Slintel Series A

Intent-powered Sales Intelligence vendor Slintel closed on a $20 million round A led by GGV, with participation from Accel, Sequoia, and Stellaris.  The Bengaluru-based company is looking to expand its presence in the US market and strengthen its product.  Slintel, with 100 employees, plans to double its headcount by the end of the year.

The company still has cash from its $4.2 million November seed round but felt it prudent to proceed with an A round earlier than planned.

“We had enough cash in the bank, but investors came to us, and we got a pretty good valuation compared to the previous round, so we decided to take it and use that money to go faster,” said CEO Deepak Anchala.

Revenue grew 5X last year and was on pace to grow 3X before the Series A.  Anchala contends that the growth rate will accelerate with the additional capital.  “With the funding, we’re actually looking at much bigger numbers. We’re looking at 5x in our revenue this year and also trying for 4x revenue next year.”

“Slintel has one of the best go-to-market engines that we’ve seen in any startup, and the consistency with which the team has been able to deliver on their growth targets is commendable.  We’re looking at a company that’s changing the marketing and sales intelligence sphere as we know it, and we couldn’t be happier to be a part of their board,” said Prayank Swaroop, Partner at Accel.

Anchala told TechCrunch that since the round closed six weeks ago, the firm increased its investment in product and marketing.  The advertising budget was increased, with the firm looking to generate prospects via SEO, free tools on the company website, and events.

“The next big wave in the enterprise space is (the) use of AI to rethink processes, and all AI at its core requires data.  I am, therefore, bullish on the entire data stack, including data which is either proprietary or inferred data that is not easy to replicate. Slintel is in the second category. Their ability to predict strong prospects is a relatively unique capability, and it is very easy to sell due to a direct correlation to (the) top line for their customers.”

Alok Goyal, Partner at Stellaris Venture Partners

The Slintel platform delivers technographic and company insights, buying propensity scores, contacts, and lead enrichment.  Slintel identifies thematic intent signals (i.e., sales triggers) such as upcoming contract renewals, companies that show signs of buying their products online, or companies that use their competitors’ products.  Slintel captures hard to detect signals from the web, combines this with other third-party intent signals from its partners, and surfaces these insights via integrations with Salesforce, Pipedrive, HubSpot, Slack and Chrome. 

“Our customers no longer waste precious time and effort reaching out to and targeting the wrong prospects,” blogged Anchala.  “They are able to accurately determine who their high-intent buyers are, whether a target account is already using their competitor’s product / service, when the renewal date for a prospect’s current solution is coming up, or the budget restrictions that they have.  All this and more, even before scheduling a discovery call with them.”

Slintel “mines buyer insights,” said Anchala.  “We understand where the buyers are in their journey, what their pain points are, what products they use, what they need, and when they need it. So we understand all of this to create a 360-degree view of the buyer that you provide these insights to sales and marketing teams to help them sell better.”

Technology intent is based upon digital footprint tracking that analyzes when new technologies have been adopted or dropped.  Technographics span 25,000 technologies across fifteen million companies and are updated weekly.  AI models project when contracts come up for renewal, which technologies are likely to be purchased next, and when they will move forward with the purchase.

Thematic intent is based on keyword analysis that suggests company pain points.  Slintel “analyzes how many times companies have been talking about a certain keyword [and] how frequently and recently they have been emitting this pain point.”

Propensity-to-buy scores are derived from over twenty-five variables, including contract renewal dates, technology adoption/churn, keyword Intent, budgetary spending, and hiring trends.

“We have taken a contrarian approach by focusing on the buyer funnel, which is an inverse of the sales funnel,” said Anchala.  “We analyze buyer journeys and buying patterns of companies to capture early signals of buyer intent.”

“While most other data intelligence platforms provide insights based on search patterns, Slintel’s proprietary algorithm provides prospect recommendations based on technographics-powered buying intent,” states the firm.  “Using Slintel, you can predict who’s about to purchase your product and market or sell your product to prospects even before they move on to the research phase of their buying journey.”

Slintel has employees across ten cities in India and the US, with plans to remain a remote-first organization.

Slintel has been growing headcount rapidly over the past two years (Source: LinkedIn).

