Sales 3.0 and the Growth Mindset

Sales 3.0 LogoThe Sales 2.0 shows, which have been held for almost a decade, were rebranded Sales 3.0.  As with Sales 2.0, the focus remains on people, process, and technology.  I am not convinced that there is actually a discrete break from 2.0 to 3.0.  For example, the conference site states, “B2B buyers are online, digitally empowered, and looking for salespeople who can articulate value,” but this has been true for the past decade.  One can argue that two other differences are more current, the rise of artificial intelligence and Account Based Marketing.  Both have risen to the forefront of sales and marketing intelligence over the past two years due to the maturation of technology.

The final Sales 3.0 difference focuses on coaching sales reps to “embrace the power of mindset [to] achieve peak sales performance.”  Mindset is a set of attitudes and beliefs that we begin assembling at birth and which shape behavior.  The pre-frontal cortex of the brain stores these mindsets as networks of “cognitive elements, memories, and associated feelings from past experiences.”

“When your mindset is functioning at optimum levels, you’re better able to excel in tough sales situations. That’s because – according to scientific research conducted by Professor Michael Bernard at the University of Melbourne, Australia – high achievers consciously create a belief system that helps them cope effectively with difficult situations at work,” says a Sales 3.0 Conference report.  “We all have the capacity to direct our minds to become powerful, positive, productive forces for ourselves.”

The report noted that successful and positive individuals have a growth mindset which focuses on self-improvement.  “They believe that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, instruction, and persistence. They don’t necessarily believe they can become geniuses, but they believe they can become more skilled and intelligent by working hard. People with a growth mindset tend to achieve higher levels of success.”

This year’s Sales 3.0 shows will be held in San Francisco (May 1-2), Las Vegas (September 18-19), and Philadelphia (December 4th).

Sales Intelligence Vendors Move Upstream

ZoomInfo Personas provide a multi-dimensional cluster analysis for identifying persona categories and prospecting against them.
ZoomInfo Personas provide a multi-dimensional cluster analysis for identifying persona categories and prospecting against them.

Five years ago, Sales Intelligence vendors avoided selling into the marketing  department.  While there were a few enrichment projects for CRMs, these were driven by Sales Ops, not marketing departments.  Furthermore, SalesTech products are sold on a per seat basis for sales reps while marketing revenue is generally volume based (e.g. number of prospecting records sold or records enriched).  This made pricing of services difficult.

But MarTech was receiving heavy investments and several firms shifted their focus from sales to marketing.  Zoominfo began discussing Sales and Marketing Alignment and developed a set of marketing tools.  The firm, which had been struggling to grow revenue for several years, is again on a growth trajectory and made the two most recent Inc. 5000 lists.

InsideView also began developing marketing functionality and now treats the two departments equally.  Most of InsideView’s recent investment has been in building out marketing solutions or expanding their company and contact coverage (which benefits sales and marketing equally).

At the beginning of 2015, Dun & Bradstreet acquired NetProspex for its contact database and Workbench hygiene platform.  The firm also used NetProspex as the basis for their Audience Solutions programmatic marketing service which was launched in 2015.

In 2016, the Sales Intelligence vendors continued to move upstream into marketing intelligence and hygiene.  InsideView continues to enhance its Target, Enrich, and Refresh marketing tools while Avention launched OneSource DataVision for web form enrichment, continuous enrichment, segmentation, look-a-like prospecting, and TAM analysis.  Avention also launched Marketo and Eloqua connectors for their OneSource service.

“OneSource DataVision naturally extends the sales and marketing benefits our customers can gain from OneSource Solutions by being even more targeted with campaigns and programmes – including account-based,” said Avention SVP of Product Lauren Bakewell. “Better qualified leads and more targeted account-based approaches should bring better sales results, which should in turn strengthen sales and marketing alignment; we feel alignment happens best when sales forecasts are being met and exceeded!”

Zoominfo has repositioned itself as a MarTech company with a rebranding of their platform as the Zoominfo Growth Acceleration Platform.  While sales reps are still supported, the emphasis is on data enrichment, segmentation analysis, cluster analysis, and look-a-like prospecting against clusters.

