The Seismic Enablement Cloud

The Seismic Enablement Cloud

Seismic rolled out the Seismic Enablement Cloud, an enablement platform for customer-facing teams.  The new service ensures that team members have the “right skills, content, tools, and insights to effectively engage customers and drive growth.”  Instead of offering a set of point solutions for content, training, and engagement, Seismic claims it is the first unified enablement platform that supports digital interactions across the entire buyer’s journey.

“For more than a decade, Seismic has helped develop and shape the enablement industry in partnership with our 2,200+ customers.  Leading organizations view enablement as mission-critical to their growth, and it has become a core part of the enterprise tech stack.  Now we are revolutionizing the space by bringing all of the pillars of modern enablement under one, unified cloud,” said Seismic Chief Product Officer Krish Mantripragada.  “In this new era of selling, customer-facing teams need more than content management and basic analytics to engage today’s buyers.  The Enablement Cloud redefines the boundaries of enablement, delivering the most comprehensive suite of products and solutions to empower the entire go-to-market engine.”

The Seismic Enablement platform supports “end-to-end workflows,” including

  • Enablement and training strategy and Planning
  • Sales Content Management from building content through asset sharing, including content recommendations, personalization, and social sharing
  • New hire onboarding, ongoing training, and AI-assisted coaching and skills development
  • Buyer experience personalization across all touchpoints and digital channels, including social media, email, and digital salesrooms
  • Content Automation with dynamic templates and quick assembly, with support for data integrations.
  • Insights concerning the “behaviors, activities, and content that increase productivity and deliver the best outcomes”
  • Integration support for over 150 solutions, including Salesforce, Microsoft, and Google

“Just as sales and marketing clouds have brought together several complementary products and solutions to address the needs of their respective teams, we see a similar need and opportunity for the enablement cloud – a dedicated platform purpose-built to empower enablement and GTM teams to deliver exceptional end-to-end buyer experiences,” blogged Mantripragada.  “The Seismic Enablement Cloud redefines enablement by bringing together historically siloed systems for sales content management, learning & coaching, strategy & planning, content automation, buyer engagement, and enablement intelligence into one enterprise-grade platform that supports end-to-end workflows for GTM teams.”

Seismic includes Lessonly (a recent acquisition) pitch training.

Highspot $248M Series F

Sales Enablement Platform vendor Highspot closed on a $248 million Series F that valued the firm at $3.5 billion, up from its February valuation of $2.3 billion.  The firm, founded in 2012, has raised $648 million to date.  The round was led by B Capital Group and D1 Capital Partners, with Iconiq Growth, Madrona Venture Group, Salesforce Ventures, Sapphire, and Tiger Global Management also participating.

“Technologies that unlock human potential are foundational to our economic future,” said Rashmi Gopinath, General Partner, B Capital.  “Highspot’s undeniable performance, coupled with the enthusiasm of their customer base, is a testament to how transformative their technology is for companies across industries and geographies.  We believe Highspot’s platform is an imperative for businesses aiming to drive sustainable growth.”

Highspot will deploy the funds to hire additional staff and open offices in the EMEA and APAC regions.  The firm, which doubled in size over the past two years to 800 employees, plans to add 500 staff over the next twelve months.  Highspot is based in Seattle, with offices in London, Munich, and Paris.

The pandemic accelerated demand for digital platforms such as Highspot as “road warriors have become home warriors,” said Wahbe.  In addition, the shift from traditional selling to digital required new tools and skills.  “Salespeople have to be better than ever in holding the attention of the customer.”

“Even before the onset of the pandemic, buyers were trending toward self-reliance with a plethora of resources at their fingertips, researching vendors on their own time and relying on salespeople as mere transaction facilitators,” Wahbe told VentureBeat via email. The sudden shift to a remote business landscape caused by COVID-19 accelerated this trend, and now modern buyers prefer — and expect — fully virtual sales … A handful of sales tech companies anticipated the trend toward digital selling and strategically designed their products to help turn salespeople from transaction helpers into heroes. Highspot is one such company.”

Highspot CEO Robert Wahbe, “Highspot raises $248M to bolster sales enablement using AI,” VentureBeat (January 13, 2022)

The firm, which has over 170 open positions, is broadly hiring across engineering, product, design, marketing, and sales.

“We see an incredible opportunity in front of us,” said CEO Robert Wahbe. “We need to continue to invest very significantly and invest in our go-to-market team, invest in our product, and [invest in] the capabilities of our product.”

Last month, Highspot announced a quartet of executive hires:

  • Arvind Prakash, Product Management VP: Prakash is a global product and technology leader with over twenty years of experience at Compass, Expedia Group, and Microsoft.
  • John Zhang, Engineering VP: Zhang held Engineering roles at Microsoft, Twitter and Weibo.
  • Julie Valenti, Account Management VP: Valenti has over twenty years of experience running customer-facing teams at DocuSign, Oracle, Responsys, and Yesmail.
  • Kelly Lewis, Revenue Enablement VP: Lewis joins with over 15 years of experience in revenue leadership and technology sales.  Lewis is a former Highspot customer joining from Amwell.

