Gong Deal Intelligence

Conversation Intelligence vendor Gong announced the availability of Deal Intelligence, their new AI-driven insights service that provides a “clear, up-to-date view” of deal status, recent interactions, and at-risk deals.  Deal Intelligence also helps sales managers provide targeted coaching and assess pipeline activity.

“Deal Intelligence allows us to do quicker pipeline inspections and validate with a third party that we really are where we say we are in the process,” said Armen Zildjian, VP of Sales at Drift.  “It is not to micromanage but to continue to coach and give reps the next best step with the customer, so we really can rely on that business.”

New features include

  • Deal Board:  Quickly understand which deals are healthy and which require immediate attention.
  • Deal Warnings: Spot warning signs such as a lack of recent activity and close date in the past.  Planned warnings include no future calls scheduled and no decision-maker involved.
  • Account Page: Centralizes deal-related interactions across email, web conference, and phone to proactively identify risks and review conversations
  • Engagement Map: Ensures that a deal is multi-threaded and that reps are engaged with the right people in the right way.

“Consider what can be done when you have every phone call, email, and customer interaction automatically captured and the ability to analyze those interactions.  It will allow organizations to get a sharper picture of prospect intent and where an account is in the sales process.”

TOPO Sales Analyst Dan Gottlieb

Pipeline Analytics and deal risk are an emerging category of sales analytics.  Firms such as Gong, Costello (recently acquired by SalesLoft), and Clari provide a single-pane view for identifying deal risk, assessing multi-threaded engagement, and conducting pipeline reviews.

Deal Intelligence is available to all current customers as part of their core offering.  Admins must turn on email sync from popular clients such as G Suite and Microsoft 365.  Sales Engagement partners include SalesLoft, Outreach, Groove, and Xant.

Deal Intelligence is view-only and does not support Opportunity record updating.  CRM sync is a planned feature.  

Gong supports a broad set of conferencing and dialing tools, including Zoom, UberConference, BlueJeans, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Join.Me, RingCentral, Dialpad, Amazon Connect, Google Meet, and Skype.

Gong does not publish any pricing and simply states that pricing is based upon “how many recorded reps you have,” not the number of listeners.

ScaleX.AI Social Flows

AI-powered sales engagement service ScaleX.AI announced the availability of SocialFlow, which leverages employee networks for warm introductions at target buyer personas.  According to ScaleX, most firms use only 3% of their employees’ professional networks.  Social Flow unlocks the remaining 97% of connections for generating warm introductions.

“Successful outbound requires a perfect mix of quality and quantity.  With the launch of SocialFlow, we’re further enhancing the quality that our clients have come to expect.  This is truly the first-ever AI for Social Selling engine on the market today!”

ScaleX CEO Chad Burmeister

A virtual BDR automates social outreach in parallel to phone and email.  Once one of these channels makes a connection, the other channels are halted.

Other ScaleX features include

  • Social & Email Automated Cadences
  • Agent-assisted power dialing
  • Social & Email templates with proven conversions
  • Leads from Zoominfo, DiscoverOrg, Lead411, and SalesIntel at a monthly rate vs. an annual commitment
  • Digital paid ads optimized for impressions

ScaleX positions itself as an automated BDR at a lower cost than direct sales staff.  The firm describes its ideal customer as “companies who either can’t afford to hire a full-time SDR or BDR (Sales or Business Development Representative) or companies who want to augment their in-house sales team with outsourced Virtual BDRs that are 7-10X more productive.”

The ScaleX Virtual BDR (BDR as a Service) starts at $3,000 per month for data and digital outreach, and $7,000/month for data + digital (email, social, paid-ads) + data.  Monthly outbound communications include around 3,000 emails per month, 3,000 social sales activities, thousands of impressions, and 3,000 dials.

ScaleX cited research by one of their Board members that the SDR function grew 500 percent from 2012 to 2017 and another 80-90 percent in 2017-2019.  Burmeister questions how long SDR employment growth will last before automation improves the efficiency and effectiveness of SDRs, causing the role to plateau, and ultimately decline.

ScaleX was originally called Sales Hack, but they changed their name when Outreach acquired Sales Hacker.

