Post-Pandemic Business Travel

There does not appear to be a big rush back to business travel after the pandemic, with demand remaining below the $1.4 trillion commercial spend through 2025, according to the Global Business Travelers Association (GBTA).  Only 27% of US companies expect to be spending money on travel over the next six months.

A Fortune Analytics survey found that only 67% of business professionals that traveled for work pre-pandemic plan to resume previous levels.

These results line up with the stated trend towards Work from Anywhere (WFH), with companies no longer looking to maintain traditional five-day-a-week office settings.  A January Deloitte survey found that 75% of CEOs are considering reducing their commercial space requirements.  

Companies have learned how to coordinate activities internally and with customers and partners digitally.  The need to press the flesh doesn’t seem as vital as it did pre-pandemic.

“The outcomes of meetings held on Zoom vs. those held in person are not that much different, but the costs are night-and-day different,” said Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan Survey of Consumers. “It will be hard to justify the costs that were once supported.”

Management Consultancy Oliver Wyman contends that business professionals have found video conferencing and other digital communications tools to be sufficient in maintaining commercial relationships.

The GBTA noted that the pandemic’s impact was ten-times that of 9-11 and the 2008 financial crisis.  After those events, there were also concerns that commercial travel wouldn’t bounce back, but digital channels are much more mature now, and the extended WFH time has normalized video conferencing.

It’s “our expectation that business travel will lag consumer travel,” said Jeff Campbell, CFO of American Express Co., on an earnings call.  

Amazon, which spent $1 billion on travel annually, commented that its “sales teams found new ways to reach customers.”

Forrester Principal Analyst Peter Ostrow suggests that initially, there will be pent-up demand for business travel as individuals yearn to get out of the house. Still, he cautions that this should be a temporary burst, not a return to pre-pandemic travel volume.  Companies should ask three questions for determining the appropriate volume and rationales for travel:

  1. What do Buyers and Customers Prefer?  Not every meeting, particularly those involving disparate buying team members, should be face-to-face.  B2B Sales should recognize that B2B purchasing has adapted over the past year as well.
  2. How Have We Made Things Work Remotely? “Sales leaders must determine what adaptations have supported more productive sales motions, rep productivity, adoption of top-down initiatives, and desired changes in seller behavior.” Being remote has allowed reps to develop new remote selling skills (e.g., prospecting, presentation) that should be retained.  Likewise, CROs should consider whether SDRs should be centralized, or are they better off not commuting each day?  Be careful not to let the voices of those underperformed during WFH drown out those reps who have excelled in the new environment.
  3. What Does the Data Say? Review the data and determine which personas were more or less accessible during WFH, which pipeline stages were faster or slower during WFH, and which product lines suffered due to the loss of in-person pitches.

Failing to address these questions could result in the loss of many of the digital efficiency gains that have sustained B2B sales over the past year.

In short, Ostrow suggests that research and data guide travel decision-making.  Just as companies are re-evaluating the need for centralized offices vs. hybrid models or fully remote staffing, travel decisions should be re-evaluated as well.  Field Sales and weekly exhibitions in different cities have always been expensive propositions.  The focus should be on adopting the most effective interactions, whether remote or face-to-face, for driving long-term revenue growth.     

Remote work also has a demographic impact, with professionals decamping from New York, Seattle, San Jose, and San Francisco for Miami, Austin, Charlotte, Nashville, and Denver.  There are even a set of “Zoom Towns” such as Boulder, CO, Tulsa, OK, and the Hudson Valley (NY) benefiting from in-migration.

“The rise of remote work changes that equation [between work and home locations]—not in all sectors of the economy but in more than ever before. Skilled techies and knowledge workers, in particular, can enjoy the kind of freedom and flexibility that used to be available only to successful novelists, artists and inventors—the ability to work when and where they want to.  They can increasingly “vote with their feet,” selecting the kinds of places that best meet their needs without worrying about what they can earn in the local labor market.  Families may gravitate to smaller cities, updated suburbs or rural areas with outdoor amenities, while ambitious young professionals fresh out of college or graduate school are likely to continue flocking to urban centers for entry-level jobs and social life.”

Richard Florida and Adam Ozimek, “How Remote Work Is Reshaping America’s Urban Geography,” Wall Street Journal (March 5, 2011)

And WFH has not been a productivity loss, but a net positive as workers are no longer saddled with long commutes and water cooler chitchat.  Stanford University economist Nick Bloom found as much as a 2.5% productivity lift from remote work.

