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Using AI to Become Even More Human, with Joy Rowan [Episode 1163]

Don’t miss this one folks. It’s our most human-centered episode to date! We talk with Joy Rowan, Vice President of Remote Sales at AmerisourceBergen (a company that distributes more product than Amazon on any given day), to break down how using today’s best AI tools can help us really focus in on the human side of selling.

Podcast Transcript:


I think there’s a lot of baggage with inside sales. I mean, honestly, what inside of what I would actually ask at this point. I mean, a box, a building, I don’t even know what we’re inside. 


Welcome back, everybody, to this week’s RevOps podcast. I’m Alastair Woolcock, CSRO here at Revenue.io, joined with co-host Howard Brown, founder and CEO, and one of the pioneers of all things revenue science. 

Today, we are thrilled to have with us Joy Rowan. Joy is Vice President of Remote Sales at Amerisource Bergen, one of the world’s leading supporting human and health companies dealing with Joy, correct me if I’m wrong, but a huge amount in the supply chain of healthcare, the efficiency side, accessible medications. 

He’s a global complex business, and as we’re about to discuss, an even more complex sales side to the business as well. So Joy, welcome. We’re thrilled to have you with us. Thank you, thank you for having me. Welcome, Joy. 


Thank you. Good to see you again. You too. Well, Joy, we wanna dive in today and start with almost a simple statement and dive deep. Are we looking at the end of inside sales teams? And as you and Howard both think about that statement, I wanna give a couple ideas for our audience to think through here. 

Right now, when we talk to chief sales officers, chief revenue officers, three quarters, in fact, about 74% are currently updating seller competencies for virtual selling. Of that, around 43% are completely remapping how they’re dealing with both digital technologies, engagement technologies, and virtual buying. 

And the reason for that is because despite us coming out of the pandemic, we are continuing to see a rise of virtual selling. And the world is blending all of the roles of field sales and inside sales together. 


Joy, Howard, are we at that end? I’m going to say, gosh, I hope so. And I only mean that. And I hope the word inside sales is dead. Because what we are, we’re evolving and growing and changing into something much better and much different. 

I think there’s a lot of baggage with inside sales. I mean, honestly, inside of what, I would actually ask at this point. I mean, a box, a building? I don’t even know what we’re inside. I mean, what are we inside? 

So is remote selling? Is virtual selling dead? Absolutely not. You just named it and everybody knows it. It is, but it’s not the inside sales of five or 10 years ago. At least in my vision and my belief, it’s evolving and changing into something much more sophisticated, right? 

So it’s really blending the efficiency and scale of remote with taking the tools and technologies that we have that we didn’t have anything like this five or even like 10 years ago into creating a different selling experience and a customer experience. 

And so it’s leveraging the power of the remote, the power of the tools and technologies to actually give us more human interaction, more sales interaction, not less. And that’s really for me the key. 

And that’s why for me, it’s also, I think there’s a lot of baggage inside sales that it’s like I said, this like production quality. And that’s the other thing I think we’ve learned is that not all sales is that either. 


I mean, maybe that’s certain types of sales, but now we see hybrid and remote sales, very sophisticated, high level, high level and organizational sales. So I don’t think inside sales is what we are anymore. 

Yeah, I would fully concur there. Joy, when I think about inside sales, I’m old enough to remember when they used to call it telesales. And that was to sort of make it sound better. And the idea of cold calling obviously had a lot of stigma to it. 

I think where we have evolved to now with the idea of virtual or remote, let’s face it. We have incredible technologies today that can deliver insights, that can augment the sales process, that can deliver better visibility for our sales organizations, our support organizations, to best help our customers. 

So it’s utilizing all of that data, all of that goodness that we know about our customers and our prospects to allow us as salespeople to better serve them, to better help them. And in the past field, while it’s not gone and we build relationships when we visit one another and we spend time with one another, but it’s really hard to scale that. 


I can only visit so many customers in a given day. Now, with all of these tools that are available, we’re sitting here on a Zoom meeting, our ability to connect and make sure that we have the kind of conversations so that we can deliver value, so that we can better understand what your needs are, are critical. 

So I believe that we’re arming sales teams, go -to -market teams with tools to make them better. And so I’m not a huge fan of the inside sales jargon, whatever the idea is, what are we doing to make our salespeople better, making them more contextual, making them more helpful to any buyer, to any customer. 

