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Episode #158: The Legendary Appeal of Podcasts, with Justin Shriber

Grad Conn

September 15, 2021  •  20 min read

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Today we go full meta, with a podcast about... podcasts. Justin Shriber, CMO at People.ai, joins me to talk about how their Legends of Sales and Marketing podcast drives lead generation and creates personal connections with industry leaders. From there we explore the most important attributes of a sales leader, and finish up with a life lesson derived from a Steven Spielberg movie quote. 

You can find Justin at: www.linkedin.com/in/justinshriber/ 
www.people.ai/legends


See all CXM Experience podcasts
The CXM Experience on Apple Podcasts


PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Grad 
All right, well, the sweet sounds of Jimi Hendrix, bring us to another edition of the unified CXM Experience. And today we’ve got a special guest. I’m actually very excited about today’s guest, because we’ve been going back and forth for a while. It’s Justin Schriber, and he’s the CMO of People.ai. And People.ai… I’m going to let Justin talk about it a little bit, but they just raised $100 million in series D, and they’re at a $1.1 billion valuation. So they’re growing quickly, and a newly minted unicorn, which is exciting. So Justin, welcome to the show.

Justin Shriber 
Grad, it’s great to be here. I got to give you props on the intro music too. I always say that the intro music makes or breaks it. So you definitely got an A+ on that one.

Grad 
Well, you know, I come from Seattle. And that is where Jimi Hendrix comes from. And I’m a huge Jimi Hendrix fan. And there’s the Seattle music experience, if you’ve ever…

Justin Shriber 
I’ve been there many times I lived in Seattle.

Grad 
Oh, you did. Okay. And I don’t know if you know, but if you look at it from above, it’s a broken guitar.

Justin Shriber 
I never had looked at it from above.

Grad 
Yes, it’s a Frank Gehry building. And originally, Paul Allen built the building to be the Jimi Hendrix museum. And the building is, if you look at an aerial photograph of it, it’s the rough shape of a broken guitar. And if you start to put it together and look at it, the building from the outside, with that in your mind, you’re like, Oh, I can start to see it. But for some strange reason, I don’t exactly know the whole history of it. But the Jimi Hendrix family wouldn’t give Paul Allen the rights and they got into this huge fight. And so it ended up being just the Music Experience building. But there’s still like a little tiny Jimi Hendrix piece there. But I always thought was kind of a shame that it wasn’t just the Jimi Hendrix Museum, because that would have been totally awesome. But that didn’t happen. But ya know, Jimi Hendrix and 10 Years After, those are my two go to when I really need to let loose bands. I feel like I need to buy a new car, I think a convertible Camaro 67 with those tunes blaring out of an AM radio.

Justin Shriber 
That’s it. That’s Nirvana.

Grad 
Welcome to the show. I’m excited that you’re here. And I’m going to be on yours in a month or so. And you’ve actually already right to our CRO, Luca Lazzaron, around two or three months ago, and he had an amazing experience on your show. I don’t think my experience with you will be quite as amazing. We don’t do custom books and stuff like that. But we are here to have a fun time. So what I thought we’d do first is just for everybody who may not know who People.ai is, I thought I’d let you just do your quick elevator pitch on that just so people know what it is. And then what I want to dig into is, you’ve got this program that you’re running, which I think is amazing. And we’ve been talking about it and raving about it internally at Sprinklr and how brilliant it is… called Legends of Sales and Marketing, where you identify different people who are legendary, and not just in their own mind, and you bring them out and you get to have discussions with them. And you’ve created this whole series around it. So I wanted to go behind the scenes and go underneath and understand how you’re using that as a business driver. But first, let’s talk about People.ai. Get us up to speed on that.

Justin Shriber 
Well, our promise to customers is that if you work with us, we will help you to increase the productivity of your sales reps every year. And the way that we do that is we deliver what we call a smart data platform that powers the world’s best account and opportunity management. A smart data platform automatically captures all your email and calendar and conferencing. And we use AI to generate recommendations that we then apply to account and opportunity management.

Grad 
Wow, that’s pretty cool. And what happens if they don’t increase their productivity every year?

Justin Shriber 
Your money back, guarantee.

Grad 
Really?

Justin Shriber 
Grad everybody that works with sees an improvement in their productivity, their sales productivity.

Grad 
Oh, so you haven’t had to have to deal with that problem yet?

Justin Shriber 
We’ve never had to deal with that problem.

Grad 
Well, that’s kind of cool. All right. That’s awesome. I hope we’re not going to be the first one. So we’ll definitely… that’s actually really good pressure. We’ve never had a customer not improve their productivity ever.

