SalesLoft Acquires Costello

Costello Dashboard within SalesLoft

Sales engagement vendor SalesLoft acquired Costello earlier this week.  Costello, which describes itself as an opportunity management software company, supports quick deal updates, guided selling playbooks, pipeline collaboration, and real-time CRM sync.  Other features include deal management, dashboards, and dynamic note-taking.

SalesLoft said that the acquisition “furthers SalesLoft’s mission to help account executives not only prospect and build pipeline, but manage their day and their deals, from creation through close.”

“Combining Costello and SalesLoft gives all sellers, whether they’re pipeline builders, closers, or responsible for upsells and renewals, a platform to deliver the ultimate buyer experience and close more revenue.  Sales engagement is now the place all reps can start and end their days,” said SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter.

“Sales Engagement isn’t just about generating pipeline.  It is about all the people who engage with customers and prospects throughout their journey.  We are working with our customers to constantly evolve what sales engagement can do for them.  It now represents the complete workflow application for sellers.  It’s a giant leap towards solving the sales challenges I hear from revenue leaders all the time.”

SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter

Costello has been available as a SalesLoft application partner since last year.  “The companies will continue to support existing Costello customers, invest and enhance product capabilities, and natively integrate Costello capabilities into the SalesLoft platform,” stated the firm.

Solution matrix posted by SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter

SalesLoft listed four sales challenges that are addressed by the merged company: updating opportunities, app switching, new hire account messaging, and simplified pipeline review.  

During calls, Costello acts as a “real-time co-pilot” that ensures sales reps ask key questions, handle objections, and tell relevant customer stories.

Costello displays a Deal Dashboard and Deal View from within SalesLoft for pipeline management.  Deal Status elements include deal stage, days in stage, days active, and deal amount.  Costello also calls out Deal Gaps (missing deal fields, days past due), Stakeholders (buyers’ circle with roles and concerns), Call Summary with notes, and a deal timeline.

Costello is SalesLoft’s second acquisition.  They previously acquired NoteNinja which served as the basis for their meeting scheduling and intelligence functionality.  SalesLoft plans to natively integrate Costello functionality into the SalesLoft platform while investing and enhancing product capabilities.

SalesLoft supports over 2,300 companies and has grown revenue 1,000 percent over the past three years.  The firm has 450 employees.

“Sales Engagement platforms have started to make significant progress with sales organizations.  When we look across our dataset of high-growth early-adopters, 69% are leveraging a Sales Engagement platform today. As the sales engagement platform market looks to expand to the more widespread market of sales reps, we expect the platform’s feature set will also expand beyond traditional prospecting channels to serve all the day-to-day needs of the sales rep including enablement, planning and forecasting and productivity.”

Craig Rosenberg, Co-founder and Chief Analyst of TOPO

Financial details were not disclosed.

A Tale of Two Teams

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to observe two different teams while replacing the flooring on my first floor. The first team laid tiles, and it was an uncomfortable experience watching the master tiler berate his apprentice. The second team demoed the wood floor and carpet as a team.

The tile experience was awkward. While the end work product was excellent, the apprentice was treated more like a dog than an employee. The tiler incessantly berated his employee making it difficult to work from home. Several times an hour I heard the boss yell “Charlie!” and then proceed to tell him he was lazy or incompetent. The tiler did all of the artisan work with the apprentice grabbing tools, hauling tile, mixing grout, and waiting for his next instruction.

When I discussed it with the flooring company that was managing the project, they confessed that they usually have him work new construction instead of renovations. The master tiler will have work so long as the economy is strong, but I imagine he will be quickly dropped once the economy cools.

The second team arrived this morning and attacked phase I (demo). All four knew their roles and worked without much direction required. The house was noisy with electrical saws and wood being pulled up with crowbars. It buzzed with Spanish as the guys enjoyed working together. Nobody needed direction beyond simple coordination. The men moved between tasks as the project proceeded. I don’t think I heard a single raised voice. They were a team that I’d welcome back in my home.

So what was the key difference? Respect. If you respect your teammates and subordinates, the team is more efficient, the work is more enjoyable, and each member is confident in their role.

