No Sports, No Office — Ideas to Approach our New Normal

Last week, I wrote about what businesses and workers can do to maintain sales and marketing during the Covid 19 crisis. I just wanted to give some quick thoughts around our role as members of society.

First off, social distancing is a bit of an oxymoron, but critical. We need to close our schools, theaters, and sporting events as they would be the locus of rapid transmission. Limit travel. Ignoring and complaining about the advice of health professionals and emergency planners isn’t a case of bravado, but stupidity. It places friends and family with compromised immune systems and underlying health issues at risk. If our healthcare system is overwhelmed, then we are all at risk for any medical emergency.

If you are sick, don’t go to the ER. Call ahead and see if your symptoms match. Then follow advice on where to proceed for a test.

Don’t Panic. Stay in the market, it will turnaround once we’ve passed the peak of infection. Selling now will just lock in your losses from the recent peak. Also, don’t horde. Plan for two weeks of staples and make sure you have sufficient medication. Things will get worse before they get better. Expect that and accept that.

Don’t Obsess. Stay aware of what is going on, but turn off the news if it is making you anxious. Find credible news sources only and ignore social media and email chain nonsense.

Check-in on friends and family. Offer to pick up meds or food for family and elderly neighbors. While delivery and curbside pick up are options, don’t expect that the operational bandwidth is in place immediately.

Be healthy. Eat healthy foods and get your exercise. Get on the bike or rowing machine in the basement. Go for a walk in the woods or a bike ride in your neighborhood. Play catch or soccer in your backyard with your kids.

Be forward-thinking. If you are at home, identify projects that you have been ignoring. This could include updating your LinkedIn profile and resume, home repair, spending time with your kids, reading a book, taking a Coursera course, etc. Not only are these good habits, but they are welcome distractions from the present news.

If you have the financial wherewithal, find ways to help out service workers and contingent employees. If you ate out once a week, use food delivery services once a week to keep revenue flowing to restaurants. Tip delivery people well. Donate to your local food bank and other social service organizations.

And as much as I hate to say this, ignore President Trump. If you don’t believe me, then watch how the market reacts to his speeches. Dr. Fauci and VP Pence are more reliable, but it is the governors and big city majors who seem to have the best handle on what is going on (Newsome, Inslee, Cuomo, Baker, DeBlasio). They are on the front-lines and planning ahead of the Federal Government.

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.

Outreach Opens EMEA Office

Sales Engagement vendor Outreach opened its London EMEA headquarters, intending to treble its London customer-facing headcount by the end of the year.  The firm already has over 20 local staff in support, sales, professional services, and customer success.  The firm has over 500 customers with local or global teams in Europe, including DocuSign, Deliveroo, and Protegrity.

“We see a very real opportunity to help evolve the sales industry and customer experience in Europe, and we see London as the best place to do so.  U.S. teams are engaging with customers in new and innovative ways.  Our customers in Europe have shared with us that they believe Outreach can provide European customer-facing teams with the tools they need to transform the sector and turn sales into a true engine for business growth.”

Outreach CEO Manny Medina

“I want to thank our customers here in the U.K. who have been on this journey with us since we launched, said Outreach CEO, Manny Medina.  “Thanks to their early and ongoing support, we knew we had market fit – we just needed the right person to grow and lead our team here.”

Tom Castley was named the head of EMEA sales, where he is “hard at work” assembling the London sales office.  Castley has over twenty years of experience building “high functioning” technology sales organizations.  He previously led Apptio’s pan-European account team and held several sales roles at Oracle.

“The sales industry needs to brush up on its image of an industry full of mavericks who magically secure their sales pipeline at the last minute.  We think it’s time we put this cliché to bed,” said Castley.  “This is why we’re swapping it for a data-driven approach that helps create a steady flow of prospects filling the pipeline and replaces the ‘peaks and troughs’ of the sales cycle with a predictable process.  Companies can then arm their team with relevant data to not only perfect the art of customer engagement but also increase the productivity of the sector and give the board a simple system to predict their revenue.”

Outreach has over 450 employees and 4000 global customers.  Last year, the firm nearly doubled its revenue to $70 million, according to Forbes.

Last week, Outreach canceled its annual 2020 Unleash Conference due to the Corona virus.

Outreach: Growth through Redefinition

Sales Engagement Platform Outreach, which is enjoying significant growth and good press, has twice had to redefine itself.  The first time was a pivot from supporting recruiters to sales reps.  The second redefinition was cultural – reshaping its male-centric, burn-the-midnight-oil culture into a more inclusive, hospitable environment.

