Brainshark Growth and Training Partnerships

Once again, I’m writing about a SalesTech or B2B MarTech firm that had strong growth during the pandemic.  Simply, B2B firms sped up their digitization and looked for online methods for internal and external communications.  With WFH and the recognition of subscription revenues over the life of contracts, it is highly likely that 2020 strength will continue into 2021.  In the case of Brainshark, they increased both their new business contracts and multi-year renewal rates.  Brainshark also announced off-the-shelf learning content from a pair of training companies: ValueSelling Associates and 2Win!.

Sales Readiness vendor Brainshark posted sixty percent growth in platform usage last year with a 38% increase in new business.  71% of the new contracts were multi-year, with multi-year renewals up 40% year over year.

“Companies across the globe had to completely rewrite their playbook when the pandemic began disrupting business one year ago,” said CEO Greg Flynn.  “Many realized improving their sales readiness was a way to gain a competitive advantage.  They also realized Brainshark’s proven, award-winning platform was just the tool they needed.  We’re especially thrilled to see our customers utilizing our coaching solution more than ever because we’ve seen first-hand the impact it can have on an organization’s bottom line.”

Citing a CSO Insights study that found that firms with dedicated sales enablement teams had a 15.3% higher win rate on forecasted deals, the firm stated, “Brainshark can be the foundation of a successful sales readiness strategy, helping organizations equip sales reps with the knowledge and skills they need, measure preparedness, and connect readiness to revenue.”

Brainshark Sales Readiness Scorecards include CRM data

Last year, the firm launched Sales Readiness Scorecards, which “provide more powerful, instant, and comprehensive visibility into whether reps and their teams are prepared to engage with clients and prospects.”  Scorecard data is pulled from Salesforce, providing firms with pipeline and performance KPIs.  In 2021, Brainshark plans to deepen CRM integrations for expanded metrics and coaching tools.

“The questions sales enablement professionals need to answer go beyond ‘Are our reps ready?’ The more important question is, ’Are our readiness and enablement programs working?  Scorecards provide that clarity.  Enablement leaders can discover which reps need help with certain parts of the sales process, and then build learning programs to address those areas for maximum impact.  At the same time, sales managers have critical performance data at their fingertips that allows them to be better, more strategic coaches.”

Brainshark Chief Product Officer Greg Keshian

2Win! training “helps sales professionals master demo, presentation, client success, and storytelling skills, especially in a virtual world.”

Julie Thomas, CEO of ValueSelling Associates, said, “Our eValueSelling Fundamentals is a fast track for those who want to learn value-based selling.  By blending real-world examples with interactive exercises and quizzes, users learn how to prepare for a sales call, assess the health of opportunities, and ask questions that engage prospects.  This program makes for a perfect integration into Brainshark’s platform, allowing sales enablement leaders a simple and convenient way to build their training content and accelerate their results.” Brainshark lists BCI and go1 as additional training content partners.

Groove Revenue Intelligence

Sales Engagement Platform Groove expanded its analytics with new revenue intelligence capabilities that support real-time opportunity and pipeline management and expanded ROI reporting.  The new capabilities support pipeline reviews with a single pane of glass workspace populated with real-time Salesforce data.

In its 2020 State of Sales Report, Salesforce stated that “High-performing sales teams are 1.5 times more likely to base forecasts on data-driven insights.” Ensuring that data is accurate, timely, and complete has long been an issue with CRMs, requiring sales reps to spend hours each week recording their activities and updating account, contact, lead, and opportunity data.

Sales Intelligence platforms have picked up the slack around CRM data, offering DaaS prospecting and enrichment services.  Likewise, SEPs capture most sales rep activity data, reducing activity tracking overhead; however, updating opportunity data and evaluating opportunity risk remain a significant automation gap.  

Maintaining Opportunity data, which is critical for pipeline reviews and forecasting, is made more difficult by the data structure of CRMs.  One common complaint about Salesforce is the difficulty of viewing and updating opportunity data, which is fragmented across accounts.  Revenue Intelligence tools from Clari, Revenue Grid, SalesLoft, and Groove simplify the data update and review process by providing a centralized interface for updating the pipeline and reviewing it with managers.  Updates are immediately written back to Salesforce, simplifying the pipeline management process and ensuring that current opportunity data is instantly synced in Salesforce.

