Salespeople might be some of the smartest people around, but they are not always efficient because they tend to be mired in minutiae and mundane tasks that often keep them from focusing on higher-level work. AI augmentation promises to take all of that from the salesperson’s shoulders. By allowing AI to take care of everything that can be automated, the salesperson can actually focus their attention on the customer. Alice Heiman, a sales executive, coach and influencer, and a member of the Board of Advisors at ScaleX.ai, joins Chad Burmeister on the show to talk about AI augmentation that can assist a salesperson in being a peak performer. An elementary school teacher for thirteen years, Alice learned so much from teaching that has helped her become a great salesperson and sales coach.
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AI Augmentation | A Supplement To Human Intelligence With Alice Heiman
I am here with one of my favorite people on the entire planet, Ms. Alice Heiman. She is on our board of advisors. She’s one of the most amazing sales leaders in the world. I’ve got her here broadcasting live from Winter Park and Alice is in Reno, Nevada. A similar look and feel with mountains all around her. It’s an awesome time to be in sales. Things are sometimes changing, ebbing, and flowing. These are the times when good things are born. We’re excited here to peel this onion back. We’re here to talk about AI augmentation, not human replacement, but a supplement to human intelligence. Alice has some strong opinions in this area.
I do indeed.
Alice has a great blog. I highly encourage you to subscribe to that.
For those who don’t know, AI for Sales is the book that we put out. It covers 21 different technologies. It’s available at Amazon. It’s also available on our website via eBook download. This broadcast will be played on The AI For Sales Podcast through the C-Suite Network. You will be hearing this all over the planet. Let’s dig in. Tell us about your company. Alice Heiman, LLC, TradeShow Makeover, which is an interesting time to be in the trade show business. Tell us about what it is you do, Alice?
I specialize in helping owner-led companies who are also sometimes investor-backed to have rapid exponential sales growth. Usually, these companies are under $100 million in revenues. They want to grow rapidly. They’re in industries that are growing quickly. They have a lot of competitors. They have a complex sale. They’re usually closing deals that are $50,000 to $1 million or several millions of dollars. They have a lot of complicated things to deal with in that. We’re working with them to help them build their sales organizations, help their sales leaders become peak performers so they can help their salespeople become peak performers. That’s part of what AI helps them to do.
Are you recommending that your customers use AI? Where do you see AI start to seep into customers in the sales motion?
AI can be helpful, but instead of artificial intelligence, I like to think about augmented intelligence because artificial intelligence means it’s replacing our intelligence. That’s not what salespeople need. Salespeople need to be good thinkers, good planners, and great conversationalists, which means they’re good listeners. What we don’t want is for them to push the auto button and think that there’s a tool that’s going to do that for them because it’s not. What we want to do instead is think about the augmented intelligence that can assist a salesperson or a sales leader to be a peak performer. I can maybe relieve myself of some mundane research or something that could be automated so that I can be a better thinker, a better learner, and a better conversationalist. I can focus my attention completely on the customer because I can relieve myself of some of this mundane work that I could get done by this augmented intelligence.
I’ll give a drill down example there. We’re working with a company that sells CRM-type software to property managers to tens of thousands of these guys. They research the call. It’s in their CRM, there are about 4 or 5 fields, and then they have to go out to make sure there are not two opportunities at the same company, all that effort. When they’re making calls, we started to put in an agent-assisted dialing platform for them. When it would randomly beep on the screen, they’re like, “I don’t know if I’m even allowed to be talking to Alice. I don’t know what I should open with.”
It was hard to scale in a situation like that. When you can peel back the onion and say, “What are the five pieces of information you need to see? Maybe we can pull that into the screen pop.” We then have to have trust in the data. We had the sales ops person on and he was like, “We’re not going to get the data fixed anytime soon.” “Okay, then you’re not going to be able to move into the new world where you can leverage this kind of technology.” It’s all intertwined but not replacing people is the key. It’s augmented.
A recording software that can record calls and then pick out the important pieces that can help a sales leader because it takes a lot of time to sit and listen to full recordings of people on calls and/or screen through them because a lot of them are voicemails. We want to get to the right call and get to the right parts of the call so that we can coach our salespeople. That’s a good use of augmented intelligence but that’s only as good as the person who programmed it. Whatever we’re serving up as this artificial intelligence, we have to make sure that somebody who was thinking was putting it together so that it will serve up the right information. One of the best things that we could do for salespeople is to provide the research that they need.
