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7 Posts authored by: Andy Quintana

Pictures are worth 1,000 words, we have heard that before. So, should we try to make everything a picture?  Well, it depends on what you are trying to convey. Understanding data sometimes requires filtering or moving fields around to try and make sense of what you have.

 

But ultimately if you can leverage visuals to quickly gain an understanding, assess situations, know where to focus and spend more time selling, it would be valuable. The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text.1 Let’s look a bit closer at what you might gain from a visual in an opportunity.

 

Picture represents engagement, influence and role of buyers at the table in an opportunity.

 

In the Accent CRM Supercharger visualization of an opportunity, your digital assistant provides a picture of a buying team seated at the table. We can quickly look and see a few things happening with this opportunity:

 

  1. There are 4 buyers associated with this opportunity
  2. Two of them are strongly engaged and two are moderately engaged (green and yellow respectively)
  3. Two of them have a moderate level (2-stars) of influence on this deal, while the other two have a high level (3-star) of influence on this deal.
  4. The individual with the trophy is your champion
  5. The two individuals with the $ are your economic buyers
  6. As you hover over a buyer, you can get additional details. Last outreach, average response time and response rate.

 

As a sales rep, you might say this looks healthy as on opportunity or decide to reach out to the more influential buyer to engage them a bit more.  But ultimately and regardless of the action – a more accurate assessment can be made of this opportunity while planning with a quick decision on how much time to focus on it or move to the next one.

 

Without a sales rep having to do anything, the CRM Supercharger digital assistant painted an information-rich picture of the opportunity.  This is only the beginning.

 

Andy - Accent Technologies, Inc.

1 www.t-sciences.com/news/humans-process-visual-data-better

In 2014, Accent Technologies set out on a mission to build an assistive technology that actually helps reps sell.  It wasn’t a mission to build a CRM but rather an extension of Sales Enablement and a dive into the Artificial Intelligence (AI) realm that would ultimately enhance the CRM.

 

With a few false starts Accent figured out a way to build out an AI system that can be diagnostic, descriptive, predictive and prescriptive (more on this one later).  Building out an AI system certainly takes time but a lot of thought was put into the approach we would ultimately take.  Here are a few things we discovered:

 

  • Leveraging only historical data is dangerous.

 

The approach many AI players take is purely predictive, leveraging only historical data, determining how a business succeeded in the past and how that would indicate what to pursue in the future.  This is standard data analysis - that tells you what you should pursue based on history.  This approach is short-sighted and there is a very big issue with it.  It solely relies on how a business may have performed in the past, but sales is a forward looking game. Sales reps spend a good deal of time identifying what works and what doesn’t work when talking to clients so they know how to better approach the next client.  They try to learn as much as they can from a client and position solutions that solve the problems, ultimately, wins that are attained have some common elements and those elements will be repeated.  But what if your sales strategy changes or the objectives change?  Your reps will follow the same pattern they are used to because they win with it.

 

  • Allow for input from the experts

 

So historical data is important but ONLY a piece of the pie for what is required.  Historical data doesn’t provide the business with an ability to identify the sales objectives. In other words, it never accounts for the “where we want to go” as a business.  Companies often hire consulting firms to figure out who their ideal customers are, what the ideal company profiles look like and that is driven by a multitude of factors like the marketplace, direction of the market, technology and human expertise, just to name a few.  So why discredit all that insight by using historical data to predict future business?  You can’t. And furthermore, you shouldn’t.  The sales leaderships experience, expertise and intent must be injected into the models and algorithms of a good AI technology.  Otherwise the technology will fall flat.  I know what you are thinking – That costs money and time for someone to inject that information into an algorithm, but have you considered the cost of not doing it?

 

  • Allow for adjustments

 

How does your organization account for the current sales strategy and a future one if you pivot? Meaning, how does the business get there? Essentially, you must operationalize your sales strategy.  With Accent’s CRM Supercharger, we help you operationalize the sales strategy.  Allowing for input into the models gives a business the ability set the course and direction for the sales team.  Now, the prioritized opportunities using AI models are not the ones the sales reps want to prioritize but the ones the business wants to go after. 

