In this third episode of the series, Ralph Varcoe interviews Jeremy Griggs, Chief Intelligence Officer at now ai. The areas covered include how to move beyond insight to a world where the contextualisation of the industry, company and executive, combined with the product and solutions portfolio become a powerful force for differentiation and greater customer intimacy. This combination of the artificial intelligence within the platform with the human intelligence of the analyst team is where the USP lies for now ai.

Ralph Varcoe: Welcome to the latest edition of the Now AI podcast. Today we are joined by Jeremy Griggs, who is the Chief Intelligence Officer at Now AI. Jeremy, tell me – we’re in lockdown heaven, still, within the coronavirus pandemic. I’m in my house in Leafy Hampshire. Whereabouts are you today?

Jeremy Griggs: I’m on the south coast in Dorset, which is where our family has been brought up over the past 20-odd years.

Ralph: Fantastic. So you’re close to the beaches. You can get rammed in like sardines on the beaches, like some of the images we’ve seen over the last couple of days.

Jeremy: Yeah, I’m trying to avoid that by going down there really early in the morning or late in the evening. Avoid the tourists.

Ralph: You have a dog at home, so are we going to be joined by the dog at some point during this podcast?

Jeremy: [laughs] I can’t promise we won’t.

Ralph: [laughs] The barking at the postman, no doubt.

Jeremy: No doubt, no doubt indeed. Yes.

Ralph: Get the dog to give a nice bark at your phone.

[dog barks]

Excellent. Thank you for joining. Can you just tell us a little bit about your background? Before you joined Now AI, where did you work? What’s your experience? Who is Jeremy Griggs?

Jeremy: I’ve got a 30+ year background in the technology sector. I worked for quite a while with BT, British Telecom, in various roles around the world, focused primarily on the intersection of strategy and products and sales, so that’s always been my focus area. Also spent some time in a dot-com startup, so I’ve worked both large and small businesses. But probably for the last 15-20 years, a big focus on industries and technology transformation in industries.

Ralph: You have the title of Chief Intelligence Officer, CIO. We’re used to a CIO being a different thing, somebody who’s looking at the information, Chief Information Officer. But you’re called the Chief Intelligence Officer. What does that mean?

Jeremy: Best title in the world, I think. Intelligence is what we’re about. It’s how we bring real, actionable insight, something that people can actually drive their business with, and it’s intelligence. It’s my role within the business to bring together everything that we do and then focus it in on our clients so that they have absolute clarity and opportunity to drive their sales.

Ralph: Great. In an earlier podcast, we talked to Kayne Brennan, who is our CTO. He was talking about the platform and developing a platform based on AI, machine learning, natural language processing, all of those amazing things that are in the middle of the platform, and how that platform was taking this incredible proliferation of data, an overwhelming amount, and translating that through lots of clever ways into what I would call insight into companies, executives, industries, etc.

I’m assuming that he pulls all of that stuff together in the platform and then he presents you with stuff you can use. Is that the best way of describing it?

Jeremy: Yeah, that’s spot-on. You’re absolutely right. There is such an overwhelming wealth of data out there. Actually, the challenge is to find the nugget in the mountain. It’s finding those things that are really going to be important to our clients and then serving those up to my team to, if you like, polish it. Take it from a raw material into a finished product.

That combination of the AI and the computer’s ability to just keep processing and finding things, and then with the human element, the analysts in my team’s knowledge of our clients and our clients’ business, knowledge of their markets and their market spaces, can add that human nuance. It’s the combination of the two together which we think is the power behind our business.

Ralph: I remember when I was running marketing for Tata Communications – and in fact, when I was running sales and marketing in a number of other organizations too – we had some amazing tools and programs, account-based marketing type programs and tools, which provided really good insight into the industries that we were selling into and also into the companies that were on our target market list. That insight was really useful.

What is the difference between that kind of insight and what Now AI is providing in terms of intelligence? What’s the difference? Why is it better?

Jeremy: I think there’s a couple of reasons. It’s all around context. If you’re in a sales engagement, you need to be ensuring that what you’re taking to market is pitched against what you can sell. I think the first thing we do is make sure that all our intelligence is contextualized against a specific set of capabilities that our clients are looking to sell. It’s about that sales journey.

But then even more importantly, people sell to people, and the one thing that’s missing in the ABM world is it’s based upon personas rather than actual executives. What we really focus on is, who is the specific executive that this conversation, this sales message, needs to go to? And what is it that they’re about, and therefore how can you position it to them? Really making it personal against the executive and making it appropriate and contextualized against the portfolio of our client.

Ralph: That’s an interesting word you’ve used: personal. To play that back, you’ve got the insight that’s coming out of the platform around industry, around the company, and around the executives. Tell me, how does your team then personalize the information? How do they make it really relevant so that it resonates?

Jeremy: It’s a combination of working closely with our clients and really understanding what they’re trying to achieve, what their portfolio is, and their plans and their aspirations with the particular target accounts. That’s something that the machine and the machine-based, platform-based system can’t completely do, so that combination of AI plus the human is pretty critical. It’s really then about looking at the target executives and their ambitions, objectives, priorities, what they say and how they say things, and that’s how we can personalize the message.

