LinkedIn: DEI Programs Boost Sales

LinkedIn commissioned Forrester Consulting to analyze whether firms with strong Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs have higher sales performance.  The result was a “resounding yes.”

“As the US population diversifies, so must your sales teams,” concluded Vanessa Fabrizio, Market Impact Consultant at Forrester.  “You need a diverse sales team to be customer-obsessed in 2021 and beyond.  Respondents understand the importance of diversity, as 60% stated that diversity within their sales team has contributed to their teams’ success.”

While DEI received much attention in 2020, sales leaders view it as an ongoing initiative, with 82% stating racial or ethnic diversity will be equally or more important in two years.  Additionally, 72% believe that DEI will be equally or more important across the business organization in two years.

Last September, Forrester Consulting surveyed 500 B2B sales leaders about their firms’ performance metrics and DEI practices (e.g., diversity in personnel, commitment to DEI training, and career advancement programs for underrepresented groups).  Those with strong DEI programs outperformed lagging programs across a series of metrics:

  • Sales Forecasts: Firms with strong programs expected 2021 revenue growth of 9% vs. 6% at lagging firms.
  • Conversion Rates: Organizations with strong DEI practices had a 54% lead-to-opportunity conversion rate vs. 26% at laggards.
  • Customer Satisfaction: Firms with strong programs saw a 24% increase in customer satisfaction scores vs. 17% at firms with weak programs.

“As buyers continue to demand a more personalized experience, successful companies will understand the increasing benefit of diversifying their teams to reflect the changing demographics of their target consumer,” said author and sales expert Jeff Davis.

Source: Forrester Consulting (LinkedIn commissioned research), “Diversity Drives Sales Success: The Link Between Successful Sales Teams and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”

“In 2022, sales leaders will monitor and track the diversity of their organization like any other metric or KPI,” separately predicted Outreach Global Innovation Evangelist Mary Shea.  “With more weight and visibility on this business priority, sales leaders will embrace new and more creative channels to source talent, and they will create internal programs to nurture and foster their existing talent.”


Coincidentally, I am publishing this article on Martin Luther King Day at a time when voting rights are being restricted in many states. MLK stood for DEI, voting rights, freedom, economic opportunity, and economic justice. He was instrumental in pushing LBJ and Congress to pass the original Voting Rights Act which is now opposed by the Republican Party. It is time for Congress to renew the Voting Rights Act and at least pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

Senator Raphael Warnock, who preached from MLK’s pulpit at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, stated

“I have to tell you that the most important thing that we can do this Congress is to get voting rights done. Voting rights are a preservative of all other rights. They lay the ground for all of the other debates. And so to my Democratic colleagues, I say: while it is deeply unfortunate, it is more than apparent that it has been left to us to handle alone the task of safeguarding our democracy.

Sadly, many of our Republican friends have already cast their vote with voter suppression. And so the judgment of history is upon us. Future generations will ask, when the democracy was in a 911 state of emergency, what did you do to put the fire out? Did we rise to the moment or did we hide behind procedural rules?

“I believe that we Democrats can figure out how to get this done, even if that requires a change in the rules, which we established just last week that we can do when the issue is important enough.”

Senator Rappael Warnock (December 14, 2021)

Democracy is not a given. Freedom expands or contracts based upon our willingness to accept others and afford them the same rights (and responsibilities) as others. It must be renewed each generation through teaching, activism, and voting.

The Great Reshuffle

According to LinkedIn, “The Great Reshuffle” has increased turnover amongst buyers and sellers, leading to greater deal risk.  Over the past three months, executive departures (Director and above) have increased by 31% globally.  Among sales reps, the rate is up 39%.  Thus, the likelihood of a deal being delayed due to a key member of the demand unit or sales team leaving has grown sharply.

Before the pandemic, the standard decay rate of contact records was between 25 and 30%.  If the rate has jumped by one-third, then the likelihood of a specific member of the buying committee departing over a three-month sales cycle is approaching ten percent.  Thus, a demand unit with six members will likely have one departure every three months, increasing the need for executive change alerts, multithreading of deals, and a deeper understanding of the demand unit.

