Microsoft Viva Sales

Microsoft announced Viva Sales, “a new seller experience application that brings together any customer relationship management technology (CRM), Microsoft 365, and Teams to provide a more streamlined and AI-powered selling experience.”  The new solution is designed for the hybrid work environment where reps leverage video conferences, chats, emails, and documents to close deals.  Viva Sales will also support Salesforce at launch.

Viva Sales “represents a new way of working by breaking down silos of data and breaking down silos of experience,” explained Microsoft Corporate VP for Business Applications Emily He.  Sales reps “really want a more simplified experience.  So, Viva Sales enables a seller to use the tools they already love and use every day, including your email system like Outlook, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, as well as Teams,” she said.

Unfortunately, reps manage these disparate communications channels and their CRM to organize administrative tasks, collaborate on sales, and attend virtual sales meetings.  “Yet, all sellers really want is to spend more time with their customers,” stated Microsoft Chief Commercial Officer Judson Althoff.

Continued Althoff, “What if everything a salesperson needed to do their job was brought together in one place – where they already spend most of their day – in calls, meetings, and chats?  What if their customer records, data, and tasks were intelligently organized and accessible in the tools they use every day?  What if the collaboration environment sellers use to talk to customers automatically provides the next best action and sentiment analysis?”

Viva Sales is a “new modern way of selling” that operates as a “smart CRM companion” that simplifies the seller’s workflows and enriches the CRM.  Viva Sales captures AI-driven insights from Outlook, Teams, and Microsoft Office and feeds this information to the CRM.

“Viva Sales empowers sellers to be more connected with their customers, resulting in more personalized customer engagements and closed deals faster,” stated Althoff.  “This happens through a simple customer tagging feature, which automates the data capture, saves the seller time, and provides their organization with a more complete picture of deal and customer status.  With AI embedded throughout, Viva Sales is like a sales coach to move deals along with recommendations and reminders.  This intelligence layer provides sellers the information they need to help them be more productive.”

Viva was launched last year as an employee portal, but Sales is the first functionally-specific edition of the service.  Viva Sales will be in public preview in July and generally available this fall.  Microsoft Dynamics Sales is inclusive of Viva Sales and “addresses both sellers’ and sales leaders’ needs by automatically enriching Dynamics 365 Sales with customer engagement data captured in Office 365 and Teams.”

Once an email is tagged to an account, Viva Sales presents a sidebar with CRM intelligence. Customer interactions are then logged to the CRM.

Sales reps tag customers or prospects in a Microsoft application.  This “tag to capture” functionality alerts Viva to begin capturing account intelligence and offering insights to the sales rep.  Viva Sales employs Microsoft’s recently announced Context IQ for capturing relevant content across Microsoft apps and services.  This data can then be synced with any CRM.

“What we are focused on is removing the drudgery of manually entering the data into a CRM and then providing the AI capabilities for the sellers,” explained Product Marketing Senior Director Neha Bajwa.  “There’s a virtual personal assistant that is sitting and helping them out doing all the busywork that we would normally have to do.”

The objective is to solve the problem of manual data entry without destroying the CRM.  Viva runs alongside the CRM, capturing intelligence from other enterprise sales apps commonly deployed across sales teams.  The data capture and CRM syncing improve rep productivity while the AI suggestions improve sales effectiveness through better recommendations, reminders, and Next Best actions.

“As you work with a customer, you can not only see your own interactions, [but] you can also see across your company and find all the people that are interacting with your client as well,” said Microsoft VP for Modern Work Jared Spataro.  “We’re trying to apply AI not only to remove the boring stuff, but also to provide real value add so that you can cope with the volume and the expectations associated with you doing your job.”

The service recommends next steps, displays complete interaction histories, and pushes reminders to reps.  It is also connected to LinkedIn, providing the names of colleagues with strong connections to a contact or account, allowing sales reps to conduct research before a Teams chat.

Viva Sales recommends colleagues with pre-existing relationships for pre-meeting briefings via Teams Chat.