Highspot supports content recommendations, content engagement analytics, sales training, and sales coaching

The recently launched Highspot Marketplace is a partner exchange for marketing, sales, enablement, and customer success partners.  Companies can import packages of content, tools, and training from two dozen partners, including Sandler, Challenger, and Winning by Design.

Highspot Sales Training Dashboard

Highspot has grown revenue 935% over the last three years and posted an Annual Recurring Revenue net retention rate of 130% over the past year. 

Last year, platform usage increased 150%, with Highspot providing training to eight million salespeople, channel partners, service reps, and customers in digital sales experiences.  Highspot counts DocuSign, General Motors, Nestle, Siemens, and Verizon Media among its 700+ customers.

Wahbe envisions the firm going public but did not set an IPO timeframe. “Our focus continues to be on building a significant company in the enablement space,” said Wahbe. “We’re focused on growing the company, which of course then enables us to go public.”

Sales Rep Turnover

Leveraging its Economic Graph, LinkedIn noted that sales rep turnover is up 39% over the past three months (overall global turnover is up 28%).  Sales is the second most in-demand position globally.

“Companies need to recognize that the power dynamic has changed — workers are going to demand more from them on multiple fronts,” said LinkedIn Chief Economist Karin Kimbrough.  “Candidates are being much more selective about where they work, and workers are more vocal about what they want.”

Replacing sales reps is an expensive proposition, according to a 2015-2016 DePaul University study.  When factoring in the opportunity cost of an open sales seat and the hiring and training expenses, replacing a sales rep costs $115,000.

Further complicating matters, buying team turnover spiked over the past year, up 31% in Q3.  Thus, demand units are more difficult to navigate, and deals are more likely to be delayed due to key decision-maker departures.  According to LinkedIn State of Sales 2021, 80% of sales reps said a deal was delayed or derailed due to buyer role changes over the past year.

Unfortunately, employee burnout rose 9% between April and July, just as employees were readying to return to the office, but Delta delayed such plans.  Over the same period, employee happiness dropped three points.

“This simultaneous dip in employee happiness and spike in burnout is a warning signal: very few people want to return to pre-pandemic work life, said LinkedIn Head of People Science Strategic Development Amy Lavoie.  “Part of the issue here is that the communications around organizations’ return-to-office plans can carry a dangerous subtext.  It may look to employees that, while their leaders had prioritized their well-being and safety in the pandemic’s first stretch, they’re now focusing on business and advancing their own agenda at all costs, leaving employees’ concerns in the wake.”

“Employee well-being is not a fad; it is a fundamental human need,” continued Lavoie.  “It’s not going to take care of itself as businesses start asking employees to return to the office. Employees are looking to their organizations to value their needs as full human beings and trust them to make decisions about how, when, and where they work. Until that happens, we will continue to see this deadlock between employees and organizations on happiness and burnout.” Employee priorities are shifting, with a greater emphasis on flexible work arrangements, inclusive workplaces, and work-life balance than just a few months ago. As a result, work-life balance is ranked as the top priority among job seekers.

Glint (LinkedIn) Employee Well Being Report (Sept 2021)

Flexibility is key.  Three out of five employees feel they are equally productive working from home and that their overall well-being is equal to or better than working in an office.

A Fortune Analytics survey of over 10,000 knowledge workers found that 76% of knowledge workers want flexibility in where they work, and 93% want flexibility in when they work.  Additionally, 57% of knowledge workers are “open to looking for a new job in 2022.”  However, among knowledge workers who are dissatisfied with the level of flexibility, the open to looking rate rises to 71%.

“Just last year, joblessness in the US was at its highest level since the Great Depression,” wrote Fortune Editorial Director Lance Lambert.  “Scrambling to hold onto their jobs, workers started taking on extra responsibilities—something many of them hold onto today even though the economy has shifted into one of its strongest periods in recent memory. That explains why 19% of workers say their work-related stress is ‘poor,’ and another 33% say it’s ‘fair.’”

Fortune Analytics also found that workers with inflexible work schedules are 6.6 times more likely to report work-related stress.

LinkedIn Senior Content Manager Paul Petrone suggested three areas of investment to retain sales talent:

  1. “Career conversations and career development for your employees.
  2. Providing work-life balance, which should ideally include flex work.
  3. Diversity, inclusion, and belonging.”

Workers find it difficult to maintain a work/life balance, with 35% of workers telling GlassDoor that balance isn’t possible in their current role.

“Very few people both see a path forward and feel support for an internal career move,” observed LinkedIn People Science Senior Researcher Eric Knudsen.  “Luckily, there’s a clear solution.  While it’s natural for managers to worry about losing a team member, employees want learning and growth opportunities.  So, whenever someone starts looking for their next opportunity, a lack of manager support could inspire an external move.”

Knudsen recommends that managers frame internal mobility as an opportunity and not a loss as they place an advocate and partner in another part of the organization.  Furthermore, the organization retains talent, and cross-team collaboration is likely to rise. 

“Work-life policies which are rigid or offer little flexibility are proving problematic for UK employees,” said Glassdoor Economist Lauren Thomas.  “Our research has indicated that workers want autonomy over how they juggle their home and work lives and need employers to offer a range of options to support this. There also needs to be trust between the two parties — avoid micromanaging teams who are working from home.”

