Seismic Acquires Grapevine6 (Part II)

Last week, Seismic announced the acquisition of social selling platform Grapevine6 and immediately launched LiveSocial. Grapevine6 targets professional and financial services companies, including wealth management, insurance, and banking.  It supports four of the top five North American wealth management firms.  Financial services customers include TIAA, Merrill, and Wells Fargo. 

Professional Services firms use Grapevine6 to amplify their thought leadership and share “authoritative content.”

Seismic and Grapevine have a background in “meeting the needs of the financial services market with industry-leading compliance technology,” said Grapevine6 CEO Mike Orr.

LiveSocial employs Proofpoint and SafeGuard Cyber integrations “to meet the varying security, compliance, and archiving needs of each of our clients.” Every share is checked for regulatory and company policy compliance.  LiveSocial also archives “contextual information, including remediation workflow and content classification, which saves you time and money during an audit.”

Grapevine6 also sells into the technology sector and “is the largest social selling program at SAP.”  

“Social media has transformed the buyer’s journey.  Savvy buyers now use social media to not only gather information and connect with peers but also to research the sales professionals and advisors they’re partnering with.  The current sea change to digital communication is an opportunity to better serve customers by enabling salespeople to humanize relationships with personal stories — the true promise of digital selling. Partnering with Seismic over the past few years in creating a content ecosystem, we realized how aligned we are in our vision for digital selling and that an acquisition created a win-win for all Grapevine6 and Seismic customers.”

Grapevine6 CEO Mike Orr

LiveSocial is a mobile-first platform available on iOS and Android devices as well as desktops.  Employees may share content on social channels, SMS, and email.  Other features include “one-touch” sharing and scheduling, automatic scheduling optimization, and AI-suggested comment starters that “receive 32% more engagement.”

Grapevine6 supports leading email platforms as well as client email platforms. It integrates natively with SFDC Marketing Cloud and MS Outlook.  

LiveSocial pricing details were not disclosed.

The full Grapevine6 team is joining Seismic, with Orr heading up the LiveSocial team.  LinkedIn lists 97 Grapevine6 employees, with 67% headcount growth over the past year and 169% over the past two.  The firm maintained steady hiring throughout the pandemic.

No financial terms were disclosed.

Seismic Acquires Grapevine6

Sales enablement and marketing orchestration platform Seismic acquired long-standing partner Grapevine6, a Toronto-based digital and social engagement platform.  Grapevine6 helps customer-facing professionals deliver “relevant content” from over 11,000 third-party publishers in six languages.  The Grapevine6 service, which is being re-launched as Seismic LiveSocial, improves sales engagement with customers and prospects through “meaningful, authentic online conversations” on social media platforms.  LiveSocial shifts social media communications from companies to trusted advisors, fostering social selling.

Grapevine6 will be integrated into Seismic and underpin the new Seismic LiveSocial service for sales and client-facing teams.  It will continue to be available as a freemium offering.

“LiveSocial will leverage the AI engine built by Grapevine6 to help sellers become trusted advisors by authentically engaging with their clients across the social media landscape,” said Seismic.  The combined service will help customer-facing professionals share “timely, reputable, and compliant content in their own voice” across LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

Users are fed a daily stream of tailored content “that best fits their interests and the needs of the markets they sell or serve.” Marketing content is included in the feed, and users can search their corporate content library.

“Each organization, and every individual seller, has a different perspective on the right balance of content,” Seismic stated in an email to GZ Consulting.  “Authenticity demands that there be no single correct approach.  Once the seller has connected their social profiles, Grapevine6’s AI platform intelligently serves up content that sellers can share on their social profiles based on an interest graph developed from previous activity and earned engagement.  Sellers can also calibrate their interest graph from within the platform.  Additionally, with the risk and compliance controls in place, sellers do not have to worry about vetting each and every post.  Content is already evaluated and approved based on hundreds of risk factors.”

Grapevine6 said that most employee advocacy programs fail because social content is focused on the individual and the company but lacks a broader perspective and “fresh, relevant content” that speaks to broader topics and industry issues.  Furthermore, the adoption rates are low because reps don’t know what’s in it for them.  By offering a steady stream of personalized content that can be quickly shared and monitored for compliance, LiveSocial mixes in a broad set of compliant content consistent with the brand while avoiding the problem of narcissistic messaging about the individual and the company.

