No matter what type of company you have, how many people you convince to use your product or service can mean the difference between success and failure.

While we may use marketing, advertising or good-old-fashioned chutzpah to reach our goals, for many the most reliable way to get people to convert into customers is still using some sort of sales force. Some companies have eliminated the humans that do this, relying on their newsletter signups, landing pages and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools like Hubspot to get the job done. Others have full-blown sales teams -- but no matter which way you go, the process looks eerily similar.

It's a problem that Clari CEO Andy Byrne has seen before.

Early in his career, he started working with Jim Goetz of Sequoia Capital, who then funded him in his second company, Clearwell, which they then sold for $410 million. When looking to start his third, he and CTO Venkat Rengan were kicking around ideas on a whiteboard in his garage. They decided to focus on machine learning for the enterprise market. With that simple premise, they approached Sequoia, and with their previous track record had no trouble raising a Series A.

And what is that premise? As Byrne puts it, "In the last 10 to 20 years, the best way to get data was from humans, but that is a flawed approach. The modern approach is to automatically harvest multiple signals from emails and calendars and call logs, etc. As you extend that automation, you can track sales team and customer engagement, behavior and interest."

Quite simply, CRMs are antiquated. With machine learning and AI, you can have a better chance of closing those all-important sales.

AI frees up people to do useful work.

AI is good at doing repetitive tasks -- but not so good at the "human touch" stuff. By minimizing the amount of busy work they have to do (like looking up previous emails and calls), your staff will have much more meaningful interactions with potential clients.

It gives you more data.

Current CRMs are designed to capture the information that people put into them. With an AI tool, you can have pre-populated systems acting proactively, giving sales teams background information they need ahead of time, freeing up more resources.

It captures the right information.

Says Byrne, "CRM's are designed poorly. The user experience needs to morph to different workflows and speak to the human." In other words, you're only as good as the tool you have -- and if it doesn't prompt you for the right information up front, it can't display it for you later.

Tools like Clari don't come cheap -- as an integration with Salesforce (and other tools), you'll pay an additional 25 percent on top of your subscriptions. (Similar tools like Spiro and Aviso, incur similar monthly rates.) However, Byrne feels the 300 percent return you get from the service is worth it.

"AI will be the death of BI. We won't be hearing that term much longer."

With his pedigree, you can't help but believe he's on to something.

Published on: Jul 12, 2018
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