No Tradeshows, No Site Visits — Ideas to Maintain & Grow Pipeline

I had four tradeshows canceled this month and next. They were opportunities for me to meet with customers and prospects (and conduct research for my industry newsletters). At this point, I’m assuming that at least two more will fall by the wayside in H1. I’m sure many of you are in a similar boat. Your marketing calendar is in a shambles, your field and inside sales reps are cloistered at home, and you are uncertain about how to manage remote workers.

Here are some ideas about how to retain momentum and deploy technology to mitigate pipeline and operational risks:

Video Meetings

If you haven’t deployed video widely across your workforce, due so ASAP. Vendors such as Zoom, WebEx, BlueJeans, Join.Me, and GoToMeeting provide reliable video conferencing solutions for multi-party meetings, demos, and document sharing. Video Meetings are a do not pass Go, do not collect $200 requirement. Every customer-facing, development, management, and planning employee should be able to join meetings from home or the office.

Setup scheduled video meetings for the next three months so they are blocked out on team calendars. This could be a 15-minute corporate call every few weeks, weekly team calls, and one-on-ones. Standing meetings should all be web-based. Office-based employees are going to feel disconnected socially, so build in some social fun at the team level (e.g. recognizing birthdays and work anniversaries, celebrating wins and releases, etc.)

I would also build training time into video meetings. It shouldn’t be all top-down. Give your staff the opportunity to cross-train peers. A sales rep could discuss her latest victory with lessons learned or provide insights into a target vertical. Marketing can review the latest product positioning and new collateral. Product Management can train on new products, review the product roadmap, and discuss the competitive landscape. The goal is to provide training, communications, coordination, and social interaction.

Record meetings and make them available to those who miss meetings with Slack or Team links. Expect that meetings will be missed due to illness, parenting requirements, and meeting conflicts.

Marketing Work-Arounds

As event marketing is off the table, marketers will need to be flexible in how they deploy their budgets. For those that planned on hosting events, they should at least proceed with their Keynote as a webinar. For H2, a roadshow in September or October can be planned, but mitigate risk in your contracting and through joint shows (shared cost and risk).

Marketers will need to deploy or expand their use of other channels including webinars, press releases, analyst outreach, blogging, social, and video. Direct mail is problematic as prospects are likely to be working from home, but e-gifting is a viable option. Look at e-gifting vendors that are supported by your Sales Engagement platform (e.g. Sendoso, PFL, Alyce)

Here is an opportunity to test additional channels and provide your event marketing team with some cross-channel development.

Canceled shows are also a reason for re-engagement campaigns. You can restart the marketing nurture process with a message around “not being able to talk to you this season.” Keep the message short and serious. You don’t know if your prospect is worried about his or her job, family members, or personal health. Also, don’t appear to be taking advantage of the situation. Be empathetic, not opportunistic.

Also, make sure to reschedule meetings from those cancelled conferences. These are likely to be phone or video calls, but reps and executives should reconfirm calls now.

Conversation Intelligence

Once you have standardized meetings, make sure they are recorded and transcribed. This is particularly true for sales meetings. Conversation Intelligence vendors such as Gong, ExecVision, and Chorus record calls, transcribe them, and perform NLP/AI processing on the conversations. Conversation Intelligence allows sales reps to be more present during calls as they no longer need to focus on note-taking.

Transcriptions and analytics have multiple benefits:

  • Sales Reps can quickly review calls and return to key topics and issues (e.g. pricing, next steps).
  • Sales Managers can review calls related to accounts and opportunities at risk to provide coaching tips to reps.
  • Analytics identify both the strengths and weaknesses of reps versus their peers. They also flag missed actions (e.g. discussing next steps), customer concerns, and competitors. To assist with training and opportunity scoring, Conversation Intelligence vendors identify filler word frequency, monologue length, and conversational engagement.
  • Reps can forward snippets to peers for questions and help. If there is a question about a bug or support issue, the snippet can be forwarded to support personnel for an update. If a sales rep feels that they handled a question or issue poorly, a snippet can be forwarded to sales management or training for advice on how to better handle the issue next time. Snippets allow peers to hear the voice of the customer.
  • Snippets can be stored in a library for training purposes. These would include exemplars for objection handling, competitor parrying, value discussions, etc.
  • Product Managers can perform bulk analysis of sales calls to identify requested features, competitor discussions, and product issues. Vendors allow for keyword customization and analytics.

