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How IBM is Using AI to Speed Partner Lead Sharing

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Passing quality sales leads from our salespeople to partners is crucial to bolstering a thriving partner ecosystem, and data shows that the faster we can pass these leads on, the greater the chance of closing the deal. According to a 2017 study by IBM’s Chief Analytics Office (CAO), sales leads that are passed within a 48-hour window close with 10 point higher win rates than leads passed within a longer time frame.

But making this happen in a 48-hour window in an ecosystem as large as ours is not as easy as it sounds. Business opportunities need to be vetted and matched with partners based on a myriad of pre-identified parameters, such as their performance, product expertise, customer experience, industry expertise, local proximity, and social network.

At the time of the CAO study, our lead passing process was done manually, and it was based on limited seller knowledge and tied to disparate data sources and tools. We lacked an efficient way to capture and understand relevant information while incorporating dynamic feedback in real time.

That’s why we turned to our IBM Research team in Dublin to help us tackle this challenge. The team used Watson AI to develop an elastic search algorithm called SCORE (short for Smarter Cognitive Opportunity Recommendation Engine) based on our pre-identified parameters—but they took it one step further. They added a feature that incorporates feedback from sellers to continuously improve the recommendations that the engine delivers.

This feedback loop allows the model to be retrained weekly to account for recent partner activity, ensuring that the recommendation engine is always learning from the experts—the humans who are working with ecosystem partners every day—and improving the suggested sales leads reduce issues of bias while improving data transparency when delivering recommendations. To read more about the technical capabilities of SCORE, read the IBM Research blog, here.

The IBM Partner Ecosystem first began using SCORE in 2018. In its first year of operation, SCORE has been a tremendous success, contributing $100 million in additional revenue through the acceleration of IBM’s sales cycle, and increasing lead passing speeds by 50 percent, wit a 5-point improvement in the win rate on leads passed to business partners.

In fact, IBM received a Stevie Gold Medal this year for our work with SCORE for “Improving Sales Win Rates with Cognitive Modeling and Process Automation.”

Stay tuned for more as we continue to find creative ways to use technology to improve the IBM Partner Ecosystem.
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A version of this story first appeared on the IBM Research-Ireland Blog.

COO, IBM Partner Ecosystem

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