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AiThority Interview with Ketan Karkhanis, EVP & GM, Sales Cloud at Salesforce

Hi Ketan, please tell us about your role at Salesforce and how it has changed since the onset of the pandemic in 2020?

I’m the EVP and GM of Sales Cloud at Salesforce. I’m a Salesforce boomerang — I spent nearly a decade at Salesforce leading product areas in Sales, Service, and finally, Analytics Cloud, where I led the team’s innovation and customer success efforts for Einstein Analytics before serving as COO at the supply-chain platform Turvo until 2022. I returned to Salesforce in March of that year to lead Sales Cloud and now Sales GPT.

While AI isn’t new to Salesforce — it’s been integral to the Salesforce platform for years and our Einstein AI technologies deliver nearly 200 billion predictions every day across Customer 360 — generative AI has the potential to introduce exciting new opportunities across sales and other roles like service, marketing, commerce, and IT.

The biggest change in my role has been seeing how we can integrate generative AI, along with predictive AI, into Sales GPT, to help sales teams to close deals faster, anticipate customer needs, and increase productivity. 

What is Sales GPT’s most powerful feature? What makes it a reliable sales intelligence tool for modern organizations?

Today’s sales professionals are under more pressure than ever before. They’re spending less and less of their time actually selling — only about a quarter of their day in 2023, down from a third in 2018 — and more time on tasks like deal management and data entry. On top of that, their teams are shrinking, they have fewer resources, and they have to deal with a continually changing carousel of new tech and tools.

Sales GPT brings trusted generative AI to sales teams, giving reps their very own virtual AI assistant.

Using real-time data, features like auto-generated and data-informed emails can help users scale personalized customer interaction, streamline prospecting, and allow sellers to spend more time focusing on delivering business value and customer care. Sales GPT will also automatically transcribe and summarize calls, and follow-up actions to help improve seller productivity. This will transform the sales lifecycle, simplifying everything from research, and meeting preparation to contracting — all grounded in the user’s unique and real-time CRM data. 

What kind of awareness is required to benefit from any generative AI tool for sales?

It may be counterintuitive, but I don’t think you need to learn any new skills for generative AI. The biggest skill you need for using generative AI is curiosity.

At Salesforce, we believe that if our customers need a special set of skills to get started, then we haven’t done our job. For example, you don’t need to understand how GPS and satellites work to use the map apps on your phone.

Technology needs to be simplified and easily woven into the fabric of our jobs. I think what is more important than understanding how AI works is being aware of the impact it can have on your job — the awareness and openness to try new ways and embrace new technology.

The biggest obstacle sales reps face isn’t how to use generative AI, but why they should. Sales teams today use an average of 10 tools to close deals, and it’s overloading sellers. So, one barrier to using generative AI is in explaining the real and immediate value they can get out of it rather than it being just another tool.

How does Prompt Studio address the issues with AI biases and hallucinations during sales conversations?

Whether they know it or not, every business is on its way to becoming an AI business, but many are concerned about risks like hallucinations, bias, and security have created a trust gap. Beyond that, there’s a skills gap to overcome on how to safely use generative AI.

That’s where Prompt Studio is such a valuable tool. It lowers those barriers by helping users create prompt templates, removing the human variability in prompt writing, and ensuring the responses are grounded in their company’s unique data — not just scraped from the internet. By grounding responses in their trusted data, sales teams can mitigate the risk of the AI model “hallucinating” random responses from biased or irrelevant information.

Do you think sales reps can be excellent prompt engineers? How would a tool like Prompt Studio democratize generative AI for sales reps?

If you’ve played around with any of the generative AI chatbots then you know writing the prompt is half the battle to getting a valuable response. Our Prompt Studio has simplified and stripped out all the complexity and human variability in prompt engineering, allowing users to create prompts with the click of a button, so they can focus on one thing: their customers and delivering them value.

One of the key pieces of Prompt Studio is it helps users ground their responses in their unique CRM data. Unlike generative AI chatbots that scrape the internet and can therefore “hallucinate” or generate biased or erroneous responses, Prompt Studio ensures that responses are based on the user’s CRM data.

How can users protect their organization’s data privacy and reduce biased responses?

Many people and organizations have valid privacy and security concerns over inputting their data into AI models. But that’s exactly what you’re doing when you prompt a generative AI model — you’re feeding the model your data. At the same time, AI is only as good as the data you give it.

That’s what makes our Einstein GPT Trust Layer our most important AI innovation. It includes zero data retention, meaning no prompt or response is ever stored by a third-party LLM or used to train their model. Additionally, our Prompt Studio not only helps users create consistent prompts, but it helps ensure the data the AI uses is theirs — not scraped from the internet — helping reduce the risk of bias in the model’s output.

Please tell us more about Einstein’s and GPT’s role in making Sales Cloud the go-to platform for every sales team.

AI itself, is not new to sales reps. Predictive AI has been part of the sales process for years. It is a standard capability within Sales GPT, delivered through Sales Cloud Einstein, Einstein Forecasting, lead and opportunity scoring, and more, informing sellers based on the data already in their CRM.

Now with Einstein GPT and Sales GPT, generative AI will transform sales more than any other shift since cloud computing. New capabilities like automated, AI-generated prospect emails, scheduling meetings, and preparing for the next interaction can free up sales reps to focus more on customers and drive revenue.

This is just the beginning. Very soon, I can see generative AI automating proposals, creating predictive sales modeling, and streamlining the sales process to close deals faster and with fewer resources.

Thank you, Ketan That was fun and we hope to see you back on soon.

Ketan is the EVP & GM, Sales Cloud at Salesforce.

Salesforce, the global CRM leader, empowers companies of every size and industry to digitally transform and create a 360° view of their customers.

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