Big Data

How AI and predictive analytics can accelerate your sales cycle

CRM can organize sales but cannot accelerate it, says Ken Krogue, InsideSales.com founder. Their solution sits between CRM and marketing automation.

Image: InsideSales.com

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems "organize the sales process, but they don't accelerate it," said Ken Krogue, President and Founder of InsideSales.com, in a recent Q&A with TechRepublic. Sales acceleration technology, on the other hand, "increases the velocity, and it shortens the sales cycle. The very word itself is designed to describe what it does."

Krogue also made a case for one unified platform for sales teams: "You lose 10-20% of productivity switching between apps." He added that enterprises "are using CRMs less because the world of apps has specialized so much. It's not as productive as it used to be. So the key is a platform."

Founded in 2004, InsideSales.com is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) enterprise application with a machine learning, integrated approach to accelerate sales using emails, calls, predictive hiring, gamification, and lead scoring.

InsideSales just announced a $60 million funding round led by Salesforce Ventures with participation from Microsoft. The goal of the round is to "build on long-standing partnerships" the company has with Salesforce and Microsoft, and to build up the Neuralytics platform, its "predictive and prescriptive self-learning engine."

In our Q&A, Krogue also discussed how sales acceleration links CRM and marketing automation, what the success factors are in using sales acceleration, and his firm's Neuralytics technology platform.

TechRepublic: What is the business case for sales acceleration solutions? What do enterprise decision makers need to know?

Ken Krogue: CRMs organize the sales process, but they don't accelerate it. Sales acceleration technology accelerates each aspect of the specialization assembly line. It increases the velocity, and it shortens the sales cycle. The very word itself is designed to describe what it does.

Decision makers need to know that sales acceleration is applied differently based on its underlying function. One function is a quantity model and one is a quality model. If it were an appointment setting team for a small business, they would accelerate sales by making more calls. But if it were an appointment setting team for large enterprise accounts, they would accelerate sales by making quality calls. Both models are important, but know that sales acceleration solutions are based on the model you focus on.

TechRepublic: What are the main trends in your competitive space, looking ahead one or two years?

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Ken Krogue
Image courtesy of InsideSales.com
Ken Krogue: We don't have a lot of direct competitors. We're the only platform in the space, but there are lots of individual applications. There are about 20 categories of sales acceleration. We compete in nine of them, so competitors are starting to aggregate to try to compete with us. You lose 10-20% of productivity switching between apps. For the first time in 20 years, the sales process is starting to decay. People are using CRMs less because the world of apps has specialized so much. It's not as productive as it used to be. So the key is a platform. We're seeing those individual applications starting to converge and be bought up because they might enhance productivity in their own space, but people are losing productivity by having to switch between applications. We're a platform that ties them together.

TechRepublic: How does sales acceleration bridge the gap between CRM and marketing automation platforms?

Ken Krogue: We sit right between marketing automation and CRM. As you're tracking the life of a web lead, you see impressions through Google ads. Then they click through to a website and convert to a lead. Everything up until this point is marketing automation. We care about contacting, responding, and qualifying — which is where InsideSales.com sits — not just the close and fulfillment of the sale as with CRMs.

TechRepublic: In a Forbes article that you contributed last year, you said "professional sales is most often done remotely." How do InsideSales' solutions enable this?

Ken Krogue: We mimic the face-to-face sales call with all kinds of tools such as phone, email, and a couple dozen additional power tools. We consider all elements of the sales process as if we were face-to-face, and then we find a way to do it remotely. That's what we do.

TechRepublic: What best practices, in your view, are the main drivers of success in leveraging sales acceleration technology?

Ken Krogue: My Forbes article gives an overview of sales acceleration principles and best practices. There are a couple of key points. First is specialization — where you track the hand-offs and the decay. You can't delay in a specialist model.

Second is measuring leading indicators. The key to sales acceleration is to measure items that actually accelerate the time element.

TechRepublic: Please describe your Neuralytics technology platform. How was it researched and developed, and what are its capabilities?

Ken Krogue: Neuralytics is a mature version of what we did eight years ago with predictive analytics. The very first technology we competed with was a predictive dialer, and predictive dialer technology is 30 years old. The predictive dialer predicts how many lines to dial. We predict whom to call and when. We call it Predictive 2.0. The next phase we built a dynamic dialer that moved with time zones and continued to predict.

We interviewed our sales reps and asked them, "What are the qualities of a great lead?" We found about 20 things, and now we've added about 150 more. We score a lead based on these qualifications, and we built machine learning.

Next came big data. Circumstances affect two main things: the ability to contact and the ability to close people. "Contact" equals "can I reach you?" "Close" equals "can I get you to buy?" Our reps told us that when we call Atlanta when it's raining, everyone answers the phones. We tested it, and sure enough, weather affects contact rates. So big data comes from big huge databases of information like weather, sports, and history. We now tap into 15-plus points that affect whether sales reps can contact or close their leads. Machine learning takes the data we have, but big data taps into outside databases and sees what outside information affects sales as well.

Finally, we started adding artificial intelligence, so that the analytics engine actually learns and improves. It processes all the data, and everyday it's slightly better than yesterday. That's what Neuralytics is.

TechRepublic: What are the benefits of InsideSales' solutions and Neuralytics platform to a customer?

Ken Krogue: The InsideSales.com solution encompasses seven different applications in a platform that accelerates the sale. Neuralytics learns to improve what we predict and what we prescribe, so it accelerates slightly better than yesterday. Think of it as an assembly line, Neuralytics would optimize even the kind of people working on the line, the kind of tools we use, and which bolt to put in first. Neuralytics works on the system. Sales acceleration works in the system, and we have both.

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About Brian Taylor

Brian Taylor is a contributing writer for TechRepublic. He covers the tech trends, solutions, risks, and research that IT leaders need to know about, from startups to the enterprise. Technology is creating a new world, and he loves to report on it.

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