What is Sales Engagement?

Over the past year, Sales Engagement has become the third pillar of my coverage (alongside Sales Intelligence and B2B DaaS). So it is only fair that I write an overview of the space.

Sales Engagement began about four or five years ago as Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) with a focus on automating the SDR function. Its initial functionality consisted of a cadence tool which automated emails and outbound dialing for appointment setting. Cadences, also called sequences, are a set of scheduled steps that usually begin with an email but also include outbound calls, social steps (many vendors have integrated LinkedIn Sales Navigator via SNAP connectors), and direct mail.

Cadences can be paused if the prospect is out of office or halted if the prospect unsubscribes. Outreach just announced out of office functionality which pauses the call and checks whether an alternate contact is listed.
Functionality is similar to that of LeadGnome. Outreach noted that 18% of email responses are out of office emails. 25% of out of office emails include an alternate contact name with over half the names being manager titles or above.  The Out of Office reply detection extracts the return date and alternate names then pauses sequences until the prospect returns.  The sales rep is notified of automated actions.

Email is supported by targeted templates which can be personalized. Thus, reps can call cadences by function, level, industry, etc. and the associated templates are customized by target audience. Reps can view the emails prior to sending and personalize them. This helps bring authenticity to the email. SalesLoft estimates that the peak personalization level is 20%.

Most sales engagement solutions include a digital dialer for outbound calling. The system suggests the best time of day and adjusts for time zones. Other features include local dialing, call recording, and voice mail drops. Upon completion, the rep enters call disposition and sentiment information which is synched with the CRM.

Once calls are recorded, they are transcribed and indexed, allowing sales reps or managers to quickly review calls and quickly locate pain points, objections, pricing, and next steps. Vendors such as Outreach and SalesLoft are going a step further and analyzing the calls, providing a set of team reports. More broadly, machine learning tools are being applied against the calls to determine best sales practices.

Meeting Management is emerging as a key feature set. Some vendors offer simple Calendly-like scheduling while others provide full meeting transcription and analytics.

Video is becoming increasingly important. Vendors support both video meetings (e.g. Webex, Zoom, BlueJeans, JoinMe) and video attachments (e.g. Vidyard, Videolicious).

The Outreach Partner Directory offers ten categories of partners. Sales Intelligence and Data supports lead generation, intelligence, and management.

Other information and decisioning tools include leaderboards, dashboards, AI recommendations (e.g. who to call or email next), CRM synchronization, and A/B testing. Some of these tools are directly integrated into the service while others are available through app directories. Similar to the Salesforce AppExchange or Marketo LaunchPoint, functionality may be free, freemium, or premium. Likewise, you may need to separately license the partner solution prior to enabling the integration. Outreach and SalesLoft offer a broad set of app partners.

There are a broad set of Sales Intelligence partner services which feed leads or display lead intelligence within Sales Engagement platforms. Vendors include DiscoverOrg, Zoominfo, Datanyze, Owler, Crunchbase, and SalesIntel.io.

Sales Engagement platforms are evolving into a system of engagement that sits alongside CRMs (systems of record). There is already a shift taking place from CRMs to Sales Engagement platforms. While Sales Engagement platforms are not looking to displace CRMs, sales reps are increasingly shifting screen time from CRMs to Sales Engagement platforms with the Sales Engagement platforms syncing with the CRMs. This is one of the reasons that Salesforce.com recently launched its High Velocity Sales service which combines cadences, Salesforce Inbox, the Lightning Dialer, work queues, and Einstein. High Velocity Sales starts at $75 per user per month ($90 with outbound calling).

The Salesforce Lighting Dialer supports click-to-call, power dialing, inbound calling, voicemail drops, and call logging.

At the Salesforce World Tour in Boston this week, a sales rep told me that Salesforce is heavily investing in Sales Engagement and hopes to catch up to the market leaders in the next year (I think this is overly optimistic as the leaders are quickly building out functionality and partnerships). While Salesforce could catch up in a few years, I believe it is more likely that SFDC will acquire one of the leaders in the space followed quickly by Microsoft and Oracle acquisitions in the sector (of course, Microsoft or Oracle could be the first movers). Adobe, which recently acquired Marketo, may also be interested in expanding its presence in B2B sales and marketing applications.

The top vendors in the space are SalesLoft, Outreach, and InsideSales. Other vendors include ConnectLeader, Yesware, Toutapp (Marketo), Mixmax, and VanillaSoft.

