Hybrid Engagement Platforms

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

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

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

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

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

SalesTech Spend Continues to Increase

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

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

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

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

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

Smart Selling Tools founder Nancy Nardin.

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

Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms: A Guide for Purchasing SEPs

I am pleased to announce that my next enterprise software purchasing report is available through this website and my partners at Tenbound. “Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms: A Guide for Purchasing SEPs” assists with the purchasing decision of this rapidly developing SalesTech category.

Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms

Single User License (October Discounted Price)

$495.00

The report is available as both a single buyer license for smaller firms evaluating the sector and as a buyer-committee license for larger firms. The Buyer Committee license covers a team of seven and includes a Word document checklist to assist with the evaluation.

Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms – Buying Commitee License

Seven-User License (October Discounted Price) + Word Document Checklist

$1,195.00

Report Coverage

The 13-page report covers the following topics:

  • Sales Engagement Platform
    • Definition
    • Value Proposition
    • Core Features
    • Other Features
    • Industry Pricing
  • Purchasing Questions

I also offer detailed overviews of several major vendors:

  • SalesLoft Product Overview
  • VanillaSoft Product Overview (coming October 18)

GZ Consulting / Tenbound reports are independently written and not sponsored by any of the profiled vendors. Michael R. Levy of GZ Consulting wrote this report.

SalesLoft Conversation Intelligence

Sales engagement vendor SalesLoft rebranded its Meeting Intelligence functionality as Conversation Intelligence.  SalesLoft describes four sets of features which help reps schedule meetings and then listen to, understand, and engage with customers and prospects.  SalesLoft supports a broad set of conversation tools including appointment setting; automated recording, transcription, and indexing of calls; time-stamped notes, and call analytics.  This functionality is available for prospect, customer, and internal calls.  Managers, mentors, and trainers can join calls or whisper into a sales rep’s ear.

“Through the evolution of SalesLoft’s platform and user experience, one feature has changed so much that its prior name no longer did it justice,” wrote SalesLoft Head of Community Aly Merritt.  “Meeting Intelligence is now Conversation Intelligence, because sales isn’t just meetings – it’s every conversation and interaction.”

Call recordings can be stored in a training library or shared for coaching or questions.  For example, if a sales rep does not know the answer to a question, it can be forwarded directly to customer support or engineering for a response.

Conversation Intelligence supports both SalesLoft’s native dialer and leading web meeting applications: Zoom, GoToMeeting, join.me, UberConference, Cisco WebEx, and Cisco WebEx Enterprise.

Sales calls come in many forms: prospecting, discovery, demos, stakeholder alignment, and so on.  All of these interactions make up the foundation for the long-term customer relationship.  High-value customer relationships are made possible when prospects feel that the relationship they are entering into is mutually beneficial.

How can you build such a relationship?  By working to ensure your prospects feel heard and confident that you understand their needs.  Work to engage them throughout their journey.  After all, sales doesn’t stop when the deal closes, nor does engagement cease when a seller hangs up the phone.

▪ SalesLoft Product News

SalesLoft said that it is “designed to flex around the needs of the user based not only on their role but also on their preferred workflow.  This empowers SalesLoft customers to offer consistent value at every stage.”

“Sales meetings are the moments in the sales cycle where you have the opportunity to provide the most value for your customers.  As such, they are some of the single biggest opportunities for your team to influence revenue.  It’s where your deals are won and lost,” wrote the firm.  “Despite this, sellers often don’t get the opportunity to improve on this critical component of the sales process.  Combine this with the challenges that face sales leaders around how much time it takes to digest sales meetings, gain visibility into what’s really happening, and be proactive in the deal cycle.”

RambleChat – SalesLoft Partnership

Real-time chats with account owners may be initiated from emails or any other outbound or marketing content which supports URLs.
Real-time Ramble chats with account owners may be initiated from SalesLoft emails or any other outbound or marketing content which supports URLs.

Conversational marketing vendor RambleChat is the latest partner available through the SalesLoft app directory.  Along with real-time website chat, joint customers can embed chat into SalesLoft email cadences. RambleChat then routes sales conversations to account owners “providing a more personalized interaction via chat.”  Joint customers can also employ dynamic fields in SalesLoft to customize greetings with personal and company names.