There are some services that will push some information to you that’s the needed pieces, but what are the five pieces of information I need to know about Chad Burmeister before I pick up the phone and dial him? For a lot of companies, we use these extensive dossiers but it relies on the salesperson to go out and find each of the pieces of information that would fill the dossier. There are some companies that are starting to be able to pull that information automatically and serve that up. That’s the thing that is going to help salespeople work smarter. They’ll be able to work fewer hours and that means they will be fresher and more able to focus. They can stop dialing for dollars and spending hours and hours researching, although, the sad thing is most of them don’t spend hours researching and they are not well equipped to have the conversations when they do get a buyer on the phone.
We are in the process of piloting the technology. It’s called Balto Software. Balto was the dog that was in Alaska that ran across and led the path. That’s how they came up with the company name. I did a demo of this and when I’m talking to someone, it can show me, “Did I ask the right questions?” Let’s say a competitor comes up, and a certain name pops up. It’ll give me another set of 2 or 3 questions to ask. When I got my start at WebEx years ago in the inside sales capacity, we print out document upon document. We’d skim to it whenever we need it.
A new one came out, a new product we posted up on our board. In today’s world, intelligence is smart enough to convert it to text and then make sure you’ve asked the question. Check it off the box and then you ask 3 or 4 questions. A little celebration, pop the cork, comes up. “Good job, Alice. You asked the four right qualification questions,” but to your point, if you don’t program it right in the first place, then you’re teaching people the wrong thing. I have a feeling that salespeople will throw up all over that quickly.
That’s the problem because it catches them off guard. A lot of salespeople aren’t that quick on their feet even though they should be, it then creates more of a problem. I’ll tell you what I would love, someone to invent a way to scoop the information I need out of LinkedIn. For example, before I call somebody, I always check their LinkedIn profile and see what they posted last. Some people don’t post on LinkedIn. This doesn’t work for them. For people who are posting, I see what they posted last, what they have been clicking like on. I go over to their company page to see what the company has posted. This gives me words to use to talk to them and have a good conversation. That would be great if that could be served up right before a call instead of me having to take the time to do it. There are lots of ways we could augment for salespeople that would make them smarter and more able to have a great conversation.
Go for it. Another thing I would love somebody to events. You mentioned that I do trade shows as well. I did launch into the company called TradeShow Makeover out of sheer frustration with what was going on in that industry, where all of the clients that I’ve had for all the years. Most of them use trade shows to generate a large percentage of their leads. It’s a good way. It’s a dependable way if done properly. This is where augmentation could come into play. I’m heading out to a conference. I want to know who to meet with. There are some tools that will help us with that but there’s not enough. If you could serve up, “Here are the ten people. Here’s what you need to know about them and the best way to contact them.” That would save a ton of time for salespeople. There are many ways and some of them are already out there. Some of them will be out there soon. We have to think about how we can make salespeople more efficient so they can spend time doing the higher-level work that helps them have these great conversations.
I remember having a conversation with Lori Richardson in Vegas and she almost said word for word what you said so that they can focus on higher-value work. That’s a killer. Let’s talk a little bit about your background. Not everyone knows the Miller Heiman story. Let’s have you share it. My dad was a doctor. That’s why I wear my doctor’s jersey. I like to feel like I’m helping people with diagnosing their company conditions and then solving their needs. How did you first get into sales?
I didn’t plan on going into sales. I didn’t go to school for business. Some of you might know that I was an elementary school teacher before I went into sales. That’s an interesting path but I learned so much being a teacher that has helped me be a great sales trainer, a great sales coach, and a great salesperson. It was a good background and a lot of ways, but that’s how I got into it. When I was younger, I was in sales. When I was in high school, one of my first jobs after babysitting was selling bras.Salespeople need to be good thinkers, planners, conversationalists and listeners. No auto button will do any of that for them. Click To Tweet
I’ve heard this story once before.
I wasn’t thinking of it. I was like, “I work in this place, and I sell bras,” but I wasn’t thinking of going into sales. I went off to college to be an art major. One day, I woke up and I thought, “How am I going to make a living?” I changed my major to education. I thought I could do art with kids and that’ll be great. I like kids. I like the arts. I studied that. I became a special education teacher and I was a reading specialist. I got my master’s degree in education and became a reading specialist. The first thirteen years of my career were spent in public education. A bit of a different way to get to sales but it did get me there.
What springboarded me in was my father’s company, Miller Heiman. He was partners with Bob Miller. They Cofounded that company in the late ‘70s when I was still in college. I learned a lot about it and would always be called upon to do projects for them, but I was going to be a teacher and I was. Eventually, my father did talk me into coming to work for him. I transferred all those skills right over into the sales world. I got catapulted into the complex sale and the corporate world because there would have been no way for me to go from being an elementary school teacher to selling.