Forbes estimated Outreach revenue at $70 million in its last fiscal year (January 2020) up from $38 million in fiscal year 2019.  The firm is considering a direct IPO, but views that event as several years out.  In the meantime, “Our goal is to take Outreach and become a large, independent company,” says DFJ Growth partner Sam Fort.

Outreach’s initial sales were mostly into tech firms such as DocuSign, where the software saves reps at least ten hours per month by streamlining and improving sales communications.  “You have to land tens of thousands of customers and you can’t do that with a team of 100 people cold calling,” says DocuSign CRO Loren Alhadeff.  “Your best bet is to find a way to make your touches more important and more pertinent.”

Medina sees the opportunity as much broader and believes only 1% of the market has been tapped.  Sales engagement may even expand beyond B2B sales functions and support higher-end consumer sales roles such as financial advisors and mortgage brokers.

The path to success has been rocky.  The firm began in the recruitment space and was nearly bankrupt when it began marketing some internal sales tools it developed.  Outreach has also had problems with employee churn due to rapid hiring, a difficult winner-take-all pace that burned-out staff, and a male culture that permitted “sexually charged jokes.”

But Medina, an Ecuadorian immigrant, realized that cultural change was necessary.  “I don’t come from central casting.  I’m not an old white guy from Silicon Valley,” he said.  “I know what it’s like to be marginalized, so I take this to heart.”

To address these problems, the firm released managers that promoted the negative culture, centralized sales teams so that reps could learn from each other, and hired Anna Baird as COO.  Baird has focused on hiring and building an inclusive culture where “everyone has a fair shot.”

The executive team is now 40% female with a goal of parity.  “This is not a checkbox for me,” said Medina.  “This is the life I want to live.  I want to be surrounded by people who want to feel included, who are doing their best work with peers that they love and respect.”

Cancels Unleash 2020 (Covid 19)

SalesLoft and Outreach both made difficult decisions this week, canceling planned user conferences. SalesLoft aborted its Rev2020 conference, which was to open today, and Outreach scrubbed its April Unleash show.  Adobe, Zendesk, and Shopify also canceled events, while Twitter and Facebook pulled out of SXSW.

We have been closely monitoring the rapidly evolving situation regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Our first priority will always be the health and safety of our community, employees, customers, and partners. After careful consideration of the developing situation, we have come to the incredibly difficult decision to cancel Unleash 2020 scheduled for April 7-9. 

Unleash is my favorite event of the year. I love having the chance to meet with all of you and share in the excitement of what’s to come. It’s with a heavy heart that we made the decision, but we believe your health and safety should come first, no matter what. 

Outreach CEO Manny Medina (March 3, 2020)

SalesLoft will still be presenting its opening keynote, but as a virtual presentation on Tuesday.  Outreach is planning a virtual event and twelve-city Unleash Summit tour later this year.

Vendors invest millions in marketing dollars hosting their own events. It is an excellent opportunity for them to build their brand, promote ecosystem partners, roll out their roadmap, provide specialized training by job function and role, expand their organizational presence at current accounts, and convert prospects to customers.

RingLead DataExchange

B2B DaaS vendor RingLead rolled out its DataExchange.  The new data enrichment platform brings together datasets from many of the leading B2B vendors with detailed profiles in a searchable catalog.  RingLead is not selling the data, but passing it through via contracts written on partner paper.  Data is processed through RingLead’s data quality platform.  Along with providing a centralized enrichment hub, RingLead normalizes, segments, dupe checks, enriches, validates, performs lead-to-account linking, and automates routing.

The company stated that the typical user would need to manage eight or nine different vendors to automate Data Exchange processes and data sets.  According to RingLead, ninety percent of their current customers are already licensing DataExchange data sets.

“The introduction of The DataExchange reinforces RingLead’s data-first approach to business and unwavering commitment to empowering businesses, not only with the leading data quality platform but now, the ability to painlessly find, connect, and structure the data they need to scale.  Through transparency, community, and education around data, RingLead continues to strive to be the most trusted data quality platform for every business.”