“The SalesLoft/RambleChat integration gives a whole new capability for marketing and sales teams.  RambleChat is the only chat platform that can instantly open chat from any online source.  Ramble then routes sales conversations to the right account owner — enhancing both demand generation and ABM campaigns.  And now, for the first time, chat can be an integral part of sales plays and interactions in the SalesLoft platform.”

Sean Kester, VP of Platform Strategy at SalesLoft.

Single Click Chat (SCC), RambleChat’s patent-pending technology, extends chat capabilities from the website to outbound communications.  So long as a URL can be embedded, chat conversations can be initiated via a click.  Along with corporate websites, SCC enables chat initiation from LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, digital ads, landing pages, blogs, QR codes, and product collateral.  SCC allows sales reps to “meet buyers at the moment of interest.”

Ramble automatically logs chat conversation histories and details at the SalesLoft Account level.  When a user navigates to an account, chat history is displayed under the “Notes” section.  If a SalesLoft user desires more in-depth information about the chat conversation, a URL is automatically provided for the user to click.

RambleChat has been in partnership discussions with SalesLoft since at least March when Ramble CEO Justin McDonald attended SalesLoft’s Rainmaker conference.  Instead of simply building a website chat solution, the firms chose to “build better pipelines by extending chat beyond corporate websites and into SalesLoft Cadences and social channels via RambleChat’s Single Click Chat.”

“As we met with joint customers in mid 2018, a constant theme surfaced; the market was struggling to find practical and tangible means of Account-Based Selling and Marketing.  There’s no shortage of ABM technology, but many lacked quick deployment and immediate results for sales organizations. This became the MO for the RambleChat + SalesLoft partnership, and we landed with a more powerful integration that fills the ABM gap for both sales and marketing.”

Ramble CEO Justin McDonald

“I’m immensely excited about our joint efforts.  This integration delivers new opportunities for sales engagement and improves functionality for sales reps to execute account-based selling.  Account-based marketing (ABM) requires an equal effort from Sales, and RambleChat delivers immediate functionality to bridge the gap for SalesLoft customers,” said RambleChat CEO Justin McDonald.

I’m Kvetching about Grammar Again

“Schoolmarm” Royal Daulton figurine (Source: WannabeEditor on Wikipedia)

I’m starting to feel like the schoolmarm* calling out grammar and spelling errors. I am not normally a stickler about such things, but sales reps and marketers need to do a better job on the basics. I called out marketers a few weeks ago (“How Not to Write a Press Release“) and this week it is sales reps. Here is my letter to Sales Reps:

As you adopt sales engagement tools, you will be sending more emails, but writing fewer words for each email.  Your email templates should be perfectly grammatical, so the 20% that you write to personalize your messages should also be perfectly grammatical.  I’m not seeing this.  Saturday, I received emails from two different tactile marketing companies (the bizarre category name of companies that send direct mail gifts) with run-ons and missing punctuation. 

You do yourself and your company no favors by failing basic grammar checks (I use Grammarly) before hitting send.  Good grammar supports clarity, displays professionalism, and signals that the small things matter.

Here is an example from earlier today:

“Call a play to connect with me for a quick overview and I’ll send you an example NFL team swag item (your team) or a $25 Dinner eGift if you are more of an NHL fan, like myself.”  

The Call to Action from a tactile marketing vendor

If you received this sentence in an email, would you be more or less inclined towards their call to action (CTA) due to the poor grammar and twisted syntax?

Yes, the $25 gift is a strong CTA, but the poor grammar undermines trust. If you can’t do the small things right (e.g. proofing your email), then why would I assume you would get the big things right (e.g. managing the logistics of thousands of individually packaged and personalized eGifts)?

We all make mistakes when writing, and some of us are better than others at the mechanics of the written word. I’m simply suggesting that you do a quick readthrough of what you write before you send it. Using a grammar checking tool is a good backstop.

Another trick: put on our headphones and use Microsoft Word’s read aloud function. Close your eyes and listen for clarity, word choice, and messaging. Yes, this is a timely step; you may want to reserve it for key decisionmakers at ABM accounts, but sometimes you want to slow down to ensure you get things right.

