I have been a contributing writer to FreePint, a UK based information services journal, for several years now. Unfortunately, most of my work rests behind a subscription firewall, making it difficult to share content to non-subscribers.
Last week, my most recent piece, “Detecting Latent Sales Opportunities via Sales Triggers” published. The article discusses how sales reps use sales triggers to identify emerging demand for B2B products and services. While traditional reps followed the money to customers and prospects with long-standing demand patterns, trigger-driven reps focus on “agile organisations in a state of flux”. Unfortunately, many of the firms with established demand are subject to institutional inertia due to established purchasing patterns and relationships.
But firms that are in a state of flux are less beholden to historic decisions and relationships and more willing to accept the risk of adopting new products, services, and processes. Flux is often tied to trigger events such as M&A activity, PE/VC funding, and executive changes. For example, a new CMO is not beholden to historic decisions, but can freely evaluate Martech and AdTech vendors.
When evaluating sales trigger vendors, precision is a key quality variable. You want to purchase a service that has high precision for both company and subject tagging. The service should also have strong de-duping so that sales reps do not receive more than a few hits on any event (and no direct duplicates of articles and press releases republished on different sites or with trivial modifications).
Thus, if company or topic accuracy fall below 90% or the duplicate frequency exceeds 10%, the overall STP falls quickly. Unfortunately, if precision is low, then sales reps will quickly begin ignoring their trigger feeds or turn them off. Then a valuable resource goes to waste.
While determining the overall accuracy of a sales intelligence service is difficult, setting up a few triggers and measuring the STP is fairly straightforward. Just make sure you use the same companies and topics when comparing vendors. Even better, if you can run your benchmark over the same period then you will have an even stronger test.
Update: Avention was acquired by Dun & Bradstreet and Business Browser was renamed D&B Business Browser. The blog is no longer available online.
Avention recently published an excellent blog by Jay Webb, President of the J. David Group, concerning preparing for sales interviews. His firm specializes in placing sales reps at technology companies. Webb marveled at the frequent lack of preparation by job candidates who fail to understand the company, its industry, and the individuals conducting the interviews. They often make silly mistakes like saying they are looking to work for a smaller company when they are interviewing for positions at larger organizations.
Webb emphasized the value of preparing technology sales candidates for interviews and noted six areas of focus beginning with the product. He observed that candidates often fail to sign up for software trials. Not only are they not researching the products they are looking to sell, but they are failing to show interest to the sales and marketing departments at the company where they are interviewing. Of course, not all technology companies have software trials, but there are still webinars, white papers, and other tools for researching the product and demonstrating interest to the firm.
Other preparation steps include
Researching both the organizational structure of the company (who reports to whom) and corporate family tree structures (how big is the company? What other industries is it involved in? Does it have additional offices in other cities or countries?);
Reviewing corporate SWOTs (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).
Researching the firm’s competition
Understanding the firm’s industry
“In [staffing] sales we use tools such as Avention (OneSource for those who remember that name) to do account research. Turning that idea on its head, I am able to provide candidates with a report containing the relevant information they need, gain a little more control over the process, and save time so I can work more deals,” blogged Webb
“If I can deliver better prepared candidates, I stand a better chance of winning,” wrote Webb. “Additionally, if my candidate is that prepared, they draw from the higher end of the salary range, which means more commission for me. What’s more, when a candidate is that attractive, hiring managers move very quickly for fear of losing them to their competitors. More sales, higher value, and faster close. That’s pretty easy math.”
In short, every sales rep should view the job interview as if they are a strategic sales rep preparing for their top client. Why would any sales director hire you if you are unprepared for a critical meeting?
Of course, not every candidate has access to Avention products, but there are company resources available for job preparation through academic and public libraries. On college campuses, look for OneSource Business Browser, Bureau van Dijk Orbis, Capital IQ Academic, LexisNexis Academic, Factiva, or Mergent products.
At public libraries, you should check out ReferenceUSA, Mergent, or AtoZ Databases for company research.
I would also look at Owler and CrunchBase for free online research. Both provide company overviews, funding data, and news alerts. Of course, company websites, LinkedIn, and social media should also be reviewed.
For industry research, check out Plunkett Almanacs, First Research, IBIS World, MarketLine, Freedonia, Euromonitor, Mergent Intellect, or Business Browser’s industry module.