Slintel also announced that Hans Tung, Managing Partner at GGV Capital, joined their Board of Directors.

“With the global pandemic completely changing the way companies operate, B2B transactions have gone more digital than ever before,” stated Tung.  “Inside sales teams are closing high-value, multi-million-dollar deals while working remotely, and products like Slintel are enabling companies to do this by helping them reimagine their entire sales process for today’s environment.”

Drift Announces Fastlane Webform / Chatbot Hybrid

Revenue Acceleration vendor Drift rolled out a pair of sales enablement tools to facilitate rapid qualification and lead routing: Fastlane lead forms and Sales Seat intent and engagement alerts.

Drift Fastlane transitions a webform into an immediate chat for high-scoring visitors.

Fastlane combines traditional lead forms with chatbots to create “conversational forms.”  Prospects fill out a lead form with contact information enriched, scored, and routed to the Drift chatbot for high-scoring leads.  Thus, high-scoring prospects immediately move to sales rep conversations from the website.

Low scoring leads are passed to nurture or “other automated activations.”

“As a result, sellers can focus on high-converting buyers while routing lower-priority leads to nurture campaigns or other automated activations,” wrote Drift.  “The net outcome results in more qualified sales pipeline, an efficient workflow for sales reps, and overall revenue acceleration for the organization.”

If the buyers are too busy to speak immediately, they can schedule a meeting through the chatbot. Likewise, if the rep isn’t available for chat, the bot can schedule a meeting after collecting additional prospect intelligence.

It may seem odd that a firm that is a #noforms proponent would choose to begin offering forms, but not all marketers are ready to eliminate forms. 

“For most marketers, it’s the number one source of leads that they drive for their sales team.  And if they didn’t have that, sales teams would be on the hook to create nearly all of their own pipeline – which is very inefficient.  So we realized we had to do more.  We have to support our customers in every way that they work. From the inbound motion that relies on forms to the outbound motion for customers who can’t rely on marketing alone to hit their numbers.”

CEO David Cancel

There are also scenarios where a form makes more sense than a bot.  Registering for a webinar works better as a form than a bot as it is transparent about the requisite data entry.  Likewise, enabling forms with optional bots increases their flexibility and value.


Continue to Part II which discusses Sales Seat and the importance of rapid sales responses for inbound leads.

Outreach Closes $200M Round

Sales Engagement Platform vendor Outreach closed on a $200 million financing round that values the firm at $4.4 billion and brings total funding to $489 million.  The round trebled its market cap over the past year.

Premji Invest and STEADFAST Capital Ventures led the round.  Other new investors include Tiger Global Management, Sequoia Capital Global Equities, Vista Public Strategies, and one of the largest U.S. asset managers based on the West Coast.  Existing Outreach investors, including Salesforce Ventures, Lone Pine Capital, Sands Capital, Mayfield Fund, DFJ Growth, and Trinity Ventures, also participated in the round.

Outreach continued its rapid growth during the pandemic, with B2B firms looking to operationalize their sales outreach, improve remote coaching, refine forecasts, and monitor sales activities and engagement. 

The firm more than doubled Q1 ARR year-over-year and has signed 18 of the top 24 fastest-growing public software companies.  ARR is around $125 million, according to Nathan Latka.  LinkedIn shows them adding sixty employees a month over the past three months.

Outreach has grown to more than 871 global employees, with recently opened offices in Prague and London.  The firm is based in Seattle and has a San Francisco office.

Data Collected by Nathan Latka based on a June 1, 2021, interview of Manny Medina.

At their Unleash user conference last month, they released their real-time conversational intelligence platform Outreach Kaia along with Outreach Insights, their buyer emotive signals and sentiment service.

Outreach Success Plans, which is currently in beta, was also unveiled at Unleash.  Success Plans align buyers and sellers to improve action and predictability.  They act as a buying hub that allows buyers and sellers to agree on shared success criteria, objectives, and timelines.  Success Plans also support shared access to project resources, allowing new demand unit members to quickly access project documents.

“This past year represents a true moment of maturity for Outreach – we are now a mission-critical part of the revenue tech stack for customers. The bets we made years ago, including significant investments in artificial intelligence combined with prospecting, closing, and customer success capabilities integrated into one holistic platform, are what revenue organizations need most right now to be successful. We continue to lead and expand the vision for sales engagement. Now, we are poised to deliver more meaningful business outcomes for our customers than ever before – from the rep to the CRO and from small businesses to the enterprise.”