Lattice Engines Campaigns

The Dun & Bradstreet Sales & Marketing Product Stack
The Dun & Bradstreet Sales & Marketing Product Stack

Dun & Bradstreet, which acquired Lattice Engines at the beginning of Q3, launched a Lattice Campaigns App for LinkedIn.  The new app “improves campaign performance by creating and activating always-on AI-based audiences for LinkedIn Ads.”

“When Dun & Bradstreet acquired Lattice Engines, we were building on an existing partnership of the world’s most comprehensive B2B data and the world’s leading B2B Customer Data Platform,” said Dun & Bradstreet’s President of Sales & Marketing Solutions Michael Bird.  “This is the first in a series of innovations we’re quickly bringing to market to power more effective and efficient digital marketing, demand generation and sales acceleration programs for our customers through the intelligent use of data.”

The Lattice Customer Data Platform supports “hyper-targeted” LinkedIn advertising as part of a broader omnichannel engagement strategy.  Lattice combines first and third-party customer data, displays account and contact insights, and uses “AI to segment their buyers and deliver hyper-targeted engagement in an automated fashion across display, web, email, CRM and now social channels.”

“Let’s say a buyer at a cold account starts visiting certain product pages on your website anonymously.  Rather than just showing this buyer a generic ad about your brand, you could show them an ad with more specific copy and CTA [call to action] related to the product pages that they visited on your website.”

Dun & Bradstreet President of Sales & Marketing Solutions Michael Bird

The app creates matched audiences for LinkedIn ads and then lets marketers adjust media spend to target high-performing audiences.  The app then updates LinkedIn audiences based on “changes in buyer engagement, interest and company data.  As a result, marketers can ensure that buyers are engaged with the most relevant campaigns based on not only persona but on profile, propensity, interest and buyer stage.”

Dun & Bradstreet is claiming a 42% increase in click-through rates and triple the post-click conversion rates resulting in a 54% reduction in qualified lead expenditures.

According to Gartner, CMOs are spending 23% of their marketing budget on paid media.

“In an environment where B2B marketers are overwhelmed with data and technology options, our goal is to make their jobs easier by connecting interactions across customer journeys,” says Bird.  “This allows marketers to target the right audiences with the right message and make the best use of their ad dollars.”

Connectors for Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms are in the works.

Signs of a Market Slowdown

There are a number of indicators signaling a slowdown in both the general economy and technology products and services:

  • The Gartner CMO Spend Survey showed a drop in marketing spend as a percentage of overall spend from 11.2% in 2018 to 10.5% this year.  The peak in marketing spend was in 2016 (12.1%).  The data is based upon a survey of 340 North American and UK marketing leaders.  However, 61% of marketers anticipate a rebound in 2020.  “While we’re not yet witnessing a precipitous drop in budgets, this year’s downtick presents a counterintuitive scenario,” commented Gartner’s VP of the Marketing practice, Ewan McIntyre.  “You could call this confidence in the face of adversity.  Or you could call it hubris.”

    MarTech budgets fell 3% to 26% this year.
  • The Gartner 2Q19 Global Talent Monitor indicated growing concern about the job market with fewer employees looking to change jobs.  53% of US employees are intending to stay put and only 12.5% are actively looking for other positions.  The US actively looking rate dropped in half in Q2 and the percent looking to stay put rose ten points.  “Over the previous several years, the clear story within the U.S. has been a robust economy, tight labor market and plenty of opportunities for growth and improvement from the employee perspective,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research for the Gartner HR practice. “With this quarter-over-quarter increase in intent to stay, we are now seeing a shift as employees hunker down, indicating concerns around available job opportunities and potential weakness in the labor market.”

