Brainshark Growth and Training Partnerships

Once again, I’m writing about a SalesTech or B2B MarTech firm that had strong growth during the pandemic.  Simply, B2B firms sped up their digitization and looked for online methods for internal and external communications.  With WFH and the recognition of subscription revenues over the life of contracts, it is highly likely that 2020 strength will continue into 2021.  In the case of Brainshark, they increased both their new business contracts and multi-year renewal rates.  Brainshark also announced off-the-shelf learning content from a pair of training companies: ValueSelling Associates and 2Win!.

Sales Readiness vendor Brainshark posted sixty percent growth in platform usage last year with a 38% increase in new business.  71% of the new contracts were multi-year, with multi-year renewals up 40% year over year.

“Companies across the globe had to completely rewrite their playbook when the pandemic began disrupting business one year ago,” said CEO Greg Flynn.  “Many realized improving their sales readiness was a way to gain a competitive advantage.  They also realized Brainshark’s proven, award-winning platform was just the tool they needed.  We’re especially thrilled to see our customers utilizing our coaching solution more than ever because we’ve seen first-hand the impact it can have on an organization’s bottom line.”

Citing a CSO Insights study that found that firms with dedicated sales enablement teams had a 15.3% higher win rate on forecasted deals, the firm stated, “Brainshark can be the foundation of a successful sales readiness strategy, helping organizations equip sales reps with the knowledge and skills they need, measure preparedness, and connect readiness to revenue.”

Brainshark Sales Readiness Scorecards include CRM data

Last year, the firm launched Sales Readiness Scorecards, which “provide more powerful, instant, and comprehensive visibility into whether reps and their teams are prepared to engage with clients and prospects.”  Scorecard data is pulled from Salesforce, providing firms with pipeline and performance KPIs.  In 2021, Brainshark plans to deepen CRM integrations for expanded metrics and coaching tools.

“The questions sales enablement professionals need to answer go beyond ‘Are our reps ready?’ The more important question is, ’Are our readiness and enablement programs working?  Scorecards provide that clarity.  Enablement leaders can discover which reps need help with certain parts of the sales process, and then build learning programs to address those areas for maximum impact.  At the same time, sales managers have critical performance data at their fingertips that allows them to be better, more strategic coaches.”

Brainshark Chief Product Officer Greg Keshian

2Win! training “helps sales professionals master demo, presentation, client success, and storytelling skills, especially in a virtual world.”

Julie Thomas, CEO of ValueSelling Associates, said, “Our eValueSelling Fundamentals is a fast track for those who want to learn value-based selling.  By blending real-world examples with interactive exercises and quizzes, users learn how to prepare for a sales call, assess the health of opportunities, and ask questions that engage prospects.  This program makes for a perfect integration into Brainshark’s platform, allowing sales enablement leaders a simple and convenient way to build their training content and accelerate their results.” Brainshark lists BCI and go1 as additional training content partners.

Highspot Series E

Highspot became the latest Seattle-area unicorn following a Series E that valued the firm at $2.3 billion.  The Sales Enablement platform, which was launched nine years ago by three former Microsoft employees, closed on a $200 million round led by Tiger Global Management.  Bain & Company, CONIQ Growth, Madrona Venture Group, OpenView, Salesforce Ventures, Sapphire Ventures, and Shasta Ventures also participated.

“Sales enablement is about more than sales.  It connects everyone from marketing and sales to post-sales in delivering a unified buying experience that wins, retains and expands customer relationships,” said Robert Wahbe, CEO, Highspot. “Scaling your go-to-market strategy is a complex process with a large gap between strategy and action.  We close this gap.  Our single, unified platform improves sales performance by turning strategy into successful execution.”

Customers have deployed the Sales Enablement Platform for sales onboarding, ongoing training, content management, guided selling, rep coaching, engagement intelligence, and 360-degree analytics.  They include DocuSign, General Motors, John Deere, Nestle, and Verizon Media,

The firm has over 500 employees in Seattle, London, and Munich.  It plans to open an office in France and enter the APAC market in 2021.  In May 2020, it opened up a Munich office to support its D-A-CH operations.  Highspot doubled its EMEA revenue in 2020.

Highspot supports users in 125 countries.

Highspot does not disclose its revenue but told Bloomberg that ARR increased 900% over the past three years.

Last year, Highspot connected over three million salespeople, channel partners, services reps and customers in digital sales experiences, with usage double that of 2019.  Highspot’s community of sales enablement professionals, Sales Enablement PRO, reached 13,000 members.