The skillset for thirteen that you learned was transferable, whether it was teaching people how to drive a forklift or do a complex sale, you had the blocking and tackling of how to build and educate people to make education stick.
Focus on the customer because, as a teacher, it is your job. Your customers are the students and their parents. Those are your customers and you have to focus on them or you will not get the learning done.
As people transition in this weird market that we’re in, there are some stats out that I’ve seen that Q2 could be a minus 27% GDP, Q3 could be minus, but then Q4 is going to be one of the best renaissances ever in the history of America and probably the world. If you pause for a moment and think 3 to 6 months out. Right now, you’re devastated. You may have lost your job, you may be at risk of losing your job, or you may have lost half your marketing department. There could be stuff going on. What do you do like when you transitioned from the thirteen years and parlayed that into a successful career? What advice would you give to people who are reading this for what should they do between now and the next six months? They’re ready for the biggest renaissance in the history of the world.
That is important to bring out. There have been many times in your own life and in the world where change has happened, and it’s upset things. Sometimes it feels like a punch in the gut at first. It is horrible and we can get trapped in that mindset, in that head trash about how horrible this is. Anytime there’s a change, it’s tough. When I changed from education to selling and working in the corporate world, I felt terrible because I felt like I was selling out. Here I was, a teacher who is proud not to make a good living because teachers don’t get paid much. I worked hard.
I was doing something important for society and then I was in Corporate America where there’s a lot of greed and wealth. I felt like I had sold out. Some people would think, “This is great. You get to go work at this company.” I was like, “I feel terrible.” Even a good change can make you feel bad. You have to think about it and frame it up properly. Going into any change, whether you’ve driven the change yourself, the economy has driven the change, a pandemic is driving the change, or whatever it is, the first thing you have to do is give yourself some grace. It’s like, “I’m going through a change here.”
I go back to the Mindset event in Los Angeles. There was a woman who taught us how to meditate. We did a ten-minute meditation. Out of that, I came up with the idea to paint my house. I still haven’t done that yet, but where in the world did that come from? My advice with Alice’s is the way for you to open your mind is to learn how to meditate. There’s an app called Calm. There are several of them.
Headspace and Calm are great. They guided imagery, guided meditation in awesome ways. If you give yourself that grace to let it settle in, let yourself adjust, let yourself meditate. Let yourself think of some amazing things that you can do and get a positive spin on it. What’s the silver lining to this cloud? Even if you lost your job and that happens sometimes. A lot of you out there may be saying, “I’m one of those people who lost my job.” Even if that’s the case, there’s something better on the other side, if you believe it. Give yourself some grace. Remember that we’re all human. We’re all going through the same thing. Maybe I’m used to working from home. Chad, I know you are, but I’m not used to working from home with a global pandemic.
With my kids on their Netflix and everything else.
A spouse is also working from home. A lot is going on. Give yourself some grace over it, and move through that change at a pace that feels good to you. Work on your mindset and finding the positive in everything, that’s the most important thing you can do for yourself. Stop looking short-term and start looking long. It’s 3, 4 months. We may have the best fourth-quarter renaissance ever. Get prepared for that. Don’t get prepared for the next 2, 3, 5 weeks that are going to be bad. You’re going to have to handle those and do it well, but look further and help your clients look further. If they’re looking at the short-term, they’re going to make decisions that are bad for their company’s health in the long-term. That’s advice that everyone can use, look ahead, and what’s going to be on the other side of this and help your clients get there?
Look over the next mountain. Two thoughts, one is if you’re in a funk, I learned this through meditation or something a while ago, it’s a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 countdown. Have you heard of this one?
You look at five things. There’s a plant. There’s my screen. There’s Alice. There’s Alice’s books, multiple of them available on Amazon. You look at five things, then you touch four things. I’ve got a coke can. It’s smooth, it’s a little cold. I’ve got my phone, hopefully, it’s clean. I’ve got a microphone. Touch four things. You then move down to hearing, smelling, and taste. Maybe taste your coke, it puts you back into right now.
Get into your body.
Get into right here. There are no threats of attack. I can breathe and think. No matter what else is going on, if you own this moment, take a step forward and then another step and another. Before you know it, it’s six months from now and the best quarter in the history of the world.