What’s more, Glint (a LinkedIn subsidiary) found that only one in five employees feel they can meet their career goals in their current organization, increasing the likelihood of departures.


I also recently wrote about The Great Reshuffle.

ZoomInfo Sales Efficiency and LTV/CAC Ratios

ZoomInfo has been talking about its LTV/CAC (Lifetime Value to Customer Acquisition Cost) ratio for a few years and is now boasting about its sales efficiency ratio.  For every dollar the firm invests in Sales and Marketing, it is growing $1.50 to $2.00 in revenue with even better results on the retention business side.  These values are well above the SaaS industry average and indicate that the firm should increase its revenue operations investment.

“On the new business side, we aim for somewhere between one and a half to two X return for every dollar that we spend on a customer. And then on the retention and growth or account management side, we look for a six to eight X return for every dollar that we spend there. It’s a super-efficient go-to-market motion.  Most software businesses, you put a dollar in, you get like 70 cents out in the first year.  We’re putting a dollar in and getting one and a half to two X out.”

ZoomInfo CEO Henry Schuck

Schuck described their go-to-market efficiency as one of their “big strategic levers” when acquiring firms with less mature go-to-market motions.  ”So when we find companies that don’t have a very sophisticated go-to-market motion, that aren’t truly optimized in the way that they get clients, they’re not doing one and a half to two X efficiency or a 15 X LTV to CAC.  Those are great fits for us.” 

ZoomInfo has a track record of improving sales efficiency, helping unlock value in acquired assets where the go-to-market motions are aligned.  “In our big acquisitions – RainKing, ZoomInfo, and, most recently, Chorus.AI — we really felt like we could leverage the go-to-market motion to accelerate growth within those companies. That’s a key piece.”

When DiscoverOrg acquired RainKing, which had a $40 million ARR, he was convinced that DiscoverOrg could treble their EBITDA to $30 million and accelerate their top-line growth within six months.  Within one year of acquiring RainKing, DiscoverOrg’s market valuation grew from roughly $600 million to $2 billion.

One of the inherent advantages of SalesTech is you don’t have to teach sales reps the value and use cases of your product.  This shortens ZoomInfo’s ramp time for new reps from several quarters to four months.  “it makes it way easier for you to be able to sell to your counterpart on the other end of the line.  It’s a big difference for us,” said Schuck. 

ZoomInfo heavily hires sales reps directly out of college or soon after and trains them as SDRs, responding to inbound leads and performing outbound prospecting.  “In nine months, we start promoting them into the account executive role.  So we got value out of them in that ramp time. Then four months after they’ve gone into the account executive role, they’re fully ramped. Thirteen months from when you’ve never sold something until you’re an account executive at one of the fastest-growing technology companies in the country, that’s a really fun promotion to see.”

And because ZoomInfo is hiring sales reps to sell sales and marketing solutions, Schuck does not consider complicated or technical product categories for acquisition.  Instead, he looks for solutions that broadly meet the needs of his 20,000 customers and which are easy to understand.  Chorus.AI, the Conversation Intelligence vendor that ZoomInfo acquired last month, fits the bill: “We use it, all of our sellers use it. It’s really simple to understand, ‘Hey, we’re going to record and transcribe all your calls, and then you can go do instant coaching on the key moments in those calls’,” remarked Schuck.

The Chorus app for Zoom records, transcribes, indexes, and analyzes calls, providing insights to sales reps and sales managers. As reps no longer need to worry about notetaking, they can focus on the topics at hand and be more present during the meetings.

Brainshark Growth and Training Partnerships

Once again, I’m writing about a SalesTech or B2B MarTech firm that had strong growth during the pandemic.  Simply, B2B firms sped up their digitization and looked for online methods for internal and external communications.  With WFH and the recognition of subscription revenues over the life of contracts, it is highly likely that 2020 strength will continue into 2021.  In the case of Brainshark, they increased both their new business contracts and multi-year renewal rates.  Brainshark also announced off-the-shelf learning content from a pair of training companies: ValueSelling Associates and 2Win!.

Sales Readiness vendor Brainshark posted sixty percent growth in platform usage last year with a 38% increase in new business.  71% of the new contracts were multi-year, with multi-year renewals up 40% year over year.

“Companies across the globe had to completely rewrite their playbook when the pandemic began disrupting business one year ago,” said CEO Greg Flynn.  “Many realized improving their sales readiness was a way to gain a competitive advantage.  They also realized Brainshark’s proven, award-winning platform was just the tool they needed.  We’re especially thrilled to see our customers utilizing our coaching solution more than ever because we’ve seen first-hand the impact it can have on an organization’s bottom line.”

Citing a CSO Insights study that found that firms with dedicated sales enablement teams had a 15.3% higher win rate on forecasted deals, the firm stated, “Brainshark can be the foundation of a successful sales readiness strategy, helping organizations equip sales reps with the knowledge and skills they need, measure preparedness, and connect readiness to revenue.”

Brainshark Sales Readiness Scorecards include CRM data

Last year, the firm launched Sales Readiness Scorecards, which “provide more powerful, instant, and comprehensive visibility into whether reps and their teams are prepared to engage with clients and prospects.”  Scorecard data is pulled from Salesforce, providing firms with pipeline and performance KPIs.  In 2021, Brainshark plans to deepen CRM integrations for expanded metrics and coaching tools.

