Revenue Teams: Go Digital Now (Sales Engagement)

If the past six months haven’t convinced you that you need to digitize your processes, then I’m not going to try to convince you of that here. Simply putting your head in the sand and waiting for the pandemic to end will leave your business highly vulnerable now and after the pandemic. Your competitors now understand that sales, marketing and support need to be digitally mediated. Instead of trying to convince you of this, I’m going to skip the digital strategy pitch and offer multiple digital strategies for revenue teams to consider.

Let’s begin with Sales Engagement.

Sales Engagement

Sales Engagement platform help unify your communications across all of your revenue teams. Sales Engagement platforms support

  • Automated Cadences that schedule multi-channel communications across email, voice, social, and direct mail. Features include e-mail templates, phone scripts, playbooks, click dialers, power dialers, voice mail drops, inbound call routing and alerting, and LinkedIn SNAP integrations.
  • A/B testing for refining your email templates and cadences.
  • Reporting and analytics for tracking remote sales performance, analyzing message performance, and identifying what coaching individual reps need to elevate their performance
  • Account Prioritization which dynamically adjust call/email lists throughout the day.
  • Next Best Actions for moving accounts forward and identifying strategic gaps and risks
  • Sales Coaching for both reps and managers
  • Integrated Meeting Scheduling
  • Some vendors have Meeting Analytics built into their service (Outreach KAIA and SalesLoft) while others partner with conversation intelligence vendors. Calls are recorded, transcribed, indexed, and analyzed; allowing sales reps to be more present during meetings. AI-based real-time analysis provides live coaching during calls with recommendations and short advice cards.
  • Integrated Partnerships for conversation intelligence, social media integration, e-gifting, video, chat, etc. Some vendors have formal app partners (Outreach Galaxy, SalesLoft App Directory) while others integrate a smaller set of partners without building a formal partner ecosystem.

While they initially focused on the SDR team, Sales Engagement platforms now support the full revenue team including account executives, managers, operations, and customer success.

Sales Engagement solutions require significant training and setup, so if you are considering them now, you need to act quickly to have one in place by December.

The top two vendors are SalesLoft and Outreach. They offer the most complete solutions and vision, but smaller firms may wish to consider lower priced options such as VanillaSoft, Yesware, and Salesforce High Velocity Sales. Groove and XANT are also enterprise options.

There is still time to implement one or multiple solutions before the end of this year. They will help you close out the year and gain some momentum for 2021. Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing additional digital tools for consideration including sales intelligence, sales enablement, personal video, e-gifting (tactile marketing), chatbots, and opportunity management.

Insent Integrates with MS Teams

Conversation Marketing platform Insent.AI integrated its service with Microsoft Teams, notifying users when customers and prospects are ready to chat.  The conversation is conducted within Teams via an MS Teams AppSource app.

“With the Insent app for Teams, your team can get notifications for the incoming chats from your buyers, view detailed visitor insights to understand the context and strike up more personalized conversations, and make the necessary hand-offs inside your chosen MS channels,” blogged Insent Digital Marketer Aatharsha Jey.

Insent describes itself as an “integration first platform.”  According to Jey ”integrations should be planned and carried out in a way that does not ask people to change their behaviors in order to adopt a new tool.”

Insent offers “Advanced Enterprise-grade routing,” which directs conversations to the CRM account owners.  If the account owner is not available, calls are routed via a set of fallback rules based on time of day and location to other reps or the chatbot.

Insent emphasizes the value of “human-first conversations” with bots serving as a backup channel:

“Chatbots were meant to be your second line of defense, built to support marketing and sales when your team isn’t available – not pretend to be human.”

Insent Website

@ Mentions allow users to include additional staff in the conversation.  It is not necessary to register individual users.  Simply tagging them directs Insent to create a user profile based upon MS Teams data.

Insent also offers integrations with Salesforce, HubSpot, Marketo, and Slack.

Outreach, Cognism, Drift, Alyce, and Sendoso Make LinkedIn’s Top Startups List

Five vendors covered in my newsletters and blog made LinkedIn’s Top 50 US or Top 10 UK startups list, an indicator to the economic vibrancy of SalesTech and MarTech solutions, particularly during the pandemic.

Sales Engagement vendor Outreach placed #6 in the US, its second year making the list.