DiscoverOrg and RainKing also placed greater emphasis upon marketing and ABM capabilities.  Both services support predictive rankings of accounts and contacts, MAP and CRM enrichment, and new opportunities (Inside Scoops from RainKing and OppAlerts and sales triggers from DiscoverOrg).

In 2017 and 2018, expect the walls between SalesTech and MarTech to crumble.  The opportunity to offer a solution for both departments via a shared reference database will continue to drive strategy at these firms.  As MarTech begins to consolidate, expect M&A activity within the sector and vertically with SalesTech vendors.

Sales Intelligence vendors have key assets that benefit marketing departments including large company and contact datasets for prospecting and enrichment; firmographic data for lead scoring, targeting, segmentation, and routing; and the growing ability to tie leads to accounts in real-time.  They are also well positioned to support ABM functionality with profiling, analytics (segmentation, Total Addressable Market analysis), and look-a-like prospecting.

Of course, MarTech is also beginning to eye SalesTech.  Last spring, Demandbase acquired Spiderbook and leveraged its capabilities to launch their DemandGraph relationship dataset.  The expanded content set employs semantic mining and machine learning to assemble the “entire business network of a company” which helps  “identify which companies and buying committees are in-market for particular solutions.”  The DemandGraph helps users target in-market accounts, identify key buyers, uncover meaningful insights, and deliver personalized content.  While they have not announced specific predictive tools or capabilities, they are hinting at such tools.

Demandbase DemandGraph
Demandbase DemandGraph

Meanwhile, the predictive analytics companies, which originally focused on lead scoring, are now building sales functionality including net-new contacts at accounts, account prioritization, flagging churn candidates,  and providing recommendations for sales reps.

Things are just beginning to get interesting.

Data Strategy Must Support Both MAP and CRM

IDC Chart from "The Data Advantage for Marketing and Sales," June 2016 Research (N=200)
IDC Chart from “The Data Advantage for Marketing and Sales,” June 2016 Research (N=200)

A recent IDC survey of 200 sales and marketing professionals in North America found that the largest source of leads was the Direct Sales Force at 37% of organizations.  The remaining top sources were generated by the marketing department.  Direct Marketing was still the second most important source (21%) with digital ads (14%), corporate websites (10%), and trade events (7%) also generating significant leads.

Thus, any attempt to improve the quality of leads must include both sales and marketing departments.  A focus on only those leads generated by marketing and stored in the marketing automation platform (MAP) means that a high percentage of your leads are not being impacted by your data quality efforts.  Furthermore, even if the MAP is being regularly cleansed and enriched, once leads are sent to the CRM, they still need to be maintained.

The good news is that at firms which focus on sales rep lead identification, the percentage of bad leads (incomplete, inaccurate, duplicate) was only 22%.  Only trade event focused companies had a lower lead quality rate (20%).  So which programs generate a high percentage of bad leads?  Those which are led by social content (49%), off-line ads (42%), and direct marketing (33%).  In these cases, attribution issues and incomplete data are likely sources of errors and duplicates.

What is shocking is that four of every nine firms surveyed with at least one hundred employees have no data services strategy.  Of these, 38% see no need for a working with a data services provider.  34% were put off by cost, but fail to recognize the cost of bad data is felt in sales, marketing, and downstream platforms with a host of both direct and indirect costs.  What’s more, once bad data is propagated downstream, the remediation costs go up several fold.

There are a number of vendors that address data quality in both sales and marketing platforms.  These include ReachForce, D&B NetProspex, InsideView, Avention, and Zoominfo.

SFDC Einstein: Once Again We’re Discussing AI

einstein-artificial-intelligence-in-business

In the late 1980’s, when my career was first beginning, I worked on a technology helpdesk for an insurance agency automation system (Aetna’s Gemini platform).  Many of the calls were routine with an easily road mapped set of resolution steps.  So the firm decided to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) and began interviewing its most seasoned experts to identify the problem resolution path.

After several months of development, an AI module would be unveiled that walked the user through problem resolution.  It was basically a set of if-then-else and case statements providing pre-coded branching logic.  Support reps started with a category and were walked through a set of questions to ask and resolution steps to convey over the phone.

The solution was expensive and lacked the ability to learn.  Thus, if new problems arose or the problem resolution changed due to new hardware or software being introduced, the rules no longer applied.