“The questions sales enablement professionals need to answer go beyond ‘Are our reps ready?’ The more important question is, ’Are our readiness and enablement programs working?  Scorecards provide that clarity.  Enablement leaders can discover which reps need help with certain parts of the sales process, and then build learning programs to address those areas for maximum impact.  At the same time, sales managers have critical performance data at their fingertips that allows them to be better, more strategic coaches.”

Brainshark Chief Product Officer Greg Keshian

2Win! training “helps sales professionals master demo, presentation, client success, and storytelling skills, especially in a virtual world.”

Julie Thomas, CEO of ValueSelling Associates, said, “Our eValueSelling Fundamentals is a fast track for those who want to learn value-based selling.  By blending real-world examples with interactive exercises and quizzes, users learn how to prepare for a sales call, assess the health of opportunities, and ask questions that engage prospects.  This program makes for a perfect integration into Brainshark’s platform, allowing sales enablement leaders a simple and convenient way to build their training content and accelerate their results.” Brainshark lists BCI and go1 as additional training content partners.

Highspot Series E

Highspot became the latest Seattle-area unicorn following a Series E that valued the firm at $2.3 billion.  The Sales Enablement platform, which was launched nine years ago by three former Microsoft employees, closed on a $200 million round led by Tiger Global Management.  Bain & Company, CONIQ Growth, Madrona Venture Group, OpenView, Salesforce Ventures, Sapphire Ventures, and Shasta Ventures also participated.

“Sales enablement is about more than sales.  It connects everyone from marketing and sales to post-sales in delivering a unified buying experience that wins, retains and expands customer relationships,” said Robert Wahbe, CEO, Highspot. “Scaling your go-to-market strategy is a complex process with a large gap between strategy and action.  We close this gap.  Our single, unified platform improves sales performance by turning strategy into successful execution.”

Customers have deployed the Sales Enablement Platform for sales onboarding, ongoing training, content management, guided selling, rep coaching, engagement intelligence, and 360-degree analytics.  They include DocuSign, General Motors, John Deere, Nestle, and Verizon Media,

The firm has over 500 employees in Seattle, London, and Munich.  It plans to open an office in France and enter the APAC market in 2021.  In May 2020, it opened up a Munich office to support its D-A-CH operations.  Highspot doubled its EMEA revenue in 2020.

Highspot supports users in 125 countries.

Highspot does not disclose its revenue but told Bloomberg that ARR increased 900% over the past three years.

Last year, Highspot connected over three million salespeople, channel partners, services reps and customers in digital sales experiences, with usage double that of 2019.  Highspot’s community of sales enablement professionals, Sales Enablement PRO, reached 13,000 members.

“Salesforce changed sales 20 years ago. Marketo changed marketing 10 years ago. Now, Highspot’s vision is to fundamentally change the way companies go to market,” said John Curtius, Partner, Tiger Global Management. “Highspot’s secret is an authentic commitment to people – their employees, customers and partners – that inspires a tremendously collaborative and resilient culture.  We believe they’re capable of sustaining unmatched levels of innovation to achieve their vision.”

“There’s a famous Harvard Business Review article that 70% of strategic initiatives don’t work.  Sometimes it’s not because the strategy isn’t right, it’s because they can’t translate it to the actions taken every day by their frontline sales team.  We allow them to do that.”

Highspot CEO Robert Wahbe

The new funding will “accelerate platform development, including deeper insights into go-to-market strategy and execution offered through Highspot’s industry-only Scorecards.”  

HighSpot also plans to grow its partner ecosystem, expanding its sales methodology training partnerships, technology partners, and Sales Enablement PRO community.

To fuel its growth, Highspot is hiring across “every business function.”

“Over the past year, sales enablement has emerged as a strategic imperative,” said Mark Kovac, Head of Bain & Company’s Global B2B Commercial Excellence Practice.  “Companies that have built world-class enablement teams and technology are managing change and uncertainty at scale, while others struggle with agility and inconsistent performance.  We believe Highspot’s differentiated approach will become the foundation upon which modern businesses achieve consistent revenue growth and market share gains.”

No Tradeshows, No Site Visits — Ideas to Maintain & Grow Pipeline

I had four tradeshows canceled this month and next. They were opportunities for me to meet with customers and prospects (and conduct research for my industry newsletters). At this point, I’m assuming that at least two more will fall by the wayside in H1. I’m sure many of you are in a similar boat. Your marketing calendar is in a shambles, your field and inside sales reps are cloistered at home, and you are uncertain about how to manage remote workers.

Here are some ideas about how to retain momentum and deploy technology to mitigate pipeline and operational risks:

Video Meetings

If you haven’t deployed video widely across your workforce, due so ASAP. Vendors such as Zoom, WebEx, BlueJeans, Join.Me, and GoToMeeting provide reliable video conferencing solutions for multi-party meetings, demos, and document sharing. Video Meetings are a do not pass Go, do not collect $200 requirement. Every customer-facing, development, management, and planning employee should be able to join meetings from home or the office.