“We work hard to be a great place to work and to create an environment where [the] top talent of any background feels welcome and can thrive,” said Outreach CEO Manny Medina.  “We’re always looking for passionate, tenacious employees who think differently and live and breathe our core value of having each other’s backs. I’m thrilled that we continue to attract the best of the best, and LinkedIn named us one of the top startups in the US.”

Outreach focused on “emerging and resilient startups that are navigating the ever-evolving nature of work in the wake of COVID-19.” The firm also focused on delivering sales management tools during the pandemic, helping “leaders closely monitor their team’s success and keep employees motivated and productive.”

Cognism that was named a top 10 UK Startup to Watch, placing at Number 9.  The firm which, was founded in 2015, has performed well during the pandemic and recently acquired German signature-block messaging firm Mailtastic.  They have already opened a UK Mailtastic office and closed their first UK deals.

According to CEO James Isilay, “We have just made a key hire in the US and will be expanding the offering there from October.”

Following a staff survey, Cognism will be moving to a smaller office presence and emphasize WFH options.

“Despite a challenging year with the pandemic, Cognism has continued its strong growth recently passing the key $10 million ARR mark,” wrote CEO James Isilay. “We see growth accelerating next year as we bring our go-to-market intelligence and engagement platform to new markets across Europe.”

Two tactile marketing companies, Alyce (35) and Sendoso (46), made the list.  Both firms positioned direct mail e-gifting as a method to connect with customers and prospects during the pandemic.

“While many companies and entire industries were dramatically impacted by the pandemic, the need to create personal bonds as the world moved almost fully digital in the age of no major trade shows, events, and public networking became ever more paramount,” wrote Alyce. “Alyce actually thrived as a company, and swiftly pivoted to deliver digital gifts for their enterprise customers looking to create personal experience moments for their audience.  Despite the market shifts, Alyce has experienced a milestone year of growth, with a vast percentage of its Annual Recurring Revenue (AAR) coming from its enterprise customer base and new use-case expansion, more than 5x-ing over last year.”

Conversational Marketing firm Drift, which recently broadened its vision to Revenue Acceleration, landed at #21 on the list.  Drift offers chatbots, email, video, and a new Prospector service for intent monitoring.

Firms were based upon four criteria: employee growth; jobseeker interest; member engagement with the company and its employees; and how well these startups pulled talent from LinkedIn’s Top Companies list.  Startups must be no more than seven years old and have at least 50 employees.

Gong and Chorus Growing Rapidly During Pandemic

Gong, which closed on a $200 million Series D round earlier this month, is in one of the SalesTech segments that has benefited from remote working. Demand for conversational AI tools from vendors like Gong and Chorus that record, transcribe, and analyze meetings and calls accelerated with the pandemic.

“With global sales teams switching to remote work and field sales teams grounded for the foreseeable future, we are seeing substantial demand for Gong’s solution even in a challenging business environment,” said Gong CEO Amit Bendov.

“Gong’s Web site is like a direct view into the subconscious of those hyper-enthusiastic salespeople who make the rest of us nuts but get the job done.  The actual product is AI technology that captures video, phone, email, and face-to-face interactions and extracts insights about people, deals, and market events.  It must work: they just raised a $200 million Series D, bringing total funding to $334 million.  Did I mention their chatbot is a bulldog?”

David Raab, CDP Institute

Carl Eschenbach, a partner at Sequoia Capital, argued that firms benefiting from COVID fall into two classes, those that are enjoying a temporary lift and those that will enjoy long-term benefits due to social and technological shifts.

“There will be less [SIC] field sales reps than ever before.  Said Eschenbach. “People will be working remotely and selling over digital mechanisms like we’re using Zoom.”

While Gong did not disclose their revenue, they said it has trebled over the past year.  Forbes lists their 2019 revenue at $30 million so 2020 revenue should clock in around $90 million.

Gong has over 1,300 customers, including Autodesk, HubSpot, LinkedIn, MuleSoft, Outreach, PayPal, Shopify, Slack, Twilio, Zillow, GE, and Zoominfo.

Over 64,000 sales and support professionals use the Gong platform, up from 45,000 in December.

They recently launched a Deal intelligence module which provides deal pipeline visibility and “deal at risk” alerts to sales reps (see the image at the top of this blog).

