Artificial Intelligence Yes – No ?


Just what is Artificial Intelligence ask 10 people and get 25 answers…. even from the experts. Sorry I am not the expert here. There seems to be some confusion between Automation’s and Artificial Intelligence (AI) or maybe not. To someone looking in from the outside automation’s seem to be magic. For example when a cookie auto-fills your web entries for you. Being a Technology guy I see that as a simple automation, AI not so much.  Yet put enough Automation’s together and it can be magic, maybe even low end AI.

So the real life business question is AI, Automation’s Yes or No. That is a good question to ask and I will offer some ways to decide. Since most of what business can cost effectively implement is more of an Automation than AI. That is where I will focus.

A surprising number of business tasks are still done by people repeatedly doing the same work over and over again.  When it comes to data I call that Brute Forcing it, or for Data Transfer using a Sneaker Network. Once I get Data in a digital format I NEVER EVER want to manually enter it EVER again. Lets look at some real life use cases.

Case 1

One of my clients had a unique lending model. They offered a loans to businesses based on their monthly credit card sales. Their lending model was for the mostly automated. My part was to automate one part of the process.  When a prospect had credit issues they shared the loan application with a partner who specialized in high risk credit. My job was to take that manual process and automate it. In addition the lender had a 72 hr window to send the loan out to the high risk lender then if declined respond to the prospect. I created a Time Based Workflow automation that: When a loan rated low, it triggered the automation to start running,  it was sent to the high risk lender, and if it was declined or accepted before the 72 hr deadline our people were notified. If the high risk lender lapsed the 72 hr window the automation would advise the prospect that we were declining the loan also.  Result no more missed deadlines, we generated more revenue by referring every weak loan not depending on associates to remember to refer the loan, and saved the time it would take a person to decline the loan.

Case 2

For a Mortgage broker there are legal deadlines when processing a loan. For one who was very frustrated about missing deadline the Process Flow Builder Automation was the trick. First we laid out his process and the deadlines. Then put those time bound Automation’s into the Salesforce Process Flow. At each of the 8 steps the Broker gets a notice via email with a link directly to the loan that is due to be processed. This saved time both finding the right data and missed deadlines and resulting consumer complaints to the Gov with the resulting fines. Problem Solved…!

Case 3

A charity who was a Client of mine raised millions of dollars a year by doing mailings. When the return envelope came back their team Manually entered the donors info.  Ouch..! We know who the donors are we have their data why re-enter it? The solution was to use a QR code to automate loading the donors data. All that we had to do was enter the amount & check or credit card number.  The result was an increase in donations due to sending a thank you letter right away. To quantify the savings measure the time spent before Scanning and the Time Spent after, the delta is then based on the salaries you would have paid.

Case 4

In a large company small things matter, they add up. So if you can save a few minutes per person and there are a lot of persons doing a task…. well it adds up. Currently I am working on a project where Tech Support & Customer Service will be opening new cases  for customers. We looked at how to we make this easier. Enter Workflow Auto-Fill. Once the person selects the Account from a look up & saves, the Workflow will Auto-Fill many empty fields with information from the Account. They don’t have to enter the Address, City, State etc. We did the same for the Key Contact once selected from the Account’s Contact list the Auto-Fill will do the rest. Time is saved and the data will be cleaner a win win all the way around. Cost a few hours writing code. Savings to be determined.

Conclusion AI Yes or No depends:

Automation and AI are here to stay make the most of them where they make sense.  Don’t get caught up in chasing AI or Automation Shiny Objects. Where automation’s & AI don’t work is where the task is a one off that is not repeated very often. A task that is small and not repeated often is also a poor choice for automation or AI. Neither AI or Automation’s will work well with bad data, either they just won’t work or they will do things you don’t want done. Testing them a lot will help here. Do the Math start by the measuring the time workers spend doing the tasks before and estimate for after, use their salary times the hours, then the cost to create the automation – AI, that is an easy way to calculate the Return On Investment.

Not sure if any of this applies in your world on the off chance it does it might be worth a quick phone conversation to figure out what your next steps might be.

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Small Business AI – Biz Automation ?

