Category: Tech Brains Talk Podcast

How to use AI effectively to sell B2B services

 

We all are aware that Artificial Intelligence is influencing our lives and businesses. How can we use AI effectively in business? Flavilla was joined by Ralph Varcoe, who is Chief Revenue Officer of now ai, the world’s first AI-powered sales intelligence engine for a new era in B2B service selling. Through this article, you will discover how to use AI effectively to sell B2B serices and the insights into the future of AI by the expert himself. 

Ralph’s journey in the world of AI 

Ralph never intended to get into AI, though he had always been in technology companies. However, when he was presented with an opportunity in 2016, he happened to meet an amazing start up, spirit ai. They used IBM Watson’s technology to innovate within the gaming market. He was fascinated by what the start up company was doing and spent several months demonstrating this technology to different gaming companies. 

While devoting himself to ai and sales, Ralph realised that the people play a crucial role in growing a business and utilising data that they have. “You are not really selling to the companies, rather you’re working with individuals, identifying their problems and helping them find a solution”. Often people think of sales as being pushy and making people buy what you are selling. However, this is not true. It’s all about positioning yourself in the context of what you know and what your customer wants to do so that they make a decision. Technology is an enabler to make great people even greater at what they do.

 

How now ai has changed the customer experience

A security vendor is now an ai customer. They looked at a whole range of customers on behalf of the company. One of them happened to be a financial services organisation that uses now ai to monitor all the information and key variables. They had lots of deep insights into the financial services market, such as “what are the key trends?”. By pulling all the information into it, analysing it, looking for relevant and valuable information, and discarding quite a lot of information that isn’t relevant to the company, they can surface up the specific contextual information. This gives them a conversation with the account director so that they have something specific that they can go and talk about.

Additionally, they were able to identify a micro-signal that was being sent out by a financial institution. The company wasn’t actually stating that they were going to do something, it wasn’t part of their stated strategy. But now ai could see how things were moving, how other banks were working, and what the financial institution was saying. They then spotted some changes and pulled all that data together and pushed it through to the security vendor. As a result, the security vendor was able to have proactive conversations with the key executives of their customers. They told Ralph that they would never want to be without the ai service again. They knew what to talk about, not just in general terms, but specifically with a targeted individual. Also, how it related to what that financial institution was trying to do in the context of the financial industry. 

This is how now ai is providing value. They pulled together all the different data points, sifted through them and surfaced up something highly contextualised. This enabled their client to have a very different, and meaningful  conversation with their customer.

 

Will AI replace human roles?

Now the world is questioning whether AI can really replace human beings. Ralph shared with us his view on the subject; 

As a matter of fact, AI is able to filter a lot of data that will take a lot of time to do for human beings. Everybody assumes that an AI system is intelligent from the second it is created. But in fact “it’s more like having children, you have to train them”. AI can make decisions about what is and isn’t relevant, however, it has to be processed through the human filter afterwards. The technology isn’t as good as humans at turning that data into an articulated human conversation. There’s a whole psychology around human interaction, which AI is unable to understand. 

 

When should you integrate AI as part of your sales process?

 Although AI is constantly evolving, it is just an enabler. You can’t replace everything with technology. You still need to have the best salespeople who’ve got the best skills to build relationships. Ralph believes that any B2B organisation needs the best salespeople as most organisations intend to sell high value products. In order to get high level individuals, you have to ensure that your salespeople have got passion, intelligence, and is able to empathise with others. 

AI enables and equips those people to be even better at what they do. It’s not about AI replacing people, and it is not about AI being the answer because you can have the best intelligence. If a really great account director or new business salesperson is given the sales intelligence, they will use it to drive what they’re doing. 

From his point of view, companies should make use of AI as early as possible in their sales process, as the more informed the more intelligent every salesperson is, the better it is for them to build the relationships.

 

The customer acquisition journey

There are mainly two phases that now ai has taken in their journey: Cast your net wide and be reasonably specific. 

In the beginning, you have to go through a marketing awareness phase where you let people know what you do. You want them to know you exist. For now ai, they want the world to know about contextualised sales intelligence and conversations. Then, in the next stage, you need to be specific. Now ai targets specific executives within large tech companies. You can do that when you are absolutely certain that a company is your customer already. Alternatively, you know that they’re an absolute definite acquisition target for you. 

This approach can be applied to any tech business. Raise awareness through your marketing and be specific. Understand your target customers so that you can get people at the right time when they have a need or want to buy the services that you offer.