During a Teams call, reps can view the relevant customer information in a sidebar and access meeting prep notes.  After the call is recorded and transcribed, Viva Sales summarizes the call and captures action items.  Conversation KPIs and talk tracks are also generated.

Another feature is the generation of customer lists with recent activity, sentiment graphs, and engagement within Excel.

Customer lists within Excel are enriched by Viva Sales. A sidebar provides contact-specific insights, including colleague connections and meeting summaries.

“The future of selling isn’t a new system.  It’s bringing the information sellers need at the right time, the right context, into the tools they know, so their work experience can be streamlined,” said Althoff.  “Empowering sellers to spend more time with their customers has been our goal — and we’ve done that by reimagining the selling experience with Viva Sales.”

One of the core issues at the heart of CRM implementations is the reliance on manual data entry, argued Paul Greenberg, Managing Principal at The 56 Group.  What is necessary is ongoing automation to remove this busy work.

“Sellers rely on digital collaboration and productivity tools to connect with customers and close deals, but a lot of the insights they uncover with these tools don’t make it into the CRM,” Greenberg.  “Microsoft is taking on this challenge by offering a solution that complements the CRM.  Viva Sales automates the busy work, captures critical information about the customer, and helps sellers get the job done.”

Groove Conversations and Groove+

Groove Conversations

Sales Engagement Platform Groove announced the general availability of Groove Conversations, the “first conversational intelligence product that enables revenue teams to access call recording and insights directly from the inbox and calendar instead of a separate platform.”  The firm also announced the Groove+ mobile app for iOS that helps remote and hybrid teams prepare for meetings and manage post-meeting follow-up (Android will be available later this year).  Groove+ also displays Salesforce and key meeting insights.

Groove is natively built in Salesforce.  Unlike its competitors, Groove does not sync data between a separate database and Salesforce but stores and accesses it natively in Salesforce.  Thus, conversational insights and Salesforce updates are directly managed by Groove inside Salesforce.

Groove Conversations offers call recording, transcription, and analysis without leaving the Inbox.  Additionally, insights are associated with Salesforce Activities and Opportunities.

Conversations initially supports Zoom and Groove’s OmniDialer, with Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, WebEx, and other services in development.

Conversations are fully searchable, with users able to listen to the searched term or keyword-related discussion.

Analytics include talk time, keyword mentions, sentiment analysis, and talk timelines for each attendee.  In Q3, the firm plans on adding “deeper analytics and AI-driven insights.”

Additional features include

  • Picture-in-picture viewing capabilities to support multi-tasking
  • Recording, transcript, and keyword access from email, calendar, Salesforce, or the Groove app
  • Internal sharing of meetings for review and team coaching
  • Custom keywords and keyword categories (e.g., product names, competitors, feature sets)
  • Internal and external sharing of calls, with the ability to extract and share a snippet of a meeting available soon

Groove+ delivers meeting alerts powered by Salesforce data to reduce deal time.  Users can easily access deal history, account information, meeting attendees, and activity history.  In addition, meeting notes may be logged to Salesforce with voice-to-text functionality.  Reps can also update meetings, accounts, contacts, opportunities, custom fields, or unique Salesforce configurations.

“The value of Groove+ goes beyond sales to include all revenue team members,” explained Groove Director of Communications Jason Klein to GZ Consulting.  “Essentially, anyone interfacing with clients should find value from Groove+.”

Groove conducted a survey in December and January of 1040 B2B sales reps which determined that 46% of companies are not planning a total return to the office.  Thus, managing remote and hybrid sales teams will remain a top issue for the CRO.  Top concerns for remote sales reps include updating CRM platforms (48%), inputting account notes (46%), and scheduling follow-up meetings (45%).

“Now that most reps are working in a hybrid role permanently, revenue teams need to focus on maximizing the value of their CRM.  Extending the power of CRM to remote teams makes them productive and effective while also providing leaders with the visibility and insight needed to manage them effectively.”