We are too small for AI – Business Automation….. are you ? if not you are your competitors gaining an exponential advantage using it? I will offer an example of how even a business of modest means can greatly benefit their bottom line using Salesforce Automation tools.

Use case: Customer Manually e-mails customer satisfaction survey for all Tech Support Cases. In this example the Business was using Salesforce for all of it’s tech support cases.  They knew who handled the case, who the customer was, the products involved, and the person they dealt with at the customer end.


Solution: First we determined that this was an on going process, the process was well defined and we had the data to send the e-mails to the right people. No use automating a one off or sending random e-mails to everyone. The person manually sending the e-mail spend 100 hours a year on this process. I estimated that the labor cost was $3,000 per year. They provided me a copy of the e-mail so I could create a Template for our automation to use. We personalized the template (Much like a mail merge) so it grabbed the Customer Name, Company, Product, Customer Satisfaction Survey Link, the Tech Support Agents name, Case Number etc.

Next I wrote a Salesforce Workflow that would run when a case status was changed to Closed, included specific products and was closed that week. Once those conditions were met the Workflow fired sending a copy of the Personalized email with the link to our customer satisfaction survey.  We then tested our Workflow & Template in the Sandbox before going live. This workflow took all of 4 hours to write, test, an implement. Cost to create $450.00 First year Net Savings $2500, next year Savings $3,000, last I knew it was still running and that was 3 years ago.

I don’t suppose any of this applies in your world? on the off chance it does it might be worth a quick conversation.

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AI Will Change Sales.. Act NOW!

I was reading an article “How to Sell Successfully in the Fourth Industrial Revolution” (written by Sandler Sales & Evernote) about how AI will change Sales in the future.  The article referred to data from Gartner inc. “Global business value derived from artificial intelligence is projected to total $1.2 Trillion in 2018 (a 70% increase from 2017) and is forecast to reach $3.9 Trillion in 2022.” Article link below:

One of the key things that stood out to me was it was all forward looking; I say why wait. People spend their day doing tasks that are ripe for automation that is available Right NOW…!

I did some math using their numbers and according to the survey the average sales person spends 23% of their day, 110 minutes (1 hr 50 Min. a day) actually selling.  That is defined as on the phone or In-front of a qualified prospect or customer. They spend 60 % of their day doing Busy Work. Many of those were tasks that are ripe for automation: emails, data entry researching leads, meetings & check ins, Scheduling Meetings etc.  The final 17% of their day is spent in training & industry research – news, etc.

A significant portion of their day is spent with Busy Work 60% of the day roughly 5 hrs. It is an area ripe for attention, yet few seem to pay any attention to it. If we could re-capture 1 hr a day, selling time would increase about 30%.

How to accomplish this Now:

Email templates & Marketing Literature (Why re-invent the wheel) Time spent hunting down the company approved Marketing Literature & email formats instead put it in the Salesforce library. Emails can be automated such that when an Opportunity Status is changed the relevant email is sent ie. Welcome Aboard, Satisfaction Survey, Time to Renew etc. This email should be highly personalized addressing the person by name referring to that specific opportunity with the relevant products for that Opportunity. Is this level of customization possible in Salesforce, yes it is not only possible it is fairly easy.

Automate Approval processes:

How often do your deals drag and stall while waiting for approvals from management?  Need a discount, terms changed, special processes etc. sending e-mails following up is a huge time drain. With an approval process the Process becomes automated, it can be accessed and actions taken 24/7/365 and if someone is on vacation, no problem a delegated approver can substitute for that missing manager. You can even automate specific Discount Approvals by role. Sales person can get automatic approval for discounts up to 15%, the Regional Manager up to 20%, Vp up to 30% etc. and it is all documented.

Salesforce Lightning – Sales Process Builder LightningNewOpp

Many sales in Regulated Industries have statutory deadlines, such as Lenders, Financial Services, Banking, and Many others. Using the Process Builder, we can automate a large part of this process. It all starts with a Lead coming in via the Company Website using Salesforce Web to Leads connection. That triggers this process flow, which has three 48 hr Scheduled Actions.  Each action ques the person assigned to this prospect, via an email with a link to the relevant records. They are required to take a specific action to move the Loan through the evaluation process. The process required completion within 144 hrs. to meet regulatory & corporate requirements. The Process Builder can also suggest ways for the sales person to close the sale or up sell that prospect.

