Interview with Andy Byrne, CEO, Clari

Andy Byrne

“By applying AI against a wide variety of sales activity signals, sales teams are able to find patterns, identify risk and leverage predictions to proactively focus resources where they’re needed most.”

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Tell us about your role at Clari and how you got here? What inspired you to be a part of an AI-for-Sales company?

My journey with AI began in 2004 at Clearwell, a company I helped start with Venkat Rangan, who is also my technical co-founder here at Clari. This is our fourth company together. It is a wonderful partnership for which I am grateful. At Clearwell, we set out to transform the way security and legal experts analyze large volumes of data. Using machine learning, Clearwell automated a lot of the back-office work related to litigation and securities issues. In a very short period of time, we achieved a run rate of $100m and were then acquired by Symantec in June of 2011.

The next stage of our AI journey (as we started Clari in 2013) was focused on sales because it’s at the core of every business. We uncovered a huge problem there: companies could not forecast accurately. Sales managers were stretched too thin and didn’t know how to spend their time. CRM was the system of record, but was really just a database and required a ton of manual data entry.

That’s when it dawned on us, “what if we could build an AI platform that could automatically harvest all these data signals — from CRM, e-mail systems, calendars, call logs, and more — and use AI to deliver proactive insights through an entirely redesigned user experience that would forever transform sales teams? What if we could change the lives of (a) sales reps — allowing them to close deals faster, (b) sales managers — allowing them to drive more revenue and (c) sales executives — allowing them to boost forecast accuracy?” That was the birth of Clari.

How is enterprise sales technology different today from when you first started? How do you compete against the existing sales intelligence companies?

The buyer’s journey has become far more sophisticated. Today, many different data signals influence the health of an opportunity and its likelihood to close. CRM, which represents only one of these signals; over time has become a system of record that requires a lot of manual data entry to keep it current and relevant. To keep up with more informed buyers, sellers need real-time systems that can automatically harvest large amounts of data from multiple sources and quickly analyze that data to identify risk and predict outcomes to drive better decision making. What deals should reps be focused on? Which deals are at risk? Where are we going to land at the end of the quarter?

We’ve built Clari from the ground up with this approach in mind. Here are three pillars that guide our product development and truly makes us unique:

  • Data — we automatically capture data from all signals, historical CRM data but also emails, meetings, files, call log data, and more. We don’t just let it sit in a database — we put it to work.
  • Intelligence — our AI and machine learning algorithms find patterns, identify risk and make forward-looking predictions. We’ve hired the best talent in Silicon Valley to bring our product to where it is today.
  • Delivery — we surface predictive insights about your reps, deals, pipeline and forecast in purpose-built applications. The days of making blind decisions based on stale data are long gone.

What makes your business model dynamic? What role do mobile technology platforms play in your global audience reach?

Clari started as a mobile-first platform serving sales teams on the go, allowing reps and managers to quickly update deals and the forecast. We have continued to build a cross-platform experience across web, mobile, and messaging to deliver a simplified yet functional design to address the unique needs of key sales stakeholders including reps, managers, execs and sales ops. We’re creating a single source of truth that drives improved collaboration and alignment across the sales organization.

How can AI-based sales processes deliver higher productivity? What lessons should marketers learn from present-day forecasting tools?

One of the major issues plaguing sales organizations today is the lack of insight into pipeline health and forecast risk. Reps chase opportunities that don’t close and struggle to keep deals up to date in CRM. Managers have little visibility into deal progress and spend time chasing reps to get a handle on the true health of the pipeline. Execs are spending a ton of their time chasing managers to get a handle on risk to the forecast.

By applying AI against a wide variety of sales activity signals, sales teams are able to find patterns, identify risk and leverage predictions to proactively focus resources where they’re needed most to help hit the targets.

Which pipeline risks and revenue bottlenecks does Clari help to identify? What data points do you use to predict these challenges accurately?

We use AI against a range of important signals from the buying process. We collect and analyze not just CRM data but also rep and prospect activity data — all the emails, files and contracts that are flying back and forth, and the actual meetings that are taking place. We also have integrations with DocuSign, Linkedin Sales Navigator and other partners to pull in more data signals.

We analyze historical rep behavior in CRM and find patterns in won, lost, and slipped deals to determine the likelihood of deals closing. We compare the health of each deal against actual activity to ensure reps are not chasing opportunities not likely to close. We provide an AI-based projection so execs always know if there’s risk to hitting forecast and where to invest to get the team back on track. We also help teams identify pipeline gaps and see how much they need to generate to hit their number next quarter.

