Relationship strength analytics company Nudge.ai folded this week. Nudge identified the corporate relationship strength with contacts and filtered the open web and social media to provide contact insights. Relationship strength analytics has long been an area of unfulfilled promise going back to early Relationship Capital Management vendors such as VisiblePath. LinkedIn is the only major firm that has successfully built such tools. They provide lead recommendations, referrals, and TeamLink networking with colleagues, but relationship strength is not a focus of their offerings, but more of a side feature in Sales Navigator.
available on the SalesLoft and Outreach partner ecosystems and the AppExchange.
Nudge did something classy when it folded. It thanked its customers, employees, and investors in its coda. They also turned their website into a thank you page which highlighted the strengths of each employee and provided a link to his or her LinkedIn profile. Because they were a startup, the bios are based upon knowledge of each employee and serve as a reference from management.
“While we can’t say we are “celebrating” failure today, we are thankful that the journey was possible. Although the failure itself is sad, it’s only because it is the end of a journey that was so challenging and rewarding. Every product innovation, customer win, market recognition, or challenge overcome was a step towards a goal we all were working towards. We didn’t reach that goal, but because of everyone around us, we did have a chance to try. And that – that chance to try – is worth celebrating.”
If you sell into the technology space, then you need to plan for acquisitions and their impact on your revenue stream. M&A is both a threat and an opportunity. It is a Yin / Yang situation for sales reps.
There are several ways in which acquisitions can result in a customer drop or lost revenue:
If your customer is “acqhired” by a company in another industry, then their talent is often re-purposed, and they may no longer require your product or services.
The acquirer may be a customer of a competitor and not looking to change vendors. The acquirer may be tied into a long-term contract or they may be satisfied with their current solution.
Both companies are customers, but volume pricing results in revenue decline at renewal. This can be made worse if the firm is looking to obtain efficiencies through layoffs or process efficiencies.
Your key contacts are let go or assigned to other duties.
The acquiring company has lengthy and expensive procurement processes that delay renewals or cause a drop as your POC is unwilling to navigate the new purchasing system.
But it also presents opportunities to cross-sell into new divisions and creates a greater openness to new ideas and solutions. Likewise, the new parent may be a good fit for other products and services from your firm.
Thus, it is important to be present during these windows of opportunity and risk. Here are a few recommendations:
Reach out to your advocates and congratulate them on the transaction. Keep the note short and indicate you’ll reach out to them again in a few weeks once the dust has settled. Employees, particularly at acquired firms, are nervous and often initially in the dark about what it means to them and their department, so give them a little space to breathe while acknowledging their new reality. Then make sure to follow up a few weeks later as promised.
If your current advocates and influencers aren’t LinkedIn connections, then send out the connection requests. This is the easiest way to see if their titles or roles change.
Track any departures to new companies. They are likely to be your future advocates or deal influencers so keep the conversation going even if they don’t represent any near-term opportunities.
If key individuals depart, then move quickly to reestablish connections with their replacements or former departmental colleagues. Don’t leave gaps with the buying committee.
Ask for referrals into the new organization.
Be flexible in your contracts. Being intransigent and holding firms to current contracts when they wish to renegotiate ensures current revenue but increases the likelihood that you will be dropped in the future. Consider the impact on their LTV by being intransigent.
Honestly evaluate the impact on your pipeline and discuss it with your management. Opportunities may be pushed out and renewals put at risk. Update your account plan and work with your sales director to manage deal and broader account risk.
Remember that no customer is permanent. You need to both deepen and widen your relationships. The broader your set of relationships, the more stable your LTV and the greater your likelihood of withstanding acquisitions, changes in top leadership, and departures of your cheerleaders. The best way to prepare for an acquisition is to have established a broad set of relationships across your key accounts. Relying on one or two champions leaves you vulnerable.
Cien announced the availability of its Hidden Revenue Assessment report which analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of sales reps to determine which qualitative factors are limiting their success. Cien ingests data from Salesforce Enterprise to “reveal the factors that are preventing their teams from achieving their numbers.”
Cien Head of Marketing Damien Acheson noted that firms such as Gong and Chorus are more prescriptive while Cien is diagnostic, helping managers identify skill gaps and determining where reps add or destroy value during deal flow.
individual scorecards, Cien employs over 100 AI models to identify issues in
sales enablement, training, and onboarding. Cien does not believe in
cloning the best sales reps as reps have different strengths and weaknesses.