While Clari and Revenue Grid focus on Revenue Intelligence, Groove and SalesLoft attack the issue from a Sales Engagement perspective.  This functional overlap between categories has been evident since SalesLoft acquired Costello in 2019 and integrated Costello’s revenue intelligence capabilities.  While Sales Engagement Platforms began as multi-channel messaging services for SDRs, they have significantly broadened their scope to include Analytics, Guided Selling, Engagement Metrics, Meeting Management, and Revenue Intelligence.

Anthony McPartin, Forrester Principal Analyst in Sales Operations, described the widening scope of these categories.  “This notion of the sales engagement platform as a cockpit for sellers is likely to continue to drive further integrations between other sales tech categories and these platforms as the advantages of bringing everything to the seller where they sell (the original vision for CRM technology) become more widely recognized.”

Revenue Intelligence Platforms have also expanded their scope, assisting with opportunity risk assessment, deal forecasting, conversational intelligence, and buying team discovery.

Out of date and incomplete information is a significant issue for B2B decision-makers.  According to a July 2020 Forrester study, two-thirds of B2B decision-makers are hampered by stale, distorted, or limited CRM data.

“From incomplete sales activity data to out-of-date information stored in shadow CRMs, there are many challenges that prevent sales organizations from trusting their pipeline and conducting comprehensive reviews. Today’s release solves a critical usability challenge that Salesforce users have faced since the platform’s inception, in a way that establishes transparency and trust between the rep and the seller.”

Groove CEO Chris Rothstein

“We had major issues with getting our sales teams to document what they were doing in Gmail, and this is where Groove really shines,” said Bart Johnson, Director of User Engagement & Training at Aquent. “Groove isn’t just a huge timer saver for our reps, it also gives them ‘cross-vision’ into the different orgs and groups selling into [each] account.”

SalesLoft Deal Engagement Scores

Sales Engagement vendor SalesLoft announced Deal Engagement scores, a “machine-learning capability [that] gives frontline managers an unbiased way to prioritize deals based on the calculation of over 30 data elements captured across Cadence, Conversations, and Deals.”

Instead of a black-boxed score, SalesLoft provides recommendations and an explanation of the score, helping sales managers identify opportunity issues and risks and take actions to improve close rates.  Thus, Deal Engagement Scores serve as early warning signs that deals may be going south, allowing them to take proactive actions that improve close rates.

Deal Engagement Scores are shown over time and include a set of stage progression indicators such as days since the last meeting, days until the next meeting, and close date pushes.  A seven-day summary details recent engagement activity and deal progression.

“It’s not enough to have just a Cadence product,” said Frank Dale, SalesLoft’s SVP of Product Development. “With Cadence, Conversations, and Deals on one platform, we collect data across the full buying cycle, from the first email, every call, meeting, and communication, through to deal closure and renewal.  Only SalesLoft can analyze all of this data to predict revenue outcomes.  No other Sales Engagement provider can offer this.”

SalesLoft published the 35 metrics that feed into their Deal Engagement Scores.

35 data elements are fed into their machine-learning model to prioritize and identify opportunity issues and risks. Engagement is measured across emails, phone calls, and meetings, with interactions measured by level.  Over 120 million customer interactions were fed into the machine-learning model. As a machine-learning capability, the model continues to improve and adapt. 

“Having this capability allows front-line sales managers an instant gut check on specific health for deals in flight,” posted CEO Kyle Porter on LinkedIn.

Deal Engagement Scores are available to early access customers with Deals functionality in the Enterprise and Sell plans.  It will GA by June.

Demandbase ABX

Demandbase, which pushed Account Based Marketing (ABM) as a business strategy a half-decade before other firms picked up the terminology, is now positioning Account-Based Experience (ABX) as the next generation ABM strategy.  ABX supports buyers across the full customer lifecycle and emphasizes messaging timing and an improved customer experience.

“Account-Based Experience takes the same principles as good CX — trust, empathy, and relevance at every stage of the journey — and applies them to the account-based world,” states Demandbase. “One of the fundamental principles of ABX is recognizing that our buyers live in a world of information abundance and attention scarcity, making any form of interruption marketing ineffective.  Instead, companies need to build trust with potential buyers, identify the ‘magic moments’ when customers are open to engaging, and then orchestrate the perfect interactions across Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success teams.”

