July 5

Adam Honig on The Impact Of AI On Sales


Adam is passionate about helping companies make more money using artificial intelligence, and is the driving force behind Spiro’s pioneering new approach: proactive relationship management. As CEO, he is focused on the company’s overall strategy and vision.

Previously, Adam co-founded a software company which he led through its successful IPO and sale. Afterwards, he founded Innoveer, one of the largest CRM consulting firms, which was successfully acquired by Cloud Sherpas (and then Accenture).

[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]

Umar Hameed 0:01
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello everyone! My name is Umar Hameed, I'm your host on The No Limits Selling Podcast, where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how you can become better, stronger, faster. Just before we get started, I've got a question for you, do you have a negative voice inside your head? We all do, right? I'm gonna help you remove that voice and under 30 days guaranteed, not only remove it, but transform it. So instead of the voice that sabotages you, there's one that propels you to much higher levels of performance and success. There's a link in the show notes, click on it to find out more. All right! Let's get started.

Umar Hameed 0:40
Hey, everyone, welcome to another episode of The No Limits Selling Podcast where we interview leaders and how they grow their revenue, their people and themselves. But before we get started, super excited, we're getting super close to releasing our app, Mindset Boosters. And Mindset Boosters will give you the ability to decide how you show up in life. So for whatever reason, that particular morning, you've had a fight with the miss's or the dog ate your homework and you're not in the mood, listen to a track and it shows you how to take charge your mindset and you can go from feeling like a four out of ten to a nine out of ten ready for that meeting. 55 tracks that help you where and when you need it all in the palm of your hand. And today, happy to have Adam Honig with us today, he is the head honcho at Spiro.ai. Welcome to the program.

Adam Honig 1:28
Thanks, Umar. Nice to be with you.

Umar Hameed 1:29
So did I pronounce the company name right?

Adam Honig 1:31
I usually say Spiro and we come from the word "spirare", which is Latin for breathe, and we're trying to breathe new life into probably what's the most hated area of technology today?

Umar Hameed 1:44
CRM maybe?

Adam Honig 1:45
Yes, exactly. You figured it out.

Umar Hameed 1:47
So what's gonna be interesting is you gotta love salespeople. "Listen, boss, you want me to do the CRM or you want me to sell you make up your mind? What do you want to do?" Is like such a great response to...

Adam Honig 1:58
Yeah. I think that you know, most people, you know, I met with one sales leader actually the other day, who told me that if when he starts in a new sales leadership job, the first thing that he does is fire all the people who are really good at putting data into CRM, because he knows that they're not selling.

Umar Hameed 2:14
Yep, that is a litmus test. "Do you like the CRM?" "There is the door?" "Get out of here."

Adam Honig 2:19
Exactly. Yeah, no, it's really, you know, I mean, serum was a great concept when it was invented. But I think that, you know, today, it's really just a tool of oppression for salespeople. That's the way I look at it.

Umar Hameed 2:30
But there is a value there, right? In terms of you know, that customer X went to this website, he was at this page for 12 seconds or two minutes, he went to the pricing page looked at it, and it gives you a tickle saying, "Hey, this customer third time to the site, he was looking at the pricing page, call him now," has value, right?

Adam Honig 2:51
Well, sure, sure. I mean, if you are have a software that's giving you advice, and telling you what to do, and maybe being proactive in helping you with things, sure, that's great. But that's, that's not what CRM is. CRM is a repository of data, often of what the salesperson herself has done, that she needs to manually enter and update and, you know, mostly, so that, you know, her manager can have the damn reports that she wants. So, you know, that's that's kind of what it is. It's not really, you know, I think what you're describing is excellent, but that's not what the reality of the situation is

Umar Hameed 3:26
True. So, what are you offering in its place, so "No CRM, I'm offering..."

