Kyle Porter on Leadership as Service

There is no lack of companies and their CEOs that go through the motions of woke capitalism, turning it into performative theater to satisfy customers, partners, and investors. Only over time do you see which firms are sincere in their efforts at stakeholder capitalism and which ones view such positions as a way to goose profits and burnish their image.

BP was a perfect example of greenwashing until they befouled the Gulf of Mexico.

I’ve known Kyle Porter, CEO of Sales Engagement Platform SalesLoft, for about nine years. I was impressed when he mothballed his first 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.

Early on he set out five principals for his company. He has discussed them at user conferences and posts them on SalesLoft’s company page:

So when Kyle announced that SalesLoft was internalizing the cost of its carbon footprint by paying for carbon offsets, I asked him about it. He framed the discussion as part of a broader social mission:

From the beginning, this has been a mission-led business. I didn’t found a company because I wanted to make money in sales, I founded a company because I knew that a business would be the greatest vehicle that I could create to make an impact on the world. And that starts with our customers and changing their lives. It extends to our employees and providing them with a place where they can learn more, grow more, do more, find fulfillment, and serve others. And that extends to our ecosystem and the places that we serve.

If I’ve got influence and capabilities, why not yield those to make the world a better place at the same time…

Einstein said the purpose of life is to serve. I believe that a leader’s role is to serve, and I believe that I’ve been entrusted with a unique story, with capabilities, with resources, with a great business. And it’s my job to be a steward of that and use it to make the world a better place.

So when you look out, you see that we emit 35 billion metric tons of carbon, and SalesLoft is emitting carbon, as well, through our server ecosystem, through our travel, through our office space HVAC. We have an opportunity to take it seriously, and we have an opportunity to have a net-zero impact on the world, then we’re going to take that.

Fortunately, we were able to find a great partner [Green Places] who helps us offset our carbon footprint, and commits us to operating in an energy efficient way.

We stand for something. We act on it. It’s one of the many things that we want to do as a business.”

SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter (Interview: Michael Levy 8/20/21)

Now, I’m hoping that Green Places keeps Kyle’s feet to the fire on his promise to be carbon neutral. Simply paying for offsets should only be the first step in meeting environmental objectives. The real progress happens when a company works with its employees, vendors, and partners to reduce their carbon emissions. I have no doubt that Kyle is sincere, but even those with the best of intentions need to be advised on next steps and best practices. Just as SalesLoft provides Guided Selling and Next Best Actions to sales professionals, advisory services such as Green Places need to provide Guided Leadership and Next Best Actions to C-level execs.

The SalesTech space is fortunate to have some mensches at the helm (Kyle Porter, Henry Shuck at ZoomInfo, Manny Medina at Outreach, Jeff Weiner at LinkedIn [retired]). Sales has often been a highly competitive, self-serving profession (“coffee is for closers”). Having executives with a stakeholder perspective that preach and implement authenticity, privacy, diversity, collaboration, career development, and environmentalism positions their companies against the stereotypes of the sales profession and helps advance the profession.

Ethics and the Art of the Sale

Happy Mother’s Day. I wrote this blog about six years ago, but it is no longer available online, so I thought I’d republish it here with a few minor updates.


Clark Stanley, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

My mother was a highly successful sales rep in two different capital goods industries for several decades.  She regularly noted how important her reputation was in building her pipeline across her territory.  From her perspective, acting unethically was severe short-term thinking.  You were better off telling a customer that they should go to a competitor for a specific product if you can’t meet their needs than to shoehorn in a solution that only damages your reputation and that of your firm.  While fibbing (using my mom’s polite term when she caught us in a lie) might close a few more deals early on, once you have been found to be slippery with the truth you are unlikely to close more sales at that account. 

My mother worked her territory for over a decade and didn’t win any significant business at some prospects for the first few years.  At the outset, her company had little market presence in the region. But she hung in there and sold a few beachhead deals that solved niche problems.  It was with this long-term approach that she slowly built trust with her new customers.  They then brought her in when new RFPs were being written – she had earned their trust.

Because she sold capital goods to only three segments (Hospitals, Nursing Homes, and Universities), she approached the market with an Account Based Marketing (ABM) perspective.  Each account represented a series of opportunities over the next five to ten years.  She treated each account with respect and built her relationships well ahead of RFPs. She intuitively understood Lifetime Value (LTV).

It is only with a reputation for integrity that you can expect to be called when an exec moves to another company. 

It is only with integrity that you will be asked to advise on an RFP. 

And it is only with integrity that customers will be willing to take referral calls for you or recommend you to their colleagues.