Instead, reps are assessed for value-add across the pipeline, helping
determine where reps need coaching, which reps are creating value, and which
reps are benefiting from a rich set of leads but not adding significant value
their models indicate that addressing weaknesses is the best method for
improving sales outcomes and reaching quota. If a rep is weak at any of
the key sales skills, he or she is unlikely to reach quota. As reps are
only as successful as their weakest skills, it is better to identify gaps and
coach accordingly. Cien holds that the best path to driving revenue
growth is focusing on mid-level success reps as they are the ones with the
greatest opportunity to improve their performance.
it comes to managing sales teams, it’s important to understand that no sales
rep is created equal, and no opportunity is created equal,” contends Cien CEO Rob
Käll. “To date, Cien’s
Hidden Revenue Assessments have uncovered between 20-40% worth of lost revenue
due to gaps in selling skills.”
“Cien’s AI models search for correlations between reps’ skills and attributes and their impact on the final value of opportunities. This is the basis for a set of patented algorithms called the Cien Value Chain. Cien determines the relative value of each lead as it enters your CRM and tracks its value at the end of the sales cycle. The Cien Value Chain measures the value-added at each stage of the opportunity and the skills and attributes that drive incremental value.“
Hidden Revenue Assessment is available as a free report to technology companies
with at least ten sales reps and a minimum of one year of Salesforce data.
It provides an assessment of a few sample reps across work ethic, product
knowledge, engagement ability, and closing ability. The Hidden Revenue
Assessment also evaluates CRM data quality to provide a level of confidence in
the assessment. Firms that have deployed Sales Engagement Platforms such
as Outreach and SalesLoft often have complete data as they automatically gather
activity data and sync it with their CRM.
Hidden Revenue Assessment includes a 30-minute walkthrough.
Cien app, available for $49 per month per rep, provides mentor prescriptions
that help prioritize coaching. While flagging weaknesses can be
demotivating, Cien inverts the model and calculates the revenue opportunity
available to reps who focus on developing their skills. Being told that
you are weak at prospect engagement is unlikely to motivate a rep. Being
told that focusing on prospect engagement can retire $200,000 worth of quota is
much more likely to motivate the rep to focus on his or her weak-link skills.
Cien app provides data on all of the reps and covers a broader set of skills.
The app also provides dynamic data indicating how the reps are performing
Cien is Privacy Shield certified and does not gather Personally Identifiable Information beyond rep names. Cien received a $3.5 million seed round in June.
In a blog titled, “Maintaining the Trust of our Members,” LinkedIn recommitted itself to a members-first approach. The Microsoft subsidiary frames its decision-making with the question, “Is this the right thing to do for our members?”
Along with a members-first policy, LinkedIn employs four principles to frame decisions:
Members maintain clarity, consistency, and control over their data. This goal is manifested in a broad set of privacy settings, observing the stated wishes of each member, and protecting their data. Microsoft employs a global GDPR standard and does not transfer member data to other companies. For example, LinkedIn Sales Navigator limits data access to member-data view-only access, which displays profiles within CRMs and other partner applications but does not transfer data to those platforms.
LinkedIn will remain a safe, trusted, and professional platform. The firm removes content which violates their Professional Community Policies and removes fake profiles, jobs, and companies.
LinkedIn is committed to removing unfair bias from its platform so that individuals with equal talent have equal access to opportunity. “To achieve this goal, we are committed to building a product with no unfair bias that provides opportunity to all of our members. There is a lot of work still to do, but we are focused on working across our company, with our members and customers, and across the industry to close the network gap.”
As a global platform, they are committed to respecting the laws that apply to them and “contributing to the dialogue” about legal frameworks.
LinkedIn Advertising is subject to an initial review. LinkedIn vets ads to ensure they are non-discriminatory:
“Even if legal in the applicable jurisdiction, LinkedIn does not allow ads that advocate, promote, or contain discriminatory hiring practices or denial of education, housing, or economic opportunity based on age, gender, religion, ethnicity, race, or sexual preference. Ads that promote the denial or restriction of fair and equal access to education, housing, or credit or career opportunities are prohibited.”
