At The Demand Gen Summit virtual event, keynote speakers Godard Abel, Co-founder and CEO of G2; Gabe Rogol, CEO of Demandbase; and Kris Rudeegraap, CEO of Sendoso, took part in a round table discussion hosted by Founder of InsideSales and Signals Dave Elkington. They discussed how the world of sales and marketing is being reinvented with changes in technology, specifically stemming from AI, changes in the market, and relationships between seller and buyer. These CEOs gave advice and insight on how to leverage AI, what to be cautious about, and where your focus should be to maximize your benefits.
As a Business, Things are Changing Faster Than Ever
In the modern market, it is important that you take advantage of how quickly changes are happening. The rate of change has increased greatly with resignations, people getting laid off, changes in executives, and budget cuts. With these constant changes, the idea of building a relationship and continuing that relationship over a long period of time is unrealistic. The skills needed are different than they have been for the past decade, the buying committees are bigger, and the approvals are more complex. The next generation of marketing and sales will need to align the two as much as possible. You have to constantly understand where your customer is on the sales journey and bridge the gap between sales, bookings, and the marketing pipeline metrics.
Aligning Sales and Marketing
Gabe Rogol, CEO of Demandbase, said, "I think it has to start with, of course, investing in the technology, but it has to continue with sales and marketing doing that in conjunction because I tend to find that the main riff of not being able to navigate the modern customer journey effectively is because even though conceptually sales and marketing want to work very closely together, in the actual operations, and the actual technology, and the actual data, and workflow, and the measurement is highly fragmented." The CEOs discussed many different options to repair those fragmented relationships. With upgrades in software development, invest in or build software that both sales and marketing teams can use instead of the separate platforms that we have seen in the past. Godard Abel, CEO and co-founder of G2 advised to try creating a single scorecard for shared metrics for both sales and marketing. He also emphasized that marketing has to prove now more than ever that their leads drive revenue.
More Prep Than Ever
Kris Rudeegraap, CEO of Sendoso, said, "It's all hands on deck to drive revenue and retention. Doubling down on partner co-selling or exec-sponsor co-selling or co-renewing, co-succeeding, just making sure you're using all your resources." The most important resource that everyone needs to be utilizing is their data. Specifically, Godard says, your intent data if you want to be efficient. G2's intent data is middle and bottom funnel, and they can target using their categorized searches which helps feed their intent data by looking at what categories and searches the user engaged with. Without a foundation of good data, you won't be able to understand your customer and their journey, and you won't be able to decipher where they are on that journey which is the ultimate goal. Invest in good data practices. Gabe underlined that there are so many data issues still. You must clean your data to ensure that it is accurate and relevant and that the orchestration works. If you have bad data, a lot of logistics will fail. With intent data, you can use tools like G2, Demandbase, Sendoso, and Signals to make sure that you're using your data as successfully as possible.
Too Early to Tell the Risks and Benefits of AI
While the amount of technology and the opportunities surrounding technology continues to increase, we are in the initial stages of its evolution. We are still learning to manage its growing complexity. Part of the change in the market is the massive influence of AI. AI is still in the early stages, and "There is a lot of uncharted territory, and people are going to be making guesses and placing bets, and it will be years before we figure out the true benefits or the true risks that happen," said Kris when discussing what he expects to see from AI in 1-5 years. Gabe sees the potential of AI to be the most disruptive technology we have lived through, possibly to the same extent as the internet. AI could follow a similar cycle as the internet; there is a lot of excitement around generative and open AI, which has arrived at what Gabe called the AI buzz.
The AI Buzz
There will be a typical buzz with wins and misses when it comes to AI and the assumed cycle it will follow. Finding out how to get the actual benefit out of AI rather than just riding the buzz will be key to leveraging it successfully. We are in the initial stages of discerning what is real and what is just the buzz, so investing in the excitement of AI can be dangerous. A lot of the buzz is going into generative and Open AI. Gabe said, "There are other AI-building models that make decisions that will have a tremendous impact on technology that is being overlooked because of generative AI." The buzz will lead to some bad businesses, possibly some small businesses that will end up failing.
