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Salesforce Einstein Unveils New Predictive AI Sales Tools

Since Salesforce announced Einstein a year ago, the company has been building out an artificial intelligence (AI) layer that spans Salesforce’s entire platform. Einstein’s data-driven, machine learning (ML) algorithms, natural language processing (NLP), and predictive analytics have found their way into Salesforce’s entire product stack to underpin 18 new features and more than 475 million predictions per day across the company’s customer relationship management (CRM), marketing, service, commerce, Internet of Things (IoT), analytics, and application clouds.

Today on Einstein’s first birthday, Salesforce unveiled three major new AI capabilities for its flagship Salesforce Sales Cloud : Einstein Forecasting, Einstein Opportunity Scoring, and Einstein Email Insights. These capabilities give salespeople a new suite of intelligent tools to prioritize deals and leads, predict sales pipeline revenue, and surface important emails with proactive recommendations. Salesforce Ventures, the company’s venture capital (VC) arm, announced a new $50 million Salesforce AI Fund and initial investments in several AI startups.

“Our goal is to democratize artificial intelligence and make our customers smarter, more productive, and more predictive,” said Lynne Zaledonis, Vice President of Product Marketing, in an interview with PCMag.

“The first generation of Einstein over the past year has introduced Einstein Activity Capture [synced with Gmail or Office 365 ] to add emails and events to Salesforce activity data, lead scoring and machine learning to identify patterns for your sales reps, opportunity insight and recommendations on the data trending up or down in your system, account insights to identify key business changes, and automated contacts to automatically add leads and contacts into your CRM application,” she said. “Now we’re introducing the next generation of Sales Cloud. We’re announcing a breakthrough application with Einstein Forecasting so anyone from the head of sales to the CFO can now make predictions.”

Einstein Forecasting can give users a quick dashboard view of whether or not teams are on track to hit quarterly sales numbers or whether or not any deals are in jeopardy; it can even predict the viability of a business expansion. Einstein Opportunity Scoring is focused on identifying and prioritizing the highest value deals within the Sales Cloud Lightning Console. Einstein Email Insights works similarly to the AI-powered SalesInbox in Zoho CRM , using NLP to surface the most deal-critical emails at the top of your inbox and act like a personal email assistant with action-oriented recommendations.

There are already more than 7,000 developers building Einstein-powered apps, according to Salesforce, and Einstein has generated more than 90 million predictions to date. Zaledonis also stressed that Salesforce continues to invest on the research front as well as in its Salesforce Research department. Led by Chief Scientist Dr. Richard Socher, the group has published 10 academic papers in the past year on breakthroughs and innovations in deep learning and neural networks.

Salesforce has not yet announced pricing for Einstein Forecasting, Einstein Opportunity Scoring, and Einstein Email Insights. They are currently in pilot and are expected to be generally available in the first half of 2018. Zaledonis and Kamilla Khaydarov, Senior Product Manager at Salesforce, walked us through each of the new Einstein features and what salespeople will be able to do with them.

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  • 1

    Einstein Forecasting

    Einstein Forecasting is a fully automated, out-of-the-box solution that mines and analyzes a company’s historical CRM data to project sales forecasts based on features such as historical comparisons and seasonality. The machine and deep learning algorithms underpinning the service are also designed to remove optimistic or pessimistic bias, delivering an unbiased sales forecast on what to expect from the pipeline and quick forecasting features that run ad hoc predictive analysis on sales scenarios.

    “Predictive forecasting is going to empower sales leaders with greater visibility,” said Zaledonis. “They’ll be able to understand what to expect from their pipelines and make informed decisions with revenue-accurate information.”

    “In the Forecast Breakdown tab, Einstein gives you the details and factors behind the predictions to give you confidence in their accuracy and, more importantly, a waterfall chart breaking down the matrix of behaviors and historical trends into buckets,” added Khaydarov. “So you’ll see a ‘Wins from New Deals’ bucket on what deals you should expect to close that haven’t hit the pipelines.”

  • 2

    Einstein Opportunity Scoring

    Einstein Opportunity Scoring is all about deal prioritization and monitoring. Einstein takes away the manual effort of sifting through opportunities. It surfaces the most valuable deals by potential size, executive engagement, and other factors to score the deals that are most likely to close and flag ongoing at-risk deals in need of attention.

    “Opportunity Scoring knows what marks a good deal, using machine learning to identify these patterns,” said Zaledonis. “Einstein surfaces at-risk details to take action accordingly, which takes the guesswork out of the deal cycle.”

    “Everyone is using the same opportunity scores and insights so, when a sales rep sees a score drop, they can reach out to a contact and get an inside scoop on the deal,” said Khaydarov.

  • 3

    Einstein Email Insights

    The idea behind Einstein Email Insights is to give sales reps their own personal email assistant. Within Salesforce (or whatever email client you’re using), Einstein uses NLP to scan your inbox for the most pressing contacts, leads, and opportunities in need of a response. It then recommends potential CRM pipeline actions, from scheduling a meeting to sending a quote to close a deal.

