Highlight Report

B2B leaders must get on track with Engagement AI or miss out on sales gold

August 23, 2021

The business interface between humans and AI is heating up as focused applications with specific deliverables make emerging technology part of the working processes of more people in more roles.

Sales is among the hottest of the new frontiers. Here Engagement AI (part of the OneOffice Emerging Technology platform – exhibit 1) is making rapid headway: AI which provides real-time support for, and interaction with, human teams to help in converting leads.

The technology observes or listens in on text, voice, and video sales interactions, learning the types and tone of the conversation that drive the most revenue, steering human partners to make better decisions on that data. It is an example of the role Engagement AI plays in connecting enterprise operations, data, and workflows to improve outcomes.

Exhibit 1: Engagement AI is the interface for enterprise operations and workflows

Source: HFS Research, 2021, Examples are representative

One example – Gong (Gong.io) – secured $250m in Series E funding at the end of Q2 this year – on a valuation of $7.25b. That made it Israel’s most valuable startup – until fintech company Rapyd usurped it with its own series E on a valuation of $8.7b in August.

ZoomInfo announced plans to acquire Gong rival Chorus.ai for $575m in early August 2021. That deal could offer customers the opportunity to make data-driven decisions throughout the sales funnel – with Chorus adding mid-funnel insights from customer conversations to the top-of-funnel insights Zoominfo is known for. More consolidation looks likely.

When faced with ambiguity, adaptability trumps experience

So, what is it that investors are getting excited about in this conversational intelligence space?

In the case of Gong’s revenue intelligence platform, the intent is to replace the static reports and anecdotal evidence of what does and doesn’t work in the sales pitch and process. Gong captures a wide range of customer interactions, reveals insights about markets, deals, and employee skills, and, learning from these, responds with advice on the next best step in securing the sale.

This data-led and intelligence-infused approach to enhancing productivity and effectiveness among sales teams has become increasingly valuable with the shift to remote work. When faced with the ambiguity of the ongoing pandemic, experience counts for less, and the ability to adapt at speed to new realities becomes crucial.

Fast-changing sales scenarios demand fast-changing communications

Different sales scenarios demand that communications adapt. Technologies such as Gong make the ability to adapt, something that scales, and which does so without the friction of the ‘tried and tested’ habits sales teams may once have relied on.

Gong has added an app for Zoom meetings, too – taking care of the note-taking and analyzing the content to generate guidance on how best to follow up.

Gong’s platform provides insights and recommended actions related to deal execution, team success, and strategic initiatives; helping sales professionals understand which deals are for real and raising early warnings about possible churn, identifying which behaviors lead to success, and tracking sentiments in accounts and markets.

The business – now headquartered in the San Francisco Bay area – boasts a roster of major innovative customers from Linkedin, Mulesoft, PayPal, and Shopify to Slack, Twilio, and HubSpot, among a total of 2000+.

The Bottom Line: B2B Sales teams must not wait for the enterprise to scale up AI

Most enterprises remain in the starting blocks when it comes to AI. Only among the biggest and bravest do we find those that are sprinting to establish the data infrastructure, governance, and strategic approach to AI that is required to scale value in everything from predicting customer needs and market changes, to testing and refining innovations in response.

It may be a decade before we see general systems – those that can effectively run, iterate and improve the entire enterprise. In the meantime, industry or function-specific applied AI solutions delivering tangible returns, such as the application of Engagement AI in human-machine sales teams, will help more enterprises take their first steps.

Right now, any enterprise with a significant B2B sales function needs to get on track with the advantages of Engagement AI – or risk being left in those starting blocks as rivals race ahead.

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