    Gartner also noted a 2.4% decrease in global business confidence amongst employees and an increasing willingness of US employees to go “above and beyond the call of duty at their jobs.”  According to Kropp, “Workers appear to be putting more time and effort into their current positions with the hopes of solidifying their roles in case of a change in the economy.  This situation creates an opportunity for organizations to invest in internal training programs that capture this employee commitment to build a stronger, more productive workforce.”
  • Trump’s Tariff War is proving more difficult to win than he anticipated, resulting in inflationary pressures in the US alongside harm to the industrial and agricultural sectors.  Tariff rates are expected to increase at the end of the year.
  • Brexit remains a big question mark with dates, agreements, and new UK elections changing almost every day.
  • The US and UK governments are both very unpopular with Trump facing Impeachment hearings and Boris Johnson preparing for an election.
  • While the US unemployment rate is at a historical low point (3.6%), the economy only added 128,000 non-farm jobs last month and 130,000 per month this year, well below the 223,000 jobs added each month in 2018.
  • The preliminary US GDP Q3 growth rate came in at 1.9% compared to 2.9% in 2018.
  • US Hiring has slowed to its lowest rate in seven years.  A survey of economists by the National Association of Business Economists found that only one in five of their firms grew their headcount in Q3 down from one in three in Q2.  Capital equipment purchasing is at a five-year low and fewer firms are offering pay raises.  “The U.S. economy appears to be slowing, and respondents expect still slower growth over the next 12 months,” said Constance Hunter, NABE president and chief economist at KPMG.

    The NABE also reported slowing sales with only 39% reporting sales growth in Q3 compared to 61% a year ago.

If the US economy tips into a recession, there is little room for fiscal or monetary policy to slow a recession.  The Federal Funds rate (1.75% following three cuts this year) is historically low for an economy at 3.6% unemployment and the Federal deficit provides little room for expansionary fiscal policy.  Trump lowered personal and corporate tax rates when the economy was strong instead of waiting for a recession.

Hybrid Engagement Platforms

Cognism Intelligence within Salesforce. Hybrid Engagement Platforms Continuously update CRMs and MAPs.

The market is beginning to evolve a set of hybrid engagement vendors that deliver a broad set of sales and marketing services.  The boundary between sales and marketing is quickly crumbling.  Hybrid engagement services manage both data and workflows.  Features include

Future functionality will include Next Best Actions, Embedded 1:1 Video, SNAP (Sales Navigator) Integrations, and Programmatic Advertising.

No vendor provides all of these services and some provide them as separate offerings, but firms such as Dun & Bradstreet, Zoominfo, Infogroup (Salesgenie), Lead411, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and Cognism have all taken steps over the past two years to meet the emerging requirements of the CRO.

For the moment, I’m calling these emerging offerings Hybrid Engage Platforms, but that is a placeholder name as the market evolves.

SalesTech Spend Continues to Increase

SalesTech adoption rates and spend continue to increase according to a recent SalesTech study of 268 B2B sales and marketing managers conducted by Smart Selling Tools.  Only 3% of respondents are planning on reducing their SalesTech spend in 2020 while 6% plan to spend significantly more in 2020 and 41% slightly more.  Expanded spending will be focused on the top and middle of the funnel followed by management and reporting.  Skills Development, Onboarding, and Bottom of the Funnel expenditures have a lower priority.

Over the past year, SalesTech spend per user has increased significantly.  In 2017, only one-third of respondents spent in excess of $150 per user, but two years later, 65% spend more than $150 per user.  As the average number of sales tools in use rose only modestly from 4.5 to 4.9 over the past two years, the spend per product has likely increased.  The number of applications that are used by a majority of respondents trebled to six (CRM, Online Meetings, Lead List/Database, Social Selling, Account Targeting, and Skills Training & Reinforcement) with an additional four at 47% or higher.  CRMs are used by 75% of respondents, lead/list databases by 65%, and social selling by 60%.  The one category that dropped in usage was online meetings.

Adoption rates of technologies were fairly even by company size with large firm (500+) employees more likely to have adopted Sales Enablement, Skills Training & Reinforcement, and Sales Performance & Compensation.  Conversely, firms with fewer than 500 employees were more likely to have adopted Prospect Engagement (Sales Engagement) solutions.

Account targeting tools for ideal customer prospecting grew from 4% to 51% over the past year, a clear indication that ABM strategies have been adopted.  Lead Engagement (communicating at scale with early-stage, unqualified leads) grew from 11% to 49%, while social selling grew from 10% to 60%.

“The significant increase in usage of sales tools across the board indicates a trend (likely irreversible).  If your organization is slow to take up the use of sales tools, you could get left behind. Even so, we don’t recommend adding new sales tools without considering what’s required to keep them up to date and who will be responsible, having a plan for measuring success (what does “Good” look like?), and deciding what’s required to establish and grow user adoption.”

Smart Selling Tools founder Nancy Nardin.

The top three industries represented in the study were technology (42%), Financial Services (9.3%), and Manufacturing (8.7%).