Justin Shriber 
I don’t know what we would do. Because no one’s ever had that problem before.

Grad 
Wow. Okay. I do like the money back guarantee idea, though. I haven’t seen that in a long time. All right. So let’s talk about Legends of Sales and Marketing. So first of all, what was the genesis of it and just give us a little bit of background on how you came up with this as a tactic and talk to me a little bit about how you think about it as a business tool.

Justin Shriber 
We were, when we ran into COVID, shifting formats into what we called virtual CRO and CMO forums. And so we would bring together 10 to 12 CROs / CMOs, we’d get a celebrity CRO to come and facilitate the session. Everyone enjoyed the time they spent together. But I was always surprised by the number of people that would come back to me and say, Hey, that facilitator was fascinating. I would love to get to know their backstory. And I heard that enough to realize that there was something to it. At the time, I was also really into the podcast, “How I Built This,” with Guy Raz. And for those that haven’t heard that, it’s basically the backstory of all the favorite startups that you know about, but with all the trials and travails. And I said, What would happen if we did a podcast that brought together the format of “How I Built This” with some of these legendary CROs and CMOs. And so it’s a pretty straightforward format, but it’s working really well. We start off and we talk about the childhood and early adolescence of these legendary figures. And you know, when people hit a certain status, you forget that their kids at one point, but we get into their backstory. And then we talk about the way that they’ve had an impact from a professional perspective. And inevitably, by the end of the podcast, we’re able to draw threads through their childhood and into their professional life.

Grad 
Interesting.

Justin Shriber 
Luca did a great interview, CRO at Sprinklr. And he talked about early on as a soccer player, he had this innate desire to lead. But in his mind, leadership was all about being the boss. And he’s got some really funny stories about trying to boss the coach around and boss everybody else around, and he talks though about how he transformed as a leader, and ultimately realized it’s not about being the boss, it’s about removing roadblocks and obstacles from people. But that innate desire to lead is still part of who he is. And I think part of his success, and he was able to temper and direct that over time, which was just part of his evolution as a sales leader.

Grad 
He often talks about the job of a leader is to inspire, educate, and inspect.

Justin Shriber 
In that order.

Grad 
Exactly, in that order. And he’s always very careful to caveat it. Because he said, often, when you put that word inspect in there, a lot of people grab that, and they make that their thing. And I actually worked under a leader at Microsoft who’s not there anymore, and I’m not going to bother mentioning him, but he was all about the inspect His saying was expect what you inspect. So his whole thing was all about inspection all the time, wasn’t super inspirational. With Luca, he’s able to inspire. And he leads his team with, you know, a lot of education. People follow him from company to company, because they’re learning and it’s very easy for him to bring teams on board because they want to work with him. And then he’s also good at inspection and drilling in, but that’s not where he starts. And he’s always, always cautioning people don’t make inspect the first thing because then you just become a detail manager that no one wants to work for. So he’s been a really, it’s been inspiring and educational for me to work with him. And I’ve been inspected a couple times too, but not really so much. The inspiration and education has been amazing. Okay, so talk to me a little bit about the other reasons before, though. So I get that you were hearing people wanting to know backstories. You’re bringing together these groups, that’s awesome. But there’s obviously a business rationale for it, you’re using it as a pipeline generator, you’re using it to drive something. So talk to me a little bit about how you’re thinking about this tactic, as something that’s part of your marketing motion to help People.ai grow?

Justin Shriber 
Well, we’ve actually built a full funnel marketing program around the podcast. Obviously, it’s a phenomenal source of content for us. As these leaders get on and share the secrets to their success, we’re able to translate that into content of all different formats, whether it’s video content, snippets that we can put on social media. And that really helps us to build awareness at the top of the funnel and establish ourselves as a thought leader, as we align with these other individuals and develop the thoughts that they share on the podcast. As you move down the field, or the funnel, and start to think about lead generation — and actually we ran this play with you guys. Luca was on the podcast, we generated a custom page for Sprinklr. We’re using Mutiny that recognizes when someone from Sprinklr hits our website and automatically serves the custom page. So now Grad hits our website, and suddenly it says Grad, Great to see you, love people from Sprinklr. Check out this custom page. You go to the custom page, there’s a big picture of Luca, here’s the three things he talked about. Here’s how People.ai can help you deliver on that. And we can then convert that into leads. Once you’re in the sales cycle, our pitch actually draws on a lot of the content that we harvest from the podcast. So when reps are up there talking about, we do account and opportunity management and our formula for success, we might pull in a quote from Luca. Hey, you know, Luca, phenomenal CRO, this is how he does it. And in our product, we’re able to actually serve up technology that brings that to life. And then lastly, when we’re going to close the deal, a lot of the folks that we’re interviewing on the podcast, become customers and then become referenceable. I’ve got a rapport with them at this point. So I can ask them for a reference that gets inserted into the pitch deck. Zoom, for example, is a big customer of ours. Ryan, the CRO gave us a great quote, that’s in our pitch deck. So when we’re trying to close we can say, Hey, here’s what Ryan said about us. So it’s turned into a really nice, robust program. And there’s some continuity that takes you from awareness all the way through to getting the deal done.