Being shady eventually backfires.  Who is going to call you back when you have failed to deliver on your promises?  It can be a scorched earth approach that is contrary to today’s ABM focus.  With ABM, there are a limited number of top accounts within your territory which are to be nurtured and grown.  Playing fast and loose with the truth, delivering shoddy products and services, or failing to live up to your promises will undermine your reputation at key accounts and erode your brand value.

It can even backfire quickly.  One time, my mother responded to a state RFP with aggressive pricing she knew her competitor was unlikely to match.  She attended the bid award meeting and was shocked to find she was underbid.  As state bidding is open, she reviewed the competitor’s bid and found they had substituted refurbished equipment for new even though the RFP barred used equipment.  She contested the bid on the grounds that the firm had failed to comply with RFP requirements and was later awarded the multi-year contract.  Not only did her competitor lose the contract in question, but it undermined its reputation at the state purchasing department.

Ethical Competitive Strategy

When training sales reps, I also emphasize staying “above the fray”.  Besmirching a competitor’s product also sullies your reputation.  It shows a lack of class and a sense of desperation.  It is much better to position the value of your offering and focus on areas of differentiation than it is to throw mud.  You should lay landmines for competitors, not besmirch their reputation. 

A landmine is simply an emphasis upon those features and benefits where your product or service offering excels.  The goal is to frame the discussion around the dimensions in which your product provides superior value to the end user.  Keep in mind that value is dependent upon the customer in question, so you need to factor in job function, industry, company size, etc.  Also, be careful to select areas in which your firm excels overall, not dimensions in which you are superior to competitor X that is vying for the deal but inferior to competitor Y.  Otherwise, you may later find out you lost the deal to Y.

Likewise, you should expect your competitors to be laying landmines for your sales reps.  They need to understand where these mines are laid and how to diffuse them.

One tool I recommend is the quick parry.  This is a quick response to the question, “how are you better / different than company X?”  A quick parry is only three or four sentences and usually begins by saying something positive about the competitor before transitioning with a BUT or HOWEVER.  The positive item can be a recognition of some dimension in which they are the acknowledged leader or a dimension that is of limited importance to the customer in question.  Thus, if you are selling to an SMB, you might emphasize the breadth of their solution for enterprise customers vs. the ease of use, quick implementation, and pricing models you offer for smaller firms.  Such a tool differentiates your service from the competitor without throwing mud.

Sales Tools

While modern sales tools don’t make sales reps more or less ethical, digital tools allows them to focus on relationship building instead of cold calling and administrative tasks.  When I’ve shown my mother the current generation of sales tools, she becomes jealous of today’s sales reps.  Think about

  • How much closer she would have been to her customers had she been able to review profiles for each company; seen detailed lists of contacts with titles, emails, and phone numbers; and received daily email alerts with account and prospect sales triggers.
  • How much less time she would have spent filling out monthly pipeline reports (three-part carbon forms) had account intelligence been integrated into a CRM.
  • How easily she could have reached out to clients via email or social media by quickly leveraging a trigger.
  • How much faster she would have learned that a key contact moved to another company and planned her strategy accordingly.
  • How she would have benefited by viewing her accounts and prospects displayed on a map to assist with road trip planning.
  • How she could have mapped out the demand unit, identified gaps, and tracked engagement with revenue and sales intelligence tools.

What about the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) strategy?  I tend to dislike it unless it addresses a true pain or fear of the buyer.  When I worked at MCI back in the ‘90s, one of AT&T’s strategies was to emphasize their reputation and solidity.  We used to refer to it as the “Nobody ever gets fired for recommending AT&T strategy”.  It addressed the inherent risk aversion of recommending an upstart over the industry behemoth.  Such a strategy often works best for incumbents as it allows them to focus on their strengths (e.g. experience, stability, breadth of solution, zero transition costs).  Upstarts using FUD need to make sure that they don’t come across as mocking the larger firm instead of emphasizing their strengths as an upstart (e.g. innovation, flexibility, focus).

When training your sales reps, make sure they fully understand your value proposition and those of your competitors.  Reps should only be discussing competitors when directly asked about them.  Landmines and quick parries emphasize your value proposition and differential value while avoiding the pitfalls of mudslinging.  My mother understood these truths four decades ago.


Happy Mother’s Day. I also posted a blog about her sales career in 2016.

Post-Pandemic Business Travel

There does not appear to be a big rush back to business travel after the pandemic, with demand remaining below the $1.4 trillion commercial spend through 2025, according to the Global Business Travelers Association (GBTA).  Only 27% of US companies expect to be spending money on travel over the next six months.

A Fortune Analytics survey found that only 67% of business professionals that traveled for work pre-pandemic plan to resume previous levels.

