Demandbase announced a native Outreach integration with other SEPs in development. Streamlining Sales Intelligence and Sales Engagement allows reps to “focus on engaging with prospects and closing deals, rather than wasting time on manual tasks.” The I-frame integration supports core Demandbase Sales Intelligence functionality within Outreach workflows. For example, sales reps can research companies and contacts, build lists, and launch Outreach sequences inside of Outreach.
Users will see common information, tools, and workflows presented in the same format as their CRM but in Outreach’s Account, Prospect, and Opportunity records. There is also a standalone tab in Outreach similar to the Demandbase standalone tab found in CRMs. This Custom Tab supports company and contact searching, prospect list building, connection management for warm introductions, customer and prospect news tracking, and custom buying trigger configuration.
“We’ve noticed that the order of preference as far as where sellers spend time actually starts with their SEP – So, Outreach. And if they have to, they’ll go to CRM,” observed Demandbase Product Marketing Manager Travis Breier. “When you look at Outreach users who have Demandbase and Outreach, they can spend all of their time within Outreach and never have to go to the Demandbase platform. They’re not missing out on any information… It’s just one less thing that they have to learn and one less barrier to access the Demandbase information.”
“Being a seller has never been easy, but the proliferation of data and tools has led to stressed-out sellers with lost productivity, lower quota attainment, and less revenue,” says Gabe Rogol, chief executive officer at Demandbase. “With our simplified and smarter Sales Intelligence solution, reps no longer need to waste precious time figuring out their next steps and executing them. Instead, they can close more deals and make more money. Think of our intelligence as a sales superpower, all within the tools sellers use every day.”
Demandbase Sales Intelligence is integrated with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Outreach, Slack, and browsers. The Sales Engagement integration enables reps to add contacts to Outreach sequences and personalize the messaging.
“Integrating Demandbase’s Sales Intelligence directly within our platform will unlock new levels of value for sales teams looking to efficiently create and predictably close more pipeline,” said Outreach CEO Manny Medina. “With this next-generation integration, sellers can more easily and quickly find and contact accounts, get data-focused insights, and unlock new levels of productivity — all while never leaving the Outreach Sales Execution Platform.”
Demandbase recently dropped the Cloud Designations for its products, emphasizing its unified functionality within the Demandbase One platform.
“We found that it kind of creates this illusion of complexity that we don’t feel serves it justice as far as the actual products you’re spending time in,” said Palmer. “They’re even more interconnected. Most of our customers are now buying three or more products. We’ve got bundles and packages of everything, so we’ve just moved away from that whole cloud nomenclature to just Demandbase One.”
A Hot Leads feature that provides SDRs with key engagement insights and the ability to take action on unknown leads will soon be available. Hot Leads will be displayed in the Prescriptive dashboards and identified by engagement activity, intent, recency, news/company/job changes, technographics, etc. Hot Leads will be GDPR and PII compliant.
In other news, Demandbase was named a Notable Provider in Forrester’s Account-Based Selling Technologies Landscape, Q2, 2023 report. Seventeen vendors were included in the report. Account-Based Sales vendors “improve visibility into the potential of each account; increase sales rep efficiency; and increase pipeline value (deal size), win rates, and forecast accuracy.”
“The landscape for B2B GTM teams continues to change at [a] breakneck pace. At Demandbase, we’re committed to shaping that market evolution to empower our customers to achieve their most audacious goals,” said Demandbase CPO Brewster Stanislaw. “This year, we’ve placed a deep focus on making sellers’ jobs easier and more effective with AI-powered insights and seamless workflows, and we believe our inclusion in this report further validates that direction.”
team.blue subsidiary Leadinfo acquired Intent-based Sales Engagement Platform Leadcamp. Leadcamp expands the Leadinfo value proposition from web visitor tracking to broader lead engagement. Leadcamp, based in Ghent, Belgium, captures email, web, meeting, and content engagement and employs AI to identify “high-intent active prospects.”
“We always want to offer our customers new products to make them more effective in their chosen markets,” said team.blue Group CEO Claudio Corbetta. “This acquisition is a great example of investing in a fast-growing business to advance our expertise and product range in the lead generation space.”
The Leadcamp Heat Score measures multi-channel engagement providing both a composite score and engagement by channels. Additionally, AI-powered notifications let reps be “proactive and timely” in their follow-ups, “avoiding missed opportunities” and increasing the odds of closing each deal.
Heat Scores also act as customizable triggers for reminders and alerts, streamlining the buying journey. Triggers include form submissions, multiple website visits within a prescribed period, Heat Score thresholds, and calls made. Leadcamp claims that trigger automation speeds up the buying process three-fold.
Email functionality includes sales email tracking, link monitoring, engagement analysis, and a content library. Sales teams also have access to sequences (cadences), templates, and volume throttling.
“We are excited about the acquisition of Leadcamp and the addition of their expertise in targeted marketing campaigns and automation tools to our platform,” commented Leadinfo Founder Han Kleppe. “This acquisition will enable us to better support our customers in finding new customers and to put their lead generation on autopilot.”
Leadinfo claims to be the market leader in Benelux and the most prominent international provider in the D-A-CH region. It consolidated its position in the Netherlands over the past eighteen months with the acquisitions of Leadexpress (December 2021) and LeadElephant (January 2022).
Leadinfo supports over 3,000 customers in Benelux, D-A-CH, Great Britain, and Scandinavia. Customers include Lavazza, Quis Machinery, Channable, and Creditsafe.
Leadinfo was named a 2022 Fast 50 technology growth leader by Deloitte, placing 8th in the Dutch market.
LeadDelta focuses on managing the social capital entrepreneurs and sales reps capture in Sales Navigator.
LeadDelta began as a “simple app” for tagging LinkedIn connections but now offers a broader app used by over 11,000 individuals and teams. Features include a dashboard, sidebar (Chrome Extension), and Smart Inbox that help users manage their network.