Adam Honig 3:33
Well, so, so here's the thing, you know, I have this dream. And my dream is that there was some tool that was like serum, okay, like, like, it doesn't have to all go away, you know, it, it, you know, but, but instead of Sally and sales, you know, needing to sit down and type up her notes and enter all the information, the software just does things for them, it works in the background, and it notices everything that the salesperson is doing, who they're speaking to what's going on, the emails that they're having, and it just kind of creates a trail of the information. So the salesperson doesn't have to do anything. And then with all of that data, then it does exactly what you were saying, Umar, and being proactive and reaching out and saying, "Hey, your customer, ABC, they haven't ordered this month yet," maybe it's a good time to check in. You know, and that's what salespeople need. They don't need, you know, a place to keep their notes, salespeople are smart, they're gonna stay on top of their deals, what they need is an assistant, really, that can take all that data and help them through their day.

Umar Hameed 4:35
So let me ask you, I'm not sure if you have this data, you've come across it, you're kind of playing in the space, what percentage of time does the average salesperson have a face to face or Zoom to Zoom face time with a client. Because that's their highest value for the company is when I'm talking to customers. Do you know what percentage of time salespeople actually do that?

Adam Honig 4:56
So the numbers that I've seen kind of kicked around or something like less than 40% of the time. And you know, that sounds about right to me. You know, and if you know, even if, you know, we can increase that to 50%.

Umar Hameed 5:10

Adam Honig 5:11
Through, I mean, it would be a game changer, the economy would go up three points a year, just on that alone, come on.

Umar Hameed 5:18

Adam Honig 5:18
So no, it'd be it'd be amazing, you know. So that's, you know, that's the kind of thing that I think we can achieve using technologies like AI, you know, no doubt.

Umar Hameed 5:26
So well, let me go back aways, I'm probably going to screwed this up. But I think it might have been Turing, one of the father of computers said, you know, we would have reached a certain plateau. If you could have communication with a computer and not know you were talking to a machine, I think it was, like 10 minutes or something, was the time was some level of time. And we're getting darn close to that now, where you can have...

Adam Honig 5:50

Umar Hameed 5:50
...a conversation with a machine and not realize you're talking to a machine. Like if I'm talking to a machine and it says, "Umar, you're handsome, and you're charming, and you're funny," we know it's a machine. It's not a human. But other than that, we're getting close. So the question I want to framing up is this, according to Forrester Research, that probably 80% of salespeople are going to go away, because AI is going to take over, and the chosen few that are left will be, you know, gods that walk among us, because there'll be the people that need to close complex sales, that human to human connection. Thoughts on that, do you think that's going to happen?

Adam Honig 6:25
I don't think that that's going to happen. And I'll tell you why. You know, people. So first of all, from an AI perspective, so Spiro, my company, we use a lot of advanced machine learning and, and modeling to help salespeople, but, you know, so I'm really deep into this. And I'll tell you, the state of the technology is good, but it's not, you know, it's like a seven year old kid. You know, it's like, you're like, "Oh, yeah, he's really cute. Look at the things he can do. That's great." But it's nowhere near the point of what a professional salesperson can do in terms of understanding the needs of a potential customer, building empathy, with them really understanding how to solve their problem, it's able to predict, you know, a lot of the times the next word, I should type in an email, especially if it's looking forward to speaking to you next week,

Umar Hameed 7:15

Adam Honig 7:15
or something like that. But, but no, I don't agree I and what Forrester does, which I don't completely agree in their methodologies. They also, when they count salespeople, they're also counting like, people who work at cash registers, and ring up orders...

Umar Hameed 7:31

Adam Honig 7:32
...and markets and drugstores and things like that. And these are I'm sure, these are very fine professions for people to be in. But that's not sales to me, yes, your sales associate at a store who's ringing you up on the cash register, maybe they're gonna get replaced by AI, but a professional salesperson who does the things I described, I think we're maybe never or a really long time away from replacing them.

Umar Hameed 7:55
So it's gonna be interesting, because I think I'm split on that, because I think there are things that AI could do. And like when we throw a chunk of data at AI and say, "Well, we know these things are cancers. And here are the 50 X-rays before this moment." See if we could figure out if there were any precursors that we can't see as humans that you can see . AI really good at doing stuff like that, looking at that data,

Adam Honig 7:55
Yeah. For sure.