 

The future of now ai

They are seeing some great traction with some really great customers. For example, Bentley Systems, which is a provider to the construction engineering industry, have been with now ai for over a year. They’ve now expanded the number of accounts that now ai manages. It is working brilliantly. Bentley Systems is one of Microsoft’s largest ISVs and Microsoft benefits every time they sell a new service to their customers. In fact, Microsoft has acknowledged just how amazing it is. It helps salespeople and account teams to accelerate what they’re doing. This grows customer intimacy to be much more targeted and relevant. 

Now ai is embracing the bright future, driving things forward and adding value to as many companies as they can in the tech space.

About the speaker

Ralph Varcoe is Chief Revenue Officer of now ai. It is an AI platform that enables salespeople to sell more by providing contextualised and targeted sales conversations. These can use immediately with their customer executives.

For over 20 years, he has run sales and marketing teams across large enterprises and smaller start-ups, at companies such as Orange, Tata Communications, Virgin Media, Spirit Ai and others.

He’s also an author and musician with a passion for creating – be that change, the right solution, exciting campaigns, the right environment for customers to succeed, or podcasts, videos and written content.

 Visit now ai.com. Click on the calendar and get a half hour or an hour slot with him or one of the team members.

 

An Effective Strategy for Fundraising During a Pandemic


Are you struggling to raise funds during this pandemic? Yvonne shared her expertise and what entrepreneurs should do during this time to get funds from VCs. She has invested over £200 million in a wide range of startups across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. You will discover an effective strategy for fundraising during a pandemic. 

Yvonne’s journey in the world of VC

Yvonne started her career in banking at Goldman Sachs, but very early on, she realised that banking wasn’t for her. She embarked on a career in strategy consulting before she caught the entrepreneurship bug and decided to enter the world of venture capital. Her first investment role was at the Japanese investment giant, Mitsui where she was responsible for corporate venture capital activity across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Although she felt a little bit out of her depth when she joined as a senior investment manager, she jumped at the opportunity. She advises anyone to take chances where they make sense even if you do not feel 100% read. 

In 2019, she decided to join Impact X, a UK based venture capital fund that invests underrepresented entrepreneurs. Now, as a principal at Impact X, she is investing in companies led by exceptional underrepresented entrepreneurs. 

How should entrepreneurs raise investments in this pandemic?

Yvonne’s shared five tips for entrepreneurs looking to raise capital:

1. Be transparent 

One of the key things during this period of uncertainty is transparency. Investors are interested in knowing how the business was doing before COVID and what the company is doing to get through this pandemic. For example, if revenues go down by 30%, entrepreneurs have to be transparent about it. Investors are going to understand that in this environment readjusting your assumption may be required so don’t be afraid to share any challenges you may be facing.

2. Understand your competitors from a broader perspective

Some of the critical mistakes that entrepreneurs tend to make are, surprisingly, claiming that you don’t have any competition. There will always be some level of competition. A great example is Uber. When Uber started, there were several taxis services which were their competitors. At that time, there wasn’t many other tech-enabled taxi services, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have any competitors. Yvonne is always surprised by the number of competitors that she can identify on Google search, but they have not been mentioned in the meetings with entrepreneurs. 

You have to research your field thoroughly and be prepared to discuss the competitive landscape before presenting it to a VC.

3. Show that your products are in demand 

Proving your products or services are in demand in the market is vital. A tech company called Marshmallow won Yvonne’s heart just because of their knowledge of the market and their clear traction. The company has only been operating for a short period. However, they have been able to prove that their products are needed since they are trying to tackle a real problem. Marshmallow provides insurance to immigrants and migrants. Typically, the rate of insurance offered by the incumbents is much higher. It’s because they don’t use additional data points, unlike Marshmallow. The company made the proposition very clear and showed that there was a real demand for their product, which was why they successfully attracted the investor. 

4. Have a great team

The team’s ability to navigate in the current environment impressed Yvonne

Having a great team is imperative when raising investment. Investors are looking for a team’s ability to withstand a crisis. During this period, in particular, the team’s ability to navigate in the current environment impressed Yvonne. Some of you might hear that people tend to invest in companies or startups which have more than one founder. There are exceptions, but it helps to have a co-founder when times get tough. 

5. Being passionate

Being transparent, knowledgeable and having a great team is vital. But, the most fundamental point is how passionate you are. Venture capitalists invest in a company for the long term. They want to make sure that an entrepreneur is in it for the long term so show your motivation and make it clear why you’re doing your business, why you are able to win and why now. 