By broadening the scope of ABM, “it keeps the customer where they should be, at the center of your go-to-market strategy, whether you are in marketing, sales, an SDR, or part of the customer success team,” said Demandbase VP and ABX Evangelist Beki Scarbrough. “In many ways, ABX simply takes the best practices that have emerged around ABM and applies them across your customer experience.”

According to a 2021 ABM Benchmark Study by Demandbase and RevOps Squared, “53% of businesses say that Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success are equally responsible for their account-based customer expansion strategy.”

Demandbase notes that ABM focused on account fit, defining the Ideal Customer Profile as the most valuable accounts for targeting, but failing to account for timing.  Thus, many ABM accounts had a “poor experience” due to mistimed engagement.  When account outreach is mistimed, prospects are unable to engage “on their own terms and on their own schedule.”

Demandbase also recognized that ABM focused on the marketing department and not the broader revenue team.  While ABM starts in the marketing department, it has long been understood that ABM encompasses marketing, sales, and customer success management.

“Our belief in ABX positions us to expand the ABM category within the industry,” said Demandbase CEO Gabe Rogol, calling it a “powerful go-to-market strategy.”

“ABX uses data and insights to orchestrate relevant, trusted marketing and sales actions throughout the B2B customer lifecycle. It’s all about engaging business buyers with relevant messages delivered in a trusted way on their own terms.”

Demandbase CEO Gabe Rogol

One of my criticisms of Demandbase is that they were focused on the marketing department with few tools for other departments.  While they acquired Sales Intelligence vendor Spiderbook five years ago, the service withered.  Their technology partner list is heavily weighted to marketing with few sales-oriented partnerships beyond SalesLoft and Outreach.  Likewise, the ABM Leadership Council that they founded was marketing-centric and lacked vendors that supported other departments.  Conversely, the parallel Flip My Funnel movement, championed by rival Terminus, has long had a broader set of vendors and departments served.

Thus, Demandbase’s shift to ABX is a welcome update to their ABM vision and hopefully involves a broader functional scope of their offerings.  Unfortunately, Demandbase did not reveal any new functionality in support of ABX, so we’ll have to see how they plan to implement this broadened definition.  On April 7th, Jon Miller, Demandbase’s Chief Marketing and Product Officer, will provide additional ABX details at a webinar.

“I’ve always described Account-Based Marketing as ‘fishing with spears’,” said Miller. “It’s a great analogy, but you’ve got to realize that it doesn’t feel very good to get poked by a spear!  Similarly, B2B buyers today want to research potential solutions anonymously, on their own schedule, until the time when they actually do want to engage with a vendor.  ABX lets us work with modern buyers on their own terms: anonymously when they want to be, helpful and relevant when they are ready, and always based on trust. It’s a much better customer experience and it delivers much better long-term results.”

Vainu Workflow Triggers

Sales Intelligence vendor Vainu has added a set of Workflow Triggers that take automated actions based upon CRM data updates.  As Vainu enriches CRMs with financial data mined from European registered data filings, it has raw, current data for triggering activities.  Admins set up the trigger rules, and Vainu creates “smart actions” such as creating CRM Tasks, adding a row in Google Sheets, or sending a Slack notice.

For example, a Workflow Trigger may be set up to look for SaaS companies that meet the “Rule of 40” condition (revenue growth plus profitability margin).

Vainu CEO Mikko Honkanen notes that trigger rules and ratios will vary by industry and may include custom rules specific to each of Vainu’s customers.  Thus, the Rule of 40 “is typical of the software industry but isn’t that critical for other businesses.  For being truly data-driven, each company has its own magic numbers based on the data points of their interest.”

Vainu claims that it supports thousands of data points for triggered workflows, kicking off both sales notifications and custom marketing messages associated with each trigger.

“Some people might want to know when a company starts using lead capture forms on its website.  Someone else might want to be alerted as soon as a company adds a new environmental standard to their corporate social responsibility web page.  Or when a company appoints a new CEO. Or when it adds an auxiliary name that includes the word ‘restaurant’ in it.  The most valuable trigger event is often a change in that specific event.”