These results line up with the stated trend towards Work from Anywhere (WFH), with companies no longer looking to maintain traditional five-day-a-week office settings.  A January Deloitte survey found that 75% of CEOs are considering reducing their commercial space requirements.  

Companies have learned how to coordinate activities internally and with customers and partners digitally.  The need to press the flesh doesn’t seem as vital as it did pre-pandemic.

“The outcomes of meetings held on Zoom vs. those held in person are not that much different, but the costs are night-and-day different,” said Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan Survey of Consumers. “It will be hard to justify the costs that were once supported.”

Management Consultancy Oliver Wyman contends that business professionals have found video conferencing and other digital communications tools to be sufficient in maintaining commercial relationships.

The GBTA noted that the pandemic’s impact was ten-times that of 9-11 and the 2008 financial crisis.  After those events, there were also concerns that commercial travel wouldn’t bounce back, but digital channels are much more mature now, and the extended WFH time has normalized video conferencing.

It’s “our expectation that business travel will lag consumer travel,” said Jeff Campbell, CFO of American Express Co., on an earnings call.  

Amazon, which spent $1 billion on travel annually, commented that its “sales teams found new ways to reach customers.”

Forrester Principal Analyst Peter Ostrow suggests that initially, there will be pent-up demand for business travel as individuals yearn to get out of the house. Still, he cautions that this should be a temporary burst, not a return to pre-pandemic travel volume.  Companies should ask three questions for determining the appropriate volume and rationales for travel:

  1. What do Buyers and Customers Prefer?  Not every meeting, particularly those involving disparate buying team members, should be face-to-face.  B2B Sales should recognize that B2B purchasing has adapted over the past year as well.
  2. How Have We Made Things Work Remotely? “Sales leaders must determine what adaptations have supported more productive sales motions, rep productivity, adoption of top-down initiatives, and desired changes in seller behavior.” Being remote has allowed reps to develop new remote selling skills (e.g., prospecting, presentation) that should be retained.  Likewise, CROs should consider whether SDRs should be centralized, or are they better off not commuting each day?  Be careful not to let the voices of those underperformed during WFH drown out those reps who have excelled in the new environment.
  3. What Does the Data Say? Review the data and determine which personas were more or less accessible during WFH, which pipeline stages were faster or slower during WFH, and which product lines suffered due to the loss of in-person pitches.

Failing to address these questions could result in the loss of many of the digital efficiency gains that have sustained B2B sales over the past year.

In short, Ostrow suggests that research and data guide travel decision-making.  Just as companies are re-evaluating the need for centralized offices vs. hybrid models or fully remote staffing, travel decisions should be re-evaluated as well.  Field Sales and weekly exhibitions in different cities have always been expensive propositions.  The focus should be on adopting the most effective interactions, whether remote or face-to-face, for driving long-term revenue growth.     

Remote work also has a demographic impact, with professionals decamping from New York, Seattle, San Jose, and San Francisco for Miami, Austin, Charlotte, Nashville, and Denver.  There are even a set of “Zoom Towns” such as Boulder, CO, Tulsa, OK, and the Hudson Valley (NY) benefiting from in-migration.

“The rise of remote work changes that equation [between work and home locations]—not in all sectors of the economy but in more than ever before. Skilled techies and knowledge workers, in particular, can enjoy the kind of freedom and flexibility that used to be available only to successful novelists, artists and inventors—the ability to work when and where they want to.  They can increasingly “vote with their feet,” selecting the kinds of places that best meet their needs without worrying about what they can earn in the local labor market.  Families may gravitate to smaller cities, updated suburbs or rural areas with outdoor amenities, while ambitious young professionals fresh out of college or graduate school are likely to continue flocking to urban centers for entry-level jobs and social life.”

Richard Florida and Adam Ozimek, “How Remote Work Is Reshaping America’s Urban Geography,” Wall Street Journal (March 5, 2011)

And WFH has not been a productivity loss, but a net positive as workers are no longer saddled with long commutes and water cooler chitchat.  Stanford University economist Nick Bloom found as much as a 2.5% productivity lift from remote work.

According to Outreach CEO Manny Medina, 70 to 80% of buyers want a digital experience.

From a sales and marketing perspective, many of the digital practices that boosted SalesTech and MarTech industry revenues over the past year are likely to continue.  There will still be field sales reps calling on top prospects, but there will be more video conferencing and fewer face-to-face meetings than before.  Likewise, tradeshows and user conferences are likely to be smaller or operate more as roadshows rather than large events.  Tent pole events, such as Dreamforce, will return, but less popular events may downsize or remain virtual.  And even the tent-poles are likely to be hybrid events.  For example, Dreamforce has always recorded and posted its sessions for virtual viewing, so will likely combine live and digital best practices at future events.

