Analytics Software

Aviso offers Spock-style logic to predict sales

In the old world of selling, companies would train apprentices on the basics and veterans would pass on their hard-won knowledge of clues and cues as to what to do. In the modern world, where face-to-face selling is only one part of the equation, apprenticeships hardly exist and there’s reduced scope for training, things have changed. Later, CRM made a splash by providing a record of sales interactions but today that’s not enough and more companies are turning to machine intelligence to figure out how to sell.

KV Rao is the founder of Aviso, a three-year-old Silicon Valley startup operating in the latest business software zeitgeist, predictive analytics. After working at companies like WebEx and SGI and having founded Zuora, Rao was familiar with sales challenges.

“The tools I had were pretty limited,” he says. “Sales people can be guided by ‘what I’d like to happen’ rather than what is likely to happen. There are many variables outside sales so calls [on sales forecasts] tended to be very noisy with lots of wishful thinking and it was hard to separate signal from the noise. Aviso is a voice of reason like Mr Spock for Captain Kirk [in classic TV series Star Trek].”

Together with Andrew Abrahams, formerly chief quant at JP Morgan, Rao hatched a plan to make sales forecasting less about hunch and ego and more about data science and pattern matching. Aviso’s cloud-based service watches for micro- and macro-economic signals such as changes to interest rates, cost of living, taxation, management changes, layoffs, sucks in data from internal systems and compares forecasts against classic sales cycle precedents.

“It’s tighter, crisper and frees up the sales organisation’s time for selling rather than the classic waterboarding that goes on.”

In this way, Aviso can help predict the probability of a deal closing, when and (trickier given pipeline fluctuations) its likely size.

Rao says he still understands the importance of experience and human insights but recommends that where people’s ideas are poles apart from what the analytics point to, “that’s a cause for digging in and seeing if the data science prediction or the human is better. I don’t want to discount the value of passion and emotion and human sales, but it can be tempered.”

Aviso – the name comes from the Castilian Spanish for ‘messenger’ – has attracted some big names, many of them tech firms and including Splunk, Talend, RingCentral, Marketo and HubSpot.

For its latest trick, Aviso recently launched its Sales War Room capability that is like a military battle plan with dynamic updates as an upgrade to the sticky notes and white boards that remain common currency in selling environments. Aimed at hectic times such as the end-of-quarter/month rush, the system sucks in data from multiple sources and spits out sliced-and-diced views by criteria such as “most likely to close”, deal value or geographic location, and lets ‘what if’ scenarios be applied.

Aviso can extract data from many sources but Salesforce.com is a key source; Salesforce is “not yet” an investor in Aviso but the company is seeking to raise another round next year to add to the $23m it already has.

Of course, Aviso is far from alone in seeing the value of predictive analytics as potential sales accelerator. There’s Salesforce’s Wave Analytics, InsideSales.com, InsightSquared, Infer, 6Sense and many others. But Rao says that just shows the validity of the market.

“[Big players] are talking about predictive analytic for sales and recognise it, but can they move fast enough?” Rao says. “It’s hard for them to make that expertise core to their business. The market is demanding this… it’s time.”


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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