Vainu CEO Mikko Honkanen

Along with data changes, actions may be based upon any of seventy event triggers or new accounts meeting ICP criteria.

Vainu, headquartered in Helsinki, emphasizes the value of dynamic data fed into enterprise platforms.  Dynamic data ensures that decision-making is based upon timely and accurate data.  It also allows salespeople to be customer-centric.

“By having access to data that informs them of the current situation of an organization, as well as what recent changes the organization has undergone, salespeople are able to tailor their messaging and offer a personalized experience,” blogged Vainu marketer Nikolai Bang. Vainu covers nearly thirty million companies across Scandinavia, the Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom.  Triggers are based upon the licensed countries.

Vainu Sales Triggers support automated Workflows.

Cognism Funding Round

UK Sales Intelligence vendor Cognism closed on a $12.5 million funding round led by AXA Venture Partners and joined by Swisscom Ventures.  Existing investors Investiere and VentureFounders also participated.  Cognism will be deploying the funds to expand its presence in the UK and Europe, including additional functionality and solutions for the global market.

The firm is coming off a strong 2020, during which ARR rose 60% to $11 million.  In January, MRR passed $1 million for the first time.  Cognism supports over 1,000 customers spread across 30 countries.

“We continue to invest in making our data compliant in every one of the 30 countries in which we operate,” said CEO James Isilay. “Our patented AI technology solution makes the process of finding the right prospect faster, more accurate, and compliant, which is now a top priority for all businesses.”

Cognism attributed its success to the strong demand for compliant B2B prospecting data and “the company’s ongoing commitment to adhering to global regulations.”

“Sales intelligence is crucial for making sellers more productive, even more so when people are working from home. Cognism is well-positioned to become the leading company in Europe, and we are excited to be part of that journey.”

Stefan Kuentz, Partner at Swisscom Ventures

Isilay said that Cognism is “moving more upmarket towards enterprise” and hiring account executives and managers. “We’ve got a very strong revenue engine, and now we’re really planning out and getting our retention engine to the next level.”

Cognism, which completed acquired Mailtastic and Ricochet least year, has another in the works. “We really want to be that go-to-market intelligence leader in not just Europe, but the world, and I think we’re going in the right direction right now. Things are looking very positive at the moment.” London-based Cognism was founded in 2015 and grew its employment by 60% over the past year to 223 employees.

Echobot Company Profile Now Available

Echobot Company Profile Report Cover Page

I am pleased to announce that my latest Sales Intelligence company profile is available for those looking to purchase a solution for the UK or D-A-CH region. I used the same methodology for Echobot that I employed when I wrote my book “2017 Field Guide to Sales Intelligence Vendors.”  The idea was to write an objective analysis (hence sections on weaknesses and competitors), not simply a puff piece.  I work closely with the vendor to describe content, functionality, connectors, roadmap, strengths, and weaknesses.

As Echobot is based in Germany, I also wrote about their GDPR compliance steps.

While vendors have input, I retain editorial control. I believe that retaining objectivity makes these reports more valuable for vendors as it both provides a roadmap for their future product evolution and provides prospects with a realistic view of a product’s strengths and weaknesses.

Echobot is making the profile available from their website.


Here is my summary from the report:

UK vendors have been launching sales intelligence and B2B DaaS solutions for the European market over the past several years. It is a welcome sign that European vendors now have the confidence to compete in the UK market. One of these vendors is Germany-based Echobot. Echobot is a promising new sales intelligence and B2B DaaS entrant to the UK market. It is the leading sales and marketing intelligence service in the D-A-CH region and enters the UK with a broad set of sales and marketing services. Echobot offers deep coverage of UK and D-A-CH companies, GDPR-compliant contacts, and signals (event triggers), delivered via web browser applications and extensions, mobile apps, Salesforce, and Zapier webhooks.

Along with company profiles, Echobot offers contacts, emails, news, social media mentions, and signals.

CONNECT (sales intelligence) and TARGET (list building) were recently launched in the UK market, but have been available as German-language solutions for the D-A-CH market for several years. As such, the company should move quickly to address any V1.0 bugs and fill content gaps. Since launching in September 2020, Echobot has integrated Google Translate into its platform for free-form text translation and refined its sales trigger precision.