Word choice is also important. When you are unsure whether you are properly using a word, select a different word or type Define <word> into Google or Bing. For emails, simple words should be employed and jargon avoided.

Bing’s first response to Define Kvetching

And to sales engagement vendors, how about some tools to flag style and grammar issues? As you develop AI tools for email, flag both best practices (e.g. Subject line too long, CTA not in the top third of the body, bullet points lower click through rates) and grammar issues.

Let’s write well, not good.


* Readers of the future: In 2019 the term schoolmarm was a bit antiquated and slightly pejorative, but not on the politically incorrect list of phrases. If in 2022 the term enters the list of micro-aggressions, mea culpa.

Outreach Makes LinkedIn’s Hot Companies List

Seismic content can be included in Outreach email templates.

On Wednesday, I congratulated Drift and Cognism for making the LinkedIn Hot Companies list. Somehow I missed that Outreach also made the US list at #50. Perhaps I stopped looking at #49.

So congratulations to CEO Manny Medina and the team at Outreach. The Sales engagement firm has been going head-to-head with SalesLoft to become the leading vendor in its category.

Outreach is based in Seattle and reached unicorn status earlier this year, a rather impressive feat for a five-year old company that doesn’t rent scooters. It is on track to hit 450 employees by the end of the year and has doubled its revenue growth each year since 2016.

Outreach has 3,500 customers including Adobe, DocuSign and eBay.

One area of rapid growth is in its Galaxy partner ecosystem. New partners include Seismic, BombBomb, and Sendoso.  The Seismic integration allows reps to insert Seismic content into emails and multi-recipient sequences via a Seismic icon.  Reps are notified when prospects view content, allowing them to “transition the prospect into a high-priority, more personalized Sequence.”  Sales reps can also send follow-up content after a successful demo or meeting and modify messaging based upon which Seismic content is resonating.

BombBomb supports personalized videos which are inserted into sequences.  When a recipient watches the video, reps can trigger an urgent call task or place the viewer into a high-touch sequence.  Recorded videos and screen captures are also supported.  BombBomb is priced at $29.99 per seat per month with volume discounts.

Sendoso supports sequences which include e-gift or direct mail steps.  Reps can also setup triggers when e-gift links are activated or direct mail items received. For example, I recently attended a trade show and received a box of mini-cupcakes afterwards with an accompanying note from the Sendoso sales rep.

Other new partners include Aircall, BigPicture, Crystal, Dooly, LeanData, LiftIQ, Nova.ai Intelligent Customer Management, OBMetrix by Iceberg RevOps, Reachdesk, RingLead, SnapApp, Sona, and TopOPPS.

LinkedIn Network Building

I’ve been sitting on a Harvard Business Review article written by Doug Camplejohn since March due to a surfeit of news.  I figured that if I couldn’t slip it into my blog in August, I would never get to it.  August is when the press releases slow and there is an opportunity to speak about broader topics such as how to write a press release (or not write one).

The piece, titled “The Best Ways to Use Social Media to Expand Your Network” provides a set of social networking recommendations to business professionals.  Camplejohn is VP of Product Management at LinkedIn and heads up development on LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

Source: LinkedIn and HBR

Camplejohn’s advice takes a long-run strategic approach to building and nurturing a social network based upon ongoing engagement, asking for advice during transitions, and assisting others.  As such, his advice dovetails well with real-world approaches to building relationship networks.

Camplejohn begins by recommending that business professionals build their network with peers instead of focusing on seniority.  A peer-based network grows over one’s career, creating a network which matures with the professional.  Furthermore, senior-executive response rates are lower than mid-level managers.  Less than one percent of VPs and CxOs respond to cold reach out.

“People earlier in their careers respond most often to an initial message, while VPs and C-level professionals respond the least to people they don’t already know.”

Doug Camplejohn, VP of Product Management at LinkedIn

Initial messages should be short.  Camplejohn recommends three sentences that can be easily read on a mobile device.  InMail messages of under 100 words work best with response rates “decreasing significantly” beyond 500 words.