Groove CEO Chris Rothstein

Groove Conversations and Groove+ provide remote, hybrid, and inside sales reps with immediate access to sales productivity tools, conversational analytics, and deal insights.  Additionally, sales reps can update SFDC from Groove+ and access call recordings and insights from anywhere, providing centralized call coaching, next steps, and follow-up.

Groove Conversations and Groove+ are separate offerings but will be integrated later this year.  Groove+ is available with any Groove core license.  Groove Conversations is available as a premium add-on. “When we founded Groove, we knew that building for the seller first was the key to driving widespread adoption and seller productivity,” said Rothstein.  “As a result, we are the only platform that is just as easy to use and relevant for field sales as it is for sellers working from home or in the office.  Our customers typically see over 90% adoption rates of Groove and Salesforce, realizing as much as 83% seller productivity improvements as a result.”

Drift Conversational Cloud

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 CPO Leo Tenenblat

Drift Conversational Marketing supports real-time conversations with web visitors, helping to answer questions, deliver desired content, or “qualify and convert best-fit buyers.”  Conversational Marketing functionality includes visitor intelligence, chatbots, meeting scheduling, and Fastlane lead form booking.

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.

Drift Video asynchronous video sharing on LinkedIn messenger

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.”

Drift Dealroom supports document sharing, Mutual Action Plans, meeting scheduling, and on-demand chat.

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.”

Avoma Series A

Conversational Sales vendor Avoma closed on a $12 million Series A led by Headline, with participation from Storm Ventures, Global Founder Capital, Zoom Apps Fund, Operator Partners, Industry Ventures, and existing investors K9 Ventures, Dragon Capital, and Twin Ventures.  Founded in 2017, Avoma has garnered $15 million in total funding.

Avoma combines meeting management, an AI assistant, CRM synchronization, and conversation intelligence into a unified tool.  Other features include meeting snippets, conversational analytics, and keyword searching.

“AI does the first draft, but then you have notes and can go back and highlight notes and provide more context if you need to,” remarked CEO Aditya Kothadiya.

Avoma’s integration partners include

  • CRM: Salesforce, HubSpot, Pipedrive, and Zoho
  • Video Collaboration: Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet
  • SEP: Salesloft, Outreach, and Groove

The funds will expedite the build-out of their meeting lifecycle assistant.  According to TechCrunch, Avoma will focus on three pillars: AI, user interface, and workflow integrations.   It will invest in its machine learning and natural language processing for notetaking and enhance the user experience.

“Since our launch, we have helped over 300 customers and tens of thousands of professionals save multiple hours per week with AI-generated notes and collaboration and improve meeting outcomes by 30% with actionable insights,” posted Director of Marketing Yaagneshwaran Ganesh on LinkedIn.  “But so far, we have probably accomplished a small percentage of our vision.  Our goal is to not only assist you in notetaking and CRM data entry, but also to help you research attendees, get real-time coaching recommendations, send a follow-up calendar invite, and more.”

Avoma call notes

One of the core value propositions of conversational sales services is their ability to improve the presence of sales reps during calls.  Once relieved of notetaking, sales reps no longer need to delay conversations to jot down notes; instead, they can focus on meeting attendees, gather non-verbal cues, and better manage the discussion flow.

“As a product leader, I was constantly in meetings and spent time taking notes. With every new product, I would hand it over to the customer or product market team but would find that during meetings, I was not listening to what was going on because I was taking notes.  We wanted to apply technology to this so we would make sure nothing was lost.”

Avoma CEO Aditya Kothadiya

Avoma claims that this improved meeting presence results in a thirty percent improvement in meeting outcomes.  Furthermore, reps no longer need to toggle between four or five applications to “prepare for a meeting, take notes, participate, and follow through with participants with action items.”

“With so much context switching and information loss in disparate tools, knowledge professionals spend over 20% of their time on low-value admin tasks,” blogged Kothadiya.  “And that’s why there is an urgent need to streamline and automate workflows across the meeting’s entire lifecycle.”

