CEO & Co-Founder at Infer
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Interview by Jorge L Soto
Jorge: What does Infer do and how can sales teams leverage it to close more deals?
Vik: Infer helps companies win more customers by predicting their hottest leads. We use proven data science to rapidly model the untapped data sitting in your sales and marketing automation systems, along with thousands of external signals from the web. From these huge data sets, our platform crunches numbers behind the scenes to come up with an “Infer Score” for each lead, which we feed back into your CRM or marketing automation system. Sales teams can dramatically reduce wasted effort and maximize their conversion rates by prioritizing sales efforts around only the leads that are an ideal fit for their company’s products.
Jorge: What is the ideal customer profile for Infer? Are you more of an SMB, mid-market, or enterprise solution?
Vik: We initially focused on mid-market companies that were looking for tools to help them grow quickly, but now we’re expanding towards small and big companies as well. Companies of all different sizes often struggle with managing their unqualified lead flow, too few sales reps, or a lack of information about the leads sitting in their nurture piles. Predictive lead scoring can solve these problems for any business that wants to infuse a more data-driven approach, and outsmart its competitors.
Jorge: How do you believe selling has evolved since the growth of saas and cloud applications?
Vik: Back when sales reps had to rely on big, legacy, behind-the-firewall apps like Siebel to track data about their prospects, things like cumbersome user interfaces, curtailed access and lack of mobility were major roadblocks for them. Now, with SaaS platforms like Salesforce and Marketo, sales and marketing teams have apps that are much easier to access, use, maintain and standardize around. The problem with these first generation SaaS apps, though, is that they were built primarily to automate processes and capture data (focused more purely on converting these behind-the-firewall services to run in the cloud) – not to take it to the next level and perform deep science.
However, the cloud is a great enabler of the kind of intelligence that will truly revolutionize selling. There’s now much more data out there, in the automation systems as well as on the web, that can be used to make accurate predictions about sales activities. And predictive modeling techniques have evolved to the point where we can now crunch all of this data in the cloud and turn it into valuable insights quickly and efficiently.
Jorge: What is your take on the state of CRM and how it will evolve moving forward?
Vik: CRM applications have always done a decent job of organizing customer data and helping users share information, but they don’t really capitalize on that data to drive better decisions. While companies may keep investing in these bookkeeping-type applications for incremental productivity improvements, only those that succeed at using data to make smarter, faster decisions will be able to blow away their competition.
I think CRM will morph into an intelligence-based approach that helps companies optimize revenue and free up human energy for more innovative endeavors. In a world where we have tons of data, it’s crazy for anyone to spend too much time calling on prospects that don’t convert.
Jorge: What advice would you give early stage founders when building a b2b startup?
Vik: There are several things I think aspiring B2B entrepreneurs should consider, some of which I covered in a recent article I wrote here. In summary, my best advice is to focus on your simplest, best idea vs. trying to boil the ocean with every product and feature that competitors in your space claim to have. I’ve also found that it’s important to sign paying customers early on, so they’ll give you valuable product feedback and hopefully become your champions. And of course, as an early stage founder, you’ll have to nail your sales and go-to-market strategy, so put the time in to get that right.
Jorge: What is your professional background and what was the vision behind building Infer?
Vik: I used to work for Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, where I started developing my vision to bring the power of consumer analytics and data science to the enterprise. After experiencing the rigor and precise data science demanded by web search products, I was surprise to find that hardly any of those techniques were being applied to enterprise applications or to the critical internal decisions companies are making every day.
That’s why we started Infer, to leverage machine learning and web crawling so companies could bring data-driven intelligence into any sales or marketing decision. We’re all about helping people get value from deep predictive analytics without needing a Ph.D in statistics.
Jorge: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers about yourself or Infer?
Vik: Infer has been able to successfully achieve improvements in customer conversion rates by upwards of 600%. We’re now the secret weapon for growth behind some of today’s fastest growing companies like AdRoll, Box, Cloudera, Jive, New Relic, Pentaho, SurveyMonkey, Tableau, Xamarin, Xactly, Zendesk and many other leading companies.