The Smart Inbox lets users pin, star, and tag LinkedIn messages. It also supports LinkedIn message filtering, a connection sidebar for viewing notes and tags while chatting, messaging templates, and a unified inbox for LinkedIn and Sales Navigator. Users can message up to 25 contacts at a time.
The network manager syncs and updates contacts in a “lightweight CRM view.” Users can search and sort contacts, create custom tables and views, follow/unfollow in bulk, and filter contacts. The network manager also displays signals such as when connections were made and the last text.
The Dashboard helps users view and manage key connection attributes, tags, and notes.
LinkedIn has not been careful about partnering with vendors that pull data from its platform; however, LeadDelta has managed to avoid conflict with LinkedIn by focusing on enhancing the LinkedIn experience and not mining it for contact intelligence.
“It has been a journey of really trying to be the good guys on Linkedin and really making sure that Linkedin likes what we do because we complement the community. We enhance the community.
What we say is ‘You own your data. This is your data.’ This is also how we are a legitimate Linkedin business. You have the permissions, and you say what you want, but then you can choose to whom to give. If you want to give your contacts to your company or not, and which contacts, and what context? This is your digital Rolodex, and for the first time, you can monetize it. You can come to your new employer and say, look at my app.”
CEO Vedran Rasic
LeadDelta has been growing “steadily 20% month-over-month,” helping them “complete the fundraising from really reputable angels around the globe,” continued Rasic.
The firm will soon be launching LeadDelta Workspaces to “revolutionize how teams sell, hire, fundraise, and market their products and services. For the first time, teams can utilize their combined social capital,” said LeadDelta.
Workspaces support pooled connections across teams, notes, and tagging.
LeadDelta will simplify sales and support selling from both traditional and non-traditional sales roles. Rasic sees LeadDelta as akin to Figma, which simplified design and took market share from Adobe.
“Figma came and said, Everybody is a designer, and we can all collaborate. We can all add notes [and] comments. We can all engage. This is the same thing. This is what we want to do for sales for relationships,” analogized Rasic. “Imagine a recruiter being able to help a salesperson close a deal or a salesperson, in reverse, being able to help recruit or score that next hire.”
Historically, individuals could only manage 150 relationships at a time, but that number is expanding due to social networks and AI, helping with fundraising, selling, marketing, and hiring. LeadDelta’s goal is to create “one integrated, cross-referenced professional network” that improves the odds of success as users collaborate cross-functionally.
The network will expand further as additional individuals participate and data is integrated from other platforms such as HubSpot and Gmail.
LeadDelta targets SMBs with annual invoices between $5K and $50K. Many of their prospects have deployed HubSpot; thus, HubSpot CRM connectivity is a popular request that will soon be implemented in the platform.
Along with HubSpot, LeadDelta is looking to add CSV uploads to capture second-degree connections.
Rasic noted that at many tech organizations, the executive team is well-connected but too busy to leverage its connections for the organization. LeadDelta helps address this issue.
“As a person who fostered numerous for-profit and non-profit enterprises through stewarding community efforts, it wasn’t until LeadDelta that I got the first smart and dedicated application for targeted network outreach,” stated lead investor Tijo Bajic. “This is not only an idea I believe in. It powers how I interact daily as a professional. I’m proud to be the first investor and the angel syndicate lead.”
LeadDelta is priced at $29 per user per month or $19.33 when billed annually. In addition, the firm is offering grandfathered pricing to its early clients.
Offline Engagement Platform Postal announced the general availability of Postal ABM, its offline engagement feature for one-to-many programmatic ABM campaigns. The new capability helps marketers programmatically target and engage valued accounts and audiences in a one-to-many approach based on intent and CRM data to “personalize content at scale.” Marketers can also execute Strategic ABM campaigns that target high-priority ABM accounts.
Postal ABM is “designed to make it easy to programmatically target and engage key accounts and audiences with offline campaigns,” Postal VP of Marketing Lauren Alt-Kishpaugh explained to GZ Consulting. “It’s designed for marketers running enterprise playbooks who need to scale offline engagement across their go-to-market strategy.”
Postal ABM supports built-in engagement and ROI dashboards that help sales and marketing teams “make informed decisions during the campaign and throughout the lifecycle of target accounts,” blogged Postal Product Marketing Manager Amy Schwartz.
The new Postal Engage feature triggers items and experiences to a group of contacts based on ABM signals in Salesforce. Marketers can set budgets and timelines for campaigns and track campaign success (e.g., accounts engaged, revenue generated) in Postal and Salesforce. Postal syncs its Account Engagement data with Salesforce for “better target discovery and ROI tracking.”
Postal also supports integrating physical touchpoints for virtual events. Postal claims an 80% attendance rate by automating offline marketing activities after events. For example, gifts can be sent to virtual event attendees, tradeshow badge swipers, or free trial participants. Postal also proposed sending a congratulations gift when champions change jobs.
In other news, Postal also announced that it partnered with ZoomInfo to support GTM Plays. Use cases include turning an abandoned chat follow-up into a booked meeting, welcoming a prospect back from OOO, congratulating a champion or decision maker on a promotion, and strategic prospecting campaigns.
“In today’s digital economy, it can be easy to forget the importance of offline and physical sales strategies…think back to in-person experiences such as steak dinners and golf outings with prospects,” blogged Postal Content Marketing Manager Rich Pusateri. “That was the standard practice. Now, in the world of remote selling, using custom branded kits or personalized gifts with handwritten notes in tandem with digital engagement is a proven way to make a positive impact on your bottom line.”
Sales Execution Platform Outreach unveiled a series of product enhancements and dashboards at its Explore+ web conference earlier this month. New features include Smart Email Assist with Generative AI, a Create Pipeline Calculator, Buyer Topics and Reactions in Kaia, Deal Grid, Deal Overview, Success Plan Methodologies, and Data Sharing with Outreach.
“The industry has never had a single place to generate and manage pipeline, run sales cycles from creation to close, coach reps, and forecast – until now,” said the firm.
