Today, Salesforce announced advancements to the Sales Cloud platform, delivering a faster, smarter and more integrated sales process. Now, companies can complete the entire sales process with a single platform, from marketing to sales to billing. In addition, new AI-powered insights can deliver smarter, more personalized customer experiences.

Adam Blitzer is the Executive Vice President and General Manager of Sales Cloud, the world’s #1 sales platform. He co-founded Pardot, a leading marketing automation solution. Before getting into enterprise software, Adam competed in judo, an Olympic sport, for more than 15 years. We caught up with him for his thoughts on Sales Cloud’s latest innovations, and a few of his thoughts on how his judo training has influenced his approach to business.

Sales Cloud is out with a number of enhancements today. From a high level, what should customers and potential customers know about them?

Sales Cloud is a complete sales platform, from lead-to-cash. The idea of lead-to-cash is to power every part of the sales process—not just any one part in a vacuum, but all of it together across a single platform.

Today, we're continuing to add to that completeness in a few different ways. First, there is High Velocity Sales, which is focused on helping inside sales reps prospect faster, eliminate busy work and increase their pipeline.

Can you describe what is new with High Velocity Sales?

Sure. Inside sales reps spend a large amount of time at their desks, are very activity-driven, and are trying to get through dozens of phone calls and emails each day. Much of the inside sales rep’s job is about connecting with as many prospects as possible. With High Velocity Sales, we’re bringing together a lot of core technologies that we've had at Salesforce to speed up the sales process. It's taking the power of what we call Lightning Dialer—a click-to-call solution that lets you power through phone calls in an automated fashion, and automatically leave voicemails with the push of a button so you can move on to the next call. High Velocity Sales also provides a high-productivity workspace, so an inside sales rep can see everything in one place, rather than switching between different windows and tabs and systems.

Additionally, among really new innovations, we have Sales Cadences and Work Queues that make reps more productive with AI capabilities.

Let’s start with Sales Cadences first. These are automated plays that enable a sales manager to create pre-built activity sequences for their inside sales teams. For example, the Sales Cadence will guide inside sales reps through the best way to engage with a prospect, whether it is making a phone call one day, sending a follow-up email or setting reminders to follow up with a prospect two days later.  All of those various smart plays or cadences can be built right into the CRM with Sales Cadences.

Sales reps also have what we call a smart Work Queue. What Work Queues do is, when a sales rep starts his or her day in Salesforce, he or she is presented with a queue of activities—calls to make and emails to send. However, the best part of this is that the Work Queue is powered by artificial intelligence. So, it's scoring our leads, putting them in the right order and ensuring each sales rep has a queue that is optimized and prioritized based on the leads most likely to convert.

Both of these new features save sales reps a ton of time. They no longer have to spend time figuring out what they need to do in a day or what system to use. All they need to do now is just sit down at their desk and start connecting with customers. It really maximizes the time that those sales reps spend doing what they do best: sell.

Sales Cloud also now has Billing for the first time. What does this mean for customers?

The average company's marketing and sales stacks have gotten incredibly complicated. As much as possible, we want all of the solutions to be running on top of Salesforce, which delivers a single platform and single source of truth for every team. Billing is really the last mile in the lead-to-cash process. And so in many ways, it's one of the most strategic parts of that whole process—because it's where you actually transact with your customer.

Previously, companies had to hop around to different systems to fill the billing need. Now, with Salesforce Billing, we're enabling the entire billing process to occur right within Salesforce. And we're adding a lot of flexibility to this solution. Companies have had a need for billing forever, but they're increasingly adopting new business models where companies want to become not just product companies, but they often want to become subscription companies, establishing a recurring relationship with their customers.

Salesforce Billing works with recurring billing and usage-based pricing, which have been popularized by companies like Amazon, where you're paying for things commensurate with how you use them. That's great for the end customer. It can be complicated on the billing side. We've made that easy in our billing solution.

How is Sales Cloud leveraging AI?

I think what makes Salesforce unique in the realm of AI is that our AI is laser-focused on CRM, which in turn means that it's very focused on sales, marketing, service and commerce. These are the kinds of problems that we have had a lot of experience with in the past 19 years.

In sales, marketing or other areas, AI can deal with a variety of problems and unlock productivity. For example, who do I need to call first? Which leads should we follow up with? Looking at the behavior of a lead, seeing how active they are, how engaged they are, what type of content they're consuming to know: where should they be in the buying cycle? A human can do that but a human can't do that at scale. A machine is very, very good at those types of problems. And it leaves the human to focus on higher value activity like actually connecting with those prospects.

