Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms: A Guide for Purchasing SEPs

I am pleased to announce that my next enterprise software purchasing report is available through this website and my partners at Tenbound. “Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms: A Guide for Purchasing SEPs” assists with the purchasing decision of this rapidly developing SalesTech category.

Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms

Single User License (October Discounted Price)

$495.00

The report is available as both a single buyer license for smaller firms evaluating the sector and as a buyer-committee license for larger firms. The Buyer Committee license covers a team of seven and includes a Word document checklist to assist with the evaluation.

Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms – Buying Commitee License

Seven-User License (October Discounted Price) + Word Document Checklist

$1,195.00

Report Coverage

The 13-page report covers the following topics:

  • Sales Engagement Platform
    • Definition
    • Value Proposition
    • Core Features
    • Other Features
    • Industry Pricing
  • Purchasing Questions

I also offer detailed overviews of several major vendors:

  • SalesLoft Product Overview
  • VanillaSoft Product Overview (coming October 18)

GZ Consulting / Tenbound reports are independently written and not sponsored by any of the profiled vendors. Michael R. Levy of GZ Consulting wrote this report.

Clearbit X

Clearbit X Audience Builder
Clearbit X Audience Builder

Data vendor Clearbit officially launched Clearbit X, their new marketing and sales “growth engine.”  The new service provides digital marketing and demand generation functionality with first and third-party intent data enrichment.  The Clearbit X platform consolidates data from CRM systems, activity data such as web events, visitor intelligence enriched with IP and domain information, and Clearbit’s third-party business data on companies and employees (e.g., company size, industry, contact information, etc.).

“Never before has a company created a growth suite built from the ground up to be data-first and focused on B2B buyers.  And what’s more, X is the only platform to natively combine both data the customer owns with our popular Clearbit data.  I’m looking forward to a future where marketing data is democratized, data-enabled, and smart.  Clearbit X is a big step towards this future.”

Clearbit CEO Alex MacCaw.

Features include Facebook and Google targeting, Slack and email alerts highlighting active opportunities based on intent, and Clearbit’s visitor intelligence which matches visitor activity to account intelligence via IP addresses.  Visitor intelligence assists with dynamic chat and website personalization.

Clearbit is positioning X as the “center of your data universe.“  According to the firm, “The power supply of any great growth engine is real-time access to what we call your entire dataverse – all your user data, activity data, and enrichment data.  Clearbit X brings all of that together in one place.”

“Being able to layer Clearbit firmographic data onto our existing data in Salesforce is really powerful,” said Yuri Daniels, director of performance marketing at Zenefits.  “X has helped ensure that we are targeting customers in our ideal customer profile as well as being able to exclude people already inside of our funnel to make new leads.  We can target very specific lists on Facebook with much more efficiency and LinkedIn-level specificity.”

Clearbit is focused on onboarding their first twenty-five customers and will release more product details towards the end of the year.

DealSignal CRM Data Health for Salesforce

B2B DaaS and contacts vendor DealSignal announced the availability of CRM Data Health, a Salesforce module that continuously refreshes, enriches, and reverifies lead, contact, and account records.  DealSignal data is GDPR-compliant and based upon AI validation and human verification.

“Rather than comparing dirty CRM data against other static data sources that may themselves be outdated, DealSignal CRM Data Health takes a dynamic, on-demand enrichment and verification approach that uses both AI and human intelligence to ensure near-perfect accuracy,” stated the firm.  “DealSignal CRM Data Health delivers a reliable alternative for companies looking to replace Data.com.”

Like other CRM hygiene apps, CRM Data Health includes a free data health audit.  The CRM data enrichment includes detailed contact profiles, Bombora buyer intent, and firmographics.  Along with CRM hygiene, customers can enrich inbound leads, events lists, and third-party lists.

“Bad CRM data is a pervasive issue that has a negative ripple effect on B2B marketing and sales performance: from inaccurate ABM targeting, to bounced emails that can damage sender reputation, to outdated or irrelevant contacts that clog marketing automation systems at a great cost,” said DealSignal founder & CEO, Rob Weedn. “Industry studies find that up to 50 percent of CRM data is incomplete, out-of-date, or inaccurate. Compounding the issue, data decays at a rate of over two percent per month, so maintaining data health is a constant challenge that requires an on-going solution—much like you can’t get in shape by going to the gym once.  We’ve introduced DealSignal CRM Data Health to help Salesforce customers continuously maintain rich, accurate and verified target audience data, and keep it fresh on a regular schedule.”