Avoma is targeting mid-market customers and enjoys “obsessed customers,” according to Jeff Fein, a partner at Headline.  The firm has been using Avoma internally and “loved it.”

“It helped in our own processes, and when we talked to their customers, they were obsessed, many of them saying they could not live without it,” said Fein.  “They said it made their work that much more efficient.  We heard that more consistently, and it piqued our interest in a huge way.”

Avoma has quintupled growth each of the past three years and now supports over three hundred customers.  Success has been built with a lean team of only 15 employees, but the firm plans to quadruple its US and Indian headcount over the next year.  Hiring will focus on the engineering, product, and go-to-market teams.

ZoomInfo Chorus Integration

Go-to-Market Platform ZoomInfo announced that it completed the first stage of its Chorus Integration after acquiring the Conversational Sales firm in mid-July.

“Since announcing ZoomInfo’s acquisition of Chorus…our team has made great strides in seamlessly making key features of the Chorus platform available to our customers. These integrations will allow sales, marketing, and operations teams to instantly use both ZoomInfo and Chorus to expand their pipelines via a data-first approach that they can’t get with any other platform on the market.”

ZoomInfo CEO Henry Schuck

Conversational Sales functionality has also been added to ZoomInfo’s Engage SEP.  Chorus transcribes and analyzes calls, helping them build strong customer and prospect relationships and be more present during calls. For example, ZoomInfo dialer calls are recorded and stored in Salesforce while Chorus transcribes and analyzes the conversation.

Chorus’ Momentum Insights are displayed in the ZoomInfo platform under the Chorus tab.

Momentum Insights are available in ZoomInfo, Chorus, and Salesforce, delivering call insights wherever the rep is working.  “Combined Chorus and ZoomInfo users can now view conversation and relationship insights within the ZoomInfo platform for better visibility and management of their prospect and customer pipeline,” stated the firm.

The new Chorus tab in ZoomInfo lets revenue teams see with whom they’ve engaged across the account; whether the interactions were via inbound email, outbound email, or meeting; and the most recent interaction.  The Momentum Insights chart shows touchpoints over time with the ability to search by participants and activity type.  Users can drill down on any of the interactions for email or call details.  Audio can be reviewed from within ZoomInfo’s account and contact views.

Users can also drill down on Quick Signals or search by keyword from the Chorus tab, allowing reps to research deal risks, wow moments, negative sentiment, next steps/to-dos, timeline discovery, etc.  Chorus supports hundreds of topics that can be customized.  For example, companies can filter by specific competitors or product feature capabilities.

While the primary use case for Signals is rep account review, managers can use the tool for deal discussions, skill review, and coaching.  Likewise, product managers can broadly investigate customer calls to research specific topics (e.g., product complaints, competitors). 

When the user clicks on a signal, a textual synopsis of the discussion is provided, along with the ability to review that part of the discussion.  These tools are essential for reviewing negative sentiment, pricing discussions, competitors, etc.  Also, call snippets can be extracted for training (e.g., objection handling, competitive parrying, value messaging) or forwarding questions in the voice of the customer to subject matter experts or service departments.

Chorus users also benefit from the integration, with ZoomInfo serving as the reference data set for customer contact intelligence.  ZoomInfo claims that switching to ZoomInfo’s database and matching logic (from Clearbit) resulted in a 33% lift in match rates and a 10X faster load time for contact records in Chorus (150 MS).  Enriched company and contact intelligence include department, job function, seniority level, business email, phones, industry, location, and company.

According to Chorus, ten percent of calls have attendees that were not announced, leaving the rep blind to the role and importance of the additional attendees.  In other cases, a third party is mentioned, but that individual is not in attendance.  In either case, ZoomInfo will surface contact information for these individuals, helping fill out the Buying Committee.  ZoomInfo also recommends personas who are likely Buying Committee members, fostering multi-threaded discussions across the Demand Unit.

