The Robots are Coming! – An Interview with Ilan Kasan, CEO at Exceed AI

Hacker NoonThis post was originally published by Ishan Pandey at Hacker Noon

I sat down with Ilan Kasan, Co-founder and CEO at Exceed.AI to discuss automation and groundbreaking innovation in the field of artificial intelligence and how it impacts business.

Ishan Pandey: Hi Ilan Kasan, welcome to our series “Behind the Startup.” Please tell us about yourself and the story behind Exceed.AI?

Ilan Kasan: I started Exceed.ai 4 years ago with my partner Yaron Ismah Moshe. Prior to Exceed, I lived in Silicon Valley, where I managed Cisco’s WebEx product line (what we all used before Zoom).

The idea behind Exceed stemmed from my experience at Cisco, coupled with my conviction that AI will change the way we work.

At WebEx, we generated thousands of leads every month. Marketing employed a lead scoring methodology and passed these leads to a team of 40+ SDRs to figure out who is ready to talk to an account rep.

Two things were evident to all of us: First, lead scoring helped narrow down the number of leads, yet we all knew we were missing out on qualified leads. The reason was that we did not always have the information needed to score the lead accurately.

The second was that it would be hard to scale the follow-up and qualification process with more SDRs since the long tail of lower-scoring leads have a lower return. And, as humans are humans, they are not perfect at juggling too many balls at once.

I was always fascinated with AI and automation and how they will change the workplace. We are slowly moving into an augmented work environment where robots will work alongside humans to automate non-strategic, mundane tasks.

And that’s where the two came together. Using Intelligent Virtual Assistant to work alongside the sales and marketing team to follow-up, nurture and qualify leads so humans can focus on closing deals.

Ishan Pandey: How is artificial intelligence disrupting the marketing and sales industry?

Ilan Kasan: AI is changing almost every aspect of sales and marketing. Here are a few examples:

  1. Lead intent and scoring: Using AI models, companies can better identify which prospects to go after and the likelihood of them being receptive to their message.
  2. Personalized buying journeys: Using AI to gather data about customers’ behaviours through every customer journey touchpoint. This rich data allows us to create a personalized experience for each customer.
  3. Voice and text analysis: Using AI to analyze sales calls and sales communication to understand better what works and what doesn’t and using this data to coach sales reps.
  4. Lead nurturing and qualification: Chatbots and email bots that leverage AI to conduct meaningful, relevant and impactful interactions with current and future customers are an incredible tool for customer engagement.

Ishan Pandey: What is Conversational AI? How does it work, and how can businesses leverage it?

Ilan Kasan: A quick rundown for the unfamiliar: Conversational AI is an artificial intelligence that uses a combination of machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to communicate as a human would. Machine learning means the AI isn’t saddled to a static database of rote responses like chatbots with programmed responses; instead, it analyzes human speech and text and learns from past conversations.

Conversational AI can involve chatbots, virtual assistants, automated email communication, or all three, depending on your strategy.

When a lead fills out a form, or signs up for a newsletter, or engages with you enough to provide an email address, a conversational AI (like the Exceed platform) will reach out to the lead. The AI can then analyze the text of the lead’s response and reply with a personalized email that is relevant and promotes action. Conversational AI carries the load for marketing and sales when there’s a high volume of unqualified leads. Not only does it save time for the team, but conversational AI platforms can also help determine whether leads are worthwhile and pass them onto a salesperson.

Ishan Pandey: How does artificial intelligence and automation help to scale prospects and increase lead qualifications?

Ilan Kasan: Companies spend huge amounts of money to generate leads. Yet, they don’t do a good job following up and qualifying them before handing them over to sales. Most marketing operations tend to focus on bringing in more leads and just handing them over to sales….while in fact, there is lots of unlocked value in the existing leads.

In an ideal world, you’d have a conversation with every lead, understand where the lead stands in their buying journey, make sure they have enough information to move down the funnel, and follow up at regular intervals until they are ready to make a purchase. In reality, it is impossible since marketing departments do not have the budget for such a hyper-attentive approach.

That is where Intelligent Automation and Virtual Sales Assistants come into play. AI Assistants can ensure that every lead is followed-up and nurtured. They can identify when a lead is ready to talk to a human, qualify it and even book a meeting directly on the rep’s calendar. All this happens automatically in the background, allowing resp to focus on what they like and know to do best… talk to prospects and close deals.

Ishan Pandey: According to you, how has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the marketing and sales industry?

Ilan Kasan: The marketing industry is in a repositioning stage as it adjusts itself to the new post-COVID-19 reality. Remote work is growing, distributed teams structures become more common and allocating budgets towards digital assets is what marketing leaders face these days. As a result, companies see more leads coming in at the top of the funnel, with a lot more noise. Simultaneously, budgets are tight, and organizations are looking to do more with less headcount and get more out of their existing investment in generating leads.

Ishan Pandey: What is your advice to budding entrepreneurs on negotiating and raising funding for startups?

Ilan Kasan: My advice is to solve a real pain point, make sure you did your market validation and talked to customers before talking to VCs. A strong team + value prop + proof points are not enough. You need to find the right VCs and prepare yourself for many no’s before you get the one yes.

Ishan Pandey: What are your thoughts on the debate that “Automation will take jobs and increase inequality”?

Ilan Kasan: The robots are coming! The robots are coming! Yes, they are… but they are coming to help, not to replace.

The purpose of this article is to remove informational asymmetry existing today in our digital markets by performing due diligence by asking the right questions and equipping readers with better opinions to make informed decisions.

The material does not constitute any investment, financial, or legal advice. Please do your research before investing in any digital assets or tokens, etc.

The writer does not have any vested interest in the company.

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This post was originally published by Ishan Pandey at Hacker Noon

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