And that’s really key for me. Yeah, and I agree with you, Howard. And I’m not surprised, you know, giving your background as a clinician that the humanness comes through, right? And I think that’s the key for me is that we have the technology and tools now to still allow the humanness to come through. 

And that’s the key, right? We’re not trying to, at least in my vision or version of remote sales, it’s enabling rather than disabling our teams to have more of those human interactions. Because the conversation AI, it should be helping in other ways, but nothing replaces that human interaction, the ability, and that’s why we, you know, pay our salespeople and why we look for people who can, like you say, contextualize, who can pivot, who can understand a nuance or connect dots that sometimes our AI and other tools can, and sometimes they can’t. 

And so, you know, like I said, I think for me, it’s the ability to free up the seller’s time to be even more human, right? And to have that human engagement, because I fully believe whether it’s in -person or remote or both, some version of both, that’s ultimately what can drive it. 

It drives better customer experience, it drives better business results, it also drives the seller experience. I think we’ve also learned that being remote also enables you to find different and diversified talent and experience by not being so geographically specific. 


So to your point, yes, we can also leverage the scale of not having to travel everywhere, which is also quite a bit more sustainable in a couple of different ways. As well as I know for us, one of the things that’s been the biggest pleasure for me is the different people we’ve been able to bring on to the team that we never would have been able to bring on three years ago when it was mandatory to sit in an office on the sales floor in suburban Philadelphia. 

So that’s actually been one of the things that, I think we talk about maybe less, but has been one of the pleasures of the evolution for me. 

I think that’s such a great point, Joy, in terms of we’re expanding the scope and accessibility of what is arguably one of the highest -paying professions in the world, sales in general, but also it is life -changing for many people if they can have access to the job, right? 

And once they can get the experience there. And I hope we continue to see more of that and we don’t revert back, because it’s a tremendous thing when people get that vision behind them. And with that said, as I listened to what you’re saying there and what Howard’s saying, I agree with, but I’m going to go back to reminisce on some of my Gartner days and stuff like that. 


A lot of people wouldn’t philosophically disagree, but sales is getting harder than it’s ever been before. And you have, I think there’s general acceptance. Well, for a junior rep, sure, we’ll support them, we’ll help them, but they’re largely focusing on emailing and video meetings, right? 

They aren’t hitting the human components of this. And then you have at the other end of the spectrum, the senior AEs going, I could not use technology. My goodness, that would be a terrible thing. My secrets are my secrets. 

My process is my way. Heaven forbid somebody record or provide an insight or action something in a way that would support me through emotion, right? And even most people go, does senior reps actually need this stuff? 

Like, do field-based sellers? Do they need support when virtually selling? So if it’s getting more complex and we’re seeing both ends of the spectrum converge, how do we shift people culturally to accept and use the things they’re going to help them? 


Well, I think COVID did more of that job than any of the rest of us ever could with a transformation or cultural change or change management or whatever we want to do. And by the way, I don’t think it was just our sellers. 

It was also our customers. So I think about this in terms of even personally or for some of our customers. So a lot of our customers are amazing resources in their community. They’re independent retail pharmacists. 

So imagine the role that they played in COVID, but, you know, obviously our field sales teams couldn’t go there. Our remote sales teams are calling in. But if you would have asked any of us, you know, three years ago, like they’re never going to take a video call. 

And, you know, and some of them, you know, aren’t as tech savvy, maybe, you know, they’re amazing clinicians and business people. But maybe this wouldn’t have been their comfort zone. But then I think about even like my parents who wouldn’t have either. 

But because in COVID, their choice was to see their grandchildren via Zoom or not see them at all. You better believe they got comfortable with the Zoom. Right. And so I actually think in terms of shifting the culture, that was the biggest game we’re ever going to get in shifting. 


And we’ve had really positive feedback from our senior sellers, our field sales sellers who have said, you know, it’s really made me rethink. Do I need to get on that airplane? And sometimes the answer is, yeah, I need to get on that airplane. 

That is a customer or prospect that that’s that I’m making that choice. But I think people are thinking of it twice, where perhaps we wouldn’t have thought twice. There’s a lot of sales folks, you know, I did field sales for a long time that wouldn’t have thought twice before jumping in the car, jumping on that airplane. 