With the decommissioning of Data.com, vendors like Dun & Bradstreet, InsideView, Zoominfo, and DealSignal are jumping into the fray. If you are looking to make your sales reps more effective, your segmentation more accurate, or your Einstein predictions more precise, then you should be evaluating a Lightning Data or general data quality solution for your CRM.

Gartner IT Spend Forecast

Gartner forecasted 3.2% growth in global IT spend in 2019, with turnover hitting $3.8 trillion.  Growth will be driven by Enterprise Software (up 8.5% this year and 8.2% next year) and IT Services (up 4.7% this year and 4.8% next year).  Slower growth segments include Devices (1.6% growth in 2019), Communications Services (up 1.3% in 2019), and Data Center Systems (growing in 2019 but retreating in 2020).

“Despite uncertainty fueled by recession rumors, Brexit, and trade wars and tariffs, the likely scenario for IT spending in 2019 is growth,” said John-David Lovelock, research VP at Gartner.  “However, there are a lot of dynamic changes happening in regards to which segments will be driving growth in the future.  Spending is moving from saturated segments such as mobile phones, PCs and on-premises data center infrastructure to cloud services and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.  IoT devices, in particular, are starting to pick up the slack from devices.  Where the devices segment is saturated, IoT is not.”

“IT is no longer just a platform that enables organizations to run their business on.  It is becoming the engine that moves the business.  As digital business and digital business ecosystems move forward, IT will be the thing that binds the business together.”

David Lovelock, Gartner Research VP

The shift to the cloud and SaaS will continue to benefit Enterprise Software spend with global expenditures hitting $466 billion in 2020.

“Cloud shift is not just about cloud.  As organizations pursue new IT architectures and operating philosophies, they put in place a foundation for new opportunities in digital business, including next-generation IT solutions such as the Internet of Things (IoT),” said VP Ed Anderson earlier this year.  “Organizations embracing dynamic, cloud-based operating models position themselves for cost optimization and increased competitiveness.”

Lovelock warned that companies are failing to upskill their internal staff quickly enough to support newer technologies such as IoT, AI, machine learning, data science, APIs and services platform design.  Gartner was concerned that “nearly half” of the IT workforce is in “urgent need” of upskilling to “support their digital business initiatives.”  The risk for businesses is that emerging technologies “are changing faster than we’ve ever seen before.”

Aberdeen Behavioral Technographics

Behavioral Technographic Use Cases from Aberdeen.
Behavioral Technographic Use Cases from Aberdeen.

Intent and technographics vendor Aberdeen announced Aberdeen Behavioral Technographics, their next-generation installed technology dataset.  Aberdeen is the successor to the pioneering Ziff Davis and Harte-Hanks Access CI dataset that was developed over two decades ago.

Aberdeen notes that traditional technographics are binary, static flags at the corporate level whereas Behavioral Technographics “actively measure technology usage down to company location, number of users, and pains and priorities of the usage.”

“Technographic data has been overdue for innovation,” said Aberdeen CEO Marc Osofsky.  “The reaction to our data has been amazing, companies have signed up within days of seeing the data.”

Aberdeen claims that its technographics are “up to 55% more accurate than legacy install (technographic) data” resulting in improved account prioritization, pipeline, and win-rates.

“Historical technographic data is actually still pretty new for most firms.  And the way that it’s most commonly collected, at least in recent days, is focusing on job boards and individual websites to determine whether or not technology’s actually installed at a company.  And they do this by…focusing on the job boards to see if a technology is present within the actual job description.  There are a lot of fallbacks to this, and this new method gets around that way.”

Benjamin Cavicchi, Aberdeen Senior Data Analyst

Behavioral Technographics are based upon technology usage and topical queries, not simply installation.  Data is captured from over 1,100 websites that host educational content concerning technologies.  This takes them beyond traditional job board scans to include forums, tutorials, and educational sites.  365 days of behavioral data are captured which include deployed technology, pain points, and topics.

“We focus on the education of an individual about a technology because that is clear evidence that they use it,” said Aberdeen Senior Data Analyst Benjamin Cavicchi.  “So what we’re looking at is a handful or a couple of thousand websites that resolve to user tutorials or user forums where people ask questions and answer them about a technology, as well as a host of other, I would say, technology-specific blogs where experts write about it.”