 

With Accent’s CRM Supercharger, we take a better approach and leverage historical data, sales objectives and sales strategy.  With machine learning algorithms the system can learn from the data it collects but add the ability to inject expertise, experience, intent and operationalize the sales strategy and you end with a winning combination. 

 

Andy - Accent Technologies, Inc.

Who are the dominant players solving data ratio and relationship intelligence problems? Not sure? SugarCRM and Accent Technologies have teamed up to take that title. No matter what you call it, with AI (Artificial Intelligence) or any assistive technology, it’s important to focus on the problems they are trying to solve.  Increase output of the CRM, be assistive to the sales rep and ultimately be intelligent enough to help drive change.

 

 

Here are a few things we will dive deeper into on AI, data ratios and driving change. 

 

  • Data sources are critical.

Data sources may grow in size, you may have more of them and maybe more variables that contribute to the big picture, so the more data you get in, the richer the output.  But this doesn’t mean manually entering more data, this means automating data entry plays a key role. Being able to leverage various data sources will paint a better picture in the end.  This makes it critical to ensure the solutions you look at, are tapping into quality data sources.  SugarCRM’s Hint and Accent’s CRMSupercharger do just that.

 

  • The tools should aim to improve the data ratio problem – not make it worse.

No one wants to manually enter data. Let’s be real – there is not a single seller today that likes to put data into a CRM.  They all do it because they have to—either because of a mandate enforced by leadership or their desire to track customer relationships at that level of detail. Think about what automated data entry, an analytics engine that can seamlessly connect to different data streams, and a tool that brings back a full buyer profile from just an entered email address can do for your sales organization (Hint).  It can change the perception a seller has about CRM.

 

It’s a pretty simple concept, but it’s often overlooked. Organizations are quick to mandate the data entry by their reps, but is that the best approach? We like to think that your reps bring more value when selling, not entering data. Ensure your sales tech solutions are capturing data sources and improving the data ratio problem, not requiring more data entry, which is the case with SFDC’s Einstein. Just look at the release notes. Really? Enough said.

 

Now let’s look at getting visibility and driving change. What can intelligence do for the sellers?

Experienced A-players know where to focus and what to do next, so make sure you are learning from that. Also, make sure that new sales strategies that come from the top-down are being supported and executed on at the ground level on the frontline. Let me give you an example: One of our clients is experiencing the following:

  • Major competitor is a disrupter in the industry
  • Revenue decreasing 6% YoY
  • Need to differentiate with new services offering
  • Reps need to pivot in new direction
  • Sales leadership needs to change rep habits to focus on new sales strategy

 

What do you do? Do you trust sales teams to go down an unknown path of selling services? Do you have weekly calls evangelizing the importance of the services offerings?

 

Both, but at the end of the day, you can’t affect an outcome. You can only affect the activities and the effectiveness of those activities to meet the objectives.  As stated before, the outcome is a result.   

 

Visibility of activities, effectiveness and objectives is important in the realm of AI or assistive technologies.  We need intelligence that can guide sellers in the right direction.  Accent’s CRMSupercharger in SugarCRM  provides visibility and allows you to leverage standard models out of the box to guide and prioritize deals for your reps. But we also give the steering wheel to our clients and work with them to set their own parameters. This allows them to prioritize the right opportunities for the business and subsequently indicate to sellers what are the most attractive opportunities to pursue. You’ve got the sales strategy, but Accent can operationalize it. Now that is big value.

 

Finally, acquiring new accounts requires time and research to determine who to talk to next, what role they play in the purchase process, how you make a connection to them, etc. If you are missing this, the AI assistance is falling flat. This is where Hint comes in. Accelerate the call prep time and reduce the amount of research you need to make a connection.  Then enhance the overall picture with Accent’s CRMSupercharger by visualizing the engagement and the role of each contact. What does that mean? Well, visualize who is at the buying table, who your champion is, who your economic buyer is, who is engaged and to what extent.


Pictures tell stories.  Weigh the difference.  Do you prefer an analytics driven picture powered by Accent or a 1 paragraph summary of words and notes in an email from your rep? And if I had to bet, I’d say you’re still waiting for that summary from your rep.