RingLead Press Release

The DataExchange allows customers to mix and match company and contact intelligence from leading vendors:

  • Company / Contact Data: Zoominfo, Crunchbase, Clearbit, KickFire, DatabaseUSA, People Data Labs, Oceanos, InsideView
  • Behavioral Intent: Bombora, Kwanzoo
  • Buyer Intent: Aberdeen, DemandMatrix, Intentsify
  • Technographic: Zoominfo, Aberdeen, DemandMatrix, Kwanzoo, HG Insights
  • Social: Pipl, Clearbit, StatSocial
  • Nonprofit: DatabaseUSA, Cognism
  • Validation: TowerData, ZeroBounce, Oceanos
  • News Alerts: Crunchbase, Zoominfo
  • Financial: Zoominfo, Crunchbase, DatabaseUSA
  • Person: Oceanos, Zoominfo, Pipl, Spokeo, StatSocial, People Data Labs
  • B2C Demographic: Spokeo

“Each of these new data vendors provides tremendous value not only to the customer but to the entire DataExchange community,” said RingLead Chief Product Officer John Kosturos.  “By continuing to focus on select, best-of-breed data vendors, we ensure The DataExchange remains a competitive marketplace where buyers can remain confident in the vendors they’re assessing.”

While company and contact data from leading B2B vendors are likely to be the primary focus of early adopters, the platform supports additional content sets including funding data, technographics, news alerts, and intent enrichment.  Validation services are also critical as they reduce email bounce rates (Zero Bounce, TowerData, and Oceanos), invalid phone dials (TowerData), and non-deliverable direct mail (TowerData).

“Our vision is a world in which recipients value sales and marketing outreach.  Using the highest-quality, consent-based intent data is only the first step,” said Bombora SVP of Data Sales Mike Burton.  “B2B brands also need data portability, so that intent data informs all of their sales and marketing efforts.  Being part of the RingLead DataExchange brings this vision one step closer to reality.”

Vendor profiles include a company overview, description of capabilities and offerings, an attribute catalog, integration documentation, resources, and crowd-sourced reviews.

“We’re flipping the historically painful process of buying and connecting data on its head,” said Kosturos.  “Paired with RingLead’s data quality platform, users of The DataExchange can now take the data they need, ingest it into a batch process, a real-time import, web submission, or a manually created record.”

“As the appetite for data continues to grow, it’s necessary for businesses to have flexibility and transparency in how they buy data, and whom they buy it from,” said Zoominfo Senior Director of Partner Marketing Krystan Resch.  “The DataExchange transforms the data buying experience for the consumer while simultaneously empowering ZoomInfo Powered by DiscoverOrg to deliver more relevant, personalized buying experiences through the most accurate and actionable global B2B database.”

Sales Navigator Q1 Release: Search, UI, and Other Enhancements

Funding Events Slide-in Panel

LinkedIn Sales Navigator has been rolling out its Q1 release to users over the past few weeks. I already covered Contact Creation and Smart Links. Part III of this blog covers Saved Lead and Account Searches, Accounts Preparing to Grow alerts, UI and mobile enhancements, and an InsightSquared SNAP Connector.

Users may now share a Saved Lead Search, allowing them to put together dynamic prospect lists and share them across the account team.  Reps simply select who receives the shared search and include a note.  The recipients can then view the saved search with values pre-populated.

Another new feature is Saved Account Searches, which allow reps to set up a search with scheduled update alerts.  Users control the update notification period.

“Search is a newer area for us in Sales Navigator.  We’re finding more than ever that sales teams are looking at things collaboratively, so we introduced the idea that we need Sales Navigator to work across teams in order to allow that collaboration to happen.”

LinkedIn Sales Solutions Product Chief Lyndsey Edwards

The new Account Preparing to Grow alert notifies sales reps when the number of postings at a saved account has grown.

The Sales Navigator mobile app (Android and iOS) now supports all seven European languages available in the desktop application.  Another new app feature lets the rep set custom alert filters for accounts, leads, and relationships.

“Mobile has always been an area of focus and growth for us,” said Edwards.  “We are seeing more use on mobile than ever before, and we want desktop and mobile users to have an equal experience.  People want the full breadth of functionality on mobile.”

The homepage UI now supports a slide-in panel for viewing Account Funding News without leaving Sales Navigator.  The slide-in panel also supports CTAs, such as send InMail.

Other enhancements include a usage reporting refresh and an opt-out for usage report tracking.

LinkedIn released a SNAP integration with BI vendor InsightSquared.  The integration analyzes Sales Navigator usage and supports seven out-of-the-box workbook templates.

Edwards emphasized that the goal of Sales Navigator product updates is to promote simplicity by “simplifying the seller’s life and workflow.  We focus on sellers as end-users, but we want buyers to have a great experience, as well.”

Accounts Preparing to Grow Alert

Resources:

Sales Navigator Q1 Release: Smart Links

Smart Links Display multiple attachments in a branded landing page.

Sales Navigator is rolling out its Q1 release to clients. Contact Creation (discussed yesterday) is the lead feature, but Smart Links is equally important as it delivers another communications channel for the sales intelligence service.

