Conversational Cloud vendor Drift announced it had integrated OpenAI’s API into its chat service. The GPT integration suggests chat replies to sales reps, helping them answer complex customer questions. Responses are based on a company’s website content, marketing material, conversational context, and GPT.
Reps can choose to send the response verbatim, edit it before responding, or request a refined response.
“The ability to generate suggested replies by repurposing any available content also provides real-time on-the-job training for new sales reps (which currently takes three months on average), teaching them how to respond accurately and in the right brand voice,” explained the firm.
Drift listed a trio of capabilities it will be releasing later this year:
Automated content creation and ongoing optimization of playbooks
Automated onboarding and AI topic training
Personalizing sales outreach and prioritizing target accounts
“The buzz around ChatGPT, and the widespread experimentation that followed, has only underscored that conversation-based AI is paving the way of the future. But it needs to be tailored to solve meaningful business challenges,” said Matt Tippets, SVP at Drift. “With Drift’s ability to use Conversational AI to contextualize responses that augment the efforts of human teams, we’ve created a feature that helps sales reps of all experience levels be more productive, particularly relevant now with pressure on during a more difficult economic climate.”
Drift’s approach offers a human-in-the-loop option for sales chat that ensures responses are accurate and not subject to hallucinations.
“We have years of experience and real-life use cases that are already being applied to how we manage and bring GPT capabilities to our customers,” blogged Drift Senior Director of Product Marketing Aurelia Solomon. “And we’re excited to continue embedding GPT into our products for marketers and sellers to automate more of their workflows to save time and help them create quality pipeline, faster.”
One of the most important SalesTech trends, besides the emergence of ChatGPT, is the rapid incorporation of engagement datasets alongside intent datasets for prioritization and messaging.
A few years ago, we saw the emergence of intent data sets such as first-party web visitor tracking, second-party product review site research, and third-party B2B media research. Initially, this content was integrated into MAPs, ABX platforms, and CDPs, but it was not well integrated into SalesTech. We are now seeing intent data being integrated into SalesTech platforms in a simplified fashion (e.g., High Intent Topics in CRM profiles and Slack alerts) that is digestible for sales reps.
However, intent data only indicates whether a company is in-market, not whether the buying committee is considering your offering or seriously engaged with your sales team. This intelligence comes from a new category of engagement data captured from digital interactions between the revenue team (sales, marketing, and customer success) and the buying committee. Engagement intelligence consists of both traditional digital interactions (e.g., clickthroughs, downloads) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) analytics derived from sales and buying team activities.
NLP helps RevTech platforms determine who is interacting with your firm. It also analyzes buyer sentiment, buyer concerns, deal health, and risk flags. The primary sources of engagement data are emails, recorded phone calls, and recorded meetings. However, any digital interaction between buyers and sellers can be captured such as activity in digital sales rooms, webinar attendance, chat messaging, and scheduled meetings. I anticipate that customer support platforms will also be tapped for engagement data to help gauge churn risk and friction during product trials.
Engagement data indicates whether a deal is on track and what issues could result in lost deals or pushed out pipeline. For example, engagement data assesses whether:
Discussions are single or multi-threaded
Key decisionmakers are involved (e.g., has a security review been performed or has legal been included?)
Competitors have been mentioned
Pricing concerns were raised
Follow on meetings have been scheduled
Meetings had a positive flow or were dominated by the sales rep
In short, engagement data provides sales reps and managers deal health and risk analytics that improve forecasting and ensure that deal risks are quickly mitigated. And as interactions are digital, managers can discuss these issues during one-on-ones or offer quick tips on next steps. They can even review the discussion associated with the risk and identify skills and knowledge gaps for coaching.
The interesting thing about intent and engagement data is they are highly complementary with each other. Operations teams should be looking at integrating intent data alongside engagement data. Intent data is valuable for identifying who and when to reach out to ideal customers. However, once a relationship is established, the focus shifts to engagement data for monitoring deal health. After a deal is signed, both engagement and intent data are in play. Intent data identifies cross-sell opportunities and churn risk through second and third-party intent topic monitoring while Engagement and Product Usage data evaluate adoption rates and potential implementation issues.
Last month, Drift rolled out its Conversation Cloud, which combines the capabilities of its Conversational Marketing, Conversational Sales, and newly launched Conversational Service offerings. Drift’s Conversational AI guides visitors along any stage of the customer journey, helping them “voice their intent with open text questions, find answers to their own questions, get personalized recommendations, or book a sales meeting.”
