August 21, 2023

Changing the Sales Game with AI & Personalization

Katie Penner
Katie Penner

Head of Sender Relations at Sendoso
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I want to preface this blog by admitting that I am in no way an AI expert.

However, I am constantly trying to educate myself and my team to become more in-tune with current AI trends to ensure that our team is operating as efficiently as possible. I personally believe that it’s more important than ever to drive engineering and revenue alignment — GTM teams should fully understand what’s going on with the product and how AI is shaping the future.

In this blog post, you can expect:

  • My view on AI and personalization and where I believe AI can best fit into the revenue process.
  • An overview of some of the AI tools we’re currently utilizing as a revenue org and some successes and plays that we’ve used with each to hopefully inspire you to do the same for your org.
  • A peek into the future of Sendoso’s direct mail platform, powered by AI.

AI and personalization

I’m sure that we’ve all heard the narrative that AI is going to replace all sales people. However, human-to-human connection is actually more important than ever. AI should be leveraged by revenue teams to make their efforts more efficient — not to replace them. That being said, humans who leverage AI will probably end up outperforming those that don’t.

My good friend, Will Allred, the Co-Founder of one of my favorite AI tools, Lavender, said: “What does it say about the quality of our work if AI is replacing us?” and this really struck a chord with me.

People and AI bring different strengths to the table. AI tools are incredibly accurate and fast, but they aren’t empathetic, sensitive, or intuitive. That human-to-human personalization is key to standing out today. A study by Gartner reported on the percentage of customers that expect companies to be well-informed about their personalized information during an interaction: 71% for B2C and 86% for B2B. Customers don’t just want personalization, they demand it.

While technology plays a significant role in modern sales, it should never overshadow the human element. Using tools like CRM systems, automation, and AI to do things like streamlining processes, gathering insights, and to help us personalize our communication is necessary. However, we have to always remember to infuse a personal touch in our interactions, balancing that efficiency with authentic human connection to create a more seamless and memorable experience for our prospects, our clients, and our customers.

Personalization influences buyer behavior. Marketing leaders cite driving buyer engagement, completed purchases, brand loyalty, and deeping buyer relationships as the top reasons for pursuing personalization. You may be wondering: “Does personalization actually have a significant impact?” A study by McKenzie found that companies that excel at personalization generate 40% more revenue from those activities than average players.

AI Tools for Sales and Marketing Teams

So, how is our Revenue organization at Sendoso leveraging AI tools to make us way more efficient while also maintaining that human element?

The first tool that our SDRs and AEs leverage is Lavender. Lavender is an email assistant that leverages the power of AI to provide things like real-time email scoring, personalization assistance with insights into what type of email your recipient is most likely to respond to, along with ChatGPT and Catie AI that help to compose an email with just a few bullet points (my team really loves this to get a starting point email that they can work off of).

Below, you can see an example of insights that Lavender provides someone when they look me up:

Katie is a social proof seeker, procedural, and calm, good and approachable with everyone, internally and externally, she prefers to follow rules and procedures, and her motivation stems from the impact that her decisions can have on her organization.

Then it talks about the do’s and don’ts when emailing me:

Do talk about refund and cancellation policies, use phrases like ‘others say’, ‘zero risk in’, ‘seen proof of’, and focus your pitch on the impact you could help her have on her organization. Don’t use phrases like, ‘there might be’, ‘we haven’t yet’, ‘latest technology’. Avoid saying anything that sounds like a risky proposition. Don’t don the salesperson avatar, be the friendly advisor instead.

Let me tell you, these insights are spot on. It’s like they’re reading my mind. Lavender has helped our team go from 2-3% reply rates all the way up to 18-26% (dependent on persona). It’s also helped us to cut down the time spent on manual email activity significantly.

Another tool we’re leveraging is Bard AI. Similar to ChatGPT, Bard AI provides detailed information about prospects and their companies using simple prompts. Our AE org at Sendoso loves to use Bard to learn important information about a company from things like their 10-K and 10-Q reports. This makes it incredibly easy for reps to quickly understand what their prospect sells, who they sell it to, how they sell it, what their upcoming priorities are, and how Sendoso can help them achieve those goals.

Some of the prompts we use with Bard are as follows:

According to {{company}}’s most recent 10-K, what countries and regions are an important focus?

Give me a summary of {{company}}’s most recent 10-Q.

Give me examples of recent {{company}} advertising campaigns.

Bard spits out a very concise explanation of that information. We provided our team a Highspot kit that explains how to leverage Bard AI in account planning to help engage in value discussions and recommend solutions designed to fit that specific buyer’s needs.

We also use Gong. Of course, everyone probably knows that Gong records sales calls but it also provides really great insights so that we can uncover things like pipeline risks and identify winning behaviors. We can do things like highlight deal warnings — is a buyer ghosting us? Has a deal gone untouched for a certain amount of time? Is this deal only single-threaded?

Gong also does a great job of summarizing calls and highlighting key words, reporting on how many questions were asked by the AE versus the prospect, and tracking next steps.

6Sense’s intent data has been an absolute game-changer for our revenue organization. Understanding where buyers are in their journeys allows us to strike while the iron is hot with our best-fit prospects and to understand exactly what keywords are triggering their interest so that we can cater our messaging to those specific individuals. Our reps know where to focus their time and energy because they see in real-time who is showing intent and who has an interest in buying.