Camplejohn also advises a hook such as an alma mater, joint interest, or a mutual friend.  “According to our research, referencing a mutual connection boosts the acceptance rate of these messages by 51%, second only to attending the same school at the same time (53%),” wrote Camplejohn.

Camplejohn notes the value of asking for advice and leveraging transitions.  In fundraising, there is an adage, “If you go seeking advice, you get money; if you seek money, you get advice.”  Likewise, transition periods are an excellent opportunity to build your network and seek advice.

“If you’re in a transitional period — starting at a new company, switching industries, or moving to a new city — recognize the opportunity to reach out to people, ask for their advice, and absorb their wisdom.”

Doug Camplejohn, VP of Product Management at LinkedIn

Another recommendation is to pay it forward.  Don’t be looking for immediate benefits or strictly reciprocal opportunities.  Social networkers recognize that they are contributing to the commons, whether helping one person or adding to the group.  Sales reps and others should also continue to nurture their network, maintaining conversations with colleagues, clients, partners, and mentors.

“The best way to build a relationship is to help someone with joy and with no expectation of anything in return.  It feels good, it trains your own sense of generosity, and it informs you of what the other person values.  It also sets the stage for you to ask them something in the future.  You don’t have to offer to help in every circumstance, but make yourself available as a resource to people, particularly to people who are just starting out in their careers.”

Camplejohn concludes that online networking should be viewed as an extension of real-world interactions: “Connect with people personally by finding common ground, then build trust and long-term relationships, rather than one-time transactions.”

SalesLoft Costello App for Opportunity Analysis

The Costello Dashboard facilitates quick opportunity updates and streamlined pipeline reviews.
The Costello Dashboard facilitates quick opportunity updates and streamlined pipeline reviews.

Costello, which describes itself as sales co-pilot software, released an upgraded integration with SalesLoft.  The app displays Salesforce Opportunities from within the SalesLoft sales engagement platform.  The service is generally available to joint customers through SalesLoft’s App Directory.

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.

Finally, reps and managers can quickly review three to five of the most important deal details such as key buying criteria, key challenges, and desired outcomes.

“Deal View gives reps, managers, and leaders across the company a simple, streamlined view of everything that matters when managing a deal.  And it gives your team an easier, more intuitive way to manage stakeholders, so you can quickly figure out who matters most, what they care about, and what their blockers are.”

Costello Chief Strategy Officer Rod Feuer

A single-pane view supports In-line opportunity edits and a unified view which supports quick updates and pipeline review meetings.  Costello claims opportunity updates may be performed 75% more quickly.   “This is a game-changer not only for productivity but for pipeline confidence,” said Costello CEO Frank Dale.

A single-pane opportunity viewer is offered by other companies including LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Artesian Solutions, and Clari.

SalesLoft Purchaser Profile

I am pleased to announce that the first in a series of sales engagement profiles is available through this website and my partners at Tenbound. These reports are written to assist with the purchasing decision.  SalesLoft is the first Sales Engagement purchasing profile to be completed, but additional reports for Outreach, VanillaSoft, and Salesforce High Velocity Sales are planned for release.

SalesLoft Buyers Profile

Buyer's Profile of SalesLoft Sales Engagement Profile (Single License).

$995.00

SalesLoft, based in Atlanta, provides a set of sales engagement tools for SDRs, Account Executives, Sales Operations, Sales Managers, and Sales Training. Features include

  • Multi-channel cadences spanning email, phone, social, text, and direct mail.
  • Email templates, snippets and call scripts
  • Automated meeting scheduling and meeting intelligence
  • Analytics, dashboards, queue prioritization, and coaching tips
  • Salesforce bi-directional sync
  • Partner ecosystem for chat, video, sales intelligence, security, LinkedIn, etc.

Report Coverage

This 33-page report covers the following topics:

  • Company Overview
  • Features
  • Return on Investment
  • Ecosystem Partners
  • Product Roadmap
  • Strengths & Weaknesses
  • Pricing
  • Summary

GZ Consulting / Tenbound reports are independently written and not sponsored by any of the profiled vendors. Lynne Trocciola of GZ Consulting wrote this report.