“People engage with and do business with, people that they know, respect, and trust.  Leading firms now recognize that their brand lives at the edge of the organization.  It lives in the personal brand, the reputation, and the conversations of every client-facing employee.  It’s no longer enough to rely on centralized communication and advertising channels to get the word out about the great work your firm does.  Modern marketing success comes from empowering every employee to show up, speak up, nurture new and existing relationships, and spark conversations on social media.”

Grapevine6 FAQ

LiveSocial metrics include the ROI of a company’s social engagement strategy.  Other user and administrator metrics include activity, engagement, impact, top-performing assets, and top-performing topic areas.

“In today’s dynamic sales landscape, buyers increasingly want to hear from and connect with trusted individuals, not companies, on social media,” said Seismic CEO Doug Winter.  “Grapevine6 will be instrumental to providing additional customer value by combining Seismic’s industry-leading sales enablement platform and Grapevine6’s digital engagement platform, further empowering sales teams to educate and engage with buyers online — while simultaneously helping to build their personal brands in an authentic way.”

“Social media has cemented itself as a critical front line between organisations and their customers with IDC reporting that 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level executives use social media to make purchasing decisions,” said Seismic Asia Pacific and Japan VP Richard Kulkarni.  “With the global pandemic as a catalyst, social selling skills, and digital eminence have become vital competencies for workforces.  Seismic LiveSocial not only empowers sales teams to engage clients more effectively on social media channels but also helps turn every employee into a brand ambassador, delivering a strong advantage in this new business reality.”


Continue to Part II.

Drift for Salesforce

Revenue Acceleration platform vendor Drift launched Drift for Salesforce, a new integration that creates and updates Salesforce Leads and Contacts then syncs chat conversations.  Drift also offers the option to pass leads into Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua, or HubSpot.

Drift employs Contract Attribute mapping that derives contact attributes from chats, with both standard and custom attribute variables supported.  Drift Admins map the variables between the two platforms and set overwrite rules at the field level.

When leads book sales meetings through Drift, the sales rep is assigned as the lead owner in Salesforce, a Salesforce event is created, and the chat transcript is stored as a live chat record once the chat has closed.

Drift also syncs with opportunity records, helping operations teams understand which Drift conversations impacted opportunities, the dollar value of the interactions, and which conversations influenced the deal.  Thus, revenue operations teams can understand which conversations affected the bottom line, wherever they occurred across the buyers’ journey.  Drift reports and dashboards assist with attribution.

“Drift’s pre-built reports and custom dashboards give you an at-a-glance view of your performance so you always have the information you and your stakeholders need – right at your fingertips. You can also use the app to analyze your performance across the business, by specific metric, or by teammate, so you can easily identify specific areas where you should double-down.”

Drift Product Marketing Senior Manager Aurelia Solomon

Drift can also display customized welcome messages for target accounts and immediately route important contacts to sales reps.

Drift looks at the email and domain to map records.  If a domain is new, then a new lead is created, but if the domain already exists, either a new contact record is created or the email is used to match the conversation to a current contact.

Drift for Salesforce is available for Enterprise, Unlimited, Developer, and Performance plans.


In other news, Drift ranked #6 on the Deloitte Fast 500 North American list, with 35,474% revenue growth between 2016 and 2019.

“We founded Drift because we recognized that we were going through a paradigm shift,” commented CEO David Cancel. “We were moving from a world where the company controlled the buying process — to one in which the buyer was in control.  This is even more true now — and we’re just getting started.  Our mission is to change the way businesses buy from businesses, and we’re thrilled that our customers have chosen us to create frictionless, more human experiences.”

RelSci Launches Radar for Business Development (Part II)

Relationship Science (RelSci) recently announced Relationship Radar, their new relationship capital management service that marries sales intelligence with an enterprise’s network of employees, alumni, and professional relationships. I covered the feature functionality in yesterday’s blog.

The RelSci Radar release should be viewed as a V1, with a deep set of planned enhancements on the product roadmap:

  • Signature block scraping with automated contact updates
  • Contact de-duplication
  • Integration of Radar into their iOS and Android apps
  • GSuite and Salesforce integrations
  • Broader incorporation of Radar into the RelSci platform and API

Radar is included as part of the RelSci enterprise subscription.  There is no additional licensing fee beyond a $750 implementation charge that can vary slightly depending on the implementation scope.

“As part of our product roadmap, we plan to make Radar available with greater flexibility (including the option to opt-out of the front-end platform at a reduced rate), but for now Radar is only available as part of our enterprise offering,” wrote RelSci Data Product Manager Brian Hyman.