Do founders have to change their business operation? What are the things they should look at? 

Ultimately founders need to pivot for two reasons: When something isn’t quite right with their model, or external influences forces them to rethink their operations such as a financial crisis.  

For many companies, moving quickly to adapt to this current crisis is really a matter of survival or completely perishing. Even if your company is not doing too badly in the immediate aftermath of this pandemic, every company should be thinking about how can you ensure that you are well-positioned to monetise your products. If you weren’t previously monetising your products, you have to ask yourself, ‘are there ways in which you can monetise your product?’. The net burn is key in this environment. 

Another thing you need to rethink is focusing on your specific strengths. Make sure that you’re taking calculated risks. If you’re thinking about shifting into a new area, make sure that it’s something that makes sense for you. 

Core Music adapted to the situation from enabling people to book musicians for events to switching to a marketplace for recording music messages, since there were no events taking place. This company now enables musicians to generate an income irrespective of the fact that events are no longer taking place. Core Music is an excellent example of how the company has adjusted its business model, finding out a way to monetise their service given the environment change. At the same time, they are also keeping their users engaged. Consumer-facing businesses have to think about how to keep their customers involved during this pandemic even if they are not able to provide a service that the company was able to offer initially. 

Don’t stop communicating with them, otherwise, they will forget about you!

What is the best way to approach VCs in this situation?

Generally speaking, the industry always prefers warm introductions; however, if you have to send a cold message, make it clear, concise and relevant to the VC you are reaching out to.

Utilise Linkedin

A lot of entrepreneurs don’t think cold emails are worth it, but it is. One of the great things about this pandemic is everyone’s at home. This means that people are checking social media more and are more willing to have a conversation with you. 

For example, if you’re a founder and you have a 12 to 18 months runway, you should use that as your advantage to build relationships with investors for your next round. It may be that you say, ‘hey, can we have a chat for 10 minutes, I’d love to get your advice since you are investing in a company operating in the same industry as me’. And before you know, that advice could turn into a fundraising conversation. Yvonne had a conversation with an entrepreneur using this approach. After the webinar she organised, an entrepreneur reached out to her, saying ‘Something you said resonated with me, and it’s related to our business. Can I hear your thoughts on our business?’. She was more than willing to have that conversation because she liked the fact that they’d listened to her chat and found it interesting. Now she is exploring their business. 

What underrepresented founders should do to get investment? 

As mentioned in Yvonne’s background, there are huge disparities in investment. In the past, many VCs only invested in their networks, such as individuals that were similar to them. It’s common for an individual with an underrepresented background not to resonate as much as you would with an individual such as Yvonne. Also, a lack of access to the right network was a problem. This is one of the reasons why Impact was founded and focused mainly on those underrepresented founders. She hopes that in 10-15 years, we’re no longer talking about underrepresented founders. 

How should entrepreneurs bear themselves after this pandemic?

Entrepreneurs should be mindful of the fact that fundraising has slowed down and LPs have been facing challenges themselves. You perhaps need to expand a way to try to raise for a period of 18 – 24 months to weather the storm.

It has been a difficult time for many businesses. However, companies do continue to grow and scale-up during any financial crisis. Airbnb and Uber are great examples of riding on the wave of a shift in consumer behaviour that emerged from the financial crisis. It’s about digging deep and identifying new potential opportunities. 

About the speaker

Yvonne Bajela is a Founding Member and Principal at Impact X Capital, a UK based venture capital fund founded to support underrepresented entrepreneurs. Over the last five years, Yvonne has invested over £200 million in various startups across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. A board member and passionate leader, Yvonne is a champion for diverse entrepreneurs and a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. You can reach out to her on LinkedinTwitterInstagram (@YvonneBajela). Also, visit impact X

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How to become a lucky tech millionaire

What if you could be a tech millionaire? We were glad to have Marc Defosse on Tech Brains Talk podcast to discuss ‘How to become a lucky tech millionaire’. He shared his journey from which you can find inspiration and lessons. Through this article, you will see his struggles and the attitude that overcame the difficulties. 

Marc’s start on tech career

Marc started his career at Accenture in the French office. While working there for some time, he had excellent friends that had bombarded him with their dream of going to Australia. Marc had always felt the urge to go to Australia. So, he asked Accenture if they could transfer him to the Sydney office in 2000 when the Olympics were happening there. Although the company transferred him, he did’t like the experience since the company told him that he had to pay for his own expenses.