 

As the world becomes more sophisticated and we get more complex, we will be in a great position to adopt assistive technology for more insight and maximizing peoples time. Keep in mind they should always be solving a problem and providing business value.

As the world continues to get more complex in every facet, we are starting to see AI become assistive to help people in their roles.  Utility companies can use drone imagery and thermal mapping in conjunction with AI data to detect and anticipate equipment failure. IBM Watson is helping doctors condense mass amounts of data into something digestible. Many companies are beginning to take advantage of the benefits AI systems can offer, but one thing remains the same, we are only scratching the surface.

 

For sales teams, there have been countless enablement tools that make big claims. Traditional AI tools typically use historical data to generate a “predictive” information analysis to help you shape future results. While that is a good first step, it falls short in a few ways. 

 

  • Not enough data to make a good assessment.

Data entry is not a highly motivating task.  While Accent Technologies allows for automated data entry, there may not be enough data in SugarCRM to make a good correlation to predict results.  That is not any one individual’s fault, it is a collective book of reasons why there may not be enough data. Nonetheless, the lack of data may be prohibitive in moving forward with today’s infant AI/predictive tools.

  • The world keeps changing.

Which means there might be enough data, but sales strategies are always changing. What is considered to be good business today may not be good business going forward.  Maybe the organization has paid for studies that are telling it to go in a different direction or focus in a certain industry or market. Or maybe you just need to make adjustment so your sales team can focus on more attractive business, low hanging fruit, more profitable business or beyond that. The point is that strategies change, and models have to allow an organization to create success first. Then machine learning can help amplify those successes throughout the organization.

  • Not having quality data.

For example, and as an exaggeration of the example:  if you had 100 sales people and they were all “A” players and they all forecasted deals 2 weeks before they were considered a “win” and subsequent closure of the deal, you may have bad quality data to be predicting future events on. This is, of course, an exaggerated example but it can go many different ways. Sales reps may be putting in more than what is real, potentially “forecasting” deals that may not be actually progressing. Additionally, reps might be successful in areas that may no longer be strategically valuable to the company. Whatever the case is, there needs to be a check for the quality of data.

  • The models are based only on historical quantitative big data (or just data).

What about the “thick data”?  The human insight that can’t be quantified.  Tricia Wang, a Technology ethnographer, discusses this at length and why it is important to combine big data with thick data so you can provide the lost context surrounding the quantitative findings.  This goes back to the point made in number 2. We have to allow adjustment of the models through machine learning or manual intervention.

 

The bottom line is predicting what might close and prioritizing opportunities are two separate endeavors. Probability should be taken into consideration, but other variables (both quantitative and qualitative) should also be considered. These variables can range from a number of different categories like sales productivity, sales performance management, compensation planning tools, optimization tools, coachability of the sellers, etc.

 

Accent Technologies has determined that long-term success requires short-term adjustments. We design our standard models with the capability to be flexible out of the box. This allows teams to make adjustments as they go through deployment or make strategic changes in the future. With a flexible algorithm that can be easily adjusted,  your human experts can inject that “thick” data into the equation which will ultimately bring you the most value . We also leverage different data sources to ensure there is sufficient quantitative data flowing. Understanding your historical data, where you want to go and how to get there, will lead the way in effective use of AI. Giving the steering wheel to the organization is a part of what we do and how we help companies execute their strategy. 

 

Come see a demo at SugarCRM’s Sales Kickoff!

We hear a lot about analytics or artificial intelligence.  But the question I have is, can you see it?  Do you know what it feels like when you ACTUALLY see it?

 

I equate the feeling to an experience I had this past weekend while surfing with a friend in Satellite Beach, Florida. We were minding our own business waiting for the waves to come in, when suddenly a spinner shark breached the surface of the water in full spinning mode. Picture a 4-5 foot (1-2 meter) shark jumping out of the water and spinning about 5 times.  What a sight to see!

 

The spinner shark was about 12-15 feet (4+ meters) away from us.  After the shock passed, we began to contemplate: should we get out of the water? We looked at each other and said “wow, that was cool,” and decided to keep surfing. 