According to Outreach CEO Manny Medina, 70 to 80% of buyers want a digital experience.

From a sales and marketing perspective, many of the digital practices that boosted SalesTech and MarTech industry revenues over the past year are likely to continue.  There will still be field sales reps calling on top prospects, but there will be more video conferencing and fewer face-to-face meetings than before.  Likewise, tradeshows and user conferences are likely to be smaller or operate more as roadshows rather than large events.  Tent pole events, such as Dreamforce, will return, but less popular events may downsize or remain virtual.  And even the tent-poles are likely to be hybrid events.  For example, Dreamforce has always recorded and posted its sessions for virtual viewing, so will likely combine live and digital best practices at future events.

Deepfake Sales Videos: The Worst Idea I’ve Seen in a Long Time

Katie Martell, a marketing thought leader and former CMO, reported that she was pitched a deepfake video service that clones faces and voices so that sales reps can “create 1000s of personalized videos in the time it takes to make one.”  Of course, the whole idea of these being personalized is ridiculous.  Here is how they describe themselves (I have chosen not to publicize the vendor’s name):

“So basically it creates a clone of your face and voice (also known as a deepfake). Allowing you to create 1000s of personalized videos in the time it takes to make one. Which is amazing to see how far technology has come.

The idea is that video is the by far the most personal way of communicating digitally. Putting a face to the 100s of faceless emails we receive each day can be really powerful for improving engagement. As you can imagine this is huge for sales and marketing teams (and newsletters 😄).”

Deepfakes discussed on NOVA (April 2, 2019)

I don’t normally editorialize in my newsletter, but this is a terrible idea.  For B2B companies and sales reps, authenticity and honesty are necessary for long-term success.  We already know that sales engagement works best when there is a level of personalization matched with authenticity.  Spamming the market with fake videos will quickly undermine your credibility.  Reps have had success posting short videos with whiteboards that say “hello, <insert first name here>.” They are intended to have low production values but indicate that the rep has invested some time into a quick, personalized message.  The point is that they are authentic.  SalesLoft data has shown that emails with short videos receive significantly higher clickthrough rates.

One of the variables that investors look at is LTV/CAC.  Deception will quickly reduce a firm’s Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), but once it is discovered, their Lifetime Value (LTV) will plummet, and their CAC will explode.  It is the sales engagement equivalent of junk food. It will give your company a short-burst of energy but destroy your brand health.

The asynchronous video companies (e.g., Vidyard, Hippo Video, Videolicious) have had great success supporting sales.  Their business models would be put at risk by such technology.  Instead of videos being a harbinger of authenticity and indicators that the rep has invested time creating a short video, they would become emblems of deception.  Likewise, Sales Engagement, MAP, and ABM Platform vendors should refuse to partner with any firms employing deepfakes as they have the potential to undermine ABM communications.

In the end, deepfake marketing will be recognized as SPAM and result in a rapidly dropping email deliverability score.  It would be a pyrrhic victory.

Trust is critical for sales reps.  Reps that deploy trickery will undermine their ability to sell long-term.  They should avoid such deceptions like the plague.  None of the deepfake vendor’s customers agreed to be named, an early indicator that trialers of deepfake technology are concerned about brand damage.

And more broadly, we are already having trouble agreeing on objective truth as social media provide custom feeds and recommendations that conform to our existing biases.  There have always been problems with how photos and videos were cut or manipulated (e.g., slowing down the video to give a drunken appearance, darkening images of black public figures).  Still, deepfakes create false narratives backed by realistic-looking videos that put words in people’s mouths.  It is a new form of slander and factual distortion that will continue to undermine trust in the media, government, and social institutions.

Alyce Partners with Vidyard

Continuing on the Vidyard theme from yesterday, Personal Experience platform Alyce has integrated Vidyard into its e-gifting service.  The Vidyard partnership lets customers record or insert personalized videos “within the Alyce gifting flow, helping sales reps create deeper, more personal bonds and connections with prospects and customers.”

Alyce customers with a Vidyard Enterprise account may insert videos from the Vidyard library or record a custom video that is displayed on the Alyce gift landing page.  Recommended gifts are based on an AI analysis of the “#5to9” experiences of individuals, ensuring that the gift and messaging are better targeted than generic swag and marketing templates.

