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.
Although CB Insights for Sales is not included in my 2015 Field Guide for Sales Intelligence Vendors, I anticipate it will be in my 2016 edition as it smooths out some of its rough edges and folds in additional datasets.
Plus, you have to love a company that lives by the mantra “eat. sleep. data.” and launches Ava, the Introductions Bot.
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