Umar Hameed 7:56
and uncovering patterns. And I suspect, it will probably get really good at listening to 1000s of salesperson conversations. I've got a friend of mine that runs a company, I forget the name of it exec you something. And what they do is they unite having a sales conversation, it's recording everything. And when the boss wants to listen to that recording, they don't have to listen to all of it, which is like time consuming. They can just go, "When did Umar go for the close," and the AI will go right down to that part of the conversation and says, "This is where the close happened." Where was there an objection, it'll automatically go to that section of the recording. So we're getting closer, I wonder if we might get there faster, because most of the time, people already know what they want. They're looking on the internet, and they kind of have a sense of this is what I want. And the final gatekeeper is a salesperson.

Adam Honig 9:10
Well, you know, again, I'm not sure that I agree. And I'm perfectly happy to be wrong about all of this but I think that people don't know what they want. And I think that people have often have a vague picture of what the challenges that they're facing. And by going through, you know, a process to understand what that is, is a very essential part of the selling process. And, you know, we you know, we were just talking I was just right before this podcast, I was talking with a company, medical equipment company, you know, and they're dealing with some challenges in their business and we just kept digging in and in and into what what the issue really was and it was a little bit like a therapy session, you know.

Umar Hameed 9:48

Adam Honig 9:48
And by the end of it, you know, like, like the person I'll be speaking to, it's like, "Yes, our problem is really all about the errors that are being created in our sales process and how that's hurting patients." And, you know, he, he knew coming into the call that there was something but he was not really able to articulate what that was. And I, again, you know, I'm not sure that the AI is going to have that level of nuance to make that happen.

Umar Hameed 10:12
I agree 100%. I stand corrected that level of connection and especially when you can give your customer an insight. Because oftentimes, they don't know what the problem is, they're looking at a symptom and it would take a really talented salesperson to help them realize what it was. So yeah, I think there's areas where humans would be better. But also, I suspect, if I got 20 average salespeople, I wonder if three of them could have done that, and half of them would have given up and gone away, and the other half would have struggled a bit. So there is also talented salespeople versus not.

Adam Honig 10:47
Well, and that's true of everything. But, but here's what I think is going to happen and I think this is how you're going to know that we're on the path to this. We're gonna have Iron Man suits for salespeople, right? And we're gonna have the Google Glass that they're going to wear that's going to be like, "Oh, I don't think Umar is paying attention on this call," or, you know, "No, that was the wrong thing to say." There's gonna be like, augmented reality for selling way before there's just AI selling.

Umar Hameed 11:13
Yeah, agreed. That makes perfect sense.

Adam Honig 11:15
So that's, yeah, go ahead.

Umar Hameed 11:17
So before we started this conversation, I was saying, you know, "What made you start your company?" you said, "There was a movie," and I said, "What was the movie? So I'm gonna cue this thing up because it's a she might be on the call with us, I've got my smartphone here. The name of the movie was her." Where were you watching this and how did that spark an idea to start a company?

Adam Honig 11:34
Yeah. Well, I'll tell you, we, so I, before I started Spiro, I started a company called Innoveer which we grew to be one of the largest salesforce.com partners in the world. And I sold that business in 2012. And as it so happens, when you're running and starting a business, you don't have a lot of time for things. So I hadn't gotten to see the movies in a long time. So I finally got to go after I sold the business. I saw the movie, "Her". And it really kind of blew me away if you're not familiar with it, Joaquin Phoenix, in the slightly advanced future downloads a new app on his phone, which is an AI assistant. And it's played by the voice of Scarlett Johansson. Umar, she does not appear in the film, physically, just her voice. But, but even the voice is enough so that he falls in love with her. And she's helping him through his day and he's giving him an advice, his life gets so much better. And I'm watching this movie and I'm like, you know, salespeople don't need Salesforce, but they need a Scarlett Johansson helping them through all their day. And that's, that's sort of the origin story. Yeah. Now, we tried to get her involved in the whole project, she was doing another movie. So she's not on board with Spiro, we still, we think in the future, she'll get on board. But so the concept of having an assistant, you know, who does all of that work for hardworking salespeople is really the idea behind Spiro. So we took it directly from the movies that way.