RelSci products are sold on a seat basis with volume discounts.

Pricing is based on the number of seats and configuration.  RelSci did not disclose additional details.

Relationship Capital Management software was a hot category fifteen years ago but never gained much traction due to security concerns and the rise of LinkedIn as a public network.  With security teams now more comfortable with cloud solutions, the category may be open to rediscovery.  Introhive has been successful in the space, placing 128th on Deloitte’s 2020 Fast 500 technology list, with revenue growth of 938% between 2016 and 2019.  Many of the top professional services firms have deployed Introhive, including PriceWaterhouseCoopers, with a 100,000 seat implementation across 90 countries.

“We founded Introhive with a mission to help organizations realize the full value of their relationships and better leverage the underutilized data across their business to increase revenues,” said CEO Jody Glidden. “We have evolved into a suite of artificial intelligence-based solutions that expedite growth for sales and marketing teams.”

LinkedIn Sales Navigator supports corporate TeamLink networking across LinkedIn connections of opted-in colleagues. Relationship networking is also a central feature of InsideView and Warmly, which recently received seed round funding.

RelSci Launches Radar for Business Development

Sales Intelligence vendor Relationship Science (RelSci) unveiled Radar, its latest business development solution.  Radar analyzes emails and calendars to deliver insights about interactions between colleagues and target companies.  Radar currently supports Microsoft mail platforms (e.g., Exchange, Office 365), with GSuite on the roadmap.

Each morning, business development and sales reps receive an email briefing with the latest intelligence on their scheduled appointments, even if RelSci lacks company and contact profiles for the individuals.  Briefings include the date, time, location, meeting attendee lists, and information about the attendees.  Daily email briefings can also be accessed from mobile devices.

RelSci intelligence includes the number of colleagues in touch with the individual, total interactions, last interaction date, and latest news.  Radar also displays a list of colleagues in touch with execs, sorted by connection strength.  For meetings, profiles and network connections are provided for each of the attendees.

“During these unprecedented times, it is more important than ever to help take the guesswork out of targeting prospects by utilizing RelSci with Radar to identify your strongest relationship path, coupled with full insights into your firm’s communication interactions.”

RelSci CEO Domenic Graziosi

Radar provides greater visibility into the relationship capital of a firm, delivering insights about networks across the enterprise.  Along with company and contact news, RelSci offers the best path for reaching out to prospects.         

“Radar generated insights are derived from Exchange scanning for specified users,” explained RelSci Data Product Manager Brian Hyman. “You need to opt-in for Radar to scan your interactions, meaning that the insights derived from this scanning will only be available for participants.  However, RelSci users that do not participate in Radar scanning, but are part of an organization that has Radar participants, will be able to leverage insights generated by those Radar participants.”

Security is controllable at the account level, with each user deciding whether to participate in network sharing.  

“You can opt-out of Radar entirely to prevent confidential information from being shared,” wrote Hyman. “You can also set specific sharing rules within every client account to prevent Radar data from certain users from being shared with other specified users.  You can also prevent certain content from being scanned by Radar (emails marked as personal, private, confidential, etc.).”

To expedite account setup, admins can assign accounts to Exchange distribution lists maintained by their clients.

RelSci has constructed profiles for over ten million executives and estimated the connection strength between customers and each individual.


Continue to Part II with coverage of pricing, roadmap, and a discussion of Relationship Capital Management.

Alyce Partners with Vidyard

Continuing on the Vidyard theme from yesterday, Personal Experience platform Alyce has integrated Vidyard into its e-gifting service.  The Vidyard partnership lets customers record or insert personalized videos “within the Alyce gifting flow, helping sales reps create deeper, more personal bonds and connections with prospects and customers.”

Alyce customers with a Vidyard Enterprise account may insert videos from the Vidyard library or record a custom video that is displayed on the Alyce gift landing page.  Recommended gifts are based on an AI analysis of the “#5to9” experiences of individuals, ensuring that the gift and messaging are better targeted than generic swag and marketing templates.

As Sales Engagement platforms have noted improved open and response rates associated with personalized video, it is likely that customers and prospects will well receive a recorded message.  Alyce claims up to a 50% improvement in click-through rates when personal videos are included in email invitations and a nearly 80% lift in landing page conversion rates.

“Our integration with Alyce provides customers with the ultimate way to deliver end-to-end personal experiences to prospects and customers by pairing personal video and personal gifting in one platform,” said Vidyard VP of Marketing Tyler Lessard. “This partnership strengthens the movement around being personal in marketing and sales, which we and our customers embrace to build rapport and trust through the more engaging combined experience.”

