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2020 Rewind: Artificial Intelligence in Sales

Welcome to 2020 Rewind! In this series, we’re taking a look at the year that was and the wonderful shows and podcasts that had me on as a guest this past year. A fair amount of the time, I’d rather read than listen, but podcasts, live streams, webinars, and videos were how we made media this year. So let’s get the best of both worlds; 2020 Rewind will share the original episode and show it aired on, and provide you with a machine-generated transcript from the episode.

2020 Rewind: Artificial Intelligence in Sales with Ian Altman and the Same Side Selling Podcast

Summary: A lot of people confuse ROI with ROAS because they don’t know what they spent on social media. If you’re a marketer, you need to know what your ROI is based on and how you can use it to make better decisions.

Find the original episode here.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Ian Altman 0:02
Hey, it’s Ian altman On this episode, I’m joined by Chris Penn. Not only is he had 2019, IBM champion in the IBM business analytics area, but he’s an authority on analytics, digital marketing, marketing technology, and all things. Google Analytics, artificial intelligence related. We’re going to talk about the biggest misconception businesses have when it comes to artificial intelligence. We’re going to talk about different ways of dealing with artificial intelligence and embracing it in your business, and specific steps. You can take the dip your toe in the water, and use artificial intelligence today, to make a difference in your business right away. You’re gonna learn a ton from Chris Penn. Chris Penn, welcome to the show.

Unknown Speaker 0:50
Thank you very much for having me

Unknown Speaker 0:51

Ian Altman 0:53
So can you start by sharing something surprising about you that our audience may not know,

Christopher Penn 0:58
I paid my way through graduate school doing tarot card readings.

Unknown Speaker 1:03

Christopher Penn 1:04

Ian Altman 1:05
I had no idea I was expecting was gonna be something that I would know our audience wouldn’t know.

Christopher Penn 1:10
Well, in fact, at the most recent marketingprofs B2B forum, I actually did tarot card reading at our booth, for the trade show floor thing is kind of a neat way neat spin. I like the human aspect of predictive analytics. And of course, you there’s a whole bunch of reasons why tarot card reading is statistically invalid, but takes advantage of human psychology. But yeah, I did that for about a year and a half while I was getting my graduate degree.

Ian Altman 1:34
Wow, that is fascinating. And now have you built some sort of great AI solution that does Derek Carr, Daryl guard reading?

Christopher Penn 1:42
No, no, you don’t have to, I mean, just just fortune cookies are good enough. Which by the way, I learned a fortune cookies are actually Japanese in origin.

Ian Altman 1:50
Really? Yes, they are. Really, you know, there’s a whole bunch of Chinese restaurants now they’re gonna have to fold just because of that. Well,

Christopher Penn 1:58
so the story is, and there’s actually a TED talk on this on ted.com. The story is that when the United States put Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War Two, the Chinese immigrants who were running restaurants, especially in California, basically appropriated the idea, I had no idea. So they would go off to a great start.

Ian Altman 2:18
So you know, and this could be the reason some people would have you on their show is just either a tarot card reading, or the origin of the Fortune Cookie. And, and I’m guessing at some point, we get into the origin of the Oreo cookie, or the Fig Newton, which has nothing to do with gravity. But, but instead, I want to talk about your expertise when it comes to AI for marketers, and obviously, you got the second edition of AI for marketers, just come out. What’s the biggest misconception that people have, especially in the world of sales and business growth when it comes to AI?

Christopher Penn 2:55
Um, the biggest misconception, there’s actually two number one, that it’s magic. And number two, which is the the troubling one is that if the machine did it, it must be right. Artificial Intelligence. And you know, the subset that I deal with machine learning is built on training data, the data you give it is the data it learns from writes its own software from so like all things in computing garbage in garbage out, you put garbage data in, you’ll get garbage data out your sales reps have not bothered updating the CRM and you know, three months where they put random junk in the CRM, guess what your your machine learning models that you build on it, CRM are going to predict junk? You know, that’s