It was far from intelligent.  Heck, I’d coded a twenty-questions game in a first semester programming class that was more intelligent than the service.  At least my Q&A game had the ability to learn new questions to ask without requiring an expensive consultant.

Finally, it was only used by new hires as much of the routine steps were just that — routine.

Solutions like this quickly proved that Artificial Intelligence wasn’t intelligent and after a few years, the term AI fell from favor and returned to the realm of sci-fi killer robots.

Nearly three decades later, the term AI is once again being rolled out.  But now it does convey an impressive level of intelligence which makes our devices feel smart.  It’s why we call them smartphones.  They are able to leverage vast amounts of data and make decisions in the blink of an eye.  Whether it is asking Siri a question or having Google map the best route to a location subject to current traffic patterns and transportation mode, we expect our devices to be intelligent.

AI represents a massive change in technology. You might call it a “paradigm shift” or “disruption” or we could just stick with “massive change.” What we’re trying to say is, AI is kind of a big deal. And just like the arrival of the personal computer, cloud computing, and the mobile smartphone, AI is going to fundamentally change the way things work, forever.

AI is not killer robots. It’s killer technology.

So it was with a smile that I saw the term AI being used by Salesforce in positioning their new Einstein service.  Each year at Dreamforce, CEO Marc Benioff discusses a new underlying technology or cloud.  Most recently it has been Lighting (UI and workflows), Wave (analytics), and the Internet of Things Cloud.  At Dreamforce 2016, it is Einstein, their artificial intelligence platform to assist with sales, marketing, and service.

Salesforce presents AI simply as

Lots of data + cloud computing + good data models = smarter machines

So while much of this technology has been provided as consumer applications for over a decade, businesses have been lagging behind when the scope goes beyond a mobile app or e-commerce portal.

Shouldn’t the full transactional and service history be available to help understand past purchases, preferences, and potential cross-sell and upsell opportunities?

Wouldn’t we want it delivered no matter the touch point?

That is the type of intelligence that Einstein is looking to bring to Salesforce customers.  Einstein is “the world’s first comprehensive artificial intelligence platform for CRM. I’ve never been more excited about the innovation happening at Salesforce,”  said Benioff.

Einstein is available both programmatically (for developers) and “declaratively for non-coders,” said Benioff.  It is integrated directly into the SFDC platform and available across all of the clouds.  For example, an Einstein widget displays a set of insights identifying competitor news, recommended actions, and account intelligence.

Einstein Insights Widgets provide intelligence both programmatically for developers and data scientists and declaratively for end users.
Einstein Insights alerts widget.

 

Einstein can surface competitor mentions even if the end user hasn't trained it to do so.
Einstein Insights surfaces insights both programmatically for developers and data scientists and declaratively for end users.  It can even infer competitors from emails and deliver alerts within SFDC widgets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Einstein builds models with no coding or initial training by users.  For example, the system is able to determine which trigger events are important to sales reps and surface news about competitors without asking “who are your competitors?”  The system also can make recommendations concerning high-scoring leads based upon both fit (firmographics, biographics) and behavior (e.g. recent viewing of a demo).

Einstein recommends actions to sales reps. In this case, it is suggesting an email requesting a meeting be setup with the VP of Sales at a high-scoring account.
Einstein recommends actions to sales reps. In this case, it is suggesting an email requesting a meeting with the VP of Sales at a high scoring lead who recently viewed a product demo on the website.

Not only does the system recommend activity, but it then offers recommended email copy including a proposed call time.

The platform is built on a series of recent acquisitions including RelateIQ (rebranded SaleforceIQ), MetaMind, Implisit, PreductionIO, and TempoAI.  The firm now has a team of 175 data scientists “stitching together this amazing platform,” said Benioff.

“The new platform will “democratize artificial intelligence” and “make every company and every employee smarter, faster and more productive,” continued Benioff.  “This is going to be a huge differentiator and growth driver going forward as it puts us well ahead of our CRM competition once again.”

The new platform infuses their sales, cloud, and marketing platforms with AI capabilities for “anyone” regardless of their role or industry.  According to Salesforce, Einstein lets employees “use clicks or code to build AI-powered apps that get smarter with every interaction.”

