Drift Sales Seat

Drift Sales Seat can activate SEP sequences in Outreach.

Revenue Acceleration vendor Drift announced a pair of new services last week. I covered Fastlane, its new webforms/chatbot hybrid service yesterday. Today I’ll be discussing Sales Seat, Drift’s entry into SalesTech.

Sales Seat alerts reps when intent and engagement signals have exhibited buying activity.  Drift monitors the website, SEPs, MAPs, and CRMs for buying intent.  Sales Seat is Drift’s first sales product and helps reps with timing, messaging, and discovering the buying committee.  Sales professionals can reach out with personalized messages via chat, email, or video, based on intent and engagement.

Sales Seat is integrated with Outreach, letting reps create sequences from the service.

A mobile app notifies reps, supports conversations, and lets reps record and send Drift videos.

A Chrome extension displays all conversations happening in Drift, monitor engagement (e.g. email opens and clickthroughs, page visits), and drop calendar information in Gmails. Reps can optionally bcc Gmails to their CRM for tracking.

Drift Profile Page

The Drift Profile acts as an online business card with a link that can be dropped into emails and social media messages. Recipients can chat with the rep or book a meeting. The profile contains the rep’s title, location, a short bio, headshot, phone, and social links. The chat supports default messages to display when the rep is available and when not.

“Sales success is all about engaging today’s buyers on their terms: Digitally and immediately when they express interest,” said Drift Chief Product Officer Leo Teneblat.  “With Fastlane and Sales Seat, Drift customers can ensure their best buyers and highest intent visitors receive express treatment without overloading the sales team. Not only that, but sellers have context to engage buyers with a personalized experience on the exact topics they care about in the moment they’re expressing interest.”

Here’s How to 6x Your Chance of Booking a Meeting,” Gauri Iyengar, Drift Blog (April 13, 2021).

According to Drift, reps are six-fold more likely to book a meeting if they engage with a buyer during the first hour.  Thus, immediately transitioning webform submissions into chats and notifying reps that high-scoring prospects are engaging with the company dramatically increases the likelihood of converting a lead into a meeting.

Sales Engagement vendor XANT has found similar numbers from rapid response times while noting that companies are slow in delivering and prioritizing inbound leads.

“Not all accounts are created equal. Your target accounts should receive the most personalized and high-touch buying experiences. Account-based marketing lets you create this experience while engaging with VIP buyers and connecting them to sales. By cutting through the noise, you can close more deals – faster,” blogged Drift Product Education Marketer Gauri Iyengar.  “When it comes to booking meetings, there is literally no time to waste. Speed is essential to not just set up a meeting but to turn that meeting into revenue.”

The pair of services was released to early adopters that enjoyed an 82% increase in meetings booked, a 77% jump in opportunities created, and a 67% rise in pipeline influenced.

Drift Announces Fastlane Webform / Chatbot Hybrid

Revenue Acceleration vendor Drift rolled out a pair of sales enablement tools to facilitate rapid qualification and lead routing: Fastlane lead forms and Sales Seat intent and engagement alerts.

Drift Fastlane transitions a webform into an immediate chat for high-scoring visitors.

Fastlane combines traditional lead forms with chatbots to create “conversational forms.”  Prospects fill out a lead form with contact information enriched, scored, and routed to the Drift chatbot for high-scoring leads.  Thus, high-scoring prospects immediately move to sales rep conversations from the website.

Low scoring leads are passed to nurture or “other automated activations.”

“As a result, sellers can focus on high-converting buyers while routing lower-priority leads to nurture campaigns or other automated activations,” wrote Drift.  “The net outcome results in more qualified sales pipeline, an efficient workflow for sales reps, and overall revenue acceleration for the organization.”

If the buyers are too busy to speak immediately, they can schedule a meeting through the chatbot. Likewise, if the rep isn’t available for chat, the bot can schedule a meeting after collecting additional prospect intelligence.

It may seem odd that a firm that is a #noforms proponent would choose to begin offering forms, but not all marketers are ready to eliminate forms. 

“For most marketers, it’s the number one source of leads that they drive for their sales team.  And if they didn’t have that, sales teams would be on the hook to create nearly all of their own pipeline – which is very inefficient.  So we realized we had to do more.  We have to support our customers in every way that they work. From the inbound motion that relies on forms to the outbound motion for customers who can’t rely on marketing alone to hit their numbers.”