 

He decided to move to Onyx Software, which was a key company in his career since most of his achievements were due to the experience he gained from this company. He worked for Onyx Software for three years in Sydney until they moved him to Brisbane, where he had one of his biggest clients. Then, he started a job with Sony Music which he knew absolutely nothing about. Marc always tells people “if you are feeling out of place, don’t worry, it gets better.”

Marc’s tech journey in the UK

When he arrived in England, he was working as a freelancer with a French entrepreneur. He was doing online training, marketing automation, and many other things, which were advanced for 2003. 2 years later, a guy from OnyX Software called him and offered him a contract in Islington and Ealing Council. He had an advantage compared to others since he was in a niche market, which very few people knew about. Marc was told to make a CRM to manage books but he didn’t find this very logical. Since he was going to manage the project, he took the opportunity.  

After a while, he argued with OnyX Software as what he had done for the company didn’t quite match his salary. As a result, the company fired him. He then proceeded to start a job at Carbon Trust, but unfortunately, the company fired him.  

In 2008 people were really struggling to find a job due to the 2007 financial crisis. Even Marc, who had project management experience in well-known companies, wasn’t an exception. He sent hundreds of resumes over three months, and he didn’t get a single interview. He went back to Macmillan Publishers and asked them if they had any jobs available. They offered him a job that was only for 45 days. One of his tasks was to review a quote of £300,000 from Onyx Software. He realised that it was made with offshore resources. Therefore, he would have expected a lower price. He wrote a summary with this note: “If that product was going to be built in England, it would cost them £296,000 with a contractor like me”. 

Later, the company contacted Marc and asked him if he could make a presentation on that proposal to the board of directors. Marc didn’t have experience in giving presentations at a director level, but, with help from his sister who was working at IBM, he managed to win them over with his pitch. The reason for his success, Marc believes, is down to luck in him being there at the right time, at the right place.

The start of Ribbonfish

Since he showed his capability, he gained the trust of the company. He hired people and continued to work with them. However, Macmillan Publishers decided to make everything in house, which lead to him taking another tech journey. He contacted someone he knew in London asking if they would be interested in hiring someone like him free of charge for one month so that they could see Marc’s skills and talent. He reached out to the Business Systems Director and even got the opportunity to go to New York where he met Salesforce. At that time, he didn’t know anything about Salesforce but managed to implement the new system for the company. 

Through his various tech experience, he established Ribbonfish, which aims to solve problems in the publishing sector by CRM and business integration technology. The company then became partners with Salesforce.

From his tech journey, we can identify 3 key things on how to become a lucky tech millionaire:

  • Seize the opportunity

Take advantage of an opportunity when offered. Marc’s friends inspired him to go to Australia, where he gained new experiences that influenced his career path. When Macmillan Publishers gave him a job, he not only carried his task but also produced a proposal which brought about his new projects. Think about how you can utilise an opportunity. Even if you are in a difficult situation, it might be an opportunity to improve yourself and change your life. 

  • Reach out to people 

When Marc moved to the next step, he reached out to people and asked for their help to seek new opportunities. He asked his sister for help when he needed to deliver a presentation and got in touch with his contacts when finding a job. You don’t need to do everything by yourself, rather, try to see if someone can help you. It might be more efficient and you may get an even better result than you anticipated. 

  • Be tenacious 

You will see from Marc’s journey that he never gave up. He went through several difficult times, including being kicked out, being unable to get a single job interview despite his experience, and working for free. Despite these challenging times, he always persevered . We can see that he is a tenacious person who overcomes challenges by always trying no matter the circumstance. This character might be essential to become a tech millionaire. 

About the speaker 

Marc Defosse studied engineering in Paris and La Rochelle. Afterwards, he completed a post-grad in business administration in Marseille. He joined Accenture in Paris, a big five technology consultancy. He worked on CRM projects for the likes of Hewlett Packard and transferred to Sydney within a year. After a few months, he joined a CRM vendor, Onyx software, that he worked for, for three years. In 2003, he moved to London and, within the first two years, built and managed a Day-trading website targeted at the French market. He made a living from ads and the training he was running online or face to face.

Furthermore, in 2005, he received a call from an ex-employee of Onyx and started as a contractor for Islington council. He moved to Ealing council late and then Macmillan Publishers, where he managed a project on behalf of Onyx. Though still a one-person band, this was the foundation for what would become Ribbonfish. In 2008, Macmillan Publishers decided to trust him to deliver the next phase of their projects. This was the start of Ribbonfish.