Cavicchi’s idea was to focus on those pages ”that answer these very specific questions that you would have in your daily work working with the technology.”  This is the content that shows up when technology questions are typed into Google.

For example, if employees are researching topics about Excel, they are likely using it.  “The idea is that if you aggregate all of the individuals associated with a company and you look at this historical activity on Excel, you can get a better understanding of whether or not they use it.  So other users at his company may be googling other, more advanced things like how to write efficient VBA code, or creating dynamic Excel dashboards,” said Cavicchi.

And because they are looking at trends and technology questions, they can discern which companies are using precursors to more advanced solutions, usage levels, and current pain points.  Behavioral Technographics are available at the location level.

“Excel is the natural antecedent to a BI solution, a more advanced one.  So if you have a lot of people at a company that are writing VBA code, that are trying to create these dynamic dashboards, but they don’t have any activity on any other BI solution, it seems to me that they probably need one.  We’re finding the problems of the company, and helping companies to essentially find them, too.

“Behavioral Technographics is a perfect complement to Intent Data,” said Aberdeen.  “Both provide full visibility into your target market: Intent Data identifies companies in-market to buy and Behavioral Technographics provides technology in use insights to prioritize and target the remaining accounts not yet showing intent.”

Behavioral Technographics are patent-pending.  Aberdeen describes its new technographics as “dynamic and quantitative.”

The next step will be behavioral profiling which is common in B2C but has yet to be extended to B2B.  Behavioral Profiling will look at groups of individuals to determine buyers and influencers.  For example, high levels of research around python indicate the presence of a data science team.

Aberdeen entered the intent market when it acquired The Big Willow last December.

LinkedIn Concerned about Tech Regulations

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner raised concern about a tide of tech regulation following recent data privacy scandals.  Of particular concern is the impact of removing tech company immunity for the content shared by users under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.  If the Section were removed, social networks would be forced to proactively censor posts.

“Even if the [technology] industry were to do greater self-regulation, you’re going to see more regulatory oversight.”

Just as the wide use of algorithms has provided a megaphone to misinformation and fringe social media, regulation can have unintended consequences.  “The unintended consequences work both ways,” said Weiner.  “Companies make decisions only with the best of intentions, and there are unintended consequences of those decisions.  But from a regulatory perspective, I think it’s the same thing.”

“You could stifle a lot of innovation.  You could stifle a lot of openness.  You could stifle a lot of the things that create value by virtue of changing these liability rules and laws. That is just almost a canonical example of where these unintended consequences would really proliferate.  The things companies would need to do to ensure that they were protected is going to hurt the way in which people can communicate with one another.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner

LinkedIn operates in China where it is subject to censorship.  The firm decided to enter the market as it’s mission is to create economic opportunity globally.  “The censorship issue in China is always a painful one,” he said.  “It has to be navigated and managed in the context of the broader vision.” While LinkedIn is advocating for Section 230, its parent company has taken a pro-regulatory view on data privacy, calling for an American version of GDPR.  Microsoft has built GDPR into the infrastructure of its platforms.

SalesLoft Conversation Intelligence

Sales engagement vendor SalesLoft rebranded its Meeting Intelligence functionality as Conversation Intelligence.  SalesLoft describes four sets of features which help reps schedule meetings and then listen to, understand, and engage with customers and prospects.  SalesLoft supports a broad set of conversation tools including appointment setting; automated recording, transcription, and indexing of calls; time-stamped notes, and call analytics.  This functionality is available for prospect, customer, and internal calls.  Managers, mentors, and trainers can join calls or whisper into a sales rep’s ear.

“Through the evolution of SalesLoft’s platform and user experience, one feature has changed so much that its prior name no longer did it justice,” wrote SalesLoft Head of Community Aly Merritt.  “Meeting Intelligence is now Conversation Intelligence, because sales isn’t just meetings – it’s every conversation and interaction.”

Call recordings can be stored in a training library or shared for coaching or questions.  For example, if a sales rep does not know the answer to a question, it can be forwarded directly to customer support or engineering for a response.

Conversation Intelligence supports both SalesLoft’s native dialer and leading web meeting applications: Zoom, GoToMeeting, join.me, UberConference, Cisco WebEx, and Cisco WebEx Enterprise.

Sales calls come in many forms: prospecting, discovery, demos, stakeholder alignment, and so on.  All of these interactions make up the foundation for the long-term customer relationship.  High-value customer relationships are made possible when prospects feel that the relationship they are entering into is mutually beneficial.