Outreach CEO Manny Medina

Outreach will deploy the additional funds to expand its sales and marketing functions to meet “the growing demand” for its Sales Engagement Platform.  Funds will also be used to build, acquire, and deliver “new revolutionary technologies.”  Finally, the funds will support expansion plans and new market investments.

“Over the past five years as I’ve served on the board, Outreach emerged as a definitive standard for sales and customer engagement – proven by thousands of companies that use Outreach every day as a critical component of their workflow and their tech stack,” said Karan Mehandru, Managing Director of STEADFAST and Outreach board member. “Companies across every industry are reaccelerating growth and hiring post-pandemic and embracing intelligent automation to power their revenue teams.”

Mehandru told Bloomberg that he expects to see multiple sales software startups succeed with “multiple winners in the category.”  Mehandru likened Outreach to a modern-day Salesforce.

“If (Salesforce CEO) Benioff were to start a sales company today, it would look a lot more like Outreach,” stated Mehandru. Mehandru did not forecast when an IPO would take place but said, “We do think going public is an important event in the company’s cycle.”

Manny Medina LinkedIn Post (June 2, 2021)

D&B Rev.Up ABX Integrated with Folloze

Continuing my discussion of the launch of D&B Rev.Up ABX.


Dun & Bradstreet also announced that the Folloze B2B personalized marketing platform is fully integrated into D&B Rev.Up ABX.  Folloze is available in both standard and advanced editions.

The D&B Data Cloud personalizes Folloze for landing pages from both inbound and outbound prospects. D&B customer profile data supports campaigns executed on display, email, or via sales outreach.

With Folloze, Rev.Up ABX customers can create and launch “data-powered, personalized omnichannel experiences across the entire buyer journey.”  Folloze captures first and third-party account and individual behavior analytics which are fed back to the CDP.  Folloze can also orchestrate targeted campaign activities across sales, account development, and channels.

The Folloze Buyer Experience Platform

“B2B buying and selling has changed forever,” said Eric Bauer, Chief Growth Officer at Folloze.  “Today’s digital-first buyers want to be treated as partners – not campaign targets.  As such, creating the engaging account-based experiences across the entire buyer journey represents the new table stakes for every marketing team.  Our alliance with Dun & Bradstreet makes it easy for marketing and revenue teams to retool and quickly deliver dynamic contextual experiences across a wide range of digital touchpoints.”

Companies that deployed Rev.Up ABX include Thomson-Reuters, Schneider, Citrix, Rackspace Technology, and Sierra Wireless.

D&B Rev.Up ABX is GA across all five modules (the four channels plus the Advanced edition that combines the four).  The Folloze integration will GA in June.

D&B Rev.Up ABX pricing starts at $30,000. This fee includes the ability to acquire data from the Data Cloud and the embedded CDP (D&B Lattice) along with a single channel to activate a campaign such as email, sales, or web. Other Standard features include visitor intelligence, lead form enrichment, a seat of D&B Hoover’s, Salesforce and MAP import connectors, Salesforce Buyer Insights (10 seats), the Outreach connector (10 seats), analytics, and programmatic audience building.

The Advanced edition applies to clients looking to license at least three modules.  It supports broad data ingestion, social activation, paid search, and real-time visitor intelligence feeds to content management systems, along with all four channels.

D&B Rev.Up ABX 90 Second Demo (YouTube)

D&B Rev.Up ABX Launched (Part II)

D&B Rev.Up ABX supports four channels supported by Dun & Bradstreet’s Lattice CDP and Data Cloud.  Users may license one or multiple packages or an advanced package that supports all of the channels.

Continuation from yesterday’s blog.

With D&B Lattice at its core, Rev.Up ABX supports AI-driven models for defining ideal buyers and their individual and account-level buying journeys.  Marketers define the goals, segmentation, criteria, and historical period for the model (e.g., four quarters of historical records), and Lattice builds and scores across the segment.  These models assist with building targeted audiences of buyers ready to engage across various stages of their journey.

