Working at Home — Ideas from Tech Companies

Over the past few days, I’ve suggested ideas for maintaining pipeline and maintaining a positive and constructive outlook. This is now looking like it will last through the spring and potentially into the summer, so let’s be open to new ideas, practices, and routines.

I collected some ideas from those in the tech industry that I follow.

SalesLoft

In this morning’s team meeting the EMEA SalesLoft team discussed how we can keep the culture and mental wellbeing at the forefront while we work remotely…

We are having a daily stand up for 15 minutes, virtual team lunch on a Wednesday and virtual Friday drinks. We are making sure we put time aside for exercise and doing the things we love. We are being mindful of continuing to share ‘glass half full’ stories. We are also looking into what we can do to help with the bigger issue that people are facing in regards to the Corona Virus – local charities, food banks, the elderly.

Ollie Sharpe, SalesLoft VP of Revenue, EMEA

TOPO

A TOPO study of 350+ marketers indicated that only 16% of firms see a significant impact to their pipeline, 64% see a moderate impact due to coronavirus.  The biggest impacts are due to canceled events (87%), corporate travel bans (64%), buyers working from home (53%), and prohibitions against face-to-face meetings.  Only 27% cited buyers not booking meetings and frozen buyer budgets (22%).

TOPO survey (N=350)

ClickZ

Research conducted in 2018 by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research  indicated that B2B marketers who participate in industry events allocated nearly 40 percent of their budgets to exhibitions and industry shows, almost five times more than the 8% spent on online marketing.

Even if only a small fraction of the events’ budgets is shifted to online marketing, it would translate into a massive growth in web marketing.

The major advantage of digital marketing, besides the fact that it does not require face-to-face interaction, is that it is measurable. Marketers can quite easily obtain a good picture of their spending return on investment (ROI), and of which activities generate the highest number of quality leads and at what expense.

Assuming that many marketers will have some extra free time, especially those who will have to go into home isolation, they are advised to use it to review their online marketing strategy and redefine their marketing messages.

Dan Gerstenfield, Interteam Content Services

David Brock

It’s time to pick up the phone. No texts, no emails, no social platforms. Pick up the phone and talk to someone. You are probably dealing with some of the same issues that come with physical separation.

It’s not the time to pitch people, it’s the time to show that you care–about them. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, but ask them how they are doing, ask how they are keeping engaged and productive, share some ideas.

All of us share in this experience. Each of us is figuring things out. We can learn from each other, at the same time feel more connected.

David Brock, Author of “Sales Manager Survival Guide”

Sirius Decisions (Forrester)

  • Create a task force. Except in very large companies or those with specific types of risks, most companies do not have a dedicated crisis response team, and many have never created even a bare-bones crisis communications plan. Now is the time to do so. Bring together functional leaders from across your organization to begin identifying and prioritizing issues, with all major functions and regions represented. The senior communications leader is usually at the helm, and in some smaller organizations, the effort may be led by the CEO. Other participants will likely include human resources, legal counsel, operations/facilities, sales and customer service leaders, and various marketing/communications disciplines that are either directly affected or will be involved in delivering information to audiences. Each individual should have a clear understanding of his or her specific responsibilities.
  • Prioritize issues of greatest urgency. Ensuring the safety of employees, customers and other stakeholders is obviously the priority, and external guidance from public health experts will be important to understand what these issues are…
  • Develop a protocol for emergent situations. Obviously the plan should lay out a set of actions the organization will take immediately, based on what is known today. However, the situation is fluid and it’s not possible to know with certainty what the situation will look like in a month or six months. That’s why it’s important to have a protocol for addressing new situations as they emerge… 
  • Prepare the communications engine. Providing transparent and ongoing communication is the hallmark of good crisis communications. The communications team needs to analyze the types of communication that will be needed to support a variety of scenarios. One of the most challenging aspects of crisis management is the need to create a wide range of critical content, have it vetted by legal and pushed out through channels as quickly as possible. Create templates for common types of content and stub content that can be built-out as needed. Set up an expedited legal vetting process and work with digital teams to identify how content will be conveyed through the company’s owned channels (web site, social, communities). Also prepare spokespeople – from the CEO to the receptionist, with concise answers that can be given without additional approvals or escalation paths.
  • Map communications strategies to audiences. SiriusDecisions always recommends starting with an understanding of the audience, and crisis response is no different…
  • Maintain open communications with employees. A large percentage of the workforce will face some kind of disruption to their normal routines or even their income…One of the first priorities should be to plan for how communications will flow internally: the channels and cadence that employees can expect, as well as where to go if the normal channels (which may occur in a face-to-face environment) are not available. Also remember that employees are a channel, and if you enable them with content, they can extend the reach of your information and credibility with audiences. [Full Text]