Setup scheduled video meetings for the next three months so they are blocked out on team calendars. This could be a 15-minute corporate call every few weeks, weekly team calls, and one-on-ones. Standing meetings should all be web-based. Office-based employees are going to feel disconnected socially, so build in some social fun at the team level (e.g. recognizing birthdays and work anniversaries, celebrating wins and releases, etc.)

I would also build training time into video meetings. It shouldn’t be all top-down. Give your staff the opportunity to cross-train peers. A sales rep could discuss her latest victory with lessons learned or provide insights into a target vertical. Marketing can review the latest product positioning and new collateral. Product Management can train on new products, review the product roadmap, and discuss the competitive landscape. The goal is to provide training, communications, coordination, and social interaction.

Record meetings and make them available to those who miss meetings with Slack or Team links. Expect that meetings will be missed due to illness, parenting requirements, and meeting conflicts.

Marketing Work-Arounds

As event marketing is off the table, marketers will need to be flexible in how they deploy their budgets. For those that planned on hosting events, they should at least proceed with their Keynote as a webinar. For H2, a roadshow in September or October can be planned, but mitigate risk in your contracting and through joint shows (shared cost and risk).

Marketers will need to deploy or expand their use of other channels including webinars, press releases, analyst outreach, blogging, social, and video. Direct mail is problematic as prospects are likely to be working from home, but e-gifting is a viable option. Look at e-gifting vendors that are supported by your Sales Engagement platform (e.g. Sendoso, PFL, Alyce)

Here is an opportunity to test additional channels and provide your event marketing team with some cross-channel development.

Canceled shows are also a reason for re-engagement campaigns. You can restart the marketing nurture process with a message around “not being able to talk to you this season.” Keep the message short and serious. You don’t know if your prospect is worried about his or her job, family members, or personal health. Also, don’t appear to be taking advantage of the situation. Be empathetic, not opportunistic.

Also, make sure to reschedule meetings from those cancelled conferences. These are likely to be phone or video calls, but reps and executives should reconfirm calls now.

Conversation Intelligence

Once you have standardized meetings, make sure they are recorded and transcribed. This is particularly true for sales meetings. Conversation Intelligence vendors such as Gong, ExecVision, and Chorus record calls, transcribe them, and perform NLP/AI processing on the conversations. Conversation Intelligence allows sales reps to be more present during calls as they no longer need to focus on note-taking.

Transcriptions and analytics have multiple benefits:

  • Sales Reps can quickly review calls and return to key topics and issues (e.g. pricing, next steps).
  • Sales Managers can review calls related to accounts and opportunities at risk to provide coaching tips to reps.
  • Analytics identify both the strengths and weaknesses of reps versus their peers. They also flag missed actions (e.g. discussing next steps), customer concerns, and competitors. To assist with training and opportunity scoring, Conversation Intelligence vendors identify filler word frequency, monologue length, and conversational engagement.
  • Reps can forward snippets to peers for questions and help. If there is a question about a bug or support issue, the snippet can be forwarded to support personnel for an update. If a sales rep feels that they handled a question or issue poorly, a snippet can be forwarded to sales management or training for advice on how to better handle the issue next time. Snippets allow peers to hear the voice of the customer.
  • Snippets can be stored in a library for training purposes. These would include exemplars for objection handling, competitor parrying, value discussions, etc.
  • Product Managers can perform bulk analysis of sales calls to identify requested features, competitor discussions, and product issues. Vendors allow for keyword customization and analytics.

Sales Engagement Platforms

Sales Engagement Platforms (SEPs) have come a long way over the past five years. Originally, they focused on the SDR role, but now include tools for all sales roles. Vendors include SalesLoft, Outreach, Xant (FKA InsideSales), VanillaSoft, ConnectLeader, SFDC High Velocity Sales, Groove, and Yesware.

Sales Cadences, also called sequences, are at the core of Sales Engagement. Cadences set up a structured set of multi-channel outbound communications supported by email templates, dialers, social, and SMS text. Cadences improve sales efficiency by eliminating follow up tasks, recording activities to CRMs, and deploying A/B tested content (emails, attachments, cadences, call scripts). While most commonly used for SDR outreach, cadences can also be used for meeting reminders, setting up quarterly account reviews, and training follow up.

SEP vendors understand that authenticity is the key to sales success. Simply blasting mindless emails at prospects is futile. Cadences can be customized by target role, industry, company size, technographics, and stage in the buyer journey. Furthermore, reps are expected to personalize emails before sending them out (SalesLoft says 20% is the optimal level). Most of the vendors now support 1-1 embedded videos from Vidyard, Hippo Video, or Videolicious.

SEP Vendors also provide a deep set of analytics. Initially, these focused on communication efficacy (e.g. open and click-through rates, best time of day to call), but now analytics assess conversations, call out deal risks, prioritize accounts, and suggest next best actions.

SEPs are now commonly deployed amongst SDRs and Inside Sales, but may still be foreign to field sales reps; however, field sales reps will be operating more like inside sales reps for the next quarter, so deploying SEPs to field sales makes sense.

Beyond outbound communications, SEP vendors are beginning to support meeting management (setting up calls), conversational intelligence, and opportunity management. SalesLoft and Outreach are the farthest along in supporting these emerging feature sets. SalesLoft acquired and integrated NoteNinja (meeting management) and Costello (opportunity management) into its platform.

