SalesTech Star

SalesTechStar Interview with John Bruno, Vice President of Strategy at PROS

Artificial intelligence is transforming how sales and marketing teams manage, collate and breakdown insights from their customer data; John Bruno, Vice President of Strategy at PROS dives into the benefits and growth of AI in sales and marketing while discussing a few thoughts on the future of B2B sales and selling processes:

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Welcome to this chat John, tell us more about yourself and your role at PROS? As VP, Strategy, what is a typical day at work like?

As VP of Strategy, my main responsibilities are to: shape our product-market fit, disrupt our go-to-market strategy, and drive rapid growth. Given this, it’s important for me to both stay informed about what’s happening across the industry as a whole and stay close to functions across the PROS business.

I typically begin my workday with an hour of reading important news, financial reports, and analyst research, which I’ve found helps me to remove myself from PROS and look at the broader industry. It is important for me to immersed in every part of our business, so I engage with key members throughout the day. To ensure the most important initiatives stay at the top of the list, I ruthlessly prioritize my tasks and, therefore, find it an important practice to say “no” to most of the potential projects. Because I work with so many people across the organization, I feel a sense of accomplishment if I can drive a few big decisions each day while supporting my teams in the process.

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We’d love to hear more about PROS’s latest feature and how this enables sales teams?

 PROS recently launched the PROS Platform, which is a SaaS solution that eliminates barriers between stakeholders within an organization critical to the digital selling process, to fully collaborate on a customer offer and drive it to close. It is the only single platform that delivers interconnected capabilities and data insights to achieve channel harmonization, accelerating pricing and sales quoting efficiencies to yield margin and accelerate growth.

The PROS Platform provides all users – sales, pricing, eCommerce, and IT teams – unified, consistent and reliable definition of all key elements that create the right offer for each customer. Its AI foundation and scalable technology delivers reliable, secure insight to direct sales teams, and to the digital channels through which customers buy without delays or interrupts.

The result is a fully transformed sales process built on sound insight and delivered through AI-based analytics, that enables a more agile business, better customer experiences, and business results that truly outperform peer organizations.

In a digital selling environment, what are some out of the box ways you’ve been seeing sales leaders and sales teams use to drive prospect engagement and traction?

A few years ago, I had an interesting conversation with a multi-national building products company that manufactured ceiling fans. The number of permutations for the fans – speed, finish, blades, etc. – was astounding. To more easily navigate the sales process, the company designed internal software with the logic needed to assist salespeople when building orders for customers, to ensure the fans and features ordered aligned to customer needs. Prior to launching this software, a leader on the team pushed to get the solution directly in the hands of customers in addition to the sales teams. At the time, this was a bold decision. However, the move to self-service provided the ultimate sales engagement for customers, driving long-term value for the company.

This example is a great reminder that sales leaders and teams should think of everything about the sales experience – what does the experience look like for the sales person and what does it look like for the buyer? Essentially, push the sales experience all the way down to the customer.

If you build an experience for a salesperson only, it may or may not be relevant to a buyer. But, if you build an experience for the buyer it is guaranteed to be easier for your sales people to sell.

As business trends adapt and sales-marketing processes become more suited to multiple online channels and offline mediums as well to meet hybrid needs, what are some top tips you have for marketing and sales teams?

Today, more buyers prefer to self-serve, meaning they want to take ownership of researching products and coming to their own decisions about how and when to make a purchase. It is critical that marketing and sales teams focus less on pure transactional interactions with customers and more on finding ways to add value for the customer. Data continues to be essential to understanding the customer, but it’s up to sales teams to take that data and make the human connection to ensure customers’ buying preferences are being met.

In addition, a consistent buying experience across channels is essential. If a buyer wants to engage in multiple channels, whether it be through a sales rep, an eCommerce site, or other, it should be a fluid and consistent experience. If a company provides three different prices across their sales channels for the same package, the customer is likely to get frustrated and go elsewhere. A unified and harmonized buying experience is essential for customer retention and long-term business success.

What according to you are some of the top crucial sales and marketing technologies that B2B teams of today need to be implementing more of, and why?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is crucial in marketing technologies today for B2B sales teams given the changing needs of customers. The increasing volume of omnichannel sales is creating vast amounts of data, including information about how customers use products, which products they’re looking at, past transaction history, prices they’ve been willing to pay and more.

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AI-driven sales technology can sift through this large volume of customer data in order to improve the experience of both customers and prospects by gleaning insights based on a buyer’s purchasing history and making smarter and more personalized offers based on this information. AI allows for technology to function in an intelligent manner which makes employee’s jobs easier. Ultimately, efficient and effective businesses are thriving in the industry as they are able to meet changing customer’s expectations, and AI is vital to make it possible.

A few thoughts on the future of salestech and in what ways you feel this segment will evolve?

To date, we’ve largely seen very divergent paths: software applications have gotten very tailored to more precise business problems but the usage of data has been abstracted up to less specific use cases. The next evolution of sales tech will be for embedded intelligence, both from the descriptive (i.e. reporting) and the prescriptive (i.e. guiding recommendations and next steps).

By offering more tailored AI capabilities, sales tech providers can offer more tangible and repeatable benefits from their analytics capabilities. This puts relevant recommendations in front of those on the front line, while allowing the more general reporting to be handled by more back office employees.

A few thoughts on the top global sales tech companies to watch out for?

There are three companies that come to mind. One is a new PROS partner and an eCommerce cloud-based platform called VTEX. They are headquartered out of Brazil but are currently taking North America by storm. In addition to allowing brands to sell on their site, they allow brands to create their own value ecosystems by operating their own marketplaces and selling products from third parties. The lines between tools for buyers and tools for sellers are starting to blur and VTEX is a great example of that. VTEX is massively disruptive and definitely a tech company to keep an eye on.

Secondly, Outreach and Salesloft are two sales engagement platforms that allow sellers to interact with prospects. These companies excel at supporting the shift to digital selling and provide a cockpit of data, process, and guidance allowing sellers to be productive from a single pane of glass.

Some last thoughts and takeaways?

Buyers have always wanted more control in the sales process, and their expectations continue to change constantly in today’s digital first era. B2B buyers have come to expect a fast, reliable, and transparent transaction from the companies they are purchasing from, similar to their B2C buying experiences. Only when organizations can decrease the amount of time between a buyer’s intent and actions and make product details and purchasing methods clear in each selling channel, including eCommerce platforms, will sellers truly provide a seamless shopping experience so many buyers now expect.

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pros

PROS provides AI-based solutions that power commerce in the digital economy.

John Bruno is the Vice President of Strategy at PROS

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