Einstein is positioned as having your own data scientist focused on applying AI to customer relationships.  Einstein has access to a broad set of intelligence including CRM data, email, calendar, social, ERP, and IoT to “deliver predictions and recommendations in context of what you’re trying to do. In some cases, it even automates tasks for you. So you can make smarter decisions with confidence and focus more attention on your customers at every touch point.”

Several predictive analytics companies used the launch to shout, “hey wait, we’ve already mastered AI for sales and marketing.”  LeadSpace CEO and former Salesforce CMO Doug Bewsher stated, “B2B marketers need a complete solution that works across multiple channels, in their existing marketing stack.”

“Bad data is the Achilles heel of AI,” continued Bewsher. “AI is only as good as the data available to it. Marketers who want to get the full benefit of AI need to address their data problems first, or they’ll see the same diminishing returns as with traditional marketing automation.”

Shashi Upadhyay, CEO at Lattice Engines was a bit more diplomatic in welcoming Einstein.  “After having led the market for several years, we are really excited to see the mainstream attention shifting towards AI-based solutions for marketing and sales.  The Einstein announcement from Salesforce is a great step forward, as it will serve to educate the market and signal that predictive solutions are here to stay.”

Image Credit: Salesforce.com

KiteDesk: FIND and FLOW Sales Acceleration

The FIND Prospect Profile provides contact information, social media links, and recent activity.
The FIND Prospect Profile provides contact information, social media links, and recent activity.

The development of a robust set of Account Based Sales Development vendors (ABSD) was a trend I missed in my original Field Guide.  But as vendors began to announce content partnerships with the Sales Intelligence vendors, it was a trend I was unable to ignore.  Readers of my blog will find steady coverage of “Sales Acceleration” firms such as SalesLoft, Outreach, and QuotaFactory.  Just last week, I was writing about InsideSales.com.

As part of the 2017 edition of my Field Guide, I am including profiles on four ABSD vendors:  SalesLoft, Outreach, QuotaFactory, and KiteDesk.  I selected these four because they have all developed partner ecosystems which include the SI vendors.

KiteDesk is an Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) platform that provides Account Based Prospecting (FIND) and Sales Development workflow tools (FLOW). Content partners include InsideView, Zoominfo, and D&B NetProspex, for prospecting within the FIND module.  Other partners include Full Contact for social media linkages and GoodData for analytics.

FIND is KiteDesk’s “Lead Gen On-Demand” tool.  It supports contact prospecting (300 contacts per month per user), company and contact profiles, social links, and a Google Chrome extension.

FIND Account Based Prospecting allows SDRs to search for additional contacts at a target account or do broader list building. Three information vendors are supported: InsideView, Zoominfo, and D&B NetProspex.
FIND Account Based Prospecting allows SDRs to search for additional contacts at a target account or do broader list building. Three information vendors are supported: InsideView, Zoominfo, and D&B NetProspex.

Not only is prospecting supported, but marketers can upload and enrich company files for contact prospecting.  The company list is matched and then users can prospect for contacts at the targeted companies.  For example, marketers can upload a lead list from a webinar or tradeshow, enrich it with firmographics to help score and route the lead, and then search for additional contacts at the top prospects.

FLOW provides “Sales Orchestration” workflow tools such as pre-defined cadences, email templates, an integrated dialer, task logging, Salesforce.com integration, and analytics.  FLOW is sold with FIND included.

The Flow Module includes a sales orchestration cadence tool for planning email, phone, social, and custom actions.
The Flow Module includes a sales orchestration cadence tool for planning email, phone, social, and custom actions.

FLOW’s orchestration tools include

  • Scripts, Checklists, and Discovery Questions
  • Disposition, Note Taking, Sentiment icons (for analytics)
  • Social Steps and Custom Actions
  • Automated logging and sync to SFDC
  • Meeting Scheduler

FLOW provides integrated support for Exchange, Outlook 365, and Gmail temples.  Reps can customize the messaging within a graphical editor.  Tracking features include read receipts, click through, download, and reply.  Users can also schedule an email to send.  Thus, a sales rep could queue up emails over the weekend and have them send when response rates are higher.

