GUEST: Arun Lal, Cofounder and CEO at Contiq
There are new tools out there to help sales reps cut down the amount of time it takes to find the right content, organize it and put it into a pitch that is going to be compelling and move a sales cycle forward.
We recently interviewed Arun Lal, cofounder and CEO at Contiq, a new startup in the bay area that’s bringing a product to market that should drastically reduce the time it takes sales reps to create content.
Here’s what we learned from Arun.
What AI Really Is, and How It Can Help the Sales Force
Technology is evolving faster than we can keep up. Is there a way to utilize it to our advantage when it comes to sales?
Arun describes AI as “a computer replicating what a rational human intelligence can do.” It can sift through the massive amounts of inputs to create the outcomes that will best be suited for what the salesperson needs.
He created a program that uses AI technology and content search to help sales reps find their information faster and collect it in a presentation format.
On average, a salesperson will spend anywhere between three to seven hours looking through different systems to find the appropriate information needed for a sales pitch. Arun’s technology helps them gather the information more quickly so that they’re more prepared.
When asked if salespeople should be concerned for their jobs, Arun reassured us that AI will not be taking over sales jobs any time soon.
“AI is bad at solving generic problems salespeople have,” he said. “AI is good at solving problems from a large set of outcomes and inputs and finding the appropriate outcome. It’s not good at common sense and relationship building, but it is good at augmenting intelligence in tasks.”
Where Is AI Going in the Next 5 Years?
The answer to that question is a plain-and-simple “Who knows!”
Technology, and especially AI, is evolving at a high-paced rate. The only thing we can predict is what it will do now, and possibly in 2018.
AI right now is good for broad categories like natural language processing (think Siri) and text classification (think Google search). But it’s also moving in the direction of determining perception, as with today’s new cars, robotics, as with arm that cooks your food, and decision making/game playing, as in virtual chess.
Why Arun Got Involved With AI in the First Place
Arun Lal has had a fascination with AI ever since deep-learning programs came out.
Deep-learning is a model that mimics how human intelligence works by replicating the human brain’s neurons and programming them like a computer to remember things.
Arun took a course on AI at the University of Washington and wrote a program on text classification. The program could identify who gave a speech without knowing where the speech originated from.
The idea for Contiq came to him after losing a $7-million pitch.
He didn’t have enough time to pull together information that a British Telecom CIO requested an hour before a presentation. All the information was in the system, but sifting through it was almost impossible.
So he and a partner worked together to create Contiq, a program that will sift through silos of information and create a thematic presentation.
How Does Contiq Work?
Depending on the complexity of a deal, a salesperson will spend 3-7 hours gathering information to put a presentation together, since all the information is found in different systems. After gathering the info, the salesperson still needs to edit and format it.
“Our goal is to condense those 3 hours into 30 minutes,” Arun said, “and then to 30 seconds, all filled in to a thematic presentation for them to use to create the pitch.” Essentially, the program finds content, compresses it to a presentation format, and learns from the presentation what information was most efficient.
The goal of Contiq is to make the saleperson’s life more efficient and to speed up information siphoning. Currently, its content search function is in beta testing. By the end of November, it should be able to implement the presentation/thematic portion of the software.
To hear the full interview with Arun Lal and to learn more about AI technology, click here.
What is most effective when someone is trying to sell to you?
We like to ask all of our podcast guests this question. Here’s how Arun responded:
“Researching about me and my company will show their determination to get my attention. If they’ve done their homework and they’re not too pushy, then I would be glad to talk.”
In each episode of the B2B Revenue Executive Experience, we ask our guests for one nugget of wisdom they would impart to a sales professional. Here’s this one:
“Do a lot of preparation, and complete a picture of the person you are trying to sell to. Beyond their Linkedin and Twitter and website, I’ll look at people’s Facebook to find what they are about and what they care about. I’d also bring them a tailored and personalized gift. Not on the first meet, but it shows how well you know the person when you bring something personal to them.”
If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.