6sense Reaches Unicorn Status

6sense Funding Rounds (Source: Crunchbase)

Sales Engagement vendor 6sense closed on a $125 million Series D that valued the firm at $2.1 billion.  The round was led by D1 Capital, with Sapphire Ventures and Tiger Global joining.  Existing investor Insight Partners participated as well.

A few years ago, 6sense described itself as a predictive analytics company.  When the predictive analytics segment failed to gain significant traction, it rebranded as an ABM Orchestration Platform.  The other predictive analytics companies rebranded as CDPs or were acquired for their technology.

Repositioning as an ABM platform proved prescient as 6sense now competes head-to-head with Terminus and Demandbase, two other very successful ABM Platforms.  Terminus closed on a $90 million Series C in February, and Demandbase is also well funded, setting up a market share land grab for ABM Platforms.

6sense has doubled in size each of the past three years, setting the stage for its unicorn round.  Forrester named them a leader in its Q2 2020 Wave Report on ABM Platforms, where 6Sense scored highest on current offering and tied with Terminus on strategy.

“6sense has made significant progress since our first evaluation of this market in 2018 — and now offers a comprehensive solution, matched by an aggressive vision, roadmap, and market approach,” wrote Forrester Principal Analyst Steven Casey.

Customer conversations are a critical part of our due diligence process, and the feedback from 6sense customers is among the best we’ve heard.  Improving revenue results is a goal for every business, but it’s easier said than done. The way 6sense consistently creates value for customers made it clear that they deliver a unique, must-have solution for B2B revenue teams.”

Dan Sundheim, Chief Investment Officer at D1 Capital Partners

6sense will invest the funds in market growth and product development, including its data layer, machine learning-based next best action recommendations, and scaling its “AI-based orchestration capabilities to deliver ideal customer journeys based on data and insights.”

The round comes 15 months after a $40 million Series C led by Insight Partners.  Pitchbook indicates that the firm was valued at only $300 million in January 2020.  6sense is on track for another year of 100% plus growth after inking deals with 100 new customers in Q4.

“We’re doubling down on our investment because we’ve seen the 6sense team consistently execute against their plans for the past year and a half, and we witness firsthand the results the platform delivers every day for our portfolio of high growth companies,” said Jeff Lieberman, Managing Director at Insight Partners. “Being the leader in account-based sales and marketing technology ideally positions 6sense to unlock additional market opportunities, and we’re confident that they have the vision and track record to forge the future of revenue technology.”

CEO Jason Zintak sees a broader vision for the company than SalesTech, MarTech, or AdTech, describing his firm as a RevTech company.

“Our AI is focused on signal, identifying companies that are in the market to buy something,” Zintak told TechCrunch. “Once you have that, you can sell to them.”

RevTech looks to unify the marketing, sales, RevOps, and customer success groups within the revenue team and align them behind selling to the right buyers at the right time.  Firms still struggle with identifying prospects that are the ideal fit, much less properly timing their prospect outreach.

“This is both a data and execution problem. One can’t be untethered from the other,” blogged Zintak.  “I’ve long believed there is a tremendous opportunity to solve this problem and move the sales and marketing technology world away from outdated tools, and usher in a new era of B2B platforms that will fundamentally change the way companies go to market. We’re already seeing account-based tech, sales tech, and legacy marketing tech categories beginning to converge into a massive market that will only continue to grow. I also believe 6sense is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this opportunity and deliver the transformation our industry is so hungry for.”

Thus, 6Sense looks to provide the go-to-market platform that delivers a “comprehensive B2B go-to-market with data, insights, and orchestration capabilities at the core.”

6Sense identifies the best-fit accounts and supports prospect timing via intent-based prediction models.  6sense claims that its customers:

  • Raise their average deal size by 35%.
  • Increase their opportunity conversion rate by 20%.
  • Reduce deal-cycle time by 20%.

Zintak argues that the alignment problem is exacerbated by multiple tech stacks with data and functional silos that “optimize” around subsets of the revenue problem.

The MarTech landscape is teeming with micro-solutions for every nagging problem the marketing automation platform vendors aren’t able to solve (or they themselves created). SalesTech is no different. Your CRM wasn’t built to facilitate decision-making; it was built to store records. Add RevOps and customer success teams into the mix, and the people, process, and technology alignment challenges grow exponentially, as more data becomes siloed and disconnected from execution.”

6Sense CEO Jason Zintak

“AI generally is a buzzword, but here it is a key part of the solution, the brand behind the platform,” said Teddie Ward of Insight Partners.  “Instead of having massive funnels, 6sense switches the whole thing around. Catching the right person at the right time and in the right context make sales and marketing more effective.  And the AI piece is what really powers it. It uses signals to construct the buyer journey and tell the salesperson when it is the right time to engage.”

“We invest heavily in sales and marketing technology, and 6sense is truly one-of-a-kind,” said Sapphire Ventures partner Rajeev Dham.  “We’ve always viewed 6sense as a market leader with the ability to execute on their bold vision of transforming sales and marketing with data-driven insights and orchestration capabilities.  6sense is already the leading account-based sales and marketing platform, and they are poised to define and deliver the future of revenue technology that every B2B organization needs.”

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.