Resources

No Sports, No Office — Ideas to Approach our New Normal

Last week, I wrote about what businesses and workers can do to maintain sales and marketing during the Covid 19 crisis. I just wanted to give some quick thoughts around our role as members of society.

First off, social distancing is a bit of an oxymoron, but critical. We need to close our schools, theaters, and sporting events as they would be the locus of rapid transmission. Limit travel. Ignoring and complaining about the advice of health professionals and emergency planners isn’t a case of bravado, but stupidity. It places friends and family with compromised immune systems and underlying health issues at risk. If our healthcare system is overwhelmed, then we are all at risk for any medical emergency.

If you are sick, don’t go to the ER. Call ahead and see if your symptoms match. Then follow advice on where to proceed for a test.

Don’t Panic. Stay in the market, it will turnaround once we’ve passed the peak of infection. Selling now will just lock in your losses from the recent peak. Also, don’t horde. Plan for two weeks of staples and make sure you have sufficient medication. Things will get worse before they get better. Expect that and accept that.

Don’t Obsess. Stay aware of what is going on, but turn off the news if it is making you anxious. Find credible news sources only and ignore social media and email chain nonsense.

Check-in on friends and family. Offer to pick up meds or food for family and elderly neighbors. While delivery and curbside pick up are options, don’t expect that the operational bandwidth is in place immediately.

Be healthy. Eat healthy foods and get your exercise. Get on the bike or rowing machine in the basement. Go for a walk in the woods or a bike ride in your neighborhood. Play catch or soccer in your backyard with your kids.

Be forward-thinking. If you are at home, identify projects that you have been ignoring. This could include updating your LinkedIn profile and resume, home repair, spending time with your kids, reading a book, taking a Coursera course, etc. Not only are these good habits, but they are welcome distractions from the present news.

If you have the financial wherewithal, find ways to help out service workers and contingent employees. If you ate out once a week, use food delivery services once a week to keep revenue flowing to restaurants. Tip delivery people well. Donate to your local food bank and other social service organizations.

And as much as I hate to say this, ignore President Trump. If you don’t believe me, then watch how the market reacts to his speeches. Dr. Fauci and VP Pence are more reliable, but it is the governors and big city majors who seem to have the best handle on what is going on (Newsome, Inslee, Cuomo, Baker, DeBlasio). They are on the front-lines and planning ahead of the Federal Government.

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

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

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

Video Meetings

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

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

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

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

Marketing Work-Arounds

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

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

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

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

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

Conversation Intelligence

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

Transcriptions and analytics have multiple benefits:

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

Sales Engagement Platforms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LinkedIn

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

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

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

Sales Navigator provides several other high-value features:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn SVP of Product

Sales Intelligence

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

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

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

Sales Intelligence vendors include

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

Ongoing Investment

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

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

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

Terra Incognita

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other features of these platforms include

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

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

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

Nudge.AI Bows Out with Class

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.

Nudge was available on the SalesLoft and Outreach partner ecosystems and the AppExchange.

One of 22 employee bios posted in the Nudge.ai Thank You coda.

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.

Nudge.AI celebrating the journey

Cien Hidden Revenue Assessments

Cien contends that a sales rep is only as successful as his or her weakest skill permits.  Therefore, it is best to determine skill deficiencies and coach for them.

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.

Presented as 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 to them.

Furthermore, 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.

“When 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.“

Cien FAQ

The 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.

Cien “Baseball Card” Profile

The Hidden Revenue Assessment includes a 30-minute walkthrough.

The 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.

The 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 over time.

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.

LinkedIn Restates Its Members-First Principles

LinkedIn Logo

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.

DealSignal CRM Data Health for Salesforce

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.

“Rather 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 Data.com.”

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 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.