Deal Process Automation  Workflows & Flow Builder

When a deal closes the Salespersons, job is done right…. Well no, the rest of the team needs to swing into action and deliver. How will they get notified? Well let me introduce you to Workflows/Flow Builder, once a deal goes to closed all of the folks who need to swing into action can be notified by Salesforce, tasks assigned, a thank you email sent, and a satisfaction survey sent to the customer simply by changing the Opportunity Status to Closed Won. SalesforceProcessBuilderProspects2019

Service Contract Renewal Task Reminder for SLAs & Contract Renewal set a task and assign tasks better yet create Process Flow that assigns these automatically.

Lead Qualification:  Pardot, & Marketing Cloud:

According to the Sales Trainers at Sander Sales ( about 90% of trade show leads never get any follow up. Considering the cost of trade shows this is a big financial ouch.  Sales people hate trade show leads and for a good reason a portion of trade show leads are: A. Not a Legitimate leads or B. Not ready to buy Now. This is where Marketing Automation can step in an separate the legitimate leads from the tire kickers, how? Pardot and Marketing cloud use customer journeys to qualify – disqualify the leads. Through a series of emails, website visits, etc we can Score and Grade Leads and even warm them from cold to warm.  Basically if a Lead is willing to take a series of actions we know they are interested, if not well we may dump them or continue to nurture them until they are ready. PardotAboutLeadScoring2019

I have met plenty of old school sales folks who say their industry is different, well it isn’t….One 30 yr Sales Veteran said ” Isn’t it kind of creepy to call someone based on them filling out a form on our website?” well would you rather a Competitor Call…? These days it customers expect you to call, or they get the feeling that you just don’t care. 

Not sure if any of you all ever experience, frustration with the Busy Work of Sales.  On the off chance you do it might be work a quick conversation.

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Salesforce CRM Data Clean-up

DataCleanSweepHaving a lot of data is nice, having usable data is far better. We will need to look over the data in detail to make sure we are not importing data we don’t need or want. It is surprising in retrospect how often useless data gets imported into a CRM.

It is tempting to do a quick clean up, just load the data, and we will clean it up in phase 2 of the project. This really means is Never… the clean-up won’t happen and it will undermine the credibility of your CRM implementation. As soon as users run into bad data, they say the CRM Stinks. Putting dirty data in to a CRM results in a pretty looking Junk. Clean up the data first, you will be glad you did.

Early on it becomes an issue as to “Who is Responsible for keeping the Data Clean”. Sales says its inside sales job, inside says, it’s a customer services job, then everyone gangs up on IT and say it’s their job. The right answer is Everyone who touches it is responsible, Yes Everyone. Many hands make for light work. Yes, the heavy lifting should be done by those with the tech expertise, tools and skills to handle larger data sets. Everyday everyone who uses the data and sees an error needs to help correct it.

The first step is to have Rules and Procedures for your data: What data goes in and what data gets left out. Where does the data go? Make the field names clear and, in the help, text explain it. Use Pick lists to make it easy for folks to do the right thing. Create cheat sheets to que your team on the correct way to enter data. Limit the number of people who can load large amounts of data (using the Data Loader or Data Wizard). Keep the rules simple. Decide on a data standard, what constitutes a valid record for example: a Valid Contact has: First Name, Last Name, full address, phone number, and email address.

Start by running a Salesforce Report for the data you plan to import, for example Accounts. Then export that file and use it as a template for all your incoming data. That way you will have the correct field headings at the top of your import file and the right data will end up in the correct field. Next use Excel to do some basic clean up. First: look for missing data: If there is no phone # or email address, I don’t load that data it is worthless. (Maybe if there is an address it is a keeper, if you have a name & title that is attached to an Account it may have some value).  Then I move on to spell check, the state and city fields are easy to spell check.  Then look at the phone number and email address. There are outside services for validating phone #, at this level we are looking for a complete phone number and format. A great tool for checking emails is (or pick an email verification service of your own choice) it pings email addresses to see if there is an active valid email in box there. (the person never gets an email so don’t worry about being labeled a spammer.) My take is if the email bounces is dead then the contact is probably not good either. (some folks may disagree with me; you decide what data you keep or get rid of). After we do our cleaning and validation, we load it into Salesforce.