Sales Engagement Platforms

Sales Engagement Platforms (SEPs) have come a long way over the past five years. Originally, they focused on the SDR role, but now include tools for all sales roles. Vendors include SalesLoft, Outreach, Xant (FKA InsideSales), VanillaSoft, ConnectLeader, SFDC High Velocity Sales, Groove, and Yesware.

Sales Cadences, also called sequences, are at the core of Sales Engagement. Cadences set up a structured set of multi-channel outbound communications supported by email templates, dialers, social, and SMS text. Cadences improve sales efficiency by eliminating follow up tasks, recording activities to CRMs, and deploying A/B tested content (emails, attachments, cadences, call scripts). While most commonly used for SDR outreach, cadences can also be used for meeting reminders, setting up quarterly account reviews, and training follow up.

SEP vendors understand that authenticity is the key to sales success. Simply blasting mindless emails at prospects is futile. Cadences can be customized by target role, industry, company size, technographics, and stage in the buyer journey. Furthermore, reps are expected to personalize emails before sending them out (SalesLoft says 20% is the optimal level). Most of the vendors now support 1-1 embedded videos from Vidyard, Hippo Video, or Videolicious.

SEP Vendors also provide a deep set of analytics. Initially, these focused on communication efficacy (e.g. open and click-through rates, best time of day to call), but now analytics assess conversations, call out deal risks, prioritize accounts, and suggest next best actions.

SEPs are now commonly deployed amongst SDRs and Inside Sales, but may still be foreign to field sales reps; however, field sales reps will be operating more like inside sales reps for the next quarter, so deploying SEPs to field sales makes sense.

Beyond outbound communications, SEP vendors are beginning to support meeting management (setting up calls), conversational intelligence, and opportunity management. SalesLoft and Outreach are the farthest along in supporting these emerging feature sets. SalesLoft acquired and integrated NoteNinja (meeting management) and Costello (opportunity management) into its platform.

SEP Vendors have taken two approaches to partnering. SalesLoft, Outreach, and Xant have partner App Directories while the other vendors integrate key vendors (e.g. Vidyard, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Zoominfo) into their offerings without a formal partner ecosystem directory.

LinkedIn

For B2B sales, there is no social platform more trusted than LinkedIn. Sales reps can leverage their networks by sharing marketing content (they should include some comments of their own) as well as writing their own content.

LinkedIn also offers an excellent Sales Intelligence product called Sales Navigator. It is available as both a desktop and mobile solution and provides additional communications channels:

  • InMail: An outbound email alternative, InMail allows you to message prospects for whom you lack emails and direct dial numbers.
  • Chat: A quick short-message way to keep in contact with members of the buying committee. It is also useful for quick reach out after establishing a LinkedIn connection with a prospect or to send a quick, congratulatory note. Chat messages are retained archivally, providing a conversational log. I have had success providing my Calendly link with initial chats, providing a mechanism for new connections to easily schedule a call (my Calendly includes my video meeting details so there is little friction).
  • Smart Links: Forward one or multiple attachments to a prospect via social, InMail, or email. Viewing and forwarding are tracked by LinkedIn, helping reps know which content was viewed and when. Forward tracking helps expand their understanding of the buying committee. Smart Links maintain corporate branding.

Sales Navigator provides several other high-value features:

  • SNAP connectors display LinkedIn content and Navigator functionality (e.g. icebreakers, mini-profiles, InMail) within Sales Engagement Platforms, CRMs, and other enterprise software.
  • TeamLinks allow you to leverage co-worker relationships for reaching out to prospects.
  • Build a List lets reps assemble Lead (contact) and Account lists within Sales Navigator. Lead and Account lists may also be synced from the CRM, allowing reps to track news and updates about key companies and contacts. While LinkedIn does not permit upload of account and contact data, they make exceptions for notes, tags, and messages entered by the rep in Sales Navigator. They also just added a thin record upload of contacts to CRM and the ability to flag execs that have left a company.
  • List Sharing — After building a list, users may share them with co-workers who have Sales Navigator licenses.

Sales Navigator can be a bit pricey, so running a test amongst your inside sales and field sales reps makes sense, particularly if you are concerned about H1 pipeline delays. Given the difficulty of reaching anybody by phone (made worse by prospects working at home) or email, adding additional sales communications channels is well worth testing out.