Competitive Intelligence Drives Revenue

As a member of SCIP (Strategic & Competitive Intelligence Professionals) and a former CI practitioner (I am more of an industry analyst and market researcher these days, but the skills and tools often overlap), I pay attention to research on the efficacy and ROI of CI. Unfortunately, CI’s role is often diffuse across the organization, providing both strategic and tactical assistance across a broad set of functions. Thus, the impact is often difficult to properly attribute.

Thus, I wasn’t surprised when a Crayon survey on the State of Competitive Intelligence found that only 61% of CI Professionals and Stakeholders believed that CI boosts revenue (26% felt that it did not). And it may be that some of those professionals that hold a dim view of CI worked at companies that lacked somebody in that role or simply assigned a product marketing manager to perform CI along with several other duties.

But the confidence level should be higher. After all, a good CI person or team:

  • Monitors the market for general trends, new product launches, product enhancements, emerging technologies, key events (partnerships, funding, acquisitions, executive changes, filings), and competitors.
  • Briefs senior level management on the market, highlighting opportunities and threats.
  • Briefs product management on product gaps and weaknesses that place the company at a market disadvantage.
  • Performs competitive benchmarking, collects pricing data and market collateral, and monitors competitive positioning.
  • Assesses competitor’s product launches and major upgrades and briefs internal stakeholders.
  • Assists with product launches by briefing marketing and sales on competitive positioning, addressing the question of how new products and features stack up in the marketplace.
  • Supports new hire onboarding, particularly for product management, product marketing, executives, and sales professionals.
  • Trains sales reps in how to position vs. competitors, lay landmines for competitors, parry competitive charges, and stay above the fray (i.e. remain professional and avoid slinging mud).
  • Manages or participates in win/loss analyses.
  • Joins sales calls (usually virtually) when the client wishes to discuss the competitive landscape.
  • Provide on-demand support to sales reps.
  • Review RFPs and RFIs to determine whether they are neutral or one of the competitors has influenced the process.
  • Collects internal competitive data from CRMs and competitive mentions during sales calls. Conversational Intelligence from vendors such as Chorus and Gong is an emerging data collection opportunity.

If a CI team is performing these duties in a timely and accurate manner, then there is no doubt that they influence revenue generation both in the short and long-term.

Source: Crayon, “NEW DATA: 61% of Businesses Say Competitive Intelligence Directly Impacts Revenue,” March 2021

Crayon also found that the impact to CI was strongly related to the creation of KPIs for the program. Without KPIs, 57% of professionals were unsure about the impact of CI on revenue. When KPIs were in place, 78% of survey respondents were confident that CI helped drive revenue.

The frequency of CI distribution is also strongly related to its impact. 70% of respondents with daily or weekly intelligence distribution said that CI helped increase revenue, falling to 55% monthly and 46% quarterly. The frequency of messaging probably has several effects: it reinforces the role of CI in the organization, it delivers a timelier and more comprehensive work product, and it embeds CI into the knowledge flow and company discussions.

Competitive Intelligence professionals help drive revenue growth through their interactions with sales, marketing, product management, and c-level executives, fostering better planning, messaging, and product development.

XANT: Inbound Lead Response Rates

In March 2011, the Harvard Business Review published “The Short Life of Online Sales Leads,” which discovered that companies were slow to respond to sales leads, and there were considerable benefits from rapid responses.  The study is often cited, but there was little subsequent data to determine whether these issues and opportunities still held.  Fortunately, XANT recently replicated the study, looking at three years of inbound lead response and contact rates.

The new study analyzed 55 million sales activities at over 400 companies.  XANT looked at 5.7 million inbound leads and found that 57.1% of first call attempts took place after a week or more, and only 0.1% of inbound leads were responded to within five minutes.  However, firms that responded within those first five minutes had an 8X conversion rate versus later return calls.

“Maybe we simply didn’t realize what we were leaving on the table,” wrote XANT. “Maybe we over-rotated on targeted ABM strategies at the expense of speed-to-lead.  Marketing automation shouldn’t replace meaningful and quick sales engagement.”

XANT proposes a second problem that slows lead response times, the manual assignment of leads to individuals, resulting in two sets of delays – the lead routing process and the sales reps’ ability to respond quickly when a batch of leads is handed to them.

“Leads sit, go cold, and revenue slips,” warns XANT.

To address the slow response problem, XANT added a shared record option to their Sales Engagement Platform.  The goal is to work every lead with named accounts properly routed and other leads delivered to a shared pool with priority leads immediately offered to reps.   XANT provides AI tools and a rules-engine to auto-assign leads from target accounts and load others into a shared pool with prioritized leads labeled urgent.  The top-rated leads are then offered to the sales team on a round-robin basis, ensuring that all reps have access to top leads and that priority leads have rapid response rates.