Ian Altman 3:35
a it’s a great, it’s a great observation, because I think so many people said, Well, I mean, the system said this, and it’s kind of like, if you’ve ever worked out with a heart rate monitor on, you know, like, I’ve got one thing that’s a chest strap that matters, my heart rate, I’ve got another one, this is a Fitbit on my wrist. And nothing illustrates that better than in the rare times when I have them both on and one says that my heart rate is 142. And the other one says it’s 191. I think at 191, I would be pretty much on the verge of death. And in the 140s is not a bad workout level. And I’m looking at it’s like if I believe the first one to be like, Yeah, well just say goodbye to everybody in the room, because it’s all over and we just believe the machine. So the other thing I hear from people is they say to me, Well, you know, the problem is all those AI is just gonna replace people and so salespeople are destined to, to not have jobs anymore, because AI is gonna replace that. So what do you say to that? Well,

Christopher Penn 4:41
let’s think about this. If your job is to, to mechanically and repetitively just take orders, fill out forms and submit them to purchasing, then yeah, your job is at risk if that’s all you do, if that’s what you consider to be sales, then any any job which is composed primarily of almost identical, repetitive tasks is going to be automated out of existence. Yeah, eventually.

Ian Altman 5:05
Let’s face it in manufacturing and other industries. That’s what’s happened with automation? Because if they can, if something can be done mechanically and repetitively, that’s fine. But But where else do we go from there?

Christopher Penn 5:19
Well, so so that’s, that’s the first thing is the repetitive stuff is going to go away. The second thing that will go away is this, if you are a sales professional, who is so hostile and inept, and and you deliver such a terrible customer experience that people actively avoid you, then yes, you will lose your job to AI as well. I mean, when you think about some of the systems out there, like the Chatbots, that are that exist, they can do a better job of providing a mediocre experience than a human who’s, you know, having a perpetually bad day or a bad leader or bad life. And so that those those folks will, will get automated out of existence too. Because, you know, think about the everyone’s favorite place, like the Department of Motor Vehicles, right? Those folks, and and they’re not all bad. But when you get a, someone who simply does not want to do their job, you know, that a machine could easily do the lack of performance that they’re doing and deliver a better experience. What will not get replaced, are people who are primarily relationship first, people who are building relationships with customers for the long term, the long haul, and people who want to have like a decade or two decade long business relationship with somebody. The machines right now, are really good at excelling at narrow tasks. But at broad, multidisciplinary tasks, they’re terrible, and they will be terrible for quite some time to come.

Ian Altman 6:45
Yeah, I often describe that in the world of sales, there are three personas you have the order taker, the salesperson and the subject matter expert, and the order taker, is basically the client calls up and says, here’s what I need. And all they need to know is how much isn’t when can you deliver it, and the salesperson, who stereotypically thinks their job is to sell whatever they have to sell whether the client needs or not. And the subject matter expert is the person the client would actually pay to meet with, if that’s what it took to tap into their expertise. And the order taker I often joke if they have not already been will replace by Amazon or other technologies, because I don’t need a human being if I know exactly what I want. And all I know is winking delivered for how much And today, Amazon tends to do that faster and more economically than just about anyone on the planet. And then if I’m if I have a choice between the stereotypical salesperson and the subject matter expert, it doesn’t matter which one, you think you are all the matters that when you’re the customer, everyone would prefer to have the subject matter expert. So that’s where I think organizations need to invest in the subject matter experts side, the area that I’m most interested in, for our listeners to understand is, how can they use AI and machine learning to improve their success in sales and business growth.

