SalesTechStar Interview with Doug Grigg, Chief Sales Officer at Khoros

Doug Grigg, Chief Sales Officer at Khoros talks about the importance of leveraging AI to drive better sales conversations while taking us through Khoros’s journey in 2020 amid the pandemic in this chat:


Hi Doug, welcome to SalesTechStar! Tell us a little about your journey through the years, we’d love to hear more about your role at Khoros…take us through a typical day at work!

As Chief Sales Officer at Khoros, I am responsible for leading our global sales team to execute competitive sales efforts and grow Khoros’ customer base and revenue streams. My career at Khoros began in 2018 at Lithium, one of our legacy companies that merged with Spredfast to form Khoros in 2019. Prior to joining Khoros, I earned my technology and sales experience through leadership roles at several enterprise companies including Oracle, Marketo and Plex Systems. 

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How have sales processes changed for you and the team in 2020, in view of the ongoing global pandemic? Also, how are you and your sales team addressing new challenges and preparing for 2021?

There’s the obvious answer of not meeting your customers and prospects in face-to-face settings, but thankfully we have the tools and software available to bridge that gap and adapt to the current times.

The less obvious answer is how the pandemic has created a shift in what we’re selling, specifically related to an increased need for digital customer service solutions like Khoros Care. COVID-19 drastically increased customer support volume inquiries — our Khoros Care platform saw over 2.5M customer service messages daily — created labor shortages, and contact center agents were sent home to work remotely, which presented a disruption to many businesses’ customer service workflows. As a result, companies were feeling the struggle, and so were their unhappy, underserved customers. Now more than ever, there’s a greater, more apparent need for up-to-date digital customer service platforms. Before the pandemic, many of these contact centers were operating with outdated technology or only offering a 1-800 number. As COVID-19 has turned our world entirely virtual, customer expectations have changed to demand and expect digital-first customer service. That won’t go away after the pandemic.

Looking ahead in 2021, we understand some of our customers may still have budget constraints due to the pandemic’s economic impact. We’re refining our sales tactics to cater to what our customers genuinely need at this moment to help them build strong relationships with their customers in these unusual times.

The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the kind of technologies needed to boost efforts of sales teams in this new normal; can you talk about some innovative ways in which you’ve seen sales teams get creative with their prospecting and outreach and salestech to create more impact during this time? 

It’s about using your own customer or prospect data to the best of your advantage to grow your sales pipeline. For instance, if you know a prospective customer followed a particular journey on your website, you can assume they’re most interested in the service they spent the most time reading. It’s important to be sensitive to the fact that many brands may have budget constraints right now, but by using data to learn more about your potential customers and their interests, your sales teams can create more impact just by leveraging the tools you may already have in place (such as a CRM). Let the prospects show you they’re interested instead of trying to be aggressive in your sales outreach during a time of economic recovery. 

In a world where competition for brand loyalty is at an all-time high, sales teams need to think about their sales beyond a single transaction. We need to build relationships where the customer feels known, seen, and connected. Sales teams can leverage AI to capture conversations with prospects and take those insights to improve their sales strategy or customer service interactions moving forward. AI can also help meet these customers or prospects at moments that matter to them along the journey or where the sale may be most successful to create a customer for life.

As sales teams plan for Q1; what are some of the top of mind thoughts you’d share given the current business climate?

Customers expect to reach out to businesses on the channels they prefer and receive a response on their own timeframe. About half of social media users expect brands to respond within three hours of sending an inquiry; otherwise, businesses risk losing that customer to a competitor. Sales teams need to consider this for Q1 as the pandemic has only accelerated the need for these digital-first communications (including messaging, chat, and brand owned communities). If brands don’t engage on these channels now, they could lose valuable customers. 

Sales teams must also keep an element of humanization present when automating any outreach or prospecting efforts and leveraging the power of AI. 71% of consumers say that brands overusing AI makes them feel undervalued. While the pandemic has highlighted more of the ways digital can play a role in sales and marketing, don’t sway too much in one direction. A sense of connection, personalization, and trust must be maintained when building upon relationships with existing customers or engaging with new ones.

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Can you share a few success stories in sales from your 2020 campaigns!

We’ve had the privilege of working with a major airline company to support their social care efforts and social media marketing to provide their customers with best-in-class customer service. COVID-19 was tough on many industries, but the airline industry suffered significantly, with financial losses topping $84 billion. Not only did airlines have to change safety protocols urgently, but they also had to manage the considerable spikes in customer service inquiries as customers tried to change flights, update travel plans, and ask for information. Our airline customer leveraged our Khoros Care solution to help manage this influx of customer service inquiries and Khoros Marketing for their marketing on social media to keep business growing amidst the pandemic. 2020 caused airlines to rapidly adopt digital-first customer engagement during COVID and let go of their legacy systems that are fragile and vulnerable to disasters. 