“With records in a shared pool, reps won’t get bogged down or locked out,” said XANT. “High-performing reps can blow through their leads quickly and continuously draw from the shared pool.”

XANT describes Shared Leads as another robot that improves the efficacy of sales reps.

“Whereas many treat automation as a way to email spam, we treat it as an enhancement to improve engagement and sales,” explained XANT Head of Product Mark Littlefield. “The basics of Robots include auto-enrolling records, opportunity funnel progression, prioritizing tasks, triggering reps to customer events, performing reliable data entry, and a lot more.  With Shared Records, we’re bringing teams the flexibility to compile records into shared folders or automatically assign them to the right reps so they can accelerate their speed-to-lead and their time-to-value.”

Deepfake Sales Videos: The Worst Idea I’ve Seen in a Long Time

Katie Martell, a marketing thought leader and former CMO, reported that she was pitched a deepfake video service that clones faces and voices so that sales reps can “create 1000s of personalized videos in the time it takes to make one.”  Of course, the whole idea of these being personalized is ridiculous.  Here is how they describe themselves (I have chosen not to publicize the vendor’s name):

“So basically it creates a clone of your face and voice (also known as a deepfake). Allowing you to create 1000s of personalized videos in the time it takes to make one. Which is amazing to see how far technology has come.

The idea is that video is the by far the most personal way of communicating digitally. Putting a face to the 100s of faceless emails we receive each day can be really powerful for improving engagement. As you can imagine this is huge for sales and marketing teams (and newsletters 😄).”

Deepfakes discussed on NOVA (April 2, 2019)

I don’t normally editorialize in my newsletter, but this is a terrible idea.  For B2B companies and sales reps, authenticity and honesty are necessary for long-term success.  We already know that sales engagement works best when there is a level of personalization matched with authenticity.  Spamming the market with fake videos will quickly undermine your credibility.  Reps have had success posting short videos with whiteboards that say “hello, <insert first name here>.” They are intended to have low production values but indicate that the rep has invested some time into a quick, personalized message.  The point is that they are authentic.  SalesLoft data has shown that emails with short videos receive significantly higher clickthrough rates.

One of the variables that investors look at is LTV/CAC.  Deception will quickly reduce a firm’s Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), but once it is discovered, their Lifetime Value (LTV) will plummet, and their CAC will explode.  It is the sales engagement equivalent of junk food. It will give your company a short-burst of energy but destroy your brand health.

The asynchronous video companies (e.g., Vidyard, Hippo Video, Videolicious) have had great success supporting sales.  Their business models would be put at risk by such technology.  Instead of videos being a harbinger of authenticity and indicators that the rep has invested time creating a short video, they would become emblems of deception.  Likewise, Sales Engagement, MAP, and ABM Platform vendors should refuse to partner with any firms employing deepfakes as they have the potential to undermine ABM communications.

In the end, deepfake marketing will be recognized as SPAM and result in a rapidly dropping email deliverability score.  It would be a pyrrhic victory.

Trust is critical for sales reps.  Reps that deploy trickery will undermine their ability to sell long-term.  They should avoid such deceptions like the plague.  None of the deepfake vendor’s customers agreed to be named, an early indicator that trialers of deepfake technology are concerned about brand damage.

And more broadly, we are already having trouble agreeing on objective truth as social media provide custom feeds and recommendations that conform to our existing biases.  There have always been problems with how photos and videos were cut or manipulated (e.g., slowing down the video to give a drunken appearance, darkening images of black public figures).  Still, deepfakes create false narratives backed by realistic-looking videos that put words in people’s mouths.  It is a new form of slander and factual distortion that will continue to undermine trust in the media, government, and social institutions.

Zoominfo Beats Back the Summertime Sales Blues

Zoominfo analyzed their Out of Office (OOO) emails and phone call connection rates over the past year to determine whether there was a dog days of summer impact on their business or whether it was a convenient excuse used by sales reps for taking their foot off the pedal in July and August.  It turns out that there is a sustained drop off in phone connectivity and an increase in OOO messaging in July and August.  For Zoominfo, the potential income loss was equal to $400,000 in monthly new Annual Contract Value (ACV).

Brian Setzer as Eddie Cochrane playing “Summertime Blues” in La Bamba

If we extend that loss over the last week of June and the first week of September, the summer lull would result in a million dollars in lost ACV (half a million dollars in 2020 revenue, but that is only because subscription revenue is recognized over the length of the contract, not when booked).