SEP Vendors have taken two approaches to partnering. SalesLoft, Outreach, and Xant have partner App Directories while the other vendors integrate key vendors (e.g. Vidyard, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Zoominfo) into their offerings without a formal partner ecosystem directory.

LinkedIn

For B2B sales, there is no social platform more trusted than LinkedIn. Sales reps can leverage their networks by sharing marketing content (they should include some comments of their own) as well as writing their own content.

LinkedIn also offers an excellent Sales Intelligence product called Sales Navigator. It is available as both a desktop and mobile solution and provides additional communications channels:

  • InMail: An outbound email alternative, InMail allows you to message prospects for whom you lack emails and direct dial numbers.
  • Chat: A quick short-message way to keep in contact with members of the buying committee. It is also useful for quick reach out after establishing a LinkedIn connection with a prospect or to send a quick, congratulatory note. Chat messages are retained archivally, providing a conversational log. I have had success providing my Calendly link with initial chats, providing a mechanism for new connections to easily schedule a call (my Calendly includes my video meeting details so there is little friction).
  • Smart Links: Forward one or multiple attachments to a prospect via social, InMail, or email. Viewing and forwarding are tracked by LinkedIn, helping reps know which content was viewed and when. Forward tracking helps expand their understanding of the buying committee. Smart Links maintain corporate branding.

Sales Navigator provides several other high-value features:

  • SNAP connectors display LinkedIn content and Navigator functionality (e.g. icebreakers, mini-profiles, InMail) within Sales Engagement Platforms, CRMs, and other enterprise software.
  • TeamLinks allow you to leverage co-worker relationships for reaching out to prospects.
  • Build a List lets reps assemble Lead (contact) and Account lists within Sales Navigator. Lead and Account lists may also be synced from the CRM, allowing reps to track news and updates about key companies and contacts. While LinkedIn does not permit upload of account and contact data, they make exceptions for notes, tags, and messages entered by the rep in Sales Navigator. They also just added a thin record upload of contacts to CRM and the ability to flag execs that have left a company.
  • List Sharing — After building a list, users may share them with co-workers who have Sales Navigator licenses.

Sales Navigator can be a bit pricey, so running a test amongst your inside sales and field sales reps makes sense, particularly if you are concerned about H1 pipeline delays. Given the difficulty of reaching anybody by phone (made worse by prospects working at home) or email, adding additional sales communications channels is well worth testing out.

There are other LinkedIn services worth investigating or trialing. LinkedIn Marketing supports highly targeted B2B campaigns. Unlike other platforms, LinkedIn can target by company, job function, level, industry, geography, and education. LinkedIn provides campaign metrics and allows marketers to set daily budgets. Both CPM and CPC pricing are available. Pricing is based upon second-best auctions (you pay 1 cent above the second best bid price).

For larger companies, LinkedIn Elevate should also be considered, particularly with remote workers. Elevate provides a curated feed of content to company employees for social media distribution (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook). Elevate amplifies corporate messaging and reduces the level of effort for sales reps and other employees to share content through social networks.

LinkedIn Learning is offering sixteen courses at no charge covering topics related to working from home, remote management, tools, and mindset.

“In the coming days, we will make 16 LinkedIn Learning courses available for free including tips on how to: stay productive, build relationships when you’re not face-to-face, use virtual meeting tools (Microsoft Teams, Skype, BlueJeans, Cisco Webex and Zoom), and balance family and work dynamics in a healthy way.”

Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn SVP of Product

Sales Intelligence

Sales Intelligence services help sales reps build prospecting lists, quality leads, refine account messaging, expand into new departments and locations, track accounts, and target additional buying committee members.

Many sales intelligence services also offer B2B DaaS services for updating CRMs and MAPs. Salesforce data hygiene is maintained through Lightning Data connectors, a sub-category on the AppExchange. Because data is synced with CRMs and MAPs, it is continuously updated, ensuring that firmographic data is accurate and that departed contacts are removed from sales and marketing activity (BTW — contacts decay at 30% per annum, so maintaining your enterprise software contact data is a valuable investment)

Sales Intelligence vendors also provide full workflow integrations into CRMs which allow reps to build lists; view and update accounts, contacts, and leads; and perform account qualification and account planning within CRM I-frames.

Sales Intelligence vendors include

  • Zoominfo: Deep contacts, emails, org charts, and technographic content. They are the leader in technology sales intelligence and recently added visitor intelligence, trigger-based workflows, and webforms. Zoominfo (FKA DiscoverOrg) also supports Ideal Customer Profiling (ICP), email verification, and B2B DaaS.
  • D&B Hoovers: The deepest set of global company intelligence for strategic sales reps. Includes full family trees, public company financials and filings, analyst reports, industry market research, SWOTs, European private company financials, and sales triggers. Dun & Bradstreet also supports ICP, B2B DaaS, Visitor Intelligence, Programmatic Marketing, and Customer Data Platforms.
  • InsideView: A global database with greater depth in North America and Europe, InsideView offers strong sales triggers and integrated social media viewing. InsideView also supports B2B DaaS and ICP.
  • Sales Genie: The best solution for reps that sell to both companies and individuals (e.g. insurance agencies, mobile, office supplies, landscaping). Features include light sales force automation for firms that have yet to implement a CRM, new businesses, new homeowners, email templates, integrated dialer, and marketing services (SEO, site design, direct mail).
  • RelPro: A specialist vendor targeting financial services companies.
  • Artesian Solutions: A UK-based social selling vendor with deep sales triggers and mobile-based meeting prep. They also offer a US solution.
  • Cognism: A UK-based sales intelligence vendor with sales engagement functionality, B2B DaaS services, and ICP tools.
  • Vainu: A Nordic-based sales intelligence vendor that also covers the Netherlands (France, US, and the UK are in beta). They also support B2B DaaS and trigger-based workflows.

