LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2021

In its recently published State of Sales 2021 survey,  LinkedIn stated that “Virtual selling is good for sellers and even better for buyers.”  50% of buyers say that “working remotely has made the purchasing process easier.”  Buyers have benefited from the greater acceptance of sales intelligence and sales enablement services.

Furthermore, 70% of buyers want to retain remote work at least half of the time.  48% of buyers do not expect to be meeting face-to-face until H2 201, and 17% anticipate waiting until 2022.

“The bottom line is this situation requiring virtual selling skills won’t be changing anytime soon,” commented LinkedIn.

59% of buyers do not anticipate attending live events until H2 2021.  While 90% of the surveyed buyers have previously attended events, 48% of sales reps have now closed deals above a half-million dollars without meeting the buyer in person.

“Sellers will go back to face-to-face meetings but not remotely close to pre-pandemic levels. Digital transformation was coming no matter what.  COVID-19 just accelerated everything. In other words, digital transformation is here to stay.”

Gartner VP-Analyst Craig Rosenberg

Sales Managers recognize the acceleration of change and digitization, with 86% agreeing that “the ability to cope with change is more important than it was five years ago,” up 16% over the past year.

“Generally speaking, sales is slow to adapt,” opined Gartner VP-Analyst Craig Rosenberg.  “If the way sellers are doing things works, then they will keep doing it.  This drastic event is driving change.  Also, when the buyer changes, sales is forced to change. We often think of ‘sales’ as having to move virtual as the driver, but actually our buyers moved virtual.  Ultimately, sales is going to gravitate to the buyer’s preference.  In other words, it is much easier to adapt to change when you have to.”

The top three sources of change cited by sales managers are measuring sales processes and outcomes in different ways (51%), adding new technologies (50%), and instituting new hiring policies (50%).

LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2021

Remote sales job postings increased five-fold in Q3 2020 year-over-year, with remote positions growing 8.8X in Canada and 4.5X in the United States.  The transition hasn’t been easy.  67% of sales managers said that managing remote teams is more challenging than expected, and 65% of sales reps found it more difficult than anticipated.

Sales Operations and Customer Success roles proliferated between 2018 and 2020.  LinkedIn captured a 38% increase in Sales Operations roles over this period, 4.8X the growth of sales titles.

Customer Success positions trebled between 2018 and 2020.


Continue to Part II, which discusses diversity effort in sales, SalesTech, and Sales Navigator.

Seismic Aura AI Enhancements and SmartPlays

Seismic announced enhancements to its recently launched Aura AI platform.  Aura provides sales reps with “intelligent recommendations on how to effectively engage with buyers, advance deals, and uncover new opportunities.”

Aura AI is a personal assistant for sales reps delivered via a Chrome extension.  It suggests “personalized, relevant content recommendations” using data from similar customers and prospects.  This content can then be forwarded to customers and prospects or posted on social sites as a LiveSend Link that supports full tracking and analytics.

Seismic LiveSend Links support tracking and analytics

Aura also displays customer engagement history and engagement between the customer and colleagues.

“Artificial intelligence isn’t just about making sellers more productive, which is important.  It’s also about helping buyers solve their problems by connecting them with the right content,” blogged Seismic Senior Content Strategist Tony Smith.

Seismic also released CRM SmartPlays within Salesforce.  The new feature “removes the burden of identifying the best sales plays” and suggests higher-performing content and context. “The modern salesperson is constantly pulled in multiple directions, leading to information overload and decision fatigue on what to do next. Aura’s content recommendations act as the seller’s sidekick, helping them eliminate the noise and avoid missing the next important engagement moment,” said Seismic CEO Doug Winter.  “Our approach to AI combines the best of human and artificial intelligence to give sellers a competitive edge and more time back in their day to engage with buyers. I can’t wait for more Seismic customers to see what Aura will do for them.”

Groove – Seismic Integration

Selecting Seismic content for inclusion in a Groove email flow

Groove and Seismic announced an integration partnership to “deliver relevant, approved, [and] compliant” Seismic content and LiveSend links within the Groove Sales Engagement Platform.

“Personalization is no longer a nice-to-have, but rather is an expectation from customers in today’s digital-first B2B sales environment,” said Preseetha Pettigrew, Seismic Global Vice President, Strategic Alliances.  “This integration with Groove streamlines the seller workflow, allowing frontline teams to focus on nurturing relationships and deliver greater value to clients.  I look forward to seeing how our joint customers benefit from this partnership.”

The integration delivers relevant content and CRM data within the Groove workflow and assists with intelligent content discovery.

“In today’s increasingly digital and remote B2B sales environment, this integrated solution bridges a critical gap between the point of engagement and Salesforce that helps companies quickly realize time-to-value, without a heavy lift from their IT or application development teams.  And easing the transition to remote selling is critical. Gartner’s 2020 Future of Sales research projects that 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels.”

Groove Director of Communications Jason Klein

Speaking to their joint value proposition, Groove Director of Communications Jason Klein said the firms share a “customer-first approach” to engaging clients in a “customized, data-driven, and scalable way while maintaining high compliance standards.”

Seismic Spring Enhancements

Sales Enablement vendor Seismic rolled out a set of platform enhancements last month that are “designed to help organizations capture every revenue moment and drive effective, efficient buyer engagement across all digital channels.”  The release included Seismic Aura, their new AI Engine for sales content.

Seismic Aura employs AI and machine learning to surface “new business opportunities and increase seller efficacy.”

“Over the last year, we’ve witnessed an incredible shift to all-digital buyer engagements. At Seismic, we’ve anticipated this change for some time now.  Our platform exists to make go-to-market teams more effective, whether their buyers are face-to-face or remote,” said Chief Product Officer Krish Mantripragada.  “The next challenge for technology leaders like Seismic will be to enable businesses to thrive in this new era of digital-first selling.  The innovations we’re launching at [Seismic’s virtual conference] Shift, along with the product updates we have coming later this year, bring sales and marketing teams closer together, helping them reach new customers and engage with existing customers in a compelling manner regardless of where they are.”

Continued Mantripragada, “humans can analyze only so much. Buried inside data are patterns, behavior, and insights that will hold keys to your questions and undiscovered opportunities. We are combining human intelligence and machine intelligence to harness the power of this data.”

Other Spring 2021 release features include

  • CRM SmartPlays employ predictive intelligence to recommend the most effective sales plays at any moment.  SmartPlays are delivered within the rep’s CRM workflow.
  • Seismic Sidekick, a Chrome extension powered by Aura, delivers guided selling and content recommendations “based on past engagement, similar buyers, and interests specific to each contact.” Sidekick helps surface engagement opportunities and reduces time spent searching for content.
  • Dynamic Email Templates
  • Global Privacy Management supports GDPR and country-specific, multi-lingual privacy requirements and notifications.
  • Groove and Seismic announced an integration partnership to “deliver relevant, approved, [and] compliant” Seismic content and LiveSend links within the Groove Sales Engagement Platform. The integration delivers relevant content and CRM data within the Groove workflow and assists with intelligent content discovery.

Along with announcing new features, Seismic boasted about its ongoing momentum.  Their net retention rate stands at 111%.  They have over one million users at over 700 enterprise clients, including deep penetration in the financial services sector.  Seismic claims that 22 of the top 25 global asset management companies are customers, along with 7 of the top 10 US banks and 4 of the top 5 North American wealth management firms. Seismic added over 200 employees last year and opened its first Canadian office with the December Grapevine6 acquisition.  They now have more than 1000 workers across fifteen offices.


Continue to Groove – Seismic Integration.

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.

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.