FLOW also supports call bridging via softphone, mobile, or PBX.  Other dialer features include call logging with SFDC sync, voicemail drops, local number display, and call queueing.

Distinguishing features include a Chrome extension, meeting scheduler, and predictive prioritization of the FLOW task queue.  The Chrome extension helps SDRs find company or contacts based upon the URL, LinkedIn, or CrunchBase page.  Users can also highlight a name and search for it.  At the company level, KiteDesk will provide a list of contacts at the firm with filtering by job function.  Other features include Save as Prospect (in KiteDesk), Contact (in SFDC), Lead (in SFDC) or CSV Export.

An integrated meeting scheduler helps appointment setters identify meeting times across their team.  It also assists with bringing in experts for follow on calls.

Upcoming features include A/B Testing, expanded analytics, automated flows from sales triggers, and dynamic scheduling whereby prospects can view available windows.

KiteDesk FIND is priced at $75 per user per month and includes up to three hundred prospecting or enriched records per seat per month.

KiteDesk FIND+FLOW is priced at $125 per month and includes workflow tools, email templates, an integrated phone dialer, analytics, and an SFDC connector.  The service includes both prospecting and account flow tools with unlimited dialing and emails.

FIND may be licensed for a single user, but FIND + FLOW requires three seats.

ABSD solutions such as KiteDesk are elevating the role of Sales Development Reps (SDR) at B2B companies.  Whereas this role was traditionally populated by inexperienced sales reps that worked off of scripts and a call dialer, the SDR function is being professionalized.  SDRs are now expected to support corporate messaging and focus on establishing a warm relationship with ABM targets.  The days of B2B smile and dial are quickly passing.

 

InsideSales.com: Essentials for SMBs

InsideSales.com Notifications and Activity Tracking
InsideSales.com Notifications and Activity Tracking

InsideSales.com is now offering “InsideSales Essentials,” a cloud-based sales acceleration service for SMBs (I have generally classified companies like this as Account Based Sales Development [ABSD], but Sales Acceleration is also a descriptor used by vendors in this category).  The new offering supports email tracking and analytics, integrated dialer, email templates, call recording and monitoring, and automated voicemails.  The service also bundles in local call number display in the top twenty-five metro areas.  InsideSales claims that local number presentation improves contact rates by up to 38%.

“InsideSales has mastered sales across the enterprise, powering companies like Microsoft, ADP, and Groupon to increase revenue growth by up to 30 percent. With this new package, we’re taking what’s proven to work for some of the biggest brands and tailoring it for small business needs,” said Gabe Larsen, director of InsideSales.com Labs.  “Essentials gives small and medium-sized businesses the power to sell smarter and help expand their company through strategic sales plays.”

InsideSales Essentials begins at $5,000 for five seats.

“Our mission is to leverage big data and cloud capabilities to unlock human potential through predictive analytics and machine learning,” said InsideSales CEO Dave Elkington. “We are building an Amazon-style recommendation engine for business — a system capable of intelligently analyzing billions of data points in real-time and recommending the optimal next steps for almost any application or business process. This lays the groundwork for a future where predictive technology can be applied, not just to sales organizations but also to government, healthcare, retail and beyond.”

The firm was also just named to Forbes Cloud 100, placing it amongst the top private cloud companies in the world.

ABSD  / Sales Acceleration is a rapidly growing field as firms look to formalize ABM processes amongst their sales development teams.  I have seen such rapid growth amongst ABSD firms that I am including profiles of four ABSD vendors (QuotaFactory, KiteDesk, Outreach, and SalesLoft) in the next edition of my Field Guide to Sales Intelligence Vendors.  Inclusion is based upon the existence of a partner ecosystem which includes sales intelligence vendors.  Because InsideSales.com does not offer such an ecosystem, they did not make the cut.  However, the firm has seen rapid growth and would be considered amongst the leaders in this burgeoning field.

Sales Intelligence Vendors in the Inc. 5000 List

Inc. magazine published the 2016 version of their Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing US private companies over the past three years.  To qualify, firms must have at least $100,000 in revenue in 2012 and $2 million in 2015.  Firms are ranked according to their three-year growth rate.

