In this episode of the Sales Enablement Innovation podcast, Tim Harris, Director of Product Marketing at Uniphore, chatted to us about:

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How AI could impact the future of sales

In the wider business landscape, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a lot more common. What’s your view on this and where do you see AI heading in the future?

Yeah, it's fascinating. Over the winter, you’d jump into ChatGPT and start playing around with some of those open AI products that all of us can now get our hands on.

We've had Siri and we're used to our iPhones, but the impact of AI at that really high-level intelligence makes you sit there and say, “Wow.”

You're just flabbergasted the first time you put in a prompt and you see what comes out.

AI has been very powerful, and in the backend of a lot of solutions for a long time - but now it's becoming more relevant and more tangible for a lot of people.

An individual contributing seller could just go on ChatGPT and say, ‘Write me a prospect email about this product for this persona.’

And all of a sudden, something spits out.

Now, we can debate whether that's better than a human or just as good and comparable, or how it's going to win out. AB testing, marketing, and the science side of it can always prove those.

But I think what's fascinating is that we're bringing in emotion AI.

It's a fusion model that understands conversations, not just what you're saying, but over video where most of our sales and other engagements are happening. It's understanding the tone of voice, the behavioral cues, and even the content slides put up on the screen.

So anything that’s part of the conversation is now getting analyzed into that conversation or meeting intelligence.

And when you first bring that to market and tell somebody this is tracking different changes in your tone of voice, gestures, or movements, they say, “Wait, are you serious?”

They’re thinking this is futuristic and New Age, but they’re also doubting it to some extent - “What's the accuracy?”

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I think what we're going to find in the next few years is that technology is going to blow our minds, like what Tesla did with self-driving. Even though it's not 100% self-driving, it’s the amount of guidance it can give you.

A lot of sales engagement tools have never really come to life, or been realistic and helpful in an AE’s day. But I think it's going to become a lot more tangible for sellers now.

This AI-assisted professional is going to really emerge in the next few years. That's where I see AI going, and it's exciting to be at the forefront of that.

Have you experienced any hesitations from people in terms of adopting AI? How do you make sure that people are aware that AI is a collaboration tool and not a replacement for them?

I think there are two things.

One - I always challenge people when approaching new technology, and of course, coming from a vendor (someone who gets to market this every day), you can be the skeptic person saying, “I don't know about this. It's not going to be as accurate.”

I love Calvin and Hobbes and Curious George, those were my two favorite comics and books as a kid. So I say, always go and attack the world like that.

Rather than looking at this stuff with the mindset of, Oh my gosh, it's not going to give me what I want, think about what a 2% or a 5% improvement is going to give you?

If we're worried about it taking our jobs, let's work on uplevelling ourselves.

If I don't have to write the email, what can I focus my time on that's going to make me and my team better?

If I don't have to fill out fields in Salesforce, great. That doesn't mean my job’s going away. That means, what do I get to do now that’s better?

What are some cooler, more fun things that I can focus on?

Maybe more human elements of the sales process. So I think you should approach it with curiosity rather than skepticism.

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What are some of the major landmarks that you're seeing in the sales landscape at the moment?

I see that RevOps and sales enablement are being elevated tremendously in their importance.

What I would say is that it's the competitive advantage for revenue teams. We’ve all seen that the buyer’s journey and the seller’s journey is end-to-end.

So now we've got to cover and connect marketing, sales, customer success, support, and the full revenue from end-to-end.

That's difficult in the landscape when you look at solutions and how they’ve been brought to market. For point solutions, now we're seeing more platforms, but platforms that only maybe span certain segments.

I think putting that whole system together and making all the planes and trains run on time, and work, and connect is really complex for any organization - and it's getting more complex.

But the ones that do it well and get that to work are the ones that are going to have a competitive advantage.

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At the same time, while that's going on in the systems and tools world, I see in the sales motion that it's the people that have big followings and have trust in their buyers that are actually winning.

People still buy from people, or from brands that they trust.

So it's really interesting because on one hand, you have a lot of complexity in how you put all the data and everything together to make the frontend feel really personalized and simple.

And that connection point is really tough.

In the last five years, I’ve been part of an arms race of omnichannel, email blasting, and sequence building. I joke and call them spam cannons because at a certain point, it's just noise.

All of us can send 1,000 emails and just blast each other with them, but then everybody switches off.

So I think the other big trend that I'm seeing and I'm hopeful for, is less quantity.

I think quantity’s going to become less of an advantage because now anybody can get those tools, like email marketing, and the mass marketing side.

It's going to be more about quality.

So that's where I'm betting. How do we make better humans? How do we build better rapport, better connection, and better trust?

And I think that things like empathy and soft skills are actually going to be where things move to. I think that's going to have to be the new competitive advantage.

What advice would you give in terms of being able to build that trust so the complexity is less intimidating to people?