CEO David Cancel

There are also scenarios where a form makes more sense than a bot.  Registering for a webinar works better as a form than a bot as it is transparent about the requisite data entry.  Likewise, enabling forms with optional bots increases their flexibility and value.


Continue to Part II which discusses Sales Seat and the importance of rapid sales responses for inbound leads.

Qualified Series B

Qualified closed on a $51M Series B which raised total funding to $68M (Source: Crunchbase).

Conversational Marketing Platform Qualified closed on a $51 million Series B round.  Salesforce Ventures led the round, with existing partners Redpoint Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners also joining.  Qualified has received $68 million in total funding.  It is “the only conversational sales and marketing platform purpose-built for Salesforce Sales Cloud,” stated the firm.

Qualified’s Salesforce roots “go deep.”  Along with the Salesforce Ventures funding, Salesforce CMO Sarah Franklin joined Qualified as a board observer, and former Salesforce SVP Dan Darcy joined as their Chief Customer Officer.  Multiple execs are former Salesforce employees including CEO Kraig Swensrud who worked on the development of Chatter and served as the firm’s CMO.

“Qualified represents an entirely new way for B2B companies to engage buyers,” said Bill Patterson, Salesforce EVP of CRM Applications.  “When marketing and inbound sales teams use this solution with Sales Cloud…they see a notable impact on pipeline. We are thrilled about our growing partnership with Qualified and their success within the Salesforce ecosystem.”

Qualified will deploy the funds to “fuel product innovation;” build out key functions including engineering, sales, marketing, and customer success; and more than double its headcount before the end of the year.

“Conversational sales and marketing is no longer a ‘nice to have.’ It’s mission critical for fast-growing businesses, and table stakes for modern buyers.  The world’s top CMOs and demand gen leaders are turning to Qualified as a new way to meet with their most important buyers the moment they arrive on the website.  There’s no better partner than Salesforce Ventures to help us accelerate Qualified’s growth and bring this solution to Salesforce customers around the world.”

Qualified CEO Kraig Swensrud

Qualified addresses a “multi-billion problem for enterprise marketing and sales teams,” their inability to identify qualified buyers and message to them while they are on the website.  Thus, the $6 billion spent driving buyers to company websites is poorly converted into sales pipelines.

“In enterprise sales, speed matters: Waiting even five minutes after a lead leaves a website decreases the chances of making contact by 10x,” wrote the firm.  “However, it takes salespeople 38 hours on average to respond to qualified leads.  Studies show that 78% of B2B customers buy from the company that responds to them first.”

Qualified offers real-time visitor intelligence and routing based upon Salesforce.  Visitors may interact with chatbots or talk to reps via chat, voice, and screen sharing.  The service promises 99.9% uptime, GDPR compliance, SOC2 compliance, and Salesforce ISV certification.

“The conversational model is simply a better way to connect with new customers.  Buyers love the real-time engagement, sellers love the instant connections, and marketers have the confidence that every dollar spent on demand generation is maximized,” said Board Member Scott Beechuk.  “The multi-billion-dollar market for Salesforce automation software is going to adopt this new model, and Qualified is perfectly positioned to capture that demand.  If your company uses Salesforce, Qualified will be a multiplier on your sales and marketing investment.”

Qualified saves conversations to Salesforce, including a complete visual recording of the timeline, chat transcript, and screen recording.

Last year, Qualified grew revenue by 800% and posted a 175% customer revenue retention rate.  New customers include Adobe, Matterport, Poly, Sodexo, SurveyMonkey, Talend, Tech Data, and VMware.

According to LinkedIn, Qualified grew its headcount by 92% last year.

Conversational Marketing is hot, but the market is shifting from standalone chat to chat as a front-end to ABX Platforms. ZoomInfo acquired Insent last week and rebranded it ZoomInfo Chat, Drift expanded its product vision into Revenue Acceleration with additional channels, and Terminus acquired Ramble and integrated it into its ABX Platform.

Qualified Conversational Marketing Dashboard.

People.AI Acquires Hero and Releases Sales Solution for Salesforce (Part II)

People.AI Sales Solution for Salesforce

Continuing my discussion [Part 1] of PeopleGlass and Sales Solution for Salesforce….