How can you build such a relationship?  By working to ensure your prospects feel heard and confident that you understand their needs.  Work to engage them throughout their journey.  After all, sales doesn’t stop when the deal closes, nor does engagement cease when a seller hangs up the phone.

▪ SalesLoft Product News

SalesLoft said that it is “designed to flex around the needs of the user based not only on their role but also on their preferred workflow.  This empowers SalesLoft customers to offer consistent value at every stage.”

“Sales meetings are the moments in the sales cycle where you have the opportunity to provide the most value for your customers.  As such, they are some of the single biggest opportunities for your team to influence revenue.  It’s where your deals are won and lost,” wrote the firm.  “Despite this, sellers often don’t get the opportunity to improve on this critical component of the sales process.  Combine this with the challenges that face sales leaders around how much time it takes to digest sales meetings, gain visibility into what’s really happening, and be proactive in the deal cycle.”

HubSpot App Marketplace

HubSpot's App Partner Program supports over 300 apps.
HubSpot’s App Partner Program supports over 300 apps.

At its INBOUND conference earlier this month, HubSpot released a new app Marketplace.  “One of the things we’ve really tried to do with the next iteration of the marketplace is just to help SMBs (small to medium businesses) get deeper information on these integrations,” said HubSpot VP of platform ecosystem Scott Brinker.  “So you’re not just like, ‘Oh, here’s another company, go off and figure it out.’ It’s like, ‘OK, here’s exactly how this interfaces into HubSpot.  Here’s a video of how it works.”

HubSpot partners are obligated to post pricing information, data flow structure, and demo videos.  The new market supports improved filtering and searching.  Over 300 apps are available with 93% of HubSpot’s 64,000 customers having installed at least one app.  The average customer has installed five apps.

Amongst the top apps are Gmail, Outlook Calendar, Zapier (connectors), Facebook Ads, Google Calendar, Twitter, MailChimp, WordPress, LinkedIn, Facebook, Slack, Vidyard, Google Ads, and SurveyMonkey. “We’re really excited about trying to make this whole platform ecosystem world accessible to the SMB markets,” said Brinker.

“It’s not enough to have the wondrous capabilities all these different apps offer, especially if each is locked in their own silo.  To run your business effectively and to give customers a coherent and compelling experience across all the different touchpoints they have with you, all these different apps need to work together. This is why HubSpot is committed to building an open platform that can serve as a “hub” for the myriad apps across your business that all contribute to improving the customer experience.  We want to make it easy for you to orchestrate these apps, to better serve your customers, and to help you grow better.”

HubSpot VP of platform ecosystem Scott Brinker

The new marketplace can be found at HubSpot.com/ecosystem.

RambleChat – SalesLoft Partnership

Real-time chats with account owners may be initiated from emails or any other outbound or marketing content which supports URLs.
Real-time Ramble chats with account owners may be initiated from SalesLoft emails or any other outbound or marketing content which supports URLs.

Conversational marketing vendor RambleChat is the latest partner available through the SalesLoft app directory.  Along with real-time website chat, joint customers can embed chat into SalesLoft email cadences. RambleChat then routes sales conversations to account owners “providing a more personalized interaction via chat.”  Joint customers can also employ dynamic fields in SalesLoft to customize greetings with personal and company names.

“The SalesLoft/RambleChat integration gives a whole new capability for marketing and sales teams.  RambleChat is the only chat platform that can instantly open chat from any online source.  Ramble then routes sales conversations to the right account owner — enhancing both demand generation and ABM campaigns.  And now, for the first time, chat can be an integral part of sales plays and interactions in the SalesLoft platform.”

Sean Kester, VP of Platform Strategy at SalesLoft.

Single Click Chat (SCC), RambleChat’s patent-pending technology, extends chat capabilities from the website to outbound communications.  So long as a URL can be embedded, chat conversations can be initiated via a click.  Along with corporate websites, SCC enables chat initiation from LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, digital ads, landing pages, blogs, QR codes, and product collateral.  SCC allows sales reps to “meet buyers at the moment of interest.”

Ramble automatically logs chat conversation histories and details at the SalesLoft Account level.  When a user navigates to an account, chat history is displayed under the “Notes” section.  If a SalesLoft user desires more in-depth information about the chat conversation, a URL is automatically provided for the user to click.

