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September 13, 2016
How AI Can Help Drive Sales Revenue
Last week, our VP of Products Kurt Leafstrand and I co-hosted a webinar with Matt Young, VP Sales, Asia Pacific & Japan at Nutanix. In the webinar, How Sales Teams Are Leveraging AI To Drive Revenue, Matt spoke about how Nutanix has been able to supercharge its sales growth with Clari Connect. We also heard from Matt on the challenges his team has faced as a growing sales organization — and the best strategies to overcome them. Here are a few of the highlights.
What are some key challenges you’ve seen leading a sales team in a high-growth environment?
Matt Young: Leading a sales team in a high-growth environment means leading a sales team with bigger and bigger quotas. On a quarterly basis, your quotas are going up, and you’ve got to make sure you can get there.
In any given moment, there’s a particular deal which is so important. You update Clari Connect or send out information. But that’s in the moment. Two hours or two days later, there are other deals. You need the ability to automate that ping, the thing that says, “Hey, this deal’s going to close in 7 days, where are we?” We’re only human, and there’s only so much you can do.
The bigger the number gets, the more deals you get. Automation is important if you’re going to continue to grow your pipeline and close deals along with it.
When your team is organized to include sales leaders, managers, reps, enablement, acct management and sales training, that’s not necessarily collaborative — it’s more of a silo. How do you make this more collaborative?
Typically, when we’re communicating on a Connect channel, it’s got the whole Sales Engineering team involved, the sales team involved, maybe even the marketing team, if somebody downloads a whitepaper, for example. It allows us to bring in different team members to focus and get away from the email. There’s way too much email out there.
So when it comes to this whole topic of AI & machine learning for Sales, where do you think this is headed?
It’s not even so much about where it’s headed — we’re already using it. There’s a lot of things you can do, like forecasting based on stages or predictive analysis. They always say forecasting is an art, not a science, but I think it will make it much more of a science.
You can automate things by reaching out and asking, “Have these particular items been done?” We absolutely believe in it.
In high-growth environments like yours at Nutanix, reps are often promoted to managers. What are some tips for making new managers more effective?
I think not all great salespeople make great managers, but I do think it is a natural progression. It’s up to us as leaders to empower these new managers — or managers in general —with tools to help manage their teams. The way someone might have built their territory might not necessarily work for somebody else. Enabling them with tools like the Clari platform and Clari Connect will make their lives significantly easier when it comes to forecasting up the chain on those particular deals.
Speaking of forecasting, how much do you recommend should be in your sales pipeline compared to your sales goals?
We typically look for 4x pipeline. Obviously, with that, you need to drive the linearity throughout the quarter. If you can drive 20% month 1, 30% month 2, and the remaining 50% in month 3, you usually can hit the number pretty well.
Do you have any consistent way to increase the likelihood of closing your biggest deals?
If we know about the deal early — and often — rather than later, we can put specific resources on it, get a bunch of eyes looking at it, and do better in the deal. It’s probably a universal problem that people don’t want to put large deals into forecasts because if a huge deal comes in, it’s going to be expected to close. It gets a lot of visibility. At the same time, that’s a good thing. The earlier you can put a deal into the forecast, the earlier you can bring in teams to do the ROI, modeling, or sizing. The earlier and the more visibility you can get onto the larger deals, the better you’ll be, as opposed to having them pop up in the forecast and saying, “Here’s our $5m deal, and it’s going to close in 2 weeks.”