Once again, Social123 was the fastest growing company amongst the firms covered by my newsletter.  Last year, the firm grew its revenue by $400,000 to $2.8 million.  The firm has a three-year Compound Average Growth Rate (CAGR) of 123%.  Social123 provides a database of over 300 million global contacts mined from social media which they deploy for prospecting and data enrichment.

HG Data and CB Insights also posted high growth rates (three year CAGRs of 106% and 97% respectively) that placed them towards the top of the list.  HG Data has had great success licensing their semantically mined set of technology product and vendor data to sales intelligence and predictive analytics companies while CB Insights continues to grow in the PE/VC intelligence space and launched a PE/VC sales intelligence product in 2015.

US private company growth rates based upon current and historical Inc. 5000 lists.
US private company growth rates based upon current and historical Inc. 5000 lists.

DiscoverOrg posted the most impressive numbers as it made the list for the sixth consecutive year with a 48% CAGR.  According to the tech sales intelligence firm, only 320 companies have ever made the list for six consecutive years and DiscoverOrg ranked 12th in growth amongst them.  Furthermore, DiscoverOrg is on pace for $60 million in revenue this year which would easily place them on next year’s list.  Noting that the firm has grown revenue 10X over five years, CMO Katie Bullard described their feat as “a huge testament to our customers’ successes and the value they are realizing every day.”

DiscoverOrg recently accepted equity financing for strategic growth purposes, but much of their growth was self-funded as they carefully built out their database to 60,000 companies and their customer base to 2,000 clients.  The firm has doubled its company coverage over the past year and built its editorial staff out to 150 researchers.  Similarly, they have grown contact coverage by 89% while maintaining a 99% fill rate on emails and 96% on direct dial numbers.

Technology sales intelligence vendor RainKing also demonstrated strong growth with a 31% CAGR to $27 million.  Back in June, RainKing announced plans to add an additional sixty headcount to their sales, research, engineering, and client success departments.  This is the third year in a row that RainKing has made the list.

Intent data firm Madison Logic made the list for the second time with $45.1 million in revenue.  The growth was particularly impressive as Madison Logic spun off its Madison Logic Data division in April 2015 as Bombora.  “Madison Logic’s priority is to provide B2B marketers with the most comprehensive account based marketing solution and deliver real ROI of their efforts,” said Tom O’Regan, Madison Logic’s CEO. “Our growth is a result of all our teams — from engineering to sales — being aligned behind that priority. We could not have done it without our partners and customers who have selected Activate ABM to power their account based marketing programs.”

Zoominfo returned to the list last year after a seven year hiatus.  The firm appears to have found a successful growth strategy.  Over the years, Zoominfo pursued multiple markets including web mined biographies, sales intelligence, and executive recruitment tools only to be big footed by Google and LinkedIn.  A few years ago, Zoominfo began to gain traction in the data hygiene services space.  Over the past year, they launched Chrome and Eloqua connectors and refreshed their Salesforce integration.  They also rebranded and enhanced their sales and marketing platform as the Zoominfo Growth Acceleration Platform.  The new service helps sales and marketing teams “identify, connect, and engage with qualified prospects and replicate success.”

“Our mission is to help businesses accelerate their growth by using our data and tools,” said Zoominfo CEO Yonatan Stern.  “We use our own tools and have experienced accelerating growth together with significant profitability over the past five years.

Advertising sales intelligence vendor The List returned to the Inc. 5000 after a five-year hiatus.  The List has long been a respected database covering the national advertising and agency sector.  Late last year, the firm launched a new sales intelligence service for sales professionals who target agencies, media sales, marketing technology firms, and corporate sponsorships.  The Winmo service combines advertiser and agency search, agency relationships, creative portfolios, and sales recommendations along with prospecting, advertising-specific sales triggers from DailyVista, and an SFDC connector.

Pure Incubation made the list for the third year in the row with revenues of $9.5 million.  The Massachusetts firm provides lead generation and database services for the medical (MedData Group) and IT fields (PureB2B).  PureIncubation CEO Melissa Chang attributed the firm’ success to the launch of several PureB2B products including “marketing qualified leads, a unique integrated Account Based Marketing product, and our latest digital strategy  – a GuidesFor site network that utilizes intent data to identify in-market buyers and drive ready-to-purchase buyers to technology companies.”  Chang also noted that “we have made a number of operational enhancements to increase efficiencies, and set the industry standard for quality data delivery.”