As Sales Engagement platforms have noted improved open and response rates associated with personalized video, it is likely that customers and prospects will well receive a recorded message.  Alyce claims up to a 50% improvement in click-through rates when personal videos are included in email invitations and a nearly 80% lift in landing page conversion rates.

“Our integration with Alyce provides customers with the ultimate way to deliver end-to-end personal experiences to prospects and customers by pairing personal video and personal gifting in one platform,” said Vidyard VP of Marketing Tyler Lessard. “This partnership strengthens the movement around being personal in marketing and sales, which we and our customers embrace to build rapport and trust through the more engaging combined experience.”

Mutual customers can add a personalized video to Alyce’s email invitations.  The thumbnail and associated video help “put a face to the name, and up your ability to be personal even more.” The video also appears o the gift landing page.

Marketing can deploy campaign-based videos.  For example, a webinar follow-on Alyce message may be sent to webinar attendees or before events.

Alyce does not send a standard, generic item to customers and prospects.  Instead, recipients can choose the recommended item, select an alternate item from the Alyce gift marketplace, or donate the value of the gift to a charity of their choice.

“The Personal Experience approach has a multitude of amazing use-cases to strengthen and enhance building personal bonds and professional relationships to help grow business. Integrating Vidyard personal video into Alyce platform itself to deliver face-to-face PX moments is a game-changer.”

Greg Segall, CEO of Alyce

Direct Marketing swag companies such as Alyce, PFL, and Sendoso seem to be trying out various names for their industry.  Other frequent terms are one-to-one gifting, sending platform, and tactile marketing automation.  Personal Experience seems too far afield as e-gifting usually involves swag, not services.

Alyce is based in Boston and has 170 employees in seven countries.

Vidyard Platform Enhancements

Vidyard redesigned its video creation and collaboration platform with a set of enhanced editing and security features.  New capabilities include a Zoom integration, updates to its video hosting platform, an Android app, video commenting, and single sign-on (SSO) security.  

The service continues to be available on a freemium basis with a series of tiers from free to enterprise (see the pricing table on the right).

Vidyard added new on-screen drawing and highlighting tools to its webcam and screen recording service.  Users can customize videos by highlighting their screens with a variety of brush sizes and colors.  When recording their screen and webcam at the same time, users can move their camera window on-the-fly to avoid covering up important visuals.   Users may also add speaker’s notes, bullets, and talking points “on-screen, directly above their webcam.”

Vidyard updated its iOS app and added an Android app, helping users “record and share videos anytime, anywhere.” Videos may be quickly recorded and shared with a branded video sharing page.  Both the app and desktop applications share a common video library, providing access to the same set of pre-recorded videos.

Viewers can leave comments and replies to shared videos, allowing colleagues and prospects to collaborate, provide feedback, or ask questions.  The senders receive comment notifications to help expedite closing the communications loop.  This feature is available for Pro, Teams, and Enterprise users.

Pro, Team, and Enterprise video users may secure access via private passwords and SSO.

New enterprise features include transcribing, closed captioning, video thumbnail customization, viewer permissioning, and publishing to public and private channels.

A new Zoom integration for Business and Enterprise licensors lets users automatically sync recorded Zoom calls into their accounts once the call completes.  Recording security features include SSO and passwords.  Recorded sessions may be viewed on a dedicated video sharing page.

“Businesses are quickly evolving their sales, marketing, and communications strategies to align with a digital-first communication world.  Video is a huge part of that, as it’s simply more efficient, more expressive, and more effective than standard text.  Today’s businesses need a simpler, smarter, and more scalable way to put the power of video into their people’s hands.  We’re excited to deliver on that need with a new breed of video creation and hosting solutions that turn any business professional into a video creator and any organization into a video-first business.”

Vidyard CEO Michael Litt

“We’re only scratching the surface of how video can be used to create a more connected, engaged, and efficient workforce in the digital age,” said Vidyard VP of Marketing Tyler Lessard. “With the barriers to video creation and sharing all but gone, we’re excited to see how businesses across all markets will capitalize on the power of video in the months and years ahead to enhance everything from sales and marketing to internal communications and employee engagement.”

Vidyard has 220 employees based in Kitchener (Ontario), Vancouver, Boston, and Dublin.  The firm’s conversion rate from freemium to paid has increased during the pandemic.


Tomorrow I will be discussing the Vidyard integration into Alyce’s Personal Experience (gifting) platform.