Smart Links, their second-generation file-sharing service, replaces PointDrive.  Smart Links is available in the Team and Enterprise applications for sharing one or multiple attachments via Sales Navigator, social media, InMail, or email.  Smart Links maintain company branding and rep contact information while tracking attachment opens, views, and shares.  It is displayed as a top-level Sales Navigator feature.

“Users will be provided with real-time insights on how recipients are engaging with content.  These insights can be used to ascertain interest, personalize follow-ups, and identify other stakeholders in the buyer’s circle.”

LinkedIn Sales Navigator Product Director Lyndsey Edwards

When a recipient views the document, an alert is sent to the sales rep.  Smart Links also capture when attachments are forwarded, helping the rep expand her knowledge of the Buyer’s Circle.

“It’s getting more and more complicated in business-to-business marketing to understand the buying circle,” said product chief Lyndsey Edwards.

Next quarter Smart Links will be integrated directly into users’ inboxes.

While reps had a limited number of monthly PointDrives they could share, sales reps now have unlimited Smart Link access.

Smart Links have fewer steps, making it significantly easier to share attachments.  PointDrive usage was lower than anticipated, probably due to the number of steps required to set up and personalize a PointDrive.

Tomorrow, I will discuss the other Q1 release enhancements.

Smart Links Analytics track who has viewed and downloaded which content. It also tracks Smart Link forwards, providing deeper insights into the Buying Team.

Sales Navigator Q1 Release: Contact Creation

LinkedIn rolled out its Q1 2020 Sales Navigator release, the first quarterly release under their new product chief Lyndsey Edwards.  Expanded features include contact creation, a redesigned PointDrive service (now called Smart Links), search enhancements, job posting growth alerts, and enhancements to the home page and mobile app.

Contact Creation is the biggest enhancement in the release.  Like the Data Validation flag last quarter, Contact Creation is a limited data sync solution that is bounded by their member data privacy agreements.  Contact Creation allows reps to create CRM contact records from within Sales Navigator.  While other Sales Intelligence vendors provide full contact records including email, direct dial, job function, job level, and social links, Sales Navigator only supports the following fields (of which only four are pre-populated):

  • Account
  • Opportunity
  • Opportunity Role
  • First Name (Pre-populated from Sales Navigator)
  • Last Name (Pre-populated from Sales Navigator)
  • Job Title (Pre-populated from Sales Navigator)
  • Country (Pre-populated from Sales Navigator)
  • Email
  • Phone Number
  • Lead Source

Edwards noted that the average CRM instance has roughly half of its records out of date.  Reducing record creation and update workflows help address this problem.  LinkedIn can be particularly helpful in identifying executive departures and title changes, hence last quarter’s data validation flag.  However, Contact Creation only pre-populates four fields.  Thus, sales reps either need to have the other details available when creating the contact record or upload a stump record, which is later populated by a different vendor (e.g. Lightning Data partners on the AppExchange).  While other vendors allows lists of Account, Contact, or Lead records to be uploaded, only a single contact record may be created at a time from Sales Navigator.

“We’re really leaning into our relationships with CRM vendors over the past couple of quarters,” said Edwards.  “It’s an age-old problem that isn’t getting better.  We think we can help in a pretty meaningful way.  When people change jobs, they update their LinkedIn profiles first.”

Record matching and duplicate checking are performed.

Contact Creation is available for Enterprise clients only.  Admins must turn on CRM Sync for Salesforce.  Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Sales contact creation is in beta.


Part II of my release coverage discusses Smart Links, their next-generation PointDrive service.

Hippo Video for Outreach

Hippo Video is now offering personalized video to Outreach customers.  The integration helps sales reps include video into their sales process, which in turn increases conversion rates and accelerates the sales cycle.  Sales reps can create, share, and track personalized video content embedded in Outreach sequences, templates, snippets, and one-to-one emails.  Heatmap analytics track user interaction.  Hippo Video also supports a video library.

Videos can be created for each objective across the full sales cycle, allowing sales and marketing to send targeted videos for each stage.  For example, reps can send introductory videos to establish rapport with the prospect and later send a product demo once the prospect has shown interest.

“Videos will go a long way in establishing a personal connection and trust with the recipient as against insipid text-heavy emails,” said Hippo Video CEO Karthi Mariappan.

Hippo Video claims a 300% lift in response rates from embedded videos.  Other firms, such as Vidyard, have found similar lift rates from personalized videos.

Users can also add actionable calls to action (CTAs) within videos, which are then embedded within sequenced emails in Outreach.  CTAs include meeting links, custom polls, annotations, and lead gen forms.  CTAs can be inserted in the middle or at the end of the video.