Mutual customers can add a personalized video to Alyce’s email invitations.  The thumbnail and associated video help “put a face to the name, and up your ability to be personal even more.” The video also appears o the gift landing page.

Marketing can deploy campaign-based videos.  For example, a webinar follow-on Alyce message may be sent to webinar attendees or before events.

Alyce does not send a standard, generic item to customers and prospects.  Instead, recipients can choose the recommended item, select an alternate item from the Alyce gift marketplace, or donate the value of the gift to a charity of their choice.

“The Personal Experience approach has a multitude of amazing use-cases to strengthen and enhance building personal bonds and professional relationships to help grow business. Integrating Vidyard personal video into Alyce platform itself to deliver face-to-face PX moments is a game-changer.”

Greg Segall, CEO of Alyce

Direct Marketing swag companies such as Alyce, PFL, and Sendoso seem to be trying out various names for their industry.  Other frequent terms are one-to-one gifting, sending platform, and tactile marketing automation.  Personal Experience seems too far afield as e-gifting usually involves swag, not services.

Alyce is based in Boston and has 170 employees in seven countries.

Vidyard Platform Enhancements

Vidyard redesigned its video creation and collaboration platform with a set of enhanced editing and security features.  New capabilities include a Zoom integration, updates to its video hosting platform, an Android app, video commenting, and single sign-on (SSO) security.  

The service continues to be available on a freemium basis with a series of tiers from free to enterprise (see the pricing table on the right).

Vidyard added new on-screen drawing and highlighting tools to its webcam and screen recording service.  Users can customize videos by highlighting their screens with a variety of brush sizes and colors.  When recording their screen and webcam at the same time, users can move their camera window on-the-fly to avoid covering up important visuals.   Users may also add speaker’s notes, bullets, and talking points “on-screen, directly above their webcam.”

Vidyard updated its iOS app and added an Android app, helping users “record and share videos anytime, anywhere.” Videos may be quickly recorded and shared with a branded video sharing page.  Both the app and desktop applications share a common video library, providing access to the same set of pre-recorded videos.

Viewers can leave comments and replies to shared videos, allowing colleagues and prospects to collaborate, provide feedback, or ask questions.  The senders receive comment notifications to help expedite closing the communications loop.  This feature is available for Pro, Teams, and Enterprise users.

Pro, Team, and Enterprise video users may secure access via private passwords and SSO.

New enterprise features include transcribing, closed captioning, video thumbnail customization, viewer permissioning, and publishing to public and private channels.

A new Zoom integration for Business and Enterprise licensors lets users automatically sync recorded Zoom calls into their accounts once the call completes.  Recording security features include SSO and passwords.  Recorded sessions may be viewed on a dedicated video sharing page.

“Businesses are quickly evolving their sales, marketing, and communications strategies to align with a digital-first communication world.  Video is a huge part of that, as it’s simply more efficient, more expressive, and more effective than standard text.  Today’s businesses need a simpler, smarter, and more scalable way to put the power of video into their people’s hands.  We’re excited to deliver on that need with a new breed of video creation and hosting solutions that turn any business professional into a video creator and any organization into a video-first business.”

Vidyard CEO Michael Litt

“We’re only scratching the surface of how video can be used to create a more connected, engaged, and efficient workforce in the digital age,” said Vidyard VP of Marketing Tyler Lessard. “With the barriers to video creation and sharing all but gone, we’re excited to see how businesses across all markets will capitalize on the power of video in the months and years ahead to enhance everything from sales and marketing to internal communications and employee engagement.”

Vidyard has 220 employees based in Kitchener (Ontario), Vancouver, Boston, and Dublin.  The firm’s conversion rate from freemium to paid has increased during the pandemic.


Tomorrow I will be discussing the Vidyard integration into Alyce’s Personal Experience (gifting) platform.

RelPro – Introhive Partnership

Sales Intelligence vendors RelPro and Introhive announced a partnership to deliver extended relationship insights and workflow integrations to joint customers in the Professional and Financial Services sectors.  The combined solution is immediately available to joint customers.

RelPro integrates content from seventeen data sources to deliver sales insights and contacts across 7 million companies.  Introhive adds relationship insights, data automation, and data cleansing tools.  The partnership helps “clients achieve greater sales efficiency and productivity” during the pandemic and recession.