As a traditional product marketer, you're coming up with ways to give people resources on the back of a bar napkin, so they can start to figure some of these things out or think about things differently, all the way up to adopting technology and tools.

So for an audience like this, the veiled pitch can go away.

Take a bar napkin and sit down with an AE or somebody that owns an account (or a few different accounts for different opportunities). And one thing I'd like them to think about is, What are the relationships?

We now know that there are probably eight to 10 people involved in a buying decision at an enterprise company. We know that there are different champions, decision makers, and budget holders that are going to have different priorities.

Over the last three to six months, priorities have shifted tremendously depending on the segment you're selling into. So try and take a read on what the sentiment is.

How do they feel about your solution, about your company, and about you as a seller? How's the relationship?

And then, how's the engagement? Not just how much you've sent to them, but how engaged are they? Are they showing up to the meetings? Are they bringing other people in on their teams?

So we draw a quick two by two matrix.

In the top right corner we’ve got totally engaged, high sentiment. In the bottom left corner, you probably aren't going to win the deal.

We look at forecasting 1,000 different ways in most companies through CRMs and all these analytics, but very rarely do we take a step back and think of the emotional state of a deal.

So tactically, I think right now that would be a fun way to look at it from a qualitative standpoint.

Now, what we’re doing in the technology space - and have been very successful in doing lately - is correlating that emotional aspect to business outcome.

There are stats from Salesforce that say 70% of lost opportunities or churned customers are because of missed cues or lapses in the relational aspect of how you're connected.

So not necessarily the product you provide, but the relationship or the service.

So I think we probably have to over-index on that a little bit now and start to look at those things. So that's just a fun way to maybe start looking at deals or opportunities differently.

It's such a competitive market at the moment, and there are so many different options, so those little miscues can make all the difference. It might seem small, you might not pick it up, but it results in a churned customer and a missed deal. And it all adds up.

And how often do you look at a feature sheet or a website, and they all look and sound the same?

We're in the conversational intelligence space, and there's a massive difference between how our solution is built to how another one’s built, but when it comes down to it, there's a lot of very similar language out there.

It's so quick and easy for a marketer to change your website or to put in features and capabilities and list things out.

But it's really hard to find some of that differentiation.

So a lot of these sales relationships rely on that trusted advisor when they're making these decisions, and getting there and building that trust for the buyer is tough.

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How to create the perfect partnership between product marketing and sales enablement

As a product marketer, how do you ensure that you're working with sales enablement as effectively as possible?

It's got to be a team sport.

The days of sales requesting content from marketing, marketing producing the content and giving it back to sales? I don't know if that's where anybody's winning because one's just working for the other.

Look at an account or a segment of an account.

We use our solution in-house, Q for Sales to do all of the call recordings and the conversational intelligence.

With that? Well, I can start to listen to those calls. I can hear it straight from the voice of the customer.

So a seller’s going out and having an engagement with somebody, but that conversation isn't stopping at the seller. It's making it all the way back to me as a product marketer.

It's also making it to other people on the team, whether that's a solution engineer or the product team, so you constantly have a pulse on your customer and on your market. You can see what they're reacting to and what they're interested in.

I think then, as a team, that's when you can start to say, “Okay, now we can build a narrative or a solution pack that's going to be best for them in their industry or for their special needs.”

And I'm finding, at least in the enterprise space, that it's much more about that than it is about building sales sheets and getting them out to 1,000 people across your whole ICP.

Overcoming common challenges in the current sales landscape

You mentioned that you've been in the space for five years now. What are the common challenges you’ve experienced and what have you learned from them?

I think it's getting harder and harder to get people's attention. So I really feel for sellers, and I think all of us are challenged with coming at things differently and trying to throw a lot of creativity.

B2B buyers are becoming more and more like B2C consumers.

So from a product marketing standpoint, breaking through that initial ‘no awareness, no interest’ stage and trying to generate some interest and demand, in a world where there are a million solutions out there and there's already too many solutions in somebody's tech stack? That's tough.

I don't think there's a silver bullet for that side of it. But what I've seen is that:

  • Content that makes it real and tangible
  • The ability to give trial offers

That lets people test drive, and building content to help them learn with that is probably becoming more important because we all jump into solutions quicker.

We all jump into trying software. We want to see it, touch it, feel it, do that stuff. So I think that's one aspect that's changed a little bit over the last few years.

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I think in general, trust is probably something that we all need to work on. That's what I've probably seen decrease the most, the effectiveness of different campaigns - being able to build trust with buyers is harder and harder.

So again, I go back to reflecting on that quality over quantity.  I've seen the exhaustion of quantity.

And things like podcasts, user groups, roundtables, and focusing on community is moving more towards quality. So the companies that do that well are going to be the ones that come out ahead during this turn.

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