SalesLoft: Sales Engagement for WFH Sales Teams

I had the opportunity to discuss the benefits of using Sales Engagement Platforms (SEPs) for work from home (WFH) staff with Sunshine Levin of SalesLoft.  Levin emphasized that many Sales Engagement tools assist remote sales reps and managers.  SEPs help with sales productivity, activity and account prioritization, sales messaging, activity capture, pipeline analytics, and rep coaching.

Levin was recently promoted to Director of Customer and Analyst Relations and had expected to be discussing SalesLoft’s new product positioning and product packaging at their March REV2020 conference.  Instead of greeting 2000 customers and prospects in San Francisco, the firm conducted its keynote session virtually and is now communicating their value proposition in a new work environment.

At the heart of Sales Engagement Platforms are multi-channel cadences that provide a multi-step approach to establishing an initial relationship with prospects.  Reps are not only working from home but so are most of their likely targets. Thus, cadences and messaging should be adjusted in the near-term. Reaching out to prospects via standard channels is likely to be low yield due to WFH, so diversifying communications across multiple channels such as phone, email, social, SMS, and tactile (swag and e-gifting) make sense.  

Also, with prospects at home feeling isolated, personalized one-to-one videos are likely to be even more effective.  Reps can insert personal videos into emails or social links. SalesLoft research indicates that videos from Vidyard, Videolicious, and VidGrid generate two to three times the email open rates versus general emails.

While Sales Engagement Platforms offer templated emails, they are more effective if  personalized. SalesLoft’s research found that 20% personalization is optimal.  Personalization helps refine the message for each client and conveys authenticity.  It also allows reps to modify their messaging around the current work, health, and economic environment.

SalesLoft, along with many of its peers, offers LinkedIn SNAP connectors, which are integrated into cadences.  Reps can send InMails, request connections, submit introduction requests, and conduct research from within SEPs and CRMs. 

“LinkedIn-specific steps help salespeople stay focused, do less application switching, and deliver a better sales experience.”

Sunshine Levin, SalesLoft Director of Customer and Analyst Relations

SalesLoft now supports LinkedIn’s Data Validation Flag, which warns users that a contact is no longer at a company listed in the CRM.  If the company differs between LinkedIn and the CRM, a “Not at Company Flag” is written to the CRM. The flag is displayed to the rep and available as a trigger for contact clean-ups and removal from marketing campaigns.  SalesLoft automation rules can then trigger workflows based on whether a buying committee member has left or whether an admin or champion at a customer has changed jobs. These insights help reps evaluate whether an opportunity may be in jeopardy, the likelihood of closing this quarter pushed out, or they need to move quickly to identify new buying committee members or champions.

“Customers leveraging LinkedIn Sales Navigator Data Validation are now able to use real-time insights to influence critical workflows when their prospects and customers change jobs,” said SalesLoft CMO Sydney Sloan.  “Ultimately, this saves time spent reviewing customer data manually, and it will increase the quality of all opportunities as salespeople progress through the buying cycle.”


Continue to Part II of this discussion.

Working at Home — Ideas from Tech Companies

Over the past few days, I’ve suggested ideas for maintaining pipeline and maintaining a positive and constructive outlook. This is now looking like it will last through the spring and potentially into the summer, so let’s be open to new ideas, practices, and routines.

I collected some ideas from those in the tech industry that I follow.

SalesLoft

In this morning’s team meeting the EMEA SalesLoft team discussed how we can keep the culture and mental wellbeing at the forefront while we work remotely…

We are having a daily stand up for 15 minutes, virtual team lunch on a Wednesday and virtual Friday drinks. We are making sure we put time aside for exercise and doing the things we love. We are being mindful of continuing to share ‘glass half full’ stories. We are also looking into what we can do to help with the bigger issue that people are facing in regards to the Corona Virus – local charities, food banks, the elderly.

Ollie Sharpe, SalesLoft VP of Revenue, EMEA

TOPO

A TOPO study of 350+ marketers indicated that only 16% of firms see a significant impact to their pipeline, 64% see a moderate impact due to coronavirus.  The biggest impacts are due to canceled events (87%), corporate travel bans (64%), buyers working from home (53%), and prohibitions against face-to-face meetings.  Only 27% cited buyers not booking meetings and frozen buyer budgets (22%).

TOPO survey (N=350)

ClickZ

Research conducted in 2018 by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research  indicated that B2B marketers who participate in industry events allocated nearly 40 percent of their budgets to exhibitions and industry shows, almost five times more than the 8% spent on online marketing.

