Technology continues to help businesses maximize their efforts in every industry. The advancement of AI has leveled the playing field, particularly in sales, for SMB’s and large corporations alike, by enabling technology to start the conversation and guide you along the way. I had the privilege to speak with Tony Rodoni, Executive Vice President for SMB sales at Salesforce to learn more about how AI has changed the game. Here’s what we spoke about:
Jay: You’ve been with Salesforce for more than a decade, starting back in 2006. Since 1998, you’ve had diverse experiences in sales and marketing. Can you share with me how much sales and marketing has evolved over the course of that time?
Tony: Digital transformation has disrupted the entire the sales process. Just over a decade ago, sales teams were told that the most effective way to generate sales was through building relationships. What I hear today is that relationships matter, but only in the context of value. With the advancement of technology and data science, brands are uber focused on one thing- “how does your product improve my business?” I remember taking clients out to eat or for a round of golf, but today nobody has time for that. Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, your outlook on sales should be similar to the way a doctor assesses patients – quick to diagnose and quick to prescribe a solution. It’s your job to identify the needs of your clients and strategize to find creative opportunities that will bring them results.
Jay: How has the millennial generation changed the structure of the sales process?
Tony: There’s no question that they’ve completely changed and elevated the game. I can remember about 15 years ago when I went into an appliance store to buy a new dishwasher, I had no idea how to compare one to another. Because I had no background in appliances, I had no knowledge to base my decision on. Today, the amount of research done by a typical consumer before they make a purchase is staggering. Millennials educate themselves online before they enter the store and already know which product they want to buy. They spend more time researching reviews than they do finding a better price. The importance of making sure you have quality reviews cannot be underestimated. If your sales pitch is about price or trivial details, you’re going to fail immediately. In order to succeed, your sales pitch has to be everything about “Here’s how our product or service is going to make your business better.”
Jay: How does Salesforce help businesses incorporate these dynamics into their sales strategies?
Tony: We are committed to providing our customers with everything they need to know in order to achieve the highest level of success with their sales campaigns. Early on in my career, the great sales makers were those who built the biggest rolodex of contacts. Now, everyone has access to that rolodex with social giants like LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media channels. What empowers a sales team today is automation. It’s the ability to know and intimately understand the ins and outs of every business, the ability to predict what a prospective client is looking for, and the best time and way to approach them. How you use technology and CRM is what empowers businesses to succeed and at Salesforce, our mission is to empower our customers with the technology they need to enable them to work smarter, and consistently put them in the best position to win.
Jay: What’s the biggest impact technology, and artificial intelligence specifically, will have on businesses for the near future?
Tony: I think the impact will be two-fold. Firstly, technology keeps businesses honest and transparent. With social media you can see what consumers are responding to, as well as the areas you need to re-evaluate and modify to meet the needs of your audience. You’ll need to constantly monitor and pivot to make sure you continue to give your customers a reason to stay engaged. Secondly, a trend that we already notice, is an overarching opportunity to continue from one sale to the next. Amazon is a great example of this concept. They’ve built their technology in such a way that it begins to predict and suggest new products based on your previous purchasing habits. We see the same opportunity for CRM – the ability to capture activity and use that data to predict quality leads, and even recommend what your responses should be to potential customers who have already engaged with your campaign. Predictive intelligence is the biggest area of sales and marketing that will help enhance business performance in every industry.
Tony Rodoni is the Executive Vice President for SMB sales at Salesforce, the world’s #1 CRM company. Tony leads a sales team focused on connecting and building relationships with small- and medium-sized business organizations and ensuring each has the technology to be successful. Tony has worked at Salesforce for more than ten years and has a deep appreciation of what matters most in the Age of the Customer. He is an inspiring leader holding a significant role in the company’s overall vision, direction and go-to-market strategy.