EP182: Harnessing Generative AI: Revolutionizing Sales Strategies and Results
The guys welcome Ben Sternsmith of Sybill AI delves into the benefits of AI in sales, such as freeing salespeople to be more engaged and focused during customer interactions. Ben shares his experience of being able to concentrate on customer needs without the burden of note-taking or manual follow-up tasks. As Corey, Chris, and Ben explore the possibilities opened up by AI in sales, they discuss the challenges faced by sales professionals and the potential for AI tools to streamline and enhance their work.
With tools like Sybill AI and ConnectAndSell, sales reps can offload repetitive tasks and focus on building genuine connections with customers. Join Corey, Chris, and Ben on this captivating episode as they unravel the fascinating world of AI in sales and its potential to reshape the industry in this episode, “Harnessing Generative AI: Revolutionizing Sales Strategies and Results”.
Sybill AI is an AI company that originated as a Stanford project three years ago. The founders, frustrated with the limitations of remote teaching, developed a behavioral AI engine over Zoom. This innovative tool records calls and analyzes body language to determine engagement levels. Leveraging the power of large language models like GPT-4, Sybill AI offers generative AI for salespeople. It automatically generates call summaries, writes AI-powered follow-up emails, and even appends CRM data.
Full episode transcript below:
The guys welcome Ben Sternsmith of Sybill AI. They delve into the benefits of AI and sales, such as freeing salespeople to be more engaged and focused during customer interactions. Ben shares his experience of being able to concentrate on customer needs without the burden of note-taking or manual follow-up tasks. As Corey, Chris, and Ben explore the possibilities opened up by AI and sales. They discuss the challenges faced by sales professionals and the potential for AI tools to streamline and enhance their work. With tools like Sybill AI and ConnectAndSell, sales reps can offload repetitive tasks and focus on building genuine connections with customers. Join Corey, Chris, and Ben on this captivating episode as they unravel the fascinating world of AI and sales and its potential to reshape the industry. In this episode, harnessing generative AI revolutionizing sales strategies and results.
Corey Frank (01:16):
Welcome to another episode of the Market Dominance Guys with Corey Frank, and as always, the sage of sales, the profit of profit, and the Hawking of Hawking. Chris Beall, CEO of ConnectAndSell. Chris, good afternoon.
Chris Beall (01:30):
I tell you what, the perils of a physics degree, my friend.
Corey Frank (01:34):
That's right. Well, speaking of smart kids, right, which I am definitely not. We have a very special guest. We have Ben Sternsmith. Ben is the CRO currently over at Sybill.ai, which we're going to talk about, but I think he harvested in the same tall cotton, Chris, that you come from up in the Bay Area, former VP of sales over at Salesforce, former VP of sales over at Lyft, and other assorted CRO recruiting stints and most recently over at Sybill. So welcome, Ben, finally, to the Market Dominance Guys.
Ben Sternsmith (02:08):
Great to be here. Thanks, Corey. Thanks, Chris.
Corey Frank (02:11):
I've been threatening you for a while that we're going to put you on, and I finally made do with my threat. You thought this was a sales pitch, and instead it turns into a podcast recording with me and Chris. So how about we start, Ben, a quick synopsis of Sybill.ai because that'll lead, I think, into our next topic that Chris and I want to talk to you about, about where all this stuff is going. But let's talk a little bit about what is Sybill AI and why do I need it?
Ben Sternsmith (02:39):
Yeah, Sybil is really an AI company at heart. We started the company as a Stanford project about three years ago. Our co-founders were lecturing at Stanford, and really, in 2020, we all went to these Zoom boxes, as you guys know, and they got really frustrated with not being able to understand who in the class was paying attention and who wasn't, who was engaged. And so we built a behavioral AI engine over Zoom that basically records calls, just like most conversational intelligence tools you may use today. And then we could really read the body language of the people that were on the call, at least in part, and to figure out who was basically engaged and who wasn't.
And since then, with the dawn of these beautiful large language models, specifically OpenAI, we use GPT-4 today like a lot of applications. But we've been at it really early since, I think, December 15th, 2022, when this whole thing, ChatGPT, and that craze launched on us all. We started incorporating that into our product on top of the behavioral AI to produce some unbelievable results. So today with Sybill, it's really built for salespeople. We call it generative AI for sales. You can record a customer call or prospect call, and Sybill will send you a magical summary after the call's over and write your AI email follow up for you. And even working on, we're to beta right now, the append CRM automatically. So things like MEDDPICC and all the things that sales reps dislike doing, but have to, we append those. So that's sort of us in a nutshell.
