Sales Enablement vendor SalesHood announced the general availability of SkillsHood, an asynchronous training platform for the entire organization. The SkillsHood Enablement Platform “automates and scales organizational readiness and messaging alignment processes both for distributed and remote employees.”
“SkillsHood is our latest innovation created to boost employee productivity by elevating how employees learn, coach, and collaborate asynchronously across their organization,” posted CEO Elay Cohen on LinkedIn. “The SkillsHood Enablement Platform automates and scales organizational readiness and messaging alignment processes both for distributed and remote employees.”
SkillsHood delivers personalized learning and development training for both onboarding and ongoing training. Features include prescriptive learning paths, video role-playing, manager coaching, video storytelling, employee recognition, peer feedback, quizzes, and assessments. Streamed content may be delivered just-in-time by role and tenure. Other features include gamification, badging, and analytics. The enablement platform is integrated with Domo, GoodData, Tableau, and PoweredBI.
“It’s amazing to see sales enablement mature and transform to company-wide enablement,” said Cohen. “Now more than ever, all departments are looking for innovative ways to lift employee productivity and bring teams together virtually.”
Remote training will remain a core requirement after the pandemic. Gartner forecasts that 48% of employees will work at least part of the time versus 30% remotely before COVID-19.
Conversational Intelligence vendor Gong previewed a set of product and ecosystem integrations that “solidify its status as the platform for revenue teams.” New products include Gong Assist for automated task management and Reality-Based Forecasting for improved pipeline projections. The new Gong Collective supports its expanded universe of partner integrations.
“These moves come as the Gong Reality Platform – which captures and analyzes customer interactions and makes recommendations based on those interactions – continues to improve the performance of customer-facing teams,” stated the firm.
Gong Assist goes beyond task reminders to automate burdensome tasks that steal time away from the primary goals of sales reps: fostering long-term relationships and growing revenue. For example, instead of simply reminding a rep to set up a meeting or send an email, Gong will draft the email or meeting invite for the rep. Gong can also tee up congratulatory notes to contacts that have assumed new roles.
Gong will also be launching a new Reality-Based Forecasting product that provides “streamlined, bottoms-up forecasting and a fuller look at revenue trends.” Reps and sales management can view and maintain forecast data directly within Gong instead of toggling to other apps. In addition, reality-Based Forecasting will automatically remind reps to update forecasts “based on customer interactions that have been captured and analyzed by Gong.”
The Gong Collective is a branding of their partner ecosystem, which supports more than one hundred integrations. Gong provided details on a few of its partnerships:
DocuSign will present contracts within Gong. It will also alert teams when deals have progressed, but no sales contract has been drafted.
Slack Connect, Salesforce’s private channels for customers and partners, are ingested by Gong and treated as an additional engagement signal.
“Gong and Slack create that digital sales floor where revenue leaders can confidently manage sales teams — motivating and mentoring sales reps remotely, forecasting more accurately, engaging with customers effectively, and closing business more efficiently in a hybrid sales environment,” said Brad Armstrong, SVP of Business Development at Slack.
HighSpot and Seismic suggest which content should be shared and Gong gathers visiting analytics “to help customer-facing teams engage effectively and keep deals moving forward.”
“Gong has created raving fans by optimizing the performance of customer-facing teams,” said Gong CEO Amit Bendov. “Our new products only add to this value, making the Gong Reality Platform an even more valuable, centralized destination for teams to be successful.”
Revenue Intelligence platform Clari announced the acquisition of DealPoint. DealPoint supports deal management and collaboration by enabling “new visibility for sales teams into the connections and agreements between buyers and sellers.” In addition, DealPoint supports deal rooms and Mutual Action Plans (MAPs), helping reduce friction between buyers and sellers and fostering deal alignment.
“With mutual action plans, sales teams can improve alignment with buyers, drive scalable process and rigor, and improve win rates,” said Clari CEO Andy Byrne. “Our acquisition of DealPoint gives Clari customers a new insight they have never had — a view into what buyers are thinking. Combined with our new execution insights, managers and reps will have comprehensive visibility and new inspection capabilities in one unified workspace.”
At the front end of the collaboration, workflow is deal qualification, including defining the pains, processes, and priorities. Next, the teams develop a joint interactive timeline, team maps, and shared team resources (e.g., case studies, requirements, proposals). Finally, engagement metrics help reps quickly determine “which buyers are engaged, and who’s just kicking the tires.”
DealPoint monitors milestone completion and warns reps when milestones have been missed, helping keep deals on schedule.
“With a MAP, sellers get instant validation on value prop, buyer team, and timeline. Because both sides are operating from an actual plan, frontline managers can see not only what has been done on a deal, but also what hasn’t been done.
In other words, we know which buyers are serious, which deals are going to stall, and what needs to happen to keep everything running smoothly.
Incorporating those buyer signals gives Clari new insight into deal health that will revolutionize deal inspections, resource allocation, and forecast accuracy for frontline managers.”
Tom Williams, Head of DealPoint
Having a joint plan assists with buy-in, providing a psychological edge for the sales team. “By providing a clear plan to value, you guide the customer journey and keep the conversation focused on fixing their problem with your product,” states DealPoint. “Buyers adopt your plan as their own, edging out competitors and reducing surprises.”
Sales Managers also benefit from instituting a repeatable process. According to DealPoint, 50% of reps quickly abandon new methodologies. Thus, streamlining the methodology helps ensure buy-in and compliance.
Once integrated with Clari, managers will have even more confidence in forecasts based upon milestone tracking. Additionally, managers can ask reps what needs to be done to bring the deal back on plan, and sales reps can ask similar questions to buyers, helping foster shared accountability.
Customer Success teams benefit from smooth handoffs and pre-defined expectations.
DealPoint argues that taking a set of small steps helps foster trust that reduces perceived buyer risk as milestones are met. Likewise, collaborating on a joint plan helps build relationships between the revenue team and the buying committee.
DealPoint comes with the MEDDIC methodology out of the box, but users can implement others.
DealPoint is priced at $59 per rep per month on an annual contract. Seats include an unlimited number of customers and Mutual Action Plans. In addition, DealPoint is integrated with Salesforce and HubSpot.
Deal Rooms are a logical extension of Revenue Intelligence as they facilitate communications between sales reps, customer success, and buyers. Collaboration also aligns buyers and sellers, fosters collaboration, reduces the probability of surprises, improves forecast confidence, and gooses close rates.
The integrated Deal Room GA is scheduled for Q4. Acquisition terms were not announced.
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%).
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 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.
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 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.”
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.
Grooveand 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.
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.”
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 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.”
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.