If the deal is more complex, the odds of delays and stalled deals due to executive changes increase rapidly.  A six-month deal cycle with a dozen members of the demand unit (financial, technical, and functional decision-makers, purchasers, influencers, lawyers, compliance, etc.) could lose two or three members.  And that doesn’t even factor in the risk of churn on the vendor side.  What’s worse, single-threaded sales reps have close to a 20% risk that their champion leaves the company or assumes a different role over the deal lifecycle.

The renewal math becomes scary as well.  If the customer success team regularly interfaces with four individuals on the customer side, one or two of them may depart over the year, increasing churn risk.  Furthermore, a higher churn rate among customers necessitates greater administrative and training tasks.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that 80% of sales reps have had a deal delayed or lost due to departures.

LinkedIn Senior Director of Global Sales James Burnette argued that multithreading is key to managing deal risk.  “Multithreading – i.e., forming relationships with multiple people on the buying committee at an account – is always a best practice.”  Burnette noted that sellers with at least four connections at an account are “16% more likely to close a deal with that company, compared to sellers who have less than four connections.”

“The most beneficial thing you can do right now is to learn how to master multithreading,” JB Sales Training Director Morgan Ingram said. “Gathering champions, influencers, and talking directly to the decision-makers is the key to success when it comes to closing deals faster in a difficult environment.”

Conversely, departures can foster relationships at new accounts, so knowing that a key demand unit member has departed is important for both risk mitigation at current opportunities and accounts and building relationships at new organizations.  LinkedIn can both flag executive departures and maintain an open line of communications with a champion after he or she has settled into a new position.

“Resources are scant with so many people exiting key roles, so there are opportunities where they might not have been opportunities in the past,” Assist You CEO Robert Knop said. “Look through your connections – there are uncovered sales there.”

Lori Wizdo, Principal Analyst at Forrester, predicts that the Great Resignation will also impact marketing teams, with CMOs assembling more virtual teams consisting of freelance talent, fractional executives, and agency partners.

“We’re seeing clients in places like the Midwest having trouble keeping the talent they’ve built because their team members can get 25% more by working remotely for a New York agency. The distance and untethering from our geographies give people a lot more options, and they will minimize their pain and maximize their gain.  So, there will be some stress on those internal competencies.”

Job turnover is likely to continue in the near term. The labor market remains out of balance with 100 open jobs for every 75 unemployed professionals, driving the quit rate to 4.4 million in September, a record high.

“You’re essentially seeing demand continuing to increase without an offsetting increase in talent,” Ryan Sutton, a district director at staffing company Robert Half International. “Until some new talent comes in, until we get employees who are on the sidelines back into the market, it’s very likely this is going to continue.”

Terminus Acquires Zylotech

Terminus acquired Boston-based B2B Customer Data Platform (CDP) Zylotech and immediately launched the rebranded Terminus CDP as part of its ABM Platform. 

Terminus CDP will be led by Matt Belkin, who has “25 years of experience in building and scaling data and technology companies.”  Belkin joined Terminus last year when it acquired Sales Intelligence vendor GrowFlare.

Zylotech CTO Abhi Yadav will be Terminus’ Head of Platform Development.  Yadav is also a Guest Lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management.

The deal is Terminus’ fifth acquisition, backing up Gartner’s SalesTech Mayhem thesis that a handful of companies are quickly grabbing market share through strategic acquisitions and high levels of internal investment that fill missing capabilities.

Terminus’ acquisitions have focused on expanding the core capabilities of the company, not taking out competitors.  The other acquisitions were

Terminus Acquisition History

While CDPs are generally deployed to create a single view of the customer, David Raab, Founder of CDP Institute, commented that the Terminus CDP “will tie together the data silos that would otherwise result” from the acquisitions.

“CDP is becoming more widely adopted in B2B, as companies recognize their marketing automation and CRM systems are not enough to provide true data unification and sharing,” said Raab.  “By acquiring Zylotech, Terminus positions itself – and its clients – to take full advantage of the capabilities that a CDP provides.”

While data usage and spending are rapidly increasing, few marketers trust their data.  A 2017 Forrester survey found that only 12% of B2B marketers have high confidence in their data accuracy, and 84% identified data management as a top-five weakness.