Interestingly, not a single predictive analytics company made the list.  Several  firms were pre-revenue in March 2012 so would not have qualified this year.  Other firms may have chosen not to publish their revenue and growth rates.

The Universe Has a Sense of Humor

The Inc. 5000 list search for Business Products & Services placed Razor Consulting Solutions next to Occam's Paradigm.
The Inc. 5000 list search for Business Products & Services placed Razor Consulting Solutions next to Occam’s Paradigm.

Since studying French in high school, I’ve always had a sense for the absurdity of life.  How could you not when you are reading Sartre, Camus, and Ionesco (n’est-ce pas)?  Every now and then the universe reminds you of this absurdity when you aren’t expecting it.

While researching the just released 2016 Inc. 5000 list, I sorted the 2016 list by Business Products and Services and Occam’s Paradigm was next to Razor Consulting Services.  Occam’s Paradigm named its company after a philosophical statement made by William of Occam commonly called Occam’s Razor.

Here is an explanation of Occam’s Razor from the Occam’s Paradigm Facebook page:

His widely quoted principle known as Occam’s razor recommends the selection, among competing hypotheses, of the one that makes the fewest assumptions and by extension offers the simplest explanation of the effect. Occam’s razor recommends that one should always opt for an explanation in terms of the fewest possible number of causes, factors, or variables. Occam’s Razor is frequently expressed in the statement, ‘Entia non sunt mul- tiplicanda sine necessitate’ that is ‘Beings are not to be multiplied beyond necessity’. Put simply – ‘Other things being equal, a simpler explanation is better than a more complex one’. He used simplicity as a criterion of concept formation and theory construction.

So what is the simplest explanation that one can posit concerning the humorous juxtaposition of these two companies on a list?  Was the universe showing a sense of humor or simply being random?

To get a feel for the likelihood of this event, I went into Avention’s Global Business Browser and found there were 11.3 million US private independent and parent companies (I omitted subs and branches as the Inc. list is based upon overall company performance).  Of these, 688 had the word razor in their name.  Thus, the odds of Occam’s Paradigm being next to a “razor” company is

688 * 2 / 11,300,000 = .012%

or roughly 1 in 8,000.  This is basically the odds of rolling a Yahtzee of all Sixes (five dice) on the first roll (1 / 6^5)

So 1 in 8,000 seems high, but our brains are designed to spot anomalies such as

Occam NEAR Razor

Once you adjust for the fact that I was scanning through multiple filtered lists, I probably scanned thousands of potential pairs for coincidences.  Applying Occam’s Razor, the universe wasn’t winking at me, it was simply exhibiting randomness.

 

Chrome Integration: DataFox

DataFox Chrome IntegrationOver the next few days, I will be covering various Google Chrome integration tools for sales intelligence.  Yesterday, I discussed the Zoominfo extension and today I’m covering DataFox’s implementation.

DataFox just launched a sales intelligence service after previously focusing on the PE/VC space.  Thus, their underlying dataset covers fast growth companies.  The Chrome integration, along with their SFDC implementation, is part of their value proposition.

The DataFox Chrome integration recognizes URLs and provides company profiles to subscribers.  Content includes the DataFox Score, sizing data, URL, year founded, a business description, and ten similar companies.  The tool is specific to company URLs and does not recognize companies in other contexts such as LinkedIn.  If a company is unknown, the app allows the user to quickly request the company be added to the database.

The DataFox score is a composite score which assesses the firm’s financing, human resources, and momentum.  According to DataFox, their score “uses machine learning to quantify hard-to-define traits like financial stability and management quality, and most importantly, how those traits can predict a company’s growth.”

Clicking on the company name takes the user to the DataFox company profile.  From there, the user can send the company information to SFDC.

Similar companies are displayed with a similarity confidence score, logo, and DataFox Score.  Users can click on similar company names to view the similar companies.