We’ve worked with European Wax Center (EWC) for over a year to help the business manage their social marketing campaigns and build a more robust digital care strategy. After EWC had to close almost all of their 750 stores nationwide in March, their social media mentions and direct messages spiked dramatically, inundating their customer service team with a higher volume than ever before. EWC saw an 86.5% increase in agent hours spent on social media and chatbot inquiries, and agents had to work five straight hours per day, seven days per week, to address the caseload. As an alpha tester of Messenger API support for Instagram, EWC partnered with Khoros to help manage their Instagram messages at scale. Using Khoros Care for digital customer support, EWC saved over four hours per agent per week by streamlining social community management within the Khoros platform, and they were able to do this without having to grow their support team. 

How according to you will sales and marketing teams need to upskill / reskill (including those at leadership levels) in the new normal; to meet changing business needs? 

Social media is one of the most essential tools for today’s marketers to stand out in an environment of sameness, drive consumer engagement, and increase leads, conversions, and sales. However, it’s not just about knowing how to use social media. What matters is being able to analyze the data to optimize your efforts for driving leads. Engagement metrics indicate how well you’re building and nurturing relationships with your customers and prospects. Monitoring your progress in these areas can help you deliver conversions over time. Reading these metrics is an invaluable skill for anyone at an organization focusing on sales and marketing. 

I’d also encourage sales and marketing teams to focus on breaking down the silos that exist between customer service departments and sales and marketing. These internal silos are not only painfully apparent to customers, but they also negatively impact business operations at large. When these teams aren’t fully aligned, customer experiences, operational costs, and your brand’s public image are at stake. It’s impossible to meet customer’s expectations of a single, seamless journey across all touchpoints unless your marketing, sales, and care teams work together as a whole. 

In this new normal, focus on using technology to promote cross-team collaboration and cross-functional strategies to drive better customer experiences that will impact your brand’s bottom line. When you invest in digital customer experiences, brands not only have the opportunity to earn higher revenues, but they can also avoid expenses associated with customer attrition. 

What are some of the technologies you feel will soon become must-haves in B2B marketing and sales, in your view, as we progress through the pandemic?

I see the pandemic further pushing the need for conversational AI. A great example of this is with chatbots, which can automatically impact your bottom line by quickly answering your customer’s simple questions. However, when a customer is looking to interact with a brand on a deeper level, these surface-level chatbots aren’t up to the task. According to Forrester, 68% of consumers will spend more with a brand when they feel they’re an individual and not just another number in the queue. 

Instead of “command-based AI,” conversational AI can handle more in-depth conversations, making the customer feel more understood on the individual level and taking these customer experiences a step further. While chatbots have a clear financial and operational impact on your business, conversational AI helps to strengthen customer relationships, receive valuable customer data, and maintain that sense of brand loyalty and connection that keeps those customers returning to make purchases.

A few top tips you’d share with sales reps moving up the ladder in the midst of a global slowdown?

I have three I would recommend. Remember that while we may be amid a global slowdown, times are still changing quickly. Be agile. Many sales professionals may have tried-and-true methods they’ve been using for years, but the pandemic has disrupted our world in every way possible, so don’t be afraid to disrupt your processes as well. Your customers will thank you for adjusting to the times and their expectations. 

Another tip: learn how to manage up, down, and across in these virtual settings. While there’s a good chance many reps will return to the office in 2021, remote work isn’t going anywhere. 

Lastly, think about what your clients need to make it through this global slowdown and persevere on the other side. A sales rep’s success is ultimately dependent on their customers, so when adapting your sales strategies, think about what your customer needs to be successful right now, and adjust your sales techniques as such.

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A parting thought on your biggest leadership goof-up and the learning that came from it! 

Early on in the pandemic, as customers were experiencing large spikes in digital engagement, we saw an increase in requests for help from our customers and prospects. Our natural response was to look toward large-scale solutions, when in reality what they were asking for was help “right now.” Our natural bias was to solve a large set of inefficiencies, and we were missing the signal that what customers were really asking for was support in the short-term. A few weeks into the pandemic, it clicked — we offered free access to our software, support to deploy chatbots fast, and services to empower our clients with the tools to connect with their customers quickly and efficiently instead of trying to rebuild their entire customer service and marketing workflows. We realized this was the right thing to do, even ahead of signed contracts, and would help us create customers for life following the pandemic.

Khoros is a global leader in digital-first customer engagement software and services. They build enterprise software and offer expert services for digital customer service, messaging, chat, online brand communities, and social media management — differentiated by award-winning services with 20+ years of experience. 

Doug is the Chief Sales Officer at Khoros where he leads global sales efforts for the organization. Doug has had a 20+ year courtship with technology where he has held leadership roles at a number of enterprise companies including Oracle, Plex Systems and Marketo.

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