A Wilmington entrepreneur who knew all too well the struggles that sales managers face when it comes to sales forecasting has created a software tool that provides business forecasting using artificial intelligence.
Phil Everhart is the founder and president of SmartFox Technologies, a company he started in 2019 and whose product launched in October. He developed SmartFox Prime, an application built on the Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
“According to a Wall Street analyst, accurate sales forecasting is the No. 1 indicator of a business being successful,” Everhart said. “It is what helps companies plan to pay their employees, cover operating expenses, buy more inventory market, new products and attract new investors. But the problem with this is that most sales forecasts are inaccurate.”
One reason for the inaccuracy is due to sales forecasts being based on the subjective guesses of sales representatives and often not on realistic data points.
Having previously been a sales manager, Everhart describes the process of fixing inaccurate sales forecasts as “painful,” prompting him to develop his solution that became the genesis of the SmarFox application.
“With over 20 years of experience working with companies trying to correct these issues, using objective data points to make forecasts, I took this methodology and partnered with Salesforce to build SmartFox Prime,” he said. The product uses controlled artificial intelligence and nudging. “Every time our AI gets extracted; we learn something by the data to fix things again on the front end. It continues to learn to make everything accurate,” Everhart said. When it comes to nudging, the platform incentivizes sales representatives to input their performance by presenting how they rank.
“Sales reps are incentivized either by making more money or social recognition, things like that for their performance, so I knew I had to get something that was easy for use on the front end that also had to be controllable,” he said.
The partnership with Salesforce came out of the California-based company’s AppExchange Partner Program.
“I actually reached out to Salesforce with the goal of becoming a partner. They give you their development environment for their apps that they put on app exchange,” Everhart said. “We hired a partner that helped us design the product.”
The product is aimed at businesses that have a longer sales cycle including finance technology and medical health care companies.
“We’re perfect for companies that are either starting off with Salesforce that are small and trying to bring structure or companies that have 200 employees that have larger sales team where there’s inconsistency,” he said.
Research done by Salesforce indicates that businesses are open to using technologies in their everyday operations, Everhart said.
“It’s [Salesforce’s] adoption rate for AI is projected to grow 139% the next three years,” he said.
Currently, the company is operated by Everhart who works with five advisers for guidance. Eventually, he hopes to hire a development team and sales representatives.
As a startup, SmartFox Technologies aims to grow alongside the increasing popularity of Salesforce with a goal of acquiring at least 500 users by the end of 2021.
It has also garnered the attention of entrepreneurship-supporting organizations including being selected to present at the NC TECH’s State of Technology Conference last year and at this year’s Venture Connect 2021 hosted by the Council for Entrepreneurial Development starting March 23.
“The CED event is for ventures, and that’ll be our first avenue to possibly get someone interested in investing our company,” Everhart said. “If we don’t get seed funding, we’re going to open the door to other funding avenues to let our friends and the public invest in our company.
“We also are applying for grants. We just applied for an NC IDEA grant.”
Overall, launching a startup in Wilmington has been an experience supported by those in the community including the University of North Carolina Wilmington Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Wilmington Angels for Local Entrepreneurs and the Small Business and Technology Development Center.
“The community has been so supportive with different avenues and different people reaching out to me to try to get our product out there for everyone to try,” Everhart said.