Christopher Penn 8:07
So a lot of the improvements in AI are coming in the software that you’re using already. So if you’ve already got a vendor, like HubSpot, or Salesforce, or Marketo, or whatever, you’re gonna see a lot of the improvements happening behind the scenes, you’ll just see, you know, hey, that you haven’t talked to this couch in a while and things like that. at the individual level, one of the things that is is a really powerful as it’s dead simple technology to use, is voice transcription, I use an app on my phone called auto Ott, er, AI, and I could fire up a conference call with it. And obviously with permission, it can begin transcribing in real time a conversation that two people are having. And then I can store that data and you know, make it searchable, things like that. So if I’m making 10, or 15 calls a day, and I can go back and annotate like, Oh, yeah, I want that account, I want that account, I upsold this account. After a while you can start to look and see, okay, what were the words, the phrases, the topics, the concepts that consistently helped me win. Now, as an individual, you might want to do that. But certainly, as a sales manager, or a sales director, you definitely want to do that, because you want to be able to look at your team overall, and use it to do what we would call transfer learning. That’s a machine learning term, but it applies equally to humans. If you see things that are working in one part of your sales team, you want to transfer that learning as quickly as possible to the rest of your team and see if it improves everyone’s performance. So expect to see a lot of that. And the third thing you’ll see a ton of is very deep attribution analysis to help people understand here all the things that go into eventually a winning deals, a winning sale, and this is going to involve sales. It will involve marketing, old valve advertising and public relations. Every and even customer service. All these departments have all of these metrics. And if you put them all together and look at it and use me machine learning to put to assemble a complex model of what really causes a sale, the machines are starting to get to be able to do that now and understand Yes, this combination of variables likely causes a sale and then you, your sales manager, your marketing manager, or your PR manager will all get together and go, Okay, well, how can we test this? If sales enablement is gets five new articles from the PR team every month, those glowing complimentary articles look great, let’s get 10 next month, and see if we see see a commensurate uptick in the number of deals we close,

Ian Altman 10:32
you know, that’s fantastic. I’ve had Chris Orlov from gong.io on here before. And we were talking about some of the different things they’re doing with voice recognition, and transcription services to analyze phone calls after the fact. And, and I’m interested in kind of your thoughts about this, because one of the things they pointed to is, look, we know that top performing sales reps are talking about price after this concept, but before that concept, and within so much time on their conversations, like really giving very specific information about where and when, and how they should introduce price, for example.

Christopher Penn 11:13
And you can take it a step further, with a lot of the software that does what’s called natural language processing, which is analyzing how words relate to each other, you can start to do a topic modeling. So they’re talking about sort of topic modeling conceptually within the call. But then broadly, are there meta topics that you should always avoid? Or they’re topics that like, make sure that this comes up within the conversation, because this tends to reassure a prospect? Yep. These people know or talking about kind of like what you’re saying with subject matter experts, if someone’s on the phone, and they and they’re asking questions that clearly indicate they need a subject matter expert, if you have that transfer learning in place, you can create, you could anticipate that need, and be in front of it before the person even thinks to ask about it.

Ian Altman 11:59
Now, how quickly does this technology work, like, for example, is the technology the state where real time it can be monitoring, and then the software can be suggesting different topics for the wrap on screen on the fly.

Christopher Penn 12:11
It’s near real time for large enterprise software, it is sort of batch for smaller business stuff. But it will not take long to get to the real time, particularly as the voice recognition technology gets better. And deep learning technology creates models that can be used on the fly. One of the big problems with a lot of the heavy processing is that it takes a long time. But what’s happening within machine learning is that we’re building better and better models that can be picked up moved around and sort of digest it down so that you can look forward, maybe maybe you don’t look at all 500 variables in real time. But you’ve you’ve used modeling to identify the 10 that matter the most, and you have real time software, sort of checking for those 10 while the batch software runs, you know, at the end of each day, and tunes up which 10 those are,

Ian Altman 13:01
yeah, and it may and I’m guessing at a minimum at the batch level, it’s something where you can say, look, so what the software is telling us is that in this conversation, at this point, when you heard this, this and that that would have been a good time to introduce this concept. And if nothing else is something that even if it’s not synchronously happening after the fact, is there’s a learning and coaching opportunity, Dell people recognize those opportunities and respond appropriately.

Christopher Penn 13:29
Exactly. And that’s available in in many of these different language processing packages and things like that, where you can look at and say, What do what are the top 20% have in common? And what do the 80% who are in the bottom also have in common that are that are different from the 20%, whether it’s topics, whether it’s just individual parts of speech, sometimes it can be down to word choice. If I say, you know, would you like to continue? Or would you like to not proceed that’s a very different set of word choice. But you can look to see in the in the records is one leaning towards a better closing rate. So there’s a lot to be done with language and linguistics, and everything else that you anything else that you can measure. I love it.