A couple of other quick techniques that I’ve used and have taught other people. Stop and breathe like the old stop, drop, and roll if you’re on fire. Stop, close your eyes, and breathe for a couple of breaths. It’s amazing what it does to your nervous system. It calms it down. Even when you’re in a tizzy, stop, close your eyes, and breathe. Another one is a focus trick. I have a rock, a friend of mine gave it to me. I hold it in my hand and I focus on that while I’m breathing. It gives me something to focus on. You can even just look at something like a rock or anything that you love, something small, and focus on it and have a couple of breaths.
The last one I want to share is what I call flipping the script. If I go, “I’m so upset. What if this goes on three more months? I don’t know how to pay my bills.” Do I want to get into that drama queen role? No. As soon as that thought hits my mind, “What if this goes on three more months?” I say, “What if this doesn’t go on three more months? What if we’re out of this in 2, 3 days, or 3 weeks and I have the opportunity, too?” Flip the script instantly and change the words. It’s not the bad stuff. It’s what if it isn’t bad?AI cannot replace salespeople. What it can do is to augment them and make them smarter. Click To Tweet
Let’s give the audience one more takeaway. Thinking of trade shows, obviously, cancellations across the board for a while. When the switch gets flipped sometime soon, then, I can’t wait to be in Vegas at a trade show. How do I recover from 2, 3, 4 months’ worth of missed trade show leads at the TradeShow? You’re probably doing cold calls, you’re doing the other things to recover from lack of pipeline, but what can I do at the first trade show that I go back to?
Everybody has to know that trade shows will come back, and they will come back strong because everyone is dying to see everybody in their industry that they haven’t seen. It’s going to be awesome. These trade shows are going to come back strong, and you do need to be ready. If that’s one of the major ways that you generate leads, then you need to do it well. The most important thing you can do is stay focused on the industries and the companies that you’re going to meet at these trade shows Stay in touch with them even if you’re not selling anything to them. You’re developing those relationships and keeping in touch with them using LinkedIn, email, phone.
Like their tweets, maybe.
Interact with your posts. People love it. Don’t you love it when someone retweets you? I do. Retweet their tweets. On LinkedIn, interact with them, comment on their posts, and let them see you. I always like to think of social media more like a coffee shop or a networking event that you might have at a trade show. Use it more that way to have little conversations with people and stay in touch with them. Even maybe write some handwritten notes, or send people something fun to cheer them up. Stay in touch with people without trying to sell necessarily, especially if their industry isn’t doing as well. Take the time to build that relationship so that when they see you in person, you’re like their long lost friend even though you’ve never met them in person.
I’m sure it varies by industry and trade show, but if I look back On24 or RingCentral, and you get 500 people to come to your booth and you end up closing 2 or 3 transactions at a show. I have to believe that if you do it right, you could close 200%, 300%. What are some of the stats? What’s the best you’ve seen from a company who’s terrible at trade shows, they go through TradeShow Makeover and they get to X?
I’ve seen some bad ones. We had one with 2,000 badge scans. I’m going to tell you that out of that they only probably had twenty conversations. Most of the people they called said, “I have no idea who you are. I didn’t stop by your booth.” They hung upon them. That was bad.
Twenty conversations, little pipeline, no closed deals. We had our booth configured one time, and the table was hiding me. I came by and pushed it up against the wall and said, “No. You need to be out there. You need to talk to people.” When the trade shows come back, if you’re in marketing, don’t settle for a 1% to 2% conversion rate. You got to look hard at what’s available, the tools in the TradeShow Makeover. It’s TradeShowMakeover.com.
The company that did the 2,000, we took them down to 200 badge scans. Almost everyone talked to them. They remembered them because they had conversations before they scanned the badge. They sent good follow up so that when they call them, they had a lot of conversations and out of 200, they ended up with 20 deals.
I remember DemoChimp wore orange or red shoes everywhere. That was their common theme. They even shipped me red shoes when I became a customer. When I would see them, I’m like, “You guys haven’t heard of DemoChimp? Go find the guy with the red shoes.” It was brilliant.
You have to attract attention in a good way. You have to have a powerful conversation. People want to talk to you again. You got to be memorable. The red shoes were memorable and that’s why it helped them so much. There are so many things you can do that are simple and inexpensive to make the trade shows a dependable source of leads.
You’ve heard it here. Alice Heiman started her career as a school teacher for thirteen years. She made the transition into sales. Sales is an industry that’s not going anywhere anytime soon, AI or not. AI will continue to augment and make sellers better so they can focus on more value-added work. Alice, thank you for being here and sharing your experiences.
It’s been fun. Thanks for having the conversation.
Everybody, we’ll see you in Vegas at a trade show, coming soon. Cheers.