“Everything starts with a conversation, and in-person communication and experiences are taking a back seat to the conversations we have online, especially in our business relationships. Businesses are relying more and more on digital experience platforms – or in our case, conversational experience platforms – to bridge these connections and manage key customer interactions, touchpoints, and engagement. Our guiding philosophy at Drift is to put the buyer at the center of everything we do, and we are excited to bring the Drift Conversation Cloud to market to help our customers deliver a better experience to buyers at each stage of their journey, all while improving their sales teams’ efficiencies and accelerating revenue.”
Drift Conversational Sales manages customer conversations across chat, video, email, and phone. Drift routes high value leads to sales reps, notifying them when qualified leads are engaging with the chatbot or the website. Sales reps can “craft personalized outreach based on what web pages buyers visited, which sales touchpoints they engaged with, and how often they interacted with your brand.” Prospect activity is automatically logged to Salesforce.
Reps can also deliver personalized video messages based on site activity intelligence. Videos may be shared via LinkedIn, Drift, Outreach, or Salesloft. Drift claims a more than 3X improvement in response rates for asynchronous video.
Drift not only schedules meetings but also offers a new Deal Room module for capturing interactions between buyers and sellers, including meeting transcriptions and document sharing. Deal Room also provides real-time alerts when prospects engage with the Deal Room and manages Mutual Action Plans.
“Drift Deal Room enables seamless collaboration between your internal team and entire buyer committees in one central location,” blogged Drift Senior Product Marketing Manager Holly Xiao. “Everyone involved will be able to have conversations, share files, manage action items, schedule meetings, and more — directly in Deal Room.”
Continued Xiao, “Drift Deal Room lets you see who, what, and how buyers interact with your business throughout their entire journey. So, when it’s time for your next deal review, you’ll come to the table with a clear picture of deal activities and trajectory. And if you notice opportunities with lower engagement, you can rely on Drift Video, Drift Chat, Drift Email, and more to help you nurture deals in the right channel at the right time and keep them moving in the right direction.”
Conversational Service answers simple support questions, allowing the service team to focus on difficult support problems and high-priority customers. The Drift Chatbot supports Salesforce and Zendesk knowledge base articles. Conversational Service lets customers create their own support tickets or hand high-priority requests over to live service reps.
“Translating click-based engagement into buyer-led enablement across interactions requires conversation design that senses and responds to spoken and unspoken buyer needs across complex and connected buying journeys, wrote Forrester Principal Analyst Jessie Johnson last November. “Conversational interactions help B2B organizations meet buyers where they are in their journey, enable their buyers and customers in the moment, and inform the next interaction. The impact of poor execution, however, can have a lasting negative impact on the buying journey, customer experience, and even the brand itself.”
ZoomInfo announced the immediate availability of its new MarketingOS ABM Platform. The service is part of a broader RevOS offering that supports marketing, sales, operations, and recruitment. MarketingOS consolidates ZoomInfo’s legacy marketing capabilities, bringing together two recent acquisitions, Insent and RingLead, with new programmatic and audience management functionality.
ZoomInfo also refined its positioning statement from Revenue Acceleration to Revenue Operating System. It stated that RevOS is “the World’s only revenue operating system of its kind.”
“Our comprehensive B2B database is the key differentiator that sets MarketingOS apart from other ABM solutions,” said ZoomInfo CEO Henry Schuck. “ZoomInfo’s unique data science algorithms allow marketers to connect with the right prospects at precisely the right time. No other solution on the market combines the power of data-driven insights and marketing-optimized workflows like ZoomInfo’s MarketingOS.”
“Marketers typically fail because the data in most ABM platforms is both inaccurate and incomplete. Current ABM solutions are designed to leverage companies’ own first-party data, which exists in their customer relationship management or marketing automation systems. Without quality data, marketers pour advertising dollars at the wrong prospects and companies, and, as a result, deliver fruitless leads to sales and waste time and resources. With ZoomInfo’s best-in-class data and intelligence at its foundation, MarketingOS enables marketers to effectively reach target accounts and drive qualified leads for sales.”
New functionality includes social and display advertising, abandoned from tracking, and audience targeting. Marketing can build audiences and track campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Marketing can also build campaigns and manage them programmatically through Clickagy DSP (ZoomInfo) or TradeDesk.
Marketing OS looks to address the “Funnel Famine” suffered by traditional marketing teams. Several issues cause Funnel Famine: crowded B2B advertising channels, dirty data, leaky black-box marketing campaigns, siloed data, and sales’ longtime distrust of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs).
