Guest post by Shailaditya Mallik, Chief Business Officer, SmartWinnr
SmartWinnr is a gamified sales productivity platform that helps large distributed teams to sell smarter, better, and faster. The platform helps to drive sales results through virtual sales contests, remote video coaching, and virtual sales training.
“During my consulting days at Accenture, I realized that while the customer relationship management (CRM) tools help to drive sales processes, there is no single solution that helps to train, engage, and motivate sales teams. Hence the idea for SmartWinnr was formed,” shares Annie Banik, Co-founder and CEO of SmartWinnr.
A mobile-first platform for driving sales productivity
Combining neuroscience, machine learning, and gamification, SmartWinnr helps customers to improve sales productivity by up to 40% and knowledge retention by up to 60%, all while maintaining a high engagement level, according to frequent effectiveness/ROI analytics with our customers. For example, below is an excerpt of the final report on knowledge retention for a global Life Sciences company. This study was conducted with 60 users using SmartWinnr who regularly received SmartWinnr’s AI-driven quizzes. The control group also had 60 users. At the end of the study, the SmartWinnr group showed 67% higher knowledge retention as determined by a final assessment.
“We started small, but the idea of a single platform to complement CRM functions for driving productivity proved to be a hit with customers. Today, Fortune 500 companies in 25+ countries use SmartWinnr in industries including pharmaceuticals, banking, insurance, and manufacturing,” shares Banik.
Current market scenarios have led to the rise of remote selling. However, keeping the sales team motivated and engaged in this time is challenging. SmartWinnr’s virtual sales contest offering saw a quick take-off during this time. Using the solution, customers can create virtual sales contests with points, badges, challenges, and leaderboards. “We are seeing 12-15 large new accounts signing up for the virtual sales contest every month since April,” says Banik. Similarly, with face-to-face training role plays not being possible, SmartWinnr’s remote video coaching offering to drive sales call effectiveness is seeing 300% growth in the past few months. “Many of our customers are focusing on developing remote selling skills. The video coaching offering helps to fine-tune their ability to sell over Zoom while providing a supportive environment with the right feedback from trainers and managers. This helps them to close deals quicker,” says Banik.
“Managing such huge growth in a short time would have been impossible without AWS,” says Shiladitya Mallik, Chief Business Officer of SmartWinnr.
Building Fast with AWS
“As a startup, we want to focus on creating business value, while leaving the difficult tasks of scale-up, availability, and robustness to our infrastructure provider. AWS was the natural choice for us because it provided the building blocks in the form of scalable AWS Services. We can use those blocks to quickly create production-ready solutions,” says Mallik.
A great example of this approach is SmartWinnr’s virtual coaching offering. Sales reps can respond to a sales situation by recording a video from the SmartWinnr app and share with their managers for feedback. Behind the scenes, the video gets compressed, encoded, converted to streaming format, and served to other users through Adaptive Bitrate (ABR) technology. Depending on the internet speed of the viewer, AWS automatically streams the video at the appropriate resolution.
SmartWinnr used AWS services like AWS Elemental MediaConvert, AWS Step Functions, AWS Lambda, and Amazon CloudFront for this use case. “I remember we did the PoC for this in just one evening,” recollects Amrit Kumar Sharma, Technology Head at SmartWinnr. “AWS provided a Video-on-Demand reference implementation as CloudFormation template. We could use that as a start and made necessary changes based on our specific needs. That cut down the time significantly. If we had to write our own media server and encoding process, it could have taken months. That is where AWS shines.”
SmartWinnr’s real-time leaderboards, which underpin its gamification solution, are powered by a clever solution combining AWS ElasticCache (managed Redis), SQS and Lambda functions. “Creating leaderboard ranking from millions of sales performance data is challenging. When a batch sales data is received, a master Lambda function picks up the data, divides into smaller sets and creates worker Lambda functions, each doing validation and score calculation. This happens as parallel processes, cutting down overall processing time. These are then pushed to Redis as a sorted set, which allows us to get rank of any arbitrary user quickly. The SQS helps to ensure batches are run in the right order. With this setup, we don’t have to ever think about scaling problems, even with millions of leaderboard entries”, says Sharma. SmartWinnr’s total infrastructure, including 50+ EC2 servers for development, test and production fleets are powered by AWS.
“For any potential use case, we know that we can rely on having an AWS service which will help us develop the solution in a scalable and robust way, reducing our time to market,” agrees Mallik.
The AWS Advantage
“For us, AWS brings 3 things – quicker time to market, infinite scalability, and adherence to compliance regulations. AWS helps us in quick turnaround and moving ideas to production in a matter of days,” shares Balik, while Mallik adds that “Recently, one of our largest enterprise customers with 50,000 users wanted to launch a learn-from-home training program. Imagine 50,000 users watching scores of videos daily. Overnight, the traffic for just one customer shot up to 10 TB. But with AWS CloudFront, we didn’t have to do anything – it just worked.”
Serving clients in multiple geographies including USA, EU and India, especially in regulated industries like banking and life sciences means SmartWinnr has to be compliant with multiple data security regulations. With AWS CloudFormation and other tools, SmartWinnr can create dedicated infrastructure for large customers in a few hours. With data sovereignty being increasingly critical, AWS enables SmartWinnr the ability to host data in the customer-mandated geographical location, in just a few clicks.
Finally, security is a major concern for enterprises today. SmartWinnr uses a host of AWS offerings to create a secured solution. Services like AWS Config and Amazon CloudWatch help to have a clear audit trail of all changes, while offerings like WAF & Shield, Firewall Manager, VPCs, Security Groups, IAM and AWS Inspector help to provide fool-proof security. “For serving large enterprises, these features are a must. AWS provides these services right out of the box. When you’re facing 3rd-party security audit for large enterprise customers, many of the compliance requirements can be satisfied with these services. In a recent audit, the customer requested proof of regular vulnerability assessment. With AWS Inspector running monthly triggered by a CloudWatch event, reports were getting auto-generated. So we had to just share the reports,” according to Mallik.
The Road Ahead
“For us, partnering with AWS from Day 1 was a critical success factor. The top 3 benefits that we get out of our partnership are faster time-to-market, scalability, and compliance adherence. To be responsive to customer needs means we have to innovate quickly. To me, AWS services are like infrastructural Lego-blocks – you can configure them to solve your business needs quickly and efficiently, thus reducing time-to-market. The seamless scalability of the services means we can be confident to cater to any level of customer demand without thinking of infrastructural bottlenecks. Finally, adhering to compliance standards and security best practices becomes much easier when you’re on AWS. As a fast-growing company, we want to focus in solving customer problems, while relying on AWS to do the heavy lifting on compliance adherence,” says Mallik.
The startup is now investing heavily in AI to further automate sales processes and bring a data-driven approach to sales performance. “We are collaborating with S. Arunachalam and Raghuram Bommaraju, faculty at Indian School of Business (ISB) to study the impact of sales contests and gamification on sales outcomes. The insights from the studies are helping to further fine-tune our models,” according to Mallik.
During the past 6 months, there has been fast growth of digitization in sales teams of even traditionally conservative industries like manufacturing whereas before the pandemic, we only focused on large enterprises, with remote working emerging as the new reality, even smaller organizations and startups are reaching out to us for driving sales results. SmartWinnr is innovating at a fast pace to help customers grow sales in these turbulent times.