Corey Frank (04:11):
So you amplify the discord where there's a gap in what sales reps are doing today and try close that gap certainly by using a weapon like AI to maybe make it a little bit more consistent across the board from a summary perspective, from a data entry perspective, from an email summary perspective.
Ben Sternsmith (04:32):
100%, yeah, it's amazing when you have an algorithm sitting on your shoulder taking notes for you, you can be way more engaging on the call. So, I mean, I started my career about 23 years ago at Oracle, cold calling folks with no video, having to do the demo, ask the questions, take the notes, walk, chew gum, all at the same time. And today, you don't really have to do that. You can just focus on the customer and ask those engaging questions, be very, very front and center, and it takes near-perfect notes for you and sends it to you and your colleagues about an hour after the call, so.
Corey Frank (05:12):
Hang on a second, then. Chris, if ConnectAndSell, as we've talked about many times, does all my screening activity, does all my pre-calling, now it actually prioritizes with fast phone numbers, whom I should call and when, and Sybill AI actually takes away the notes and the CRM entry, and the follow-up emails. What the hell am I going to do as a sales rep? You're taking away all the stuff that I can hide and tell my boss that I'm actually working when I'm not. So Chris, what's up a weasel to do in the sales?
Chris Beall (05:41):
What's a weasel to do exactly. It reminds me of something Edward Abbey once wrote, which is, "If you want people to be good drivers, strap them to the bumper of the car." And that's what it does is it straps them to the bumper of the car. There's not a lot of places to hide, folks hide behind emails. They hide actually not in space like you do with the car, but they hide in time. So it's like, oh, I'm busy doing this, therefore, it's okay that I'm not talking to anybody, right? It's like they hate the mechanics. Salespeople hate the mechanics of sales, and yet the mechanics of sales provide them with hiding points.
They can go and say, well, I had to do this. I had to fill out the CRM, I had to do this stuff. So I think it ends up in a funny way at the level of the products that are out there today that you could sell, if you hold that fixed, you need fewer salespeople, and they're the better ones because they end up talking to more people and asking better questions and caring more about somebody actually getting value from the solution, and all that. Now, if you turn it all the way around, and I think this is what I was talking about with Susan on the last episode of this podcast, it turns out that all this AI will build so many more products to sell that we'll need mediocre salespeople again, right? Because we'll just need too many of them, but they'll all be strapped to the bumper. We'll have the Sybill strap on the front that says, sorry, all you get to do is drive in traffic. Now, get good.
Corey Frank (07:18):
So there's hope for me yet.
Chris Beall (07:22):
Not in your case, no.
Corey Frank (07:23):
Yeah, that's good. So with that, so, Ben, in your world of Sybill, you've had the opportunity, certainly with your weapon, to collect a lot of data on a lot of phone calls. And Chris at ConnectAndSell and his team, they have data on over 190 million phone calls, as you can imagine, and that's a lot of signals that can be fired in to look for the patterns in the tea leaves. Would you mind sharing with us just in a few years at Sybill, what have you seen that, especially as an executive at Oracle, an executive at Salesforce, an executive at Lyft, that maybe surprised you a little bit about sales folks or validated what maybe your gut told you as a sales leader?
Ben Sternsmith (08:07):
And how maybe AI is changing that?
Corey Frank (08:10):
Yeah, just the patterns. Do we hide the time between calls? We're inherently terrible note-takers. We spend too much time between calls. In this new world of Zoom, we don't know how to operate a background, have eye contact, we're too distracted, things of that nature. What's some of the residue and the signals that you've been picking up?
Ben Sternsmith (08:29):
Yeah, I think salespeople are extremely adaptable. And as AI incorporates itself into all of our lives, both in consumer and enterprise, it's just going to free us up to do the things that we actually enjoy doing the most. So I feel like I get to be more human on the calls that I'm on with Sybill than I was before because I had to be such a multitasker that you're frankly just distracted. I mean, there's lots of studies out there that validate the brain can only really work on one thing at a time. So if I can really focus on the customer, which is my job ultimately to listen to their pain and then try to match my product to that, or maybe keep going because it's not a good fit, I think it just frees us up to do that in really a neat way, in a really automatic way.
And there's no salesperson I've ever managed, or when I was an IC myself, never enjoyed taking notes. I never enjoyed updating CRM systems, and I never enjoyed forgetting to follow up or writing the actual email. All those are just not the fun parts of the job, and today we just don't have to. You can buy your way into that with technology and then spend more time being human. So I think some people do spend time hiding behind some of those tasks, and that will quickly find its way out of their habits or out of the organization if they're not the right fit. And tools like this will just continue to help and expose that those aren't needed tasks to do anymore, so.