Ian Altman 14:11
I love it. And that’s that’s the kind of stuff that people should be looking at what are what are two or three things that businesses should be looking at if they’re not already. And I’m guessing this idea of the voice transcription is one but what are some of the things that people should be looking at, if you say, look, if you want to be in a position a year from now that you can leapfrog your your competition. Here’s some ways that you should look at embracing AI machine learning in your business. It is tapping into the data that you already have. Right now in your company. There is a pile of knowledge waiting to be harvested in your customer service inbox.

Christopher Penn 14:50
There’s a pile of knowledge stuck in your CRM and in your call transcripts. There’s a pile of knowledge out there on the internet of discussion forums about your product or service. Last summer, we did a project for a food and beverage company. And they were like, Well, you know, we’re looking for new product development, new ideas and stuff. But we don’t know, we don’t really know what we’re looking for. We mined their CRM, their cell CRM, and found customers were asking about these two product categories that they never heard of. They know they make stabilizers. And people were asking about oat milk and hemp milk, Nora, like, I don’t even know what that is. Can you make milk out of oats? But apparently you can. And we brought it to them. Like, we didn’t even know that, that this was the thing. Where did this come from? Like, it’s from your CRM, your customers? Were asking you, can you make something for this, this is our product. And so they’re like, okay, we can go and do something and build a product line around those things. So that is, the key to being successful with AI, machine learning is the low hanging fruit, you’re sitting on the data, you need to unlock that data, get it out, start analyzing it, and understand that, hey, this is what people really care about. You know,

Ian Altman 15:59
it’s it’s such great insight, because last year, after years of talking about this concept that I teach about called the same side quadrants, we built the same side quadrant journals. And when I look back, historically, I didn’t use a tool to do it, which makes it even more embarrassing. It occurred to me that no fewer than 50 Times had people asked me, hey, do you have these? Do you have like a journal? That’s a template that you talk about with these quadrants? And every, every time I would say, well, you don’t really need that. I mean, you could just take a blank sheet of paper and draw two lines, and then just jot down where these questions are. And I would basically tell them how to build it themselves. They’re like, okay, but they didn’t want to do the work. They just wanted to buy something that already had it all built in. And it took me a couple of years to wake up and say, you know, people keep asking for this. And I keep telling them, yeah, yeah, you don’t need it. And then of course, we produced a bunch of them, and then had to produce more of them. Because it became wildly successful, because I just, it’s a classic example of people asking for stuff, and you’re just not listening, even though we totally,

Christopher Penn 17:14
totally, another good place to look for is surveys, companies send out surveys all the time. And they typically do a cursory summary of it, like X number of people said on a scale of one to five that were three, but there’s always free. Often, I should say not always. But there’s often free text, there’s often free response. And nobody looks at it. Nobody analyzes it at scale. But you can bet if you went mining in that. And to your point, if somebody said, Gosh, I wish you had this in paperback or Gosh, I wish this was available for iBooks. Why wouldn’t you give people exactly what they wanted, add it at a price that they can afford, and and make a whole bunch of money from it. Because if they’re asking for it, they know they’re not saying that for fun that they want to talk about something fun, they talk about like Game of Thrones with you. They’re saying I want to buy something which is on us as salespeople and marketers to give people what they want, and the machines can help us get that data that we are sitting on right now.

Ian Altman 18:12
Well, it’s funny, you talk about the free form answers. Have you read Ryan livex book ask? Not yet. So Ryan’s book ask, he talks about something called the SM i. q, the single most important question. And what he says is that, so he gives an example of they were in, they were in a business, they were providing some sort of online training program related to care of orchids. And so what they did is they asked people well, so Gee, what exactly you’re looking for in terms of knowledge or information about orchids? And the single most most frequently asked question had to do with watering? How much? How much water? should I? How much? How often? Should it be distilled water should be this water, that water etc? What temperature volume all those things? And so they launched a product around that. And I think he said they sold zero or one. And then he went back and looked at the looked at the data and said, You know, I see certain people who give these really long, verbose answers, most people would say watering and that was it. The long verbose answer people said, well, so we’ve had orchids for years. And what always kills me is transplanting them. So when I have something in, it’s got to move to a bigger pot, or this happens, that happens. That’s when I lose him and what he what he discovered he writes about this pretty eloquently in the book, is that look, the people who take the time to give a long, detailed answer. Those are the people who care enough about this that they’ll spend money to solve it. The person who gets the one word answer is probably right now it’s like yeah, their organs are dying because they’re just either not watering number the watering every day. They have no Discipline whatsoever. The person who is like, ah, every time we get to this one point, they die, they’ll spend money. It’s kind of like gardening. In our house, we have these raised beds for tomatoes and all sorts of other vegetables. And I believe last year I calculated the average cost of a tomato in our yard is like $842. Because we don’t know what we’re doing when it comes to grown tomatoes. So we’re just spending a fortune on it. But that level of detail I’m sure a lot of businesses are missing, where they’re looking at the most frequently asked question, not the one that’s the deepest,