Gong Partners include

  • Conference: Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, BlueJeans, WebEx, GoToMeeting, JoinMe
  • ­­Sales Engagement: Outreach, SalesLoft, Groove, Xant, FrontSpin
  • CRM: Salesforce, HubSpot
  • Others: Slack, ClearSlide, Clari, Google, Outlook

“We made a bold prediction in 2016 that Gong’s technology would become the most significant innovation for sales since the invention of CRM,” said Bendov.  “The market has proven that prediction was correct.  With global sales teams switching to remote work and field sales teams grounded for the foreseeable future, we are seeing substantial demand for Gong’s solution even in a challenging business environment.  There is a new way to win in sales, and the best sales teams are turning to Gong’s Revenue Intelligence Platform to guide them down that path.”


Last month, Gong competitor Chorus closed on a $45 million Series C. The round was led by Georgian Partners, with participation from Emergence Capital, Redpoint Ventures, and Sozo Ventures.  Five-year-old Chorus has raised $85.2 million to date.  Georgian also led the $33 million Series B in December 2018.

The new funds will be deployed for product innovation and expanding its go-to-market team.  CEO Jim Benton said that they would continue to develop their interaction signal capture capabilities, particularly those tied to relationships and driving deals to close.

“The insights provided by conversation intelligence can be a lifeline, identifying risks as well as what is working so that they can replicate best practices across the revenue team,” said Benton.  “Sales floors in the office may be empty, but through the use of conversation intelligence, managers can still walk the floor virtually and offer coaching and a helping hand when needed.”

Chorus records, transcribes, and analyzes business calls.  Transcripts include time-stamped notes and a call summary with risk factors and upsell opportunities.  The Chorus platform helps reps capture and analyze interactions from calls, meetings, and emails.  Chorus looks for keywords and topics such as pricing, competitors, and next steps.

“We want to make sure each person says, ‘I was just watching the call, and here is where we left off,’ or ‘I noticed this theme in your conversation, so let’s get started there.’  We are putting the ‘R’ in customer relationship management.  There is a lot with the ‘customer’ and ‘management’ aspects, but in terms of ‘relationship,’ that does not always make it back into the CRM, and we think it should.”

Chorus.AI CEO Jim Benton

“We are continuing to make sure we are understanding these interactions for teams and leadership to see what works, so they bring their best,” continued Benton.  “You want to make sure you represent the best of your team, give feedback, coaching, have the right messaging and which interactions drive the best close rates–all the science behind what success looks like.”

The firm doubled its headcount to 100 and trebled its revenue in 2019.  Chorus has over 200 customers, including GitLab, Zoom, Adobe, MongoDB, and Qualtrics.  It is headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Boston and Tel Aviv.

Chorus Conversational Intelligence records, transcribes, and analyzes audio and video meetings.

Correction: I originally transposed the digits on Chorus’ Total Funding. The correct value is $85.2 million.

Gong Series D

Revenue Intelligence vendor Gong closed on a $200 million Series D, raising its valuation to $2.2 billion.  The firm indicated that it didn’t need the funds as it is still operating with its Series B funds from February 2019 ($40 million).  The $65 million Series C from December is also available, providing the firm with over $265 million in cash for growth and potential acquisitions.  Total funding reached $334 million.

“We weren’t looking to raise another round, but a lot of funds were eager to invest in us,” said Gong CEO Amit Bendov, contending that it is better to raise funds when they are available than when they are needed.

“It gives us the ability to buy companies, make strategic investment, accelerate plans, and it also, especially since we cater to large enterprise customers, gives them confidence that this company is here to stay,” he said.

The additional funds will help the firm “fulfill strong market demand for its Revenue Intelligence Platform, reinforce its market leadership, and invest in its product, engineering, and go-to-market teams.”

While an IPO is in the plans, Bendov sees it two to three years out when revenue hits a few hundred million dollars.  

Potential areas of acquisition include analytics, AI, communications, and other customer-facing technologies.

“Gong is building something that is bigger than CRM. Rather than rely on people to type in information, Gong automatically captures text, Zoom calls, etc., and improves sales forecasting, product, and market strategy, with zero effort.  Ultimately, we are creating a big system.  The product is successful today, but still, more is needed.”

Gong CEO Amit Bendov

In 2021, Gong plans to expand globally.  It has 350 employees with plans to add “hundreds” more over the next year and at least 100 before the end of 2020.  They are looking to expand across finance, human resources, sales, marketing, and IT.  Most of their positions are in the Bay Area, with offices in Atlanta, New York, and Denver.