After the CRM is up and running we need to keep the data clean. Some of the methods used by small to mid-sized firms is: Verify just one piece of data on every call: “hey can it confirm your address?” most customer are glad to do this IF you keep it to One piece of data. Have an Address Push one week, e-mail the next, Phone Number and so on. Mix it up one month on one month off et. Do your Top 20 customers per Inside Sales Person. Make it a Game reward the folks that find the most errors, the least errors, funniest mistake etc.


The best tool I ever found for loading data and avoiding duplicates is People  Import           ( ) it matches incoming data with existing data using criteria you select. This software is highly customization so you pick what constitutes a match and what doesn’t. This avoids duplicate leads and contacts based on your own needs and decision.

I don’t suppose creating duplicates when doing an implementation or import is a problem you all ever face? On the off chance it is it may make sense for us to talk.

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Salesperson Exits… Dude where’s my Contacts?


Early in my sales career I took over a territory that had been vacant for a few months. Not long after I started, I asked for a Account & Contact List and got a blank stare. As I later found out the prior sales person had a traditional business card folio, which no surprise he took with them when they “Exited the Building:. Ouch. The phone was a personal phone. The quoting process was more or less a manual one, at least we had some idea of pending sales to follow up on.  Leads, what Leads. The best we could do was to run a list accounts out of the accounting software. Me I spent 3 months running through that list cleaning it up, it was re-inventing the wheel on a massive scale. I don’t suppose this has ever happened to you or your company?SalesPersonQuit2019

Oddly enough the place to start is your Human Resources Department. Yes HR it the place to start. Who owns the data may well depend on company policies, employment agreements, where the data resides, was the data gathered as a product of their employment and who owns the devices where the data is stored? Usually these devices are returned ‘Before” they Exit the Building. The laws will very from state to state. I am not a Lawyer or expert on Human Resources, employment law etc. Often times but not always if it is on a company computer, company network and part of your job it usually belongs to the company.

Once your company has established it’s policy explored and identified relevant laws etc. It is time to establish policies and procedures for data governance. Here is where Sales Operations, Sales Management, IT, & HR need to work together. Policies & Procedures are nice but it is through execution that rubber meets the road. Some companies create an auto backup every time a device connects to the network. Make sure the new copy doesn’t over write the old backup, so if the departing salesperson deletes up their files you don’t end up with a copy of blank data fields. Monthly back ups of your Salesforce Instance will achieve the same result.

Similarly having a web based CRM like Salesforce will provide protection from the sudden departure of a Salesperson. Of course the data is only as good as the process that gets it into the data base in the first place.

Epilogue: After weeding out 600 bad accounts I was down to 160 good Accounts with contacts It took a good 3 months, to build that up to 320 good active Accounts, Contacts, and Leads. It took a lot of hard work and asking for referrals & introductions, some internet sleuthing, networking and a few trade show. When I moved on I gave my boss a complete excel spreadsheet with full data, giving the next sales person a great foundation to get started.

On the off chance any of this resonates with you all, maybe we should talk?

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CRM Implementation, Where’s the Data?


It’s kind of funny that when it comes to getting really started with planning the CRM Implementation “The Data” becomes a big issue. How so? Well sometimes there is so much we don’t know where to start on how to get it organized or all of a sudden there is no data (It’s My Data and I am not sharing it).  Neither situation is good.

If you get “It’s My Data and I am not sharing it” or as often happens they say yes but never share data. This is but a symptom of a far bigger problem. In most every case where someone refused to share data there was something going on, and it wasn’t good for the business. I agree some data must be kept secure and Salesforce has plenty of great ways of doing that, nor must all data be in the CRM. When you run into a situation where relevant data is not being shared it will end up being a major impediment to the implementation, as once it starts others will also dig their collective heals. It is better to deal with this issue up front with your executive sponsor, CEO etc. if they will not put their weight behind getting the data well it is better not to start the implementation.