Outreach Unleash

At its Unleash user conference, Outreach rolled out its expanded Galaxy partner ecosystem that “offers deeper partner integrations and enables sales teams to more effectively access multiple sales tools directly from the Outreach platform.”  Outreach also announced a set of new partners including Vidyard (1-to-1 video), Intercom, (chat) and Sendoso (direct mail) along with a set of new plugins for composing emails, event streams, and link encoding.

Outreach Galaxy provides:

  • “More visibility on information and actions performed by third-party applications like video views or website chats.  Outreach Galaxy puts actionable information at reps’ fingertips so they can have more contextual conversations.
  • ‘Next best actions’ enabled through integration partners.  Outreach automates customer touchpoints and can trigger or be triggered by external information fed into Outreach.
  • Greater ability to meet changing buyer preferences.  Outreach is the system of action for modern sales teams, and now enables reps to communicate with buyers through even more mediums.

“Sales is evolving to become more personal and accurate.  You must use the right channel for the right engagement for the right prospect and customer,” said Outreach CEO Manny Medina.  “A sales engagement platform must be multichannel and have the ability to optimize on each depending on the customer.  Now you can do that, with Galaxy.”

Tactile Marketing Automation vendor (Translation: Direct Mail Swag) PFL also announced an Outreach integration.  Sales reps include a direct mail or reward step within Outreach sequences.

“We’re all inundated with thousands of digital messages a day, but studies show that touching something physical stimulates our emotions and ultimately improves the perception of a brand,” said PFL CEO Andrew Field.  “We are joining the Outreach Galaxy partner program to put the power of direct mail and high impact packages directly into the hands of sales reps so they can engage prospects and customers.  Together with Outreach, we are pioneering a new approach to B2B marketing that empowers sales reps to do what they do best: stand out, get noticed and close more deals.”

Outreach listed a set of future partners including Alyce, BombBomb, Clari, LeanData, OneMob, and Tiled.

When composing emails, third-party content is immediately accessible.  Vendors leveraging the new plug-in capability include Vidyard and Sendoso.

The new events stream plugin feeds third-party events to the Outreach activity feed.  These events can then act as triggers for additional action.

An Enhanced Team Performance Dashboard is planned for 2019.
An Enhanced Team Performance Dashboard is planned for 2019.

Link Encoding provides website or content viewing intelligence related to Outreach sequences.  For example, the new plug-ins help Vidyard “record and send videos within your Outreach email.  And when your prospect views the video, that activity triggers your next task so you can immediately take action to convert at the highest level.”

In 2019, Outreach will roll out an enhanced Team Performance Dashboard and expanded Sequence Analytics to help sales managers and sales operations professionals better determine best practices.

Over 500 Outreach customers have has already built integrated solutions using the Outreach API.  The firm has over 40,000 weekly active users performing 47 million actions.

Outreach added Out of Office reply detection.  The firm noted that 18% of email responses are out of office emails.  Amongst out of office messages, 25% include an alternate contact name with over half the names being manager titles or above.  The Out of Office reply detection extracts the return date and alternate names then pauses cadences until the prospect returns.  The sales rep is notified of automated actions.

“Modern sales means using technology to interact with buyers in the ways they expect.  Outreach has the responsibility to enable this, but we can’t do it alone.  The solution is a variety of different technologies.  Unfortunately, these solutions aren’t well coordinated, if at all.  They’re used on multiple computer windows, by multiple departments, using different devices.  We owe it to our mutual customers to string everything together, for reps to do their jobs on one single pane of glass with each action informing the next.”


Outreach Strategic Programs Manager Stephen Farnsworth

Medina defined Outreach’s objectives as making “things simpler.  Making every rep successful.  Every manager amazing” and “elevate the profession.”  To help define and promote the category, Outreach published a book titled “Sales Engagement: How the World’s Fastest Growing Companies Are Modernizing Sales through Humanization at Scale.”

Outreach supports over 3,000 customers.

LeadGnome: EU-US Privacy Shield Certification

LeadGnome -- Mining Email for LeadsAccount Based Intelligence vendor LeadGnome completed the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield certification process with the U.S. Department of Commerce.  The new process ensures that privacy is protected when personal data is transferred from the EU to the US.  The Privacy Shield process was implemented last summer after the previous Safe Harbour regime was invalidated by the European Court of Justice.