DATACARE provides B2B DaaS hygiene services that verify, enrich, and append company and contact data. DATACARE flags duplicates, verifies emails, updates company names and addresses, and appends missing fields. DATACARE was launched in December.

Michael Levy, GZ Consulting Principal, “Echobot Company Profile,” 2021.

Post-Pandemic Business Travel

There does not appear to be a big rush back to business travel after the pandemic, with demand remaining below the $1.4 trillion commercial spend through 2025, according to the Global Business Travelers Association (GBTA).  Only 27% of US companies expect to be spending money on travel over the next six months.

A Fortune Analytics survey found that only 67% of business professionals that traveled for work pre-pandemic plan to resume previous levels.

These results line up with the stated trend towards Work from Anywhere (WFH), with companies no longer looking to maintain traditional five-day-a-week office settings.  A January Deloitte survey found that 75% of CEOs are considering reducing their commercial space requirements.  

Companies have learned how to coordinate activities internally and with customers and partners digitally.  The need to press the flesh doesn’t seem as vital as it did pre-pandemic.

“The outcomes of meetings held on Zoom vs. those held in person are not that much different, but the costs are night-and-day different,” said Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan Survey of Consumers. “It will be hard to justify the costs that were once supported.”

Management Consultancy Oliver Wyman contends that business professionals have found video conferencing and other digital communications tools to be sufficient in maintaining commercial relationships.

The GBTA noted that the pandemic’s impact was ten-times that of 9-11 and the 2008 financial crisis.  After those events, there were also concerns that commercial travel wouldn’t bounce back, but digital channels are much more mature now, and the extended WFH time has normalized video conferencing.

It’s “our expectation that business travel will lag consumer travel,” said Jeff Campbell, CFO of American Express Co., on an earnings call.  

Amazon, which spent $1 billion on travel annually, commented that its “sales teams found new ways to reach customers.”

Forrester Principal Analyst Peter Ostrow suggests that initially, there will be pent-up demand for business travel as individuals yearn to get out of the house. Still, he cautions that this should be a temporary burst, not a return to pre-pandemic travel volume.  Companies should ask three questions for determining the appropriate volume and rationales for travel:

  1. What do Buyers and Customers Prefer?  Not every meeting, particularly those involving disparate buying team members, should be face-to-face.  B2B Sales should recognize that B2B purchasing has adapted over the past year as well.
  2. How Have We Made Things Work Remotely? “Sales leaders must determine what adaptations have supported more productive sales motions, rep productivity, adoption of top-down initiatives, and desired changes in seller behavior.” Being remote has allowed reps to develop new remote selling skills (e.g., prospecting, presentation) that should be retained.  Likewise, CROs should consider whether SDRs should be centralized, or are they better off not commuting each day?  Be careful not to let the voices of those underperformed during WFH drown out those reps who have excelled in the new environment.
  3. What Does the Data Say? Review the data and determine which personas were more or less accessible during WFH, which pipeline stages were faster or slower during WFH, and which product lines suffered due to the loss of in-person pitches.

Failing to address these questions could result in the loss of many of the digital efficiency gains that have sustained B2B sales over the past year.

In short, Ostrow suggests that research and data guide travel decision-making.  Just as companies are re-evaluating the need for centralized offices vs. hybrid models or fully remote staffing, travel decisions should be re-evaluated as well.  Field Sales and weekly exhibitions in different cities have always been expensive propositions.  The focus should be on adopting the most effective interactions, whether remote or face-to-face, for driving long-term revenue growth.     

Remote work also has a demographic impact, with professionals decamping from New York, Seattle, San Jose, and San Francisco for Miami, Austin, Charlotte, Nashville, and Denver.  There are even a set of “Zoom Towns” such as Boulder, CO, Tulsa, OK, and the Hudson Valley (NY) benefiting from in-migration.

“The rise of remote work changes that equation [between work and home locations]—not in all sectors of the economy but in more than ever before. Skilled techies and knowledge workers, in particular, can enjoy the kind of freedom and flexibility that used to be available only to successful novelists, artists and inventors—the ability to work when and where they want to.  They can increasingly “vote with their feet,” selecting the kinds of places that best meet their needs without worrying about what they can earn in the local labor market.  Families may gravitate to smaller cities, updated suburbs or rural areas with outdoor amenities, while ambitious young professionals fresh out of college or graduate school are likely to continue flocking to urban centers for entry-level jobs and social life.”