 

Now picture yourself in the water with a shark VERY close and you can feel the vulnerability you experience with a new level of visibility. Yes, it was a bit scary, and it was definitely on our minds as we kept surfing, but being face to face with the dangers of the water made us more alert and conscious to pay attention to the water around us and not just the waves.

 

Seeing the shark in the water, is like finally experiencing the visualizations in SugarCRM for all the things that analytics companies claim. Accent Technologies brings this new level of visibility, supercharging SugarCRM, so the reps can be more productive and effective.  This level of visibility lets the reps and the managers quickly assess what is going on without sifting through spreadsheets or lines of data trying to filter and figure out what has changed on the opportunity from the last time they spoke.  It allows you to see activities and the effectiveness of those activities.


This is important for several reasons:

 

  • Analytics or business intelligence typically rely on historical data that is stored in Sugar. Accent leverages historical data but without requiring any additional data entry by the rep, it adds additional components like company specific standards that drive the desired behavior of the business.  This allows the reps to go after what the business decides are attractive opportunities and is always delivered real time. 
  • Additionally, our smart digital assistant, gets the reps aligned with the right activities and visualizations that help move those opportunities to the next step.
  • Powered by intelligent analytics, Accent delivers more accurate forecasts helping prioritize the right opportunities at the right time for better forecast accuracy. Algorithms based on different model types allow for the system to learn what is an ideal opportunity, what activities are most effective and visually representing what is happening in real time.

 

See the shark! Visualize the value with Accent Technologies and SugarCRM.  Stay tuned for our announcement and expect to see us on SugarExchange soon.

Relationship intelligence and buyer engagement is critical during the buyer’s journey in order to have the outcome you are looking for.  The buyers journey is a framework that buyers go through before selecting vendors and can be broken into three main sections – discovery, consideration and decision. 

 

As companies get larger, the buyer turns into a buying team and that becomes ever-more complex with the size of the company, size of the deal and the number of areas within the company where your solution brings value.  Now, the buying team has to move through the buyer’s journey.  And you if you are a company with multiple sales people that support large portfolios of solutions, how do you know who’s engaged with whom?

 

Throughout all the complexity of the buying team, the steps through the buyer’s journey and the complexity of the seller organization, a sales leader should know whether their reps are engaging the buyers or even if they have the right buyers engaged (will get to the latter on another blog post). But for now, let’s focus on a few ways a sales leader can easily see who is communicating with the client.

 

  1. One seller to many buyers (buying team)

 

If you have one seller assigned to an account(s) and they are solely responsible for the entire engagement without anyone else from your company being involved, then you fit into this category.  They may build a relationship with a buyer, influencer, sponsor or friend at first and as time progresses the relationships expand.  This is great, but what if the communications slow down with a particular person on the buying team? What if too much time has passed since they last understood the procurement process? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could see the communication lines between the sales rep and the buying team?  Wouldn’t it also be nice if you can determine who the sales team is engaged with and how often they communicate with the buyers.  You could be more effective with this intelligence as it prioritizes a sales reps day.  Let’s continue.

 

  1. Multiple sellers to many buyers (buying team)

 

If you are a large organization, with large sales teams and/or a large portfolio supported by multiple people, the same thing happens as a above. Relationships get formed they expand and before you know it the lines of communication between companies looks like spaghetti.  Who from the sales team is talking to the buying team? Is the right subject matter expert engaged and with whom are they talking?  Wait, why is that individual in software development talking to my client? Did you know about that? Lots of questions can get answered when you can easily glance at the visuals of the communication lines between the sales team and buying team.  This becomes a critical view, no pun intended, of the situation of the opportunity and can help determine the health, probability and I will venture to say the reality of the opportunity and its progression.

 

  1. Critical qualification step of seller to buyer(s) before probability of sale increases

 

Here, we look at critical steps required in the sales process by the selling organization that must take place in order to move the deal forward.  In other words, my software architect must meet with the CTO or head of IT in order to ensure successful integration before the deal can be put into the forecast. Can you tell if the step has occurred on a first visual glance of the opportunity?  Is your rep delayed in updating the notes in SugarCRM, or did that step not take place this week? This gives the visibility to the sales leaders on the activity of the reps with the extended selling team and the engagement they are having with the buying team. 