Ralph: So your analysts are let’s say humanizing the message. The machines do what they’re brilliant at, and then the analysts work out actually how to turn that into a conversation that an executive would respond well to that’s delivered in a human way, that a salesperson or an executive within your client would be able to deliver in a human way.

Jeremy: Absolutely spot-on. It is that combination of the power of AI to go wide and throw the net extremely far in combination with the human that understands the subtleties and the nuances that we know is a part of the sales toolkit and skillset.

Ralph: These analysts that you have, what kind of profile are they? Also, can you give me an idea as to how you work with them across the world? Have they got particular skillsets around industries, or is it skillsets around actually thinking about the psychology of working human to human and translating that? Is it across the world, is it in one place? What does this team look like and how do you manage them?

Jeremy: We use the power of the 24-hour working day to drive the business. We have analysts situated out in the Philippines, and in the future we’ll have analysts situated in the Americas so that we can monitor the world 24/7 because the world never stops, business never stops. So that’s the first thing.

The second thing is we always have two people that have sight of any one particular piece of work. An analyst in the Philippines may start something off, but then we’ll have a researcher based perhaps in the UK that will work and polish it again. So there’s a double opportunity for human eyesight on it.

The analysts and the researchers have experiences in the industries. That’s important. We need them to bring their experience to bear in this and to be able to have understanding of our clients’ businesses themselves.

The second thing is really understanding the technology, because this is about the translation of business need, business strategy, market drivers into how technology will help transform that business because that’s the world we’re living in. It’s a world of digital transformation. So an ability to apply what an industry is doing into how that will impact in terms of technology and the portfolios of our customers is crucial.

We use a blend of skills, but it’s a real focus on understanding our customers, understanding the technology drivers, and using our experiences and knowledge base to add that subtlety and that personalization and context to our client messages.

Ralph: It’s a fascinating approach, having two analysts working on any one piece of conversation or working on one alert which is going to a customer. Do you also actually mix the generations? You and I, let’s be honest, we’re slightly greying. We’ve been around the block a long time. You mentioned at the beginning you’ve got a 30-year career, as do I. We’re in the older age bracket, so we’ve got a perspective on things which come with a little bit of age and experience.

But there’s a huge value in having younger people who are probably more tech-savvy than we are, who are actually looking at these sorts of things as well and putting their perspective on it. Do you mix and match the analysts in that way as well?

Jeremy: Absolutely. You’re absolutely right. We have different perspectives on how technology fits into the world and how technology fits into our life depending upon our life experience of that technology. We remember the days computers arrived and mobiles arrived, and the generation coming into the workforce have never known anything different. That does put a different perspective.

We want to harness that, because as you look at our customers’ clients that they’re trying to sell to, they are having to deal with this changing demographic in the world today, and that has a huge influence on the products they need, the businesses they’re running, and the customer services they’re delivering, and the skills and the workforce they’re bringing on board. All of that plays out into sales opportunities, but outlines are going to get us to go forward. So yeah, absolutely, it’s a critical part of the mix.

Ralph: If you’ve got technology and industry being pulled together, and the analysts have got the information that’s come out of the platform – and as I’ve spoken to Ian and to Kayne about previously, we’re looking at essentially triangulating industry, company, and executive, and then overlaying the product set of our client onto that to try and surface up opportunities for our client to be able to sell into the accounts that they’re interested in, for whom we’re doing this research.

How does the analyst team take all of those elements and then actually turn them into a sales conversation? Because sales is quite a skill. It’s quite an art. Your analysts must be amazingly talented to be able to do all of that and pull that into a structure which enables it to resonate as a logical sales argument that an executive is going to respond well to.

Jeremy: Yeah, and that’s where I think the experiences of the researchers that have spent many, many years in sales and understand the skills of how sales and a sales approach differs from perhaps the need for analyst reports to do product development or for marketing purposes and things like that.

I think that’s absolutely key to why we think Now AI is different in the market space, because we take the classic insights and turn them into the subtleties of a sales conversation through the experiences we have – but also through an approach of we’ve all been through it’s around the situation, what’s the problem, and therefore, what’s the implication, what’s the need? It’s not new, but it’s actually the approach of how, typically, a sales cycle will go.

That’s really what we’re trying to build into those sales conversations. What is the conversation that would enable our clients to position their portfolio in a way that the customers can really go, “Yeah, I get how you can help me” and have a fruitful conversation?

Ralph: We’ve talked about what Now AI does and how you take the insight and turn it into intelligence. We’ve looked at the analysts and where they’re spread geographically and the generations they come from, the different experiences they bring to it. I think it’s clear what Now AI provides and what your team does.

Are you able to give any insight into how it actually lands and resonates with clients that Now AI is working with today? Obviously, if you can’t mention specific client names, that’s fine, but if you can, great – because obviously, the proof of whether this works is how clients and their end customers respond to this and whether it’s actually delivering something of incremental value to them.

