Conversation Intelligence & The ROI Of AI For Sales With Jakob Thusgaard
Salespeople have so much to gain with the latest advancements in technology, especially with AI and automation. In this episode, Jakob Thusgaard, Founder and CEO of YourSales, shares how the right tools can create more opportunities and greater ROIs. He joins host Chad Burmeister to discuss the positive business impact of AI on sales. They also dive into how COVID has impacted the acceleration of evolution in AI and how businesspeople can make the most of remote work in these times.
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Conversation Intelligence & The ROI Of AI For Sales With Jakob Thusgaard
I'm really excited to have Jakob here because both of us are in a similar industry. We help companies build and grow their pipelines and we are both seeing what's going on with COVID and how that's impacting people's selling philosophies and strategies. Do they outsource? Do they insource? We are going to peel it all back in the next 25 minutes so hang on for the ride. The topic of the day is AI for sales in a COVID world. We are not saying post-COVID world because we believe that there are another 12 to 18 months ahead. Nobody knows how long will the changes be felt? We are going to peel into that with a series of questions. Jakob, tell us a little bit about your company and where did you grow up?
I now live outside of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I am Danish by origin. I grew up in Denmark. Pretty much as soon as I could from a professional perspective of wanting to go into national, I wanted to change from doing business in Denmark to doing business internationally. I figure out the best way of being able to learn about other cultures would be to move outside of Denmark. I moved away from Denmark in 2000. I have been pretty much doing international business ever since. In 2012, I launched YourSales.
With YourSales, I help companies around the world with their sales growth and that can be done by providing lead generation or it can be done by providing dedicated reps. We deliver sales development reps, BDRs, account executives, account managers and customer success, which I believe is part of sales and renewal reps. They are all part of what we deliver to companies anywhere in the world. We have delivered our services to customers in the hunt for sales in North America, South America, all over Europe, Asia, Asia Pacific and pretty much all over the place. I'm all into B2B sales. It's all I have ever done and it's probably all that I'm ever going to do.
You've got a little bit of experience here. Denmark is where you are born and what did you do after that? Did you go to college? Where did you go?
I have a Business degree from a college in Denmark and basically moved into business after that. I ended up in sales by coincidence. I was working as a student in an office where they sold video conferencing. I'm physically close to an understaffed team and very quickly they said, “We can use this guy to maybe answer the phone.” I stopped answering the phone and soon enough, I was doing short demos. After that, I was handling my own customer and going out to provide demos of these video conferencing boxes back in the day. We are talking about the ’90s. There was no Skype for Business and Zoom. Forget all that stuff. It was a video conferencing system with screens that were as buttons were about as deep as they were wide. It was a completely different line. There were no broadband internet lines. It was all that ISDN and regular telephone lines.
Think about if this pandemic would have happened in 1995, we wouldn't have been ready.
We see an acceleration of evolution rather than revolution in COVID-19.
We would have gone mad long ago. That would have been terrible. That would have been a true nightmare.
There's always a silver lining. At least we have our Zoom video.
Anything that we do now would have taken so much longer and is inefficient. If it's about the internet lines and the kind of bandwidth but also the software that we have now is way more efficient. Any of the cloud-based software that we have now did not exist back then. We didn't have Salesflare, Pipedrive or Salesforce. Any of those CRM systems didn't exist back then.
When you think of a place where that became Live Meeting and Microsoft Teams, all of those things spawned off of the place of invention. That's interesting. Let's get into that. Let's do two things, I want to move forward to this one first because, how have things changed with COVID-19? We talked about 100% of people who now have been moved to the home. Everybody is an inside salesperson, that's one but I'm also seeing new, very cool products come out and services. Let's peel this one back. If you were to say, what are the top 2 or 3 things in sales that have changed since COVID-19, what would you say those would be?
Before COVID-19, we saw that people are starting to use social networking as a starting point for relation-building in contribution to also telephone and email. The telephone still works, unfortunately, these assumptions are flying around now that we have COVID-19 that some of the ways around rates that worked in the past just don't work anymore, which are erroneous at best and dishonest disastrous at worst. We still can reach out to people in many of the same ways that we could pre-COVID-19. It's just that people make these assumptions that the methods of old don't work anymore.
Part of the transition is that people are getting increasingly used to using things, especially with LinkedIn for searching for new clients but also for outreach. That's a transition that’s being accelerated by COVID-19. Probably something that we can say safely for most of what we have seen during the COVID-19 situation is acceleration rather than revolution. We have always been talking about the ways that we can do everything remotely and we could do pretty much with that.
