Cognitive Business: This Founder Optimizes Sales with CRM AI

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In this Cognitive Business interview, we meet Craig Conlee, founder of Zealr, an AI sales software that enables CRM to categorize data into actionable insights and optimizes the selling process.

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Photo by Craig Conlee

So, what problem does your company solve and who does it help?

The problem is that CRM systems are designed to help close more sales, but, for all of that money (and time and training spent implementing those expensive systems) they still lose billions in sales because of insufficient data entry by their sales representatives into their CRM.

Zealr addresses this challenge by helping increase the accuracy of data entered by sales representatives.

How does your product work?

Our company works on pairing people and machines to create a new hyper-productive and more fulfilling sales engagement with their prospects.

We do this using a proprietary cognitive system that auto-classifies messages to and from clients and prospects, allowing the CRM to know exactly where to store them, how to categorize them, and enable much more meaningful and user friendly data. After the messages/sales data is cleansed consistently, we are able to process the messages into our machine learning algorithm to get a better perception on what is working and not.

We leverage AI, machine learning techniques, deep natural language processing, key technical innovations (like IBM Watson) on how sales and marketing interact, measure, and learn through a one-stop-shop messaging tool.

It’s all this technology that allows sales representatives to augment their selling.

How do you define cognitive computing?

Cognitive computing is a set of tech systems that allow business leaders to understand what’s happening in the world more deeply. Cognitive computing is infusing intelligence into systems and processes that enable businesses to do things more efficiently, improve customer satisfaction, discover new business opportunities, and to anticipate risks and threats so they can address them in an optimal manner.

Unstructured data is a challenge for cognitive computing. Let’s use a scenario that involves natural spoken language (unstructured data) to show you what I mean. If I were to say out loud: “The dog walked in the room. It was furry.” If I then asked, “What is furry?” A human would say the dog was furry. A computer might not. The computer may think the room was furry. Bottom line, we can implement linguistic tools, but, like myself, we can’t rely on humans use of perfect grammar or avoid slang. — Craig Conlee

What cognitive and AI challenges do you see in the CRM world?

Overall, the challenges we have in cognitive computing are around unstructured data. The challenge with unstructured data is that it is not easy to analyze. We need to structure unstructured data so computers can make sense of it. When we do this, computers will be able to derive insightful information.

Within the CRM world, there is a huge communications cognitive challenge. On a high level, sales needs to be an expert in their respective fields, industries, and etc. Current learning machines, despite how amazing they are, do not help sales because there is no tool to capture their conversations other than email. Most of the data captured by sales is either irrelevant, stale, or it does not exist. The challenge is getting a dataset that captures all sales unstructured interaction (other than email) in a meaningful way so we can now slice and dice it.This will give machine learning tools a healthy dataset to cognitively apply forward thinking methodologies so we can fine tune innovation.

What industries do you see cognitive computing benefiting first?

I believe systems that already have a structured data environment established will benefit, however, they will reach a limit to really learn since 90% of the world is unstructured.

How can a customer get ready for cognitive CRM solutions, such as yours?

A customer needs to want to invest in the future, invest in it, and then get their sales teams to use their cognitive CRM solution and record all of their interactions. This will allow the AI to intake data, learn from it, and gets smarter. Overtime, cognitive a CRM solution will derive meaningful insight, predictions, and recommendations. In turn, cognitive CRM solution customers will drive more sales.

What are your thoughts on Salesforce Einstein?

Einstein is an AI platform that is built for marketing and built for developers. We’re focused on sales.

How can we learn more about you and your company?

You can visit us here.

“Cognitive Business” is an interview series featuring prominent figures in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) world. Written by Lolita M Taub and written for C-suite and Line-of-Business seeking to address business challenges and goals using the smartest tech.

Originally published at on September 21, 2016.

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