“Salesforce changed sales 20 years ago. Marketo changed marketing 10 years ago. Now, Highspot’s vision is to fundamentally change the way companies go to market,” said John Curtius, Partner, Tiger Global Management. “Highspot’s secret is an authentic commitment to people – their employees, customers and partners – that inspires a tremendously collaborative and resilient culture.  We believe they’re capable of sustaining unmatched levels of innovation to achieve their vision.”

“There’s a famous Harvard Business Review article that 70% of strategic initiatives don’t work.  Sometimes it’s not because the strategy isn’t right, it’s because they can’t translate it to the actions taken every day by their frontline sales team.  We allow them to do that.”

Highspot CEO Robert Wahbe

The new funding will “accelerate platform development, including deeper insights into go-to-market strategy and execution offered through Highspot’s industry-only Scorecards.”  

HighSpot also plans to grow its partner ecosystem, expanding its sales methodology training partnerships, technology partners, and Sales Enablement PRO community.

To fuel its growth, Highspot is hiring across “every business function.”

“Over the past year, sales enablement has emerged as a strategic imperative,” said Mark Kovac, Head of Bain & Company’s Global B2B Commercial Excellence Practice.  “Companies that have built world-class enablement teams and technology are managing change and uncertainty at scale, while others struggle with agility and inconsistent performance.  We believe Highspot’s differentiated approach will become the foundation upon which modern businesses achieve consistent revenue growth and market share gains.”

Revenue Grid Guided Selling (Part III)

Continued from Part II (or start at the beginning)…


Because Revenue Grid has a long history as an integration platform, it supports both cloud and on-premise implementations.  Financial Services firms, which have higher data protection requirements and have been slower to adopt cloud platforms, make up roughly 30% of its turnover.

The Revenue Grid service is available for $75 per user per month.  The firm offers volume and multi-year discounts.  The service was previously sold as three modules: Revenue Engage (Sales Engagement), Revenue Inbox (CRM synchronization), and Revenue Guide (Guided Selling), but Revenue Grid now bundles the three services into a unified Guides Selling platform.

Aragon Research, which focuses on Sales Enablement, labeled Revenue Grid one of its 2020 hot vendors in May:

“What makes Revenue Grid hot is the platform’s focus on revenue intelligence and leveraging statistical and AI insights to drive the consistency of each stage of the sales pipeline and its efficiency.  The platform has guided selling features that can suggest the next best step to a sales rep and alert the team to a misstep or a missed action. It also has sales coaching and team analytics to track individual performance.”

Jim Lundy, Aragon Research Lead Analyst, “Hot Vendors in Sales Enablement, 2020”

Aragon recommended Revenue Grid for enterprises looking for a “sales enablement platform with comprehensive, built-in AI functionality.”

Founded in 2005 as InvisibleCRM, the firm rebranded in 2020 to capture its broader product portfolio for sales teams, focusing on “customer engagement and actionable revenue intelligence.”

Revenue Grid is based in Mountain View, California, with offices in Atlanta, Washington, and Delaware. It’s engineering team and EMEA headquarters are located in Kyiv.

Revenue Grid has an eight-digit ARR and 65% year-over-year growth.  Customers include BASF, Volvo, Honeywell, Lufthansa, and Union Pacific.  It is self-funded, having received only a $1.5 million Series A in 2006.

Revenue Grid Guided Selling (Part II)

Continuing from Part I, a discussion of Revenue Grid and its approach to Guided Selling.


Revenue Grid looks to take the CRM system of record and supplement it with insights and actions that move deals forward.  Insights are both positive and negative.  Risk flags include “The decision-maker is not invited to the demo,” “Close data has been changed for the Nth time,” and “Pricing was discussed at the meeting, but no quote has been sent.” By delivering insights to sales reps and their managers, loose ends, which could result in deal losses or delays, are flagged.  Sales reps and managers can then act upon these insights.  Revenue Grid can also make suggestions based upon internal playbooks and best practices.

In short, AI, historical data, and real-time data are employed to build a set of insights and recommended actions.

Revenue Grid goes beyond engagement metrics at accounts. It delivers a broad set of insights that include competitor mentions, lack of recent decision-makers responses, meetings without agendas, quarterly and monthly trends, and team performance.  In January, sentiment analysis will be added to their insights.

An Opportunities view provides real-time pipeline visibility across all accounts.  Reps can quickly update any opportunity information with the updates synced with the CRM.  Sales reps and managers then have a single-pane of glass displaying current opportunities.  Managers are notified of deal size changes, close dates, and scores and can track activity flow.

The Opportunities view includes signals, next steps, last touch, and overview data, providing a quick synopsis of where each deal stands.