“Most marketing programs begin with data, whether it’s for tailoring your communications, whether it’s for sending an email, whether it’s for sending a direct mail. It’s all about those accounts that you’re targeting and the professionals at those accounts,” explained ZoomInfo SVP of Product Strategy and Product Marketing Justin Withers to GZ Consulting. “And the reality is that a lot of data, especially if it’s pulled from the CRM or other systems, is outdated. It’s inaccurate. It’s incomplete, and that can actually pollute or even inhibit the lead flow at the top of the funnel, and [it] ultimately leads to poor conversion. It leads to leaks in the funnel, and all this hard work that marketers put in at every stage of the funnel ultimately spills out before it can even reach sales.”
The reality is that the sales and marketing funnels operate in parallel, not sequentially, as represented in traditional funnel diagrams. MarketingOS lets marketers run account-based programs in parallel with sales running account-based sales programs “so that everyone’s aligned at every step of the funnel.”
Under current processes, sales and marketing operate in parallel to each other with little coordination and a single point of handoff for MQLs, a situation that “really doesn’t set marketing up for success…and it leaves sales in a bind,” continued Withers. Thus, marketing complains that sales teams ignore its leads, and sales reps complain about the quality and quantity of marketing-sourced leads. As a result, there is an “acute misalignment between sales and marketing.”
With MarketingOS, handoffs can occur at different points along the marketing funnel, based on the channel and prospect response.
Sales and Marketing are aligned around a set of target accounts both within and beyond the ICP. Thus, an ICP account with spiking intent will be passed to sales, even if marketing has had limited conversations. Furthermore, the rep will know that multiple individuals from the firm have visited the website or that individuals have clicked through on ads or email campaigns.
Likewise, chatbot conversations with target companies can immediately route a chat to the sales rep or schedule a call.
New functionality for managing abandoned forms can revive a prospect. ZoomInfo claims a 60% increase in lead flow with its abandoned form tracking.
MarketingOS functionality includes
Expanded targeting that leverages the full set of ZoomInfo’s first and third-party intelligence for building and activating audiences. ZoomInfo selects include firmographics, technographics, biographics (e.g., Title, 192 Job Functions, Job Levels), web forms, and uploaded lists (e.g., tradeshow lists). Other selects include business events (e.g., funding data, executive changes, projects) and over 300 company attributes (advanced data-mined firmographics such as fleet size and company benefits). Targeting also ingests account, contact, and lead attributes from Salesforce, HubSpot, and Marketo.
First and third-party intent data time outreach while buyers are in-market, helping to improve marketing and sales efficacy. Marketers can track up to 500 intent topics, with up to 50 available at a time. In addition, chat-based targeting is coming soon.
An “in-market predictive score” that identifies each prospect’s buying stage, “informing how and when marketers should engage with prospects based on their ranking and helping them to prioritize their outbound efforts on prospects who are most likely to convert.”
Campaign Management and Analytics. Marketers upload their creative, build an audience, set the budget, and select their channels.
Webforms, infused with automated enrichment, support shorter forms with reduced abandonment rates
Abandoned form tracking, with Workflows passing the lead to sales or additional nurture steps
ZoomInfo Chat (FKA Insent), a conversational marketing chatbot that leverages ZoomInfo data to score and route leads. Chat immediately passes high-scoring, live leads to sales reps. The chatbot also automates meeting scheduling.
Visitor Intelligence, with pages scored differently (e.g., Product Pages are scored higher than Career or Investor Pages)
Automated workflows triggered by intent, custom intent, WebSights visitor intelligence, Scoops (e.g., business events, projects), Funding, Technologies, and FormComplete. Workflows can also be built to expand reach across the potential buying committee by persona.
RingLead data orchestration to dedupe, cleanse, enrich, and route leads
ZoomInfo Enrich, a set of DaaS enterprise platform integrations for data enrichment and hygiene.
MarketingOS is powered by ZoomInfo’s database spanning 100 million companies, 150 million executives, technographics, intent and engagement data, and event data.
“Marketing and sales funnels work in parallel, so everyone is aligned at every step of the funnel,” explained Justin Withers, SVP of Product Strategy and Product Marketing. With MarketingOS, “sales and marketing are working in lockstep at every stage of the journey.”
Tying together intent and engagement data and processing them through ZoomInfo Workflows is the future of ABM. Intent data is employed at the top of the funnel when buyers are in the initial research phase. Once prospects have begun interacting with a vendor, most buyer behavior research falls under the engagement category (e.g., web forms, email responses, chatbots, conversational intelligence, etc.). Finally, intent data helps identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities at the tail end of the customer lifecycle.
Engagement and intent data are also valuable churn risk indicators, helping customer success and account managers detect potential cancelations or defections well before decisions have been made. In addition, intent data can show a spike in research related to product-associated topics and competitors. Engagement monitoring widens to include customer success interactions, training participation, platform usage, and general account health indicators.