Everything that we do now in sales is actions that we could have taken remotely for many years. It's just that we have always been more comfortable moving into an office and doing things from there. Now that we are forced to work from home, things are starting to adapt rapidly and people are getting increasingly used to work from home, doing basically everything from home. We are seeing this evolution acceleration that is certainly good for companies that are enabling that transition.
Technology companies have had inside sales for a long time and most of the time from my experience over the last decade or so is that we, as managers and leaders, always wanted to have our people in the office to be able to manage activities, sales calls and quality assurance. With the advent of tools like Chorus, Gong, ExecVision, CRM and sales acceleration technology, I'm seeing a productivity improvement with people that we work with and our sellers. Would you say the same thing? Can it actually enhance and improve the results by moving to a home environment?
It certainly can. It's not a given that it will. Some sales professionals will need a little personal development to be a good fit for being remote workers whilst others will work as you said more productively in that situation. It depends a little bit on the personality type and how well of a fit they are for that particular situation. One of the things that I have seen now is that not everybody is going to be performing well in a remote scenario. They simply need employees or colleagues around them to feel motivated and to feel driven towards success.
While others will be thankful for the peace and quiet that they now have to focus on the task at hand, which very much depends on your personality. One of the great things about this situation is that we finally realized that there's a subset of people, which are plus the 30 years of age that will stop to have kids or will maybe want to meet their families once in a while that you even get to know the children who knows. Working from home makes that possible. We saw that already pre-COVID-19 and you see it even more now that we have called the COVID-19 situation that an increasing amount of people are starting to perform at work and also stopped posting funny Instagrams with their kids invading their “office space” during the COVID-19. They are getting the best of both and starting to see how they can work remotely.
If a sales rep uses a tool with no process and no aim, that’s a real risk that will take them to a very dark place very quickly.
The other thing I'm seeing is and I wonder if you are seeing this on the other side of the planet as well, traditional industries that have been belly-to-belly selling, other industries, like insurance. I just spoke with the Head of Insight Sales from a company that has been around since 1955. They have thousands of sellers in the world and after that many years they are saying, “We better learn how to play with the new rules.” Are you seeing other industries outside of technology finally embrace the art of inside selling and remote selling?
Most of the clients that we have at YourSales are technology companies in some shape or form. What's interesting though, is that some of the industries that they are selling to where you might have said that of them are more traditional industries and also from a buying perspective. We prefer a belly-to-belly sales approach as you put it. They seem to be now more keen to do just any kind of buying that specifically face-to-face.
For instance, we have a couple of insurance tech companies and, interestingly, you mentioned insurance. A couple of tech companies that were doing part of the sales funnel for and are seeing surprisingly good results. We were happy to get them on board and get going. Now that they are there, we are completely hitting it out of the park for those companies. That was a little surprising given the industry that they are selling to.
We talked about that it moved to inside sales, other industries. What about the tools and technologies that are changing? I like to ask it this way. What's your favorite sales technology that most people may not have heard about yet? Is there something that you are using and maybe I can share one with you? SalesIntel is a data provider and right at the beginning of COVID in the first 2 to 2 weeks, we did a couple of tests and it was taking 50 to 70 to 1 dial the connect. If you call the switchboard, a lot of these companies hadn't bought, RingCentral phones or they hadn't hooked up a Via to autoroute from their office to their mobile.
In the early days, it was 50 to 1 or 70 to 1 in some cases. SalesIntel has a column in their data called The Work Mobile Number. These are mobile numbers that were scanned off of business cards so we know it's a valid, legit and recent number. We’ve got it down to a 10 to 1 dial the connect. It was 4, 5, 7 times more effective than calling a switchboard. That was a big hack we found in this post-COVID world. Are there any big eye-opening moments for you that you have discovered?
I'm not sure. Not so much during COVID. I think what you are mentioning is probably the biggest one, because the biggest challenge that as an industry that we have had is that, calling the switchboard didn't really make any sense anymore because there was nobody at home. Finding the mobile numbers has been probably the biggest challenge. What's worked best for me has been to rework sequences. They need to be multi-channel either way.
Reworking sequences to use combinations of LinkedIn, connecting with people on LinkedIn, working with content on LinkedIn and using email in order get that final piece of the puzzle that we can use to reach out to people and getting an engaging conversation. That has been working really well and I'm amazed at how many people just have not discovered sales automation yet, where you’ve got to explain things. Meanwhile, you would think that Sapio is making any kind of API and API integration from one piece of software to another piece of software would be pretty basic. It's not state-of-the-art anymore.
A business person can drag and drop now with very little technical assistance even required, you might have someone technical there just to overlook your shoulder.