Christopher Penn 20:37
exactly, not the most important and in within the sub sub discipline of natural language processing, there are actual algorithms that can isolate. This is contextually likely, the most important sentence versus this is just the most frequent word. You know, word frequency is sort of a fairly primitive way of digging at some of this stuff, you really do need some more advanced technology to get at it. But it mirrors what we know about people, right? You talk to somebody about your products, and you’ll get a one or two word answer, you ask somebody about their dog, and they’ll they won’t shut up for an hour.

Ian Altman 21:07
Yeah, exactly. So let me ask you this, what’s the most surprising or interest in development that you’ve seen over the last year or so that can make a dramatic impact on people’s businesses over the next several years, because you have your finger on the pulse of a lot of these things.

Christopher Penn 21:25
The probably the most significant thing is actually a danger. And that danger is bias in our data. If we are not looking forward, if we are not considering it, if we are not planning for it, and strategizing on how to prevent it, it can really torpedo our efforts, there was a very high profile cases, for example, Amazon got a whole bucket of trouble last year for trying to build an AI powered Human Resources system to predict which resumes to move on to the hiring process. And they trained it on their existing sort of employee base. Well, their existing employee base is something like 90% male, and one of Amazon’s strategic priorities is more diversity. So their system was essentially, because it trained on the on the data it already had, it did more of what they already knew. And that was not that was counter to what the system was supposed to be doing. When you have people who are sort of spearheading or commissioning these these machine learning projects, but don’t have any background in the technology or what goes into it, you can find yourself in situations like that. And the bias can be it doesn’t have to be overt, the bias can be very subtle. But what you’ll notice is that, and you’ll see this happen, you’ll see this mentioned a lot in these bigger enterprise projects, people saying, well, the system didn’t perform any better or the system performs slightly worse than what we were doing. So there’s there’s no need to use this stuff when you did something wrong in the preparation process, or in the modeling and deployment process where you didn’t account for all the things that you wanted to make happen as objectives. A really good example of this on the on a societal level is take a look at Facebook itself. Facebook has an algorithm. Now the algorithms primary responsibility and priority has been to optimize engagement. They want people on Facebook as often as possible, clicking on ads, and so on and so forth. Right? It’s a very straightforward objective. Because of the nature of deep learning, the their back end software said, Okay, let’s take pay attention to all the behaviors of people on Facebook, and what gets us to that goal of increased attention and engagement and interaction. If we make people really angry and really afraid all the time, boom, we get it, we get you know, and so the algorithm has evolved to that’s why we have so many large conversations about things like fake news and stuff, because the algorithms optimizing for the goal that was given, nobody ever stopped to say, Hmm, maybe we should also build for the long term, maybe we should try and promote the overall wellness of our customer base, so that they can buy things from us over a long period of time and not just hit our quarterly numbers, because you know, that we are going to make Wall Street happy with. And so when we’re doing this in our within our companies that you know, our sales and marketing organizations and our CRM efforts, we have to be super, super careful to look at the outcomes and say, is this aligned with all the strategic priorities we have? Or did we optimize for just one or two things and not everything that’s important to the company?

Ian Altman 24:30
Yep. Love it. Hey, let me ask you this. So you mentioned otter.ai. What are what are a couple of other tools that people should check out like, hey, if you want to if you want to learn more about what AI could do, here are a couple tools that you can tinker with. Here are a couple things that you can kind of dip your toe in the water and see how these technologies might be able to help your business.

