Episode 26: Heidi Castagna and Brenda Herlihy on AI and its Future in Sales Enablement
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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space, and we’re here to help professionals stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices so they can be more effective in their jobs.
Brenda and Heidi, thanks so much for joining us today. Could you each take a moment and introduce yourself and your role?
Brenda Herlihy: Sure. So, I’m Brenda Herlihy, and I am in the sales operations and partner program operations for NVIDIA. My role is to manage our sales enablement systems, make sure the users get what they’re looking for, and providing administrative support and management.
SS: Excellent. And Heidi, could you introduce yourself?
Heidi Castagna: Absolutely. I’m Heidi Castagna and I’m the senior director of global sales enablement at NVIDIA. What that includes is a heavy focus on training for our internal sellers and our partner community as well as technical training for – whether it’s field engineering or solutions architects at both NVIDIA and our partner community around the globe. In addition to training, we’re responsible for any tools, resources, or assets that help our field teams accomplish what they need to while they’re out working with customers and other partners.
SS: Excellent. Thank you, ladies. I’m so excited to have you both – Brenda and Heidi – on this podcast with us today. I would love to get your perspective, maybe from each of you, on how the sales environment is changing and how has that affected the responsibility of your sales reps and your partner reps?
HC: I’ll go ahead and dive in. What’s interesting at NVIDIA – NVIDIA is a pioneer in the area of artificial intelligence. We’ve been in business for over 25 years. Our foundation is in graphical processors and specifically in gaming. However, over the last 10 or so years, we’ve moved into B2B enterprise markets and even more recently it’s really around artificial intelligence. That actually has a massive impact on how our sales environment changes. And again, that’s everything from training resources, technical resources, and field resources that they can deploy with customers to help explain and help envision what the world looks like with AI deployed.
BH: And just to add to that, Heidi, in relation to our tools that we provide for training – we’re looking for tools that use AI in their delivery. So, when we look for sales enablement tools, we want tools that actually use this technology so that we practice what we’re preaching and say, “You know, the tool that you’re learning on right now is actually using AI.”
SS: I love that, Brenda. I think that’s a perfect segue because I would actually like to ask the question – how do you think AI, given your areas of expertise, will help improve sales enablement over the next few years?
HC: What a great question. In fact, I’ll tell you that we regularly are approached by different organizations and companies that have defined themselves as having offerings based on AI, but I’d say we’re just not quite there yet. A true AI-based solution would ensure that in the area of enablement what a seller is being presented with or what is being ‘put in their bag’ to be used out in the field is as perfectly relevant and customized for the engagement that that individual seller is about to have with a customer. No more sorting through volumes of well-intended resources for the field, but instead it’s a silver platter serving of the right content, the right training, in the right amount of depth for the engagement that you’re about to have.
SS: Excellent. That’s great. I think AI is definitely a hot topic, a buzzword if you will. I know that there are a lot of sales reps when conversations about AI first started coming out that were worried that the whole notion of AI was eventually going to overtake their jobs. I mean, I ask that a little bit ironically because I’m not sure that it will be the case, but I would love to get your perspectives on whether or not you think AI is going to replace sales reps in any near-term future?
BH: I would have to say no. As much as we’d like that to happen, I think there’s always going to be human involvement. It’s going to improve us and how we interact with other people, definitely, but I don’t see it taking over human interaction.
HC: Yeah, I completely agree that it cannot take over that human interaction. But what it can do is make us all a lot more efficient. There has been a lot of conversation, even beyond of course the role of sales about AI retiring certain work opportunities altogether. I would argue that it just changes it, just like many other revolutions that different industries have gone through in the past. Rather than the amount of time, perhaps, that a person does on some pretty low-value activities, instead drive that time and effort towards things that deliver a unique and high-value. Imagine if we had all the time in the world as a selling community, how much depth you’d be able to provide each of your key customers. Today you just don’t have time.
There’s the CRM to be managed, there are processes that need to be had, there’s a lot of business intervention. If we were able to do away with more tactical elements of a role and replace it with more depth and high-value, then we’d all be so much better off for it. And I’d say the same thing happens in the area of health care; doctors are not going to be replaced by robots and AI, yet the quality of health care will go up considerably if your doctor can spend more time on his or her high-value responsibilities rather than some of the more mundane ones.
SS: I love that response, Heidi. I think that reassures a lot of the reps out there. This is the last question on this particular topic for both of you. I would love to understand how you guys have been applying AI to date. I know that you said it’s not quite there yet, it has a way to go. But for the other sales enablement practitioners out there that are curious about how they can apply it to their practice today, I would love to hear from each of you some of the areas in which you are applying AI to your sales enablement efforts.
HC: Well, I’m going to warn you that at NVIDIA, we take the definition of AI very, very seriously. And that’s why I say that I don’t think AI is actually, literally being applied in enablement today. If so, I just haven’t run across that actual application. AI essentially is allowing a computer to make decisions in the absence of human intervention. And I don’t think that’s being done in enablement today.
That being said, two very promising areas are in the areas of training. Imagine if you were able to very efficiently experience a training course that happened to only deliver the information that you didn’t already know. That would be beautiful. The other area is in the area of serving up content, as we mentioned earlier. If truly just the content that is relevant to your immediate need is what comes to you, proactively, that’s closer to an AI solution than today what is typically available at scale.
SS: Absolutely, I tend to agree. What I typically see in a lot of these solutions is a lot more machine-learning focus. Brenda, I would love to hear from you though given your background in systems.
BH: The only other thing I was going to add was the possibility of things like forecasting. If the sales teams are out there and they’re trying to do their forecasting, at some point AI might be able to help in predicting what the forecast would be in the future. That’s an area where I see we might be able to make some progress.
SS: Thanks for listening! For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you want to know more about let us know – we’d love to hear from you.