Similar companies are identified using a proprietary algorithm which finds peers based upon sector, size, news co-mentions, participation in conferences, and company keywords.  According to DataFox, “out of  the thousands of keywords in our database, any given company will list only about  a dozen. To deal with this, we want to be able to harness a measure of similarity  between keywords. After all, if company A lists ‘cloud storage’ as a keyword, then we should have more confidence they are related to a company listing ‘file sharing’ as a keyword than a company listing ‘mobile payments’ as a keyword.”  Similar companies can be executed against both individual companies and lists.  Thus, a sales rep can take their top client list and clone a set of comparables.

If you would like to know more about the DataFox service, I recently covered their product launch.

First Research: Plain English Industry Primers

FR

I’ve long respected the First Research industry overviews assembled by Dun & Bradstreet.  While most industry research runs from complex to arcane, First Research reports serve as industry primers providing plain English overviews of an industry.  If you were to read the report for your own industry, you would probably find it useful only for new hire training.

And that is the beauty of the reports.  They are for novices lacking an understanding of an industry which makes them perfect for territory sales reps or relationship managers.  In fact, they were originally designed for relationship managers at banks before First Research realized that sales reps were equally in need of their research.  If your job requires you to interact with individuals across many industries, then First Research may be the perfect resource for “getting up to speed” on an industry.  They can also be valuable for job hunters looking for a basic set of questions to ask about an industry.

Content includes an Industry Overview containing the following sub-sections:

  • Competitive Landscape
  • Products & Operations
  • Technology
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Finance & Working Capital
  • Regulation
  • International Insights
  • Regional Highlights
  • Human Resources

along with these additional sections:

  • News and Social (FirstRain)
  • Quarterly Industry Update
  • Industry Forecast
  • Industry Growth Rating (High, medium or low)
  • Industry Indicators
  • Company Information
  • Critical Issues
  • Business Challenges
  • Business Trends
  • Industry Opportunities
  • Executive Insights and Questions
  • Financial Information
  • Call Prep Questions ƒ Websites & Acronyms

First Research contains several sections of Q&A content including Call Prep Questions and Executive Insights which are questions specific to C-level executives.  Sometimes in life, you need to “fake it until you make it” (i.e. develop expertise) and First Research is designed for this purpose.

Through an OEM deal with FirstRain, high-precision industry news is included in the service along with FirstRain topic tagging and visual tools.  FirstRain content includes Latest News, Top Business Tweets, Management Changes, Event Timeline, Industry Health Indicators, Analyst Commentary, and Recent Transactions.  FirstRain does not archive this content but provides six months of open web news links.

FR News
FirstRain industry news is OEM’d within First Research reports providing six months of news, business tweets, an event timeline, analyst commentary, health indicators, transactions, and management changes.

First Research covers over 500 US and 35 Canadian industries spanning 1,000 NAICS codes.  While the reports are US-centric, they have recently begun adding international sections to the reports.  As a bonus, the product includes regional reports for US states, the District of Colombia, and Canadian provinces.  Country briefs are also available.

Other tools include a set of sales and marketing templates providing examples of how to use First Research content in various scenarios and an industry prospector tool for assisting with market development planning.

First Research reports are available as a standalone offering or integrated into the Hoover’s database, D&B360 CRM connectors, and the D&B Direct API.  A subset of the content is also being delivered via Data.com.  For library patrons, Dun & Bradstreet has partnered with Mergent to deliver the reports as a standalone offering or integrated into some of their products such as Mergent Intellect.

First Research should be viewed as industry insights for non-experts.  You won’t find depth on key trends or issues, but the service is easily accessible and walks the user through industry basics.  You generally don’t find industry news or Q&A sections in other industry services.

If you are looking for more advanced cross-industry research, you can step up to

  • MarketLine (global and regional research)
  • Euromonitor (global and regional research)
  • IBISWorld (US, Australian, Chinese, and global research)
  • Freedonia (US)
  • BMI (emerging markets)
  • EMD (emerging markets).

These services provide more complex reports while retaining readability.  While you won’t find as much handholding (e.g. Q&A sections), you will find broader industry trend and forecast content along with profiles of the top three or four competitors in the market.  As many are globally focused, they may be better sources for international market entry decisions.

You can find a full review of First Research at FreePint (Note: I am a contributor to FreePint, but the review was written by a different author)