Richard Florida and Adam Ozimek, “How Remote Work Is Reshaping America’s Urban Geography,” Wall Street Journal (March 5, 2011)

And WFH has not been a productivity loss, but a net positive as workers are no longer saddled with long commutes and water cooler chitchat.  Stanford University economist Nick Bloom found as much as a 2.5% productivity lift from remote work.

According to Outreach CEO Manny Medina, 70 to 80% of buyers want a digital experience.

From a sales and marketing perspective, many of the digital practices that boosted SalesTech and MarTech industry revenues over the past year are likely to continue.  There will still be field sales reps calling on top prospects, but there will be more video conferencing and fewer face-to-face meetings than before.  Likewise, tradeshows and user conferences are likely to be smaller or operate more as roadshows rather than large events.  Tent pole events, such as Dreamforce, will return, but less popular events may downsize or remain virtual.  And even the tent-poles are likely to be hybrid events.  For example, Dreamforce has always recorded and posted its sessions for virtual viewing, so will likely combine live and digital best practices at future events.

BNZSA Intent Activation Engine

B2B IT Marketing Agency BNZSA (pronounced BEN-zah) entered the intent data space with the BNZSA Intent Activation Engine product launch.  The new service identifies, tracks, and activates buyer intent.  BNZSA combines technographic, firmographic, intent, NLP, and B2B telemarketing data to deliver a set of intent-activated leads.

The new service “connects all the disparate tools available to deliver the most accurate buyer Intent data, with the highest possible lead qualification and industry-standard GDPR compliance.”

Madrid-based BNZSA supports buying committee identification; intent, firmographic and technographic insight; and prospect engagement.

“At the heart of the BNZSA Intent Activation Engine is a combination of data and digital capabilities with inter-personal engagement,” stated CEO Brahim Samhoud.  “No one else offers this. There are intent vendors, technographic vendors, firmographic vendors, contact vendors, digital agencies, and tele-agencies.  Some provide pieces of the puzzle, but none does everything – until now.  No other offering provides B2B sales and marketing leaders with so many different execution options.”

BNZSA describes itself as a customizable, full lifecycle intent data solution for B2B sales and marketing teams.  

“The BNZSA Intent Activation Engine realises an end-to-end value journey through information enrichment via broad-based Intent, firmographics, and technographics, to digital warming through social media, content syndication, email, display, and PR, to local language phone-based BANT qualification,” wrote the firm.

The BNZSA Intent Activation Engine supports the following processes:

  • BNZSA Intent Data Pool: An aggregated database of billions of global, weekly intent records.
  • BNZSA Tech-Lab: An AI, NLP platform that analyzes intent potential and selects relevant records.  The NLP supports twelve European languages and combines it with machine learning and knowledge graphs.  High-intent records are matched with “client TALs [tele-prospecting accepted leads] for advanced re-targeting and adapted nurture tracks” while “the remaining selected data is further filtered by criteria specific to clients’ needs.”
  • BNZSA OmniDatabase: A reference database holding millions of company records for firmographic and technographic enrichment.  The OmniDatabase gathers data from half a dozen third-party data sources and is enriched by BNZSA’s data research team.
  • BNZSA Pipeline: Local-language demand-generation teams engage with prospects to generate a “predetermined number of highly qualified, information-rich leads” that are delivered to client sales and marketing teams.  The demand-generation teams support fifteen languages and places 15,000 calls per day.

BNZSA does not publicly disclose its data partners, but they are all respected firmographic, technographic, and intent data sources.

Leads are fed to Marketo, Salesforce, PipeDrive, and Microsoft Dynamics.  They also support warm handovers to clients where the demand generation rep schedules the call and joins the first meeting.  Because leads are BANT qualified, 70% of leads convert to opportunities with a 35% faster lead-to-close window.         

UK Country Manager Paul Stacey argues that personalizing messaging through digital campaigns alone is difficult and that ABM campaigns should never be purely digital.  The need for a human touch is even more important during the pandemic when face-to-face meetings are no longer possible.