“We can support your new customer acquisition with these signals,” stated Withers. “We can support your opportunity acceleration with these signals. We can also support your renewal, upsell, cross-sell motions based on different types of signals that are happening at those accounts. So, it really is a full customer lifecycle marketing solution.”
MarketingOS will be available as a pair of SKUs:
ABM Elite+: The full ABM Platform package, including RingLead Cleanse, Enrich, and Route
ABM Advanced+: Package includes everything except RingLead
“The purpose behind the two distinct offerings is to simplify our primary offering for those focused on ABM engagement and marketing programs, as opposed to the more operationally focused data orchestration capabilities,” explained ZoomInfo Analyst Relations Director Michael Basilio to GZ Consulting.
MarketingOS includes ten marketing seats and three administrative seats for RingLead routing and ZoomInfo Chat.
The broader RevOS branding consists of MarketingOS, SalesOS, OperationsOS, and RecruitingOS. ZoomInfo calls RevOS the “world’s first integrated go-to-market platform.” All four RevOS services are generally available.
ZoomInfo’s data cloud, orchestration tools (e.g., RingLead, B2B DaaS, Workflows), and engagement tools (advertising, sales engagement, web forms, chat, and conversational intelligence) are at the heart of RevOS.
“There’s nothing more important in business than successfully executing your go-to-market strategy,” states ZoomInfo in its product collateral. “Get it right, and your business flourishes. Get it wrong, and you’re toast. That’s why having one integrated go-to-market platform is so crucial. You can think of it as your revenue operating system.”
SalesOS bundles together a set of new and legacy sales tools:
Chorus, the conversational sales platform the firm acquired in July
Sales and Marketing Alignment has been a stated goal of the two functions for at least a decade, but they have operated with different datasets, metrics, objectives, and platforms. Thus, alignment was more vision than reality. By aligning ABM on a common platform and reference database, alignment is no longer impaired by an organization’s tech stack and data foundation.
“Crucially, MarketingOS lets marketing teams work from a common data foundation. Only 39% of sales and marketing teams share buyer signals, and half say it’s because their sales and marketing systems don’t integrate. The shared data foundation of SalesOS and MarketingOS tightens key handoffs and unlocks true marketing and sales alignment, eliminating conflicting records, wasted effort, and missed opportunities.”
ZoomInfo CEO Henry Schuck, “Introducing RevOS: The future of modern go-to-market software,” (Feb 8, 2022)
OperationsOS contains RingLead data orchestration (i.e., match, unify, dedupe, normalize, cleanse, enrich, score, and route data) and B2B DaaS services (e.g., APIs, webhooks, cloud data warehouse integrations).
Finally, RecruitingOS contains ZoomInfo Recruit, its recently launched prospecting and engagement service for HR departments and recruiters. RecruitingOS also includes a set of Applicant Tracking Service connectors.
“Recruiters can filter and reach more good-fit candidates, use pipeline management tools to collaborate and organize the hiring process, and automate the candidate outreach process,” explains Zoominfo. “This helps you source and connect with candidates faster, reducing the time to find and hire talent.”
Along with new product positioning, RevOS sports new logos, color palettes, styles, and a “unified in-app experience to create a singular, cohesive go-to-market solution that spans the entire suite of ZoomInfo products.” There are also redesigned data dashboards and reports that “offer a faster, more responsive experience that allows your sales, marketing, and recruitment teams to visually demonstrate ROI and how their work aligns with broader organizational objectives.”
In short, RevOS unifies sales, marketing, revenue operations, and recruitment on the same set of data, providing “the same source of truth” and “one integrated platform for every stage of the marketing and sales funnel.” “If data is the lifeblood of the modern sales organization, then go-to-market teams must have the technology to act upon that data. RevOS’ unified data tech stack gives sales, marketing, operations, and recruiting teams a single source of truth from which to launch their campaigns and go-to-market motions, simplifying internal workflows, reducing costs, and maximizing interoperability between teams,” blogged Schuck. “RevOS is the next chapter in ZoomInfo’s journey as the world’s leading go-to-market platform.”
Conversational Sales and Marketing vendor Qualified announced select availability for its new Signals intent product. Qualified Signals delivers sales intelligence gleaned from company websites, helping them identify in-market accounts and prioritize their outreach.
Qualified Signals is an “AI product that combines website engagement with Salesforce data to surface the buying intent of a B2B company’s target accounts; helping sales reps focus on exactly the right accounts to generate more pipeline and revenue,” blogged Qualified CRO Robert Zimmerman.