Ongoing Investment

Research has shown that firms that continue to invest during recessions come out of the downturns much better prepared to grow market share and revenue than those that stop investing. Marketing is an investment in your pipeline and brand. B2B Data-as-a-Service is an investment in your data quality and ability to target prospects effectively. It also reduces sales and marketing waste in efforts directed at weak prospects and departed contacts. SalesTech and MarTech purchases are investments in your revenue generation capabilities.

This is also an opportunity for your sales and marketing teams to cross-train, develop new skills, and test out new tools and processes.

When we come out of the backside of what, hopefully, is a short-term recession, you want to be better prepared to meet latent demand for your products and services. While cutting back on investment and cash burn may be necessary for survival at some companies, don’t cut back on your ability to serve the market in 2021 unless you have to do so. Let others sacrifice the future of their revenue generation operations out of short-term concerns. Bank your savings in travel expenses and event marketing, but don’t cut back in other areas unless necessary.

Terra Incognita

We are entering a terra incognita for the next three to six months, so steady, empathetic leadership should be your objective. On 9/11, our CEO pulled us into the room and talked to us. I don’t remember his words, but I remember that he was calm and understood that we were all upset and anxious. Business was the least of his concerns that day. He wanted to show a steady hand at the tiller and sent us home to be with family.

Our raison d’être is not to work, and sometimes we are jolted back into that reality. Family, friends, and health are a higher priority. COVID 19 is not the new normal, but simply a bad storm that will pass.

Brainshark – TopOPPS Partnership

Sales enablement vendor Brainshark and AI-based sales pipeline management vendor TopOPPS announced a strategic partnership that “will empower sales organizations to deliver ‘in-the-moment’ guidance that improves reps’ skills at key points throughout the sales cycle.”  The combined solution is tailored to the individual learning needs and styles of each rep across the buyer journey.  TopOPPS delivers sales pipeline insights and forecast metrics that help management “understand pipeline activity and identify deficiencies before they impact yield.”  The combined solution identifies skills gaps and then suggests Brainshark learning content.

“Many sales organizations try to do pipeline analysis through their customer relationship management (CRM) systems – but these systems are simply data repositories that provide no actionable insights for sales leaders,” said TopOPPS CEO Jim Eberlin.  “TopOPPS brings that data to life – providing activity analysis at the individual rep level, which enables a much more accurate assessment of pipeline health and productivity.  This enables sales leaders to then use Brainshark to act on this data by delivering targeted coaching that directly impacts revenue.”

For example, Brainshark training metrics are displayed in a combined Coaching view (see the figure on the right).  The view helps managers “track training processes and knowledge retention to understand the readiness of each sales rep and sales team’s ability to sell at the highest level.”  The view also includes over twenty trended sales measures, training insights, and pipeline metrics.

“Managers, a lot of times, will just coach reps generally or are guessing on what they need coaching on.  Our AI (artificial intelligence) will actually pinpoint and make it more precise on exactly what a rep needs coaching on,” said TopOPPS CEO Jim Eberlin.

The two firms have a joint go-to-market strategy and revenue sharing agreement.

The TopOPPS partnership, along with Brainshark’s recent acquisition of sales scorecard vendor Rekener, is part of Brainshark’s mission to deliver “a true data-driven sales readiness platform.”

“Through our acquisition of Rekener last month, and now our partnership with TopOPPS, Brainshark is transforming sales-readiness from art to science,” said Brainshark CEO Greg Flynn.  “With our data-driven platform and associated technologies, sales leaders will always have easy access to the information they need to orchestrate and execute effective sales-readiness strategies that deliver quantifiable growth in corporate revenue.”

Cien Hidden Revenue Assessments

Cien contends that a sales rep is only as successful as his or her weakest skill permits.  Therefore, it is best to determine skill deficiencies and coach for them.

Cien announced the availability of its Hidden Revenue Assessment report which analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of sales reps to determine which qualitative factors are limiting their success.  Cien ingests data from Salesforce Enterprise to “reveal the factors that are preventing their teams from achieving their numbers.”

Cien Head of Marketing Damien Acheson noted that firms such as Gong and Chorus are more prescriptive while Cien is diagnostic, helping managers identify skill gaps and determining where reps add or destroy value during deal flow.

Presented as individual scorecards, Cien employs over 100 AI models to identify issues in sales enablement, training, and onboarding.  Cien does not believe in cloning the best sales reps as reps have different strengths and weaknesses.  Instead, reps are assessed for value-add across the pipeline, helping determine where reps need coaching, which reps are creating value, and which reps are benefiting from a rich set of leads but not adding significant value to them.