What Not to Do with AI
The CEOs cautioned against relying too much on AI. Still, they advised the importance of integrating AI into your business to avoid remaining stagnant or dying out. AI is a strategy that you can use with sound business tactics to maximize your efforts. Something to be cautious of in using AI to solve business problems is that anyone can get the same information and solution from AI. The last thing you want as a business or individual is to be like everyone else or to do what everyone else is doing, which in the immediate thrill of AI is using it to solve all their problems because it is the easy option that many will use and practice. However, you must embrace the positive changes that are available because of AI to avoid losing the lifeblood of your business. The secret is finding a balance between strategizing the use of AI and to prevent becoming average; you can do this by maintaining an entrepreneurial mindset to be different. Dave Elkington, Founder of InsideSales and Signals, said, "Almost definitionally, AI finds the optimal average, and if you just rely on AI to run your strategy, you're going to be really average."
Challenges of AI
One of the challenges of open AI is the question, can it be trusted? Godard brought up the question of attribution when it comes to AI. You can't tell how AI came up with its seemingly great answer. There needs to be source data to make the answer credible. AI has false confidence that Godard compares to an entrepreneur. Still, the issue is that you can't discern if the solution is an inferred hallucination or a valid response when using AI. Currently, we are still determining why it chose one option over another or where it pulled its information from. We have seen some questionable decisions from AI concerning population pools and targeting, so keep in mind that you need to retain the human element.
The Ultimate Human Assistant
The human design and the overall human direction give AI its effectiveness. Without a user, AI-generated content becomes repetitive and lacks tone. There are still questions about if AI can create that perfect sentence, whether AI is a thought leader, or whether it can personalize content. Godard believes AI to be the ultimate human assistant, "It's like any new powerful tool. You have to learn how to use it, if you learn how to use it, you can become ten times better at your job, and if you don't learn how to use it, you'll probably become obsolete. I do think it is potentially that powerful. We can't use it blindly. It's not going to have any personalization, and it is going to be spam content," he said. AI should be assisting everything we do, even outside of the B2B world. Using it as an assistant will maintain the human element but will maximize your efforts. AI is one of the most influential technologies of our time. It is crucial for everyone to learn how to use it and still create value and content on top of it; rather than adding AI as a feature, you need to use it as a long-term strategy to keep you differentiated.
AI's Effect on Jobs
Following the conversation about AI, a big question is its effects on current and future jobs. Kris believes that while it will take away specific jobs, many more will be added and supplemented, so people may shift what they were doing before. Using AI may prioritize different areas of work. For example, it could replace automated and mundane tasks. While AI could possibly replace some jobs, there is also the question of whether it can replace creativity with art, music, writing, etc... Copywriting is one of those creative areas that AI has disrupted and could replace. "Some of the big takeaways for me in AI come around copywriting and the ability to use these language learning models for better copywriting for us that could be a gift note, or an e-gift note so some of the content you want to include with your gift can be generated with AI," said Kris.
The Cost of a Gift
Dave said, "How do we be better marketers in this very unique environment that we're in? I think the answer is personalization." A consumer study 2019 by the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) determined that 80% have an instant reaction when they receive promo from companies they've never heard of, and nearly 10 out of 10 said that they would go out of their way to get a promotional product. A gift is one way of making a relationship with customers personalized. So, looking at the cost of sending a gift to a customer, Kris stated that there is no absolute cost of things. You could send two months of free emails to get the audience's attention and two days with a gift. There are different gifts you would send to the customer at different stages of their customer journey or if someone is showing intent data. You have to figure out the behind-the-scenes math and opportunity cost. To know if a gift will help you to make more revenue than a free email, you will have to do data on the back end. Even if a gift is perceived as expensive, if it drives superior results, then the expense is irrelevant.
A Time for Innovation
With some of the constraints in the market right now, the CEOs believe, comes innovation. Dave said that now is the time for people who are opportunistic and who can be proactive to create a career-making moment. The opportunities right now are the biggest you may have in your career. Gabe believes it to be a better time than ever to dream big. He said, "Even though we are going through tough economic times, we should take the time to realize that we are on the cusp of something amazing for great companies and for people who are investing in their careers." It is the time to be thoughtful and strategic and to get out of your comfort zone and try new things.