Over the past decade, sales teams have acquired a set of SalesTech solutions that create a “hairball” of point solutions that work poorly together and suffer from siloed data and regular system switching. Furthermore, a unified data platform supports advanced workflows, AI models, and account insights for sales coaching and deal management.
Outreach has enjoyed solid adoption of its new platform since launching it ten months ago. Multi-product adoption is strong, with over 400 customers using two or more products. Furthermore, multi-product adoption is driving platform ARR, which has grown by over 100% in the past two quarters. Since the platform was launched, Outreach’s new logo deal size has increased by 16%.
“Today, Chief Revenue Officers are facing two major problems: pipeline coverage and conversion. They need to create an adequate amount of pipeline, and close it at a greater rate,” said CEO Manny Medina. “That’s why Outreach has been on a journey to expand our offerings to solve our customers’ biggest problems today. Our goal is to provide sales leaders with a single platform to manage all of their deals – from creating more pipeline to closing more deals. Today’s announcements at Explore+ are an important milestone in our platform journey, and we look forward to continue innovating for the 30 million B2B salespeople around the world to help them unleash their selling potential.”
The Smart Email Assistant generates automated email replies that go beyond email templates. AI factors in previous conversations between the buyer and seller when generating responses. By automating email responses, “sales reps can focus their time on editing and personalizing the AI-generated content, instead of drafting these emails from scratch.”
A new Pipeline Calculator recommends prospecting activities to fill pipeline gaps. The calculator utilizes historical pipeline data to determine the number of prospects that should be added to sequences to meet their quota. In addition, the historical conversion rate assumptions are displayed and adjustable. Thus, the assumed conversion or win rates can be adjusted to accommodate market shifts or new processes or messaging that boost historical results.
Outreach continues to develop Kaia, its conversational sales module, with the addition of Buyer Topics and Reactions. AEs and sales managers can revisit meeting recordings and review the buyer’s reaction to fourteen relevant sales topics, such as budget, legal, or support.
“Using AI, Outreach is able to understand the contextual utterance of relevant sales topics in any meeting or email – ranging from pricing to product to next steps to support – and can understand when the buyer raised an objection at any point in the meeting,” explained the firm. “It delivers invaluable insight into what is really happening in meetings, down to each moment, and at scale across all meetings.”
Success Plans now support popular sales methodologies, including MEDDIC, MEDDPICC, and SPIN Selling, helping reps “consistently and continuously qualify deals and align with champions to mitigate deal risk.”
Outreach added a single-pane-of-glass opportunity viewer called Deal Grid. Reps can view their deals sorted by health score and value to focus on their best opportunities. They can also edit fields such as Close Date, Amount, Stage, and Forecast status (e.g., omitted, commit, best case, most likely) with information synced to the CRM and forecasts updated.
Opportunity Viewers are a common feature of Revenue Intelligence platforms (e.g., Clari, RevenueGrid, People.AI), but with Sales Execution and Revenue Intelligence platforms expanding into each other’s domain, Deal Grid was an anticipated new feature. Opportunity viewers help reps review their deal status, update the CRM, and prepare for meetings with sales managers. They solve the problem of serially jumping between Opportunity records in Salesforce (which the firm has moved to resolve with similar functionality).
Outreach released several new reports and dashboards:
Create and Close Dashboard: Provides AEs and sales managers with a high-level forecasted revenue summary of the existing pipeline and highlights pipeline gaps and risks.
“The insight-laden dashboard shows the forecasted revenue from existing pipeline, and highlights pipeline coverage gaps for the current and future quarter, which helps reps proactively mitigate risk earlier and drive to success,” said Outreach.
Deal Overview: An overview of open opportunities with a deal summary, an engagement timeline, deal health, sales methodology insights, next steps, and the shared plan. The engagement timeline displays all sales activities and a heat map detailing customer engagement trends.
Pipeline Dashboard: Displays all “relevant pipeline details to life in a single, sortable view, allowing sales managers to stay on top of their quarter.” The dashboard includes a pipeline activity summary by stage, projected finish, revenue to date, quota, and top deals with deal health scores.
Outreach also announced bi-directional syncing with HubSpot. Earlier this month, it unveiled expanded Outreach Data Sharing with Snowflake.
Despite recent layoffs, Outreach continues to build its customer base. FY 2023 revenue (FYE Jan 2023) passed $200 million across 6000 customers. Outreach’s scale benefits its clients as it records over 25 million action/outcome pairings per week, helping refine its machine learning insights and recommendations.
One of the most important SalesTech trends, besides the emergence of ChatGPT, is the rapid incorporation of engagement datasets alongside intent datasets for prioritization and messaging.
A few years ago, we saw the emergence of intent data sets such as first-party web visitor tracking, second-party product review site research, and third-party B2B media research. Initially, this content was integrated into MAPs, ABX platforms, and CDPs, but it was not well integrated into SalesTech. We are now seeing intent data being integrated into SalesTech platforms in a simplified fashion (e.g., High Intent Topics in CRM profiles and Slack alerts) that is digestible for sales reps.
However, intent data only indicates whether a company is in-market, not whether the buying committee is considering your offering or seriously engaged with your sales team. This intelligence comes from a new category of engagement data captured from digital interactions between the revenue team (sales, marketing, and customer success) and the buying committee. Engagement intelligence consists of both traditional digital interactions (e.g., clickthroughs, downloads) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) analytics derived from sales and buying team activities.
NLP helps RevTech platforms determine who is interacting with your firm. It also analyzes buyer sentiment, buyer concerns, deal health, and risk flags. The primary sources of engagement data are emails, recorded phone calls, and recorded meetings. However, any digital interaction between buyers and sellers can be captured such as activity in digital sales rooms, webinar attendance, chat messaging, and scheduled meetings. I anticipate that customer support platforms will also be tapped for engagement data to help gauge churn risk and friction during product trials.