Once a model is built, marketers can create and activate campaigns across channels.  For example, an awareness campaign can be activated across paid social, Google ads, and Google search for either accounts or contacts.  Lattice manages scheduled audience updates so that marketers do not need to manually update the activated segment.

Likewise, lower scoring leads triggered by website visits can be nurtured in Marketo, while higher scoring visitors are routed to Outreach as sequences or tasks.

Company-level analytics show the engagement journey across stages, contacts engaged, engagement activity, pages visited, firmographics, intent signals, and SDR alerts.

The D&B Lattice Model Builder score and rates contacts by estimated lift

The suite is GDPR and CCPA compliant with opt-in/opt-out flags shared across activation channels.

D&B Rev.Up is supported by the D&B Data Cloud, which includes

  • 420 million global companies and 37 million corporate linkages
  • 220 million global contacts, of which 54 million are C-level.
  • Digital identities spanning over 4 billion IP addresses, 22 million URLs, and over 500M devices ids.
  • 17 million technology products used by 13 million companies.
  • 3,500 intent topics spanning 14 billion digital signals.
  • Third-party alternative data sets with pre-assigned D-U-N-S numbers to ensure proper matching.

Firmographics and Technographics are available for all offerings, with intent data available for all but the Web edition in the default package (it is available in the advanced).

Rev.Up ABX is data agnostic, allowing revenue operations teams to deploy third-party licensed data sets such as G2.

Rev.Up ABX supports lookalike modeling, while the other products support three lead scoring and three account scoring models.  Lookalike contacts may be sent to D&B Lattice, D&B Hoovers, or MAPs.

The D&B Rev.Up ABX Dashboard

Continue to Part III for a discussion of the Folloze partnership and product pricing.

D&B Rev.Up ABX Launched

Dun & Bradstreet launched D&B Rev.Up, a new RevTech product line that brings together first and third-party data in “an open and agnostic platform that aligns teams, data, and technology to deliver relevant and engaging buyer experiences for target accounts.”  The datasets are unified via D&B Lattice, the CDP Dun & Bradstreet acquired in 2019.

The first offering is D&B Rev.Up ABX, which supports “first- and third-party data, activation capabilities and measurement, on top of its industry-leading customer data platform (CDP), giving sales and marketing teams a singular view of an account from targeting to revenue.”

“As sales and marketing leaders move to shared revenue responsibility, it becomes important to gain a common view of the customer throughout the buying lifecycle,” said Dun & Bradstreet CMO Stacy Greiner.  “We designed D&B Rev.Up ABX to simplify marketing and sales workflows by providing data, targeting, activation, and measurement in one platform, using an open architecture that allows teams to complement and capitalize on existing investments.”

D&B Rev.Up ABX aligns teams, data, and technology.

The new ABM service supports a channel-agnostic, “360-degree view” of accounts, contacts, campaigns, and sales plays.  Four ABX channels are supported:

  1. D&B Rev.Up ABX for Ads deploys paid media campaigns across demand-side platforms (DSPs) and social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Ads, theTradeDesk, Google Video & Display360, Verizon Media, Xandr, and MediaMath.  ABX for ads is available as either a managed service or a self-serve option.  The managed services option supports media, data, execution, and analytics.

    Revenue teams can target by role, firmographics, technographics, and intent data.  They can then engage audiences via programmatic advertising, paid search, and social media.
  2. D&B Rev.Up ABX for Web supports visitor intelligence, tying visitor activity to accounts across both offices and homes.  The service also pre-populates shortened forms, personalize websites, and deploys a tracking pixel to tie engagement back to D-U-N-S Numbers

    Because users select the company name from a type-ahead, drop-down list of names and addresses, the user only needs to enter a partial company name.  Dun & Bradstreet then enriches the record with firmographics, linkage, and D-U-N-S numbers.  According to Andrew Berg in Dun & Bradstreet Analyst Relations, the “waterfall matching technology” combines IP, cookie, and API matching logic.  The API type-ahead drop-down matching is completed in under 200 milliseconds after the first two characters are entered into the company name field on a form.
  3. D&B Rev.Up ABX for Sales builds lists for sales teams, rates opportunities, and activates sales plays with connectors to SalesTech solutions.  ABX for Sales supports predictive analytics, propensity modeling, sales plays, sales recommendations, and buyer propensity tracking.  SDRs may engage customers and prospects via Outreach sequences.  SalesLoft support is planned for later this year.