“A lot of our San Francisco employees wanted to move to Atlanta after we opened our hub there [in March], said Bendov.  “It’s difficult to work from home in San Francisco, where you have five roommates, and you need to do a Zoom call.”

Coatue led the Series D round, with participation from Index Ventures, Thrive Capital, and Salesforce Ventures.  Previous investors NextWorld Capital, Battery Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital, and Wing Venture Capital also participated.


Part II of this blog delves further into Gong’s product offering and how they and competitor Chorus have navigated COVID.

Outreach KAIA Meeting Assistant

Sales Engagement vendor Outreach presented its 2020 product roadmap at its Unleash virtual conference.  The most compelling announcement was Kaia, its voice-enabled sales assistant that works alongside sales reps during video calls to record, transcribe, and deliver real-time assistance.  Other new capabilities include Sequence Intent Reporting, Outreach Voice Connectors, and Bombora Intent Scores.

“I’ve been waiting five years for Outreach Kaia.  This is the most powerful tool to be introduced in the sales industry in a long time, and we are very excited to be bringing the next generation of sales technology to life,” crowed Outreach CEO Manny Medina, who demoed the digital assistant during his keynote.  “Now more than ever, sales teams need Outreach Kaia — especially when so many of them are working remotely.  Outreach Kaia’s ability to surface real-time information exactly when a sales rep needs it during a live conversation is powerful.”

“Imagine you’re on a sales call, and someone asks you a question about your product or your competitor’s pricing, and you don’t know the answer.  Well, Outreach Kaia will automatically pull up the information you need – in real-time.  This level of intelligent assistance will make sales teams productive immediately.  Outreach already drives a nearly 5x return for our customers.  Now, with Outreach Kaia, we expect that ROI to soar.”

Outreach CEO Manny Medina

Kaia (Knowledge AI Assistant) delivers guided engagement for sales reps.  At the outset, reps are shown meeting and attendee information.  Tabs provide additional details on the account and opportunity, providing a quick pre-meeting review opportunity.  As the call gets underway, real-time transcription and analysis take place so that reps do not need to jot many notes during the call.  At any point, the rep can set a bookmark or add a short note.  As the note is stored in context, it might only require a word or two (e.g. Roadblock, Budget).  

Outreach Kaia operates as a real-time intelligent assistant that supports sales reps during customer calls. It transcribes the call, sets bookmarks for review, notes attendees and action items, and provides topical summary cards.

Kaia both records and analyzes the discussion, providing in-line prompts to the rep, such as a quick overview of a third-party mentioned during the call, short answers to technical and product questions, or objection handling tips.  The answers and objection handling are customer-defined, ensuring that company-specific details are displayed on a just-in-time basis.  Not only does each content card provide a technical and product backstop for new sales reps, but it allows experienced reps to speak with confidence on more technical details or dynamic topics from which they might shy away.

Content and people cards are trackable, “so managers can see which cards produce the best results and scale these insights across their teams,” wrote Product Storyteller Sunny Bjerk.

Kaia also notes action items during the call, again relieving reps of note-taking duties.  After the call, a summary is emailed to the rep with a set of action items, bookmarks, notes, and attendees.  The rep can then customize the document and share it with other stakeholders.

Kaia is displayed as a meeting participant, with attendees alerted at the beginning of the call that is it being recorded.  Transcripts and recordings are “securely stored within Outreach, which has enterprise-grade security measures already in place.”  Transcripts are available for training or review after the call.

Outreach Kaia is available for Early Access Signup for the summer 2020 beta and will be generally available in late 2020.  It is currently available for Zoom video conferencing with additional video partners in development.

SalesLoft: Sales Engagement for WFH Sales Teams (Part II)

Continuing my conversation with Sunshine Levin (Part I), Director of Customer and Analyst Relations at SalesLoft. One of the key features of Sales Engagement Platforms is cadences (aka sequences) which automate a set of outbound, multi-channel communications and monitor the response.

SalesLoft Cadence & Activity Feed

Because cadences are automated, reps do not need to schedule most tasks.  Instead, next steps are automatically tracked, and current activity is recorded and synced with Salesforce.  Furthermore, SEPs monitor response rates and support A/B testing. Levin recommends that admins review reports and dashboards to determine changes in the efficacy of tactics and messaging.