Engagement data indicates whether a deal is on track and what issues could result in lost deals or pushed out pipeline. For example, engagement data assesses whether:
Discussions are single or multi-threaded
Key decisionmakers are involved (e.g., has a security review been performed or has legal been included?)
Competitors have been mentioned
Pricing concerns were raised
Follow on meetings have been scheduled
Meetings had a positive flow or were dominated by the sales rep
In short, engagement data provides sales reps and managers deal health and risk analytics that improve forecasting and ensure that deal risks are quickly mitigated. And as interactions are digital, managers can discuss these issues during one-on-ones or offer quick tips on next steps. They can even review the discussion associated with the risk and identify skills and knowledge gaps for coaching.
The interesting thing about intent and engagement data is they are highly complementary with each other. Operations teams should be looking at integrating intent data alongside engagement data. Intent data is valuable for identifying who and when to reach out to ideal customers. However, once a relationship is established, the focus shifts to engagement data for monitoring deal health. After a deal is signed, both engagement and intent data are in play. Intent data identifies cross-sell opportunities and churn risk through second and third-party intent topic monitoring while Engagement and Product Usage data evaluate adoption rates and potential implementation issues.
Sales Engagement vendor Groove introduced its Plays service to the market this morning. Groove observed that most sales engagement vendors tout flows (aka cadences and sequences) but that sequenced, linear processes fail to capture the increasingly complex nature of modern enterprise sales. Furthermore, flows were initially designed for SDRs and appointment setting but are inadequate for meeting the broader needs of the revenue team.
Along with the introduction of Plays, Groove is shifting from sales engagement to a broader vision of “Connected Sales Execution” that unifies team, strategy, and technology.
“When my co-founder Austin and I founded Groove, we were sales leaders facing the exact challenge that Groove Plays solves,” said CEO Chris Rothstein. “We knew that in order to digitally transform sales as a profession, we had to start by building a foundation in advanced data capture and linear-process automation. With Groove Plays, we are introducing the next generation of Groove to solve the biggest untapped market in sales.”
Forrester recognized this transformation in its Q3 2022 Sales Engagement Platforms Wave report, noting that Groove’s activity capture and interaction management are “top-notch.” Groove collects and aggregates signals from interactions and scores from Salesforce and external sources such as Clari, Seismic, 6sense, and Snowflake. “This information is used to connect buying group members and make suggestions based on broad data sets. Groove specializes in industry-specific and customer-specific suggestions and signals.”
“We’re launching Groove Plays as a way to take your playbook finally out of your head and put it into software so that you can assist reps at the right time, rather than after it’s too late,” explained Rothstein to GZ Consulting. “And then the second huge benefit: if you can constantly see what’s being done, what’s not being done, and what’s correlated with winning, then you can evolve and constantly get better.
Plays are designed for complex, non-linear sales processes. Sales Operations set up Groove Plays to monitor accounts for risks and opportunities. Plays are triggered when specified conditions are met (e.g., stalled deals, single threading, missing participants by role).
Groove Plays also monitors rep activity to see whether plays contributed to positive outcomes. Thus, sales managers and operations teams know whether sales reps follow company playbooks and which ones are effective. Play analytics are broken into outcomes without intervention (the playbook was followed), with intervention (the playbook was followed but after a reminder), or ignored.
Furthermore, by monitoring activity, Plays prevent reps from failing to follow critical steps (e.g., sending a follow-up message after a call, quickly turning around meeting action items).
Alerts are fed to Groove’s Master Review List, which is displayed in its Chrome extension and visible across Salesforce, Groove, and email. In addition, timers can be set to prevent plays from automatically firing, thus reducing the likelihood that reps are overwhelmed by automated triggers.
Plays provide proactive coaching instead of waiting until account reviews or forecasts. Delayed recommendations are generally reactive instead of proactive. “At that point, it’s too late. And then you react way too late. Our goal is for you to put the rules in the system, so it’s assisting you at the right time when there are signals…so you can be more proactive and consistent,” stated Rothstein.
Plays recommend actions when specific criteria are met. For example, a play can be built for deals with negative sentiment concerning price and slowing engagement. The play could then recommend an ROI calculator to a prospect, helping shift their thinking from cost to ROI.
Plays can also be built around handoffs, ensuring that crucial transition steps are not skipped.
Plays are also integrated into Groove’s conversational intelligence service and generative AI, providing meeting follow-up emails based on insights. Reps can choose to regenerate the email or add snippets.
Plays can also be designed around deal risk, suggesting actions if key buying committee members are not engaged. Likewise, plays can be setup if MEDDIC steps have not been completed, the primary contact has not responded to a renewal message, or internal approval timelines are not being met.
Groove’s RIO AI engine consists of three underlying engines:
NLP: Analyzes emails and generates insights for coaching.
Association: Ties actions to outcomes across the tech stack.
Guidance: Suggests actions based on sales plays and generates personalized content and best engagement times.
Groove supports “Connected Sales Execution” across sales, marketing, and customer success. RIO ingests account and activity histories with feedback loops to refine plays and recommendations. Thus, Connected Sales Execution spans teams, processes, and technology.
“We’re a platform to help you execute your sales strategy,” argued Rothstein. At its heart, Groove employs AI, processes, rules, and sensors (e.g., email capture, calendar capture, logging, phone calls) that analyze activities and generate insights.
“We’ve always been a company that connects all these things: the technology and the process, the team and the process,” stated Rothstein. “Where we can help is getting everyone on the same page, executing the playbook in real-time, and seeing what’s working and [what’s] not.”
Groove Plays is in Alpha with a planned Q2 beta. Groove Plays will be available to all customers at no additional cost when it GAs this summer.
Kyle Porter, who founded and led Salesloft for the past dozen years, stepped down from the CEO role and was named Salesloft’s Chairman last week. In his place, the firm named SaaS veteran David Obrand its new CEO. Obrand is also joining Salesloft’s board.