When ABM was proposed as the successor to lead-generation marketing, it focused on defining the ICP and targeting accordingly. While the ICP concept is still important, it fails to recognize that at any one moment, most ICP accounts are not in-market. Thus, a further refinement was in order, deploying intent (e.g., visitor intelligence, chatbots, third-party B2B website activity) and engagement data (e.g., email responses, meeting attendance, sentiment) to prioritize accounts so that sales reps focus on the accounts that are in market and marketing continues to nurture ICP accounts with low-level intent signals.
“Sales reps need a simple way to identify the accounts with high purchase intent so they can maximize pipeline more efficiently,” argued Zimmerman. “Meanwhile, target accounts are poking around the website and signaling buying intent, but sales reps have no idea. This is a missed opportunity because website engagement is a critical predictor of purchase intent. It demonstrates patterns of website activity that indicate whether an account is sales-ready.”
Unfortunately, website activity is a “blind spot for salespeople” that leaves them “in the dark as to where to focus their attention, how to engage target accounts, and how deals are progressing.”
Qualified Signals employs an AI-predictive model that collects “hundreds of thousands of website data points to determine which accounts are in-market to buy and sales-ready.” Models include website activity such as mouse movement, clicks, scroll depth, page views, active time on site, chatbot engagement, live chat, voice calls, meetings booked, recency and frequency of visits, and visitor count.
“In a booming sales tech market, there are countless sales intelligence tools out there, but they often overlook the most important sales and marketing asset—the corporate website,” said Qualified CEO Kraig Swensrud. “Signals arms sellers with an entirely new type of buying intent data, so revenue teams know exactly which accounts to pursue to crush their quota.”
Signals are displayed to sales reps in the Salesforce Account record and convert complex buyer behavior into straightforward trends such as cooling, neutral, heating, and surging. Trend data “can also be customized using unique Salesforce Account data to home in on the accounts that matter most, like ABM tier, account owner, region, or industry.”
Signals optionally pushes custom Account intent fields to Salesforce, which can then be built into custom reports and dashboards.
Qualified also displays Signals Account 360, a dynamic graph that visualizes purchase intent fluctuations over time for individual accounts. Signals are expressed as a current Heat Index temperature, dynamic trend, and detailed account activity view that replays account engagement at the contact level. The account timeline “offers a detailed, highly visual, timestamped overview of notable website events that occurred throughout the buying process,” blogged Zimmerman.
Additionally, Signals supports mobile, email, and Slack alerts when an account hits client specified thresholds on the Qualified Heat Index. Alerts may be sent in real-time or included in a daily or weekly email digest.
“Qualified Signals amplifies Qualified X, bringing purchase intent data to the visitor level within your conversational sales and marketing application,” stated the firm. “When a sales rep prospects into a target account, they’re instantly notified when that account arrives on the site. Plus, they have all intent data at the ready. They can instantly meet with the prospect using a full stack of meeting tools, including chat, voice, and screen-sharing.”
Due to the complexity of visitor intelligence and similar data, intent signals have mostly been fed into marketing platforms and not converted into actionable semaphores; however, sales intelligence vendors have begun enabling these signals.
“The website is no longer just for marketers; it’s now a window into your biggest sales opportunities. Sellers have their standard indicators that an account is interested, and a deal is moving forward; but in between the standard touchpoints, prospects are poking around your website, reading a customer story, or engaging via live chat. Sellers have had limited insight into how target accounts are exploring this property, but the website is an amazing predictor of intent. Now, Qualified Signals will surface this invaluable insight for revenue teams.”
Qualified CEO Kraig Swensrud
Qualified Signals will GA in early 2022.
Qualified closed on a $51 million Series B round in May that Salesforce Ventures led. The firm describes itself as “the only conversational sales and marketing platform purpose-built for Salesforce Sales Cloud.”
Terminus announced the immediate availability of its next-generation chat offering, Terminus Chat Experiences, which is native to its ABX platform. Terminus claims that Terminus Chat Experiences drives a 700% increase in target account engagement and has already powered more than four million conversations.
Chat Experiences builds upon its 2020 acquisition of Ramble. Built within the Terminus platform, Chat Experiences routes conversations to the appropriate rep “in seconds.” Along the way, Terminus playbooks collect visitor data, trigger sales automation steps, and qualify inbound traffic in real-time.
Terminus Chat enhancements include new Chat views and dashboards, a new Chat engagement window, and a HubSpot for Chat integration. Reps can monitor the website and reach out to visitors pro-actively, based upon their viewed content.
The chat builder supports both linear workflows and visual workflows. Connectors support Salesforce, HubSpot, Marketo, Outreach, SalesLoft, Calendly, and Google Analytics.
Other features include Chat from Anywhere one-click chat links from emails, display ads, social, and other channels; chat routing to the most appropriate available rep based upon Terminus reference data; meeting booking; and a mobile app for booking meetings and chatting when away from the desk.