LeadGnome’s email reply service mines emails for intelligence such as left the company, out of office, change of position, change of name/email, and unsubscribe requests.  “LeadGnome is unique in its ability to mine the unstructured body of reply emails for account based intelligence.  It was, therefore, important to acquire EU-U.S. Privacy Shield certification to assure our customers of our commitment to the privacy of their data,” said Matt Benati, CEO of LeadGnome.

Because the firm collects emails, titles, and business phones, they did not have to go through the more stringent approval level for firms that store credit, payment, or personal data.  This helped expedite the approval process with the Department of Commerce.  As LeadGnome was already Safe Harbour compliant, the approval process was focused on conforming to changes between the Safe Harbour and Privacy Shield.  LeadGnome worked with the Better Business Bureau as a compliance partner and completed the process in about two months.  Benati believes the process will speed up as the certification backlog clears, but noted that his firm benefited from having Safe Harbour certification.

The LeadGnome platform is integrated with major CRMs and MAPs including Salesforce, HubSpot, Marketo and Oracle Cloud.

“LeadGnome is committed to data privacy and business transparency. We had already employed many of the required best practices, so the certification process was completed significantly ahead of schedule,” said Benati.

Other vendors that are Privacy Shield compliant include Dun & Bradstreet, Avention, Zoominfo, Infogroup, Salesforce, Microsoft, Oracle, SalesLoft, ReachForce, and Outreach.  The US International Trade Administration publishes a list of Privacy Shield compliant firms.

LeadGnome: Extracting Email Intelligence

LeadGnome Email Information Mining
LeadGnome Email Information Mining

LeadGnome, which extracts account based intelligence from reply emails, announced availability of a HubSpot connectors for the Marketing, Sales, and CRM platforms.  “We consider this a strategic partnership with HubSpot, helping users increase productivity within their sales and marketing departments. The fact that LeadGnome integrates across all three HubSpot platforms changes the game, providing a new level of account intelligence from the moment an email campaign is executed. This integration delivers new opportunities and increases sales velocity by identifying trigger events, decision makers and influencers,” said LeadGnome CEO Matt Benati.

LeadGnome also provides sales alerts based upon important account changes uncovered by LeadGnome.  For example, “new contacts can be emailed an introductory message and sales trigger events can be leveraged to ensure opportunities are captured and closed.”

LeadGnome calls its service “an untapped source of lead gold.”  By mining reply emails, Lead Gnome is able to add new account-specific leads, schedule follow-up messages to target contacts based upon out of office information, mine additional company and contact details from signature blocks, derive corporate email address formats, and link out of office emails to specific marketing campaigns.

The service also helps redirect sales activity after a lead has left the organization:

A bounced email happens when somebody leaves the company and what’s really popular right now are “left the company” reply emails; hey, Matt’s no longer with the company but don’t worry, Sally is here to help out. And so what you know is that there has been a significant event within that organization. Matt who you have engaged with or maybe Matt is even your customer has left, you find that out immediately and now you have an opportunity to go find out where Matt went and start talking to him again because as salespeople we all know if you’ve got a great relationship with Matt in his current location, he’s probably going to a parallel or better job that has buying power again so you better go and knock on his door.

And we also give you Sally who has taken over for Matt. Sally is now your go to person at that existing account you have. And then we fill in the size of who did Sally… Jobs get replaced and where did the person that Matt replaced go to? So that adds up to four. And we no longer have to wait for a hard bounce right? We are giving you all the time and advantage you absolutely will beat the competition if you have that information.

Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing doesn’t see LeadGnome as a “silver bullet” but as an incremental process improvement based upon captured intelligence.  “In sales and marketing part of the game is adjustments, it’s finding those incremental opportunities to get better, it’s finding marginal improvement at various phases of the sales process that when stitched together creates a fairly compelling competitive advantage. And those little increases in productivity, those little increases in response rate and conversion rate across an entire marketing effort, across an entire sales organization can lead to massive change and massive impact on result,” said Heinz.  “we are looking for thunderbolts when we really need to be listening for whispers. We are looking for these big definitive answers on how precisely to sell to everybody and I am not seeing that. I continue to believe that there is no silver bullet like that and yet I feel like our customers are whispering to us all the time and they are giving us these subtle clues that are not always directed to us but they are definitely… It’s an opportunity that they were passing by on too significant a basis.”

LeadGnome pricing is based upon the number of reply emails received each month.  The service begins at $19 and is subject to volume discounts.  A twenty percent discount applies to firms on annual billing plans.  The firm also offers a thirty-day free trial.