When launching a new sales intelligence service, it is critical that management participates in the rollout and explains the benefits. If management backs the financial outlay, then reps are more likely to invest as well. Conversely, if management doesn’t participate in the service rollout, why should your sales reps invest their time in learning and personalizing the new service? After all, not only is there effort involved in learning a new service and customizing it to their information requirements, but adopting new tools requires reps to modify their workflows and sales processes. As such, you are asking reps to take a shared risk.
A second way to reinforce the benefits of your sales intelligence investment is to employ tribal lore. Let one or two sales reps discuss an opportunity they discovered or insight that helped close a deal during the trial period. Sales reps are natural story tellers and enjoy talking about their victories. A good story can do more to sell your product (or a sales tool) than a recitation of features and benefits (but make sure they understand the benefits as well). Sales stories should be viewed as internal case studies generated by sales. They are a low cost means of rewarding reps who gain a psychic reward from retelling their victories. Encouraging such tribal knowledge helps motivate sales reps and is akin to the hunter retelling the story of the hunt.
Furthermore, sharing knowledge across teams fits well with millennial transparency and social media practices. Peter Ostrow of the Aberdeen Group emphasized the value of such tribal knowledge in a recent report on Sales Reinforcements:
Today’s millennial sellers are far more willing and comfortable to share with one another, as compared to 20th-century quota-carriers. A generation ago, a sales rep was expected to acquire skills and knowledge predominantly from managers above them in the corporate food chain. Modern enterprise social collaboration platforms are designed to leverage the changing mindset of individual contributors, and help provide companies committed to lifelong sales education with technology platforms that complement their commitment to learning that clearly pays measurable dividends.
HG Data released a Chrome browser extension for their Technology Install dataset. The new HG Focus service provides tech sales reps with immediate visibility into key technologies used by prospects and customers. The freemium service assists with lead qualification, account based marketing, and technology related messaging.
While browsing the web, users are shown which technologies are employed by the website owner and how recently the data was verified. Technology stack information is available for both cloud-based and behind-the-firewall platforms. A release later this quarter will expand this intelligence to Salesforce.com, Gmail, LinkedIn, and Office 365.
Freemium users have access to one technology category. Users can also identify favorite technologies with the icon indicating the number of favorite technologies used by the company. Favorites can be setup for either complementary or competitive companies.
HG Data provides technology intelligence for over 5,000 products spanning 1,700 vendors. They began collecting North American intelligence in 2012 and currently provide insights into 1.2 million US and 85,000 Canadian locations. Last year they started international data collection and now deliver tech installation intelligence for 260,000 European and 120,000 AsiaPac locations.
“HG Focus is the first of some very exciting products that HG Data will be releasing to help companies of every size and shape that have not yet discovered the power of installed technology intelligence,” said Chief Revenue Officer Mark Godley. “Our clients have seen how targeting by installed technologies can transform their entire go-to-market strategy. From defining addressable market, to micro-messaging at scale, to better analytics and predictive modeling, to relevant targeting throughout the sales funnel, every step of the sales and marketing process is better with HG Data. Technology installs at scale comprise a whole new firmographic that is making traditional means of defining prospects obsolete. HG Focus is aimed at companies interested in starting down the path of targeting by installed technologies and can now do so in a risk free, yet powerful way.”
A number of firms have recently deployed Chrome extensions to provide a taste of their database. Other technology vendors with Chrome extensions include DiscoverOrg and Datanyze.
Both services are going after the sales and marketing intelligence space, but InsideView has been around a lot longer and is better funded. This means that the InsideView service provides a broader feature functionality set and has a higher revenue stream. Unomy is the scrappy upstart looking to redefine the market.
I attached the company profiles for Nuance (US public company) to provide a perspective on how the systems differ (note: the InsideView UI has a pending refresh). You will notice that InsideView is profile-centric while Unomy is list-centric and displays profile information in both tabular format for structured data and via a right sidebar for unstructured company intelligence:
Off the top of my head, here are the differences:
InsideView is an aggregator of company content while Unomy is a data miner. Aggregation provides deeper information on large public companies and major privates but often has little or no information on small companies.
InsideView covers nearly twice as many companies (12M vs. 7M) as Unomy but a lot fewer execs (16M vs. 95M). However, InsideView provides biographies and People Alerts (news mentions and Tweets).
