AI For Sales Call Guidance With Marc Bernstein
One of the things that we're going to start seeing more of in artificial intelligence is AI giving us the information we can use. This is particularly helpful in sales. Joining Chad Burmeister to talk about how AI can be used in sales calls to help you close more revenue is Marc Bernstein, the CEO and Founder at Balto. Powered by AI, Balto listens to both sides of a conversation and sends the reps recommendations on their screen for how they can be as effective as possible. Interested to know more about how you can use AI for sales calls and what other things are coming in AI for the sales area? Tune in to this episode!
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AI For Sales Call Guidance With Marc Bernstein
I’ve got with me Marc Bernstein, the Founder and CEO of Balto Software, a leader in AI for sales. He has been in business for a few years. They are growing crazy, literally a 4X 300% increase. Their team is going to go from 60-plus up to over 100 this 2021. They are just getting started. Marc, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much. I’m glad to be here.
I’m so excited because there have been a lot of technologies out there that are 1.0 in the space that you play in. Now, you’ve just leapfrogged up to 4.0. A lot of companies come out and tell you, “Here’s what happened on the call.” My understanding of Balto is that you take it a step further and say, “Let’s not tell you what happened. Let’s help guide the reps with what to say and how to say it using artificial intelligence.”
One of the things that we’re going to start seeing more of in AI is a transition AI that gives you information that you can know, and AI that gives you information that you can use. The know versus change is one of the things we’re going to start seeing. Chad, could you tell me everything you know about sales? You couldn’t. It would take you that years of trying to pour out your brain. You almost have this backlog of knowledge, all this stuff you’ve accumulated that you wish you could apply but time and prioritization are getting in the way. What AI is going to start doing more of is saying, “Based on all the information that I, as the AI, understood, this is the thing you should do.” It will be less of, “Here’s something you should know,” and more of, “Here’s something you should do.”
You will learn by being pointed to the right thing at the right time versus, “Let me teach you something.” Hopefully, years from now, you’re going to need to know how to do it. It’s at the point of the need, “Here’s how you do it and here’s what you should say in that conversation.”
Accumulating knowledge and having new experiences are ways of learning, too.
When you think about how we learn, a lot of us learn by doing. It can go way back in time when we were cave people and we were around the fire. Did we touch the fire? Three days later, the other cave person would come over and say, “You shouldn’t touch the fire.” We got burned, we pulled our hand away and we learned. I think that we’ve drifted away from the idea that as we do more, we can accumulate knowledge and have new experiences. That’s a way of learning too.
The example you just gave has way more meaning. My son is nineteen and had an oil fire that was horrendous. It blew up in his face and burned both of his hands. A month later, he’s fine, thank God. It was 2nd and 3rd-degree burns. The point is the downside of that experience of cooking something is bad. You could burn your eyes. You could have a lot of problems. If he would have had the instruction set printed, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, if they would have had a step 2A that said, “Once you put the Panko in the oil, if it catches fire, then do this.” When I think of the AI that you’re bringing forward, that company, we are now in contact with corporate headquarters of the company sent that box. They need to put 2A in there because my son’s an engineer. He follows directions to the tee. Salespeople are pretty good at learning but if you don’t give them the proper instructions, they are going to burn themselves on fire. That’s what brilliant about what you have created. It’s the ability to give them the information at the time of the need so that they can avoid the pain of saying the wrong stuff. Also, by saying the right thing, they can move the deal forward.
For the readers who might not know, Balto has invented what we call Real-Time Guidance. It’s analyzing everything that the salesperson says as they say it, everything the customer says as the customer says it. In Real-Time right there, it’s popping up gentle recommendations on their screen for how they can be as effective as possible. We say that Balto is what helps salespeople say what works.
How did you get into this? If you think back to when you were younger, some people like to play soccer and some like to skateboard or do other things. What was your passion when you were little that you think has caused the line from then to now?