And so now I think really, Alastair, the question is, how do we like keep the momentum going? Like, how do we keep them? That’s what I think about a lot. How do we keep the momentum going? And I would say that and this this is maybe my most recent experience trying to transform and modernize remote sales within my world. 

And what a lot of it has come down to is that we’ve got the tools and technologies. We even have people that are more open than they’ve ever been. Now, you know, perhaps we also need to think about the hiring of our future. 

But that’s probably a separate conversation. But we have people as comfortable as they’re ever going to be. So from my perspective, one of the key things to keep the momentum going is the seller’s user experience. 


That’s right. So here’s the thing. Like, if you give them these tools and technologies and they’re difficult to use, they don’t see value in them. It’s like clunky integration. It doesn’t really work between systems. 

It doesn’t really integrate into their flow of work. Again, maybe we need to ask them to do some things differently in their flow of work, but it doesn’t integrate at all into their flow of work. They as a user weren’t considered and kind of as you look at workflow and design, you lose them. 

So it’s imperative from my perspective to keep the momentum going. You really have to think about the user, the sales user, whether that person is remote, whether that person is hybrid, whether that person is field sales and say, how do I design their sales user experience in a way that they get value out of it and that it works in their flow? 

So that that would be my answer of like, if we want to keep this momentum going, I think that’s going to be a critical success factor. 

You know, Joy, one thing I really appreciate about you is you’re so consistent. When we spoke last time, you spoke about your customers and these, in some cases, mom and pop pharmacies and your respect for them and what they do and how much they matter to the community. 


Very, very people-centric, very focused, a lot of respect. I love that, but also, even today, you talked about my humanistic view of things, but what you’re talking about, again, is people that you work with, making sure that they have the best experience with their tools, making sure that they’re growing. 

We miss that a lot of times as sales organizations, we’re so focused on, we have to get the number, we have to do whatever we have to do. Your focus around both your own team as well as your customers is what I think we all need. 

It’s that customer focus, it’s that human -centeredness, and what I appreciate so much is if we keep that at the forefront of all we do, it’s delivering value, it’s improving people, that is so important because, look, whether the economy is good or bad, we still have to serve people, right? 

You have a very important job to do at your organization, which delivers just about, I think, more medicine to the world than just about any other company in the world. You need to think about that for that entire supply chain, all of that needs to work, and what are you focused on? 

You’re focused on making sure your employees and your customers have great experience. It was a joy to talk to you, not to use joy, but it was one of the reasons I was so excited to have you join us today. 


You’re consistent, you’re focused, and it’s about delivering exceptional experiences on both ends, so I just wanted to say that. 

Thank you. Thank you, Howard. I appreciate that. That’s very kind. And I, and there’s a, there’s a quote, like it’s a George Merck quote, and he always said if you focus on the patients, if whenever we focused on the patients, the profits have inevitably followed. 

And I would say the same thing when you focus on the people, whether you’re talking about your end users or your clinicians or patients, or your own team when you focus on the people. My experience in 25 years of sales in healthcare sales is the rest has ended up working itself out. 

You know, I’m certainly not the first person to say it, but when you’re when your sales users are happy and productive, they have a good experience. They’re giving your customer an excellent experience. 

And again, I’ve sold a lot of things. I’ve spent a lot of time in sales and healthcare and I’ve never failed to see when those two things align. I’ve never failed to see the business results follow. Yeah, so I just inherently believe that, you know, it that that’s how it works. 

And when I’ve seen it not go as well. One of those two things are both of them are misaligned or broken. And you’re right, like, you know, in our business, like, there isn’t a room for like there’s there’s not a lot of room for error and there’s not a lot of room for for for not getting it right and for not servicing these customers. 


Our customers service our communities who are us, you know, I want my mom to be able to go to the pharmacy, I need to be able to pick my kids, you know, antibiotic up later tonight and I think we can all appreciate that it’s not. 

So, so I think we do take that very seriously. But I think it’s a win win you can take care of all the people and when all the people are taking care of the business takes care of itself. 

That’s right. You hear so many people talk about customer support and customer success, and what we have to think about, what you’re really underlining here is that if you have miserable employees, because they don’t have the information that they need to be helpful, they don’t have the sales information, they don’t have the customer information, and they get a customer on the phone who’s aggravated because they’re not getting what they need, that’s not a great experience for your employees. 