There are other LinkedIn services worth investigating or trialing. LinkedIn Marketing supports highly targeted B2B campaigns. Unlike other platforms, LinkedIn can target by company, job function, level, industry, geography, and education. LinkedIn provides campaign metrics and allows marketers to set daily budgets. Both CPM and CPC pricing are available. Pricing is based upon second-best auctions (you pay 1 cent above the second best bid price).

For larger companies, LinkedIn Elevate should also be considered, particularly with remote workers. Elevate provides a curated feed of content to company employees for social media distribution (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook). Elevate amplifies corporate messaging and reduces the level of effort for sales reps and other employees to share content through social networks.

LinkedIn Learning is offering sixteen courses at no charge covering topics related to working from home, remote management, tools, and mindset.

“In the coming days, we will make 16 LinkedIn Learning courses available for free including tips on how to: stay productive, build relationships when you’re not face-to-face, use virtual meeting tools (Microsoft Teams, Skype, BlueJeans, Cisco Webex and Zoom), and balance family and work dynamics in a healthy way.”

Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn SVP of Product

Sales Intelligence

Sales Intelligence services help sales reps build prospecting lists, quality leads, refine account messaging, expand into new departments and locations, track accounts, and target additional buying committee members.

Many sales intelligence services also offer B2B DaaS services for updating CRMs and MAPs. Salesforce data hygiene is maintained through Lightning Data connectors, a sub-category on the AppExchange. Because data is synced with CRMs and MAPs, it is continuously updated, ensuring that firmographic data is accurate and that departed contacts are removed from sales and marketing activity (BTW — contacts decay at 30% per annum, so maintaining your enterprise software contact data is a valuable investment)

Sales Intelligence vendors also provide full workflow integrations into CRMs which allow reps to build lists; view and update accounts, contacts, and leads; and perform account qualification and account planning within CRM I-frames.

Sales Intelligence vendors include

  • Zoominfo: Deep contacts, emails, org charts, and technographic content. They are the leader in technology sales intelligence and recently added visitor intelligence, trigger-based workflows, and webforms. Zoominfo (FKA DiscoverOrg) also supports Ideal Customer Profiling (ICP), email verification, and B2B DaaS.
  • D&B Hoovers: The deepest set of global company intelligence for strategic sales reps. Includes full family trees, public company financials and filings, analyst reports, industry market research, SWOTs, European private company financials, and sales triggers. Dun & Bradstreet also supports ICP, B2B DaaS, Visitor Intelligence, Programmatic Marketing, and Customer Data Platforms.
  • InsideView: A global database with greater depth in North America and Europe, InsideView offers strong sales triggers and integrated social media viewing. InsideView also supports B2B DaaS and ICP.
  • Sales Genie: The best solution for reps that sell to both companies and individuals (e.g. insurance agencies, mobile, office supplies, landscaping). Features include light sales force automation for firms that have yet to implement a CRM, new businesses, new homeowners, email templates, integrated dialer, and marketing services (SEO, site design, direct mail).
  • RelPro: A specialist vendor targeting financial services companies.
  • Artesian Solutions: A UK-based social selling vendor with deep sales triggers and mobile-based meeting prep. They also offer a US solution.
  • Cognism: A UK-based sales intelligence vendor with sales engagement functionality, B2B DaaS services, and ICP tools.
  • Vainu: A Nordic-based sales intelligence vendor that also covers the Netherlands (France, US, and the UK are in beta). They also support B2B DaaS and trigger-based workflows.

Ongoing Investment

Research has shown that firms that continue to invest during recessions come out of the downturns much better prepared to grow market share and revenue than those that stop investing. Marketing is an investment in your pipeline and brand. B2B Data-as-a-Service is an investment in your data quality and ability to target prospects effectively. It also reduces sales and marketing waste in efforts directed at weak prospects and departed contacts. SalesTech and MarTech purchases are investments in your revenue generation capabilities.

This is also an opportunity for your sales and marketing teams to cross-train, develop new skills, and test out new tools and processes.

When we come out of the backside of what, hopefully, is a short-term recession, you want to be better prepared to meet latent demand for your products and services. While cutting back on investment and cash burn may be necessary for survival at some companies, don’t cut back on your ability to serve the market in 2021 unless you have to do so. Let others sacrifice the future of their revenue generation operations out of short-term concerns. Bank your savings in travel expenses and event marketing, but don’t cut back in other areas unless necessary.