But a firm like Zoominfo has a very high retention rate, so stratifying the million dollars over the lifetime value (LTV) of the lost opportunities means that the cumulative LTV is likely in excess of $5 million (their 2019 dollar based net retention rate was 109%)

For a company that went IPO in June after touting strong new ACV growth in their May S-1, new revenue growth is key in maintaining confidence in your revenue teams.

“How did we respond to this data?  By stepping on the gas – we sent out an additional ~14k+ emails (~10% of normal volume) over the past two months and making an additional ~23k dials (~35% of normal volume) per month. 

Sales is — and always will be — a contact sport. 

This is just one of the reasons why it’s so important to have a vast array of contacts at prospects. Without being able to tap into our own data this wouldn’t have been possible.  That’s not cheap promotion, it’s a fact.”

Zoominfo CEO Henry Schuck

Around 90% of Zoominfo’s revenue is domestic, so they aren’t dealing with the long August vacations taken in Europe. The strategy of working harder over the summer allowed them to maintain new ACV growth during a soft period, but it might not be effective in Europe when business activity is reduced much more significantly.

OOO messages often provide alternate contacts that may be part of the buying committee. Acting on this intelligence and extending relationships to additional decision makers and influencers may improve both current and future close rates.

Zoominfo has a reputation for effective revenue operations management. They assumed the summer doldrum lore to be true and double downed on their outbound communications. But they also measured their sales and marketing efficiency to better understand the nature of the summer slowdown, allowing them to model and refine their summer sales strategy in the coming years.

Source: Zoominfo Blog, “Leveraging Sales Intelligence in the Dog Days of Summer

CJEU Invalidates EU-US Privacy Shield Data Transfers

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) struck down the EU-US Privacy Shield that allows firms to transfer EU citizen’s private data to the United States for data processing.  The EU maintains higher consumer data privacy laws that conflict with US security and legal policies.

“Today’s decision effectively blocks legal transfers of personal data from the EU to the US.  It will undoubtedly leave tens of thousands of US companies scrambling and without a legal means to conduct transatlantic business, worth trillions of dollars annually,” said Caitlin Fennessy, research director at the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP).

The CJEU held that “the requirements of US national security, public interest and law enforcement have primacy, thus condoning interference with the fundamental rights of persons whose data are transferred to that third country.”

“In the absence of an adequacy decision, such transfer may take place only if the personal data exporter established in the EU has provided appropriate safeguards, which may arise, in particular, from standard data protection clauses adopted by the Commission, and if data subjects have enforceable rights and effective legal remedies…

The Court considers, first of all, that EU law, and in particular the GDPR, applies to the transfer of personal data for commercial purposes by an economic operator established in a Member State to another economic operator established in a third country, even if, at the time of that transfer or thereafter, that data may be processed by the authorities of the third country in question for the purposes of public security, defence and State security. The Court adds that this type of data processing by the authorities of a third country cannot preclude such a transfer from the scope of the GDPR.

Regarding the level of protection required in respect of such a transfer, the Court holds that the requirements laid down for such purposes by the GDPR concerning appropriate safeguards, enforceable rights and effective legal remedies must be interpreted as meaning that data subjects whose personal data are transferred to a third country pursuant to standard data protection clauses must be afforded a level of protection essentially equivalent to that guaranteed within the EU by the GDPR, read in the light of the Charter. In those circumstances, the Court specifies that the assessment of that level of protection must take into consideration both the contractual clauses agreed between the data exporter established in the EU and the recipient of the transfer established in the third country concerned and, as regards any access by the public authorities of that third country to the data transferred, the relevant aspects of the legal system of that third country.

Regarding the supervisory authorities’ obligations in connection with such a transfer, the Court holds that, unless there is a valid Commission adequacy decision, those competent supervisory authorities are required to suspend or prohibit a transfer of personal data to a third country where they take the view, in the light of all the circumstances of that transfer, that the standard data protection clauses are not or cannot be complied with in that country and that the protection of the data transferred that is required by EU law cannot be ensured by other means, where the data exporter established in the EU has not itself suspended or put an end to such a transfer.”

“Data Protection Commissioner Ireland v Facebook Ireland Limited, Maximillian Schrems,” 16 July 2020

The EU-US Privacy Shield was implemented several years ago after the CJEU held that the prior US Safe Harbor regime was insufficient.