“The key to a successful CDP is trust,” blogged Zylotech Director of Revenue Marketing Alex Bistran in August.  “Sales, marketing, and customer experience teams need to trust the data stored in their CDP to drive decisions, whether it’s deciding which accounts require immediate attention or which campaign messaging is most likely to resonate with a particular customer. By constantly refreshing data from your own customer interactions and combining it with validated, third-party B2B data to accurately reflect your contacts and accounts, a CDP provides a clean stream of actionable data that can be operationalized to flow through your marketing, sales, and customer service channels.  And, importantly, that can lead to a healthier revenue stream too.”

“B2B CRM data is painfully inaccurate and incomplete, and manual efforts to clean, deduplicate, and activate are slow and expensive.  This leads to poor conversion rates, an incomplete view of buying committees, and misleading ROI,” stated the firm.

“Bad data in equals bad data out. Period. We’re entering a marketing revolution – data really is the new oil, and Terminus is sitting on a gold mine. Under Matt’s leadership, Terminus CDP is poised to change the game for our customers. This level of data accuracy is critical for B2B GTM teams looking for a unified view into their customers. I’ve never been more excited about the future of marketing.”

Terminus CEO Tim Kopp

The Terminus CDP addresses the issues of bad data with auditing, cleansing, enrichment, and data management capabilities “backed by the industry’s largest global network of decision-makers and Buying Committees.”  Furthermore, Terminus CDP “dramatically” improves data accuracy, campaign effectiveness, and “wasted sales cycles.”

Buying Committee discovery is a novel UVP for a CDP but fits well within a broader ABM Platform umbrella. 

“We are in the golden age of marketing.  The breadth of technologies helping us create great experiences has never been so impressive.  But, what are all those customer experiences predicated on?  Data,” blogged Kopp.  “With Terminus CDP, our customers will have their most important account and contact data continuously cleansed and enriched. The result: our customers will be able to put their trust in their data, unleashing their go-to-market teams to accurately engage buying committees every time.”

Continued Kopp, “We’re entering a marketing revolution.  A time when sales and marketing teams don’t have to worry about data and can dedicate their energy to create phenomenal experiences that turn into pipeline.  I have never been more excited about the future of marketing.”

“Since our early days as an MIT spinout, Zylotech has been focused on delivering the data and intelligence go-to-market teams can trust and take action on,” said Yadav.  “Upon meeting Terminus, it was obvious that we shared a common vision. We are proud to join Terminus and this incredible team to jointly improve the accuracy of B2B data.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Kopp described it as a “big deal” that is a “really, really important acquisition.”  The Indianapolis Business Journal said that Zylotech was its largest deal to date.  The transaction was financed with funds from a $90 February venture round.

Enterprise clients include Google, Palo Alto Networks, Cisco, Dell, and Rimini Street.

6sense Reaches Unicorn Status

6sense Funding Rounds (Source: Crunchbase)

Sales Engagement vendor 6sense closed on a $125 million Series D that valued the firm at $2.1 billion.  The round was led by D1 Capital, with Sapphire Ventures and Tiger Global joining.  Existing investor Insight Partners participated as well.

A few years ago, 6sense described itself as a predictive analytics company.  When the predictive analytics segment failed to gain significant traction, it rebranded as an ABM Orchestration Platform.  The other predictive analytics companies rebranded as CDPs or were acquired for their technology.

Repositioning as an ABM platform proved prescient as 6sense now competes head-to-head with Terminus and Demandbase, two other very successful ABM Platforms.  Terminus closed on a $90 million Series C in February, and Demandbase is also well funded, setting up a market share land grab for ABM Platforms.

6sense has doubled in size each of the past three years, setting the stage for its unicorn round.  Forrester named them a leader in its Q2 2020 Wave Report on ABM Platforms, where 6Sense scored highest on current offering and tied with Terminus on strategy.

“6sense has made significant progress since our first evaluation of this market in 2018 — and now offers a comprehensive solution, matched by an aggressive vision, roadmap, and market approach,” wrote Forrester Principal Analyst Steven Casey.

Customer conversations are a critical part of our due diligence process, and the feedback from 6sense customers is among the best we’ve heard.  Improving revenue results is a goal for every business, but it’s easier said than done. The way 6sense consistently creates value for customers made it clear that they deliver a unique, must-have solution for B2B revenue teams.”