“In addition to helping you expand across your deals, you’ll gain a new understanding of which deals are more likely to close, helping improve your forecast accuracy and visibility across your pipeline,” blogged Senior Director of Customer & Product Marketing Sophie Cheng.  “ZoomInfo’s rich company insights like noteworthy scoops (news and events), intent data, and reporting relationships, infused with Chorus’ new Momentum suite will help paint a clearer picture of the entire relationship context like who’s involved in each deal, what’s being discussed, and the likelihood to close.”

Chorus speaking track analysis

SalesLoft Hits $100M ARR (Part II)

(Continued from Part I) SalesLoft also announced that Calendly’s founder and CEO Tope Awotona joined SalesLoft’s Board of Directors.  Both RevTech firms are based in Atlanta.  Porter and Awotona met seven years ago at Atlanta Tech Village.

“It was clear from day one [that] he was an incredible leader who had a clear vision harnessed around delivering delightful customer experiences,” posted Porter on LinkedIn.  “Most of us know the success of Calendly and have learned of Tope‘s fascinating story.  We’re stoked to partner together and grow from his strategic wisdom, leadership learnings, and product-focused excellence.  Our ultimate goal together is helping our current and future customers deliver revenue excellence at scale.”

Salesloft Calendaring Functionality

Porter and Awotona discussed potential conflicts of interest, but those concerns were laid aside.  While SalesLoft has calendaring features similar to Calendly, SalesLoft maintains an open architecture and partner ecosystem with Calendly as a partner.

Porter echoed a recent Gartner observation that SalesTech is in a period of “mayhem” where customers are looking to consolidate their revenue platforms to simplify workflows and operations.  Porter sees SalesLoft as being at the vanguard of this preference for broad, open platforms.

“There’s been massive trends towards digital selling that have taken place,” said Porter.  “And then there’s another trend that we’ve seen emerge, which is companies have been using so many different revenue tools, but they really want to consolidate on a very few that they love, and that’s where SalesLoft comes in.”


Continue to Part III which discusses Porter’s long-term plans for SalesLoft.

Chorus and Gong Apps for Zoom

Zoom formally launched its Zoom apps at the end of July, with Chorus and Gong among the launch partners.  Over fifty business and consumer apps were launched, but Zoom did a poor job of indexing the apps, making it difficult to find apps in a category without mousing over each unknown app. 

Chorus, which was acquired by ZoomInfo two weeks ago, announced General Availability of its Chorus app for Zoom Video Communications.  It’s a better name than being called the ZoomInfo app for Zoom Video Communications which would simply be confusing to the marketplace.

The Chorus App for Zoom

“The Chorus app for Zoom enables us to bring the power of Conversation Intelligence seamlessly into every meeting,” said Dominik Facher, Vice President, Product Management at Chorus.ai. “We’re bringing Chorus everywhere you work — because that’s where the voice of the customer belongs.  This extension of Chorus empowers sellers to have better, more meaningful interactions in real-time.”

The Chorus Zoom app supports live notetaking with the transcript attached to the digital recording.  Other features include

  • Team / Collaborator Engagement and Follow-up – Reps can share snippets of calls with managers, technical support, product teams, etc.  The shared content is in the voice of the customer, improving the context and fidelity of the forwarded information or query.  Collaboration is supported by one-click pins for flagging shareable moments.
  • Hashtags, such as #objections, push moments to a Chorus playlist.
  • @Mentions for looping in colleagues during calls.
  • A post-meeting email summary
  • Automated syncing with Salesforce, including budget data, stakeholders, and the post-meeting email summary
  • Meeting analytics
  • Meeting Prep intelligence – The Zoom client displays deal velocity, next steps or discussion topics from prior calls, and deal context like buying stage, key stakeholders, and deal amount.
  • Participant talk time and key topic trackers

While the newly launched app supports Zoom, Chorus also gathers intelligence from other meeting platforms and emails.  This processing of multiple communication channels provides a set of engagement and deal risk analytics that will be supplemented by ZoomInfo’s Streaming Intent data, visitor intelligence, Scoops, Chat, and SmartForms.

