Xactly, generative AI and the Sales function

Brian Sommer Profile picture for user brianssommer October 13, 2023
Summary:
Xactly shed a lot of light regarding its AI powered solutions – solutions it intimated were coming earlier this year.

selling

At the beginning of this year, we were hearing all kinds of stories from technology CEOs regarding the rapid appearance of and transformative potential of generative AI. In mid-February this year, I spoke with Xactly’s founder and CEO, Chris Cabrera. Not only was Xactly on top of this new innovation but they were obviously well situated.  In that article, we noted:

Cabrera sees the market for AI/ML tools taking off now and that’s especially the case in the sales forecasting space. His firm is seeing this area being the fastest growing part of its product portfolio. Cabrera reported that for many organizations, sales forecasting has always been a “dark art. ”      The newer AI/ML capabilities really improve the potential results. But the algorithms are doing more than just reviewing prior sales data and prior sales professionals’ results. The new technologies can also listen in on sales calls, read/review correspondence with customers/prospects, and make better assessments as to the probability and timing of new deals.

Technology like that can not only make the predictions, it can explain how it arrived at its conclusions. If sales leaders and sales professionals see this data, they can adjust their strategies with specific accounts and hopefully alter their future in a positive and profitable way.

Xactly has more than that, though. Another tool of theirs, Xactly Insights, takes in 50+ inputs to predict sales rep attrition or flight risk. While a number of HRMS products have flight risk/attrition prediction capabilities, there are certain signals and indicators that are specific to sales pros.

The latest news

Recently, I spoke with Arnab Mishra, Chief Operating Officer at Xactly and Christopher Li,  Xactly’s VP of Strategy. We mostly discussed the progress Xactly has made in its Generative AI efforts. Specifically, we discussed their new Xactly AI Copilot. According to an Xactly press release:

Xactly AI Copilot augments Xactly's leading Intelligent Revenue Platform, further addressing the challenges faced by sales, compensation administrators, finance, and revenue operations teams. By eliminating the need to navigate multiple systems, dashboards, and offline processes, Xactly AI Copilot presents insights in a contextual manner, ensuring information is delivered in the most meaningful way for each user's workflow.

The new Xactly AI Copilot capabilities can help individual sales representatives and their leaders. The software draws on a company’s internal data as well as factor in the experience that other firm’s sales teams have had. And, the solution     can tap macro-economic shifts going back a decade or two. That last point is critical as it can make better forecasts as the models have data that has been shaped by numerous economic cycles (e.g., inflation, depression, recession, growth). 

I saw examples of a user asking the Xactly AI Copilot to identify which deals are likely to close. It could also predict the timing and amounts of compensation the sales rep might likely receive. The tool was effectively directing the follow-up efforts for sales pros by highlighting the sales opportunities that should deliver optimal outcomes (e.g., commissions) for the representative based on prior history, where in the sales cycle the prospect is, etc. This is like solving/optimizing a multi-variate equation to deliver a great outcome. 

Likewise, Xactly AI Copilot can help sales leaders, too. The AI and Big Data capabilities can better forecast future sales. And, it can also detect clues as to which representatives may be planning to leave the firm. The latter point is enhanced by the knowledge of whether a firm’s sales compensation is competitive vis-à-vis other firms in that industry. 

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The attrition matter is interesting as attrition can spike when the economy contracts, closing windows are lengthening, the sales pipeline is thinning, etc. My own experience with sales professionals taught me that many of them are always interviewing for another sales job since their careers can be suddenly and severely impacted by the loss of a key account or deal. Tools that help sales leaders spot potential career anxiety triggers and recommend new courses of action could help stem attrition.  

Xactly’s AI Copilot has a conversational user experience that can do more than just display data. It anticipates the real purpose for the information request, analyzes the data, and, in some situations points out recommended next steps. In some situations, the tool will enable relevant workflows. 

According to Xactly representatives, what differentiates their solution from others is that Xactly’s algorithm can lean on approximately 18 years’ worth of anonymized and aggregated compensation, sales performance, and other data from thousands      of customers.  Some of their competitors can only analyze a single customer’s data or lack a long-time frame of data that can inform users of the effects of various macro-economic cycles/events.

These AI tools can help in sales planning, incentive compensation and sales forecasting. The end goal of this is to have an AI engine that can revolutionize the way businesses manage and optimize their revenue processes. 

My take

A number of HR technology vendors are fond of ‘redefining the future of work’. In that HR context, that can represent a number of capabilities, technologies and more. In the sales world, the future of work is currently being redefined by generative AI tools like Xactly AI Copilot (note: Salesforce via its Einstein powered capabilities is active here, too). These tools use internal and external data to bring everyone in the sales organization the best ideas, analytics, processes, etc. In the right hands, these new capabilities and data should deliver better business and personal outcomes. 

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