Christopher Penn 24:55
If you want to tinker and you don’t want to break every anything. Take a look at setting For a free account with IBM Watson Studio, one of the things that I like about it is that it allows you to tinker with the stuff in a graphical interface where you can, you know, drag and drop little colored blocks together. And you don’t have to write any code, you will have to still learn sort of architecture what some of the pieces are. But Watson Studio is really good at at abstracting and simplifying this, this stuff. And then there are a whole bunch of demos, you know, Microsoft has some, like, their cognitive API’s offerings. The IBM has a bunch of Amazon has a bunch. But like I said, you’re gonna see this stuff creeping into every product and service. For those folks who use or are familiar with Google Analytics, for example, the website and analytics software. There’s a little button in the upper right hand corner that’s called it was called intelligence, I think it’s called insights, that’s a little blue swirly. If you touch that button, it pops up in the little window and says, Hey, our AI has noticed these things, these anomalies in your data. Did you know about it? Do you want to investigate more like, Hey, your public speaking page had 40% more visits today than it did yesterday? Like Hmm, maybe I should go check that out. You know, are you your conversions were down 20%? Maybe I should check that out. So expect to see a lot of this stuff, coming more and more within every product you currently use. And that’s great stuff.

Ian Altman 26:27
And let me ask you on because you just you just released this second edition of AI for marketers. And when when when was the first edition out?

Christopher Penn 26:38
So the first edition was in 2017. My friend, our friend Ann Handley said, hey, can someone write something that simplifies AI, so I wrote a bunch of blog posts and, and because of what I was doing at the time, stuff, career wise, and things didn’t have time to put into proper books. So I copied and pasted it all together. And that was the first edition. And then over the holidays, this past this past winter, I was like, I should tune this up, you know, I was talking to my CEO and co founder like we should do this is that the New Year thing, open it up and go, Oh, this is terrible. Select All,

Ian Altman 27:10
delete, start over. That’s funny. So so it is it is a pure rewrite rewrite. And how many things I mean, you think about it, it’s only been a little over a year, since the original version was out. How different is his this version?

Christopher Penn 27:28
This version is a completely different version, because instead of trying to get technical, or try to bridge the technical aspects of AI to the reader, it instead is at a higher level of, here’s what you need to know about the field. Here’s the things it can and can’t do. Here the the major types of problem it solves. And here the question is to ask your vendors. So it’s more of a BS check for your vendors to help you ask good questions. I’d like the the title of the thing you’re talking about earlier, the single most important question because I truly believe most marketers, most sales professionals, most business professionals are not and should not become AI specialists. But instead they need to become the chief questions officer and be looking at what the machines are doing and what the staff is doing and saying. That’s that is are you sure that’s right, you know, is that what we really intended to have be the outcome? If we can do that, we’ll make a lot more progress with AI.

Ian Altman 28:21
That’s absolutely brilliant. Hey, Chris, what’s the best way for people to get in touch with you and learn more about what you’re doing?

Christopher Penn 28:28
If you’d like the book, you can get that at the aptly named AI for marketers book.com. You my company you can find at Trust insights.ai and could find me personally, at Christopher S Pen, calm.

Ian Altman 28:41
Lovely, fantastic. We’ll include all that stuff in the show notes. I always learn a ton when I’m talking to you. And thanks for sharing your insight.

Unknown Speaker 28:50
Thank you for having me.

Ian Altman 28:52
Chris has got so much wonderful insight. And be sure to pick up his book AI for marketers, the second edition, he’s got amazing insight there. Let me give you a quick 32nd recap of the key information you can use and apply to your business right away. First, artificial intelligence is not magic. And it doesn’t always have to be right. Garbage in is garbage out. And basically the idea is that if there’s a task that you knew that is mechanically and repeatedly performed, you probably don’t have a long future in that because AI will replace that. Look at using voice transcription services like otter.ai and look at this deep attribution analysis to really get a sense of what’s going on in your communications. And I love that idea of trying out the IBM Watson Studio with that free account to see how AI can benefit your business. Remember, this show gets the direction from you the listener if there’s a topic you think I should cover or a guest I should have on the show. Just drop me a note to Ian at Ian altman calm, have an amazing week, add value and grow revenue in a way everybody can embrace. Especially your Customer

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