“People.AI’s acquisition of Hero Research is changing the game for enterprise sales teams who use Salesforce,” said People.AI CEO Oleg Rogynskyy.  “Companies run sales on CRM, yet virtually every rep and manager we meet runs a shadow spreadsheet to manage what’s actually happening in their territories. Finally, we’re able to bring the two worlds together with People.ai and Hero Research’s best-in-class solution, so sales teams have the flexibility to manage their pipeline, territories, and activities in an optimal way, ultimately closing more deals.”

PeopleGlass simplifies CRM access to “a single pane of glass to do their job better than ever,” continued Rogynskyy.   There is “no more tab sprawl, no more cutting and pasting, no more shadow spreadsheets.”  Sales reps create a custom view with access to their CRM data without requiring admin or IT support.

“CRM is the place where most sales organizations want their reps and managers to spend their time. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find a rep that isn’t trying to fill critical CRM gaps by stitching together a patchwork of other siloed sales tools without a cohesive workflow. With the People.ai experience available inside of Salesforce, sales teams gain access to all of the data and insights they love incorporated into their daily workflows in a simple and unified way. That has a massive impact on CRM adoption and utilization.”

Thomas Wyatt, Chief Product and Strategy Officer at People.ai

People.AI is bringing the full Hero team onboard, including founders Morgan Bender and Daniel Chen, who will be joining the product organization.  No deal terms were disclosed.

“Combining our unique dataset with People.AI’s AI-driven insights creates a sales productivity solution unlike any other vendor in the market. Customers who have used the solution are reporting an increase of up to 25% in selling time,” commented Bender.

PeopleGlass is available on a freemium basis, sold both as a standalone offering and bundled with People.AI solutions.  According to COO Art Harding, the firm is still defining pricing and packaging following the acquisition.

While People.AI has simplified data access and update, reps will continue to access Salesforce for the “mission-critical workflows that can only be accessed within the solution.”  The new embedded Salesforce experience integrates “the power of People.AI’s benchmarks, leading indicators and sales insights with Salesforce’s native pipeline, account, and opportunity views.”  The integration also supports People.AI tools such as auto-populated relationship maps, deal scorecards, and digital playbooks.

The Sales Solution for Salesforce includes People.AI’s org chart tool built on their October 2020 ClosePlan acquisition.  The Sales Solution for Salesforce also displays engagement insights, peer benchmarks, and next-step recommendations for sales reps.

Sales Managers can track account health, opportunity execution, and rep performance through the Sales Solution.

“People.ai does the heavy lifting by bringing the tools and the data into Salesforce, allowing sales ops to deliver a better end-user experience to their teams and giving reps new tools to accelerate bookings,” explained Rogynskyy.  “Customers who have deployed the product tell me that in a few weeks, this solution has had a bigger impact on Salesforce adoption than years of serving up other carrots and sticks.”

People.AI employs over 200 and has revenue “well into the double digits.”

People.AI Employment (Source: LinkedIn)

ZoomInfo Acquires Conversational Marketing Service Insent

ZoomInfo announced that it acquired Conversational Marketing firm Insent.AI this morning.  The new offering was immediately rebranded as ZoomInfo Chat.  Insent, ZoomInfo’s latest post-IPO tuck-in, follows acquisitions of Everstring (firmographics) and Clickagy (intent data) in late 2020.  In total, ZoomInfo (FKA DiscoverOrg) has acquired eight companies over the past four years.

CEO Henry Schuck focuses on acquiring complementary data assets that become significantly more valuable when combined with ZoomInfo’s data assets and are then cross-sold by its sales teams.

Last month Schuck told Yahoo! Finance:

“It [the size of the company] doesn’t really matter because the way that we evaluate M&A is, we look for opportunities where, number one, our data makes a big impact from a competitive differentiation perspective. And number two, which goes to the valuation piece, because we are seeing incredibly high valuations on M&A targets today.

But on that piece, we’re always looking to see, hey, if we buy this company and we integrate it into ZoomInfo, and we have all of our sellers selling that product or service and it’s integrated and it’s gotten better with the data asset that we have, how fast can we grow the business? It’s always much faster than that business is going to grow on its own.

