Accurately forecasting and selling in B2B is no easy task. To succeed, it is crucial to understand which deals are moving in your pipeline, which ones have stalled, and why this has occurred.
Interloop developed the world’s first sales forecasting and execution platform powered by IBM® Watson®, providing tools such as pipeline management and sales coaching to help sellers perform better.
Boostssales success by helping teams make the most of every interaction with buyers
More accurateforecasts help sales leaders maximize revenues and profitability
50%less administrative effort allows users to spend more time on active selling
Business challenge story
Mastering B2B sales
Founded as a sales consultancy by Tony and Jordan Berry in October 2015, Interloop set out to provide sales teams with the kind of sales process training that had traditionally been done through mentoring, classes, and hard-won experience.
As Tony Berry, Co-founder and CEO of Interloop, explains, “B2B selling has become very complex. There are now typically five or more decision makers involved in a B2B purchase decision. The members of these buying groups are typically cross-functional and often have conflicting personalities and interests.
“This is causing longer sales cycles and getting these buying groups to reach consensus is a challenge. It has also made it very difficult for sales management to accurately predict which deals will close and, just as importantly, when the buying decision will occur. As a result, the B2B sellers are suffering:
“They spend as much as 78 percent of their time on non-selling activities like administration, research and sales reporting.
Less than 60 percent of B2B sales reps made their quota last year.
Less than half of the deals that reps commit to their forecast actually close as expected.
3 out of 4 sales managers lack confidence in their forecast numbers.”
A typical B2B sales cycle begins with a research phase to gather all the data about a business and the buying team. It's typically a slow and expensive process, and traditional customer relationship management (CRM) systems have struggled to build the kinds of sophisticated sales models that Interloop sought to make.
Tony Berry notes, “The historical solution to this problem has been to attempt to use sales training and coaching along with tools like CRM to help with managing the pipeline and forecast. This has clearly not been successful.”
Interloop recognized that there was a better way to provide this kind of sales coaching and forecasting at scale by productizing its efforts with artificial intelligence.
Jordan Berry, CTO of Interloop, says, "We wanted to provide all of that insight on buyers to the salesperson, so that when they walked into a meeting they were very confident about who they were meeting with, and what they should do to advance the deal. We also wanted to make it very easy for sales reps to provide the necessary information on each opportunity that would improve the accuracy of the forecasting process. What we were looking to do went beyond the traditional capabilities of CRM—we didn’t simply want to collect customer information, we wanted to harness that information to empower sellers to improve the way they navigate every step in a deal."
Taking sales to the next level
To achieve its goal, Interloop launched a sales execution and forecasting platform — powered by IBM Watson and IBM Cloud — that helps sellers understand where to focus in order to close more business predictably.
To build the platform, Interloop selected IBM Compose for MongoDB and the IBM SDK for Node.js starter pack in IBM Cloud. MongoDB was ideal because it allowed the team to create complex models that analyze the web of connections and influence related to any particular deal.
Tony Berry explains, “One of the things we love about IBM Compose is that performance-wise, it has been great. The NoSQL capabilities of MongoDB has let us really rev on our structure underneath. We've been able to expand, test, change, mold, and modify very, very quickly. We estimate that IBM Compose has helped us cut management time in half—we can spin up new services, bind them together and push them out to our entire stack in just minutes. What’s more, we haven't had a single outage with Compose; it's been rock solid.”
With uptake of the sales execution platform starting to take off, Interloop has added IBM Db2® Warehouse on Cloud to the mix. A fully managed SQL cloud database service, Db2 Warehouse on Cloud is optimized for data warehouse and analytics workloads, and powers lightning-fast analytics and reporting queries—helping Interloop serve up insights to its clients even faster.
“As Db2 Warehouse was available on the Cloud platform, it was incredibly easy for us to get started,” recalls Jordan Berry. “In just one afternoon we had the new data warehouse up-and-running, and connected to our MongoDB environment. The performance from Db2 has blown us away; we’re especially impressed by the columnar technology, which supports close to real-time analytical processing.”
Additionally, to provide the machine learning and cognitive analytics capabilities needed to power its game-changing sales execution platform, Interloop uses IBM Watson—also delivered from the Cloud platform.
The team takes advantage of Watson to analyze data gathered from a number of different sources: clients’ CRM systems, email systems and proprietary data sets, as well as public information such as social media feeds, web domains, and social and corporate profile data gathered from the FullContact API.
With IBM Watson, Interloop can use this data to create predictive models for sales opportunities. For instance, by surfacing underlying signals from buyers throughout a deal, Interloop can make suggestions to sales professionals about the best approach to take with each and every buyer—improving their chances of successfully closing a deal.
Interloop leverages out-of-the-box capabilities of Watson to analyze the data, but because each customer has a different audience and different kinds of data to work with, the company also provides custom Watson training for its clients.
"We think the real stickiness is when you train your model for a client and then the model starts to understand their unique business, the way they sell and the people they interact with," says Jordan Berry.
Helping sellers succeed
Today, Interloop has built up more than seven million rows of data in MongoDB. The cyclical nature of using MongoDB and Watson together has an exponential benefit: the more data that's added to MongoDB, the more Watson learns, and the more it learns, the more data it feeds back into the database.
“Our clients are starting to see that as they provide Watson with more data, their models become richer and more accurate,” confirms Jordan Berry. “In fact, we have one client who has gone from essentially having zero visibility into the potential outcomes of deals to being able to forecast how a deal will pan out with more than 80 percent accuracy; and in the long term they expect their accuracy rate to rise to more than 90 percent.”
Working with IBM, Interloop is helping clients glean deeper insights into prospective buyers, cut sales cycle times, and increasing the chances of making successful deals.
"One of our customers is in the ad space, and for them we're teaching Watson how to read unstructured public data such as marketing expenses and to categorize it all correctly," notes Tony Berry. "This way, the customer can understand where the spend was, and maybe some of their missed opportunities or places they need to double down in terms of some of their product offerings."
By arming sales professionals with intelligent suggestions for content, follow-ups, and other actions to take over the entire lifecycle of a deal, Interloop helps them to make the most of each and every interaction. By improving sellers’ effectiveness and efficiency, Interloop is helping its clients to conquer even the most complex deals—boosting business success.
Tony Berry concludes: “We’re very proud of how far we have come already—what started as a simple idea to help sellers better understand the personalities of their clients has evolved into a very powerful platform for managing and forecasting sales. And we couldn’t have found a better partner to accompany us on this journey than IBM. The Cloud platform has opened up a host of databases, applications and cognitive computing resources to us. It has truly helped us to bring our ideas to life, and we are excited to keep refining the Interloop platform to help sales professionals perform at their very best.”
Tony and Jordan Berry founded Interloop to help sales teams and professionals reach their peak performance. The world’s first sales forecasting and execution platform powered by IBM Watson, Interloop provides intelligent content, coaching and tools to make sellers more efficient and effective at every step in the sales cycle.
Take the next step
IBM Compose is a cloud-hosted platform for building enterprise applications on open source database technologies. Offering a choice of the best in open-source software databases, ready to go into production within minutes to support web and mobile apps, Compose combines practically unlimited auto-scaling with practically zero administration. For more information or to try Compose, visit: ibm.com/cloud/compose
To learn more about IBM Cloud solutions please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website: ibm.com/cloud-computing