I’ve known Kyle Porter for around a decade. I was impressed when he mothballed his first email guessing product because it wasn’t aligned with his belief in sales authenticity. It was a gutsy move. While he didn’t burn his boats (i.e., immediately remove the product from the market), he stopped selling the service and phased out the product while fulfilling current contracts.
Porter is also a gifted storyteller, which he emphasizes as a skill that sales reps should hone. His personal story is embedded into his management style.
I had the opportunity to interview Kyle on Friday. The conversation below was edited for length.
Why have you chosen to move upstairs?
There are two major reasons. The first is for the greater good of the business. I’ve seen this market unfold and the opportunity that we have in front of us just open up. It’s unlimited what we can do in sales and revenue generation. And our mission has always been to fundamentally change the profession of sales forever and really build a world where sellers are loved by the buyers they serve. I want every Lofter to have our mission as their primary focus within this business. And that means I need to have it as well. My goal is to always do that. And when I looked out to the future of everything that we could achieve, the biggest fear I had was that I wouldn’t be the right person to help us get there – that I would leave something on the table.
My skills are always growing, always developing. I consider myself a lifelong learner. And I’ve worked really hard to be just as good as I can at this stage as I was when there were zero people at the company. That evolution, however, is hard work. And that self-development is a deep investment.
The second piece of this is more of a personal perspective. On my very first date with my now wife…she asked me what my dream was, and I told her it was to run a technology company that makes a dent in the universe. I asked her hers, and she said it was to restore the glory that was the Florida citrus industry…
Now with someone like David, he’s already gained that wisdom, experience, know-how, and recall. It’s so natural for him. And I felt like we could accelerate the development of the CEO’s capability to take us to the next level by bringing in someone like David. So really, it’s based on my limitations as CEO. The opportunity ahead of us is just so big. And we have an amazing future in this business. We do the right things, and we serve our customers with excellence. There’s no limit to what we can achieve, so I wanted to accelerate the office of the CEO’s capabilities and really improve the handicapped chances to achieve our mission.
Some opportunities came up to really achieve that mission that she’s been on. And I realized that my talents and resources could greatly assist her just as she sat on the sidelines and helped me achieve my mission for over twelve years. I realized that it’s not right for this organization with so much growth ahead to have a CEO that’s not singularly focused on the mission of the business…I’m going to do tangerines with my wife, and that meant that it was the best decision to have someone that would be singularly focused on the mission of this business…
Of course, there are also my three children. While my daughter Brooklyn (8) is still going through the change curve of me no longer being CEO, I’m incredibly excited to pour more time and attention into her, my son Clark (5), and daughter Abby (1) as well!
How active will you be as the chairman?
Pretty active. We have a founder lunch that I’m going to continue. I’ve been corresponding with many customers this week, and I will retain those relationships and meet with them continuously. I’ll be a board member. David has asked for a once-a-week meeting indefinitely with him.
I just have really deep relationships with so many people inside the organization and with so many of our customers and partners. My enjoyment and my passion are to continue to work with those people. So customer meetings, board meetings, and one-on-ones with the CEO.
We got some really fun content projects that we’re working on. We’re going to be doing some work together to really show the market what’s happening and what’s changed and how to be more effective in this new world of modern sales.
What were the top criteria for selecting your successor?
Number one is that they are aligned with the mission of the business. When we talk about fundamentally transforming sales and revenue forever, this person that we brought on board had to have that in their heart already. Number two is they have to realize and understand that organizational health is the biggest sustainable differentiating advantage that any company can have. So when we love on our Lofters, they turn around and love on our customers, and the CEO needed to understand those dynamics and be willing to continue running this business with that framework and mindset. Three, I wanted someone that was well-rounded functionally. Not just a sales leader, but someone that understood product engineering, finance, marketing, [and] customer success.
I saw it firsthand when David Obrand got up and spoke with the product and engineering team. I sat, and I listened to someone say things that I wish I had thought of saying to them in the past. Things that I didn’t know and didn’t experience. And the way he connected with them was on a very deep level. And it was really refreshing for them to see someone that understands them even better than I did. So that was really cool.
When you think about succession as a founder, there’s a point at which your skillset, knowledge, or experience isn’t the right fit for taking the company to the next level. And many executives, out of hubris, choose to continue in that role, even though they may not be the best person for that role.
I believe exactly what you said. But I also believe that we really don’t have any limits except for those imposed upon us by ourselves. I’ve always believed that we can grow and develop into that next stage, and I’ve always believed that for myself, but that investment sometimes takes time. And if you have other things that you’re focused on, it’s more difficult to get down that development path.
You had a quiet layoff last week. Usually, you’re more transparent about these things. Why the shift away from the prior transparency, and why was it necessary to do so?
Necessary is an interesting word. I teach our leadership team that they don’t need to do anything; they always choose to do certain things.
On the transparency front, we did have a layoff after COVID. And we didn’t make a public announcement on that, as well. We believe that’s a private thing for the people that are part of the organization. We want to be super transparent internally about everything that happened. And if someone goes out and posts something, we don’t stop them or send them a note saying, don’t write that by any means. But that is a private kind of situation for the people who are impacted and affected.
Now, I am certainly helping people to find jobs. And we’ve assembled a list. And I’ve made many introductions. I’ve brought a lot of investors in, And we are helping those folks to find their next path.
SalesLoft, like many companies, saw lots of growth in the market and then saw some headwinds in front of us. And the way we think about it is that you’re in an airplane, and when the headwinds come, you can do two things: you can accelerate through and burn all your fuel, or you can lay back a little bit, let the headwinds pass, and pick back up. The decision we made was to lay back a little bit, let the headwinds pass, and then pick back up with the business.
What advice would you give founders of technology startups?
Really obsessing over the problem you solve is the first and foremost most critical thing that founders need to do. And when I say obsessed, I mean you need to get everybody in the organization on board with caring so much that they love their customer; they love solving the pains for them. And the company that cares the most is the one that’s going to win. Number one is that customer obsession and a really deep focus on the problem that you solve to the point where it becomes just a daily rhythm of your life.
