a specific objection, For example, the list of things you’d have to enable on as a company would be unwieldy.

You never you never could cover all that ground. It’s you you have to sort of aggravate up to some of the major milestones in a business. Yep. Can I present a business case to a senior exec as an example? That’s just how I how I

Speaker 2: tend to think. 100 percent, you have to prioritize, and you can’t change everything. If you change everything, you change nothing, I typically use the example of if you play golf and you go to golf Pro, and the guy tries to change 10 things about your swing. Chances are he’s gonna blow your game. Right?

We have to start on prioritization. We have what are the most impactful things we can change. Change management is difficult. Change management if you try to change everything is impossible. Absolutely.

Speaker 1: So so let’s say this to the real world that people are living in right now as well. And, you know, because we spoke about what’s possible where people are going, but there is the practicality of applying all of this. And On a reference here, Gardner just released their business quarterly. They came out, and and it’s looking

Speaker 0: at the new

Speaker 1: you’ll where we’re at with the inflationary conditions, where people’s heads are at in terms of the market. What you see there is that in May of last year at 20 22. Automation was, you know, pretty important to people. Like, 21 percent of people are saying, hey, I I really gotta get on top of that in terms of my workflows, what’s happening across the board of my business. I know it’s gonna be transformative.

That has continued to be there 24 percent. But the other thing that goes with that in May of last year, cutting costs was important about, you know, just under 20 percent of folks. Today, it’s getting 39 50 percent overall and increasing. So, you know, you sit there and go, okay, we know we got to automate. We know that there is now continued pressure in terms of, you know, the cost.

You know, everybody is scrambling. And and things like AI and things like what we’re talking about here absolutely can actually do both of those. But how do you help people understand how to do that? Like, I think it’s easy to say as marketers to our marketing team, we gotta tell that message and they go use the 2 buzz words and say, well, help you cut golf. So automate things.

But but practically speaking, I’m an ops leader. I’m an enablement leader. What do I need to do now that’s gonna give me not just the cost cutting and automation things, but set me up to leap for my competitors coming out of this economic environment.

Speaker 0: Yeah. And I I think what’s what’s really important there downstairs is that, you know, in the the part of the business that we’ve been talking about. Right? So we’re not talking about very top of the funnel. We’re not talking about CBQ and forecasting, etcetera, like, white Yes.

CPQ, great way to automate, you know, your deal desk, for example. Is it? I can’t automate my way to sales success. I mean, at least not not in that in that complex sale. Wish I could.

We’re not we’re not at we’re not at that point. I can take some pain and out of the processes I need to enable my team. So I’ll give you just a very basic example. For your sellers to be able to find and use your sales content, which hopefully makes them more effective sellers. I can’t have too much noise in my system.

I gotta govern that stuff. I gotta get rid of the old stuff Make sure that what’s there is fresh and relevant. There’s work to do that. I’ve gotta pull the data about what’s being used and what’s not being used and what’s out of date. There’s processes to follow.

Software can take pain out of that, and with less effort help you get a better result. But that’s at a different plane than how might I get the most value out of my salespeople? I could help them be better, period. I’d help them be more effective in their conversations. That’s not an optimization question.

That’s not a cost cutting question. That’s about how do I get the most out of the resources I have. And so I I do think it’s really important for the enablement for empowering the humans in my company. We go back to what we talked about in episode 1 of pick the short list of things that really matter. And execute like hell on those and show impact.

Be be very operationally rigorous. Get people to the point they can actually are getting better and they’re seeing that impact. And now we got some momentum. Now I go on to the next thing and the next thing. I think for the enablers in this phase, to say, what are the big levers that matter to my business?

Let’s focus in there. Was do it really, really well. And that is not about doing the same thing with less resource. That’s about narrow the focus get good at it, show show results, and those results should look like people selling much more effectively than they were.

Speaker 2: I I couldn’t agree with you more, Steve. It’s it comes back down to the human level. Yep. We all have employees who are touching our customer our prospects every day. What can we do to make those experiences for our customers and our prospects more valuable?

How can we help our frontline people in the moments that matter most, and that is during engagement. That is critical. That is what will move the needle because buyers are less and less interested in talking to sellers. Because sellers aren’t providing the value, the thought leadership, the problem solving that today’s buyers need. Today’s buyers are educated.

We’ve digitally transformed them with all the content and all the information It is now time for our sellers to catch up to provide that value to help a buyer make a buying decision. Because it’s not easy. There’s a lot of confusion in the marketplace. There’s a lot of content. Nobody knows how to become a professional buyer Our job as sellers is to help them buy even if it’s not buying our product and service.

Our job is to inform to help And so I love that that’s your focus as well. And and if you’re certainly not gonna cost cutting your way into that to that outcome, low or not.

Speaker 1: And to wrap it up, Gents. I’m gonna give 1 more data point here. Again, earlier this year. So in January, this year, when we look at the S and P Global 1200 company, and I’ll ask you what is most important terms of cut first, cut loss. It’s a game that’s in the headlines every time right now.

1 of the areas that was front and center in terms of well, the thing that we’re now adjusting the most on in terms of the thing we wanna cut last are technologies that improve performance and scalability of the people. That has risen from it was at the twentieth percentile. It is now counting more than 50 percent. Like, it is massively swung that way because everybody is sitting there And I think Steve, you’ve said this. The pressure in the market right now is I’m not adding.

I still gotta hit all of these big things. If a technology can help me improve performance and scalability of my tea and drive even the same outcome, off of that resource base. I’m interested. But if it’s just hyperbole and you’ll find the new and all of that, There isn’t the time of day for that right now. And I think you both said this so eloquently, it’s the people performance issue.

If you can improve and shift that behavior and help not just the top 20 percent of sellers, but the bottom 80 percent be more effective That saves my organization. That motion gives me the competitive advantage I would need to swing out of this environment longer term. So it’s happening. The investments are there. We as technology professionals owe it to every 1 of those customers to help them understand howling and drive that scalability and improvement in performance.

This is what they want. Howard Steve, final words to you both.

Speaker 0: Also, guys, this this this has been a lot It’s just it’s it’s interesting. Yeah. III was, you know, not not aware of

Speaker 2: of of someone you’re working on. This is not a setup, but it’s fun to see see the direction you guys are going in and just just always a blast to to challenge folks, work in some similar challenges. Absolutely, Steve. It was a pleasure. I I love the fact that we’re highly focused on solving the human performance problem because without focus on that.

We’re not gonna solve the problem. And that is helping our customers, helping our prospects buy, and become successful. So great to meet you, Alastair. Thank you for a wonderful podcast and for being a great cohost.

Speaker 1: Gentlemen have a wonderful day. Everybody listening in, please remember to like and subscribe and check out our call and number as well, send questions into Howard and I. We do listen to them We will attempt to get them on a future podcast episode as well. You can reach us at 3235 04:04 777. That’s 3235 04:04 triple 7.

Steve, thank you so much. Keep having a fantastic trajectory at HighSpod and keep up the great work. We’ll see you all soon.

Speaker 0: You as well, guys. Have a good 1.


Follow the Hosts on LinkedIn:

Alastair Woolcock (CRO, Revenue.io)

Howard Brown (CEO, Revenue.io)


And our Special Guest:

Steve Hallowell (VP, Strategic Services, Highspot)


Sponsored by:

Revenue.io | Powering high-performing revenue teams with real-time guidance


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