Ambition: How To Create A Revenue-Driving Culture With Matthew King
How can managers instill the company's desired culture into their team? Use Ambition to get real-time performance insights! Chad Burmeister's guest in this episode is Matthew King, the Enterprise Account Director at Ambition. Ambition is a data-driven coaching platform that helps drive proper behaviors. Matthew shares with Chad that AI's great heavy hitter point is to gather a sea of information and boil it down to useful information. That's what Ambition can do for you! Join in the conversation to discover how you can streamline your team. Instill the culture that makes your company stand out. Tune in!
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Ambition: How To Create A Revenue-Driving Culture With Matthew King
I'm with Matt King. Matt is the Enterprise Director at Ambition. If you are not familiar with Ambition, you should be. I have known these guys and the founder for a long time. Matt has been there since 2019. Ambition has been around even longer than that. Matt, I’m really happy to have you on the show. You do some banter around AI and what you are seeing out there. Thanks for being here.
It's my pleasure. Thanks for having me, Chad.
This will be great. Before we get into the talk about texts, speeds, feeds, AI and all that, to help our audience get to know you personally, tell us a little bit about what was your thing when you were younger? You are now obviously an Enterprise Account Director. Were you a sales director from the time you were five or what were you passionate about then?
I am definitely not in sales since I was five. In my younger days, I was a big sports fan. I loved playing baseball. I played all the way up through high school and college. I’m always competitive. Baseball was my thing so a lot of the time, I’m focused there. I also like to tinker. I tear stuff apart and build it back up. I have fun with that. That ultimately led to an early pursuit of engineering and I wound up in manufacturing and operations early in my career, which is not sales. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to stumble upon that path a little later and here we are now.
That's good because you are one of the salespeople who actually adds value to the customer. A lot of times, I have managed salespeople who could be not concerned about that. “I'm concerned about getting my next sale for $1 million. Why would I care about the customer?” Having a son who's in the engineering school, I can see he’s starting in that area and over time, maybe he will transition into a business/sales role but I like that. It’s starting from there and moving into sales versus the other way around. That's pretty cool. How does that tie into what you are doing at Ambition? Is there a thread between starting in engineering and what you are doing now?
I think there is. I couldn't tell you most of the stuff from the books and the equations that I learned in engineering school but what I do remember is the process and the approach for solving problems so I get to apply that every day. It's figuring out what's the real pain points. What are we trying to accomplish? What does a good result look like? Being able to use that to help structure the conversations but also to help guide how to get from point A to point B. I get to use a lot of those basic fundamental principles day in and day out.
Tell us about high-level Ambition 30,000-foot view. What's the elevator pitch? It would be fun to go into a story on what's one of those problem-solving areas that you went into, ideally, if it has some component of AI in it. Let's go high-level and then go a little bit more on the ground level.
Ambition, as a product, was in the sales performance management space, which is pretty diverse and there are heavy hitters in the AI space. They are like Chorus and Gong. Conversation Intelligence is their BI tool. Where we really fit isn't providing gamification and coaching tools to front-line managers so they can better manage their reps and drive better performance more consistently at a higher level, it's using a lot of the same data. It's pulling from these systems and then presenting it in interesting ways from finding tools that you can actually act on the front lines to engage your reps.
I remember speaking at a Salesforce Dream Force Event years ago when gamification was coming out. We did about ten prep calls ahead of time with this gamification expert there and the sentence that comes to mind is gamify the behavior not the outcomes because a lot of sales leaders tend to say, “You’ve got to get to 300,000 bookings and we will gamify that.”
They wonder why they hit 100,000 bookings from 9 of the 10 reps and gamifying the behavior of, “You've got to do this many personalized emails and send for swag gifts.” I talked to someone who does personalization called Alyce. It’s a really cool company. It uses AI to serve up what's the next personal outreach you could do based on the information that's accessible on the web about you. Those are the things I think that we should be gamifying. Tell us about a company that you may have gone into, figured out the problem and mapped in Ambition. How did that work?
I don't want to be sensitive to customer information out in the wild. Let's say this is a big tech co in Silicon Valley and they've got a brand new go-to-market model moving from traditionally field sales to predominantly digital inside sales channels. They are all about change management and making it as easy and smooth as possible to help foster that new culture, new approach and new processes.
They saw Ambition as a way to help supplement that process, especially around the feedback loop. You need to be able to not only set expectations but you need to be able to instrument the process and get immediate feedback to know, “Are we on track or do we need to course-correct?” Ambition helps provide some of that insight, smarts and serves it up in a meaningful way.
Leadership can tell if we are on track or not so they are not surprised at the end of the day. I always like to say that birthdays are for surprises. Otherwise, you need to know what's going on and they don't want to be caught off guard. We were able to provide that type of insight. It's not just data. Information is good but being able to present it in a meaningful, engaging way is also where efficient ways provide a lot of value. It doesn't feel like Big Brother.