This should indeed be a sales operations team that ends up taking full responsibility for those things. Certainly, as organizations grow, it is highly recommendable. If we are talking about having thoughts on what might be possible if we have this year's trigger, what can we do with it and being a little bit creative? I keep being a little surprised at what people don't know. For sellers of technology and consultants in the sales space, there's a huge opportunity to educate people about the business needs and the positive business impact of having alternate automation and AI in your business. That is the focus on solving the problems of the sales funnel. Maximizing the sales time for sales reps and having AI and sales automation tools take care of maximizing that time is incredibly important.
Last question. It’s an interesting conversation. While we are in the thick of things, it's always good to pick your head up, look around, see and hear what other people are doing. I think we have shared some of that. This is a trick question. How should a sales pro decide what tools are valid for him or her? I have always been a bleeding-edge technologist, whether I was a rep, a manager, a VP or now CEO doesn't really matter. I'm always going to go out, test, measure and try new things so I could be different and be more competitive than the average person.
Salespeople are supposed to be masters of their own craft. They’re supposed to know what tools are out there.
If we empowered every single salesperson to be a rogue lone wolf, I don't know if that would work either. How do you balance that? When you say, “There are 5,000 tools you could go buy. I need you to use these 2 or 3 CRM, LinkedIn Navigator, telephone or whatever.” How do you balance those two equations and still encourage your people to be creative and also stay within the guidelines of what the company tells them they should be focused on?
As an organization, this is about having an understanding of what your clients need to buy. What are the elements that play a role in them making a decision and what do they need from you for them to be able to make that decision? If you can build a process that delivers that, see where you can automate that and stay on top of how to continuously evolve that process, I think that's a good step forward because that's the kinds of sales tools that salespeople need in their hands and help them remain productive and competitive.
Sale tools but chase the business problem and then bring in the tools.
If a sales rep uses a tool and has no process and aim, that tool in particular, if it's a tool that automates anything, that's a real risk that it will take them to a very dark place quickly. Whereas if you think things through and you have deployed tools in a way that is aligned with your strategy and tactically sound, there is a much higher chance that you will actually produce some desirable results. There's also that we will probably have the situation at times where whilst the organization is doing its best to provide sales to sales tools, to salespeople that they need. They are supposed to be masters of their own craft. They are supposed to know what tools are out there. That's how the organization gets to know of these tools and that's how I see it. Every single sales rep prides themselves on being the one who should tell the organization that there's now something else emerging, that the organization might want to deploy.
In the meantime, should the organization decide to not do that? I think it is up to the sales professional to decide, whether or not they emerge that themselves. A good example could be a scheduler. Something super simple that is free to use and that way too many organizations totally ignore. Just sending over a link for any scheduler. It doesn't matter which one. There are so many automatic schedulers out there now. Many are using Calendly but there's Cogsworth, YouCanBook.me and God knows whatever else. There is a full list of them over at the YourSales website.
Many don't use them, I still come across people that have never seen the schedule before and think it's a smart way to book time in each other's agenda without friction, yet, why aren't organizations providing the sales professionals with this tool? It’s super simple. In those situations, sales professionals should go up there and either use the free versions themselves, make it easier for their customers to engage or maybe you just go ahead and buy.
The latest one I have seen is called X.ai and not to be confused with my company ScaleX. It lets you do a group schedule. Think of the complexity. Now you can all public your calendars and figure out what's the best time. It's pretty cool stuff.
That's just an example of one of those tools. As a sales rep, you should work when you come on board. You work into your salary negotiations a small budget that you will have available to use for sales tech. Negotiate $50 bucks a month that you can get covered by your company. These are sales tools that I need when you guys don't go there.
You nailed it and I would say, “Why stop at $50?” If I was going to go into an enterprise rep role or SMB role, it doesn't matter. “You guys give me a $500 budget and if my quota is $500,000 for the year, I will take on plus $100,000,” or whatever the number you need. In the past, it was hard to fund a full-time SDR. A $100,000 SDR, you would have to take a $500,000 quota. Now you can use tools that we have been talking about like the Calendly tool, an AI that does email, an AI that does social and a dialer that lets you talk to more people. There are so many things you can bring in because they are not asked for a higher quota in return for the company buying those tools for you.
It's a fraction of the total cost. Some people would say that it adds a huge cost to the total cost of sales tech but if you factor in also the cost of a rep that's not performing to its fullest potential, the cost of adding on them a few hundred dollars per year or even a month in sales tech is quite small. If you factor in that the rep also gets several thousand a month for their work. It should be a part of the deal. Most sales reps could really benefit from having the policy that they will work with companies that will equip them with the right kinds of tools. That should be the way companies attract sales reps as well. We will give you what you need to become successful.
That's a fabulous discussion, Jakob. I appreciate you joining me. Thanks, everybody, for reading. If people want to get ahold of you just visit YourSales.com. Thank you, Jakob.