This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Dreamforce 2017 conference coverage

Salesforce Einstein AI expands reach as Dreamforce approaches

Salesforce Analytics extended to data sources outside the platform. Salesforce Einstein AI adds forecasting, email insights and opportunity scoring features for Sales Cloud users.

Salesforce Einstein AI is getting a feature boost moving into its second year. Salesforce Sales Cloud users will be the first beneficiaries, as the company hopes email and lead-scoring tools will help sales managers sort information more quickly and give salespeople more efficiencies to execute on opportunities.

Separately, Salesforce Analytics will include features to examine and derive insights from data sources outside the Salesforce platform. The company built new hooks into Google BigQuery, as well as Amazon Redshift, but -- perhaps more importantly -- Salesforce opened up its data analytics to give developers the capability to hook CRM data to a customer's employee compensation, orders, accounting, shipping or inventory data, to cite a few examples, and automate report generation and analysis of sales commissions, supply chains or a number of other business processes.

And development will continue, according to Salesforce. "This is an extensible framework," said Ketan Karkhanis, general manager for Salesforce Analytics. "So, one can imagine we are going to keep driving more connectors into the pipeline."

Salesforce Einstein AI bows new features

Salesforce added new Einstein AI features to its Sales Cloud, in pilots now and to be made generally available early next year. Einstein Forecasting, a tool for managers, dashboards insights for tracking overall sales and can pinpoint deals that might be in danger of not closing on time or need a push to get back on track in order to meet goals.

Einstein Opportunity Scoring applies artificial intelligence (AI) to CRM data to zero in on deals most likely to close. It then crosses that information with insights on executive engagement, deal size and other factors. The hope is these rankings will help sales agents prioritize which deals to focus on.

Perhaps the most useful of the new features, said Brent Leary, partner at consulting firm CRM Essentials, is Einstein Email Insights, which not only locates emails for sales agents to answer first through natural language processing, but also suggests verbiage with which to reply. Suggestions can include a number of tasks, such as scheduling a meeting or writing a quote.

It's getting harder and harder for people to read their email. This increases the opportunity to actually convert sales.
Brent Learypartner, CRM Essentials

"It's getting harder and harder for people to read their email," Leary said, because volume for many workers is increasing, but the amount of time between meetings and other tasks isn't. "This increases the opportunity to actually convert sales."

Leary added that B2B companies with well-established workflows will be better equipped to use these new tools first. Furthermore, B2C companies with large data sets -- perhaps generated by smartphone apps used by customers or internet-of-things tools generating data streams -- will be in line to reap firstfruits of the new Salesforce AI capabilities.

"Data provides fuel for those insights," Leary said.

More capabilities are likely to come in advance of the company's November Dreamforce user conference, said Lynne Zaledonis, product marketing vice president for Salesforce Sales Cloud. The features announced today help automate manual processes and make for time for sales agents to focus on selling instead of data entry, she said. Some of the features were on Salesforce's product roadmap; others came from meetings with customers testing new ideas.

"[Developing] artificial intelligence, we've learned a lot about things they were interested in, and we've reprioritized or tweaked them -- and we continue to do that," she said.

Salesforce Einstein AI Email Insights smartphone display
Salesforce Einstein AI includes new features -- such as email insights -- optimized in a mobile-first design.

Salesforce Ventures puts $50 million focus on AI developers

To help foster development of apps and other tools utilizing new AI functions and data connectors, Salesforce Ventures will shovel $50 million into the Salesforce AI fund. Those monies will support developers working on AI projects.

First in line to receive support from the new fund, the company said, will be Highspot, which makes sales content tools for automating presentation and pitch production, among other things, and Squirro, whose "context intelligence" tools dredge unstructured and structured sales and service data.

Also in the initial round of fundees for the Salesforce AI fund is TalkIQ, launched late last year. The company makes speech-to-text transcription tools and, once calls are transcribed, applies AI to analyze the transcriptions and uncover patterns that can be used to improve a company's operations.

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