It's actually allowing reps to feel recognized for achievement, incremental steps and good behaviors that you mentioned. It’s not just, “I made 30 calls,” but it’s, “I provided some value to the customer and it moved to a conversation along in a meaningful way.” It tied into the vision that they had for fostering this new culture and standing up this new go-to-market strategy, which for a large globally matrix organization could be a pretty tough challenge.
To approach solving problems, figure out the real pain points, what you're trying to accomplish, and what a good result looks like.
When you talked about Chorus and Gong in exec vision, for example, it makes me think of a cool thing you could gamify, which is some conversations that are scored above 70%. You could start it there and say, “My expectation is we are all going to be 70% above in every call we ever have or 50% for that matter,” but set a really low bar over weeks or months start to move that up and say, “How much talk time are you doing versus listening time? How are you asking more than five questions in a call?” There are basics inside of those apps that when presented effectively through Ambition could move behaviors up very quickly.
You are spot on. We partner with all of those companies that do that. Ambition’s core technology has a little bit of AI in it. We like to supplement with best-in-class technologies that are out there like the Chorus and the Gongs of the world. You can gamify things to make sure that you are saying the right things but some of the things that we have seen our customers do are not only tracking the right things to say but also the wrong things. The ums, the ahs and the fillers are negative points. You can really start to influence behavior and Look at the quality aspect of those interactions in a much more interesting and engaging way.
That's neat because some of the AI that I see in digital, whether you are sending an email or a LinkedIn reply, there's much now that can be automated and there’s no ums and ahs in there. In many ways, it could be looked at and it will become more perfect in digital communication even to the person. As that moves up the curve, the expectation to the salesperson to have a similar level of conversation without ums and ahs, and the proper amount of talk time, that expectation will rise as digital communications rises.
I agree. The quality aspect is where you can tap into a lot from an AI standpoint because otherwise, it's this sea of information that no single human or even a team has time to really sum through, analyze and assess. That's where we see AI as a big opportunity to level up, whether it's in our technology or partnering with other folks. It's serving this information that allows you to then act on it and drive the proper behaviors.
I think about our own conversion rates. If I get on a sales call with a prospect that comes in through a white paper download, website inquiry or whatever, it's a 42% sign-up rate because we've got something that is small, medium and large. I'm going to match the right product to the right buyer and I need to go to a short-term pilot. We will do that whatever is required.
The sales team, early on years ago, the close rate was 12%. We were like, “How has their gap been from 42% to 12%?” It's all about capturing information, recording it, looking at where the breakpoints are and moving that up. Now the sales team is something like 34%. I've got 30 years. I don't expect a rep with 5 to 7 years of experience compared to a 30-year sale to close that 42% gap but technology can certainly help you close those gaps in short order.
That's part of the vision we are hoping to take in Ambition. If you think about the trajectory of a rep throughout their career from what they started as an SDR through an AAE, there are inflection points along the way. You can start to look back and assess based on how the rest of the population has done to know, “Should we focus on this behavior versus this?”
Where do we need to help as far as enablement, training, coaching or guidance might go with a much higher level of competence that action is going to be the one that helps move the needle? You can do that repeatably, more predictably and at scale across a very diverse team because no two sellers are exactly the same but if you can lower that risk and increase your odds of success, you are making a positive impact.
There's a bill now that is in the Infrastructure Bill. I don't know if you saw this but I read it. It says, “One of the proposals is if it gets passed within the next, I don’t know how long, all new cars will have this thing where you have to blow in and it checks for alcohol consumption before you can drive your car.” I brought it up and one of my family members was like, “That's stupid. That's overreach.”
I sit on the fence and I was like, “It could be overreach but it also keeping bad drivers off the road.” If you are a responsible citizen, wouldn't you want that across thousands of drunk driving accidents? Wait until you have someone in your family that's involved in a drunk driving accident on the bad end of the stick.
I think about this technology that we are talking about, the listening and the monitoring. We had another guest on the show, Ty Smith with CommSafe.ai. They look for violent behavior, discrimination, sexism, and stuff that goes on in a Slack channel or an email. Now they have this AI that can say, “Flag to the manager. Better to catch it early. Matt, let's have a quick combo.”
I don't know what you are at by that email but it's interesting to see how AI is being deployed and you guys are certainly at the forefront of being able to present that information and gamify how it's used in businesses. What are your thoughts on the future of AI? If you look out 3, 4, 5 years, Chorus and Gong are the first two that come to mind these days, what else are you starting to see show up in the AI For Sales space and where do you think it goes over five years?
There are a couple of different directions. My personal take is a big, heavy hitter point for AI currently is looking at all the sea of data and boiling it down to useful information. I see the next generation to take that to a higher macro level. If you think about the tech stack that a common seller has, they've got 8, 10 or 12 different tools that they are trying to manage and using for discreet jobs at different points in the sales process.
If you can use AI to better thread those complex workflows together, that's saving me a lot of time. I can do it a lot more consistently and predictably, I can deliver a lot higher results and actually free up time to do what I need to be doing, which is talking to customers and solving problems.
