Dreamforce Interview with David Elkington, CEO and Founder, InsideSales.com

David Elkington, CEO and Founder, InsideSales.com

“One can have all the AI algorithms in the world and even a platform to run them on, but without a critical mass of data, those investments will go underutilized.”

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What’s the biggest attraction for you at Dreamforce 2018

For me, it has to be our customers and integration partners. Dreamforce attracts the biggest concentration of InsideSales.com users and partners, and I look forward to sitting down with them. I want to learn how they are using AI and Collective Intelligence data to improve sales.

What Salesforce trends and technology impact your business?

The battle for data dominance is the biggest trend I’m seeing. CRM users are looking for better insights from more and more data, which has prompted Salesforce to respond with Customer 360 and Microsoft to announce the Open Data Initiative. The Cloud Data War is on with market leaders declaring data to be the prize and moving heaven and Earth to unlock customers’ sales and marketing data. The problem is these visions for eliminating internal data silos don’t go nearly far enough. It’s essential that companies take advantage of a broader set of global, cross-company, multi-CRM data to feed their AI platforms. This will be a big market driver for our business as we have a decade head-start in collecting the global buyer data set to fuel our AI sales platform.

With 6,000-plus MarTech companies to choose from, how should new businesses leverage customer review platforms to make better, unbiased decisions while buying enterprise software?

As you can imagine, I am a big supporter of anything that helps improve the buying experience. Typically, that starts with better insights. In today’s information-rich environment, B2B buyers are largely self-educated before engaging a salesperson. Customer review platforms are a popular way for buyers to research their shortlist of products that are likely to deliver the greatest value. These platforms have contributed to dramatic changes in the buying process, flipping the power position and putting buyers in the driver’s seat. That means sales must use every advantage to be as informed as possible when they do engage with buyers.

Do you think the lack of CRM innovation is hurting the MarTech ecosystem?

CRM systems are products of the 90s, designed to improve sales productivity by applying automated processes to data. At the time, CRM was a gamechanger, but innovation has not kept pace with the changing buying cycle, advances in AI, and the explosion of behavioral data. Companies want more from their CRMs and the addition of AI alone hasn’t unlocked the value they expected. AI is simply not enough. What we need is a smarter ‘System of Growth’ to mine insights from global buyer intelligence to help sales sell smarter and more effectively. We are working to bring the promise of Amazon-like AI informed recommendations based on collective buyer insights into the world of enterprise sales. With self-learning, “crowdsourced” data that provides fresh contextual insights, we are unlocking the value trapped in CRM systems of engagement.

Do you think it’s largely because of the ‘Buy versus Build’ delusion? 

No, the democratization of CRM has been great for businesses of every size. When companies can rapidly deploy a lightly customized CRM to provide ready access to customer data, everyone benefits. The real issue begins and ends with the data used to feed CRMs and AI.

What is sales myopia with regards to data platforms? How does sales myopia impact productivity and revenue? 

Sales myopia has been a persistent issue even with investments in CRMs, AI and behavioral intelligence. It happens when decisions are made based on siloed or a single company’s data, and the simple fact is that most companies struggle to capture an integrated view of their own customers because their information is stranded in internal silos. Even if they were to integrate these internal data stores, they would still lack the rich context and predictive understanding offered by insights into a global network of buyer behavior. Consider Google Waze without the network of drivers. How valuable is a single driver’s perspective? If you are feeding a single company’s data into your AI sales system, you are going to have a myopic view of the customer and potential buyers. You won’t know if they just purchased a complementary technology, if they are about to release on RFP, or if they are in urgent need of that service you provide. You will miss valuable opportunities.

As a serial tech entrepreneur, how do you see modern data companies coping with the imminent GDPR-induced disruptions?

The introduction of GDPR and other data regulations will create challenges for some and opportunities for others. Those that are best prepared to deal with the complexities of compliance will be in the best position to help businesses extract value. We’ve invested heavily to protect it with the enterprise-class procedures, technologies, expertise, and certifications to maintain compliance so our customers can use collective buyer insights to uncover and close more deals without risking penalties or damage to their brand.

Would you provide us your take on turning AI-driven and enabled by 2020?

So far, Artificial Intelligence for enterprise or B2B sales has been the bubble that wasn’t. While it’s fun to think about the B2B equivalent of self-driving cars and auto-adjusting thermostats, AI can’t operate without impressive amounts of data. Today, B2B sales and marketing are only applying AI to their own data sets. They haven’t tapped into the collective actions of buyers throughout the world, so sales cannot be informed or accelerated using AI with the data sets of an individual company. Since no one CRM vendor provides enough data to fuel AI, the launches of Einstein and Watson in B2B have been lackluster.

One can have all the AI algorithms in the world, and even a platform to run them on. But without a critical mass of data, those investments will go underutilized. That’s where Amazon succeeded in the consumer realm — they had a critical mass when it comes to cross-customer data captured from the transactions of millions of customers. With our unprecedented stores of global buyer data at InsideSales.com, we intend to help our customers win more deals and help their customers have better experiences in the process by delivering Collective Intelligence.

Thank you, David! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

David Elkington has a rich background in technology, venture capital and corporate development. As CEO and Chairman, he has led InsideSales.com to consecutive 50-100% year-over-year growth rates, starting with the company’s inception in 2004. David has been active in the evolution and definition of the inside sales industry and speaks regularly. He is the co-author of the Lead Response Management industry study, done in conjunction with James Oldroyd, Ph.D. (visiting Research Fellow at M.I.T.)

InsideSales.com offers the industry’s leading sales acceleration platform built on Neuralytics, a predictive and prescriptive self-learning engine that drives revenue growth by delivering an optimized experience for both salesperson and buyer. The platform fuels sales rep performance and provides buyer personalization with breakthrough innovations in predictive sales communications, engagement tracking, forecasting, rep motivation and hiring. InsideSales.com has received numerous accolades for its technology and has been named as one of the fastest growing companies by Inc.com.

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The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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