Toronto-based software startup points AI at solving B2B’s biggest sales problems

After your Saturday morning coffee and a pancake breakfast with the kids, perhaps you pick up a list of chores. Perhaps you stare at these tasks, each of them daunting in its own way, and pin the list back under the magnet on the fridge as you turn to the coffee maker for another cup.

But what if you had artificial intelligence (AI) to help you know which tasks really needed to be crossed off that list? What if they were ranked by letter grades from A to F, each grade representing the balance of work required to finish the task versus the benefits of getting it done? Suddenly that endless list wouldn’t look so daunting and you’d know where to get started right away.

Well, that technology hasn’t been invented yet for your weekend chores, unfortunately. But if you work in business-to-business (B2B) sales, then you can turn to Toronto-based SalesChoice.

An AI company that helps with sales forecasting and account scoring, SalesChoice’s Predictive Insight Engine plugs into a firm’s customer relationship management (CRM) software and applies machine learning to the data.

For its capability to help clients boost revenue growth by as much as 35 per cent, SalesChoice is also the winner of the Artificial Intelligence Disruptor category at ITWC’s Digital Transformation Awards for 2018.

Plugging AI into the sales pipeline

SalesChoice applies its AI power to improve productivity simply by showing sales professionals where their time and energy is most effectively spent.

“Sales professionals get distracted all the time,” says Cindy Gordon, CEO at SalesChoice. “They like to chase the next shiny toy… But when you come in in the morning to see your letter grades, you’re getting a focus jolt.”

The software was a hit with CrossFuze, an enterprise software services firm that is a SalesChoice customer. Director of Sales Shawn Wilson says that in late 2017 he was looking for some help in improving sales forecasting accuracy.

“That’s been a struggle throughout my career,” he says in a SalesChoice video on Youtube. “Any time a product or service suggests they can ramp up that accuracy, I’m interested.”

The tool integrates into CrossFuze’s CRM (SalesChoice can also be integrated into and NetSuite CRM) in such a way that he can import a new column into his weekly sales pipeline report. Now he’s looking to those scoring values instead of the anecdotal information from the team. It helps him manage his team by showing what prospects are really worth pursuing.

“Either I’m using it to challenge some of the anecdotal statements, or they’re (my sales reps) are using it to convince me a lead is worth pursuing,” Wilson says.

A ‘sales GPS’ to the best opportunity 

To get started with its data-crunching, SalesChoice simply asks for two key inputs: the sales quota and the date range that it applies to. From there, it pulls the variables in that could affect a customer’s likelihood to buy. These can be different across every customer, Gordon explains, but could include the channel of inquiry, the current season (tip: ice cream sells well in summer), the customer’s industry, the time the opportunity originated, and any pricing information discussed.

“We’re trying to be like a sales GPS,” Gordon says. “What’s the fastest route to win?”

Saleschoice founder and CEO Cindy Gordon

Using data-fueled predictive models to improve B2B sales isn’t the sole idea of SalesChoice. In a blog post from January, several McKinsey & Company management consultants say the days of sales leaders relying on gut instinct are in the past. The authors predict that in the next five years, the fastest-growing companies will use advanced analytics and machine learning to identify what sales opportunities to pursue.

“Already the days when lead generation relied entirely on local field knowledge are fading fast,” the blog states. “Market leaders of the future are using advanced analytics to build a granular account, product, and geographic profile of each of their customers.”

SalesChoice launched as a simplified and lower-cost CRM alternative in 2012, but has pivoted since then. Gordon recruited Yannick Lallement as chief data scientist, a PhD holder in computer science from France-based National

Yannick Lallement is SalesChoice’s chief data scientist.

Institute of Research in Computer Science, with a specialization in AI. Gordon says the firm collaborates with Toronto-based incubator MaRS and Waterloo, Ont.-based incubator Communitech to stay connected with the AI ecosystem. SalesChoice is also a joint-venture partner with ITWC and CATA Alliance in The AI Directory, designed to provide an overview of leaders in the global AI ecosystem, recently expanding to China.

Saleschoice came out on top of the AI category to win a Digital Transformation Award because its clients have reduced operating costs while increasing revenues, says Corey Cox, the vice-president of Tandet Group and a judge for the awards program.

“One of the most difficult concepts to teach in sales is the art of knowing when to stop,” he says. “A forecasting accuracy as high as 90 per cent for predicting losses early in the sales cycle will no doubt build confidence in a sales team to know when to turn their attention to other prospects.”

Cox was also impressed by SalesChoice’s stated commitment to ethical AI. The open source software makes its route to decision making transparent to the user. “This was very significant as it is the current failing of so man implementations of intelligent analytics today,” he says. “Confidence will only grow in the technology when people can understand, and therefore trust, the machine’s predictions.”

Next up for Saleschoice is a planned integration into Microsoft Dynamics CRM, planned for 2019.

It’s also introducing new AI features around account scoring and chat bots. According to Gordon, when the Saleschoice team comes into work every day they have one task on their list – to make data speak.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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