Dan Sundheim, Chief Investment Officer at D1 Capital Partners

6sense will invest the funds in market growth and product development, including its data layer, machine learning-based next best action recommendations, and scaling its “AI-based orchestration capabilities to deliver ideal customer journeys based on data and insights.”

The round comes 15 months after a $40 million Series C led by Insight Partners.  Pitchbook indicates that the firm was valued at only $300 million in January 2020.  6sense is on track for another year of 100% plus growth after inking deals with 100 new customers in Q4.

“We’re doubling down on our investment because we’ve seen the 6sense team consistently execute against their plans for the past year and a half, and we witness firsthand the results the platform delivers every day for our portfolio of high growth companies,” said Jeff Lieberman, Managing Director at Insight Partners. “Being the leader in account-based sales and marketing technology ideally positions 6sense to unlock additional market opportunities, and we’re confident that they have the vision and track record to forge the future of revenue technology.”

CEO Jason Zintak sees a broader vision for the company than SalesTech, MarTech, or AdTech, describing his firm as a RevTech company.

“Our AI is focused on signal, identifying companies that are in the market to buy something,” Zintak told TechCrunch. “Once you have that, you can sell to them.”

RevTech looks to unify the marketing, sales, RevOps, and customer success groups within the revenue team and align them behind selling to the right buyers at the right time.  Firms still struggle with identifying prospects that are the ideal fit, much less properly timing their prospect outreach.

“This is both a data and execution problem. One can’t be untethered from the other,” blogged Zintak.  “I’ve long believed there is a tremendous opportunity to solve this problem and move the sales and marketing technology world away from outdated tools, and usher in a new era of B2B platforms that will fundamentally change the way companies go to market. We’re already seeing account-based tech, sales tech, and legacy marketing tech categories beginning to converge into a massive market that will only continue to grow. I also believe 6sense is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this opportunity and deliver the transformation our industry is so hungry for.”

Thus, 6Sense looks to provide the go-to-market platform that delivers a “comprehensive B2B go-to-market with data, insights, and orchestration capabilities at the core.”

6Sense identifies the best-fit accounts and supports prospect timing via intent-based prediction models.  6sense claims that its customers:

  • Raise their average deal size by 35%.
  • Increase their opportunity conversion rate by 20%.
  • Reduce deal-cycle time by 20%.

Zintak argues that the alignment problem is exacerbated by multiple tech stacks with data and functional silos that “optimize” around subsets of the revenue problem.

The MarTech landscape is teeming with micro-solutions for every nagging problem the marketing automation platform vendors aren’t able to solve (or they themselves created). SalesTech is no different. Your CRM wasn’t built to facilitate decision-making; it was built to store records. Add RevOps and customer success teams into the mix, and the people, process, and technology alignment challenges grow exponentially, as more data becomes siloed and disconnected from execution.”

6Sense CEO Jason Zintak

“AI generally is a buzzword, but here it is a key part of the solution, the brand behind the platform,” said Teddie Ward of Insight Partners.  “Instead of having massive funnels, 6sense switches the whole thing around. Catching the right person at the right time and in the right context make sales and marketing more effective.  And the AI piece is what really powers it. It uses signals to construct the buyer journey and tell the salesperson when it is the right time to engage.”

“We invest heavily in sales and marketing technology, and 6sense is truly one-of-a-kind,” said Sapphire Ventures partner Rajeev Dham.  “We’ve always viewed 6sense as a market leader with the ability to execute on their bold vision of transforming sales and marketing with data-driven insights and orchestration capabilities.  6sense is already the leading account-based sales and marketing platform, and they are poised to define and deliver the future of revenue technology that every B2B organization needs.”

SalesLoft Rainmaker 2019 Keynote

SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter Gave the Opening Keynote at the SalesLoft Rainmaker 2019 Sales Conference.
SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter Gave the Opening Keynote at the SalesLoft Rainmaker 2019 Sales Conference.

At their Rainmaker 2019 conference, SalesLoft announced a doubling of their ecosystem, mobile functionality, a rebuilt analytics engine, and a hot leads feature.  The show attracted 1,300 attendees to hear 164 speakers.