What are your predictions on the State of AI-for-Sales engagements?

Machine learning is making its way into every aspect of our personal lives. Everything is connected and becoming smarter by the second. Just think of how your home is changing. We now have smart speakers, doorbells and thermostats with IP addresses. We have webcams everywhere. Our lighting systems are automated and track our energy consumption. Everything is being instrumented. That same shift is happening within the enterprise and people are catching on fast. Soon, AI will become the norm. We’re focused on sales today, but this is just the beginning.

What marketing and sales automation tools do you use?

Which startups in martech and adtech industries are you keenly following?

  • Outreach and Salesloft for the automation of the critical SDR workflows
  • Zoom for changing the world of video calls and making internal and external virtual meetings so much more personable and interactive — we use it for all our all hands to make remote folks feel connected to HQ.

Tell us about the most interesting Digital Marketing campaign at Clari? Who was your audience and how did you measure the success of that campaign?

Many SaaS and emerging tech companies have adopted an Account Based Marketing (ABM) strategy to align with their trusted account-based sales strategy. For us, this means defining accounts that match our ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) and discovering key contacts within each target account. With our new Team Activity module, we’ve been able to identify contacts sales are engaged with that are not in our database and run creative campaigns against those prime contacts to drive higher conversions and deal velocity.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric ecosystem as a business leader?

AI is real and it’s working. Experiment, don’t be afraid to bring it into your organization. Understand that data is all around you. Become familiar with APIs and gain access to this data. Then see a vendor that can apply machine learning to the data to gain insights. And make sure that whatever tool(s) you use to provide a sound user experience; otherwise you’re teams will never embrace it.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology at Clari?

At the core, we’re on a mission of leveraging AI to make selling easier and more predictable. Our people are inspired by the fact that we make our customers’ lives better with technology. We have a shared mission to realize people’s fullest potential through technology. Also, what’s exciting is that we are helping companies accelerate top-line revenue and that ultimately has a macro effect on the economy.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

At work, I use:

  • Zoom for video conferencing
  • G Suite for all-things-productivity
  • Slack for work communication and collaboration
  • LinkedIn for networking
  • Clari for all our sales execution and forecasting

On a personal level, I use

  • Strava to track my riding activity with GPS — mountain biking is my church
  • Surfline to get the latest forecast for surfing — if i can’t be on dirt, the water is the next best thing
  • Guitar Tuner to tune my guitar

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

I physically whiteboard an idea, take pictures and put them into a powerpoint slide. This is the way I build some of my presentations. It’s a great way to illustrate my thinking and process.

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

Conscious Business by Fred Kofman. It’s all about how to behave, communicate and lead in a conscious manner that is centered around your value system.

I am also re-reading a book called Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. It’s about a man’s tale of survival in a Nazi concentration camp. It’s about humans’ ability to choose how to cope with suffering, find meaning in it and move forward in life.

I generally like reading physical books and newspapers. It’s an experience that digital can’t replace. I read WSJ each morning from front to back — it’s a real treat.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

My father-in-law played a big role in my life. He taught me to “do what you love.” Don’t worry about the money. Find something you’re passionate about and give it all you’ve got. Everything else will follow.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Jeff Bezos

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

Andy Byrne brings over 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, business development and management to his position as CEO of Clari. Prior to Clari, Andy was part of the founding executive team at Clearwell Systems – Gartner’s highest ranking e-discovery company – which he helped grow from pre-product & pre-revenue in 2005 to $100 million run rate until its acquisition by Symantec in 2011.

Prior to joining Clearwell, Andy co-founded Timestock, Inc., which was acquired by Computer Associates (CA) via the acquisition of Wily Technology. Timestock delivered world-class enterprise application management solutions to large Fortune 500 corporations. Before Timestock, Andy held sales, product management, and marketing roles at VitalSigns Software, later acquired by Lucent Technologies. Prior to VitalSigns, Andy held sales management positions at Bay Networks and at MiLAN Technologies, which was later acquired by Digi International.

Selling is hard. Clari makes it easier. As a team, we’re obsessed with creating software that sales people love to use. We apply Artificial Intelligence (AI) to solve some of the biggest challenges they face in navigating the critical Opportunity-to-Close (OTC) process. We know sales and obsess over how to apply data science and prescriptive insights to make sales teams more productive and successful.

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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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