Blake Lawit, LinkedIn General Counsel
The statement of principles comes at a time when other social media firms are struggling to develop rules and policies around political advertising. LinkedIn does not carry political advertising and also restricts adult content, illegal, health, gaming, weapons, multi-level marketing, alcohol, tobacco, and financial (payday loans, cryptocurrency) products.
LinkedIn continues to grow its customer base with 660 million members across 200 countries and 30 million companies. The top countries are the United States (165M members), India (62M), China (48M), Brazil (40M), and the UK (27M).
LinkedIn maintains offices in nine US cities and 24 international locations. The platform supports 24 languages.
B2B DaaS and contacts vendor DealSignal announced the availability of CRM Data Health, a Salesforce module that continuously refreshes, enriches, and reverifies lead, contact, and account records. DealSignal data is GDPR-compliant and based upon AI validation and human verification.
than comparing dirty CRM data against other static data sources that may
themselves be outdated, DealSignal CRM Data Health takes a dynamic, on-demand
enrichment and verification approach that uses both AI and human intelligence
to ensure near-perfect accuracy,” stated the firm. “DealSignal CRM Data
Health delivers a reliable alternative for companies looking to replace
Like other CRM hygiene apps, CRM Data Health includes a free data health audit. The CRM data enrichment includes detailed contact profiles, Bombora buyer intent, and firmographics. Along with CRM hygiene, customers can enrich inbound leads, events lists, and third-party lists.
“Bad CRM data is a pervasive issue that has a negative ripple effect on B2B marketing and sales performance: from inaccurate ABM targeting, to bounced emails that can damage sender reputation, to outdated or irrelevant contacts that clog marketing automation systems at a great cost,” said DealSignal founder & CEO, Rob Weedn. “Industry studies find that up to 50 percent of CRM data is incomplete, out-of-date, or inaccurate. Compounding the issue, data decays at a rate of over two percent per month, so maintaining data health is a constant challenge that requires an on-going solution—much like you can’t get in shape by going to the gym once. We’ve introduced DealSignal CRM Data Health to help Salesforce customers continuously maintain rich, accurate and verified target audience data, and keep it fresh on a regular schedule.”
With the decommissioning of Data.com, vendors like Dun & Bradstreet, InsideView, Zoominfo, and DealSignal are jumping into the fray. If you are looking to make your sales reps more effective, your segmentation more accurate, or your Einstein predictions more precise, then you should be evaluating a Lightning Data or general data quality solution for your CRM.
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.
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.
LinkedIn told CNBC that the top three tech skills in demand are artificial intelligence, big data, and cloud computing. However, they noted that many technology skills have a market value of only six years, so soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving should also be honed. In order for workers to keep up, they should avail themselves of courses from LinkedIn Learning or Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
“It’s important for companies to
continue to invest in their people so that they are upskilling and reskilling
their people to keep up with the roles that are in demand,” said Feon Ang,
LinkedIn Vice President for Talent and Learning Solutions, Asia Pacific.
“But, at the same time, people need to continue to invest in themselves
and have a growth mindset,” said Ang.
At last month’s Tenbound Conference Mark Dean, Head of Sales Development-Americas for LinkedIn, noted that soft skills are becoming increasingly critical for employees. LinkedIn research found that 57% of leaders weighed soft skills over hard skills. In demand skills include creativity, persuasion, and collaboration. In short, he asked, “Can they tell a story?”
“In the age of continuous change, global competition, and the use of AI, the employees who will become leaders and visionaries are the ones who can communicate effectively and create connection within the organization. It is only when employees have a sense of shared purpose and connection that they will do what it takes to help the organization succeed. The best way to build this connection is through authenticity, vulnerability, and storytelling. Soft, human-focused skills are the currency of the future. Employees need to take it upon themselves to grow and learn on a continual basis, whether it’s finding a mentor or continually investing in their growth to hone these skills.”
Lynne Levy of Arena Consulting
For Salesforce skills, there is Trailhead which the firm promotes at both public forums and on earnings calls.
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).
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.
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
“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.
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.
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
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.”
Determine who your audience is and write appropriately for the audience. For example common goals of press releases are media pick-up, attract new customers, educate current customers,
attract investors, populate Google search, etc. Write for the specific you are targeting and use vernacular they are familiar with.