    Sales Engagement sequences can be driven by first and third-party intent, marketing engagement data from MAPs, and Folloze engagement.
  4. D&B Rev.Up for Email builds targets audiences and activates email campaigns via Marketo, Eloqua, HubSpot (June GA), and Pardot (June GA).  Functionality includes campaign building, opt-in/opt-out support, and engagement analytics.

Analytics partners include Google Analytics, Optimizely, Adobe Target, and Adobe Analytics.  Other partners include Outreach and Salesforce.

“Teams aren’t trapped in a single, enclosed platform like other tech on the market.  D&B Rev.Up ABX integrates and works with their existing Martech and SalesTech so that they can activate in one channel, many, or all of them in a consistent and orchestrated way. They gain the power of the Data Cloud and our CDP, while also being able to use tools they already have,” blogged Greiner.  “This openness and flexibility helps teams to work efficiently and means they can maximize previous investments and use dollars wisely.  You can choose the full power of D&B Rev.Up ABX, or use it just in one channel – ads, email, web, sales plays – and then scale up to achieve a coordinated conversation with buyers everywhere they’re likely to engage.”


Part II discusses Rev.Up ABX modeling.

Artesian Solutions Engagement Signals

Artesian Solutions released Engagement Signals, a set of bespoke rules for its Connect platform.  Engagement Signals deliver “a constant supply of highly relevant intelligence and insight on their clients to facilitate advanced prospecting, customer monitoring, efficient onboarding, ongoing assessment of portfolio risks, and automated underwriting.”

Artesian Connect applies customer “Know-How” to structured and unstructured data, identifying “highly targeted calls to action.”  Engagement Signals combine triggers with Next-Best-Actions related to accounts.

We make it a priority to listen to our users and evolve our platform to solve their highest value challenges and ability to deliver transformational results. Financial Service organisations are now in a position where they must urgently transform their digital business strategies. With Artesian Connect, modern frontline banking and insurance teams can rapidly merge disparate data sources, create bespoke rules for risk selection utilising rich firmographic data and, most importantly, deliver insight from unstructured data that paints a much deeper picture for next-generation client experiences. Engagement Signals represent a simple way for our users to leverage the power of the Connect Platform through a pre-built set of features and rules.

Rich Clark, Artesian VP of Product Development

Artesian also launched a new Briefing Page that provides a snapshot of a company’s health,  financials, and signals.  At the top of the Briefing Page are financials and ownership flags, followed by Engagement Signals.  A set of tabs below Engagement Signals lets finance and sales professionals review the latest news, data, blogs, tweets, and pinned stories.

The Company Briefing provides current financials and Engagement Signals.

RollWorks Journey Stages

ABM Platform RollWorks announced Journey Stages.  The new feature “gives B2B marketing and sales teams deeper insight into the impact of go-to-market activities on account progression.”

Journey Stages determines the stage of the buying journey and activates stage-specific, multi-channel campaigns based upon this intelligence.  Journey Stages helps revenue teams “uncover insights about account journeys, measure account progression and regression, and understand key drivers and trends for any velocity changes between stages.”

Journey Stages lets sales and marketing professionals target and orchestrate multi-channel account-based campaigns based upon the journey phase.  Journey Stages tracks account progression based upon custom definitions across the full customer lifecycle.

RollWorks Journey Stages Account Progression.

“For example, if a bulk of your accounts are ‘unaware,’ you may prioritize brand programs over lower funnel plays,” blogged RollWorks Lead Product Manager Mark Miller.  ”If you see that a bulk of your accounts are ‘aware,’ you’ll likely focus on pulling them down the funnel with different offers. Essentially, you’ll have the information you need to toggle certain programs and budgets on and off at the ready.”

“We’re eager to bring this robust set of identification and measurement features to market,” said Justin Cooperman, VP of Product at RollWorks. “With Journey Stages and additional journey functionality shortly to come, RollWorks gives marketers a new layer of end-to-end insights to help them better understand the impact of their Account-Based campaigns, enabling finer tuning of their ABM programs for pipeline progression and revenue growth.”