InsideView is focused on traditional sales company lookups and prospecting while Unomy has a spreadsheet-like orientation designed for flexible list building and team sharing. Users can work through a list with the right sidebar providing greater detail. Thus, they can view the same information sets about different companies (e.g. finance or social views) or research a single company at a time.
InsideView offers a broad set of connectors for CRM and Marketing Automation platforms (SFDC, SAP, Oracle on Demand, NetSuite, Sugar, Marketo, Eloqua, etc.) while Unomy offers a Chrome connector. InsideView also has a strategic partnership with Microsoft to natively embed their content and functionality within MS Dynamics.
InsideView offers 18 sales triggers which are high precision email news alerts targeting specific topics at target companies. They also have an online Activity Stream that allows users to filter the recent sales triggers by topic and Company.
InsideView offers a relationship (six degrees tool) Tool.
InsideView offers a Buzz Feed which consolidates company blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts into a single searchable view. Unomy has a similar feature which includes more social statistics (e.g. Alexa and Comcast scores) but is not searchable.
Unomy supports light SFA tools including comments, tags, status, key contacts, and comments.
Both companies provide executives and firmographics. InsideView also includes access to SEC filings, competitors, family trees, recent news, income statements, Simply Hired Jobs, and industry overviews. Unomy includes website statistics, funding data, and Similar Companies. Similar Companies include competitors and firms frequently mentioned alongside the original company. This provides a broader set of peers than a competitors list and is available for more companies. Unomy has legal and news content in development.
Both companies provide list building. InsideView is stronger on traditional firmographic and biographic screening. They also leverage their sales triggers and Relationship Finder tools for screening. Unomy has an advantage on less traditional screening variables such as social media, funding data, and website metrics.
While both are freemium services, a single seat of InsideView costs $99 / month while a single seat of Unomy costs $199 / month.
In short, there are probably more differences than similarities. The data models differ in both collection and presentation method. Unomy is probably best suited for reps focused on smaller companies or VC/PE funded companies. They probably also would have an edge for Martech and social marketing firms due to social media and website metrics. InsideView is better suited for reps with named accounts or territories where they target established companies (e.g. Rev>$5M). InsideView would also have an advantage at firms looking to embed sales intelligence into their CRM and MAP workflows.
I was given a demo of the new CB Insights for Sales product a few weeks ago and found it to be a very well developed Sales Intelligence 1.0 solution. CB Insights has focused on PE/VC investor services to date, so their sales product is weighted towards emerging companies looking to grow rapidly. This is both a strength and a weakness as they have rich information around these growth companies, but they have little information on companies that have not been involved in the private equity or venture capital markets.
Note: CB Insights is a separate company from CrunchBase.
The sales rep, Victor, was generally knowledgeable about the product even though it had just launched. This is a good omen for the product as it signals investment in both product training for a new user segment (sales) and engagement on the part of their salesforce. Overall, the released product is relatively mature compared to most version 1.0 sales intelligence offerings.
Other good signs: Beta customers include Gartner and Marketo, and the company just announced a $10 million Series A. CB Insights has 325 customers for their analytics offering and VC database. The New York City-based firm grew from 24 to 61 employees over the past year with plans to have seventy staff by the end of this year and double that by this time next year.
CB Insights for Sales focuses on three goals: sales targeting, deep research for account planning, and prioritizing outreach. Prioritization is done via their proprietary Mosaic Scores and identifying similar companies to a seed client list. They recommend at least 25 firms for this list, though a broader set is preferable. The system continues to customize prioritization based upon thumbs up/down icon selects on proposed leads as well as flagging companies as actual leads. The lead proposal system is similar to LinkedIn’s with it displaying a few at a time and replacing leads as they are accepted or rejected. The goal is to force decisions from sales reps, but it hides potentially more valuable leads by limiting the set to a few at a time.
Mosaic is their private company health score. The Mosaic model is based upon their three M’s with users shown each of these sub-scores along with recent changes:
Momentum – Measures the individual performance of a company relative to itself and peers using signals from social media, news sentiment, mobile & web traffic/usage, hiring, customer and partner signings
Market – Quantifies the health (or lack thereof) of the industry in which a company participates based on funding, deals, hiring activity, industry sentiment, and exit activity among other factors
Money – Assesses the financial strength and financial viability of a company based on financing history, burn rate and investor quality.