Umar Hameed 12:58
Nice. Because I think at the end of the day, the salespeople are, you know, the tip of the spear for companies, I was doing a retreat for a catering company. And we had, you know, the entire team there all the leadership around the table. And so at one of the sessions, I went to the head of sales, it's like, what has to happen for you to get involved? Somebody goes to the website, and they say, "Looking to get married," and it says, "Okay, we take a look that lead and then we do this, but how do you know how to do that?" And they go, "Well, we know we need to do this step because of this," then what's the next step? By the time they were finished, they had 67 steps in what they did. And part of it was, you know, getting the chef involved, what's the menu, here's the tasting, I would do feedback. And so about a month later, I was in that facility and one of the people in the kitchen was like talking about, "Those lazy, good for nothing salespeople, all they do is play golf all day and goof off and we do all the hard work," and the head chef goes, "No, you have no idea what they have to go through to make sure we all have jobs." So yeah, sales from the outside looks like it's they got it easy play golf and eat steaks but it is such a critical part of the company. And so if we can get them to get more customer time and less drudgery of taking notes, or researching where to go, if we can keep them in front of customers, company gets the highest ROI and salespeople love selling and everybody wins. So, so take me through a tale of two salespeople, a salesperson with a CRM, what a typical morning might look like and with the Spiro of what that would look like?

Adam Honig 14:30
Sure. Well, so you know, let's call, you know, salesperson X who shows up in the morning. You know, maybe they're using Salesforce or some other antiquated CRM, and they you know, open up their computer and there it is just a blank sheet of paper, giving them no advice of what to do for the day. And so they can, you know, go ahead and maybe look at a list of deals that they're working on, manually sorted themselves and figure out what they need to do and come up with a, a plan of people to reach out to...

Umar Hameed 15:02
But hold on a lot of...

Adam Honig 15:03

Umar Hameed 15:03
...CRMs actually give them, "Hey, today you had these 12 calls scheduled."

Adam Honig 15:06
All right. Because you manually entered all of those reminders.

Umar Hameed 15:11
That is true. That is true.

Adam Honig 15:12
Yep, yep, yep, yep. So maybe you did a good job with that. And you know, what else is really crazy is maybe two weeks ago, you were like, "Hey, I need to call Umar. So I'm going to set a reminder to call them you know, two weeks in the future," but something happened, what happened in between them is you emailed him, and he called you up a week ago, and you had this whole conversation. So what pops up on his Salesforce is an out of date reminder.

Umar Hameed 15:12
Yup. True.

Adam Honig 15:12
Because Salesforce is not smart enough to know, "Hey, we actually had this great conversation, I don't need to do that." And so I would say that about half of the reminders that are going to be popping up on this day for the Salesforce user, are going to be complete garbage. And they're probably not even going to dismiss them, they're such garbage, they're just going to be like, yeah. You know, so they're, they're gonna start their day, let's say some of the reminders are appropriate, they'll make a phone call, which means looking up a phone number, dialing the number in or getting the person on the phone, you know, hopefully they connect with them, you know, taking down a bunch of notes, you know, maybe after they do their notes manually on a piece of paper, they're going to type it into Salesforce. I would hope that they would then send a recap email to their customer based upon the conversation that they had, right?

Umar Hameed 16:20

Adam Honig 16:20
Would you agree that would be...

Umar Hameed 16:21
Of course.

Adam Honig 16:21
...best practice.

Umar Hameed 16:21
[Garbled] and useful, yeah.

Adam Honig 16:23
Yeah. So we do that we send the recap, and we move on, and maybe, you know, maybe I'm just thinking out loud here before lunch, we're able to have, you know, three or four conversations with things. So that's, that's kind of the way that I see the morning going for salesperson X. Now, the difference with Spiro, is that Spiro you know, all by itself has been looking for the people that salesperson Y needs to be reaching out to. And it does that based upon, you know, deals that are in flight customers that you haven't spoken to in a while, the order volume that occurred with all of your customers over time. And so when you turn on Spiro in the morning, your assistant is basically saying, "Hey, here are the five most important people that I think you need to reach out to this morning," you know. And you know, within Spiro, you know, our solution comes with a built in calling system, so you just click on the person's phone number,

Umar Hameed 17:20
It dials.

