IBM Puts AI to Work for Partner Lead Sharing
… it continually learns. SCORE not only mimics the daily human lead-passing process and arms sellers with that info – picking the best partner for a specific opportunity – but factors in partners’ success or failure into the process.
In its first year of operation, SCORE contributed $100 million in additional revenue through the acceleration of IBM’s sales cycle, and increased lead passing by 50%, with a five-point improvement in the win rates on leads passed to business partners.
“Humans are still a part of the process. The tool makes the recommendation, and if within 72 hours our lead passing individual agrees with the recommendation, they can let it go and the tool passes it to the business partner,” explained Fino.
If the human lead passer doesn’t agree with the recommendation, they explain the reason so that the tool can learn, and the recommendation would be rerouted to the partner that the human lead passer thinks is better suited to the opportunity.
“So we achieve two things: We got the lead to where it belongs and we taught the tool that there was a different approach that could be taken so that the next recommendation would include that logic as part of the recommendation of the tool,” said Fino.
The AI tool also democratizes the lead-passing process to large and small partners, taking bias out of the process. So, for example, a small niche partner with the same capability as a bigger, more well-known partner business, has the same shot at getting a lead. That wasn’t always the case in the past.
SCORE looks more specifically at the opportunity level and pulls more partners into the equation. That also applies to adjacent opportunities.
“The old way was to give a lead in a different tech area – say the first lead pass was for security and the second was for storage – to the incumbent even if they don’t really have those skills. So, it may not be a fit. Today, this will allow another partner with a lot of storage expertise to come to the table, providing a better solution for the client,” said Fino.
SCORE targets all partners and opportunities across all IBM brands.
Partner-to-partner and the cognitive lead-passing initiatives work together, like pieces of a puzzle. But IBM isn’t stopping here.
The company has another cognitive application on its radar — adjacency selling. The idea is to help partners learn what has worked well for other partners in similar customer situations.
Here’s an example: “If a partner is buying product A, and product B and C [have] worked well for other partners in other ‘like’ clients – it helps partners make recommendations of adjacency offerings that have had success selling in other client engagements,” explained Fino.
Again, the beauty of cognitive is its ability to learn. Successful outcomes produce recommendations that are rolled out based on real-time information from the sales engine.