“Terminus Chat Experiences has identified more than 3.7M target accounts for customers; that’s incredibly powerful,” said Justin McDonald, GM of Channel Applications for Terminus. “Combined with other channels like Ad Experiences and Email Experiences, Chat Experiences is truly a game-changer for modern marketers looking to engage target audiences at any stage of the funnel. Being native to our platform creates a flywheel of first-party data and account matching that plays a massive role in conversion and revenue for customers. Native chat is unmatched, and we’re proud to be the first and only ABM platform to make this possible.”
Revenue Acceleration vendor Drift rolled out a pair of sales enablement tools to facilitate rapid qualification and lead routing: Fastlane lead forms and Sales Seat intent and engagement alerts.
Fastlane combines traditional lead forms with chatbots to create “conversational forms.” Prospects fill out a lead form with contact information enriched, scored, and routed to the Drift chatbot for high-scoring leads. Thus, high-scoring prospects immediately move to sales rep conversations from the website.
Low scoring leads are passed to nurture or “other automated activations.”
“As a result, sellers can focus on high-converting buyers while routing lower-priority leads to nurture campaigns or other automated activations,” wrote Drift. “The net outcome results in more qualified sales pipeline, an efficient workflow for sales reps, and overall revenue acceleration for the organization.”
If the buyers are too busy to speak immediately, they can schedule a meeting through the chatbot. Likewise, if the rep isn’t available for chat, the bot can schedule a meeting after collecting additional prospect intelligence.
It may seem odd that a firm that is a #noforms proponent would choose to begin offering forms, but not all marketers are ready to eliminate forms.
“For most marketers, it’s the number one source of leads that they drive for their sales team. And if they didn’t have that, sales teams would be on the hook to create nearly all of their own pipeline – which is very inefficient. So we realized we had to do more. We have to support our customers in every way that they work. From the inbound motion that relies on forms to the outbound motion for customers who can’t rely on marketing alone to hit their numbers.”
CEO David Cancel
There are also scenarios where a form makes more sense than a bot. Registering for a webinar works better as a form than a bot as it is transparent about the requisite data entry. Likewise, enabling forms with optional bots increases their flexibility and value.
Continue to Part II which discusses Sales Seat and the importance of rapid sales responses for inbound leads.
Conversational Marketing Platform Qualified closed on a $51 million Series B round. Salesforce Ventures led the round, with existing partners Redpoint Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners also joining. Qualified has received $68 million in total funding. It is “the only conversational sales and marketing platform purpose-built for Salesforce Sales Cloud,” stated the firm.
Qualified’s Salesforce roots “go deep.” Along with the Salesforce Ventures funding, Salesforce CMO Sarah Franklin joined Qualified as a board observer, and former Salesforce SVP Dan Darcy joined as their Chief Customer Officer. Multiple execs are former Salesforce employees including CEO Kraig Swensrud who worked on the development of Chatter and served as the firm’s CMO.
“Qualified represents an entirely new way for B2B companies to engage buyers,” said Bill Patterson, Salesforce EVP of CRM Applications. “When marketing and inbound sales teams use this solution with Sales Cloud…they see a notable impact on pipeline. We are thrilled about our growing partnership with Qualified and their success within the Salesforce ecosystem.”
Qualified will deploy the funds to “fuel product innovation;” build out key functions including engineering, sales, marketing, and customer success; and more than double its headcount before the end of the year.
“Conversational sales and marketing is no longer a ‘nice to have.’ It’s mission critical for fast-growing businesses, and table stakes for modern buyers. The world’s top CMOs and demand gen leaders are turning to Qualified as a new way to meet with their most important buyers the moment they arrive on the website. There’s no better partner than Salesforce Ventures to help us accelerate Qualified’s growth and bring this solution to Salesforce customers around the world.”
Qualified CEO Kraig Swensrud
Qualified addresses a “multi-billion problem for enterprise marketing and sales teams,” their inability to identify qualified buyers and message to them while they are on the website. Thus, the $6 billion spent driving buyers to company websites is poorly converted into sales pipelines.
“In enterprise sales, speed matters: Waiting even five minutes after a lead leaves a website decreases the chances of making contact by 10x,” wrote the firm. “However, it takes salespeople 38 hours on average to respond to qualified leads. Studies show that 78% of B2B customers buy from the company that responds to them first.”
Qualified offers real-time visitor intelligence and routing based upon Salesforce. Visitors may interact with chatbots or talk to reps via chat, voice, and screen sharing. The service promises 99.9% uptime, GDPR compliance, SOC2 compliance, and Salesforce ISV certification.