Integration is described as straightforward:

  1. Sign up for Hippo Video;
  2. Install the Hippo Video Chrome extension;
  3. Turn on Hippo Video in Outreach.  

Reps can then record personalized videos via their webcam and embed them within email templates, snippets, and direct emails.

By seamlessly integrating videos in your sales outreach, your prospects are sure to experience highly personalized, engaging content that will humanize the entire sales process, which would have otherwise been possible only within a face-to-face meeting.

[The] Sales process is spontaneous.  Therefore, integrating sales with video to build a relationship of trust with the prospect should not leave you flustered.  Tracking their interaction [and] qualifying them should be reasonably straightforward as well.

Santhoshi Natarajan, Hippo Video Content Strategist

Prospect behavior is also tracked, allowing reps to prioritize their follow-ups based on views and watch interaction percentage, providing additional intent metrics beyond email open and response rates.

Videos may be analyzed by viewing and drop off points.  “When a prospect drops off the video at a certain point, it’s perhaps time [to] rework your message or focus on a different pain point,” said Natarajan.  “This feature is an added layer on top of your existing metrics and will help you prioritize the prospect who is at the bottom of the sales funnel.”

Hippo Video is a freemium offering.  The free edition provides unlimited hosting but limits bandwidth to 100 GB per month and does not support video emails.  The Pro version ($29 / user / month) provides integrations with Outreach, Gmail, Outlook, and HubSpot.  Other features include professional video editing, custom branding, video cloning, in-video CTAs, contact imports from CRM, and SEO.

Hippo Video allows reps to quickly record a video and send it to prospects via Outreach.

Zoominfo Data Quality

When Zoominfo launched its new platform in September, they focused on functionality, packaging, and new capabilities, but did not discuss how their databases were combined.  As the data collection methodologies of the two firms differed significantly, it was unclear how they unified the datasets.  Prior to the acquisition, DiscoverOrg created a second tranche of company and contact data that was labeled “technology-generated”  This data was not subject to their traditional human-verification methods and was segregated from human-verified data during prospecting under a secondary results tab.

When the databases were combined for the new platform, Zoominfo added data quality scores for each contact record.  Contacts are scored based on their predicted accuracy.  Thus, a contact record with a score of 95 has a 95% likelihood that the contact was at the company, and the email was valid.  Records were also assigned an alphabetical score: A+ records have a score of 95 or above, A records have scores between 85 and 94, and B records are scored between 75 and 84.  Contact records now display the numeric and alphabetical scores.  Quality scores are also included in file downloads and synced with enterprise software applications.

While the scores do not factor in direct dial accuracy, Derek Smith, SVP of Data and Research, indicated that direct dial accuracy generally lags the contact quality score by five points.

Data quality score thresholds can be adjusted based upon the user’s objectives.  When pulling contacts for an email campaign or starting a cadence through a sales engagement partner (Outreach or SalesLoft), setting a high-quality score ensures that the bounce rates are low.  This helps protect the firm’s sender score and prevents emails from being delayed or caught in a SPAM filter.  When setting up a dialing campaign, the quality score can be lower as there are fewer risks associated with bad phone calls (you might even get the contact’s replacement).  One can also selectively upload lower-quality contacts when there are only lower quality contacts that match a target persona at an ABM account.

Zoominfo data spans 100 million active global contacts across 20 million companies.  Of these, 73 million have emails, and 43 million have direct dials.  Zoominfo offers over a million contacts for seven countries:

  • The United States (64M)
  • Canada (6.1M)
  • Australia (4.2M)
  • India (3.7M)
  • The United Kingdom (2.0M)
  • South Africa (1.3M)
  • Brazil (1.1M)

Zoominfo employs several methods for contact verification.  NeverBounce, which they acquired last March, performs regular email verification tests.  They also send a set of email campaign tests to partners for monthly third-party testing.  Likewise, they send a test phone file to the Philippines for middle of the night phone testing.  These tests, along with regular data verification conducted by their human editors, help refine their data quality scoring model.

Data updates are driven by client feedback, editorial research, natural language processing of the open web, NeverBounce testing, and signature block analysis of emails from community members.

Zoominfo now provides mobile numbers alongside company and direct-dial phones.  Mobile numbers have been available from DiscoverOrg for several years, but Zoominfo did not collect them.  Zoominfo is now collecting them for all contacts.  Mobile numbers are not downloadable for most clients, but exceptions are made if there is a valid use case for mobile dialing.  For example, recruiters prefer to call mobile numbers versus direct dials, as mobile calling helps protect the privacy of the individuals being contacted.