From then on, Ribbonfish has continued to grow in the Publishing sector exclusively, now with 20 employees. It has an offshore team in India, and prestigious clients in both US and UK. It is also helping small and large publishers like them to automate their business processes and become more efficient through analysing and implementing different solutions. Their favourite platforms and technologies include Salesforce, Azure, WSO2, Java, C# and Javascript. 

Contact him by Email or LinkedIn. Visit Ribbonfish

How to scale your tech business and deliver your vision while working with your competitors

 

Are you trying to grow your tech business? Have you ever considered to work with your competitors to do so? To explore this subject, Flavilla interviewed Rebecca. She is the Product and Marketing Director of Octopus Energy and works with different teams including marketers, designers and front-end developers. Her work has been central to Octopus’ success as a new type of energy provider. 

 

Rebecca’s journey in tech

 

Before she met Octopus Energy, she worked for British Gas for eight years. She says that “British Gas is a great business with great people but very constrained by a base of customers and some systems that were very hard to work with”. So, Rebecca started looking around, until she met Greg Jackson, the CEO and founder of Octopus Energy. Rebecca loved his vision of a fairer society, cheaper and greener power, that fights against climate change backed up by an incredible technology. She felt there that she could contribute to the business while contributing to a new change. Then she decided to move from British Gas to Octopus Energy. For this reason, Rebecca always advises that you should follow your gut instinct.

 

The vision of Octopus Energy 

 

Octopus Energy is set up to bring cheaper and greener power to everyone. 

Big traditional suppliers hampered by old systems, used to dominate the energy industry. The founders believed there could be a better way of delivering energy through using technology to bring down prices. Humans need to move to a world where renewable power is the norm. Fortunately, the company has been established with that sole purpose and vision. 

 

The success of Octopus Energy

 

Octopus Energy has acquired over 1.5 million customers within four years! Rebecca told us that one of the reasons for the company’s success is the people. The company makes sure they hire brilliant people. The reason of this it’s because they want people that take accountability and responsibility for the job. They believe that customer acquisition flows naturally when you trust smart people, make clear tasks and let them move fast while being creative at the same time.

 

Another reason for their success is the confident customer experience they deliver. They have trained their staff to deliver very personalised customer service. For instance, if customers call the organisation, they will deal with the customer’s query straight away, not redirecting their call from one person to another.  Therefore, all customers are put into a particular team of energy specialists, so you will always speak to the same people. As a result of having an efficient customer system, they can handle more customers per team member compared to their competitors. 

 

So, the beautiful balance of the excellent customer service delivered by brilliant people and tighter operating costs is the secret of Octopus Energy’s success. 

 

How to work with competitors?

 

It may surprise you that working with competitors helps your tech business grow. Rebecca shared an example of Octopus Energy doing this, showing the benefits it can bring to you.

 

The energy industry traditionally charges customers a fixed price per kilowatt-hour they use. However, Octopus technology helps us charge customers a different price depending on how ‘green’ energy is on the grid.  Moreover, Energy suppliers including ourselves are also looking for ways to store green energy on the grid for electric cars. Currently, we are running a trial on this while OVO Energy is doing the same in North and Scotland

 

Obviously, we want to be competitive and get more customers than others, but when you look at a higher level, climate change is one of the pressing issues of our time. We need to move away from fossil fuels and use renewable power instead. There’s a lot of energy companies looking at how they can support the energy industry by transitioning to a world where renewable power is more flexible. Many competing energy companies work alongside each other on projects looking at how to unlock greener power, with the sole purpose of fighting climate change and improving the world we live in. 

  

Try to see a bigger picture, bigger vision and the bigger purpose. Then, you can turn your competitors into partners to work with. 

 

About the speaker

 

Rebecca Dibb-Simkin is Marketing and Product Director at the multi-award-winning energy supplier tech business Octopus Energy. She works with a team of marketers, designers and front-end developers. Their sole purpose is to redefine the UK energy system by using technology, data and great people.

 

Her work has been central to Octopus’ success as a new type of energy provider. Its 100% renewable electricity, digital-first approach and in-house technology have not just won over 1.5m customers in four years; it’s powered the company’s expansion into Australia and Germany. Octopus is also the only provider to win Which? ‘s recommended energy supplier for three years in a row. Rebecca was previously Head of Product at IOT company Hive, supporting its growth as a smart home provider.

Reach out to her via Linkedin. Visit Octopus Energy’s website.

 

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