“We’re in the middle of an evolution in the relationship between sellers and buyers,” said SalesLoft’s CEO, Kyle Porter.  “Sales teams need to tear up their playbooks and start fresh with a blend of human, relevant sales tactics and the modern technology needed to create an authentic sales experience that is repeatable and scalable.”

SalesLoft’s purpose is to “to activate the authentic seller in all of us” and elevate the sales profession by offering “world-class experiences.”  The firm operates under a quintet of values that inform its hiring and operations:


SalesLoft Operating Principles.

These principles led to SalesLoft being named the top-midsized employer in Atlanta for the second year in a row.  “We embrace the transformative power of technology innovation for our customers, but we believe in people first,” said Porter.  “Our founding purpose is to create an environment where others can come to learn more, do more, and become more.  Team members are encouraged to take their talents and skills and apply them to serve others and find fulfillment.  We show love to our people so they can share that sentiment with our customers.”

SalesLoft’s sales engagement platform is designed to support evolving buying behavior.  B2B buyers are swamped by messaging and “super busy,” yet need to solve complex problems.  Buyers are looking for an “engaging, authentic experience” that understands buyer needs and solves their problems.  However, sellers are inefficient and operate with broken processes.  SalesLoft is looking to address process failures by centralizing sales workflows and encouraging best practices.  Objectives include elevating the sales profession through community, encouraging diversity amongst its staff and event speakers (54% of whom were women or minorities at Rainmaker), and transparency in its policies and outcomes.

Porter described his future vision of sales where “every single seller has a digital assistant by their side” along with a “sales coaching network” which is a “giant distributed network of sales activity.”  Sales reps are supported by a digital assistant which delivers broad data and context-specific insights based on seller, stage, and customer to help reps “connect authentically with the buyer.”

Porter contends that “you can’t take the human out of the equation” but you can make it “easier to distribute a world-class experience to your customer.”

“[It’s time to] elevate the profession of sales to focus on delivering customers world-class experiences.  With that, you can maximize revenue.  A sales experience must be authentic, engaging, relevant, human, one-to-one and, most importantly, it understands buyers’ needs and solves their problems.”


SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter

Sales reps have long suffered from a bad reputation, being forced to take ethical shortcuts to meet managerial demands.  SalesLoft is looking to lead by example.  According to Porter, when “we do right,” SalesLoft customers are able to hire, innovate, and invent new things.

SalesLoft’s other goal is to improve the efficiency and efficacy of sales teams.  A SalesLoft study found a 22% increase in opportunities created when comparing the 90-day windows before and after implementing their platform.  To back up their research, they commissioned a Forrester study of their customers which found a

  • 2.5X improvement in response rates
  • 20% lift in conversion and productivity
  • Doubling of the funnel
  • 13% increase in renewals
  • 329% ROI

“Many people say we’re in a state of digital transformation,” said SalesLoft CMO Sydney Sloan.  “For sales, we’re entering a revolution of how we engage customers.”

Buyers are looking for partners that work with them to identify and resolve issues.  “Today’s successful seller has to be a problem solver and you do that by asking great questions and collectively solving the problem with and for your customer,” said Sloan.  “It doesn’t matter if the product goes 10 miles an hour or 50 miles an hour, it’s the people I want to work with in partnership and, at the end of the day, it’s the people I want to work with.  I’ll pick a company because of the relationship.  The product still has to solve my problems but if two things are equal, I’ll go with the partnership.”


Part II: SalesLoft Rainmaker Product Announcements

Transformation (Not Digital) is the Key to Digital Transformation

Searches for Digital Transformation on Google
Searches for Digital Transformation on Google (Source: MIT Sloan Management Review)

George Westerman, principal research scientist with the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, wrote an excellent article on Digital Transformation titled Your Company Doesn’t Need a Digital Strategy.  His key point was that the true value in digital transformation comes from using digital technologies as the fulcrum for transformation not as the objective.  When focusing simply on a technology for technology’s sake, the return on investment is much lower.

In the digital world, a strategic focus on digital sends the wrong message. Creating a “digital strategy” can focus the organization in ways that don’t capture the true value of digital transformation. You don’t need a digital strategy. You need a better strategy, enabled by digital.