Terra Incognita

We are entering a terra incognita for the next three to six months, so steady, empathetic leadership should be your objective. On 9/11, our CEO pulled us into the room and talked to us. I don’t remember his words, but I remember that he was calm and understood that we were all upset and anxious. Business was the least of his concerns that day. He wanted to show a steady hand at the tiller and sent us home to be with family.

Our raison d’être is not to work, and sometimes we are jolted back into that reality. Family, friends, and health are a higher priority. COVID 19 is not the new normal, but simply a bad storm that will pass.

Outreach Opens EMEA Office

Sales Engagement vendor Outreach opened its London EMEA headquarters, intending to treble its London customer-facing headcount by the end of the year.  The firm already has over 20 local staff in support, sales, professional services, and customer success.  The firm has over 500 customers with local or global teams in Europe, including DocuSign, Deliveroo, and Protegrity.

“We see a very real opportunity to help evolve the sales industry and customer experience in Europe, and we see London as the best place to do so.  U.S. teams are engaging with customers in new and innovative ways.  Our customers in Europe have shared with us that they believe Outreach can provide European customer-facing teams with the tools they need to transform the sector and turn sales into a true engine for business growth.”

Outreach CEO Manny Medina

“I want to thank our customers here in the U.K. who have been on this journey with us since we launched, said Outreach CEO, Manny Medina.  “Thanks to their early and ongoing support, we knew we had market fit – we just needed the right person to grow and lead our team here.”

Tom Castley was named the head of EMEA sales, where he is “hard at work” assembling the London sales office.  Castley has over twenty years of experience building “high functioning” technology sales organizations.  He previously led Apptio’s pan-European account team and held several sales roles at Oracle.

“The sales industry needs to brush up on its image of an industry full of mavericks who magically secure their sales pipeline at the last minute.  We think it’s time we put this cliché to bed,” said Castley.  “This is why we’re swapping it for a data-driven approach that helps create a steady flow of prospects filling the pipeline and replaces the ‘peaks and troughs’ of the sales cycle with a predictable process.  Companies can then arm their team with relevant data to not only perfect the art of customer engagement but also increase the productivity of the sector and give the board a simple system to predict their revenue.”

Outreach has over 450 employees and 4000 global customers.  Last year, the firm nearly doubled its revenue to $70 million, according to Forbes.

Last week, Outreach canceled its annual 2020 Unleash Conference due to the Corona virus.

Outreach: Growth through Redefinition

Sales Engagement Platform Outreach, which is enjoying significant growth and good press, has twice had to redefine itself.  The first time was a pivot from supporting recruiters to sales reps.  The second redefinition was cultural – reshaping its male-centric, burn-the-midnight-oil culture into a more inclusive, hospitable environment.

Forbes estimated Outreach revenue at $70 million in its last fiscal year (January 2020) up from $38 million in fiscal year 2019.  The firm is considering a direct IPO, but views that event as several years out.  In the meantime, “Our goal is to take Outreach and become a large, independent company,” says DFJ Growth partner Sam Fort.

Outreach’s initial sales were mostly into tech firms such as DocuSign, where the software saves reps at least ten hours per month by streamlining and improving sales communications.  “You have to land tens of thousands of customers and you can’t do that with a team of 100 people cold calling,” says DocuSign CRO Loren Alhadeff.  “Your best bet is to find a way to make your touches more important and more pertinent.”

Medina sees the opportunity as much broader and believes only 1% of the market has been tapped.  Sales engagement may even expand beyond B2B sales functions and support higher-end consumer sales roles such as financial advisors and mortgage brokers.

The path to success has been rocky.  The firm began in the recruitment space and was nearly bankrupt when it began marketing some internal sales tools it developed.  Outreach has also had problems with employee churn due to rapid hiring, a difficult winner-take-all pace that burned-out staff, and a male culture that permitted “sexually charged jokes.”

But Medina, an Ecuadorian immigrant, realized that cultural change was necessary.  “I don’t come from central casting.  I’m not an old white guy from Silicon Valley,” he said.  “I know what it’s like to be marginalized, so I take this to heart.”