Grad 
That’s awesome. Wow. Beautifully described too. How heavily are you resourcing this programming, how big a part of your marketing spend is it?

Justin Shriber 
So we, we’ve got a phenomenal PR team dedicated to the effort, an external PR team, and a production team. We’ve actually… I’ve intentionally not gone super high budget on it, I’ve really focused on the quality of the content as opposed to the production value. But it’s still a professionally done podcast. Hopefully people will agree with that. The magic though, is in twofold. Number one, we definitely want to build our listening audience, because that gives us credibility. So we can go out to the next guest, where we’re in the top 3% of business podcast right now. And that helps me to get new guests on the show in the future. Just dangling that out there. The other area where we’ll invest heavily is on those custom pages from an ABM program. Every time we feature a guest, we make sure that every person in the company knows about them and knows how People.ai can help to bring to fruition what the guest was talking about.

Grad 
Fantastic. So how’s it going with Sprinklr? Are we a customer?

Justin Shriber 
Well, we’re working on that, we’re working on that.

Grad 
Geez, okay, so we’re still in the funnel. So, what part of the funnel we in? And what’s the snag right now? Where are we held up?

Justin Shriber 
Well, I’m not going to air the dirty laundry on the podcast, but suffice it to say that I have full confidence that you guys will shortly be one of our most raving fans, and we’re going to blaze you across social media when that’s the case.

Grad 
Okay, we’ll go with that one right now. Okay, I love it. Well, I did see that you’ve got the Salesforce integration going on right now. So you want to talk about that a little bit? That’s kind of cool.

Justin Shriber 
Yeah, we’re really excited about the partnership that we’ve established with Salesforce. I’ve been in the space for 20 years now, I made the not so fortuitous decision not to go to work for Salesforce back in 2002. And it was a fateful decision…

Grad 
What were they going to turn into, right?

Justin Shriber 
I was at Siebel, you know? We were going to conquer the world. So um, clearly though, Salesforce, the powerhouse. The challenge, though, that Salesforce faces is they’ve got a tech stack that now is 20-25 years old, built on a relational database. AI is kind of seeping into what they do, but really not part of the DNA. And this notion of graphs is really kind of new. So we’re partnering with them and can help them do a couple things that aren’t native to that platform. First of all, everything we do is embedded in Salesforce. So, seamless experience. You log in, but we’ll do things… because we’re automatically capturing every person you talk to, every email you send, every video conference, and loading that into CRM. The first value is, and this is magical when reps see this for the first time. I log into Salesforce. And all of a sudden, the data is just there. I didn’t enter anything. I didn’t lift a finger, it just shows up. On top of that, you’ve got AI that says, this deal isn’t going to close because we know who you’re talking to. You’re not talking to the right people, talk to so and so. They love that. And then the third thing and this gets down to the account management, the world class account management is we can do things like… how many times have reps had to build org charts for QBRs. Go into PowerPoint, get a LinkedIn up on the second screen, you’re making the boxes, the little lines never connect because the things screwed up. You log into People.ai, embedded in Salesforce, the org chart just lights up All the contacts are there. And then you click into a contact and it shows you the complete history of anybody in your company that’s ever interacted with that person, what they talked about, the nature of the interaction. You go into a QBR, you haven’t done anything, but you can immediately have a meaningful conversation about Yeah, we know Grad’s on the list, Mike talked to Grad five weeks ago, let’s get him and see if we can get… So it’s really a game changer in terms of… and that’s the smart data platform, the auto population and the intelligence being later layered into a mission-critical function.

Grad 
That’s awesome. That is a really cool story. Gee, we should have this product.

Justin Shriber 
Help me out, brother, help me out.

Grad 
That would be great for Sprinklr. Well, you know, you’re not interviewing me until September. That’s what happens.