“The conversational model is simply a better way to connect with new customers. Buyers love the real-time engagement, sellers love the instant connections, and marketers have the confidence that every dollar spent on demand generation is maximized,” said Board Member Scott Beechuk. “The multi-billion-dollar market for Salesforce automation software is going to adopt this new model, and Qualified is perfectly positioned to capture that demand. If your company uses Salesforce, Qualified will be a multiplier on your sales and marketing investment.”
Qualified saves conversations to Salesforce, including a complete visual recording of the timeline, chat transcript, and screen recording.
Last year, Qualified grew revenue by 800% and posted a 175% customer revenue retention rate. New customers include Adobe, Matterport, Poly, Sodexo, SurveyMonkey, Talend, Tech Data, and VMware.
According to LinkedIn, Qualified grew its headcount by 92% last year.
Conversational Marketing is hot, but the market is shifting from standalone chat to chat as a front-end to ABX Platforms. ZoomInfo acquired Insent last week and rebranded it ZoomInfo Chat, Drift expanded its product vision into Revenue Acceleration with additional channels, and Terminus acquired Ramble and integrated it into its ABX Platform.
ZoomInfo announced that it acquired Conversational Marketing firm Insent.AI this morning. The new offering was immediately rebranded as ZoomInfo Chat. Insent, ZoomInfo’s latest post-IPO tuck-in, follows acquisitions of Everstring (firmographics) and Clickagy (intent data) in late 2020. In total, ZoomInfo (FKA DiscoverOrg) has acquired eight companies over the past four years.
CEO Henry Schuck focuses on acquiring complementary data assets that become significantly more valuable when combined with ZoomInfo’s data assets and are then cross-sold by its sales teams.
Last month Schuck told Yahoo! Finance:
“It [the size of the company] doesn’t really matter because the way that we evaluate M&A is, we look for opportunities where, number one, our data makes a big impact from a competitive differentiation perspective. And number two, which goes to the valuation piece, because we are seeing incredibly high valuations on M&A targets today.
But on that piece, we’re always looking to see, hey, if we buy this company and we integrate it into ZoomInfo, and we have all of our sellers selling that product or service and it’s integrated and it’s gotten better with the data asset that we have, how fast can we grow the business? It’s always much faster than that business is going to grow on its own.
And so, when we’re doing the analysis on what to buy and what to build, the buy equation has a lot to do with how much faster we can grow the business. And so while a valuation today might feel like a lot, when we look at what we’re going to be able to do with that asset over the next year and two years, we look for those assets to be accretive in the short term. And it really becomes a go-to-market exercise for us.”
Conversational Marketing is a rapidly emerging segment that provides value across the revenue team. Insent, which will be powered by ZoomInfo’s WebSights visitor identification and its global database, performs real-time routing of conversations to sales reps. Low-scoring prospects are managed by the chatbot, with high-scoring visitors routed to the appropriate sales reps. Insent, which competes against Intercom, Terminus, and Drift, calls itself a “human-first chatbot.”
“Marketers spend enormous amounts of time, money, and effort to drive traffic to their websites, but only convert less than two percent of visitors into leads – an incredible inefficiency for teams,” said Schuck. “The acquisition of Insent will combine chat with ZoomInfo’s dynamic IP-to-company graph and insights. Marketers will be able to instantly identify previously anonymous companies that are on their websites, route prospects to the right account owners, and arm them with ZoomInfo’s key intelligence about their buyers. As a result, they’ll initiate real-time conversations that can yield significant conversions.”
Insent also looks for website triggers such as page visits and scroll locations when launching the chatbot.
“As visitors engage in personalized conversations with a chatbot, the nature of the interaction can further inform and qualify visitors for a seamless transition to a live chat with a sales representative,” blogged Schuck. This interactive intelligence will be combined with firmographics and other account and contact intelligence related to the prospect. These insights then “trigger automated sales and marketing workflows, plays, and alerts to create informed, serendipitous, personalized engagement.”
The Insent chatbot supports inline meeting scheduling and additional information gathering for the rep. ZoomInfo will also support automated follow-up workflows and conversations.
Chatbots have an advantage over traditional web forms. Not only do they capture and enrich information, but they can engage with prospects when “your brand is top of mind” and selectively pass high-scoring visitors immediately to sales reps. If the sales rep is not available, the chatbot can schedule a call and collect additional intelligence for the meeting.
“And that opportunity extends beyond the lifetime of that visit,” added Schuck. “Leveraging the visit as a trigger event, ZoomInfo can expand the audience at an account by identifying other likely members of the buying committee and activating outreach to those professionals following a website visit by one or a number of their peers.”
Insent supports integrations with Salesforce, Marketo, HubSpot, Slack, MS Teams, and Zendesk (customer support).