“Chorus and Zoom are both intent on fundamentally changing the way work is done in a virtual environment,” said Ross Mayfield, Product Lead, Zoom Apps & Integrations for Zoom. “It’s about making our customer and prospect relationships stronger.  With the Chorus app for Zoom, the benefits of Conversation Intelligence are more accessible than ever before.”

The Gong App for Zoom

Gong, which competes directly with Chorus, also launched its app this week with similar conversational intelligence for sales features.  Gong automates transcription, notetaking, and analytics.  Users can also tag colleagues for feedback, leverage timestamps, and attach comments in context.  Gong employs AI for coaching, noting points of interest, and flagging deal risks.

“The new Gong app takes two tools that sales pros find invaluable today – Gong and Zoom – and makes them even more useful,” said Chief Product Officer of Gong, Eilon Reshef. “We’re enabling revenue professionals to stay engaged in customer conversations by plugging into their daily workflow.”

By managing recording, transcription, analytics, and intelligence, Chorus and Gong allow reps to step away from traditional notetaking and focus on the meeting, helping them be more present.  As a result, they can ask better questions and manage the meeting flow more effectively while avoiding awkward pauses when taking notes.

The Zoom App marketplace, which launched late last year, already has over 50 apps, including

  • Conversation Intelligence for Sales: Chorus, Gong
  • Transcription: Colibri, Rev, Avoma, Grain
  • Collaboration: Asana, Mentimeter, Workona, Docket, Allo, WorkPatterns
  • People Insights: Warmly,
  • Polling: Polly, Dot Collector, Coda, SurveyMonkey
  • User Interviews: BuildBetter Research
  • Signatures: PandaDoc
  • Whiteboarding: Miro, Mural
  • Notetaking: AI Notetaker by Fathom, Notejoy
  • Timer: Timer
  • Demos: Demoflow
  • Interpreters: Voyce

Zoom also announced its Zoom Events service for hybrid and virtual events.  Marketers can “seamlessly manage and host back-to-back event sessions from sales summits, customer events, trade shows, and internal events.”  Features include event hubs, dedicated corporate virtual event spaces, customizable registration, reporting, and a chat-enabled virtual event lobby.

“Zoom Apps and Zoom Events are critical components in broadening Zoom’s offering and reach,” said Roopam Jain, VP, Information and Communications Technologies at Frost & Sullivan.  “These solutions empower users to accomplish more with video communications and are a testament to Zoom’s focus of enabling customers to create and grow businesses entirely on its platform—whether through applications, integrations, events, or other services.”

Drift Sales Seat

Drift Sales Seat can activate SEP sequences in Outreach.

Revenue Acceleration vendor Drift announced a pair of new services last week. I covered Fastlane, its new webforms/chatbot hybrid service yesterday. Today I’ll be discussing Sales Seat, Drift’s entry into SalesTech.

Sales Seat alerts reps when intent and engagement signals have exhibited buying activity.  Drift monitors the website, SEPs, MAPs, and CRMs for buying intent.  Sales Seat is Drift’s first sales product and helps reps with timing, messaging, and discovering the buying committee.  Sales professionals can reach out with personalized messages via chat, email, or video, based on intent and engagement.

Sales Seat is integrated with Outreach, letting reps create sequences from the service.

A mobile app notifies reps, supports conversations, and lets reps record and send Drift videos.

A Chrome extension displays all conversations happening in Drift, monitor engagement (e.g. email opens and clickthroughs, page visits), and drop calendar information in Gmails. Reps can optionally bcc Gmails to their CRM for tracking.

Drift Profile Page

The Drift Profile acts as an online business card with a link that can be dropped into emails and social media messages. Recipients can chat with the rep or book a meeting. The profile contains the rep’s title, location, a short bio, headshot, phone, and social links. The chat supports default messages to display when the rep is available and when not.

“Sales success is all about engaging today’s buyers on their terms: Digitally and immediately when they express interest,” said Drift Chief Product Officer Leo Teneblat.  “With Fastlane and Sales Seat, Drift customers can ensure their best buyers and highest intent visitors receive express treatment without overloading the sales team. Not only that, but sellers have context to engage buyers with a personalized experience on the exact topics they care about in the moment they’re expressing interest.”