Justin Shriber 
All right. All right, we got some work to do.

Grad 
So let’s talk about you for a couple minutes to close this out. By the way, I really appreciate you letting me in behind the curtain. Because it’s always… that to me, for the audience that we have, it’s this behind the curtain stuff that people really love. And, you know, how are new tactics emerging, as things keep changing all the time. So, love this tactic. I think you’re doing a great job. One thing you didn’t mention, and I’m pretty sure this is what you do, am I correct in remembering that you sent a hardcover bound book to Luca at the end of it?

Justin Shriber 
Yeah. So we take the interview, and then we translate that, we take the best quotes from the interview, and then the little snippets behind it, and we turn that into a book. It’s leather bound, it’s got a beautiful picture of the person in the front. And really, that is because I truly do really appreciate the time that the guests spend with me. And I truly believe that their stories are unique and exceptional. And I just wanted to be able to convey to them how important I thought those stories were. And actually, it was my wife’s idea to do the book. And she said, you know, because she listened to the podcast, she said, the kids of these people need to know these stories. And so let’s do a book. And that was the genesis of it. And it’s been a real pleasure to do.

Grad 
It blew Luca’s mind. We have a daily ELT stand up. So we have a 15 minute… on Tuesdays, it’s a bit longer, but we meet every day. And that was the entire stand up one day going on about the book. He loved it. It was great. That is an awesome, awesome, awesome tactic. So, if you had a hardcover book about you and your career, you know, what would the key chapters be? And how do you think about your career? In retrospect?

Justin Shriber 
I think one of the chapters would definitely be about elementary school for me, I had a really hard time in elementary school, I had dyslexia, I didn’t know it. But because of that I really struggled to read. And I just thought that school was hard. And that was kind of the way that it worked. And so I showed up every day, and I gave it my best. And I didn’t actually realize I had dyslexia until I had kids who had challenges with dyslexia. I went on to become an English major. Because I love the story, so much.

Grad 
Talk about leaning into your issues. That’s amazing.

Justin Shriber 
I love this story so much. And I love literature. And I did notice that it took me five times longer to read a book than it took my peers, but I just assumed that’s because I was a slow reader. But what that taught me as a kid is, number one, you got to be tenacious, and stick with what you love. And number two, I found that things ultimately work out if you do your best,. You’re not always going to knock it out of the park. But life tends to reward people that are just keeping their head down and working hard.

Grad 
Yeah, that’s an old quote, you know, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.” It was actually… the very first time I heard that quote, was in a movie, “The Empire of the Sun.” A Steven Spielberg movie a long time ago about Japanese prisoner of war camps. And the father in that one, that’s his quote to his son. I think it’s a famous British politician, etc. or someone like that, who said it originally.  Okay, if you had one lesson that you’ve learned as a CMO that you would impart to a new CMO, someone who’s just in the job. They say, hey, Justin, help me out. What should I think about, what should I worry about? What tips do you have for me? What would be your advice?

Justin Shriber 
Well, it’s a two part answer. Number one, you have to know what your superpower is. You have to genuinely know what sets you apart and makes you unique and have learned how to manage your time in such a way that you can really lean into that space and create value in that space. But then the corolary to that is you need to know what you’re lousy at. And you need to be honest about it. And you need to be transparent about it. And really good at finding people that compliment you. It’s not just being open to welcoming those people in you need to know how to recognize the talent, and recruit the talent, because ultimately, it’s the portfolio of talent that you’ve got on the team that allows you to be successful.

Grad 
Right. Wow, that’s great advice. Wow. Fantastic. Well, Justin, thank you for the time. I’m super looking forward to my time with you coming up in September. I’ll have to think about… sounds like this childhood stuff’s really important.

Justin Shriber 
We’re going to go deep.

Grad 
 Yeah, I know.

Justin Shriber 
I got a couch, we’re going to lay out on the couch, and we’re going to crack you open like a walnut.

Grad 
This could get ugly. I don’t know. I, I try not to go to my childhood very often, but we’ll see what happens. What I’ll do is I’ll book a therapist appointment right after, that way if anything is really, really bad I can kind of recovery right afterwards. But I am looking forward to it. So thank you for your time today. So any last words or any last thoughts before we wrap for today?

Justin Shriber 
Well, it’s been, it’s been a blast. Thanks so much for having me on the show.

Grad 
Justin, thank you very much. All right, for the unified CXM Experience. I’m Grad Conn CXO with Sprinklr and we’ll see you next time.



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Grad Conn

Chief Experience Officer, Sprinklr

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