I see that as a natural progression. Not necessarily AI within one single product but tapping into all of these products would probably have some element of AI into it and making a more cohesive solution and platform type that a rep doesn't know, whether this product is doing this or this. You are pulling a quote from one, sending an email from another, sending a chat through another, whatever it might be, all of those things can work harmoniously and AI can help make that experience a lot smoother.
You need to know what's going on so you won't be caught off guard.
When I was talking to Greg Segall, the Founder of Alyce, he said, “Traditionally, AI in sales has been used to help perform the when and the what send an email to a LinkedIn outreach, leave a voicemail, etc. where it moves is to the how and the why. Why would I send out this particular email with this particular text in it at this particular time and date?” It's interesting where you are going to see that shift, which to me, as a buyer, will be excited to see that transition happen because now you are going to hit me and say, “Chad, I see you went fishing. Congratulations. That's awesome. I love to fish, too.”
That would be a much more welcome message than, “I see you are a CEO of a tech company. We help with lead generation.” You go, “Have you looked at my website? That's what we do. We are a competitor. What are you talking about?” That happens all too often. You mentioned a little bit already about the future vision for Ambition. Where do you folks go? What's the mission to the future?
It's in line with your last statement as far as really getting to the why folks do what they do. Not necessarily contextual as far as the personal interactions that you would have but as a rep in a seat, doing the hard work day in and day out, that's really where Ambition helps. It provides motivation, engagement and focus. At the end of the day, we are trying to develop this Peloton-like environment for your sales teams, where everybody is hungry to get on that saddle and grind it out day in and day out.
That's where the fun elements of gamification can come in. Being able to serve up those more personal experiences, recognize achievements and reward good behavior, not a slap on the back or a quick emoji in the channel but tapping into that personal experience. That's where we can use AI to further enhance the benefits that gamification and coaching can provide.
It's interesting timing. I launched a spiritual app on my personal side of the house called 77Pray.com in honor of my grandfather who passed many years ago. We were going against the deadline, got through beta testing with fourteen users, and are live in both marketplaces now. It's a simple thing. When you wake up in the morning, a pop-up comes up and says, “Did you say your prayer this morning? Did you read a Bible verse sometime in the middle of the day? Did you invite someone?”
We are busy human beings that it's real easy to get pulled off and do other things. Part of the app on tab two is the gamification part. We don't call it that but it's called Progress, you click it, and it shows, “I'm at 13%. I had four days and I missed one.” Let's see if we can get to a 100% next month like Pelotoning. This is Pelotoning spirituality. That's where things are headed. There’s no doubt about it. As I said, I talked on this topic at Dreamforce years ago. Jigsaw Purchase when it became Data.com. It has been a while. What's changed over the ten years with gamification?
Looking at the early days, it was still being felt down. It was a little gimmickier. I don't want to say that in a bad way because again, it was an early stage. They were still figuring out how best to apply it but it was like cars around a race track. It was simple stuff, contests and games. It didn't get to some of the real value props that true gamification can have as far as driving real behavior change and performance collaboration.
You can get strategic with the way you structure these different elements and it's certainly not one note. You’ve got to be able to structure gamification pieces to address all different types of personalities and personas. That has been a lot of the evolution up to this point. It’s understanding that it's one piece of a larger suite of tools that managers can use.
I think of it as a QuickBooks rollout. When you have QuickBooks, here's your P&L, balance sheet, who owes you money in APAR reporting and 30, 60, 90 past dues. In gamification, when it first came out, it was like, “Chad, what do you want to gamify?” “I don’t know, you tell me, what is it? How do I deploy it?” Now, the templates that are available of, “We have deployed call activity gamification a million times and it doesn't work,” or instead of doing activity count gamify quality conversations per week. All those learnings that you guys have had across multiple clients over the years. Jared, I believe, is the CEO.
He's our CRO. Jared, Brian and Travis are at the helm.
Great company, great culture, I love what you guys are doing and you have stood the test of time. There are a few gamification players who sputtered out there. Congrats on the success. Matt, it has been a pleasure having you on the show.
It has been my pleasure. Thank you so much, Chad.
Matt King, Director of Enterprise with Ambition. It’s Ambition.com. Check it out. If you haven't looked into gamification in a while, I highly encourage you. As we move from a field sales-led culture to inside sales, whether you have a field team or an insight team, 80% of the field rep job these days is inside. If you gamified behaviors, you will really quickly see upstream from pipeline and bookings, who's the winner and who's not, and how do you move more people into the winner category. Pleasure talking with you, Matt. I appreciate your time.
We will catch you on the next episode. Signing out.
About Matthew King
Matthew King is strategic technology sales leader with proven success in driving net new revenue growth with large, global enterprise customers. He leverages a diverse background in engineering, project/program management, marketing, and business development. By consistently exceeding quota, he has consistently been a top sales producer for his organization.