I was thinking about that and I had a really ‘90s childhood. That has no smartphones or social media. I didn’t have texting until I was 16 or 17. What it meant is, first of all, I’ve got to try a lot of stuff. I did a little bit of everything. I played drums. I played football and basketball. I was on the rowing team. I had powerlifting. I traded stocks and learned how to trade stocks. I did a whole bunch of stuff. I wasn’t great at any of it. That’s unthinkable because if I had played basketball and was a freaking superstar, I would have said, “Great, my basketball.” I wasn’t great at any of it. It meant that I was always in the process of getting better and better and to see how good can I get at something. It also meant that I was never the number one winner at any given area.
The enjoyment didn’t come from the ultimate success. The enjoyment came from learning, growing and getting better. All the little things that I did over time, what it taught me is to love learning and getting better. I had no idea growing up as a kid that it would be something a lot of adults forget. A lot of adults just stop learning or stop trying to learn. The ones who continue to keep an open mind and keep pushing themselves, you can see it in the people they surround themselves with and the things that they are able to accomplish.
Even someone like Tiger Woods who fixed his swing after a bad back, went through some traumatic events in life and now he’s going through another traumatic event. I will guarantee you, if he’s in a wheelchair, he’s going to figure out a way to get out there and learn. He’s a constant learner. I heard a story that he did some training with the SEAL team a couple of times because he thinks like that. They shove him under water, make him hold his breath and all kinds of pretty interesting things. You have to be a continuous learner in life if you want to continue to move. It’s hard. Sometimes when you feel like, “I already know everything,” but when you have a technology that can help you continually enhance your process, it just makes perfect sense. You can then move one degree at a time. You don’t have to change everything in one day. If you change a little bit at a time, by the end of the year, you’ve made one degree shift times 365. You are way further down the path.
When Tiger Woods was back on the golf, the first game he plays, the chance that it’s going to be his best game is about zero. I guarantee you, the second he sets from that golf course, he will get a standing ovation. People celebrate when people around them are growing and trying to be their best especially when there’s adversity that they are coming up against.
I love that feedback. It just gave me the chills because that’s the level. That is why your company has grown for 4X because you can really help tech leaders help their teams. The leader comes into it as a good performer. They then try to impart their ways on that rep and they goof it up because leading people isn’t a natural skill. You have to learn it. I think by putting a technology that’s powered by AI, that’s ultimately powered by people. If you have the wrong inputs into what to say and how to say it, it’s still going to fail. It’s this holistic approach that makes a lot of sense. You meet with other founders in the AI for sales area. Do you see anything coming out in 2021 that’s piqued your attention that looks interesting?
I don’t think that there was a single thing where I’m like, “That’s it,” except for the secret sauce that Balto has coming out. What I can say is that the buyers of AI are getting more discerning. There is a different flavor in AI. There are AIs that automate something and there are others. You have to automate something where it is indistinguishable between the AI doing it and the person doing it. Things like improving the contact rates in your dialer by dynamically swapping contacts and making sure you are connecting with the exact right person back at the exact right time. Incorporating different intelligence from the buyers and profile in order to have a more personalized contact.
Automation does really well with routine tasks and rote tasks, but not with things that require people.
Those things, that automation of having if you were a person, you would go and click their profile, you would look through the information then paste it in your email and then you message it. That stuff is where automation goes well. Automation goes poorly when people try to automate things that people want to do. Chad, I can imagine that when you get a cold email or cold LinkedIn message, let me ask you. What’s the first thing that you look for?
I click who it’s from and then I look at their landing page. If it’s terrible, then I go right back to the note. I either block or just delete it and archive it.
You are so much more open than I am. I would never click a landing page unless the email got me. The only way that email is going to get me is if I see it came from a person, when it came from a person who researched my business.
I was talking about LinkedIn. LinkedIn is different. I have a chance to click their LinkedIn profile then I go to LinkedIn and decide to connect or not. In email, it’s just this salesy pitch. My spam box has gotten pretty good at that. I’ll go in there and there will be 240 messages from a week. That shows you how much garbage there is flying around out there these days.
I think the number one test is, is it personalized? There are a lot of companies that say, “We can automate personalization,” but you inherently can’t. Until AI passes the Turing Test and you have an email that is indistinguishably written by an AI versus a person, there’s no way you could know. Our pattern recognitions of people is pretty good and we are going to see if something feels off, feels templated or feels automated. We are not going to connect with that. Automation does really well with routine tasks and rote tasks. It doesn’t do well with things that require people. The second area that I think AI is moving into, which is exciting, is insights. There has still the issue we talked about, which is that we have this insights backlog.