Privacy advocate Max Schrems brought the cases that invalidated Safe Harbor and EU-US Privacy Shield.  Following the ruling, he stated:

“It is clear that the US will have to seriously change their surveillance laws, if US companies want to continue to play a role on the EU market…The Court clarified for a second time now that there is a clash of EU privacy law and US surveillance law.  As the EU will not change its fundamental rights to please the NSA, the only way to overcome this clash is for the US to introduce solid privacy rights for all people — including foreigners.  Surveillance reform thereby becomes crucial for the business interests of Silicon Valley…

This judgment is not the cause of a limit to data transfers, but the consequence of US surveillance laws.  You can’t blame the Court to say the unavoidable — when shit hits the fan, you can’t blame the fan.”

Privacy Advocate and Plaintiff Max Schrems

“This leaves a huge question mark over data transfers to the US, said Tanguy Van Overstraeten, partner and global head of privacy and data protection law at the law firm Linklaters.  “The Court has struck down the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield because it considers the US state surveillance powers are excessive.  For the thousands of businesses registered with the US Privacy Shield, this will be groundhog day; this is the second time the FTC operated scheme has been struck down after the Shields predecessor — the Safe Harbor — was struck down in 2015.  Businesses will now look to EU regulators to propose some form of transition to allow them to move away from Privacy Shield without the threat of significant sanctions and civil compensation claims.”

The ruling also puts in question data transfers to Russia, China, and potentially the UK post-Brexit.

“The CJEU’s judgment could have implications for the UK’s prospects of gaining adequacy at the end of the Brexit transition period,” said Peter Church, counsel at Linklaters.  “This will necessarily involve an assessment of the UK’s surveillance powers under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.  However, there are a number of differences between the UK and US regimes.  For example, the UK regime has already been reviewed by the European courts and a number of amendments have been made to bring it into line with European law.  In addition, the UK regime does not have the same distinction between UK and foreign nationals, unlike US law which does not grant the same rights to non-US citizens.”

“This is a bold move by Europe,” said Jonathan Kewley, co-head of technology at law firm Clifford Chance.  “What we are seeing here looks suspiciously like a privacy trade war, where Europe is saying their data standards can be trusted but those in the US cannot.”

Standard Contract Clauses (SCCs) may also be insufficient.  “If the law in the relevant country – let’s say the USA – could override what the contract says, they don’t work,” said Kewley.  “I don’t know how much appetite they have to do this, but it’s hard to imagine that any European regulator would say that SCCs work for the US, and the pressure will pile on for them to make the assessment.  I don’t think SCCs escaped the court’s judgement – for some key countries, it’s probably just a stay of execution.”

One likely impact will be the localized processing of EU consumer data within EU data centers.  Over 5,300 companies rely upon the EU-US Privacy Shield as part of their GDPR and broader EU compliance.  Companies that rely upon the Privacy Shield span a broad set of B2B data, DaaS, social networking, CDPs, and cloud companies [searchable list].  These include Zoominfo, Dun & Bradstreet (including Lattice Engines), Experian, Infogroup, TechTarget, Microsoft (including LinkedIn), Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon (including AWS), Oracle, Salesforce, HubSpot, Adobe (including Marketo), LiveRamp, Melissa, TowerData, 6Sense, Leadspace, SalesLoft, Outreach, Groove, VanillaSoft, Yesware, and ConnectLeader.

Firms are also likely to ramp up their GDPR and CCPA compliance messaging, but that does not address the weaker data privacy structures of US law.

Microsoft Global Skills Initiative

Microsoft launched a global skills initiative to provide digital training to 25 million global workers.  The online courses will be delivered through Microsoft, LinkedIn, and GitHub.  

A new “System of Learning” app will be released later this year on Microsoft Teams.

“Increasingly, one of the key steps needed to foster a safe and successful economic recovery is expanded access to the digital skills needed to fill new jobs.  And one of the keys to a genuinely inclusive recovery are programs to provide easier access to digital skills for people hardest hit by job losses, including those with lower incomes, women, and underrepresented minorities.”

Microsoft President Brad Smith

The Microsoft Data Science team leveraged the LinkedIn Economic Graph to estimate global digital job growth over the next half-decade.  Microsoft estimates that by 2025, there will be 100 million new software development positions, 20 million cloud and data roles, 20 million data analysis, machine learning, and AI jobs, and 10 million cybersecurity, privacy, and trust roles.

LinkedIn has already setup digital training tracks for ten of these key positions: Software Developer, Sales Rep, Project Manager, IT Administrator, Customer Service Specialist, Digital Marketing Specialist, IT Support / Help Desk, Data Analyst, Financial Analyst, and Graphic Designer.  These roles were selected as they have “the greatest number of job openings, have had steady growth over the past four years, pay a livable wage, and require skills that can be learned online.”

Microsoft noted that investment in employee training has declined over the past few decades, leaving fewer employees with on-the-job or employer paid training benefits. Since 2008, investment has remained flat.