Furthermore, their models indicate that addressing weaknesses is the best method for improving sales outcomes and reaching quota.  If a rep is weak at any of the key sales skills, he or she is unlikely to reach quota.  As reps are only as successful as their weakest skills, it is better to identify gaps and coach accordingly.  Cien holds that the best path to driving revenue growth is focusing on mid-level success reps as they are the ones with the greatest opportunity to improve their performance.

“When it comes to managing sales teams, it’s important to understand that no sales rep is created equal, and no opportunity is created equal,” contends Cien CEO Rob Käll.  “To date, Cien’s Hidden Revenue Assessments have uncovered between 20-40% worth of lost revenue due to gaps in selling skills.”

“Cien’s AI models search for correlations between reps’ skills and attributes and their impact on the final value of opportunities.  This is the basis for a set of patented algorithms called the ​Cien Value Chain​.  Cien determines the relative value of each lead as it enters your CRM and tracks its value at the end of the sales cycle.  The Cien Value Chain measures the value-added at each stage of the opportunity and the skills and attributes that drive incremental value.“

Cien FAQ

The Hidden Revenue Assessment is available as a free report to technology companies with at least ten sales reps and a minimum of one year of Salesforce data.  It provides an assessment of a few sample reps across work ethic, product knowledge, engagement ability, and closing ability.  The Hidden Revenue Assessment also evaluates CRM data quality to provide a level of confidence in the assessment.  Firms that have deployed Sales Engagement Platforms such as Outreach and SalesLoft often have complete data as they automatically gather activity data and sync it with their CRM.

Cien “Baseball Card” Profile

The Hidden Revenue Assessment includes a 30-minute walkthrough.

The Cien app, available for $49 per month per rep, provides mentor prescriptions that help prioritize coaching.  While flagging weaknesses can be demotivating, Cien inverts the model and calculates the revenue opportunity available to reps who focus on developing their skills.  Being told that you are weak at prospect engagement is unlikely to motivate a rep.  Being told that focusing on prospect engagement can retire $200,000 worth of quota is much more likely to motivate the rep to focus on his or her weak-link skills.

The Cien app provides data on all of the reps and covers a broader set of skills.  The app also provides dynamic data indicating how the reps are performing over time.

Cien is Privacy Shield certified and does not gather Personally Identifiable Information beyond rep names. Cien received a $3.5 million seed round in June.

Practice + Authenticity = Modern Sales Excellence

The Greek orator Demosthenes was said to have treated his speech impediment by talking with pebbles in his mouth and shouting above the roar of the ocean waves.
 
In high school, Larry Bird would shoot 500 free throws every morning before his first class.
 
When I started my professional sales career in 2004, I wrote out every opening, iteration, objection handle, and closing approach. I then recorded myself speaking them until I was comfortable. I iterated on each talk track 20+ times until it was authentic and the language flowed naturally. Then I ditched the scripts and went to work.

What can you do outside of your day to day operations to be exceptional at your craft?

SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter (LinkedIn Post)

SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter is a strong advocate for authenticity. Simply knowing your pitch is insufficient. Sales reps have to master their craft and infuse it with authenticity. This means developing a deep understanding of how to sell your product and service but then combining what is unique about your story (both personal and corporate) with passion for the product or service you sell.

It also means that you cannot be giving a robotic pitch or a one-size-fits-all spiel. Great salespeople adjust their message and approach to the prospect. This adjustment is across many dimensions:

  • Job Function – What is their department and role within the department?
  • Job Level – How high in the organization are they?
  • Industry – What is your value proposition with respect to the purchaser’s industry? How do they benefit?
  • Buyer Role – As part of a purchasing committee, are they the economic buyer, technical buyer, influencer, etc.?
  • Prospect Knowledge about Your Offering – You need to understand how knowledgeable they are about your offering and those of your competitors and then speak to that level.
  • Concerns – The larger the value or strategic importance of a B2B purchase, the greater the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). FUD is also higher if the total cost of ownership or switching costs are high. If you are inauthentic, you can raise the level of FUD. If you can connect authentically with the buyer, you build trust and drive down the level of FUD.
  • Individual – What are the individual concerns of the buyer? What is the buyer’s communication style?

Scripts work well for novice reps and those learning a new product category or vertical, but they should be viewed as building blocks towards a polished, authentic sales voice.

One should also avoid focusing on features. A feature-focused monologue says to buyers, “you figure out whether my product / service will help you because I don’t understand that myself.” The focus should always be on benefits and value with features only used to justify your value proposition or to address concerns of technical buyers.

And the conversation needs to be interactive. Meeting intelligence analytics display who is talking during a call. A sales rep can visually review whether he / she controlled the conversation or it was a true conversation.

Sales trainers have begun emphasizing the value of storytelling as a way to connect with the emotional buyer. Marketers long approached consumer sales as an emotional pitch and B2B as a rationale pitch, but are now arguing that rational B2B pitches ignore the inherent FUD involved when making strategic purchases.

As sales reps begin to be coached by sales engagement analytics (directly and via feedback from managers and trainers), they should shift away from controlling conversations and become more interactive, present, and empathetic.