Mosaic Scores are also available for comparing companies and prospecting selects.
For companies engaged in consultative sales at high growth firms, there is much to like about this product. The UI is graphical and well laid out, though a bit crowded due to the breadth of content. Content includes funding histories (e.g. investors, rounds, acquisitions), similar companies, executives, business descriptions, tech stack, social media metrics, and jobs data. I was impressed by their jobs page which included historical job posting volumes and open postings by job function and level. They also noted job competencies providing a deeper view of company requirements for executive recruiters and IT consultancies. While other sales intelligence services offer job postings, this was the first service I’ve seen which provides actionable insights around the job postings to assist with account planning.
The company also provides a set of social media metrics for Facebook, Twitter, web traffic, news mentions, and sentiment analysis.
The Tech Stack is a mined set of platform information similar to HG Data’s offering. At the moment, though, the data is only available within the Tech Stack tab and not available as screening variables. Nevertheless, it indicated a desire to bring in additional content sets beyond their traditional funding focus.
The executive data is a bit wanting. A five seat license only displays 5,000 executives with contact data per year. Execs were broken down by employees and directors. When I viewed the execs of a company I knew well, however, I spotted many execs that were no longer with the firm including some that have been gone for several years. Other problems included the CEO being listed twice due to name variations and a president that has never been affiliated with the company. These types of errors are a common problem amongst sales intelligence vendors that aggregate contacts from multiple executive sources. While a contact aggregation strategy provides a deeper set of contacts, it also greatly increases the number of former and incorrect executive listings. InsideView and Avention, two vendors that also aggregate their executives, have worked to limit these issues through the use of editors combined with customer feedback, email validation, and executive change news monitoring.
Their database covers the PE/VC space including seed rounds and angel investments. They also capture global funding data, investors, and M&A activity going back to 2000. Thus, the database provides deep intelligence around rapidly growing companies in the US and overseas. Nevertheless, there will be significant gaps. Bootstrapped private companies do not appear nor do subsidiaries unless they were acquired. They also have limited information around public companies unless they IPO’d in the past decade or have made significant investments and acquisitions.
Curiously, they have two company profiles for firms that are also investors. Thus, Uber appears as both a company with significant funding history and as an acquirer and investor in other firms. From a sales rep’s perspective, this split makes little sense and increases the likelihood that the rep will miss critical sales intelligence.
Company and executive screening is supported with a deep set of funding and deal variables along with basic firmographics and Boolean keyword searching. The system supports a proprietary industry structure so SIC and NAICS are not available. Also missing are job function and job level screening along with location variables such as county, MSA, and ZIP radius.
CB Insights offers a Salesforce.com connector which displays their content within account records. Sales reps can send leads from the browser service to SFDC or perform “stare and compare” updates. Along with basic firmographics, the uploaded records contain business descriptions and funding details. According to Victor, CB Insights updates the records within SFDC on a near real-time basis with their database.
The service is rather expensive, beginning at $18,000 per year. CB Insights can probably sustain this pricing when selling research tools to institutional investors, but the price point is several-fold above that of established sales intelligence competitors. If the sales product is to gain market traction, they will likely have to adjust the price downwards.
While there is no doubt that this is a new product which will require additional fit and finish work along with ongoing development, CB Insights for Sales is a significant product launch with some unique features. The Mosaic Scores assist with comparing companies and qualifying leads while the Jobs and Tech Stack tabs indicate a company looking for new ways to add value to their clients.
Nevertheless, there are some significant gaps including family tree linkage, sales triggers, and public company data which they will need to address if they hope to expand the product beyond targeting strategic sales teams focused on high growth companies.
I was interviewed by FreePint, an information services publication, concerning my newly released book on Sales Intelligence (SI) vendors. The Q&A covers changes to the SI space over the past few years, sales triggers, and my vendor selection criteria.
While based in the UK, FreePint provides a broad set of product reviews and research spanning the US, European, and Global information services markets. I would recommend a subscription to purchasing departments that license multiple information services (e.g. news, financial markets, credit products, filings, etc.) as they can assist with product qualification and valuation.
FreePint is one of the few publications that seriously covers the SI space. I have written several articles for them over the past few years and will be publishing an article on sales triggers next month.