To address these problems, the firm released managers that promoted the negative culture, centralized sales teams so that reps could learn from each other, and hired Anna Baird as COO.  Baird has focused on hiring and building an inclusive culture where “everyone has a fair shot.”

The executive team is now 40% female with a goal of parity.  “This is not a checkbox for me,” said Medina.  “This is the life I want to live.  I want to be surrounded by people who want to feel included, who are doing their best work with peers that they love and respect.”

Cancels Unleash 2020 (Covid 19)

SalesLoft and Outreach both made difficult decisions this week, canceling planned user conferences. SalesLoft aborted its Rev2020 conference, which was to open today, and Outreach scrubbed its April Unleash show.  Adobe, Zendesk, and Shopify also canceled events, while Twitter and Facebook pulled out of SXSW.

We have been closely monitoring the rapidly evolving situation regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Our first priority will always be the health and safety of our community, employees, customers, and partners. After careful consideration of the developing situation, we have come to the incredibly difficult decision to cancel Unleash 2020 scheduled for April 7-9. 

Unleash is my favorite event of the year. I love having the chance to meet with all of you and share in the excitement of what’s to come. It’s with a heavy heart that we made the decision, but we believe your health and safety should come first, no matter what. 

Outreach CEO Manny Medina (March 3, 2020)

SalesLoft will still be presenting its opening keynote, but as a virtual presentation on Tuesday.  Outreach is planning a virtual event and twelve-city Unleash Summit tour later this year.

Vendors invest millions in marketing dollars hosting their own events. It is an excellent opportunity for them to build their brand, promote ecosystem partners, roll out their roadmap, provide specialized training by job function and role, expand their organizational presence at current accounts, and convert prospects to customers.

Hippo Video for Outreach

Hippo Video is now offering personalized video to Outreach customers.  The integration helps sales reps include video into their sales process, which in turn increases conversion rates and accelerates the sales cycle.  Sales reps can create, share, and track personalized video content embedded in Outreach sequences, templates, snippets, and one-to-one emails.  Heatmap analytics track user interaction.  Hippo Video also supports a video library.

Videos can be created for each objective across the full sales cycle, allowing sales and marketing to send targeted videos for each stage.  For example, reps can send introductory videos to establish rapport with the prospect and later send a product demo once the prospect has shown interest.

“Videos will go a long way in establishing a personal connection and trust with the recipient as against insipid text-heavy emails,” said Hippo Video CEO Karthi Mariappan.

Hippo Video claims a 300% lift in response rates from embedded videos.  Other firms, such as Vidyard, have found similar lift rates from personalized videos.

Users can also add actionable calls to action (CTAs) within videos, which are then embedded within sequenced emails in Outreach.  CTAs include meeting links, custom polls, annotations, and lead gen forms.  CTAs can be inserted in the middle or at the end of the video.

Integration is described as straightforward:

  1. Sign up for Hippo Video;
  2. Install the Hippo Video Chrome extension;
  3. Turn on Hippo Video in Outreach.  

Reps can then record personalized videos via their webcam and embed them within email templates, snippets, and direct emails.

By seamlessly integrating videos in your sales outreach, your prospects are sure to experience highly personalized, engaging content that will humanize the entire sales process, which would have otherwise been possible only within a face-to-face meeting.

[The] Sales process is spontaneous.  Therefore, integrating sales with video to build a relationship of trust with the prospect should not leave you flustered.  Tracking their interaction [and] qualifying them should be reasonably straightforward as well.

Santhoshi Natarajan, Hippo Video Content Strategist

Prospect behavior is also tracked, allowing reps to prioritize their follow-ups based on views and watch interaction percentage, providing additional intent metrics beyond email open and response rates.

Videos may be analyzed by viewing and drop off points.  “When a prospect drops off the video at a certain point, it’s perhaps time [to] rework your message or focus on a different pain point,” said Natarajan.  “This feature is an added layer on top of your existing metrics and will help you prioritize the prospect who is at the bottom of the sales funnel.”

Hippo Video is a freemium offering.  The free edition provides unlimited hosting but limits bandwidth to 100 GB per month and does not support video emails.  The Pro version ($29 / user / month) provides integrations with Outreach, Gmail, Outlook, and HubSpot.  Other features include professional video editing, custom branding, video cloning, in-video CTAs, contact imports from CRM, and SEO.