And so, when we’re doing the analysis on what to buy and what to build, the buy equation has a lot to do with how much faster we can grow the business. And so while a valuation today might feel like a lot, when we look at what we’re going to be able to do with that asset over the next year and two years, we look for those assets to be accretive in the short term. And it really becomes a go-to-market exercise for us.”

ZoomInfo CEO Henry Schuck, Yahoo! Finance interview, May 4, 2021

Conversational Marketing is a rapidly emerging segment that provides value across the revenue team.  Insent, which will be powered by ZoomInfo’s WebSights visitor identification and its global database, performs real-time routing of conversations to sales reps.  Low-scoring prospects are managed by the chatbot, with high-scoring visitors routed to the appropriate sales reps.  Insent, which competes against Intercom, Terminus, and Drift, calls itself a “human-first chatbot.”

“Marketers spend enormous amounts of time, money, and effort to drive traffic to their websites, but only convert less than two percent of visitors into leads – an incredible inefficiency for teams,” said Schuck.  “The acquisition of Insent will combine chat with ZoomInfo’s dynamic IP-to-company graph and insights.  Marketers will be able to instantly identify previously anonymous companies that are on their websites, route prospects to the right account owners, and arm them with ZoomInfo’s key intelligence about their buyers. As a result, they’ll initiate real-time conversations that can yield significant conversions.”

Insent also looks for website triggers such as page visits and scroll locations when launching the chatbot.

“As visitors engage in personalized conversations with a chatbot, the nature of the interaction can further inform and qualify visitors for a seamless transition to a live chat with a sales representative,” blogged Schuck.  This interactive intelligence will be combined with firmographics and other account and contact intelligence related to the prospect.  These insights then “trigger automated sales and marketing workflows, plays, and alerts to create informed, serendipitous, personalized engagement.”

The Insent chatbot supports inline meeting scheduling and additional information gathering for the rep.  ZoomInfo will also support automated follow-up workflows and conversations.

Chatbots have an advantage over traditional web forms.  Not only do they capture and enrich information, but they can engage with prospects when “your brand is top of mind” and selectively pass high-scoring visitors immediately to sales reps.  If the sales rep is not available, the chatbot can schedule a call and collect additional intelligence for the meeting.

“And that opportunity extends beyond the lifetime of that visit,” added Schuck.  “Leveraging the visit as a trigger event, ZoomInfo can expand the audience at an account by identifying other likely members of the buying committee and activating outreach to those professionals following a website visit by one or a number of their peers.”

Insent supports integrations with Salesforce, Marketo, HubSpot, Slack, MS Teams, and Zendesk (customer support).

Real-time integrations between platforms and the chat engine, combined with real-time reference data are key to this deal.  “Without tightly integrated, highly accurate data and timely insights, these systems are merely empty repositories that lack the intelligence to surface, prioritize, and trigger effective, personalized engagement at scale,” blogged Shuck.  “At ZoomInfo, we are actively executing against our vision to build a go-to-market platform that combines our best-in-class data and insights with a tightly integrated engagement layer that activates those insights as they surface. Our system facilitates real-time connection with buyers in their time of need, alerts sales teams to meaningful activity, and feeds engagement activity data back into the system for better future profiling and targeting.”

ZoomInfo Chat will be displayed alongside ZoomInfo WebSights Visitor Intelligence, company overviews, ZoomInfo Scoops, intent topics, technographics, buying committees, and insights.

“ZoomInfo is a trusted leader in go-to-market intelligence and orchestration that enterprises rely on to help them identify and close their ideal customers,” said Insent CEO Arjun Pillai.  “ZoomInfo and Insent will help shape the future of chat by allowing teams to have data-centric, intelligent conversations that can expedite sales cycles.”

Insent isn’t “just building a chatbot that generates leads, but a collaborative platform that is going to help marketers create, nurture qualified opportunities, and shorten sales cycles,” said the firm earlier this year.

The goal is to remove “digital walls” between buyers and sellers by replacing web forms and follow-ups “with instant live conversations on websites” that schedule meetings and deliver “personalized content recommendations based on engagement history.”

Insent describes itself as an “integration first platform,” with MAPs, CRMs, and ABM Platforms “to help sales teams talk to engaged prospects while they’re on the website.”

According to Insent Digital Marketer Aatharsha Jey, “integrations should be planned and carried out in a way that does not ask people to change their behaviors in order to adopt a new tool.”