Westerman cautions that technology doesn’t provide business value in a vacuum, but only when fused with a business strategy that transforms a key aspect of your business such as product delivery (e.g. e-commerce), customer understanding (e.g. analytics), “radically synchronizing operations” (e.g. IoT), changing business models (again IoT), etc.  Thus, “technology’s value comes from doing business differently because technology makes it possible.”

For example, sales intelligence isn’t about providing reps with additional contacts or feeding them with business factoids so they sound smooth on calls.  It is about transforming sales and marketing processes by infusing relevant, accurate, and timely intelligence into sales and marketing workflows; aligning sales and marketing objectives; prioritizing activities; and making sales reps more efficient and effective at selling.

Westerman offers four strategies for digital transformation:

  1. Get Away from Silo Thinking — Focusing on a technology strategy (e.g. Mobile, Big Data) can be limiting and ends once the technology has been implemented.  A technology focus results in incremental improvements, whereas a business transformation strategy employs multiple technologies and management interventions.  You begin with the objective and then determine the digital processes and workflows for implementation.  “A customer intimacy strategy, for instance, uses mobile along with other digital technologies to constantly increase personalization, engagement, and satisfaction.”
  2. Don’t push the envelope too far, too fast — Overly ambitious strategies may be very risky while more mundane projects may be ignored.  Cutting edge technology may not be ready or implementation strategies may not be understood.  “Business leaders leave easy money on the table if they ignore incremental steps and pursue risky opportunities that may not be ready to pay off yet.”
  3. Don’t ask your tech leaders to drive transformation alone — This is an old piece of advice, but still relevant.  Early CRM projects often failed due to a top down approach that lacked support from sales and support teams.  The CTO or CIO needs to work with other C-level and mid-level executives that provide expertise in the industry and function.  For example, The CTO cannot transform sales and marketing by fiat, but must work with sales and marketing management for expertise, cooperation, risk mitigation, implementation, and communication.
  4. Build essential leadership capabilities, not just technical ones — Digital transformation isn’t a project but the ongoing development of enterprise capabilities and business value.  Digital leaders should “create a transformative vision, engage their people in that vision, and then govern strongly to chart a course across a whole portfolio of digital transformation efforts — some planned and some yet to be discovered.”

Not all problems require expensive cutting edge technology.  Many problems are still soluble through low tech solutions, small dollar investments into current platforms, and modified processes.  A focus on technology not only brings about silo thinking, but could increase complexity and cost.

I’m reminded of my high school Geometry teacher who said, “there are two ways you can kill a fly.  You can use a fly swatter or you can use a bazooka.”

I suspect the bazooka would be a lot more fun, but costlier and riskier.

That being said, there are also great risks in moving slowly or lacking a digital strategy.  Forrester highlighted the risks of being a Digital Dinosaur.  The author Nigel Fenwick noted that the digital predators are customer obsessed:

While all companies profess to put customers first, it’s clear from the data that executives at digital Predators care more passionately about the customer across multiple dimensions: In every customer metric we measured, these executives rated the importance of the customer higher than peers in transformers and dinosaurs – in short, they are not just customer obsessed, they are really, really customer obsessed.

And consistent with Westerman’s advice, customer obsession is a business objective, not a technology focus.  It is this deep understanding of customer needs that both informs the business and technology strategy and creates a defensible technology advantage.

Your Biggest Competitor is No Decision

Back when I was a product manager, I used to conduct sales training classes.  I often opened up the session by asking the question, “Who is your biggest competitor?”  The reps invariably listed a company or two they had heard over the prior day and a half of training.  Even seasoned reps would answer the question incorrectly.

Unless you are in a duopoly or there is a competitor that controls half the market, your biggest competitor is probably NO DECISION.  Either the purchasing decision is kicked down the road or no funding is found.  It may also be that the opportunity was poorly qualified to begin with.

Sales reps no longer control the conversation due to the informed buyer who leverages the Internet and social media in order to research vendors prior to contacting them.  This is one of the reasons that marketing is looking at digitally influencing anonymous individual on the web via Visitor ID, SEO, SEM, and Programmatic.  Sales reps are also confounded in their sales efforts by a second change in purchasing patterns.  B2B budgetary decision making processes have become more complex.

