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When a company decides to add AI software to its technology stack, what separates a third-party vendor from the core platform's offering? When does it benefit a company to expand beyond its CRM provider and find another product that enhances and enriches its current tech stack?
While spreadsheets are thought to be an antiquated way to monitor sales pipelines and report to management, many companies are still working to wean themselves off of them.
"We needed to get out of spreadsheets," said Marcus Bragg, chief operating officer for AlienVault Inc., a cybersecurity company. Bragg said in addition to being a Salesforce CRM licensee, the company licensed Clari about a year ago to help with sales forecasting and reporting. "We needed a mathematical, data-driven approach."
Bragg said that because of AlienVault's use of trial periods for its products, it was difficult to track sales leads from one quarter to another, as trials often straddled different selling periods.
"Half of the business that closes in a given quarter isn't in the pipeline at the start of the quarter," Bragg said.
By adding AI for sales into the AlienVault sales tech stack, Bragg and his team were able to get a clearer picture of the sales pipeline.
"It solves a couple of immediate things. It allowed for me -- I can't be in all the forecast calls or meetings -- to have a pulse on the business from an analytical perspective on how we're trending quarter over quarter, month over month," Bragg said. "It allowed me to see how key deals are progressing -- good or bad."
Going with the third party
But why did Bragg and his team decide to find another vendor rather than just license another Salesforce product?
"When we were thinking about getting away from spreadsheets, we did look at Salesforce," Bragg said. "We wanted a single view of analytics and forecasting and business processes, and it didn't have all of that."
Cindy Zhouvice president and principal analyst, Constellation Research
Cindy Zhou, vice president and principal analyst for Constellation Research, said that whether a customer decides to stay with a primary vendor or find a third-party product depends on how deep that partnership with the core CRM provider is.
"If you're a Salesforce customer and are primarily on Salesforce and license Service Cloud and Pardot and use a lot of the ecosystem, then Einstein makes sense," Zhou said.
But not all customers are like that. Many more have a hodgepodge of different providers -- on average 29 different vendors, according to research done by Zhou -- that they use for the customer experience. So when adding an AI for sales product, it may make more sense to add to that tech stack.
"When you have that type of multitude of products and they're mostly in the sales stack, [AI] is not so straightforward," Zhou said. "Something like Clari can help you as you ingest a lot of data from other sources."
'There's huge visibility'
When deciding on an AI for sales product like Clari, you must also go beyond the existing tech stack and into management preference, according to Zhou.
"If you're natively within Salesforce, then working with Einstein can give you that single source of information in one UI, versus Clari, which is ingesting data from Salesforce and other sources," Zhou said. "But to get the power of it, sales leaders and executives have to log into Clari."
While it can be integrated, Clari does require a separate tab and separate login, and toggling back and forth could be a detriment to some companies. But Zhou said that if there are active sales leaders that prefer keeping a pulse on the forecast, Clari's extra login typically isn't an impediment.
"If you're a sales executive that wants to see the gap between quota and close, they probably don't have an issue of logging in," Zhou said.
It's that visibility that Bragg enjoys with Clari.
"From a sales management perspective, there's huge visibility," Bragg said. "Now they don't have to copy and paste into a spreadsheet -- our sales management team can go in and update the forecasts instantly. It was a big-time efficiency gain for them."
The choice for customers
Clari does this by constantly analyzing sales history and signals to identify risks and shortcomings, making AI for sales go beyond just predictive lead scoring.
"Our cloud looks at the last two years of deals, and we look at the human behavior those last two years and the interesting patterns you can pick out," said Andy Byrne, CEO of Clari. "It's no longer a world where sales reps or managers have to look at manual data. We're predicting where you have risk and where you have upside."
While Byrne believes Clari offers Salesforce and Dynamics customers a benefit outside of those companies' core AI for sales offerings, he acknowledged that another differentiator is the desire for choice among technology customers -- citing Salesforce's more than 150,000 customers using the Sales Cloud.
"The market is massive, and it's about giving the customer an option," Byrne said. "Our customers have spent seven figures on Salesforce, and that data quality goes up when you turn on Clari."
Clari currently only has integrations with Salesforce and Dynamics for CRM. Clari declined to share pricing information.