    “Einstein Email Insights takes your inbox to a whole new level,” said Zaledonis. “It’s like having your own personal assistant to comb through your inbox with natural language processing, surface emails critical to your deals, and recommend next steps—all loaded into Outlook, Gmail, and whatever your mobile apps are.”

    “Normally, a single sentence in an email buried in your inbox might get missed. But, with Einstein, that email can set off a whole chain of events to flag an opportunity,” explained Khaydarov. “With Email Insights, you just tap into the priority inbox and in front of the sales rep are the deal-critical important emails and insights telling them why the email is important. Maybe there’s a pricing mention or a key executive involved, and you see that tag right up top. When you tap into the insight, you then get the next best action: reply, reply with a template, view the executive’s profile, and so on.”

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New ‘Dark Ads’ pro-Brexit Facebook campaign may have reached over 10M people, say researchers

A major new campaign of disinformation around Brexit, designed to stir up UK ‘Leave’ voters, and distributed via Facebook, may have reached over 10 million people in the UK, according to new research. The source of the campaign is so far unknown, and will be embarrassing to Facebook which only this week claimed it was clamping down on ‘dark’ political advertising on its platform. Researchers for the UK-based digital agency 89up, allege that “Mainstream Network” — which looks and reads like a ‘mainstream’ news site but which has no contact details or reporter bylines — is serving hyper-targeted Facebook advertisements aimed at exhorting people in Leave-voting UK constituencies to tell their MP to “chuck Chequers”. Chequers is the name given to the UK Prime Ministers’s proposed deal with the EU regarding the UK’s departure from the EU next year. 89up says it estimates that Mainstream Network, which routinely puts out pro-Brexit “news”, could have spent over £250,000 on pro-Brexit or anti-Chequers advertising on Facebook in less than a year. The agency calculates that with that level of advertising, the messaging would have been seen by 11 million people. TechCrunch has independently confirmed that Mainstream Network’s domain name was registered in November last year, and began publishing in February of this year. In evidence given to Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee today, 89up says the website was running dozens of adverts targetted at Facebook users in specific constituencies, suggesting users “Click to tell your local MP to bin Chequers”, along with an image from the constituency, and an email function to drive people to send their MP an anti-Chequers message. This email function carbon-copied an [email protected] email address. This would be a breach of the UK’s data protection rules, since the website is not listed as a data controller, says 89up. The news comes a day after Facebook announced a new clampdown on political advertisement on its platform, and will put further pressure on the social media giant to look again at how it deals with the so-called ‘dark advertising’ its Custom Audiences campaign tools are often accused of spreading. 89up claims Mainstream Network website could be in breach of new GDPR rules since, while collecting users’ data, it does not have a published privacy policy, or contain any contact information whatsoever on the site or the campaigns it runs on Facebook. The agency says that once users are taken to the respective localized landing pages from ads, they are asked to email their MP. When a user does this, its default email client opens up an email and puts its own email in the BCC field (see below). It is possible, therefore, that the user’s email address is being stored and later used for marketing purposes by Mainstream Network. TechCrunch has reached out to Mainstream Network for comment on Twitter and email. A WhoIs look-up revealed no information about the owner of the site. TechCrunch’s own research into the domain reveals that the domain owner has made every possible attempt to remain anonymous. Even before GDPR came in, the domain owners had paid to hide its ownership on Godaddy, where it is registered. The site is using standard Godaddy shared hosting to blend in with 400+ websites using the same IP address. Commenting, Damian Collins MP, the Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the UK Houde of Commons, said: “We do not know who is funding the Mainstream Network, or who is behind its operations, but we can see that they are directing a large scale advertising campaign on Facebook designed to get people to lobby their MP to oppose the Prime Ministers’s Brexit strategy. I have been sent a series of emails from constituents as a result of these adverts, in a deliberate attempt to alter the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. “The issue for parliamentarians is we have no idea who is targeting whom via political advertising on Facebook, who is paying for it, and what the purpose of that communication is. Facebook claimed this week that it was working to make political advertising on their platform more transparent, but once again we see potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds being spent to influence the political process and no one knows who is behind this.” Mike Harris, CEO of 89up said: “A day after Facebook announced it will no longer be taking ‘dark ads’, we see once again evidence of the huge problem the platform is yet to face up to. Facebook has known since the EU referendum that highly targeted political advertising was being placed on its platform by anonymous groups, yet has failed to do anything about it. We have found evidence of yet another anonymous pro-Brexit campaign placing potentially a quarter of a million pounds worth of advertising, without anyone knowing or being able to find out who they are.” Josh Feldberg, 89up researcher, said: “We have no idea who is funding this campaign. Only Facebook do. For all we know this could be funded by thousands of pounds of foreign money. This case just goes to show that despite Facebook’s claims they’re fighting fake news, anonymous groups are still out there trying to manipulate MPs and public opinion using the platform. It is possible there has been unlawful data collection. Facebook must tell the public who is behind this group.” TechCrunch has reached out to both Facebook and Mainstream Network for comment prior to publication and will update this post if either respond to the allegations.

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