SalesTech Star

SalesTechStar Interview with Ganesh Shankar, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of RFPIO

Every sales interaction should be viewed as an opportunity to further empower the customer feels Ganesh Shankar, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of RFPIO; in this chat with SalesTech Star, he shares a few observations and thoughts on what it takes to drive B2B sales.

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Hi Ganesh, we’d love to hear about RFPIO and how it’s evolved?

At our core, RFPIO is a response management software — supporting RFP and security questionnaire responses, creating and managing sales proposals, and resolving inefficiencies rooted in decentralized and inaccessible content and knowledge. Our software was developed to automate the process of responding to RFPs, easing the pain and creating efficiencies for sales teams. Over time, the use cases grew and the product evolved as the market demanded a solution that could be used organization-wide — and response management was born.

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The idea for growth beyond sales stemmed from an RFPIO sales representative and a customer prospect sitting down for a platform demo. In the conversation, the customer and the rep talked about potential use cases for the tool beyond RFPs. For example, when a customer sends a complex question, rather than checking in with the product manager for an approved response, the information could be readily accessible allowing for workflow that moves more quickly and efficiently. RFPIO’s sales representative brought the idea to leadership, and today it’s been brought to life as our LookUp solution. As we grow, RFPIO continues to produce technical solutions to support the work of our customers.

How are you seeing AI impact the power of salestech today? Can you highlight a few top global AI powered platforms that are changing the game for sales?

Many people have a negative misconception that AI is going to take away jobs, but that’s not the case at all. Automation eliminates the need for employees to waste their time doing mundane tasks, allowing them to spend time doing the work that matters most. For example, RFPIO enables sales teams to be more productive with AI. Typically, when sales teams get an RFP, they have to go through each question and determine who to turn to and what information they’ll need to answer each question. AI significantly helps smooth out this process by automatically responding to commonly-seen questions and suggesting collaborators. As a result, sales teams have more time to focus on what they do best—build relationships, solve problems, and close deals.

The first platform changing sales that comes to mind for me is Gong. Gong is a great example of how businesses can use AI to garner data from customer interactions, and then leverage those insights to help win more sales deals. Salesforce is another platform using AI power to data crunch, and ultimately drive strong customer relationship management. The ability of AI to provide trend analysis using data has completely changed sales, allowing teams to leverage insights to understand where they are winning and losing, and how to move forward.

In what ways do you feel that organizations can improve their sales processes and response management by leveraging AI?

Organizations that leverage AI in the response management and sales processes are freeing up time for sales teams to invest in more strategic and creative ROI-driven work by empowering them to respond to anything with confidence. AI can help to democratize knowledge, by reusing curated, pre-approved content for future use cases. This eliminates the need to chase down subject matter experts from other teams to help fill out RFPs. The idea is that content can be reused and repurposed, rather than having to reinvent it every single time.

Especially when working in a global organization with employees all over the world, it’s often hard to determine who the best subject matter expert is for a given topic. AI-powered systems learn patterns of who is contributing answers to specific questions, and will recommend a potential subject matter expert for the particular use case. When subject matter experts need to step in, the presence of contextually relevant content supports the task process. Solutions automatically suggest information based on how content has been categorized historically, saving sales representatives and subject matter experts huge amounts of time to focus on closing business deals.

Can you talk about the need for sales leaders to refocus efforts on the creation of relevant content collaterals and cadences to help drive better sales efforts? A few best practices to share?

Sales leaders are exactly that — experts in sales. They are not experts in content or product, so the ability to deliver the accurate, relevant content to sales leaders allows them to focus on the sales process and their interactions with the customer. Unlike typical knowledge management systems, this type of content is shared externally with customers, prospects and partners. That said, there needs to be compliance so that your business is not held liable for misrepresentation or the communication of incorrect information. It’s vital to ensure that all the information you are sharing is correct and updated. AI-powered management systems allow sales teams to obtain consistent, comprehensive and constantly-updated knowledge giving them all the relevant information they need to win more business deals. The best practice I can offer to organizations is to keep their content up to date to ensure that your sales team is able to deliver the latest information approved by the right person.

Going off of that, RFPs tend to be a blackbox. Once you submit a proposal, you know whether you’ve won or lost. Without an analysis of this data, an organization cannot learn from its previous losses and it becomes a guessing game. AI-powered solutions can analyze industries won, industries lost, how long it takes to fill out RFP, etc. Trend analysis allows sales teams to reflect and take something away from every sale, even losses. This allows businesses to understand how to be more productive, make more informed decisions moving forward, and win future sales.

How do you feel AI powered platforms for sales will evolve in future and what will drive demand for more innovations and what kind?

While we still need human intelligence to make certain decisions, AI will continue to evolve to help humans. As people understand how to leverage technology to better assist with human processes, we will continue to see further innovations. For example, years ago, no one expected cell phones to completely take over, but we all quickly adapted to use them and the devices continued to evolve to fit our needs.

Individuals’ time continues to be stretched thin, so I anticipate that this will drive plenty of innovation down the road. AI frees up our time, allowing us to use our human intelligence to continue growing. As we do so, AI will evolve along with us to fit our needs. I imagine that automated cars will be the norm one day, but this will eventually free up all the time it takes to drive places. Automation supporting monotonous tasks that eat up our time will ultimately enable humans to dedicate that saved time to the things that really matter.

A few thoughts on what you feel today’s sales and marketing leaders need to do differently?

Sales and marketing leaders should be more consultative these days. Sales teams need to focus on educating the marketplace by collaborating with customers to help them learn. We should no longer view every interaction as a lead, but instead as an opportunity on how we can empower the customer.

Educating your audience should always be the first communication touchpoint. Sales teams should not immediately consider individuals as a potential buyer. When sales teams dedicate their first interaction to educate the customer, they will come back to you later on when they need you. By altering the mindset of your sales teams to nurture customers, this is key to winning business down the road.

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RFPIO is a cloud-based response management platform and the industry’s first AI-enabled solution, trusted by some of the world’s smartest companies to support knowledge sharing, collaboration, and the digital transformation of their response processes. Through robust and bi-directional integrations, with an open API, teams can connect their people and improve content quality and accessibility — enabling collaboration without boundaries. RFPIO is the #1 trusted solution for enterprise organizations for streamlining their responses, managing company knowledge, and responding with confidence to anything.

Ganesh Shankar is the Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of RFPIO.

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