The second one is aligning your organization to go after your mission. The mission statement is something where you’re one stop short of changing the world. We want to fundamentally transform sales forever. And that’s what we’re here to do. And so we need to hire people who believe in that mission, even down to the engineer.
We’ve created this whole community of people from every walk of life who love sellers and who understand the beauty of what sales is and how it transforms economies and markets. How it helps companies hire, invent, bring new products to life, and really change the fabric of our society. Making sure that your team is focused on that mission is critical. Then you got to have the rhythms in place where they’re being held accountable [and] where you’re achieving your goals.
You’ve emphasized the importance of culture. How did Salesloft benefit from your five core values?
What we’re looking for when we hire people is not that they’re five out of five A+, but that they have many of the core values [and] also believe that the other ones that maybe they’re not as strong in are important enough to work towards.
The other thing is that core values are a way to stop yourself before you make a mistake. Once a mentor told me [that] a good leader makes a mistake and quickly fixes it, [but] a great leader is about to make a mistake and fixes it before they do. And for me, that’s what the core values are. If we say that we want to be glass half-full, and I find myself about to say something negative. In the old days, I would say it, learn it, and fix it. But now, before it even comes out of my mouth, my head says, “glass half-full,” and I change the way I deliver that message.
Or if I’ve got a decision where I can go left, and it’s maybe better for money and then go right, and it’s better for customer experience. Then, customer obsession comes into my mind before I make that decision so that I can go right for the customer. We look at core values as triggering mnemonic messages in your head that help you to be the person you want to be.
As a CEO, you’ve got to repeat those [values] over and over again. Reward people who exhibit it. You’ve got to praise those who showcase it. Repetition is persuasion in that regard.
What is one mistake you wish you could have avoided?
We never anticipated the market would come back so fast post-COVID. Nobody did. Had I understood that, we wouldn’t have slowed down like we did. But then, we also never anticipated that the SaaS market would crash the way that it did. Had we understood that, we would have slowed down a little bit more before we did. Hindsight is 20/20. If you can predict those things, you can be a multi-billion-dollar hedge fund manager.
We’re always trying to align market demand with the resource supply of the organization. So that’s a continual trade-off that we’re working to make.
Are you looking forward to more time on the citrus farm?
I’m really excited. One of the things we do is send tangerines out to our customers. Every single year we do it, and I’m not going to miss that. We’ve got to keep producing great tangerines, so we can keep getting them into the hands of our customers. It is a joy and a passion of mine and my wife’s. She’s been so helpful to me on this journey, and I’m excited to help her follow her dreams.
Any last thoughts?
Yeah, we’re in a great spot. As a company, even with what we’ve seen in the downturn in the marketplace, we saw a really strong end to our Q4, and Q1 is off to a great start. Our CEO is highly capable. He’s wise. He’s been welcomed with a huge Salesloft hug inside the organization, and I’ve seen our customers and market participants really appreciate who he is and what he’s going to do. We’ve got a big opportunity to fundamentally transform the sales profession ahead of us. And we’re going to do it.
Asynchronous video vendor Vidyard announced the appointment of Jonathan Lister as its new COO. Lister joins from LinkedIn, where he served as VP of Global Sales Solutions. Prior to LinkedIn, Lister was the Country Manager for Google Canada and held multiple executive positions at AOL.
“We’re incredibly excited to welcome Jonathan to the Vidyard team,” said Vidyard CEO Michael Litt. “His unique experience as a global leader at LinkedIn will be a tremendous asset as we build on our mission to empower every go-to-market professional with the tools and knowledge they need to be successful in the new world of digital customer communication.”
While at LinkedIn, Lister increased the division’s customer base to one million users paying $1,000 per year for Sales Navigator.
“So, he drove it to a billion dollars a year in revenue,” said Litt. “And we have the same user — the sales professional using video to communicate with their customers.”
“The next stage is, how do we commercialize and value at scale?” continued Litt. “And that is exactly what Jonathan is here to help us with.”
Video adoption remains strong among sales and marketing organizations. According to Demand Metric’s 2022 State of Video Report, 82% of go-to-market teams report that video is becoming increasingly important when connecting with buyers. Furthermore, 70% of sales reps stated that video converts better than other content formats.
“There are few SalesTech companies that are truly focused on empowering the individual sales professional,” said Lister. “That’s really what drew me to Vidyard. I believe the company is uniquely positioned in that its products can be used by any go-to-market professional in the world to impact every stage of the customer journey. I’m looking forward to building on Vidyard’s strong momentum and reputation as a world-class provider of sales technology and community education.”
Vidyard also provided a summary of its 2022 enhancements
Video Templates: Video Templates guide sellers on how to use videos across various including getting in front of a new prospect, recording a custom demo, or closing out a deal. Video Templates include sample scripts, example videos, recording tips, and related best practices. There are also community-contributed templates from Shari Levitan, Sales Gravy, Katherine Caldwell, Todd Caponi, and Salesloft.
Enhanced Editing: Enhanced video trimming and cutting features.
Video Chapters: Add chapters to mark specific topics and improved navigation.
Salesloft Insights Integration:Salesloft users can discover which prospects are watching their videos natively within Salesloft. Vidyard video views are surfaced within the Salesloft activity feed to “empower sellers with timely customer insights.”
Sales Feed Learning Hub: Vidyard launched a new learning hub, accessible within the Vidyard app, powered by its Sales Feed media network. Vidyard users can access sales learning content, including cold calling, prospecting, discovery and qualification, negotiation and proposals, and selling with video.
“Our singular focus with Sales Feed is to help B2B sales professionals learn, laugh, and live a better life in sales,” said Tyler Lessard, VP of Marketing at Vidyard and Head of Sales Feed. “The response we’ve received from our community has been nothing short of incredible, and we’re thrilled to put our top-rated content into the hands of every Vidyard user. At the end of the day, if we can help one more sales rep close one more deal – and feel good about how they did it – we feel like we’ve done our jobs.”