Jeremy: Exactly. I think there are a few examples that play out here. For instance, for two different clients, we’re focused on the construction industry. They have a very different portfolio set. One is in the more traditional IT space and one is very much in the specialist software for the construction industry, CAD and BIM and the other capabilities.

You would think that what we’d be delivering is – it’s the construction industry, so in a classic sense, they’re the same drivers, the same customers, doing the same thing. But actually, the output that you get to those two different clients, even from the same article, will be completely different because of the different portfolios of our clients, the different executives they’ll need to sell to, and the different messages, therefore, that they will need to wrap in terms of how their capabilities will impact that client. I think that’s one example of the way it’s different.

The other perspective is the output is delivered directly into our client sale systems. One client tend to use Microsoft Teams as their way of collaborating and working, and we deliver our intelligence straight into the Teams channel so they can consume it in the way that they want to. In other examples we might deliver it into their CRM systems, like Salesforce. Again, it’s exactly where the sales teams need it. They don’t have to go off to anywhere else. It’s against the opportunities that they’re working on. That’s the other power of really working within how the sales teams operate.

Ralph: So it really is personalized. If I can just recap on that, two different clients of Now AI are both selling into the construction space. You’re doing similar research – in fact, it’s the same research about the industry and the drivers, the key trends, the things that are challenged in that area – but you’re then laying over the two different clients in different ways, which then takes a different perspective.

It’s like a Venn diagram, isn’t it? You’ve got the industry that’s the big circle in the middle, and then you’ve got one client that overlaps it on the right-hand side and another client that overlaps it on the left-hand side, because it depends on what they provide, what the challenges are, and where things can be held. Then you overlay a slightly different circle or oval, or whatever shape it is, which is about the executives that each of them is trying to target depending on the bit of the industry they’re focused in on.

You end up actually coming from an industry, from a single point, and then you’re exploding that point into multiple points. It’s almost like a mind map that’s coming from that central point, and you end up with quite different deliverables to each client because you’ve really made it personal to the executive, relating to their company in that industry. The only commonality there is the industry. Is that right? Is that a fair assessment?

Jeremy: It is. It’ll be the industry and potentially even the same client, the same target account that they’re going after. But their output, the sales conversations, given the different portfolios and different executives, will be completely different.

Ralph: You’ve been working with Now AI for a while now, I think about a year or so since it was formed, and a number of clients have come on board in that time. Have you got clients which have bought once last year and have re-signed this year because they’ve seen value?

Jeremy: Yeah, we’re in the process with our client, Bentley. They’re rolling out to new accounts. They’ve seen the benefit in the first set of accounts, and now they’re rolling this out into even more of their client base. So yeah, they’ve re-signed and expanded.

We’re getting very positive feedback from the sales teams about how that’s changing their thinking of how they engage with their clients. It’s helping them to expand into new executive contacts and new business units and expand perhaps the portfolio that they’re selling. They may have been comfortable selling one part of their portfolio, and we’re helping them to position new parts of their portfolio or the portfolio that they haven’t sold into that client. We’re very much helping our clients see the benefit and expand that across their business.

Ralph: That’s fantastic. Repeat business is obviously the greatest accolade you can have, because it shows that there was value and that they’re prepared to continue the investment to drive incremental value even beyond that.

I have another question. If you are looking at an industry and you’re then saying, “Here’s the company within the industry; here are the executives you sell to,” you’ve got a huge amount of not just insight into all of that, but you’ve had to work on developing that intelligence. If one of the services is about saying to a customer, “This is the conversation you want to have with Executive #1 about this particular topic because there’s an issue or a trend or something that’s happening in the industry, and you can service it by talking about your solution area X, Y, and Z which could help them to drive some kind of value out of it” – as a byproduct of doing that, you’ve got a lot of information and intelligence about the industry and about the companies.

How are you then leveraging that information to be able to provide great intelligence to others who may just be interested in the industry or the companies?

Jeremy: You’re absolutely right. We build up a wealth of intelligence and insight into the companies in a particular industry and in the industries themselves. Absolutely, by having that, we can package up our services at a company level, and that’s where it’s most powerful, I would suggest, because it’s about individual executives, it’s about individual strategies. But recognizing that some businesses are operating at a slightly different level and perhaps are only starting to think about how they sell into a particular industry space as opposed to a horizontal portfolio.

And yes, we work with clients to help them make that transition and focus on a particular industry and the sort of drivers and opportunities that they should be targeting with their clients in that particular industry space. Perhaps it’s connected car and automotive, and what does that mean for them?

Then we can help not only position that from the start, but give them a constant stream of intelligence that shows how that market is changing and adapting and where the next big trends are coming from, where trends are starting to move from very early phase and innovation into more mainstream, and therefore they should be pitching their sales pitch accordingly. Industry or company, both are very relevant, and we have a depth of expertise and knowledge and experiences and wealth of information to build our services to our clients.

Ralph: That’s great. Thank you, Jeremy, for joining the Now AI podcast. I will let you go now so that you can go and take the dog for a walk on the beach and enjoy the rest of the day.