Budgetary centralization and committee-based buying decisions have increased the number of decision makers in the purchasing process, resulting in a greater likelihood of no decision.  According to a Forrester survey of IT sales reps, 43% of lost deals weren’t to competitors but to a category titled “lost funding or lost to no decision: customer stopped the procurement process.”

Furthermore, the rise of cloud computing has shifted budgetary decision making authority away from the CIO to the heads of various functional departments.  Purchasing decisions are being compared to a broader set of non-related purchases from across the organization.  It is therefore critical that sales reps “understand and navigate complex agreement networks and processes within the buying organization that span different altitudes and functional roles,” blogged Forrester Sales Enablement Analyst Mark Lindwall.  “Because decisions are more cross-functional, every dollar is compared against how it could add value in potentially completely non-related areas of investment.”

Thus, sales reps need better tools for identifying who to engage and when best to engage.  They also need to be better informed about companies, individuals, and the industries into which they sell.  In short, they need to know who to call, when to call, and what to say.  They need to quickly navigate what Forrester calls agreement networks to establish relationships across multiple levels and job functions at the organization.

Fortunately, Sales 2.1 tools provide rich biographies and full family trees for navigating these networks.  Users can target specific job functions and levels across the corporate hierarchy, research the appropriate individuals, and reach out to them via social media, email, or phone.

Newer ABM tools help identify the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), score leads based on the ICP, and call out similar accounts and contacts that are not on the company’s radar.  Thus, it’s not just about selling more intelligently based on insights, but targeting and prioritizing one’s sales efforts more effectively.

Sales triggers assist with identifying executive changes, M&A events, product launches, and other reasons for reaching out to individuals.  Triggers can also indicate an expanding opportunity or that a proposal is potentially at risk due to company or market dynamics.

And yes, sales reps should research both the company and the executive.  They need to understand the key trends in the prospect’s industry, why their last quarter was soft, and what does the executive muse about on social media.  While such facts may not be immediate hooks, they provide context and potential talking points down the road.  It also shows that the rep is willing to invest time in understanding the exec, her company, and the environment in which she is making decisions.

There is an opportunity cost to poor targeting, prioritization, and account planning. It shows up as No Decision in your CRM, slow deal velocity in your pipeline metrics, and disappointing sales growth.

Are you ready for EU GDPR Compliance?

On May 25, 2018 the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect, creating data privacy and security concerns for firms both inside and outside of the EU.  The GDPR covers both companies that provide goods and services to EU residents and those that are part of the value chain.  The regulation covers all individuals domiciled within the EU, regardless of where the company is headquartered.

According to Forrester, the regulation has five key requirements:

  • If a firm has “regular, systemic collection or storage of sensitive data,” they need to hire or designate a Data Protection Officer (DPO).  The function may be filled by individuals with legal, privacy, security, marketing, or customer experience.  The International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) estimates that the regulation will require 30,000 privacy officers.  The DPO will need to work with security leaders with respect to identity and access management (IAM) and encryption.  They will also be involved in purchasing decisions around CRM, analytics, and other platforms.
  • Should a data breach occur, firms have a-72 hour window for reporting breach details to the authorities and customers.  The window begins as soon as the breach is detected.
  • Privacy must be built into any new projects with a “Privacy-by-design” philosophy.  Forrester stated that “sustained collaboration between teams will be critical, so firms will have to establish new processes to encourage, enforce, and oversee it.” For example, privacy officers will need to review business requirements and development plans related to new apps.
  • Extraterritoriality places requirements on firms outside of the EU, making it a global requirement.  Forrester notes that “a US-based data aggregator that collects and resells EU customers’ data to other business partners will need to comply fully with GDPR requirements, rather than simply meeting international data transfer rules.”
  • Firms will be responsible not only for securing data but providing evidence that they have implemented appropriate risk mitigation.  Thus, a firm can be held in violation even if they have not had customer complaints or data breaches.

US companies are still obligated to comply with the 2016 Privacy Shield agreement between the US and EU.  Forrester also warned UK firms to comply with the GDPR as lowering British privacy standards would only serve to complicate UK-EU data transfer rules post Brexit.

Forrester suggested that firms take a cost-benefit analysis to data instead of simply storing everything:

“Firms will learn to better assess the costs and benefits of records they process, store, and protect. They will progressively focus on collecting, buying, processing, storing, and protecting only the data that offers them the most value and will kill the rest.”