Another benefit of activity tracking concerns management visibility into sales rep activity and prospect engagement.  In the current environment, where family members may be ill, and children are at home, managers need to be sensitive to each rep’s situation and not focus on traditional productivity metrics.  To assist with planning, SalesLoft offers prioritization tools such as Hot Leads and a Pipeline View, their newly introduced, native offering resulting from the recently acquired Costello solution: 

“For Salesforce users,  SalesLoft Deals can give you a holistic view of everything that matters when managing a deal.  Within SalesLoft Deals, Pipeline View will help your team prevent opportunities from slipping through the cracks, while Deal View can facilitate coaching and strategy conversations about opportunities during one-on-ones.  Finally, keep an eye on deal health by reviewing Deal Gaps to identify opportunities that may be slipping and what you should do to get deals back on track.”

SalesLoft Blog

Live Call Studio and Conversation Intelligence allows managers and trainers to listen in on sales calls, whisper suggestions to the rep, and join calls.  These tools are particularly valuable for new reps that may have had little face-to-face training before offices were closed and for target accounts where reps are looking for additional assistance on major deals.  Calls may be recorded, transcribed, and analyzed, providing a basis for call post-mortems and training. Automated indexing allows reps and managers to review critical points (e.g. Next Steps, Pricing, Competitors) afterward.  Analytics also assess engagement (was it a true back and forth or a few comments with long monologues) and calculate the frequency of filler words. Playlists provide a library of sales best practices, allowing new hires to listen to snippets around product, pricing, competition, objection handling, etc.  Should a rep have difficulties on a topic, she can forward a conversational snippet to the appropriate expert or subject owner (e.g. manager, product marketing, customer support) for feedback. Conversational snippets present the voice of the customer to the subject matter expert, providing an unfiltered view of the question or concern.

Leaderboards help encourage healthy rivalry between reps.

SalesLoft noted that home Wi-Fi connections could be spotty, so reps may need to connect through their router directly.  A second option is to set up call passthrough where the call is initiated from a mobile app or the browser and is handled as a mobile or landline call.  Call passthrough provides an alternate, higher quality channel while recording both sales activity and conversational intelligence.

SalesLoft’s platform has matured from a Cadence service to SDRs to a broader sales engagement platform that supports account execs, customer success managers, and WFH use cases.  The core cadence feature set is now accompanied by conversational intelligence, enhanced analytics, and deal management tools buttressed by a growing ecosystem of application partners.

Gong Deal Intelligence

Conversation Intelligence vendor Gong announced the availability of Deal Intelligence, their new AI-driven insights service that provides a “clear, up-to-date view” of deal status, recent interactions, and at-risk deals.  Deal Intelligence also helps sales managers provide targeted coaching and assess pipeline activity.

“Deal Intelligence allows us to do quicker pipeline inspections and validate with a third party that we really are where we say we are in the process,” said Armen Zildjian, VP of Sales at Drift.  “It is not to micromanage but to continue to coach and give reps the next best step with the customer, so we really can rely on that business.”

New features include

  • Deal Board:  Quickly understand which deals are healthy and which require immediate attention.
  • Deal Warnings: Spot warning signs such as a lack of recent activity and close date in the past.  Planned warnings include no future calls scheduled and no decision-maker involved.
  • Account Page: Centralizes deal-related interactions across email, web conference, and phone to proactively identify risks and review conversations
  • Engagement Map: Ensures that a deal is multi-threaded and that reps are engaged with the right people in the right way.

“Consider what can be done when you have every phone call, email, and customer interaction automatically captured and the ability to analyze those interactions.  It will allow organizations to get a sharper picture of prospect intent and where an account is in the sales process.”

TOPO Sales Analyst Dan Gottlieb

Pipeline Analytics and deal risk are an emerging category of sales analytics.  Firms such as Gong, Costello (recently acquired by SalesLoft), and Clari provide a single-pane view for identifying deal risk, assessing multi-threaded engagement, and conducting pipeline reviews.

Deal Intelligence is available to all current customers as part of their core offering.  Admins must turn on email sync from popular clients such as G Suite and Microsoft 365.  Sales Engagement partners include SalesLoft, Outreach, Groove, and Xant.

Deal Intelligence is view-only and does not support Opportunity record updating.  CRM sync is a planned feature.  

Gong supports a broad set of conferencing and dialing tools, including Zoom, UberConference, BlueJeans, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Join.Me, RingCentral, Dialpad, Amazon Connect, Google Meet, and Skype.

Gong does not publish any pricing and simply states that pricing is based upon “how many recorded reps you have,” not the number of listeners.