Here’s How to 6x Your Chance of Booking a Meeting,” Gauri Iyengar, Drift Blog (April 13, 2021).

According to Drift, reps are six-fold more likely to book a meeting if they engage with a buyer during the first hour.  Thus, immediately transitioning webform submissions into chats and notifying reps that high-scoring prospects are engaging with the company dramatically increases the likelihood of converting a lead into a meeting.

Sales Engagement vendor XANT has found similar numbers from rapid response times while noting that companies are slow in delivering and prioritizing inbound leads.

“Not all accounts are created equal. Your target accounts should receive the most personalized and high-touch buying experiences. Account-based marketing lets you create this experience while engaging with VIP buyers and connecting them to sales. By cutting through the noise, you can close more deals – faster,” blogged Drift Product Education Marketer Gauri Iyengar.  “When it comes to booking meetings, there is literally no time to waste. Speed is essential to not just set up a meeting but to turn that meeting into revenue.”

The pair of services was released to early adopters that enjoyed an 82% increase in meetings booked, a 77% jump in opportunities created, and a 67% rise in pipeline influenced.

Chili Piper and Calendly Funding Rounds

Meeting Automation vendor Chili Piper closed on its $33 million “Series Spicy” led by Tiger Global with participation from existing investors Base10 Partners and Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture capital fund.  The Series B raised total funding to $54.4 million, most of which was raised over the last nine months.

The additional funds will be used to accelerate product development and global expansion.  The round will also help them build out its sales, marketing, and customer success teams.

“We’re excited to partner with Tiger Global, one of the most successful and prolific software investors in the world,” said Chili Piper CEO Nicolas Vandenberghe. “With hundreds of customers and tens of thousands of reps using Chili Piper adding spice to their calendaring efforts daily, we thought, why not raise $33 million to ensure we up our Scoville game?”

Chili Piper Funding (Source: Crunchbase)

Like many SalesTech companies, Chili Piper enjoyed pandemic tailwinds as businesses went remote and looked to streamline their calendaring.

“We’re proud to have so many customers scheduling meetings and optimizing their calendars with Chili Piper’s Instant Booker.  We know some people can’t handle how hot our platform is, but believe me, once you use software as pungent as this, you’ll never go back,” said CPO Alina Vandenberghe.

Chili Piper positions itself as a Meeting Lifecycle Automation company.  Beyond booking meetings, it handles inbound meeting requests, sets up follow-up conversations, and maximizes the value of meetings.  Meeting workflow features include setting and sharing agendas, booking next steps, logging notes and follow-up actions, and syncing with the CRM.

“Before we launched our inbound solution, Concierge, every company had accepted the industry standard 40% conversion rate on inbound demo requests — meaning that 60 out of every 100 inbound meeting requests (aka inbound leads) never converted into a held meeting.  The biggest culprit was speed to lead.  The moment a prospect submits a meeting request form on your website, you should be connecting to get a meeting on their calendar.”

Chili Piper Website, “What is Meeting Lifecycle Automation?

Chili Piper, founded in 2016, has 101 employees across 22 countries.  The company is structured as a fully remote organization.

Customers include Gong, Spotify, Intuit, Twilio, and Airbnb. Expect more spicy pepper puns in the coming months.

Chili Piper isn’t the only Meeting Management vendor to be gaining attention from the VCs. In January, Calendly closed on a $350 million Series B with OpenView Venture Partners and Iqoniq Capital.  The funding round valued the Atlanta-based scheduling firm at greater than $3 billion.  Last year, it doubled its subscription revenue to $70 million and grew its user base to ten million.  

Calendly has been profitable since 2016.  Nigerian immigrant Tope Awotona founded Calendly after a series of failed businesses.

The funds will be used to provide liquidity for early shareholders and employees.  It will also fund ongoing product innovation, including expanded appointment setting enhancements and integrations.  The firm plans to double its headcount (at 200 in January) and continue to build out its R&D operations in Kyiv.