Forrester also suggested that privacy should be part of a firm’s DNA and some firms will integrate privacy into brand perception and the customer experience, providing a basis for competitive advantage.

Osterman Research conducted a survey of mid to large companies subject to the law to identify technology expenditure increases for GDPR compliance.

GDPR compliance expenditure increases (January 2017)
GDPR compliance expenditure increases (January 2017)

GDPR non-compliance costs are potentially very high with penalties up to the greater of €20 million or 4% of total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year.

Digital Transformation and Sales Intelligence

Data Source: “The 2016 Guide To Digital Predators, Transformers, and Dinosaurs," Forrester Research, May 2016.
Data Source: “The 2016 Guide To Digital Predators, Transformers, and Dinosaurs,” Forrester Research, May 2016.

Forrester released a study titled “The 2016 Guide To Digital Predators, Transformers, and Dinosaurs” which argued that companies need to quickly transform themselves into digital businesses.  The study broke businesses into three digital categories: Predator, Transformer, and Dinosaur and evaluated the percent of business that are either digital services or sold online.

Predators are already generating over 80% of their business digitally and will grow their business to 90% by 2020.  For them, digital is a foundational element of their operations.

Likewise, transformers are quickly evolving into digital businesses while dinosaurs are plodding along.  In 2014, only one in six dollars was generated digitally at transformers, but by 2020, two of every three dollars will be digitally mediated at transformed businesses.

At the dinosaurs, only one in three dollars will be digitally generated in 2020.

Forrester found that transformers are customer-centric in their business strategy and processes.  Customer obsession is part of their corporate DNA:

While all companies profess to put customers first, it’s clear from the data that executives at digital Predators care more passionately about the customer across multiple dimensions: In every customer metric we measured, these executives rated the importance of the customer higher than peers in transformers and dinosaurs – in short, they are not just customer obsessed, they are really, really customer obsessed.

  • Nigel Fenwick, Forrester VP and Principal Analyst

Overall, Forrester found that 29% of current total sales are influenced by digital, but that 47% would be digitally influenced by 2020.  Thus, any business that wishes to remain competitive must have a digital strategy which encompasses sales, marketing, credit decisioning, contracting, and all of the elements across your sales funnel.

My blog focuses on sales intelligence (with some discussion of marketing intelligence and DaaS), so I’m covering a subset of this transformation.  But sales intelligence is a key element of the digital transformation of sales and marketing.  Its goal is to make sales reps more efficient and effective at generating revenue through

  • Improved understanding of customers and prospects.  Whether the company is employing ABM, ABSD, social selling, trigger selling, or other techniques, customer-centricity begins with an understanding of the customer at the contact, company, and industry level.  Sales intelligence vendors go beyond firmographics and contact data to deliver business descriptions, SWOTs, biographies, social posts, industry research, financials, analyst reports, technology platforms, etc.
  • Current Awareness. Improved awareness of changes at customers and prospects helps to improve account planning, messaging, and forecasting.  Where once this intelligence was delivered as generic company news, the sales intelligence vendors have refined their tagging and now provide high precision sales triggers which are accurate at both the company and business topic level.  Some have even begun to integrate sales triggers into their prospecting engines.
  • Reduced busywork + improved data quality.  Sales intelligence vendors cut the time wasted on busywork through the implementation of DaaS enrichment of accounts, contacts, and leads.  Enrichment provides more accurate firmographics, corporate linkage, and contact information which is then propagated to downstream systems.  It also reduces the keying done by prospects on web forms and sales reps in CRMs.  Furthermore, targeting, segmentation, and messaging are much more accurate when the ongoing maintenance of account intelligence is managed by a third party.

Over the past decade, sales intelligence firms have grown from standalone web information portals to integrated workflow services that deliver a broad set of account intelligence to CRMs, marketing automation platforms, sales acceleration (ABSD) services, Google Chrome, web forms, and mobile devices.  Thus, sales intelligence is now becoming available to sales, marketing, and service departments across a broad set of platforms and devices.

If you would like to read more on my thoughts concerning the digital transformation of sales and marketing, I have also discussed the topic on Sparklane and Avention’s blogs.