Litt argued that field sales reps were already in decline in 2020 and that “the pandemic basically killed field selling,” The pandemic forced firms to sell remotely, benefiting Vidyard, which offered a personalized communications channel that allowed sales reps to stand out in the inbox.
“That story played out again, and again, and again,” said Litt. “That enabled us to accelerate our trajectory through to profitability, invest as much as we could back into [research and development], and totally embrace this video messaging story.”
Vidyard now supports 12 million business professionals at 250,000 companies. At this point, the firm can either operate on a cash flow neutral basis or be more aggressive to foster growth.
Vidyard has not had a funding round since 2019, as the firm did not look for an “insane valuation.” Litt said, “[this] means not doing big financial raises at crazy valuations because we want our employees to have upside. We want all of our stakeholders to be engaged with the same outcome.”
Litt said Vidyard has been “judicious” about its spending. The CEO noted that the company has kept its focus on retaining “really strong delta option value,” adding, “[this] means not doing big financial raises at crazy valuations because we want our employees to have upside [and] we want all of our stakeholders to be engaged with the same outcome.”
Although the firm did not state its current revenue, Litt sees $100 million as Vidyard’s “next meaningful milestone.”
Litt sees a great opportunity in asynchronous video. Vidyard’s R&D efforts center around more compelling video content, including AI assistance to improve content efficacy.
As firms face a challenging market, Litt is eyeing potential acquisitions, “especially in the next couple of quarters as businesses look for a soft landing. We think there’s going to be some opportunities to pick up some interesting tech to better complete our vision, and again, come out of this cycle with a really, really amazing suite of products that benefit our go-to-market teams.”
With firms cutting travel budgets during the recession, demand for Vidyard should remain strong. “Fortunes are built in bear markets and harvested in bull markets, and we’re in a bear market. But we have the balance sheet and financials to invest heavily in product and value for our users,” said Litt.
Dale earned a BA and MA from Valparaiso University with a concentration in ethics. He also received an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
What experience have you had developing AI tools?
As the SVP of Product Management at Salesloft, I am working with our team to bring Rhythm, Salesloft’s AI-powered signal-to-action engine platform, to life. Rhythm ingests every signal from the Salesloft platform as well as signals from partner solutions via APIs, ranks and prioritizes those signals, and then produces a prioritized list of actions. The action list gives sellers a clear, prioritized list of actions that will be the most impactful each day, along with an expected outcome prediction. In addition to simplifying a seller’s day-to-day, it helps them build their skills by providing the context about why each action matters.
AI is becoming increasingly important in RevTech, with many of our interactions being mediated by AI. Where do you see AI having the biggest impact on Sales reps between now and 2025?
AI will enable significant improvements in both seller efficiency and effectiveness. The most obvious impact will continue to be automating away low-value, repetitive work. What will surprise people will be the rapid advance and adoption of AI to suggest next best actions to take and content to use in those interactions with buyers. A typical workday for a seller will see them greeted by a recommended list of actions to take each day. Each action will be prioritized based on where the seller sits in relation to their targets, with each action accompanied by suggested content where appropriate. For instance, I might see a suggestion to respond to an email from a champion in an in-flight deal. The recommendation will include suggested text for the response as well as a resource to attach to the email. That’s a future we are actively investing in at Salesloft, which is at the heart of our soon-to-be-released Rhythm product.
Same question, but looking further out to 2030…
As AI becomes more commonly deployed across the sales profession, buyers will experience a more consistent sales experience in each buyer-seller interaction. As this becomes more common, it’s going to raise the bar on what buyers expect from a sales experience today. That will put more pressure on sales teams to deliver consistently in ways that today may seem unreasonable but will be possible with AI assistance.
One of the key ways to raise the seller performance bar will be high-impact, tailored coaching. Manager time is a constrained resource, and seller coaching augmented by AI provides a path to realizing performance improvement without manager time constraints. We should fully expect AI to help coach sellers to hit their goals based on each seller’s unique profile. We can expect AI to evaluate the seller’s entire game (activities, conversations, and deal management) to identify the highest leverage areas each individual seller should focus on to improve. Some of the coaching will be provided by AI at the point of execution, like on a call or when writing an email, with the rest provided throughout the workday as recommendations.
What are the most significant risks of deploying AI broadly across the Sales Function?
Two areas come to mind. First, AI used without clear boundaries in a sales process can lead to problems. If you employ AI and automation capabilities, it should be to allow the user to be better armed to make a decision, not make it for them. AI tools should not replace the human touch but rather augment it. There’s a lot of pseudo-science tossed up around the topic of AI, but ultimately, humans understand the nuance of relationships better than machines. One of the ways to address that concern is to deliver models that not only provide a recommendation but can provide the insights that led to it; humans will better trust the model when making decisions based on those recommendations as well as know when to ignore the recommendation.
Second, there’s a privacy component as well. Companies may create AI models that share data about a particular buyer with other companies’ sales teams without said buyer’s knowledge. The buyer may know they shared their data with one company but have no idea that multiple other customers at this company are using that same data. Creating models with this type of function puts companies and sales teams in a high-risk zone that can tread on the unethical. It isn’t clear that building models in that way may be considered legal in the future. If you plan to deploy AI in a sales org, it’s important to understand how data is collected and used.
AI Models are only as good as the underlying training data. How concerned are you about biased models recapitulating discrimination? For example, emphasizing sales skills that are gender or racially biased when evaluating sales rep performance?
It is a legitimate concern. AI products are based on probabilities, not certainties. The recommendations you receive or workflow automations that fire happen based on the probability that the given recommendation or action is right. Not the certainty that it is right. In a good product, the model is correct more often than a human would be when faced with the same decisions. At times, this is because the model can evaluate a larger set of factors, and in some cases, it is simply that machines can apply rulesets at a higher level of consistency than humans.