Even if only a small fraction of the events’ budgets is shifted to online marketing, it would translate into a massive growth in web marketing.

The major advantage of digital marketing, besides the fact that it does not require face-to-face interaction, is that it is measurable. Marketers can quite easily obtain a good picture of their spending return on investment (ROI), and of which activities generate the highest number of quality leads and at what expense.

Assuming that many marketers will have some extra free time, especially those who will have to go into home isolation, they are advised to use it to review their online marketing strategy and redefine their marketing messages.

Dan Gerstenfield, Interteam Content Services

David Brock

It’s time to pick up the phone. No texts, no emails, no social platforms. Pick up the phone and talk to someone. You are probably dealing with some of the same issues that come with physical separation.

It’s not the time to pitch people, it’s the time to show that you care–about them. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, but ask them how they are doing, ask how they are keeping engaged and productive, share some ideas.

All of us share in this experience. Each of us is figuring things out. We can learn from each other, at the same time feel more connected.

David Brock, Author of “Sales Manager Survival Guide”

Sirius Decisions (Forrester)

  • Create a task force. Except in very large companies or those with specific types of risks, most companies do not have a dedicated crisis response team, and many have never created even a bare-bones crisis communications plan. Now is the time to do so. Bring together functional leaders from across your organization to begin identifying and prioritizing issues, with all major functions and regions represented. The senior communications leader is usually at the helm, and in some smaller organizations, the effort may be led by the CEO. Other participants will likely include human resources, legal counsel, operations/facilities, sales and customer service leaders, and various marketing/communications disciplines that are either directly affected or will be involved in delivering information to audiences. Each individual should have a clear understanding of his or her specific responsibilities.
  • Prioritize issues of greatest urgency. Ensuring the safety of employees, customers and other stakeholders is obviously the priority, and external guidance from public health experts will be important to understand what these issues are…
  • Develop a protocol for emergent situations. Obviously the plan should lay out a set of actions the organization will take immediately, based on what is known today. However, the situation is fluid and it’s not possible to know with certainty what the situation will look like in a month or six months. That’s why it’s important to have a protocol for addressing new situations as they emerge… 
  • Prepare the communications engine. Providing transparent and ongoing communication is the hallmark of good crisis communications. The communications team needs to analyze the types of communication that will be needed to support a variety of scenarios. One of the most challenging aspects of crisis management is the need to create a wide range of critical content, have it vetted by legal and pushed out through channels as quickly as possible. Create templates for common types of content and stub content that can be built-out as needed. Set up an expedited legal vetting process and work with digital teams to identify how content will be conveyed through the company’s owned channels (web site, social, communities). Also prepare spokespeople – from the CEO to the receptionist, with concise answers that can be given without additional approvals or escalation paths.
  • Map communications strategies to audiences. SiriusDecisions always recommends starting with an understanding of the audience, and crisis response is no different…
  • Maintain open communications with employees. A large percentage of the workforce will face some kind of disruption to their normal routines or even their income…One of the first priorities should be to plan for how communications will flow internally: the channels and cadence that employees can expect, as well as where to go if the normal channels (which may occur in a face-to-face environment) are not available. Also remember that employees are a channel, and if you enable them with content, they can extend the reach of your information and credibility with audiences. [Full Text]

Resources

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.

Hippo Video for Outreach

Hippo Video is now offering personalized video to Outreach customers.  The integration helps sales reps include video into their sales process, which in turn increases conversion rates and accelerates the sales cycle.  Sales reps can create, share, and track personalized video content embedded in Outreach sequences, templates, snippets, and one-to-one emails.  Heatmap analytics track user interaction.  Hippo Video also supports a video library.

Videos can be created for each objective across the full sales cycle, allowing sales and marketing to send targeted videos for each stage.  For example, reps can send introductory videos to establish rapport with the prospect and later send a product demo once the prospect has shown interest.

“Videos will go a long way in establishing a personal connection and trust with the recipient as against insipid text-heavy emails,” said Hippo Video CEO Karthi Mariappan.

Hippo Video claims a 300% lift in response rates from embedded videos.  Other firms, such as Vidyard, have found similar lift rates from personalized videos.

Users can also add actionable calls to action (CTAs) within videos, which are then embedded within sequenced emails in Outreach.  CTAs include meeting links, custom polls, annotations, and lead gen forms.  CTAs can be inserted in the middle or at the end of the video.