AI does a good job of looking through a lot of dense information, surfacing and saying, “Here are some things we noticed. The problem is the no do transfer.” Things you know versus things you do. I think that folks are starting to get a little disillusioned with the no because they were given so much information. They say, “How do I use this? How am I going to make this and make metrics better? Do I have to go champion change across my org and start waving a flag about whatever new information I have?” That’s challenging. We are going to move to this last stage of AI. First automation, second insight, third is going to be applying the moment the insights need to be applied. That’s the do. What AI is starting to shift toward is figuring out what happened in the situation and say, “The recommendation is do this.”
That timeliness will get better too. An example that is not related to Balto or our company would be looking at updates from your prospects on LinkedIn and saying, “Based on some pattern your prospect has been doing, they got a new job. Their company just gave a press release. Someone endorsed them for sales process. Now is the time to send them a message. Here’s an example of different value props that might resonate.” That’s the thing that I think we are going to start to see AI shifting toward.
It feels to me that a lot of the technologies are still best in class, best of breed, you need this to solve that problem and you need that to solve the other problem. There are a handful of technologies. Instead of just software applications, it’s software powered by AI applications. There has to be all these different beta tests to solve unique problems. Once those problems get solved, then consolidation happened in the early days of CRM, there’ll be some consolidation again at some point. There is a period of at least 12, 18, 24 months that you’re going to see a lot more dot-AI technologies come out. It’s going to be an exciting time. Do you think AI is going to have more of an impact on the world about the same as the internet or less impact with the internet?
The impact the internet is just getting started. This is not it for the internet. Even looking at the fact that we are doing work over the internet, we are having a show over the internet, we are not watching TV in our physical offices so we are recording a live TV session in our offices. The story of the internet has yet to be told. I do think that AI is going to start to solve individual problems. Step two will be integrating the solution saying, “We solve problem A. We solve problem B. We solve both of those better if the systems talk to each other.” We are going to solve individual problems then we are going to integrate the solutions. The final step will be some system that can solve multiple problems at once, which I do think we are a few decades off from.
That being said, if you look at like the arc of the worlds, and let’s not look at a ten-year time span but say in 200 years, what will be more impactful, AI or the internet? In two years, what AI is capable of might dwarf anything that you would love. AI could have more information. It could compile that information better into strategic insights. It could have a conversation that it gets more engagement from readers because it is able to dynamically change the topic based on what it knows gets the most attention. In the long enough time span, AI could end up being way bigger than we give it credit for. We will see. The story for that has yet to be written as well.
In the short-term, a lot of people plug the word automation in for AI and interchangeably use the term incorrectly probably. This has been a fabulous conversation, Marc. I really appreciate you coming on the show. It’s great to reconnect. Congratulations on all the success. Companies that may be interested in this show and reaching out to you, what would be the ideal fit? Do I need more than a handful of salespeople for this to work for me? Who could leverage this kind of technology?
The absolute best fit will be a high-volume sales or customer service team. Not like an account exec team that has 3 to 5 calls a day because those calls are longer and the sales process is longer. It would be someone who’s high volume. That could be a big SDR or BDR team. It could be a B2 sale in a contact center. It could be a large customer service organization at a contact center. Typically, volume is the big thing because that’s where you have all these conversations that you got to get right. Doing that for one person as an individual is hard enough. Doing it for an organization at scale is pre-Balto impossible. We aim to solve that challenge.
High volume, big teams and the difference of one degree in behavior makes now multiply that by 10 or 20 and 20% increase in outcomes is a big deal for a company. Congratulations, Marc. Thanks for joining the show. We’ll catch everybody next time.
About Marc Bernstein
Building the market leader in real-time guidance for contact centers.
I'm the CEO of Balto, a tech company that helps contact centers close more revenue from their phone calls than humanly possible.
I'm also the host of Reimagining the Contact Center, a warm and conversational podcast that digs into the new contact center economy and how technology, businesses, and the modern customer work together to build better lives for ourselves and our families.