Corey Frank (09:53):
Chris, from your perspective, when you look at a lot of the weapons and the tools that are out there, even including ConnectAndSell, which is the mother of all amplification weapons from a productivity perspective, what are you seeing just in the last, now that we're out of COVID, we're coming into it, people are actually jumping on planes again, but they still have to do presentations. What are some of those signals or some of those tea leaves that you're interpreting about pipeline that are very prescient about where we're going as a profession?
Chris Beall (10:22):
Well, one of the things people talk about all the time is the sales and marketing alignment thing. And I think we're finally making progress in that direction by being able to identify where we're getting marketing impact, in particular from sales activities. It's interesting that good salespeople have always been marketers. You had a territory, you managed the territory over time, and marketing is the business of managing stuff past this quarter or past a sales cycle.
If your sales cycle is 90 days and you're doing anything that's intended to produce a result a year from now you're doing marketing, you're not really doing sales, and somebody probably thinks they could nurture that away, so to speak, and you could just focus on this quarter. But if you ever owned a territory, you know damn well that's your living, and you're cultivating the present and the intermediate future, and the deep future in a holistic way, it's meaningful to you. I think one of the things that we're seeing now with these tools is we can dig into the activities and find out what the outcomes actually are. They're not always just sales outcomes. It's like, yeah, you do work, right? So your notes go into your CRM, almost everything goes into a CRM is a dead letter. Very rare that it comes out and makes you money, right? Oh, my God, I made $400,000 last year because my notes were so good.
Speaker 1 (11:41):
We'll be back in a moment after a quick break.
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Strategies and results. Sybill AI is an AI company that originated as a Stanford project three years ago. The founders were frustrated with the limitations of remote teaching. They developed a behavioral AI engine over Zoom. This innovative tool records calls and analyzes body language to determine engagement levels, leveraging the power of large language models like GPT-4 Sybill AI offers generative AI for salespeople. It automatically generates call summaries, writes AI-powered follow-up emails, and even append CRM data.
And we're back with Corey and Chris.
Chris Beall (13:21):
Had my notes been a little less good, I would've only made 100,000, right? It's just not the case. We actually end up feeding these monsters, and then we find ways to feed the monsters more cheaply to generate monster food to feed the CRM or to feed the reports that management needs, or whatever. The flip of that is that we can now go inside the conversations and between the systems and start to map what is doing what. So here's an example that we've talked about a little bit. Cold calls are the ultimate marketing weapon. They happen to have a sales side effect. The sales side effect is you get meetings that generate some pipeline. The marketing effect is you generate trust that you are going to be able to harvest over the next three, four years. So can you see that in the data?
You can't really see that in the data unless A, you're collecting the data, which is both the easy stuff and the hard stuff. What Sybill is collecting is really hard stuff. It's inside of conversations and it's nuances. So okay, can I take those nuances, and can I say this one actually, when it goes like this, we make this much more pipeline. We can actually do that nowadays. As soon as you tie sales activities to future pipeline, not from deals right now, then you've actually converged sales and marketing. You've created sales and marketing alignment, but you got to bring it out so that we can get ahold of marketing budgets. Otherwise, guys like Ben and I have to end up going around with begging bowls, right? Because marketing has all the dollars in technology, whereas sales has got the headcount. And what we tend to do, his company and my company tend to do is reduce the need for the headcount because you make it more efficient because it's doing less grunt work.
We both are in the grunt work removal business, taking notes, grunt work, sending the follow-up email, and just especially if you're salesperson, writing might not be your strong suit. I noticed that my friends who didn't raise their hand a lot in class and didn't write their essays and turn them in early tended to become salespeople. So I say male, left-handed, color-blind, ADD dyslexics become salespeople. Well, look at all the tasks that we ask them to do that male, color-blind, left-handed, ADD dyslexics would not like to do. So Sybill's going to take all those tasks off their hands, and then ConnectAndSell takes a bunch of other grunt work off, which is navigating phone systems and hanging up on voicemails, and just doing stuff when you could just be hanging out. So I think what happens is we are starting to get an understanding, maybe for the first time, of how sales and marketing can work together as a system to produce results.
And the results are in the form of customer value actually being delivered. Because even measuring pipeline is weak when you think about it. I got this chart behind me, right? It shows pipeline built through conversations, but that's pretty weak. What you really want to see is value derived by customers that are associated with those conversations. Now you're getting to the real economics, right? We're finally getting to the point where we're starting to be able to discern the connections and make investments based on those connections. The investments can be dollars, or they can be organization and structure, or they can be simple things like training, like teaching some people to do some tricks they didn't know before. Whatever it happens to be, without the connections you don't know where to invest. And I think we're starting to see where to invest.