“If you read the ABM technology vendor’s marketing claims, you would be led to think that automation can overcome marketing and sales teams’ current challenge for intimacy with clients and do it all instead – identify, reach, and engage with your highest-value prospects – at the touch of a button.  But can these off-the-shelf solutions truly automate at scale while retaining key customer insights and preserving intimacy?  I think not.

There is a place for automation of course, but it’s worthless without high-quality data, and essentially, the intervention of people. 

I would argue that the human touch is necessary in at least one, if not multiple, touchpoints in any company’s ABM campaigns.  Demand generation must ultimately be powered by people.”

BNZSA UK Country Manager Paul Stacey

BNZSA is based in Europe, so it is well-positioned to conform to GDPR and country-specific data privacy regulations.  It was founded seven years ago as a marketing agency focused on tele-based demand generation.  It has steadily grown at 30% per annum since launch and employs 200 in Spain, the UK, France, and Morocco.  Last year, it grew revenue by 38%.

BNZSA has over 100 clients and a 95% client retention rate.

Competitive Intelligence Drives Revenue

As a member of SCIP (Strategic & Competitive Intelligence Professionals) and a former CI practitioner (I am more of an industry analyst and market researcher these days, but the skills and tools often overlap), I pay attention to research on the efficacy and ROI of CI. Unfortunately, CI’s role is often diffuse across the organization, providing both strategic and tactical assistance across a broad set of functions. Thus, the impact is often difficult to properly attribute.

Thus, I wasn’t surprised when a Crayon survey on the State of Competitive Intelligence found that only 61% of CI Professionals and Stakeholders believed that CI boosts revenue (26% felt that it did not). And it may be that some of those professionals that hold a dim view of CI worked at companies that lacked somebody in that role or simply assigned a product marketing manager to perform CI along with several other duties.

But the confidence level should be higher. After all, a good CI person or team:

  • Monitors the market for general trends, new product launches, product enhancements, emerging technologies, key events (partnerships, funding, acquisitions, executive changes, filings), and competitors.
  • Briefs senior level management on the market, highlighting opportunities and threats.
  • Briefs product management on product gaps and weaknesses that place the company at a market disadvantage.
  • Performs competitive benchmarking, collects pricing data and market collateral, and monitors competitive positioning.
  • Assesses competitor’s product launches and major upgrades and briefs internal stakeholders.
  • Assists with product launches by briefing marketing and sales on competitive positioning, addressing the question of how new products and features stack up in the marketplace.
  • Supports new hire onboarding, particularly for product management, product marketing, executives, and sales professionals.
  • Trains sales reps in how to position vs. competitors, lay landmines for competitors, parry competitive charges, and stay above the fray (i.e. remain professional and avoid slinging mud).
  • Manages or participates in win/loss analyses.
  • Joins sales calls (usually virtually) when the client wishes to discuss the competitive landscape.
  • Provide on-demand support to sales reps.
  • Review RFPs and RFIs to determine whether they are neutral or one of the competitors has influenced the process.
  • Collects internal competitive data from CRMs and competitive mentions during sales calls. Conversational Intelligence from vendors such as Chorus and Gong is an emerging data collection opportunity.

If a CI team is performing these duties in a timely and accurate manner, then there is no doubt that they influence revenue generation both in the short and long-term.

Source: Crayon, “NEW DATA: 61% of Businesses Say Competitive Intelligence Directly Impacts Revenue,” March 2021

Crayon also found that the impact to CI was strongly related to the creation of KPIs for the program. Without KPIs, 57% of professionals were unsure about the impact of CI on revenue. When KPIs were in place, 78% of survey respondents were confident that CI helped drive revenue.

The frequency of CI distribution is also strongly related to its impact. 70% of respondents with daily or weekly intelligence distribution said that CI helped increase revenue, falling to 55% monthly and 46% quarterly. The frequency of messaging probably has several effects: it reinforces the role of CI in the organization, it delivers a timelier and more comprehensive work product, and it embeds CI into the knowledge flow and company discussions.

Competitive Intelligence professionals help drive revenue growth through their interactions with sales, marketing, product management, and c-level executives, fostering better planning, messaging, and product development.