Hippo Video allows reps to quickly record a video and send it to prospects via Outreach.

Quora: Do salespeople keep track of their sales activity log?

Sales reps are expected to keep track of their activities (both previous activities and future tasks). Fortunately, Sales Engagement Platforms (SEPs) such as Outreach, SalesLoft, VanillaSoft, XANT, Yesware, and ConnectLeader do most of this automatically. As touches are completed, they are automatically logged to the SEP and synced with the CRM. The SEP also tracks outcomes (call answered, voicemail drop, email view, email click-through, etc.), records and analyzes calls, and offers recommendations (best practices, next best actions).

This is a fairly new category of software which is mostly used in technology sales but beginning to extend into other B2B categories. Initial functionality focused on Sales Development Reps (SDRs) but richer functionality is being added which assists all sales positions.

These platforms set up cadences / sequences of planned activities that include email, phone, social, text, inbound, etc. Throughout the day, the system recommends the next best action. Because much of the work is scheduled by cadences, reps do not need to record most follow up tasks. Cadences include A/B tested email templates, scripts, and schedules so reps can be confident that they are employing a tested strategy. Email personalization is encouraged to improve click through rates and convey authenticity.

Other features of these platforms include

  • Automated meeting setup
  • Inbound call and chat support
  • The insertion of short personal videos from vendors such as Vidyard, Drift, Hippo Video, Videolicious, etc.
  • Recording, Transcription, and Analysis of calls and video meetings. Key moments are indexed for review (e.g. Next Steps, Pricing, Competitors, Feature Analysis, Talk Length and Ratios, Junk Words, etc.) and coaching. Call snippets may be forward to managers for questions (How should I handle this situation next time? Can we support this request?). They can also be forwarded to customer support (what is the status on this problem? Could you open a ticket?) and customer success (Is this feature supported?). Some vendors even support video libraries for training and coaching purposes.
  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator (SNAP) integrations
  • Cadence Pause (e.g. out of office) and Stop (e.g. Meeting set)
  • A/B testing and analytics for Sales and Marketing Operations
  • Opt-out tracking in general (do not contact) and specific (do not contact via text or phone, but email is OK).

If you are interested in evaluating SEPs, I wrote an overview that discusses the value proposition, key features, and questions to ask vendors.

Administrative Control Screen for Email Synching.
SalesLoft Administrative Control Screen for Email Synching.

Market Insights Newsletter Splits in Half

This was one of the two weeks a year that I take off from writing my Market Insights Newsletter, but I wanted to let you know that I’m splitting the newsletter into two newsletters.  When I started writing the Market Insights Newsletter back in 2012, it focused on Sales Intelligence, Social Selling, and B2B DaaS.  Since then, B2B DaaS has increased greatly in importance, and I’ve added adjacent topics including Sales Engagement Platforms, data privacy / compliance, ABM, and Customer Data Platforms.  The result was a doubling in the length of the newsletter and an increase in the frequency that articles were bumped.  Some features are often bumped for a month or longer due to length.

In August, I took my summer vacation, but there was no August news break.  It took me a few months to catch up on announcements from that week.  This led me to the realization that I needed to split my newsletter in half to improve both topical focus and story currency.  The split will also allow me to profile more startups.

Most of my readers will continue to receive a Sales Intelligence (SI) newsletter which covers

  • Sales Intelligence
  • B2B DaaS
  • Data Hygiene
  • ABM
  • B2B Data (Companies, Contacts, Intent, Technographics, and Triggers)
  • Customer Data Platforms
  • Compliance (GDPR, CCPD, KYC, AML, PEP)

The SI edition of Market Insights will continue to publish on Sundays.

The new Sales Engagement (SE) newsletter covers

  • Sales Engagement Platforms
  • Hybrid Engagement Platforms (Sales Intelligence + ICP / TAM + Sales Engagement)
  • Sales Engagement Platform Ecosystem (e.g. Chat, Video, Attribution, Meeting Management, Analytics)
  • Sales Enablement

The SE edition will publish on Mondays.

Contact me if you’d like to be set up with a trial edition of either newsletter. I offer SMB pricing for startups, so don’t assume that I am unaffordable like other analyst services.

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.

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.