“By guiding their buyers at the right time and proactively alerting your salespeople, Insent generates new revenue opportunities and accelerates existing ones,” said Pillai.

Initially, the pandemic slowed Instent’s growth as marketing teams reduced budgets and delayed decisions, but chatbots are high on the list of MarTech digital acquisition solutions.  Between May 2020 and January 2021, Insent revenue quadrupled.

Earlier this year, Insent was using 6Sense for visitor identification. “We go and task 6Sense through an API,” said Pillai in February. “We take that data, and we do further processing of that data.  All of this happens in microseconds.  Basically, the moment somebody lands on the website, boom, the API call comes back with the data based on that website, company visitor.”

Insent stress-tested various platforms before settling on MongoDB and AWS.  Pillai contends that the platform gives them a five-year or six-year window before rearchitecting.  The platform was designed with an account-based, versus lead-based, architecture that ties leads to accounts for account-based orchestration.

The new ZoomInfo Chat offering will be available to new and existing customers in Q3.  Deal terms were not disclosed. The acquisition was deemed not to have a material impact on the firm’s 2021 financials.

Pillai will be joining ZoomInfo as the SVP of Strategic Growth.


GZ Consulting offers a detailed analysis of ZoomInfo which includes a one-hour Q&A session. Contact Michael Levy for licensing.

People.AI Acquires Hero and Releases Sales Solution for Salesforce

Revenue Operations and Sales Intelligence vendor People.AI acquired Hero Research, a Salesforce productivity app that simplifies CRM access.  The Hero service was immediately re-branded as PeopleGlass.  People.AI also announced a new Salesforce experience for sales reps and managers.

PeopleGlass is designed as an “interaction layer” to reduce the overhead and complexity of maintaining Salesforce content.  Glass refers to the “single pane of glass” metaphor often used for CRM cross-record reporting, a core feature of PeopleGlass.  People.AI argues that CRMs have become complex, full-stack solutions covering many use cases but are cumbersome due to their functional breadth.

“We believe that current CRM solutions are inadequate. Modern businesses are complex and full-stack solutions (platforms that offer many services) reflect the complexity of the many use cases that they need to cover as a one-size-fits-all solution.

Many CRMs today offer the whole gamut, addressing needs from pre-sales, post-sales, support, marketing, etc.,” argues People.AI.  “Furthermore, these companies are focused on selling large deals into small groups of decision makers who rarely interact with the products they purchase. It’s no wonder why many users feel they’ve been ignored by the people building the products they spend huge portions of their lives in.

In the meantime, most people have experience with iPhones, Gmail, and other great products. This only increases the frustration with legacy CRM tools.

PeopleGlass aims to solve this problem by focusing solely on the end user and leveraging learnings from the best modern consumer software.”

People.AI, “Why We Started People Glass

PeopleGlass supports custom sheets, forms, hotkeys, a command-line interface, and a “clean and versatile workspace to eliminate the pain points of using CRMs.”  PeopleGlass may be launched in the browser or added as a Chrome extension.

Custom Sheets provide a spreadsheet view across Salesforce records that supports filters, bulk record updates, searching, and inline updates.  Thus, reps can quickly update opportunity records before pipeline review meetings and then review the spreadsheet with managers.  Records are immediately updated in Salesforce.

PeopleGlass Opportunity viewing and updates

Users can create personal views or modify any of the included templates.  Adding columns, resizing columns, and moving columns are straightforward actions.  Users can also quickly view any record as a form or view the record in Salesforce.

PeopleGlass Forms provide custom layouts for creating and updating account, contact, leads, opportunities, notes or tasks.  Admins can set default fields for records.

A set of hotkeys expedite data entry, allowing users to quickly create records, log calls, and search records. PeopleGlass provides a customizable home page for displaying metrics, sharing and copying sheets or forms with colleagues.


Part II, which discusses the Hero Research acquisition and their Salesforce solution, continues here.

Outreach Closes $200M Round

Sales Engagement Platform vendor Outreach closed on a $200 million financing round that values the firm at $4.4 billion and brings total funding to $489 million.  The round trebled its market cap over the past year.