Ben Sternsmith (16:43):
Yeah, so well said. I really feel like we're at a golden age, or just in the precipice of golden age for that connection between sales and marketing and more importantly, the value of CRM systems. Honestly, I spent a lot of my career at Salesforce, like Corey had said, and really the early days, so '09 to 2015, and my old VP, Mark Wayland, used to say CRM systems had usage patterns similar to hot tubs and gym memberships, right? Really high in the beginning, and then they peter-off, right? Always made us chuckle, but it was also very true because the CRM system didn't really have a lot of value over time because people weren't appending it with really current information because it was hard and time-consuming.
And it's a no-finish-line sort of thing. Today, if the CRM system had the objective customer voice from emails and calls and marketing connections, and even cold calls, I think there's a huge case you made, Chris, on the initial touch with the client. If we could even incorporate that with AI, you have full cycle from first touch to last touch, then all of a sudden I'm going to Salesforce or HubSpot or wherever I'm going for the information because I know it's accurate and it's subjectively appended at least 80% by an algorithm. Isn't that interesting, right? Totally different world. So it's fun to be a sales rep these days. I think, like I said, we're adaptable, but we will figure out a new way to work, and this is definitely an assist to change that up.
Corey Frank (18:12):
Let's talk a little bit on the, Chris had brought this up earlier with the nuances, and Ben, if you're one of our nine listeners to our podcast, we talk a lot about tonality and the use of empathy and tactical empathy specifically, which is conveyed in not just what you say but how you say it. And in your world, especially if you're recording me right now, what are some of those maybe non-verbal, behavioral AI elements that, as a sales rep, whether I'm using Sybill or not, but if I'm doing a Zoom call tomorrow that I should just be more aware of because it matters, and you have the data and you show the hundreds of thousands of phone calls that are recorded that it does indeed matter?
Ben Sternsmith (18:57):
Yeah, I mean, video is really powerful. Body language, humans are complicated, and we give off over 30 non-verbal cues in every statement we say, and it's been documented as well over 90% of what we are saying is non-verbal. And so that's why we decided to focus on it from the early days. Because we believed in that, and we continue to chip away at taking the human non-verbal reaction, the 30 plus cues, and turning that into useful information for salespeople, CSMs, et cetera. But I don't know about you guys, but if I'm on an audio call today, I do a lot of Zoom calls, but if I'm on an audio call without video, it's really hard to jump in, to find the timing, to understand how you're saying something. I rely so much on the cues I get over video, which the same as in-person sales, things are coming back a little bit there, but it is so valuable into, I think, selling understand how your prospect is trying to convey themselves.
Managing a large buying committee. All those are so important over video, and I'm inherently reading those non-verbals live with my eyes. Now, let's just say I wasn't on the call. Let's say I say something like, "Oh, it sounds great," and I crossed my arms. What am I saying? I'm being sarcastic. I'm not happy about it. And if you're not picking up on that either live or on the recording, or with hopefully a behavioral AI engine we have, I don't know. It's something to be desired. So I don't know. That's the way I view the world it is today over VC. I think video is so important. Body language is so important because that's how we communicate as humans when we're in front of each other, and when we can't be, this is the second-best thing.
Corey Frank (20:37):
Chris, what are your thoughts on that? You obviously-
Chris Beall (20:41):
Yeah, it's true. The only use I know of for audio, really just pure audio is in handling a situation where you can't have video. So you can't ambush somebody with video because what if they're in the hot tub? And that could be a problem. So not as big a problem when they're at the gym, but it's a problem at the gym. But it's a real problem if you ambush them that one time they ever use the hot tub in that first week. And there turns out to be this issue around forming relationships with strangers. That as far as we can tell, there's probably a million ways to do it that nobody's found yet. Somebody came up to me the other day with a really good one, but at scale, it's really hard to avoid the ambush. It's just like trying to fix somebody's blown Achilles tendon without cutting into their leg.
It's like you'd love to do it, and maybe some people think they can do it, but I'm glad that somebody was willing to endure the sight of blood and cut into my leg when I blew mine, right? So the ambush is a place where all we get is audio, and we want to keep it short as a result, and we want to control the emotional tone. We're not going to get to read much or we're going to be able to provide a fair amount, and we have to rely on an algorithm and the algorithm as a framework associated with it. Like where's the other party starting emotionally? Where could I get them to emotionally that's a useful next place for them and for me? From there, where can we go, and where should we not go? Where is it dangerous? Where is it safe? And maybe in 30 seconds, we get to the point where we agree to have a meeting on video.