My team and I have created sequencing that is broken down by the following:

Whether the buyer is above-the-line or below-the-line:

  • Above-the-line (ATL) buyers are typically your VP and up. These buyers care most about the financial return on the investments they’re making.
  • Below-the-line (BTL) buyers are typically your Director and below. These buyers care about the features and benefits that your product offers: how are you going to make their lives and their team’s lives on a daily basis easier?

Then we look at which 6Sense purchase stage that individual is in.

  • Purchase/Decision: It’s safe to assume that someone in the purchase or decision stage is actively researching your company and your competitors. So, we needed to do a really good job of differentiation with these prospective buyers.
  • Consideration/Awareness: We need to do a better job of educating: What is a direct mail platform? Why should it matter to them? What results could we help them achieve with gifting?

Finally, we look at their department.

  • Are they a field marketer or a sales development manager? Our value propositions are different by persona so we curate our messaging in that way as well.

By segmenting our audience in this strategic manner, we’re able to deliver automated sequencing that seems tailored to the recipient. That leads to a significant increase in response rates while ensuring that we’re able to maintain volume.

The Future of Intelligent Direct Mail Marketing

Now, I want to dive into the future of AI with Sendoso. Why is this important to a revenue organization? Tight alignment between engineering and revenue will only become more important as AI takes a front seat in all of the ways we conduct business today.

End-to-end Campaign Optimization

One of the really exciting ways that we are going to utilize AI as a company is to automatically generate optimized puns and gift messages that our customers can use for their direct mail outreach. This will help our customers quickly determine the right message to send and tailor it to the recipient. We have tested the effectiveness of including puns in gift messages with all sorts of different personas, from C-Suite execs to individual contributors, marketers to engineers, and everyone loves a good pun. This pun generator will help our customers’ teams save time when creating effective messaging to go along with their gifts.

Why should this matter to a revenue org? Because this is a selling point, and it’ll improve open rates. We need to understand how our product is going to make our customers’ lives easier so that we can better communicate that throughout the selling process.

In the future, we’ll leverage AI to provide a more intuitive user experience for our customers, guiding them through the process of selecting, customizing, and even sending gifts. Our engineering team is utilizing an OP stack (an AI + a vector database). For those of you unfamiliar with an OP stack, open AI has this huge information database that’s essentially trained with the entire internet. Therefore, when you ask it questions, it has a tendency to hallucinate at times. (Yes, even AI hallucinates sometimes.) Adding a vector database with a tool like Pinecone gives AI a memory layer to avoid those hallucinations.

One of our brilliant engineers, Cheema, showed me a chatbot that he and his team are developing, and then we looked at a chatbot that another company in the gifting space has developed. We gave their chatbot a simple prompt: “What should I send someone in college?” Their chatbot narrowed down to gift categories that it believed to be relevant, such as education and technology. Of course, any narrowing down of options is helpful. However, as we scrolled through the options, we saw irrelevant results like educational toys made for children, not for college students.

The gifting assistant bot that our team here at Sendoso is building is much more intuitive in comparison. You can give it a prompt like: “What’s a good gift for my calorie conscious friend who loves cheesecake?” and the bot will suggest a cheesecake sampler, so that they can indulge in a portion controlled manner. But that’s not all. You can also give this bot the prompt: “Send a gift meant for someone who is calorie conscious but loves cheesecake,” then this gifting assistant bot will find that cheesecake sampler gift, compose the notecard for you, and complete the send. It will complete the entire send process for you after being given a simple prompt.

This will be absolutely game-changing for our prospects and customers: a smart AI tool that they can trust to not only select a highly curated gift but to also complete the entire send process? It’s incredible! So by communicating with our engineering department more regularly, our revenue org is becoming more empowered to speak to the product roadmap and to what customers can expect in the future. This has enabled our revenue team to close more deals with more confidence than ever before.

Intelligent Shipping

In the future, we can also utilize AI to optimize warehouse operations, like inventory management and shipping logistics, to ensure timely deliveries and minimize cost for our customers. We currently utilize AI for things like order waiving (attaching inventory to orders based on shipping timelines), rate shopping (finding the optimized fulfillment option that gives our clients the best cost), and performing quality audits.

In the future, we can see Sendoso using AI to help route orders to the most optimal warehouse based on capacity, time, labor cost, inventory availability, and outbound connections. We can also see using AI to track inventory, consumption levels, to generate recommendations on send trigger dates while factoring in shipping methods and cost predicted by AI. And, finally, we see ourselves utilizing AI to analyze transactions to prevent things like fraud.

As Sendoso looks to expand, AI will become an even more integral part of our fulfillment optimization on behalf of our clients. Ensuring that our revenue org has a deep understanding of what our engineering team is developing with AI is critical to communicating our future plans effectively.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics will also be huge for us. Sendoso will be able to feed historical data to AI so that AI can make recommendations to our customers based on what similar companies are sending, which gifts and campaigns are the most successful for the stage of the sales cycle their prospect is in, and more. We will also be able to provide more personalized trend data for individual users that will add a more detailed layer of tracking and make it even easier to report on the success of various direct mail campaigns.

Don’t get left behind!

If you take nothing else from this blog, I’d like you to walk away with this: if you are in sales, sales development, or marketing the time to take a deep dive and to learn more about AI is now. Educate yourself. Ask your engineering team questions about how AI is currently being leveraged at your company and how they think AI will be leveraged in the future. Like I mentioned earlier, people who utilize AI will begin to outperform those who don’t — so make sure that you begin leveraging AI and exploring AI tools to ensure that you and your team become more efficient. Then you can focus more on things, like building strong relationships with your prospects and customers.

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