Ryan Lund, CEO of Cerebri, has found that artificial intelligence can help salespeople in any industry — and especially in large enterprises — make better sales decisions in today’s competitive business world.
“If you’re using a CRM like Salesforce, there are a lot of decisions that have to be made when you’re making a sale,” Lund says. “Our AI management platform understands the data you have, including social media and enterprise big data, and the customers you’re talking with, then uses the AI to deliver decisions to the salesperson to help close more deals.”
Cerebri is in its early stages, and its first customer, Mueller Inc., will be launching at the end of September. The company is also working with a few other large enterprises, many of which are in the Fortune 500.
Lund’s vision is to use the most advanced AI available to provide the best possible business decisions for his customers. And, through Cerebri’s own algorithms and a partnership with IBM Watson, he is making this vision a reality.
“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” he says. “There’s a lot of good AI tools and a lot of good data gathering tools out there, and we ingest those and deliver recommendations.”
Cerebri’s software collects and analyzes customer data and passes it on to its clients. Using Cerebri, a salesperson who is working with a customer comes into the sales conversation armed with key factors about that person, such as demographic information and factors that could influence purchasing decisions. Cerebri’s AI combines that information with an in-depth knowledge of the company’s products to help salespeople choose exactly which products each customer is most likely to purchase.
A traditional sales cycle is made up of many steps, from meeting an interested party, to separating ideal customers from “window shoppers” and pairing each sales qualified lead with an appropriate product. Executed correctly, each step in the cycle allows the salesperson to move closer to a sale. But, until very recently, these steps were performed manually, with plenty of room for human error.
Cerebri makes the process more airtight by aggregating information collected through a website or through another internet system such as ERPs and CRMs, to understand whether a sales opportunity is an ideal customer, then match them to the best-fit product.
For instance, if a customer approaches Mueller, Inc. looking to buy a barn, Cerebri will arm the salesperson with several details about that person based on the customer’s IP address and Facebook profile. From the start, the salesperson will understand roughly where that person lives, as well as and his or her buying habits. The AI then looks at other people who live in that same area and have similar demographics to determine exactly which product that customer is most likely to buy and what factors, such as discounts or specific features, might make the sale more attractive.
“It decreases the amount of time a salesperson has to spend with each customer,” Lund says. “It also gives the customer a better experience because as a customer, you don’t have to look around to find what you need.”
Sales is the first industry Cerebri is working with, but Lund says that any business could benefit from incorporating AI into their decision-making process.
“Anything that revolves around customers, sales, products, is where we’re focusing first,” he says. “But using data to make better decisions in real time is relevant to a lot of different industries, like social services, health care, manufacturing, In the future, our tools and products will be able to handle all of them.”
Lund says that, by partnering with Cerebri, businesses can increase their revenues and get closer to their customers.
“If we can help a salesperson make better decisions, and just increase close rates by one percent, that can mean millions if not billions of dollars for large enterprises,” he says.
The AI Cerebri uses is designed to look at consumers’ behaviors and a business’ workflow along with product attributes to better understand what that customer is seeking. This AI helps sales professionals identify not only which products might pique a customer’s initial interest, but also which customers could be open to an upsell based on behavior that suggests an interest in higher-end products.
“Nobody ever wants to search for something,” Lund says. “They want to find something. We understand who the customer is, we understand the products the business is trying to sell, and we understand the workflow of how those products are sold,” Lund says.
The business got its start providing support for United Way’s mobile app, but quickly discovered that its best opportunities were actually in large enterprises’ sales pipelines. After shifting its focus, Cerebri grew significantly, expanding from three employees to forty over the last seven months. Lund says Cerebri will also continue to be a partner with United Way.
Cerebri began about a year and a half ago when a group of University of Texas students won a global competition hosted by IBM Watson. The award was $100,000 in seed funding, which Lund used — with Austin-based accelerator Capital Factory — to launch Cerebri. Lund is dedicated to using the best AI available and, besides teaming with IBM Watson, Cerebri has its own research team, which is always looking to expand its technology.
“No matter what it is, technology really isn’t useful until it drives some kind of outcome,” Lund says. “As we build out what we do, we’re also seeing a lot of demand from prospective customers.”
Most of Cerebri’s executives have 20 to 30 years of experience in business, research and development at both Fortune 500 companies and startups. Lund says he expects Cerebri to experience significant growth in its customer base over the next six to eighteen months.
As for his perspective on artificial intelligence, Lund says he prefers the term “augmented intelligence.” He feels AI isn’t likely to take jobs from people. Instead, it will create more opportunities, the way other new technology has done in the past.
“Right now our goal is to use this augmented intelligence to help people in what they do,” Lund says. “AI is really a tool that helps people with their jobs.”
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