It’s awful, and imagine having that happen over and over and over again, and you don’t have to imagine it. You could talk to most sales reps. You can talk to most support reps. They’re not given the tools to be ready, available, and in the moment, and so they’re having frustrated people all day long upset with them. 

How are they supposed to then go deliver a great customer experience? How do you ask them to do that? 


Yeah, and if you’re hiring people that care, that should upset them. They should want to be able to do better than that. So then as organizations and as leaders, it becomes imperative that we do better for that, right? 

We set those conditions. And that sounds so easy. I think actually that’s what most people want. I think that’s what most companies want. I think that’s what most leaders want for their people. I will say it is far harder to execute that in reality than it sounds. 

I think on one hand, the increase of technology and technology stacks has given us far, far greater benefits and things that we can do that we couldn’t do before, but it’s also created a complexity that we have not all been able to wrangle. 

At least that’s certainly big on my… I feel like some days I have all the tools that I need. I’ve got all these different tools, and yet it’s like two of the tools are in my garage. One’s across the street with the neighbor. 

He hasn’t returned yet. Two are in the basement and one’s in the toolbox. Like it’s, you know what I mean? And I need them all in the box. So I think it’s easier said than done. So it’s this pro-con. 


This technology has given us advances we never would have had, but then the like real tough part is, but how do I like knit it together in a way that again, goes back to this enabling rather than disabling? 

How do I pick the right ones for the right function when multiple ones can do different things? So again, it goes back to this kind of user experience or workflow that works for that user. And I suspect other people have this too, but I have like six different types of remote sellers. 

Like it’s not like a monolith, like it’s a seller or it’s a remote seller. Their roles are different. And so their needs are different. And so how do I create this consistency? Especially because organizationally we need consistency. 

We need to be using similar tools. Our business is complex. We can have a customer that’s doing business with four or five different places within Amerisource Bergen. And so how do we create, we need to be on the same tools. 

We need to have this kind of consistency. And yet at the same time, the ability to customize for the role. So again, easier said than done, I would say, but that’s the kind of stuff that’s on my mind. 


How do we wrangle it and use the best of it without letting the parts of it that trip us up? Interoperability, like really kind of nerdy boring things. Like, you know, does that feel connect to that field? 

Like it’s funny, that stuff can really, like one small piece like that can literally be like a wall. That’s how complex the technology piece is in my experience. 

And I think we’re living in an age now, Joy and Howard, where the average amount of tools that a rep is using when selling, so we’re not including the backend, we’re not including all the enablement, not including all the coaching, we’re not including all the workflow, just as they’re selling, is now sitting about 5 .8 to six and a half at any given time, all right? 

Now, somebody might go, I thought it was close to 20, sure, if you look at 2030 across the full stack, yes, but in terms of they’re now, they’re engaging, they’re using that stuff. Could you imagine even in this conversation you had, call it six other things happening at any given times, you’re trying to deliver what we’re talking about, a great customer experience. 

And you sit in tandem with that and go, this 66% of reps right now have stated that they are increasing more logging, more data pushes, more than that than ever before, they actually aren’t doing what we’re hiring them to do, which is actually communicating and delivering an experience. 


And so I think your question is absolutely spot on, Joy. How do we actually rationalize the technical debt, I call it go to market debt, but the technical debt associated with what is now quickly becoming tool proliferation? 

How do we actually undo what we’ve done during the pandemic? Because there was a mad rush to go buy everything to help people now be effective. And now they’re saying, well, I got a bunch of stuff and I actually is not making it effective. 

In fact, it’s having the inverse of distracting me and causing me to enter a bunch more stuff everywhere. With that said, we’re out of time for today. So what I’d love to do is cue that up for our next episode. 

Joy, I think we’ll have you right back on that and Howard as well. And we’ll dive into actually how we address the technology stack and all its complexities. Joy, I love your customer centric and sales centric view of the seller experience in that. 


Joy, Howard, thank you so much for today. Thank you. Howard, thanks as always, and please everyone remember to like and subscribe to the podcast, send in your questions, and Howard and I will do our best to answer your questions on upcoming episodes. Thanks so much.