How the New AI — Authentic Intelligence — Can Improve Sales Productivity


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During the past two years, Sales Mastery, Inc. (SMI) has been studying and cataloging the various artificial intelligence (AI) applications aimed at increasing sales rep productivity. With categories like: Appointment Setting; Automatic CRM Record Creation/Updating; Buyer Intent Analysis; Forecast Management; Guided Selling; and Prospect Engagement, to name just a few.

It seems that AI is everywhere. A year ago, McKinsey published a report offering 3 other flavors of AI, in increasing levels of capability/complexity: Assisted Intelligence; Augmented Intelligence; and Autonomous Intelligence. These ranged from basically serving up facts/insights to the technology being able to generate its own outputs with minimal/no human intervention once started.

I would like to suggest it’s time for a new AI: Authentic Intelligence.

Everyone today, on both sides of the Buy-Sell equation, wants authentic, genuine, straightforward communication/connection. Who wants artificial, fake, beating around the bush communication? Answer: no one.

What is Authentic Intelligence? Again, at SMI we’ve been saying for the past 2 years, AI has no judgment. AI can serve up data points; it can tell you how recently someone started their current job, and what news items may have appeared about a lead’s company. AI is even getting smarter and comparing where a rep says an opportunity is (e.g., commit) versus client activity (e.g., no emails/calls the past 30 days) and flag the forecasting of that deal.

Let’s be clear, this is all good—really good—stuff. Saving a rep the time of looking things up (CSO Insights research showed 20% of rep time spent on researching/prospecting) can free up selling time to be in contact with customers and prospects. But, if no judgment or intuition is applied to these data tidbits, it comes off as, well, artificial.

Too often, new productivity tools are aimed at increasing productivity by increasing activity. Instead of 60 calls/day, technology can enable 100 calls/day. Combined with LinkedIn or other lead sources, dozens of emails can be sent out daily. The emails I receive every week are often a joke. Here are a few examples from this week’s inbox:

  • “Hope you’re doing great. Any update regarding my previous email?” (No)
  • “I’m writing to discuss any vacant positions you’re looking to fill.” (Not hiring)
  • “I would like to share a proposal with you and would like to know if you find it interesting.” (Really?)

This last one is “interesting” because I know the person that sent it, though I wonder how many other people he sent this same email to. First, it had no greeting, it simply opened with the line above. Second, it said nothing about why this detailed proposal (link provided) would be “interesting.”

These examples of leveraging technology to simply pump out more crap are why there remains a hunger for someone who’s actually thinking about why they’re reaching out, about why this may be relevant/interesting. Someone who’s being authentic.

Keys to being authentic:

1. Let AI do your homework but then apply some thought to why what you’re wanting to say should be on the radar of the person you’re reaching out to.

I see on your LinkedIn profile that you recently were promoted to VP of Sales Enablement and are a member of the Sales Enablement Society. Current research shows only a third (34.4%) of firms successfully met the majority of their sales enablement expectations. Would you have 10 minutes in the next week to discuss the two factors that help increase this success rate dramatically?

2. Is there a valid business reason for your being in contact—from the receiving person’s point of view? If so, state it up front: Here’s why I’m writing you.

Increasing revenues has been the #1 objective of VPs of Sales the past several years but what is the best way to move the revenue needle? Our research study (attached) identifies several leading options. Would you be available for a brief call to discuss how to more carefully narrow this list?

3. Be clear, be persistent, try multi-touch (LinkedIn follow, InMail, email, phone) and keep track of what works. Do more of this and less of the things that are simply keeping you busy.

In follow-up to my recent InMail (thanks for connecting) and last week’s email, I just left you a vmail to see if we can set a time to connect ‘live.’ I’ll try again tomorrow but, if you can provide a couple of times that work at your end to schedule a 10-minute call, I’m sure I can flex to meet one of them.

A new rep leveraging technology can outperform a grizzled veteran not using technology, simply by outworking them. If the newbie is making 75 calls/day and the veteran is making 12, the numbers favor the new rep.

But a veteran applying years’ of experience/perspective to technology-assisted outreach will outdistance the newbie by being the wheat, not the chaff. By providing a clear signal, rather than simply broadcasting a bunch of noise. By providing Authentic Intelligence.

Barry Trailer
Barry has been involved in complex B2B sales for over 30 years and is intrigued with how it's changed/changing and what this means to Sales as a Profession (SaaP). Salesware, the analytics company he co-founded, was acquired by Goldmine Software in 2000 and his next company, CSO Insights with Jim Dickie, was acquired by Miller Heiman Group in 2015. He has twice been published by, and been a keynote for, Harvard Business Review, and is author of Sales Mastery, a novel.


  1. Authentic Intelligence is an interesting concept, thank you for this article! I think this is one of those innovations that can elevate sales productivity on another level. I am looking to a wider adoption of this concept in the future. Call centers are already using some groundbreaking technologies, but this can improve business significantly. I can imagine Authentic Intelligence in Banking Industry, it could help to earn astonishing amount of money, if implemented right.

  2. Authentic intelligence connects the right content with the right audience, guided by a proprietary and human-supervised machine learning platform. It is a totally new concept that many people around us are adopting for their sales elevation. Overall thanks for the awesome post.

  3. Interesting article; at least 10 or 12 major consulting/training companies are on the link the sales process to the buyer process kick or perhaps you might term it link the pipeline to the buyers journey. You might look at Cloudaps and in particular their SuMo software application. That will get a dose of steroids in about 6 months when the AI application hits beta test. It will use “Deep Learning” and will have three algorithms that continuously analyze and learn from sales input in the CRM. One key is it tracks when a salesperson does something, which the academic literature does not. In any case the Selling Power 500 all have huge investments in their sales forces. This program, if implemented well, can provide a continuously updated best practices that the sales force, sure beats the expert systems I wrote about 30 years ago. Exciting times, lots of opportunity, lots of risk, some big potential returns. Thank you for the link to SMI, I was not familiar with them.


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