“Exacerbating the challenge is the fact that existing training is not reaching the populations who need it most. On-the-job training far outpaces distance learning and other alternative modes, limiting options for prospective employees. Perhaps more significantly, on-the-job training is more than two times as prevalent among workers who are already in higher-skilled roles, leaving those in more automatable positions even more vulnerable to displacement.”

Microsoft President Brad Smith

Emphasis on Virtual Training

The availability of low cost or free training tools is one of the silver linings from the pandemic. Boardroom Insiders, a profiler of C-level biographies and executive concerns, spent two weeks reviewing recent CIO interviews. They observed that technology leaders have emphasized upskilling and reskilling their teams to address skills gaps while working from home.  Tech vendors have rolled out “a whole host of free training and education programs.”  As these programs are virtual, CIOs are encouraging their staff to attend these sessions with zero travel costs and reduced or waived registration fees.

Likewise, CIOs are using the time at home to hone their leadership, communication, and team engagement skills.  CIOs have found their teams to be more productive, collaborative, and agile, with rising morale.

HubSpot Sales & Marketing COVID Activity Metrics

HubSpot has measured aggregated sales and marketing platform activity across its 70,000 customers since the pandemic began and benchmarking this activity against the pre-COVID level (January through early March).  Looking back at Q2, CMO Kipp Bodnar noted that “the data shows steady and sustained growth in buyer engagement, and that businesses with an online presence were ready to capture that interest.”

Marketing teams have risen to the challenge of keeping prospects interested in a messy, chaotic crisis and met an audience of buyers who suddenly spend all day at their computer,” commented Bodnar.  “While email volume has risen significantly — typically a no-no for teams hoping to keep their open rates up — open rates have risen faster than volume has grown, demonstrating that teams have been successful at providing relevant and helpful content.”

Marketing email open rates are up ten to twenty percent above pre-COVID levels, with the last week of June running 18% above the baseline.

Sales teams have been less successful in their outbound communications.  While sales emails have risen 60% since mid-March, “response rates have been dismal. Marketing teams have been able to connect, but sales teams haven’t. This is a huge area of opportunity for businesses as they enter the next quarter of COVID-19.”

Sales email open rates are down 25 to 30%.  “As sales teams increased email sends, customers began to tune these messages out or even mark them as spam in their inboxes,” warned Bodnar.  “So far, it seems if email send rates remain this high, we can expect response rates to trend in the opposite direction.”

“Volume and quality is a tradeoff — the time a team saves by sending out email blasts is wasted if that outreach isn’t personalized, relevant, and helpful. These gaps are clear in the data. At this point, sales teams should be working closely with marketing to understand how they can improve their email engagement rates, and sending far less email.”

HubSpot CMO Kipp Bodnar

Website traffic increased during the pandemic as decisionmakers and influencers began working from home.  Global site traffic is up 16% in Q2 vs. Q1 with it peaking at 24% above the benchmark on April 20th.  Software industry site traffic is running at 40% above pre-pandemic levels.

Customer-initiated chat levels have also risen sharply during the pandemic.  Total volume is up 31% over the pre-pandemic baseline, with every measured industry seeing increased volume.  “Sales teams have pivoted to chat to grow their pipelines, while customer service teams are leveraging this medium to manage the increased demand for support,” observed Bodnar.

Call prospecting has dropped significantly during the pandemic as it has become more difficult to reach individuals who are now working at home.  Call prospecting fell as much as 27% below baseline the week of April 6th and now is down around 9%.  Before COVID, there was a rough balance between phone and email prospecting, but in Q2, email activity doubled that of phone calls.  “Sales teams will need to return to their pre-COVID balance in order to see improvements in response rates,” argued Bodnar.

Deal Creation has improved in eight of the eleven weeks since April 6th, with deal creation up the past four weeks.  APAC deal creation was down 5% in Q2, North America down 6%, EMEA down 12%, and LATAM down 12%.  Large companies have recovered deal creation activity faster than small firms.  Computer Software deal creation was down 3% in Q2.

Deal Won has improved ten of the last eleven weeks, after dropping to 36% below baseline the week of April 6th.  For the full quarter, deals won were down 11%.  Smaller firms did best at closing deals, with larger firms posting the weakest performance, likely due to large firms selling a greater percentage of high-dollar, strategic deals that would have stalled in their pipeline.  Computer software Q2 was 14% above baseline, but this probably overstates industry performance due to Q1 often being the slowest month of the year and the loss of many “hockey stick” end of quarter deals at the end of Q1 as the pandemic struck.  Some of these likely slipped into Q2.

Bodnar provided three suggestions for Q3: invest in chat, shift from quantity to quality in sales prospecting and communications, and invest in online discoverability.