Adam Honig 17:21
It rings, right through, you know, you hopefully have a conversation, let's say you do spirit transcribes the conversation for you. So there's no need to take notes, you know, the beauty about not taking notes is you can be very present. And we talked about this a minute ago, obviously, the best salespeople are very present, they're able to really listen and focus on what's going on, not the process of recording it, right? And so so you're able to, you know, have a bunch of conversations, you're able to go from one conversation to the next because, you know, it's all been captured for you, you know. And you can write those recaps and everything, when you're done going through, you know, speaking to everybody that needs to be done on your time, you don't have to worry about it all being forgotten. So I would venture to say, you know, my goal for the morning would be that using Spiro, the salesperson was able to have one better conversation during the day, you know, during the morning, excuse me, then the typical Salesforce user. And I would say one or two additional conversations a week, even would would generate a substantial ROI.

Umar Hameed 18:24
Definitely. So when you're talking to potential customers that are already invested in a CRM, whether their salespeople are bitching or not about it, and then you come along, what does that conversation look like? And what convinces people say, "We want to switch," and what are the holdouts holding on to? Because they probably realized this is better but...

Adam Honig 18:44
Yeah. So the question that I usually ask sales leaders when I meet with them is, "Do you feel like your team is having enough conversations with customers and prospects?"

Umar Hameed 18:54

Adam Honig 18:55
And, you know, there's really only two answers to that question. Answer. One is no, I'd like them to have more. Answer two is, I don't know. And a lot of people just don't know,

Umar Hameed 19:06

Adam Honig 19:07
you know, how many they're having. And I feel like in both cases, Spiro is very well suited to help with that challenge. Now, don't get me wrong, you know, people, you know, have success with other platforms, and I'm very happy for them. But our focus industries are manufacturing, distribution, and wholesale, that's we're, we're focused the entire company. And in the supply chain, a lot of these companies, honestly, they're, they're using Excel as their CRM.

Umar Hameed 19:37

Adam Honig 19:37
They' re not necessarily using a platform. And the reason why is they're their sales teams. Well, they're not the most technologically advanced folks. So we have a customer who's the largest spray foam manufacturer in the United States. Most of their salespeople came from the construction industry and just are not that tech savvy.

Umar Hameed 19:54

Adam Honig 19:55
So they need a solution that's just going to do all this stuff for them. And that's where spearo really shines.

Umar Hameed 20:01
Brilliant. So tell me about a success story, a company that was brought in on, may be skeptical, but it's been six months a year? And what are the results?

Adam Honig 20:11
Yeah, so we have a customer. So my customers are all, you know, really like, these companies that make these awesome products, right? And so we have a customer called Ceramic Pro, and I don't know where you live Umar, but in places that get a lot of rain and bad weather, you know, having a ceramic coating on your car can really preserve the paint and extend the life of the car. And so we have a customer who's in the business of manufacturing these coatings. And so they, you know, they're really their mission of their sales team is to sign up body shops all around the United States, to get them to, you know, carry carry their coding solution. And so they started working with Spiro, really, they were just using spreadsheets and all kinds of manual processes to do things. And they've grown their business tremendously over the the time that we've been working with them. And what they say is that it really just helps their salespeople have these quality conversations with prospects, you know, and that's what it's all about at the end of the day.

Umar Hameed 21:13
Brilliant. So what's been the increase in their sales?

Adam Honig 21:16
I'm not really at liberty to say that, but let's just say it's up tremendously.

Umar Hameed 21:21
All right, excellent. So tell us about your company, how many people in the company? How many engineers? How many salespeople?

Adam Honig 21:27
Yeah, so we're about 35 people today, we have about 15 engineers on the team, we have four, you know, sellers on the team, you know, we're expanding nicely. You know, we started the company in 2014, we've invested about $11 million in building the technology. And one of the things that you probably know about AI is that you need a lot of data to train...