Real-time integrations between platforms and the chat engine, combined with real-time reference data are key to this deal. “Without tightly integrated, highly accurate data and timely insights, these systems are merely empty repositories that lack the intelligence to surface, prioritize, and trigger effective, personalized engagement at scale,” blogged Shuck. “At ZoomInfo, we are actively executing against our vision to build a go-to-market platform that combines our best-in-class data and insights with a tightly integrated engagement layer that activates those insights as they surface. Our system facilitates real-time connection with buyers in their time of need, alerts sales teams to meaningful activity, and feeds engagement activity data back into the system for better future profiling and targeting.”
“ZoomInfo is a trusted leader in go-to-market intelligence and orchestration that enterprises rely on to help them identify and close their ideal customers,” said Insent CEO Arjun Pillai. “ZoomInfo and Insent will help shape the future of chat by allowing teams to have data-centric, intelligent conversations that can expedite sales cycles.”
Insent isn’t “just building a chatbot that generates leads, but a collaborative platform that is going to help marketers create, nurture qualified opportunities, and shorten sales cycles,” said the firm earlier this year.
The goal is to remove “digital walls” between buyers and sellers by replacing web forms and follow-ups “with instant live conversations on websites” that schedule meetings and deliver “personalized content recommendations based on engagement history.”
Insent describes itself as an “integration first platform,” with MAPs, CRMs, and ABM Platforms “to help sales teams talk to engaged prospects while they’re on the website.”
According to Insent Digital Marketer Aatharsha Jey, “integrations should be planned and carried out in a way that does not ask people to change their behaviors in order to adopt a new tool.”
“By guiding their buyers at the right time and proactively alerting your salespeople, Insent generates new revenue opportunities and accelerates existing ones,” said Pillai.
Initially, the pandemic slowed Instent’s growth as marketing teams reduced budgets and delayed decisions, but chatbots are high on the list of MarTech digital acquisition solutions. Between May 2020 and January 2021, Insent revenue quadrupled.
Earlier this year, Insent was using 6Sense for visitor identification. “We go and task 6Sense through an API,” said Pillai in February. “We take that data, and we do further processing of that data. All of this happens in microseconds. Basically, the moment somebody lands on the website, boom, the API call comes back with the data based on that website, company visitor.”
Insent stress-tested various platforms before settling on MongoDB and AWS. Pillai contends that the platform gives them a five-year or six-year window before rearchitecting. The platform was designed with an account-based, versus lead-based, architecture that ties leads to accounts for account-based orchestration.
The new ZoomInfo Chat offering will be available to new and existing customers in Q3. Deal terms were not disclosed. The acquisition was deemed not to have a material impact on the firm’s 2021 financials.
Pillai will be joining ZoomInfo as the SVP of Strategic Growth.
GZ Consulting offers a detailed analysis of ZoomInfo which includes a one-hour Q&A session. Contact Michael Levy for licensing.
ABM Platform Terminus rolled out a set of platform enhancements for “optimizing ABM strategies.” New features include global targeting, chat playbooks, and Live View. Global targeting expands Terminus’ coverage beyond the US, letting marketers create and manage international campaigns. The functionality is generally available as of February 24.
International Targeting is country-based, with campaign-based budgets and timelines. Users can also target ABM accounts or focus on an enterprise account in specific countries.
Terminus Chat now supports playbooks that “intelligently collect visitor data, trigger sales automation with prospects and customers, and qualify inbound traffic in real-time,” blogged Terminus Product Marketing Senior Director Audra Felten. The new functionality simplifies chat set-up with a “powerful new chatbot builder and logic builder.”
The new Live View feature lets reps proactively engage website visitors. Users can view live information about accounts visiting the company website, along with page views, before reaching out on the chat channel.
In March, a new Advertising Insights report will be available in the Measurements Studio. The report tracks brand awareness, lead and opportunity creation, pipeline acceleration, and closed-won deals. Advertising Insights measures advertising effectiveness and ties its impact to account-based execution. Digital Marketers can assess site visits and leads driven through Terminus advertising. Likewise, Demand Gen Marketers can evaluate visits, conversions, and pipeline directly associated with Terminus Campaigns and adjust the marketing mix accordingly.
“With our February release, we’re going all in on building the ABM platform of the future, which means bringing ABM and sales engagement together even more seamlessly,” said Terminus Chief Product Officer Bryan Wade. “At the end of the day, it’s all about revenue. Customer-facing teams have to be focused on the best-fit accounts and engage at exactly the right time to drive results, but that can only happen when efforts are coordinated. These new capabilities make it easier than ever for sales and marketing to operate as one team.
Terminus just announced a $90 million Series C that valued the firm at $400K. I will cover the round on Monday.