“Our clients use RelPro to identify new prospects and ensure the contact information they have for those prospects is accurate and reliable.  Being able to map relationships that may already exist within their organization boosts the productivity of their business development professionals and increases referral traffic and collaboration.  With Introhive’s advanced relationship intelligence automation technology and data automation capabilities combined with our rich data coverage and quality, our clients can marry two best-in-class solutions to support and enrich their business development activities with little to no disruption of their day-to-day.”

RelPro CEO Martin Wise

Introhive boosts CRM adoption through automated contact data enrichment and uploads.  Introhive claims that it uncovers 350 additional contacts per user.  “The AI engine then maps these contacts to identify relationships across prospects and customer accounts.”  By reducing research and data maintenance overhead, sales and business professionals can focus their activities on prospects and clients, therefore driving customer satisfaction and the bottom line.

“With Introhive, users gain back roughly an average of 12 hours per week that would otherwise be spent on data entry or preparing for meetings.  Our Pre-Meeting Digest removes the burden of gathering information to ensure prospect or customer-facing professionals are equipped with everything they need before meetings, while Post-Meeting Reports allow for notes, tasks, and activities to be added to CRM directly from the user’s email inbox.  When we add RelPro’s database with our relationship mapping and productivity tools, customers can begin uncovering contacts and opportunities that were previously hidden.”

Introhive CEO Jody Glidden

Several months ago, RelPro released an integration with Vertical IQ to deliver industry intelligence to joint customers.  This partnership is bearing fruit as the companies have been providing referrals to each other in the financial services space.  Of course, integration partnerships also improve the stickiness of both solutions.

RelPro’s revenue is up a bit during the first half of 2020, and Wise is confident about H2.  Their business slowed less due to the pandemic than due to banks focusing on PPP processing for about eight weeks.  The banking business has since recovered as they look to provide “on the couch business development” to relationship managers and business development professionals across all segments of the banking industry.

Showing agility, the firm loaded the SBA PPP loan data into their platform and made it screenable.  Bankers and advisors can search the 660k companies who received loans in excess of $150,000.  The new dataset provides additional banking relationship data that complements UCC (liens) loan data already available through their service.

Introhive has over 240 employees with offices in the US, Canada, the UK, and India.  The firm supports over 100,000 global users.  Introhive was founded in 2012 with an initial focus on the accounting market.  It has taken an industry-by-industry approach and now supports global systems integrators, law firms, finance, commercial real estate, and, most recently, technology firms.

Introhive placed tenth on Deloitte’s Fast 50 with revenue growth of 1,700 percent over four years.

ScaleX.AI Social Flows

AI-powered sales engagement service ScaleX.AI announced the availability of SocialFlow, which leverages employee networks for warm introductions at target buyer personas.  According to ScaleX, most firms use only 3% of their employees’ professional networks.  Social Flow unlocks the remaining 97% of connections for generating warm introductions.

“Successful outbound requires a perfect mix of quality and quantity.  With the launch of SocialFlow, we’re further enhancing the quality that our clients have come to expect.  This is truly the first-ever AI for Social Selling engine on the market today!”

ScaleX CEO Chad Burmeister

A virtual BDR automates social outreach in parallel to phone and email.  Once one of these channels makes a connection, the other channels are halted.

Other ScaleX features include

  • Social & Email Automated Cadences
  • Agent-assisted power dialing
  • Social & Email templates with proven conversions
  • Leads from Zoominfo, DiscoverOrg, Lead411, and SalesIntel at a monthly rate vs. an annual commitment
  • Digital paid ads optimized for impressions

ScaleX positions itself as an automated BDR at a lower cost than direct sales staff.  The firm describes its ideal customer as “companies who either can’t afford to hire a full-time SDR or BDR (Sales or Business Development Representative) or companies who want to augment their in-house sales team with outsourced Virtual BDRs that are 7-10X more productive.”

The ScaleX Virtual BDR (BDR as a Service) starts at $3,000 per month for data and digital outreach, and $7,000/month for data + digital (email, social, paid-ads) + data.  Monthly outbound communications include around 3,000 emails per month, 3,000 social sales activities, thousands of impressions, and 3,000 dials.

ScaleX cited research by one of their Board members that the SDR function grew 500 percent from 2012 to 2017 and another 80-90 percent in 2017-2019.  Burmeister questions how long SDR employment growth will last before automation improves the efficiency and effectiveness of SDRs, causing the role to plateau, and ultimately decline.

ScaleX was originally called Sales Hack, but they changed their name when Outreach acquired Sales Hacker.

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.