 

Put a little Accent Technologies in your Sugar and you can easily achieve any of these answers to the questions by simply looking at visuals on the opportunity page. Accent captures data from all sorts of places and puts it into its analytics engine and then gives you in context visualization of the communications happening in your opportunity without any more data input by the reps.  That’s right, they don’t actually have to log all those calls, emails, answers, we can do it for you automatically.

 

As a rep, you get to see who on the sales team is communicating with the buying team and what they are discussing so you can more effectively engage with the buying team. As a leader, you get visibility into whether the right conversations are occurring. You can also realize at a glance if there is a communication breakdown, buyer response slowdown or if you have the right subject matter expert already engaged.  Guide your sales teams to win. 

 

Tie this back to my blog on coaching and you have another piece of the capability of Accent Technologies with SugarCRM. Expect to see us embedded into Sugar and on SugarExchange before end of year!

In the early years of my career, I learned from coursework, managers, mentors, certified coaching colleagues and my own experience that coaching is not giving advice. Sounds simple, yet most people find it difficult to separate the two.

 

Coaching is a form of development in which a person called a coach supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance. Advice is a one-way street (not always a bad thing), you can post advice on the whiteboard or write it on a sticky note, but coaching requires individuals to engage in the conversation and work through the problem together. The impact of a coaching approach is way more beneficial in the learning process than simply solving someone’s problem and giving them advice. Here are a few ways to improve your coaching tactics, and how you can leverage and analytics engine and your Sugar data to ensure you’re making the most effective impact.

 

  • Help them remember what they already know  

When a rep comes to you and asks for help, pause for second and determine whether they need advice or coaching. The answer depends on the question being asked, but it also depends on the skill or experience they have. Ever hear the term "never stop learning". As a leader, you should always coach first and give advice second. Ask them questions that will help them work through the information available, as well as your organization’s best practices. The goal is to guide them through what they already know, and encourage them to apply it in the context of the situation.

 

  • Teach a man to Fish

The next step is helping them arrive at a conclusion. By asking questions about the situation, the individual will have to think methodically and out loud with the coach. Hopefully by doing this, a course of action will become apparent. If it’s a unique situation, this may be a good opportunity to insert your advice. But by walking them through this exercise your reps will learn to assimilate information better and faster and will ultimately learn to work through their problems rather than lean on you, their coach, to solve them. They will also implicitly commit to action because they came up with the solution or the next step.    


So how does all of this relate to CRM? Imagine having full insight into the opportunity’s context before you meet with your rep who needs coaching. How much more strategic and impactful could your coaching be?

 

What if Sugar, could makes inferences from the data, automatically to connect some of the dots, and then ask the rep a few of those preliminary questions to guide them toward a solution? Not only could you ensure that every rep who needs help gets it, but you could save time on some of the more standard cases so you could truly focus your expertise on the unique or challenging situations.

 

With Sugar, using Accent Technologies’s analytics engine, sales leaders can do just that. We ask questions of the data and surface automatic responses with recommended next steps (advice). Additionally, sales leaders can take what they see as an experienced leader and easily coach in the context of the opportunity. Utilizing Coaches Corner they can insert key questions or recommendations directly into the rep’s opportunity engaging a healthier, more productive conversation. They can also learn more about the opportunity without talking to the sales rep improving overall efficiency. This is only a small, yet powerful, piece of the capability offered by Accent Technologies.  

 

Understanding what coaching is and utilizing analytics is the key to having better conversations between reps and leaders.  If you’re a leader only giving advice, you are not really leading, so you may as well do the reps job.  Leveraging your experience as a sales leader and an analytics engine to get simple questions asked for more context can really help everyone focus on the right things. To learn more about what sales enablement is with Sugar visit us at Accent Technologies.

 

We're working hard to bring our vision into the Sugar platform. Expect to see us embedded into Sugar and on SugarExchange before end of year!