To me, that's about it for pure audio. And I don't hold very many audio meetings anymore that are pure audio. I occasionally do, but only with people I know well. And if I know you well, then I really don't need to be reading your body language that much. Corey, you and I have known each other for, I actually looked up on a calendar the other days, for 371 years, two months, four days, and five hours. And so since the first time that we ever spoke to each other, and this will surprise some of our audience because, I think, can't those guys make more than a couple of hundred podcasts in that many years? But now, whatever, never hardworking. So when I speak with you on the phone, I'm good because I have learned, like any good AI engine or eye engine, or human intelligence. I've learned your patterns, and I can see you when you're not there.
But with strangers, it's harder. And I think where we're going to go with AI is actually into the buying committee. I think we're going to go in a different place than people are talking about. Getting the individual who's talking is nice and all. But one of my favorite things in the world of buying committees is I used to sell big stuff, big tech that I invented to big companies. So you're in that presentation, and there's usually 13 people in the room. You're one of them, and there's 12 more. I don't know why there's always 12 more. Maybe they're apostles or something. I don't really know. And there's always one of whom who doesn't talk, and it's usually male. He sits at, from your perspective, in the back left corner, always, back left corner. And that person's job, according to themselves, is to wait until you're done and you think you're doing fine.
And then to ask that one question that chucks a sharp, poisonous spear into the center of your chest right in front of everybody, that's their job. They're called the technical objector. And their job is to raise the single technical objection that blows your entire thesis out of the water, puts you on your back foot, and even if you're going to do a deal with them, you're not going to get as good a price. That's what they do. Your ability to read that fact that that person is that person, that's something we don't do very much of today. Zoom actually makes that really hard to find that person because they're not in the room anymore in a specific spot, and we don't get to watch them as well, oddly enough, we're distracted with the other people. I used to have a sharp eye on that person.
And getting the timing of asking the question before they ask the question is really, really hard. And I think AI's going to help us in that. I mean, I've got a situation we've been working on recently where we got a superstar CEO who loves our product, but it's a family business. And I know that at some point, and I believe it's about happening, somebody is going to bring in somebody and put them in a position to reign in the CEO. And CEOs are really hard to fire, as we all know. They're not like CROs, man, like Ben, they get bounced out. They're there to take a bullet. That's their job, right? CEO gets to put two bends out there for every time he or she gets shot. That's like, look, I got a really good one. Oh, we didn't make the number. Shoot that one.
Okay, we got another one, right? Well, being able to read those situations, the politics, within organizations and see those patterns and help a sales rep navigate, not just here they all are. You figure it out. It's like, look, here's probably going on here. Here's what's probably going on. Have you thought about this interaction? I think that's where we're going to take some of this AI. And you know what? ChatGPT is really good at this kind of stuff. You just have to know how to ask it the right prompts, and it'll actually tell you about potential interactions because it's super imaginative. It has an advanced degree from MSU, right? Make shit up. So it will hallucinate things that you need to be thinking about where your hallucination capabilities have come to their edge. And it's like, what if Mary over there, what if the real issue is her professional relationship over here with Joe?
What if they hate each other? Have you thought about that, right? You might not have defined it. Well, maybe your AI can tell you. So I think companies like Sybill are going to start to take us not just down into the nuances of voice, which is where you were going. And I do think we'll get into the nuances of voice because voice is mostly gestures, very little of voice is words. What we do with our hands, we're also doing with our voice, and we can see our hands, but we can actually hear our voice do the same. Whatever that thing is, it's going on in the inflection, in the tone. You can't gesture with your hands without changing your voice.
You can't. And the text captures such a tiny, tiny amount of what's important in the conversation. The big part is in the tonality. But yes, Sybill will go down into the tonality eventually and annotate the notes. Some letters will be bigger. When we read the transcript, they'll be bigger and they'll have colors, and we'll be able to interpret them without having to listen to them and go, Ooh, there was where he was off. That's Corey in red ink. Big, pulsing, right?
Corey Frank (27:27):
Well, Chris, you're a musician, and we've talked about this as a musician. What is the, and I'm ignorant in the language of music, but when you have fortissimo and you have the little dot over one of the half notes, is that what you're talking about where I can not only hear it, but I can actually see the emphasis of the tonality? Or I can see as, Ben, as your example is, yeah, that sounds like a good idea, versus, I've read the transcript, I'd be like, Hey, Sybill is a great idea, but the tonality of it maybe is not necessarily certain.
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