Ginni Rometty, IBM and the Future of AI


Ginni Rometty, chairmen, president, and CEO of IBM

I had the pleasure of hearing Ginni Rometty, current chairman, president and CEO at IBM speak at the Ideas For Tomorrow Series at The Cleveland Clinic yesterday.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic throughout every industry you can imagine. Rometty spoke about the infamous Watson computer, the future of AI, and the need for transparency from companies using AI.  Below are my takeaways from her seminar.

The Current State of AI

When most people hear the term AI, they think that it is some science fiction nightmare but you may be surprised that you are using AI in your daily life. Fraud detection service from your bank, online customer support, news generation (the Associated Press, Yahoo! and Fox all use it for simple story writing), music and movie recommendations from services like Spotify and Netflix and the list goes on and on.

The current AI systems most companies and individuals utilize are “speech to text to search”. The systems are built with some basic Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities or the ability to understand language. These systems can answer basic customer service questions or tracking behaviors and find customers suggested products based upon their purchasing patterns. However, these AI systems are not as helpful in highly technical professions or with companies that must mine a significant amount of data.

IBM and the Future of AI

IBM’s AI system is far more advanced and is utilized in technical professions and by large corporations. Rometty made the distinction that IBM refers to the system as “cognitive computing”, instead of AI. IBM’s cognitive computing system was designed to help people make better decisions.  According to Rometty, “A study said on average that a third of your decisions are really great decisions, a third is not optimal, and a third is just wrong. [IBM has] estimated the market is $2 billion for tools to make better decisions.”

Cognitive computing works alongside individuals to help them make informed decisions. Unlike the “speech to text to search” systems to which we are accustomed, cognitive computing systems are designed to solve problems the way that humans do. An example of how AI and cognitive computing differ and be explained when discussing the medical industry.

If both an AI and cognitive computing system were analyzing a large medical records database and medical journals, the AI system would tell the doctor the treatment for the patient, whereas the cognitive computing system would provide the doctor with information, percentages for success with certain treatments, and allow the doctor to reason and make the ultimate decision. Cognitive computing is also being used heavily in the legal research, investment and geo-analytics industries read more here.

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When asked about skepticism from consumers regarding AI and big data, Rometty stated that AI is powerful and companies need to have ethical standards regarding their use of AI.  “There needs to be transparency from companies utilizing AI.” She stressed that consumers have a right to know, “who trained the computer, who are the experts behind the data, and where the data is coming from.” Rometty also stated that consumers should be told that the company owns their intellectual property and where the data will be utilized.

AI’s Role in the Manufacturing Industry

AI or cognitive computing is a growing and ever-evolving industry. Rometty stated that she believes “100% of future jobs will be changed by AI.” There will be growing pains implementing AI into business, just like there were growing pains in the Industrial Revolution for manufacturers. AI will soon play a great role in the manufacturing sector. HubSpot, the inbound marketing and sales software Felber PR & Marketing utilizes for ourselves and our manufacturing clients, recently acquired Motion AI.

Manufacturers utilizing HubSpot can automate the chat and messaging process and deliver hyper-personalized content to their prospects and customers. AI is the way of the future and will be a resource and a tool for humans to do their jobs more accurately and efficiently. The sooner manufacturers embrace the technology, the more they will succeed in the business world of today and tomorrow.

What Manufacturing Sales Reps Are Missing in their Lead Generation Strategy


Manufacturing sales reps can compare the sales of the manufacturing sales process to a retail experience. From fast food to retail clothing, the phrase “How may I help you” is uttered repeatedly, almost unconsciously by armies of clerks, waiters and yes, sales representatives. In retail, the assumption is you are searching for something, otherwise, why would you be in the store, a brick and mortar store no less (read on).

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In manufacturing sales, especially with high-ticket equipment, the sales cycle might be 12 or even 18 months. A consultative approach almost always requires in-depth questioning, audits, assessments and maybe even sample projects. Are you there to help? Of course you are.  If your prospect feels more like you are selling then consulting, a natural distrust creeps into your relationship. No one wants to, let alone admit to, being sold.

In our eBook, The Industrial Manufacturer’s Guide to Inbound Marketing we explain how building trust, converting visitors to leads and retaining customers is all about your prospect’s self-discovery of just how you can help.  And, here lies the success for manufacturing sales companies, focus on how and IF you can help. We find prospects more willing to discuss goals, challenges, and plans if they understand that your questions are just trying to determine if you and your company can help. How you can help, why, with what tools and tactics are best received if the prospect discovers this fact for themselves. See the inbound sales funnel here.

There is plenty of time, later in the process, to show your fancy presentation. I often repeat the phrase:
‘I am just trying to determine if I can help.’ Your questioning, unlike an inquisition, should be bolstered with tips and tactics that not only provide value to your prospect but position you as a caring expert in your field.

Can you help? Perhaps. You still need to gather information from your prospect to not only move them through the buying cycle but to discover for yourself if your services are a match. Also, do you like this prospect and can you do something spectacular together? This part of the process is most similar to dating. You’re not proposing marriage, talking about future kids and picking out china patterns on the first date. Dating is questioning. Keep asking and keep stating, you’re just trying to see if you can help. And, through mutual self-discovery you and the prospect both determine there is a way you can help, now your sale is closed.