The first situation is better that is having too much data. Common sources of data are: Legacy CRM, Excel Spreadsheets, Outlook files, Mobile Devices, Trade Show Lists, email marketing lists,  ERP/MRP/Accounting Software, Data Bases etc. To get started we need a sample of each of the sources and a Sample of the Relevant Salesforce Report. So if I were working on Accounts I would download the Salesforce Accounts Report. Now I have a Template for what Salesforce names fields and existing fields.

Legacy CRM: this may or often is not a good source you are implementing a new CRM for a reason, find out why and take a skeptical look at this data. Most allow exporting a comma delimited file, which Excel & Salesforce will easily import.

Excel Spreadsheets: It is amazing to me how many folks even large Orgs in the $100 Mill Plus size still use Excel as a proxy for a CRM and how many versions exist in one organization. I love Excel but version control is a challenge. Getting the right data all together can be a challenge but Excel has some excellent tools like vLookup.

Outlook & Mobile Devices: This is a great source of Contacts & Leads, often having email and direct phone numbers.  If at all possible, capture their corp website this will be critical in tying them to the proper Account later on. This can be tricky depending on your corporate policy, who owns the device & data, National/State/Local laws. Work closely with your Human Resources department to understand the implications up front. In many cases but not all information on company equipment – networks created in the course of employment belongs to the company, verify this first.

Trade Show Lists: Great for building your lead lists and you may get some more detailed info about your current contacts – accounts

email marketing lists: If these are lists your marketing team build then they are probably a great resource. If you are buying lists well it can be a grab bag of stuff. Some of if good most of it well picked over and spammed. But if you can use it to enrich your existing client base it may be of use. Use Caution here some of these lists are expensive and well worn – spammed.

ERP/MRP/Accounting Software: This is a great starting place for Account info. Because this is where the bills get paid the core info will be good. Often times there is a contact listed in accounting that person can be leveraged to get a few other names with some careful quality sales tactics.

Business Cards, Paper Lists etc: There are great scanning tools what will digitize your info. A word of caution, they are all reasonably good, to get good data you will need to have a human look it over as some fonts & logos confuse even the best scanning software.


Other Data Bases: you may have good data scattered in various mailing lists, data bases, etc. Scour your company every bit helps. Tech support & Warranty registrations, are often kept in separate data bases.  A few cautions here: consider careful how you got this data and if it is truly relevant, for example: sending e-mails to every person who applied for a job on your website is well disingenuous.

Organizing your data:

Now that we have a data inventory, we need to sort it out into three basic categories: Is it Account Data, Contact Data, and Lead Data. Yes there is a lot more data in most cases. For now we need to build the foundation, later we will build our skyscraper.

Accounts this is your Clients Corporate Data usually where your bill goes, it is the foundation of your implementation. Look at the data and decide what you want to bring- import into Saleforce and what gets left out. How many years of data do you want to import? For some companies 3 yrs is plenty others 7-8 yrs for tax purposes, some all of it. Involve the departments that will be using the data as well as the folks who supplied the data. Repeat this step for Contact Data and Lead Data. With Lead data you can be a bit more flexible as it is usually fuzzier.

We are only scratching the surface here on data, I hope it will give you all some good food for thought as you plan your CRM implementation.


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OC B2B eMarketing Group Meeting

eMarketing – OC Pardot User Group

July 25, 2019

Great user group session today hosted by Roland DGA in Irvine, CA. It was an interesting mix of people from new users to the more experienced. The newest was just launching the oldest was about 5 years into their journey. There were great tips, tricks and hacks shared for every level of user. Great job of facilitation by Deidre our Roland DGA Host. Marketing Automation is here today and this group is at the forefront here in Orange County, CA


We started off with Mark Somers who shared several key Hacks to make a Pardot Admins life easier. His slides do a better job than my writing so check them out below:



Deidre & Her Team at Roland DGA did a great presentation on how they implemented the Pardot email preference center. A key finding was if they did a simple Un-Subscribe they lost more people than if they let folks select the: Type and Level of email touches they received. They found that the preferences broke down into two areas: A. Subscription Based Preferences for newsletters B. By Product – Application Interest Preferences. As they noticed sometimes, the same product is used in many industries and each has it’s own needs & wants.


It was a great event with lots of information sharing. Thanks to Roland DGA and Diedre for all the hard work setting this up.

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