Premji Invest and STEADFAST Capital Ventures led the round.  Other new investors include Tiger Global Management, Sequoia Capital Global Equities, Vista Public Strategies, and one of the largest U.S. asset managers based on the West Coast.  Existing Outreach investors, including Salesforce Ventures, Lone Pine Capital, Sands Capital, Mayfield Fund, DFJ Growth, and Trinity Ventures, also participated in the round.

Outreach continued its rapid growth during the pandemic, with B2B firms looking to operationalize their sales outreach, improve remote coaching, refine forecasts, and monitor sales activities and engagement. 

The firm more than doubled Q1 ARR year-over-year and has signed 18 of the top 24 fastest-growing public software companies.  ARR is around $125 million, according to Nathan Latka.  LinkedIn shows them adding sixty employees a month over the past three months.

Outreach has grown to more than 871 global employees, with recently opened offices in Prague and London.  The firm is based in Seattle and has a San Francisco office.

Data Collected by Nathan Latka based on a June 1, 2021, interview of Manny Medina.

At their Unleash user conference last month, they released their real-time conversational intelligence platform Outreach Kaia along with Outreach Insights, their buyer emotive signals and sentiment service.

Outreach Success Plans, which is currently in beta, was also unveiled at Unleash.  Success Plans align buyers and sellers to improve action and predictability.  They act as a buying hub that allows buyers and sellers to agree on shared success criteria, objectives, and timelines.  Success Plans also support shared access to project resources, allowing new demand unit members to quickly access project documents.

“This past year represents a true moment of maturity for Outreach – we are now a mission-critical part of the revenue tech stack for customers. The bets we made years ago, including significant investments in artificial intelligence combined with prospecting, closing, and customer success capabilities integrated into one holistic platform, are what revenue organizations need most right now to be successful. We continue to lead and expand the vision for sales engagement. Now, we are poised to deliver more meaningful business outcomes for our customers than ever before – from the rep to the CRO and from small businesses to the enterprise.”

Outreach CEO Manny Medina

Outreach will deploy the additional funds to expand its sales and marketing functions to meet “the growing demand” for its Sales Engagement Platform.  Funds will also be used to build, acquire, and deliver “new revolutionary technologies.”  Finally, the funds will support expansion plans and new market investments.

“Over the past five years as I’ve served on the board, Outreach emerged as a definitive standard for sales and customer engagement – proven by thousands of companies that use Outreach every day as a critical component of their workflow and their tech stack,” said Karan Mehandru, Managing Director of STEADFAST and Outreach board member. “Companies across every industry are reaccelerating growth and hiring post-pandemic and embracing intelligent automation to power their revenue teams.”

Mehandru told Bloomberg that he expects to see multiple sales software startups succeed with “multiple winners in the category.”  Mehandru likened Outreach to a modern-day Salesforce.

“If (Salesforce CEO) Benioff were to start a sales company today, it would look a lot more like Outreach,” stated Mehandru. Mehandru did not forecast when an IPO would take place but said, “We do think going public is an important event in the company’s cycle.”

Manny Medina LinkedIn Post (June 2, 2021)

LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2021 (Part II)

Continuing from yesterday’s discussion of LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report 2021

LinkedIn State of Sales 2021 Trends

Sales managers are looking to diversify their hiring across two dimensions: geographic and cultural.  With work from home proving itself over the past year, managers are now confident that they can hire the best talent, regardless of location.

Likewise, sales professionals believe that their firms have succeeded in their efforts in opening up sales teams by gender, race, etc.  35% of sales professionals believe their sales organizations have “exceeded goals around diversity hiring initiatives,” while another 45% say their sales organization has “met” their diversity hiring goal.

On the buying side, 83% of purchasers said that all things being equal, they would give a preference to more diverse teams.

LinkedIn argues that Sales Intelligence is a crucial tool for building trust in the absence of face-to-face meetings.  LinkedIn broadly uses the term to include Conversational Intelligence tools such as Gong and Chorus, which help understand the prospect’s state of mind, and sales intelligence solutions such as Sales Navigator.

“With in-person meetings limited, sales technology provides a key pathway to gaining insight and understanding into potential customers. It’s no surprise, then, that our survey indicates that both usage of and investment in sales technology are increasing,” stated LinkedIn.

73% of respondents employ a sales intelligence solution weekly, and 23% use one daily.  54% said SalesTech helps reps build stronger relationships, and an equal percent said it helps them close more deals.  The top three categories for closing deals were CRM (70%), sales intelligence (69%), and sales enablement (69%).