Integration is described as straightforward:

  1. Sign up for Hippo Video;
  2. Install the Hippo Video Chrome extension;
  3. Turn on Hippo Video in Outreach.  

Reps can then record personalized videos via their webcam and embed them within email templates, snippets, and direct emails.

By seamlessly integrating videos in your sales outreach, your prospects are sure to experience highly personalized, engaging content that will humanize the entire sales process, which would have otherwise been possible only within a face-to-face meeting.

[The] Sales process is spontaneous.  Therefore, integrating sales with video to build a relationship of trust with the prospect should not leave you flustered.  Tracking their interaction [and] qualifying them should be reasonably straightforward as well.

Santhoshi Natarajan, Hippo Video Content Strategist

Prospect behavior is also tracked, allowing reps to prioritize their follow-ups based on views and watch interaction percentage, providing additional intent metrics beyond email open and response rates.

Videos may be analyzed by viewing and drop off points.  “When a prospect drops off the video at a certain point, it’s perhaps time [to] rework your message or focus on a different pain point,” said Natarajan.  “This feature is an added layer on top of your existing metrics and will help you prioritize the prospect who is at the bottom of the sales funnel.”

Hippo Video is a freemium offering.  The free edition provides unlimited hosting but limits bandwidth to 100 GB per month and does not support video emails.  The Pro version ($29 / user / month) provides integrations with Outreach, Gmail, Outlook, and HubSpot.  Other features include professional video editing, custom branding, video cloning, in-video CTAs, contact imports from CRM, and SEO.

Hippo Video allows reps to quickly record a video and send it to prospects via Outreach.

Drift: Chat Qualified Leads

Josh Allen, CRO of conversational marketing vendor Drift, doesn’t believe in Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs).  Chat Qualified Leads (CQLs) are more valuable, argues Allen.  CQLs are “the best leads that we have in the business.” CQLs show immediate intent as they capture prospects as they come to the website and interact with either a chatbot or sales rep. This moment is when they are “at their point of highest intent” and ready to engage with the company.

Allen said that CQLs are the highest converting lead source at Drift.  They are often driven by outbound marketing campaigns and events.  Chat conversations can also be driven by B2B social sites such as executive articles on LinkedIn.

“Because we’re able to engage when they are really trying to learn and are most interested in what Drift has to offer, there is a high conversion rate.”

Drift is a leader in conversational intelligence, a quickly developing market for chatbots, which support sales, marketing, and customer support. Drift also offers chat enabled video.

Vidyard Closes $15M Financing Facility

Vidyard Logo

Before Christmas, video platform Vidyard closed on a $15 million financing facility with the BMO Technology & Innovation Banking Group.  Vidyard has raised $75.7 million in debt and equity financing to date (see Crunchbase Pro chart on the bottom) and was recently ranked number 39 on Deloitte’s Canada Fast 50.  

The funds will “help Vidyard remain focused on innovation and product development while financing strategic M&A & Global Expansion activities so that the company can continue growing, scaling, and providing customers with the most robust user experience possible.”

Vidyard has partnered with a wide set of sales engagement platforms, including Outreach, SalesLoft, ConnectLeader, Groove, XANT, and VanillaSoft.  Other partners include Salesforce, HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, Drift, Outlook, and MailChimp.  Partners have cited a 2 to 3X improvement in open and click-through rates due to personalized videos embedded in emails.  Reps can quickly record a one-to-one video or embed a marketing video.

“Vidyard continues to make a global impact and is currently serving more than 50 million videos per day.  With the accelerating trend of the world’s most innovative businesses turning to video to power their marketing, sales, and internal communications strategies–tomorrow, that number is on a trajectory to exceed 1 billion,” said CEO Michael Litt.  “We’re excited to be working with BMO’s Technology & Innovation Banking Group to help finance strategies intended to support our journey in becoming the dominant video platform provider that the world’s most successful businesses rely on.”

Vidyard customers include Honeywell, LinkedIn, Citibank, and Sharp. A recent study of 218 B2B sales and marketing professionals found the top five uses of video within an organization are brand awareness (67%), lead generation (63%), customer education (63%), buyer education (58%), and sales enablement (54%).  Website distribution was the most common channel (79%), followed by email (67%), LinkedIn (63%), YouTube (60%), and landing pages (59%).  40% of respondents indicated that sales reps were deploying one-to-one videos.  Heinz Marketing and Vidyard conducted the survey.

Vidyard closed a debt financing round on December 20, 2019 (Source: Crunchbase)