As a freemium service, users can test out Calendly and license the service for either $8 or $12 per month.  The service is generalized, supporting business people, teachers, contractors, and freelancers.  It offers integrations with calendars (e.g. Outlook, Exchange, Google Calendar), video conferencing (e.g. Zoom, Teams, GoToMeeting, JoinMe), and payment services (PayPal, Stripe).  Calendly offers apps for Android, iOS, Outlook, Chrome, and Firefox.

“We really see ourselves as a leading orchestration platform,” explained Awotona.  “What that means is that we really want to remain extensible and flexible.  We want our users to bring their own best-in-class products.  We think about this in an agnostic way.”

“Calendly has a vision increasingly to be a central part of the meeting life cycle,” said Blake Bartlett, a partner at Openview. “What happens before, during, and after the meeting.  Historically, the obvious was before the meeting, but now it’s looking at integrations, automations, and other things so that it all magically happens.  But moving into the rest of the lifecycle is a lot of opportunity but also many players.”

Exceed.AI Seed Round for AI Lead Conversions

AI Lead Conversion start-up Exceed.AI closed on a $4 million seed round led by Glilot Capital and West Fountain Global Fund.  Also participating were Alex Pinchev, former President of Red Hat, and Gur Shomron, the chairman of Israel’s WalkMe.  Funds will be deployed to expand into new markets and onboard additional marketing clients.

Exceed.AI pulls lead information from Marketo, Eloqua, HubSpot, Pardot, Salesforce, and SugarCRM to assist with conversations.  Features include an AI chatbot, SMS chatbot, email response bot, CRM synchronization, and an automated meeting scheduler.  Exceed also offers rules-based lead qualification and the ability to respond to questions.  Exception handling features include out-of-office follow up and no-show follow up.

“Some of our clients have seen up to a 39.5% increase in qualified leads for the same marketing efforts they already undertake without additional headcount,” said CEO Ilan Kasan. “Our strength lies in our multi-channel approach.  We reach audiences where crucial conversations occur when marketing teams are qualifying their leads.”

Exceed research found that out of office follow up results in a fifty percent lift in lead qualification.  They recommend a “short, cheery” welcome back email two days after the lead returns to the office before resuming the previous drip campaign.

“In a perfect world, every lead gets engaged by a human, but human follow-up isn’t scalable, and sales reps give up on leads too quickly,” said the firm. “So the majority of your leads are left untouched and sales opportunities are missed.”

Exceed noted that 44% of reps give up after one or two touches, leaving many leads to go fallow.  Bots will continue the touches, waiting for engagement.

“Robots are very good at speed, working at scale, they never get tired, they never complain, they’re persistent and they can process huge amounts of information,” Kasan explained to Entrepreneur. “Humans are good at relationships, feeling empathy. They’re very good at understanding nuance in complex situations.  Everything the robots are good at, humans hate doing and actually are not that good at doing.  And everything that humans know to do, robots don’t know to do.  This in essence is a partnership whereby the robot will automate all the manual repetitive tasks so the humans can focus on doing what they know to do best, which is closing deals, having conversations and having relationships.”

Sales reps should focus on tasks that require “critical thinking and evaluation,” blogged Head of Marketing, Billy Attar.  Conversely, “all tasks that can be handled by automation should be automated.”

“As a Sales Manager, you need to maximize the time your reps spend on tasks that require real human insight – the insight only they are qualified to give, ultimately representing the value they bring to the company.  Those human insights include researching prospects and evaluating each leads’ needs, interests and objections, answering their asked and unstated questions… all the things that Sales Reps and SDRs are supposed to do.”

Exceed.AI Head of Marketing Billy Attar

Exceed.AI lists Demandbase, SugarCRM, Hearst, The YMCA, and Universal Robots as clients.  Exceed.AI is located in Israel and Sunnyvale, CA.

Monthly pricing starts at $1,500 for 20,000 leads and unlimited use cases (campaigns).