Both usage and investment in SalesTech will increase in 2021, with CRM (49%), Sales Intelligence (43%), and Sales Planning (42%) seeing increased usage.  On the investment side, the top categories are CRM (41%), sales intelligence (40%), and sales engagement (40%).  Nearly seven in ten sales professionals anticipate greater SalesTech investment this year.

Data continues to be seen as critical, with 47% of sales organizations using it for account targeting, 44% for industry targeting, 43% for performance assessment, 41% for geographic targeting, and 39% for defining the buying committee.

While LinkedIn did not delve further into buying committee discovery, this is a nascent development area with multiple approaches, including conversational intelligence (meetings, emails) and machine learning.

Understanding the demand unit is critical for sales teams.  85% of reps reported that at least one opportunity was lost or delayed due to the departure of a client stakeholder.

Sales Navigator usage continues to be robust, with a 400% increase in self-bought Sales Navigator licenses over the past two years, “a surge that indicates sales professionals are investing in their own growth and have a willingness to use sales tech even if not prescribed by their company.”

59% of the Forbes Global 500 companies and 64% of the Forbes fastest-growing companies have Sales Navigator users.

Finally, message quality trumps quantity.  Simply sending high volumes of email or sharing many content pieces does not move the revenue needle.  The key is quality outreach that generates engagement and message acceptance.  “This is a strong indication that salespersons ought to be mindful of the value to the customer before sharing content or sending an InMail.”

InMails should be “short, personalized, and conversational.”  Messages with fewer than 400 characters are the most effective, with a sharp drop-off in response rates for long-in-the-tooth messages.

LinkedIn surveyed 400 sales and 400 US and Canadian purchasing professionals in January 2021.  Separate surveys were conducted for other geographies but have yet to be published. [Original Report]

LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2021

In its recently published State of Sales 2021 survey,  LinkedIn stated that “Virtual selling is good for sellers and even better for buyers.”  50% of buyers say that “working remotely has made the purchasing process easier.”  Buyers have benefited from the greater acceptance of sales intelligence and sales enablement services.

Furthermore, 70% of buyers want to retain remote work at least half of the time.  48% of buyers do not expect to be meeting face-to-face until H2 201, and 17% anticipate waiting until 2022.

“The bottom line is this situation requiring virtual selling skills won’t be changing anytime soon,” commented LinkedIn.

59% of buyers do not anticipate attending live events until H2 2021.  While 90% of the surveyed buyers have previously attended events, 48% of sales reps have now closed deals above a half-million dollars without meeting the buyer in person.

“Sellers will go back to face-to-face meetings but not remotely close to pre-pandemic levels. Digital transformation was coming no matter what.  COVID-19 just accelerated everything. In other words, digital transformation is here to stay.”

Gartner VP-Analyst Craig Rosenberg

Sales Managers recognize the acceleration of change and digitization, with 86% agreeing that “the ability to cope with change is more important than it was five years ago,” up 16% over the past year.

“Generally speaking, sales is slow to adapt,” opined Gartner VP-Analyst Craig Rosenberg.  “If the way sellers are doing things works, then they will keep doing it.  This drastic event is driving change.  Also, when the buyer changes, sales is forced to change. We often think of ‘sales’ as having to move virtual as the driver, but actually our buyers moved virtual.  Ultimately, sales is going to gravitate to the buyer’s preference.  In other words, it is much easier to adapt to change when you have to.”

The top three sources of change cited by sales managers are measuring sales processes and outcomes in different ways (51%), adding new technologies (50%), and instituting new hiring policies (50%).

LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2021

Remote sales job postings increased five-fold in Q3 2020 year-over-year, with remote positions growing 8.8X in Canada and 4.5X in the United States.  The transition hasn’t been easy.  67% of sales managers said that managing remote teams is more challenging than expected, and 65% of sales reps found it more difficult than anticipated.

Sales Operations and Customer Success roles proliferated between 2018 and 2020.  LinkedIn captured a 38% increase in Sales Operations roles over this period, 4.8X the growth of sales titles.

Customer Success positions trebled between 2018 and 2020.


Continue to Part II, which discusses diversity effort in sales, SalesTech, and Sales Navigator.