Latest Kevin Beales News
Dec 4, 2018
December 4, 2018 “Assistants and bots will (and already do) have a role in sales conversations, but today more so in transactional sales and helping buyers to research.” Tell us about your role and journey into technology. How did you successfully transform yourself through the dot-com era? The (relatively) short answer — I was working at Adidas back in ‘98 when my manager at the time said to me, “You’ve used this internet thing, haven’t you?” Two weeks later I was “New Media Manager” and responsible for launching Adidas’ first sites in the UK. Talk about right place, right time. In my first meeting with a vendor, I thought, “I’m so far out of my depth, how can I make sure I’m not found out — or do I ask for my old job back.” Fortunately, neither happened (I think). What was the idea behind starting Refract? Have you achieved what you envisioned for the company? I’d led a sales team for 2 successful start-ups and founded my own SaaS business, and experienced every time how broken sales coaching was. How do you develop sales teams, without riding along on calls and demos (and resist the urge to jump in)? Companies say Sales coaching is the most important role of a manager, yet less than 5% of time is spent coaching. It didn’t feel like technology was closing this gap. It still feels like we are at the start of our journey at Refract . Conversation Intelligence is still at an early adopter stage when you consider the whole audience (any organization looking to improve conversations and their outcomes), the impact of AI is only going in one direction and we would still consider ourselves early-stage. How does Refract fit into a modern business’ tech stack? Refract is part of the modern sales leader’s sales stack, a suite of tools to support and ensure sales success — supporting onboarding, coaching and development. The shift towards data-driven sales decisions and processes, playbooks, ability to scale and the switch from ‘gift of the gab’ to ‘science of sales’ have all supported the emergence of platforms like Refract. Much of the sales stack helps do the heavy lifting — whether in identifying good fit customers, prospecting, closing or in our case, coaching. What makes the current Sales Management platforms so crucial for B2B success? Sales Management platforms, including Refract, can help create playbooks and scalability for time-pressured managers, whilst providing the data to drive decisions. It really is about helping make the most of time (there is never enough time for sales managers), helping to scale – whether that’s recruiting, onboarding, coaching etc, and surfacing the right data and insight to make informed decisions and judgement. How do you help sales teams do the heavy lifting without fatigue? Sales managers are pulled in so many directions, but often lose sight of what the best use of their time is. Coaching is a great example — proven as the highest impact that a manager can have on revenue and performance, cited by organizations as the most important priority, but the vast majority spend less than 5% of their time coaching — with their reps claiming they are coached half as much again. It can always wait until tomorrow. What are your predictions on ‘AI for Sales’? Would human managers give way to Virtual Assistants and bots in conversation? Assistants and bots will (and already do) have a role in sales conversations, but today more so in transactional sales and helping buyers to research. Complex consultative selling, as in much of B2B, will rely even more on advanced sales skills that stand head and shoulders above Sales Automation and bots. With trillions of variables on each such conversation and every business so unique, personalization, great questions, active listening, and empathy, feels like a way from being replicated by AI . But AI is making those salespeople more successful, helping them find, engage and support those conversations (as well as helping to coach them). AI isn’t going back in the box — its demanding sales professionals to ensure their AI-enhanced skills stay ahead of technology. How do you prepare for the challenges and opportunities in Revenue maximization? For us, as you’d expect, it’s all about the coaching. Identifying great fit opportunities, revenue is won and lost in conversation. Every word choice can matter — picking the right questions, in the right way at the right time to identify the value and impact Refract can provide. We’re a bit obsessive about conversation and coaching if you haven’t gathered! Where do you see Sales Intelligence platforms heading to in 2019-2022? Sales Intelligence Platforms have been around for just a couple of years now. This is just the start of an emerging category, but already having a huge impact on sales performance and conversation outcomes. It’s unlocking the dirty secret of sales — what actually happens in sales conversations behind closed doors. Over the next 3 years, its evolution will include surfacing greater, personalized value — personalized to organizations and individuals. Essentially, applying the benefits of big data to small data sets, using Machine Learning and analytics. Each sales conversation has billions of variables. It’s not just words — it’s sentiment, delivery, pauses, tone, authority and so much more that contribute to successful performance and outcomes. As a sector, we are increasingly able to interpret and demonstrate what leads to success in each organization and conversation, and profile to managers where conversations appear to have gone well or missed opportunities. But the value also lies in the seemingly trivial choices of words, phrases, tone, delivery and so on, that becomes proven to influence outcomes. What Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?