RambleChat has been in partnership discussions with SalesLoft since at least March when Ramble CEO Justin McDonald attended SalesLoft’s Rainmaker conference.  Instead of simply building a website chat solution, the firms chose to “build better pipelines by extending chat beyond corporate websites and into SalesLoft Cadences and social channels via RambleChat’s Single Click Chat.”

“As we met with joint customers in mid 2018, a constant theme surfaced; the market was struggling to find practical and tangible means of Account-Based Selling and Marketing.  There’s no shortage of ABM technology, but many lacked quick deployment and immediate results for sales organizations. This became the MO for the RambleChat + SalesLoft partnership, and we landed with a more powerful integration that fills the ABM gap for both sales and marketing.”

Ramble CEO Justin McDonald

“I’m immensely excited about our joint efforts.  This integration delivers new opportunities for sales engagement and improves functionality for sales reps to execute account-based selling.  Account-based marketing (ABM) requires an equal effort from Sales, and RambleChat delivers immediate functionality to bridge the gap for SalesLoft customers,” said RambleChat CEO Justin McDonald.

Vainu Rebrands

Finnish sales intelligence vendor Vainu rebranded earlier this week. The goal was to provide a unified view of the company.  Vainu is focused on company intelligence but includes registered contact/director details and mined data. The firm also offers CRM and MAP data enrichment and hygiene services.

Unlike most sales intelligence databases, Vainu is available in English, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Dutch, Danish and French.  Country datasets include Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and The Netherlands with detailed financial data available for Norway, Sweden, and Finland.  Beta datasets are available for France, the UK, and the US with additional countries being developed.

Core UK data is gathered from Companies House.  US data is aggregated from state filings.

I’ve been planning on covering Vainu for the past six months but was waiting for an event.  Rebranding is as good a reason any.

Vainu was launched in 2014 and crowdsourced its initial dog nose logo (Vainu is a Finnish word for the scent picked up by an animal).  The website design and other branding aspects were inconsistent.

“Everything else was pretty much put together ad hoc after that: color schemes and supporting visuals for our first website layout, stock photos for our first slide decks, different messages to cater to the situations at hand.  The end result has been just as fragmented or ad hoc as our strategy: we’ve looked and felt different and sounded different in any situation.”

Mikko Luhtava, Vainu Head of Communications

Now that the firm has 2,000 customers and 180 employees, they felt it was time to formalize their brand with a new logo, tagline, and website with real images and black, white, and yellow text.

Vainu argues that B2B Sales is still stuck in the era of spam emails and cold calling lists.  “While buyers are looking for a real conversation, one where they’re engaged and understood, salespeople are looking at activity targets and sales quota, merely treating buyers as numbers,” blogged Luhtava.

Thus, the firm offers “real-time B2B sales.”  It is akin to SalesLoft’s call for authenticity in sales.  “While buyers are looking for a real conversation, one where they’re engaged and understood, salespeople are looking at activity targets and sales quota, merely treating buyers as numbers,” stated Luhtava.  “At Vainu, we believe there’s a right way of doing B2B sales—a way that is personalized, a way that uses data, a way that focuses on the buyer.  And we’ve made it our mission to make salespeople better at their jobs, by bringing real-time company data to every customer interaction.  We call this real-time sales.

Vainu supports company list building.  Selects include firmographics, technographics, buying signals (sales triggers), and account intelligence from the company’s CRM.  Trigger alerts cover company announcements, personnel changes, technology updates, and new additions to a prospect list.

The Vainu database covers nearly 60 million active companies and includes company profiles, technology stacks, corporate financials, and recent company news.

CRM admins can setup data syncing and enrichment with Salesforce, MS Dynamics, HubSpot, Pipedrive, Upsales, and SuperOffice.  Zapier is available for other platforms.  The firm also supports an API.

Vainu enriches leads before they are loaded into MAPs assisting with lead scoring and routing.

Vainu also offers bulk data for data modeling including business registry data, website information, and open and web-crawled intelligence.  Applications include churn prediction, account scoring, and financial services risk calculations.

Pricing begins at €6,600 (£6,000 or $7,250) per year for five reps plus a one-time onboarding fee of €600 for a single country database.  Each additional country dataset is priced at €3,000.  At 25 seats, the service is priced at €30,600 (£28,000 or $33,650) with a one-time onboarding fee of €2,100.  Each additional country dataset is priced at €3,000.  Nordic financial data adds €2,400.