Conversational Intelligence records and transcribes voice and video calls, then indexes and analyzes meetings for insights.  Corporate email communications are also analyzed for insights.  Revenue teams and managers can review call transcripts and listen or view significant moments during the call, with summary topics and insights called out.  Conversational Intelligence is also available for coaching and onboarding sales reps.

Conversational Intelligence recordings and transcripts are saved to accounts and opportunities.

A meeting scheduler fronts Conversational Intelligence.  Reps can insert multiple time slots with clickable times in their emails or offer a calendaring link.  Events are automatically synced between Salesforce and Outlook or Gmail.  Other features include calendar delegation (i.e., setting up an admin or CSR to schedule meetings), recurring event scheduling, and group calendaring across the organization.

Salesforce email synching captures emails, scheduled meetings, contacts, tasks, and attachments.  Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities, and Custom Objects are available for syncing, and multiple records may be updated.  Salesforce admins can set up activity auto-log rules, triggering Salesforce processes.

Sales Coaching offers a team performance view that displays revenue booked by reps alongside leads processed and time spent on external meetings, inbound external meetings, and outbound emails.

A Forecasting report evaluates the target, best case, and committed revenue for the team with plan, commit, and open pipeline values for each rep.  Managers can also compare past periods to find trends and set triggers to send notifications when thresholds are exceeded.

An Activity view displays inbound and outbound communications from sales and marketing over time with adjustable time windows.  Unfortunately, the activity graph does not rescale, making it difficult to view activity over an extended period.

Revenue Grid also supports Relationship Intelligence, showing an Account relationship map and flagging individuals in the organization with established relationships for introductions or briefings.

Revenue Grid’s sales engagement features include multi-channel sequences, email templates, and email tracking.  Channels include email, phone, SMS, and LinkedIn.  Sequences may be managed directly from within Salesforce, Outlook, or Gmail.  All Revenue Grid capabilities are available in the native Salesforce mobile app, including email analytics, notifications, and sequences.

Admins can perform A/B testing of sequences.

Revenue Grid detects replies from one or multiple recipients, out of office notices, opt-outs, and bounces.  It then pauses or halts sequences automatically.  It even halts sequences if the recipient is mentioned in an email or meeting invitation.

An email sidebar displays Salesforce data directly within inboxes and suggests relevant, actionable Signals.


Continue to Part III.

Revenue Grid Guided Selling

Revenue Grid which describes itself as a Guided Selling vendor, offers a hybrid platform with sales engagement, revenue intelligence, relationship intelligence, meeting management, and conversation intelligence.  Unlike many startups in these spaces, Revenue Grid comes to market with fifteen years of experience building native platform integrations behind the firewall and in the cloud.  It then layers on top reports, analytics, and an Outlook/Gmail/LinkedIn sidebar for identifying opportunities at risk, next steps and missed actions, engagement scores, and pipeline analytics.

“Algorithmic guided selling leverages emerging AI technology and existing sales data to guide sellers through deals, automating manual sales actions while reducing the need for individual seller judgment in the sales process,” wrote Gartner.  Guided Selling is data and process-driven, with Next Best Action recommendations that make CRMs actionable.

Guided Selling intelligence is gathered from CRMs, emails, calendars, phone calls, and videos.  Engagement is measured across these channels and delivered as a set of insights and revenue signals that support Guided Selling.  Signals are Next Best Actions based upon AI recommendations and sales playbooks.  

Revenue Grid describes signals as “contextual, actionable notifications that tell your whole sales org what is going well or poorly throughout your whole sales process.”  Sales reps can act on recommendations by merely clicking on the signal.

These definitions can all get confusing, but the vision becomes clearer when skipping past the inputs and technology and merely considering which sales and management questions Revenue Grid looks to address.  Revenue Grid answers a host of sales rep questions, including

  • Which deals should I focus on today?
  • How likely am I to close the deal this month or quarter?
  • How can I improve my odds of winning this opportunity?
  • Which deals are at risk and why?  
  • Did I complete all of the post-deal activities discussed on the call?
  • Have I updated all my opportunities before tomorrow’s deal review?
  • How can I prepare for a meeting?
  • Does anybody at my firm have a relationship with key decision-makers?
  • How is engagement across the account?  Am I building relationships with the key stakeholders?

Likewise, managers can answer questions such as

  • Are sales reps focused on the right things?
  • Do sales reps know what to do next?
  • How can I guide reps in each deal?
  • Which deals are moving, stalled, or at risk?
  • Do my reps know what to say at meetings? Do our scripts work?
  • How do I know my coaching is effective?
  • Which committed deals are unlikely to close?
  • How do I improve our forecasts?

