Reelin' In The Years
The post-pandemic tell-tale sign of unicorns, as voice/AI enters new growth phase
Your everlasting summer - you can see it fading fast.
So you grab a piece of something that you think is gonna last.
Well, you wouldn't even know a diamond if you held it in your hand.
The things you think are precious, I can't understand.
Steely Dan’s masterpiece starts, as the band often did, by ripping straight into a guitar solo, as if there was some sort of first half of the song the band didn’t bother to play.
Quite similarly, we now enter a post-pandemic period where we’re about to see a whole raft of new unicorns show up, throwing their weight around like they’ve been around for decades.
But how can we spot them ahead of time?
The first chapter of conversational AI was voice technology’s slow but steady growth, spanning the past few decades and in parallel with the growth of personal computing.
The second chapter could be considered Alexa showing up, sparking consumer fascination (and massive device sales) associated with speaking to technology. Last 7 years or so.
Chapter 3 and 4 are the revolutions of the automotive market, with voice AI changing the way we think about the in-car experience, and the enterprise contact center space, with conversational AI obliterating how this industry worked previously, and overwriting it with a far more cost-effective, lean blueprint.
Which industry is next?
How about all of them?
If voice / AI makes the call center, a sleepy business if there ever was one, become interesting and fresh…
…what can’t it do?
Nothing ever sells itself.
No matter how good the technology is, or how useful it has become, someone has to go make a sale.
You ever wonder how many people are involved in sales, within conversational AI?
I used LinkedIn Sales Navigator to answer that exact question:
People in a sales role with “conversational AI” in their profile (globally): approximately 1500
United States 714, Europe 458, India 329
People in a sales role with “voice technology” in their profile (globally): 604
United States 311, Europe 133, India 24
People in a sales role with “voice AI” in their profile (globally): 222
United States 95, Europe 41, India 38
Now, for the sake of comparison:
People in a sales role working for PepsiCo: over 35,000
United States over 13,000, Europe over 2,500, India over 2,500
People in a sales role working for Pfizer: over 19,000
United States over 5,500, Europe over 3,500, India over 1,500
Across its business, Google has over 15,000 people in a sales role
Microsoft has over 24,000
Amazon has over 100,000!
The paltry numbers represented within voice technology and conversational AI are a momentary blip, in dire need of correction.
Consequently, I would point to this as an area that will define the next set of voice tech / conversational AI winners.
I don’t need to recount the realities of our modern professional situation. Our collective relationship with work is broken.
What do we have too many of right now? People who want to work from home.
What do we have too few of? People willing to hit the road on behalf of the company.
So there’s your answer on what’s most important:
We’ve now reached a point where anyone in a corporate decision-making role is willing to take a physical, in-person meeting if it’s brought to their doorstep.
Want to talk about something and I just need to go to the Starbucks down the street? Sure, no problem. See you there.
And I can assure you, I’ll be thinking about that meeting all week, maybe all month, because how many in-person meetings am I having? Yours might be the only one.
Find me the voice/AI CEO in these times that has a healthy sales team, even a small one, that’s willing and even, dare I say, enthusiastic to spend 200+ days in airports chasing down deals that can only be won face-to-face…
…and I’ll show you a company that’s figured out something profound.
An in-person meeting, in this bizarre environment where down is up and up is down, will overcome any sales objections related to product features or price.
You want to know what’s great for mental health?
Winning as a team at work, and bringing your share of that value home.
Same as it ever was.
Now what company will find the right people to go put that work in?