One of the key determinants of the AI model’s value is the dataset upon which it was trained. If the dataset does not properly represent the real world, the model will produce results that are either biased or provide poor recommendations. We’ve already seen several examples of that with image editing software that didn’t include black-skinned people in the training dataset. This led to either poor outcomes or worse dehumanizing results when the AI product was used in the real world. If you plan to deploy AI in your business, you should ask the provider what precautions they take to prevent bias in their models. We are very intentional about removing factors that could lead to bias in our training datasets. Still, it isn’t something I see most technology companies paying attention to in the revenue tech space.
How do you curb racial and gender bias when performing sentiment analysis?
We take great care at Salesloft to remove things that would lead to discriminatory factors. For example, for our Email Sentiment model, one of the ways we prevent bias is by removing all mentions of people’s names within the email because that could provide clues to their gender, race, or ethnicity. We do that kind of preprocessing with any data we use in an AI model before we build our models.
One of our assets is our scale. We’re fortunate that we operate globally and are the only provider in our space with offices in the Americas, Europe, and APAC. As a result, we work with organizations of all sizes globally, including many of the world’s largest companies. That means when we build models, we have one of the largest datasets in the world for sales execution. This enables us to train models based on datasets with both breadth and depth. When we build a model, it is easier to train it in a way that fairly represents reality and includes safeguards to avoid racial or gender bias.
AI will increasingly be deployed for recommending coaching and mediating the coaching. What concerns do you have about replicating bias when coaching?
As with any AI product making a recommendation, the potential to make a recommendation with bias is a concern that needs to be addressed when building models.
We take our responsibility to avoid bias in any product we release very seriously. The revenue technology industry as a whole hasn’t demonstrated a similar commitment to avoid harmful bias as of yet. I don’t hear other companies talking about proactive steps to avoid it, but I think that will change. We’re monitoring potential governmental action in both the US and EU that will require companies to raise their standard in this area. It is only a matter of time before laws are passed that require companies to prevent unlawful bias in their AI products.
Sales activities are becoming increasingly digitized, a boon for revenue intelligence, training, and next best actions. What guardrails do we need to put in place to ensure that employee monitoring does not become overly intrusive and invade privacy?
Let’s start by recognizing it is reasonable for an employer to have insight into what work is getting done and how it’s getting done. On the other hand, getting a minute-by-minute record of how each seller spends their day is unreasonable, as is dictating every action the seller takes from morning until nightfall.
We have to start with the right first principles. I think we can all agree that humans have inherent worth and dignity. They don’t lose that when they go to work. The challenge is that we have some companies in the technology industry that forget that fact when developing solutions. When you forget that fact, I believe that you actually harm the customer that you’re trying to serve. That harm happens in two ways.
First, you lose the opportunity to realize the true potential of AI, which is to serve as a partner that enables humans to do what they do best…which is to engage with and relate to other humans. AI should not be used to make final decisions for humans or to dictate how they spend every minute of their day. Good AI solutions should be thought partners and assistants to humans. It’s Jarvis to Tony Stark’s Iron Man.
The second way overly intrusive technology harms companies that employ it is via employee turnover. It’s no secret that industries that offer low autonomy to employees suffer from high turnover. Most humans fundamentally desire a base level of autonomy; if that’s threatened, they leave whenever a good option opens up.
In short, if the seller is working for the technology instead of the inverse relationship, we’re on the wrong path.
In 2018, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff argued that the best idea is no longer the most important value in technology. Instead, trust must be the top value at tech companies. How does trust play into ethical applications and AI?
We get to build the future we want to realize. We can either build a future that perpetuates the things we don’t like about today’s world, or we can build a future that elevates human potential. AI can be used to take us in either direction. That means what we choose to build with AI and how we build it should be a very value-driven decision.
We can absolutely build highly effective AI-powered solutions that elevate the people who use them and deliver tremendous business value. The people that believe otherwise simply lack the imagination and skill to do it.
What I love about our team at Salesloft is that we exist to elevate the ability of the people we serve and to enable them to be more honestly respected by the buyers they serve. In sales and life, the way you win matters. It matters to the people you serve on your revenue team, and it matters to your customers.
An emerging category of AI called Generative AI constructs content (e.g., images, presentations, emails, videos). It was just named a disruptive sales technology by Gartner. They stated that “By 2025, 30% of outbound messages from large organizations will be synthetically generated.” What risks do you see from this technology?
There are two immediate risks that come to mind. First, the messages need to be reviewed by a human before they are sent. The technology has made extraordinary leaps forward. I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing around with some of the tools released by OpenAI and others. The output is impressive and also, at times, very wrong. This goes back to the fact that the output is based on a probability that the answer provided is correct. You can get a very professional, persuasive email, or you can get something that approximates a professional email but won’t land well with your intended customer.
Second, it has the potential to make every outbound message sound the same. Generative AI doesn’t replace the need for human skill. It changes the areas of focus for that skill. Specifically, the opportunity for humans is to use Generative AI to help generate a higher volume and variety of ideas and then to edit and refine the output. The returns available to creativity are always high, but they become even higher when everyone is doing the exact same thing in the same way.
Having said that, I see tremendous potential in the technology and think if used properly it will be very valuable to revenue professionals.
Kyle is absolutely right. At the end of the day, a sale happens when a seller connects with a buyer to help them solve a problem. You can’t do that without authentic connection and trust. Generative AI should not replace that human connection, and I don’t think buyers want it to replace human connection. A close friend of mine was a sales leader at a now-public PLG-driven SaaS company. They added sales reluctantly. When they did, the company learned that buyers both bought more from them and were happier customers. That company now wishes it had added sales much earlier. How we interact with one another can evolve as technology evolves, but it doesn’t change the fact that humans are wired to connect with each other. I think emerging tools like Generative AI will help us be more productive, but they won’t replace the need for authentic human connection and trust.