Part II discusses Revenue Grid’s feature set.

SalesLoft Coach to Close

SalesLoft rolled out its winter release before Christmas.  The lead feature was their Coach to Close functionality that provides frontline managers with “visibility into the specific sales stages where their sellers need the most help.”  Coach to Close aids managers in identifying and proactively coaching reps on the deals that are critical to exceeding quarterly targets.

Coach to Close analyzes stage-to-stage conversion rates at the rep and team level, helping managers identify where deals are being lost and then “quickly drill down into each deal to proactively coach reps through those problem stages.”

“There are always a handful of deals that make or break a quarter.  Helping your sales reps progress and close those deals is your number one priority as a sales leader,” said SalesLoft CRO Steve Goldberg.

Coach to Close provides Deal Analytics (i.e., team and individual conversion rates), a Deal Activity Timeline that tracks account engagement across the buying cycle, and Deal Details that summarize communications, including email, phone, and recorded videos.  

“We are giving our customers the power to unlock and understand their sales data. With outcome-driven reporting and AI/ML-based activity prioritization, sales managers can now spend their time in the areas that will generate the most impact.”

Frank Dale, SalesLoft VP of Product

The other central element in the winter release was integrated support for Microsoft Dynamics 365.  Sales reps can log emails, calls, LinkedIn activities, and other cadence steps directly from MSD.  The Dynamics integration is now generally available.

“Dynamics customers are asking for help as they transform to a digital selling motion,” said Goldberg. “This integration allows companies to leverage all the data in their Dynamics instance to more effectively and efficiently prospect and sell to their customers.”

Other new winter release features include

  • Multi-touch cadence workflows that allow reps to communicate across multiple channels at the same time.  For example, a sales rep can send an introductory email and then Connect on LinkedIn.  Users can run the steps in any order, and emails can be scheduled for later in the day.
  • Bulk edits in workflow management to quickly update users.
  • Filter by Salesforce Opportunity Data lets users filter and sort recorded conversations by Opportunity Stage or other variables.  Users can “easily leverage Salesforce Opportunity data to identify milestone conversions, filter and save views, or access recordings directly from the Opportunity view with our new unified workflows.”

Integrations with Zoho CRM and Qotient talk tracks are coming soon.

November integrations included 6Sense (account data and insights), MonsterConnect (outsourced dialing team), and Vertify (CRM and MAP lead reply analytics).

SalesHood Coaching Command Center

SalesHood Launches Coaching Command Center for Front-Line Managers to Scale Virtual Sales Coaching

Sales Enablement vendor SalesHood released Coaching Command Center, a set of templates, reports, and prompts to assist front-line managers in elevating the performance and win rates of their teams.  

“We’re excited to release more innovation for virtual sales coaching,” said SalesHood CEO Elay Cohen.  “We’re committed to helping front-line managers be better at developing their remote teams and boosting their win rates.”

In a call with GZ Consulting, Cohen emphasized that SalesHood focuses on productivity and outcomes for both sales reps and front-line managers, looking to raise the bar for all managers.  The new Command Center is a coaching dashboard that analyzes performance and what sales reps are doing.  It fosters managerial actions through celebrations, risk identification, and recommending Next Best Actions.  A meetings-in-a-box feature supports coaching huddles and hands-on training, with recorded calls as input, and coaching to-dos.

According to Cohen, “curated coaching can be prescriptive” and should be performance and data-driven.  It should also be scalable and repeatable, making it easy to schedule classes, coaching, and call reviews.  Templates facilitate discussion and coaching.  Open questions and training sessions are noted, and sales reps are notified if task assignments have not been addressed before the next one-on-one.

Along with templates, SalesHood provides a library of sales training tools, including battle cards, product playbooks, and win stories.  Video recording guidance helps non-training professionals (e.g., product managers, competitive analysts, sales operations) chunk content into modules and cover key topics.

New Command Center tools include programs and coaching activities, team leaderboards, curated team videos, prioritized coaching activities, and coaching templates.

The graphical program tracker displays a data-driven timeline with drill-down tasks, helping front-line managers view programs and coaching activities.  The program tracker assists with one-on-one coaching through automated activities, notifications, tips, and scorecards.  A notification flag appears in the right corner of the top banner, letting managers immediately access pending coaching activities.  For example, if there is a recorded pitch for review, the manager can review the video and offer feedback.

Team Leaderboards summarize team performance across engagement, completion, and performance metrics.