Providing those insights and predictions is something that we've done on the sales side with Sales Cloud Einstein and that we’re really excited to do now for the B2B marketing side with Pardot Einstein. One of the key features that we’re launching is Einstein Behavior Scoring, which looks at data points such as: How often is a lead engaging with your brand? What type of content are they consuming? What is sort of the frequency and velocity of their interactions? Einstein uses this information to surface up insights to marketers, so they know how to best engage with customers.

We're also giving marketers insight into their campaigns using AI. Marketers can typically see if a campaign is effective, but they can’t see why. With Einstein Campaign Insights, marketers are able to learn what makes their campaigns effective.

Jumping out of the new enhancements to Sales Cloud, how is the sales landscape changing and how can digital tools and new maybe emerging technologies further streamline the sales process?

One shift we’re seeing is a consistent shift from field sales to inside sales. That's been going on very strongly for more than a decade. So if you think back to 2007 and 2008, a lot of companies really started clamping down on the amount of travel that they were doing for sales. And that also coincided nicely with the rise of more click-to-call solutions, and the rise of web conferencing solutions. Companies got more and more comfortable with the size of deals that could be transacted via inside sales.

That has only accelerated. When you look at hiring today, most studies show that inside sales is growing rapidly. On average, sales reps spend more time at a desk rather than out in the field. And so to do that, and to capitalize on that, and to be more effective, you really need specialized software that allows you to spend much more time engaging with your customers rather than getting ready for conversations with customers.

Is there anything you'd like to add for customers who are interested in diving into these new enhancements?  

Absolutely. First, our Trailhead interactive learning platform is an amazing resource to get started, not just with the specific feature function level of AI from Salesforce, but also just the idea of AI and how it can impact your business. You're getting a primer on AI and AI for CRM, the kinds of things you should be thinking about, the kinds of preparation you should do at your company to get ready for AI.

Secondly, we have set of tools for assessing data. If you're a Salesforce customer, it is very important to understand the amount of data you have, the cleanliness of your data and if your data has the right shape to use AI. For example, if you have very little historical data, you may want to build that up before you start using AI for certain types of problems. So the combination of Trailhead to learn all about AI, and data assessment so we can tell you which features and functions we think you're the best fit for, will put you in a pretty good place.

You are an accomplished judoka. How has your judo training impacted your approach to business problems?

Ironically, or strangely, it's actually very similar to how I think about CRM. I used to compete in judo. I did it competitively for probably 17 years or so, and for four years lived in Japan, which is the birthplace of judo. When I did that, there were three levels of competitors that I used to compete against.

The first level competitors were the ones that really focused on their own game plans or own technique and they came out attacking really strongly. No matter what, they just tried to execute the game plan that they were thinking about. They were really very predictable, and easy to beat.

The second level competitors were the ones that came in with a game plan, but weren’t afraid to react to you. So they remained pretty flexible. You would attack, they would counter-attack, you would attack, they would counter-attack, and it became like a physical chess match. The faster they could shift gears, the tougher they were to beat.

But the third level competitors, at the Olympic level -- a level I certainly never got to—were the ones that knew they didn't have to adapt to you. They didn't have to counter-attack because they knew where you were going to be before you were there.

Oddly, I think of those same three levels apply to how companies use CRM. The vast majority of companies are at that first level, coming in with a game plan for tracking customers and accounts, and no matter what, they're just trying to execute that game plan. They might have a sales script or sales process and they dogmatically follow it no matter what they know about a prospect. Marketing is all about getting campaigns out the door, lasting campaigns. Service is all about getting someone off the phone. And that's when these systems are really the systems of record, the sort of databases that enforce business processes.

Better companies are at that second level. They're still going in with the game plan but it's flexible. There is a sales process but it can evolve. If a lead is contacted but they know that lead is having service issue because the systems are connected, they're able to personalize the interaction and treat the lead differently than a first level company might. That's really where second level companies are becoming systems of engagement.

But the third level is really where we want to take all of our customers. And that's where companies are not only reacting to and personalizing things for their customers, but it's where they're able to use CRM to, predict what their customers are going to be doing and what their needs are. They know which clicks will become leads, which leads will become opportunities, which opportunities will close and become customers. That's where all of these business apps become systems of intelligence, and how I think about that adoption curve and maturity curve for business apps.