Umar Hameed 21:54
Oh yeah.

Adam Honig 21:54
...the software. And so we actually ran Spiro free for 15,000 salespeople for a year to train the models that we have that supports the product today. So we've made a very big investment. We just started going to market in 2018 and we've got about about 200 customers today. So pretty rapid growth for us as well. Yeah.

Umar Hameed 21:55
So are you from the ground up built this? Or did you go to like an Amazon and got their machine learning and customized it for you?

Adam Honig 22:22
You know, we've used all kinds of different techniques to build. So we you know, for example, we use company for the transcriptions, you know, of the phone conversations, because there's no way we're going to compete with all the transcription companies out there. So we use...

Umar Hameed 22:39
[Garbled] out there, brilliant.

Adam Honig 22:40
Yeah, exactly. But some of the core algorithms around predictive behavior, those are our, you know, intellectual property there. So it's got to be a mix of everything. And of course, we're built on Amazon Web Services, and you know, databases and stuff like that so.

Umar Hameed 22:55
Brilliant. So are you a tech guy or a business guy?

Adam Honig 22:58
I think I'm mostly a business guy. My tech skills kind of ran out when Linux stopped being a popular platform so.

Umar Hameed 23:04
Right. Well, still, Linux is still around.

Adam Honig 23:07
Linux is still around. But most people when they hear Linux, they think of the guys who guard the Pharaoh they don't think of like, you know, HP Mini computer or something like that.

Umar Hameed 23:17
Those were the good old days. So before we parted company today, three questions. Number one, what's the biggest challenge you guys are facing in the landscape right now? What's the next milestone you need to hit? And how are you going to hit it?

Adam Honig 23:30
So you know, I think the biggest challenge that we face, which I think is a very common challenge for any kind of startup company is to generate awareness of the product and you know, more importantly, even the pain that we're trying to solve. And this is why we you know, we have, we go to market with a no CRM logo, like we're all about killing CRM. And we're, you know, the reason why we do that is to generate awareness and, you know, to try to play off a little controversy to have people say, "Wait a second, what is that?" and that that turns out to be a very effective way of doing it, but I would say definitely generating awareness for the businesses can definitely be a challenge.

Umar Hameed 24:11
Brilliant. So what makes you happy, Adam?

Adam Honig 24:15
There's so many things that make me happy. I mean, my I feel very fortunate to be you know, where I am today in the world every day I wake up and think that to be you know, living, you know, here in the US with my family and have everything we need and have a great opportunity to build a business that's that's really just a blessing, so I feel very, very good about that. But you know, personally, I enjoy the satisfaction of talking to people and helping people with problems, I'd say that's the thing for me that really gets me out of bed and wanting to build a business, that's, that's just a such a great thing when we can see that come true.

Umar Hameed 24:52
And so are you a sales guy? Are you talking to customers on a daily basis?

Adam Honig 24:56
I'm talking to customers on a daily basis, absolutely. Every chance I get I mean, there's a lot of other things that as CEO, the business I need to deal with the Finance and the HR and all the admin and stuff like that. But, you know, it's really talking to customers, that's the best.

Umar Hameed 25:09
So what is a mind hack or a tip you could share with people that you use to make you more effective, a better seller or a better leader?

Adam Honig 25:18
Well, I so hard to boil it down to one thing, I'm a big believer in practicing gratitude. And really being you know, like, like I said before, just remembering how fortunate we are because I think that we're all dealing with setbacks in our lives, and every great salespeople are losing an incredible volume of deals, right? And so if we can be grateful for where we are and bring like a positive attitude to life, I think that that works really well as I guess I'll make that my number one recommendation then.

Umar Hameed 25:50
Brilliant. Adam, thank you so much for being on the program really enjoyed the conversation. And I do think the robot apocalypse is coming and I'm gonna be out of a job but that's okay. Thanks so much for being on the show.

Adam Honig 26:02
All right, Umar. Really, really great talking with you.

Umar Hameed 26:04

Umar Hameed 26:10
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitsselling.com. I've got a free mind training course there, that's going to teach you some insights from the world of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.


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