Team videos are submitted and reviewed by managers for comments and celebration.  Videos include pitches, demonstrations, presentation dry-runs, deal wins, and stories.

Prioritized coaching activities are delivered to front-line managers on desktop and mobile devices (iOS and Android native apps) with automated coaching activities for pitch practice, role-playing, quizzing, assessments, and story submissions by their team.

SalesHood is packaged with a set of customizable templates for deal reviews, one-on-ones, and even quarterly business reviews.  Templates are customizable to reflect the industry, markets, and sales strategies of firms.

“Right out of the box, SalesHood provides solutions for more structured, more efficient, and more lucrative sales team management,” claims the firm.

“Sales coaching creates space for collaborative skill and deal development conversations.  Effective sales coaches give sales professionals the responsibility of ownership and accountability for their deal strategies from planning to preparation to close…

No longer will you be in the dark on how your reps are pitching to customers or handling common objections. You’ll be in the know as to how and if they are onboarding effectively.  Are they retaining product knowledge?  Do they understand the crucial competitive plays?  Is their messaging creating interest?  Is it aligned with the corporate message?”

“SalesHood Sales Coaching Demonstration” video

Aragon Research predicted that by the end of 2021, 55% of enterprises will have deployed digital sales coaching and learning.

“High performing sales organizations are now making sales coaching and learning a daily habit,” says CEO of Aragon Research, Jim Lundy. “Top salespeople are constantly practicing, and the best managers conduct regular coaching.”  Despite the known correlation between coaching and performance, managers and their teams have been unable to embed this practice into their daily workflows.

Aragon Research placed SalesHood in its Leader quadrant for Sales Coaching and Learning (July 2020), scoring the highest on strategy, but below the other leaders on performance.  Aragon listed a broad set of SalesHood strengths, including sales coaching and learning, sales content management, and front-line manager enablement.  However, the firm noted that SalesHood lacks market awareness.

RingDNA Releases Guided Selling

Sales Enablement vendor RingDNA released Guided Selling, a set of Next Best Actions (NBA) for sales reps.  Guided Selling advises sales reps on what to do, when to do it, whom to contact, and what messaging to employ.  Sales managers can create and deploy preferred playbooks to their salesforce, even without face-to-face training.  Both inbound and outbound selling plays are supported, helping “implement proven playbooks at scale.”

“When you know what winning deals look and sound like, you know exactly where to focus to improve outcomes,” said RingDNA CEO Howard Brown.  “Guided selling uses artificial intelligence to provide revenue teams with tools, insights, and next best actions necessary to win deals, grow accounts, maximize revenue.”

“It’s a fool’s errand to expect a 22-year-old sales development rep (SDR) fresh out of university to develop a consistent, scalable, repeatable prioritization, execution, and qualification process.  Be prescriptive in your expectations and methodical in the tools you arm your teams with…for the overwhelming majority of your team—who have never held full-time, quota-carrying roles and aren’t able to think strategically yet—you must be prescriptive.  You need to show them how to think strategically and tactically as they approach their daily work.”

TOPO analyst Phoebe Conybeare

Guided Selling is embedded into the Salesforce Sales Cloud and delivers prioritized actions for opportunities, contacts, and leads, helping reduce sales rep planning time.  The AI-powered task list recommends the tasks that will put sales reps on “the shortest path to revenue.”  The task list is dynamic, updating based upon prospect behavior.  Thus, priorities are reassessed based on prospect interaction with e-mails, web forms, multi-media, and social media.

Guided Selling includes a set of best-practices templates based upon billions of sales interactions monitored by RingDNA since its 2012 launch. Salesforce Dashboards help managers optimize cadences and messaging, allowing them to test and refine rep workflows.  Cadence activities across e-mail, phone, text, and social are synchronized with Salesforce.

Gartner stated that 51% of sales organizations have deployed or plan to deploy algorithmic-guided selling over the next five years.

“Intended to augment more traditional sales tools, such as sales playbooks, algorithmic-guided selling uses sales data to boost the seller’s ability to engage with prospects…Algorithmic-guided selling leverages artificial intelligence technology and existing sales data to guide sellers through deals, automating manual sales actions while reducing the need for individual seller judgment in the sales process.”

Tad Travis, Gartner VP of Research, “Algorithmic-Guided Selling to Have Significant Impact on Sales Productivity”

“In this new remote paradigm, companies are having to do more with less,” said Brown.  “Guided Selling is a total game-changer for sales teams, as it uses AI to focus reps on next best actions while empowering them to build stronger relationships and better solve customer problems.”

Guided Selling is Generally Available.

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.

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.