November 10, 2021
There’s no question that artificial intelligence is poised to revolutionize distribution, and incorporating this vital tool is a lot less daunting than it once seemed. Jason chats with Benj Cohen, founder and CEO of Proton AI, about extracting the gold that’s buried deep in our systems. From uncovering hidden sales opportunities to onboarding new reps quicker than ever before, AI’s ability to dig into data can help our legacy industry close more sales and meet future market challenges.
“The median Proton AI customer sells 687,000 different skews,” says Benj. With all those items in play, it’s difficult for reps to figure out what customers need to buy now and anticipate what they’ll want to buy further down the sales stream. “We have a ton of data that we're not leveraging to solve this problem.” Enter Proton AI, the post-graduation project he set up to find a solution that would apply to the family’s dental distribution business and other verticals.
Having grown up in and around distribution, Benj is sensitive to AI skeptics amongst salespeople and owners. “We're very far away, in my opinion, from AI taking over the world, especially taking over the world of distribution,” he says, allaying those fears by explaining how the tech supports growth. “What we do is ingest all of the customer data, product, data, transaction data, quote data, online browse data, truly everything we can get about what a distributor’s customers are doing.”
Those patterns, many of which are too sophisticated for the human brain to recognize efficiently, are analyzed to make reps smarter. “The challenge with traditional CRMs is that they are just taking from the rep but not giving.” Proton AI’s approach delivers sales opportunities and creates a unique partnership between reps and its technology––via a system that your company’s salesforce will actually want to use. “We're trying to be a helpful partner, to make their lives easier so they can spend more time with customers.”
Benj is a tech CEO with distribution in his DNA; he views the playing field from every angle and devises solutions accordingly. “Distributors need to be ready to compete with this next generation of digital-first companies,” he advises, adding, “I don't think we should be beating ourselves up as a distributor saying, ‘Oh, geez! We're backwards. We don't think technically!’”
Ultimately, it's about tools that, to this point, haven’t considered the industry’s business model. Instead, they’ve simply overlaid their rigid systems onto distribution’s expansive terrain. “Distributors already have a ton of data at their disposal,” he says. Proton AI helps any size distributor analyze that information to their long-term advantage.
Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.
This episode was edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.
“We've been really focused on building a partnership between our technology and the sales force, not replacing what the salesperson does.”
“Distributors have so much data, but we're just not using it.”
“The reason that I started the business was to try to make it easy for my family business––but also distribution in general––to be able to leverage the same kinds of technologies that Amazon uses without having to have a data science team.”