Keep the release short – 400-600 words max
For best Google results, headline should be 70 characters or less (or else Google will cut it off)
Make sure company name is in headline
Make sure important keywords (that their readers would be searching on) are in headline and first sentence of release.
In headline, frontload the keyword at the beginning of the headline
First paragraph should include the 5 Ws and a good lead sentence
Have a boilerplate that is titled “About XYZ company.” Keep that paragraph fairly short and include a written out URL for their corporate website. Include social handles if they have
Add anchor text to first paragraph on first mention of company name or product so that reader can quickly get to their site
Add bullets for key points
Include your contact information including phone and email
If there are multimedia assets, consider linking to them in the press release
I’m not sure whether PR teams are getting worse or I simply read more press releases, but marketers have to start using Grammarly and observe basic grammar and style tips.
One issue is simply bad grammar. I write a weekly newsletter and most of the errors pointed out by Grammarly are found inside quotes derived from websites, collateral, press releases, and blogs. I wasn’t an English major, but many marketers were English or Humanities majors and should know better. It is easy to run your copy through a grammar/style checker.
B2B press releases are a prime example. They are often written by junior marketers with limited technical knowledge of the product. Unfortunately, press releases are reviewed by multiple departments with different perspectives and recommendations. The result is an often wordy, buzzword-filled press release that is incomprehensible to all but industry insiders (and sometimes we struggle as well).
I pulled the following opening paragraph from a press release (see image above) to call out common issues:
Long Titles — 120 characters is a Tweet, not a headline. BusinessWire suggests headlines run 70 or fewer characters. Google cuts headlines at 70 characters.
Buzzwords — “Account-Based Experiences,” “Predictive B2B Intent,” and “AI” are all found in the headline. I had to look up ABX. It is a variation on Account Based Marketing promoted by Adobe which recognizes that ABM is broader than marketing. So not only was the headline a buzzword salad, but one of the buzzwords wasn’t particularly buzzy.
Absurd Puffery — Puffery is a common practice in marketing so acceptable. Puffery that is bald-faced lying is simply ridiculous. You cannot credibly call yourself “the leading B2B Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) company” when you have 21 employees listed on LinkedIn and do not have the words B2B or DaaS on your homepage.
Muddled Opening Sentence — The opening sentence should be clear and capture the 5 Ws. It shouldn’t have nested parenthetical statements and be overly wordy. “Marketo LaunchPoint integration” is much clearer than “a new integration available through LaunchPoint by Marketo, an Adobe company.”
Failure to Proof Your Copy — Typos include misspelling a customer’s name (LogMeIzn), multiple TM symbols for the same product, failed parallelism in lists, and a colon after a preposition.
Poorly Named Products — eCHO is an affectation that reads as e-CHOW not Echo. It also needlessly drives spell checkers crazy. “eCHO Predictive B2B Intent for Marketo Engage” is a mouthful. How about simply “Echo Intent for Marketo Engage?”
Failure to Test Your Hyperlinks — A hyperlink to an information page takes the reader to a service login page.
Omit a Hyperlink to Your Home Page — Really?
Finally, can we improve the quotes put in the mouths of executives and alliance partners? They often sound like five people wrote a non-grammatical buzzword salad that says both everything and nothing. When I am quoted in press releases, I work closely with the company to ensure the quote is tight, grammatical, and meaningful. The draft quote is bounced back and forth several times with the vendor’s marketing team to ensure that each sentence and word adds value. Here is an example of a published quote and my rewrite:
“The best accounts to engage with are the ones that are already actively researching around your solution. eCho intent data from <Anonymous Grammar Offender> offers an opportunity for marketers to engage with accounts that have a high propensity to buy, ultimately delivering a more qualified pipeline to sales and increasing the speed of the sales process.”
Press Release Quote
eCho intent data from <Wordy Vendor> identifies accounts that are actively researching solutions like yours. eCho delivers an actionable set of highly qualified, engaged leads which help sales reps exceed quota.
My Alternative Press Release Quote
A press release is a key messaging opportunity. Failure to follow basic rules of grammar and clarity tells customers, partners, and prospects that you are a lazy company that cannot be counted on to do the basics. That is marketing malpractice. It would be akin to showing up late to an interview with a stained shirt and a sense of entitlement.