Journey Stages is currently in beta, with GA scheduled for Summer 2021.

ZoomInfo Engage

On its earnings call last week, ZoomInfo provided further color on its Workflows and Engage products that leverage ZoomInfo’s content for sales and marketing automation.  Along with company and contact data, ZoomInfo supports visitor intelligence, intent data, and events

Since its founding, ZoomInfo has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in “to drive material improvements in the way we gather, normalize, match and cleanse that data with the use of AI and Machine Learning.”  ZoomInfo has expanded the breadth and depth of its content and built a “fully scalable platform that powers the digitization of how companies go to market” across departments, funnel stages, and the customer lifecycle.

“Our platform starts with our market-leading and highly accurate data layer, delivers critical sales insights and signals, automates best actions with our next generation workflow software and our tightly integrated activation layer, Engage. This integrated suite of data and software helps businesses of all sizes and across all industries activate targeted opportunities in an efficient, scalable, and repeatable way,” stated CEO Henry Schuck.  “As we continue to invest in automating workflow, expanding the coverage and quality of the data we publish, and leveraging that data asset across our platform’s application stack, we are building a wider and wider moat around the company.”

Engage Notes and Engagement Insights

During Q1, ZoomInfo expanded the platform integration with Engage, their Sales Engagement service.  Enhancements include the ability to “search and import contacts from ZoomInfo and Salesforce into Engage and allowing users to configure target market buyer personas to receive an automated feed of recommended contacts to pursue.  Only a month after release, 40% of active users have taken advantage of these expanded touchpoints.

The also released Workflows enhancements that simplified the creation of Workflows based upon a Trigger / Actions / Filters structure.  Workflows support actions across CRMs, MAPs, SEPs, and Engage.

A recruitment product, currently in beta, will be launched in June, just in time to take advantage of post-pandemic hiring growth in the US.  The Recruiter service includes Engage and supports “a digital motion from candidate sourcing, to candidate engagement, to interview.”  Multiple ATS (applicant tracking systems) will be supported.

Engage ACV doubled over the past quarter, with a 25% increase in usage of the core ZoomInfo platform among joint licensors, with Engage driving higher renewal levels.

Engage is still a new product and only represents “a tiny, tiny percentage of our customer base.”  However, the market signals are strong, and ZoomInfo sees a “strong upside” with the offering.  They have been receiving “great feedback from the customers who are on it.”

“We also see the benefits of this adoption within our retention and renewal numbers where customers who are dual users of Engage and ZoomInfo have materially higher renewal and retention rates than those who are ZoomInfo only customers.  This is one of the most exciting things about the Engage platform: It has multi-area benefits.  Customers buy Engage, which increases the adoption of both Engage and ZoomInfo.  And investment behind Engage has material benefits across our Recruiter and International packages, where that product is a built-in offering.”

ZoomInfo CEO Henry Schuck

`ZoomInfo offers a sales engagement service and integrates with two of the leading SEPs: Outreach and SalesLoft.  Justin Withers, SVP of Strategy & Corporate Development, described the company as “Switzerland in terms of data and intelligence.”  ZoomInfo customers can choose to deploy Engage for their sales teams or other vendors.  In either case, they benefit as they provide leads (ZoomInfo Company and Contact Data), signals (ZoomInfo Scoops and Streaming Intent), workflows (ZoomInfo Workflow), and activation across leading platforms.

“If an intent signal comes in for an account, and the topic is relevant for the customer, the signal can fire a workflow with ZoomInfo data and add to a sequence in Outreach, SalesLoft, or Engage,” Withers told GZ Consulting.

Ethics and the Art of the Sale

Happy Mother’s Day. I wrote this blog about six years ago, but it is no longer available online, so I thought I’d republish it here with a few minor updates.


Clark Stanley, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

My mother was a highly successful sales rep in two different capital goods industries for several decades.  She regularly noted how important her reputation was in building her pipeline across her territory.  From her perspective, acting unethically was severe short-term thinking.  You were better off telling a customer that they should go to a competitor for a specific product if you can’t meet their needs than to shoehorn in a solution that only damages your reputation and that of your firm.  While fibbing (using my mom’s polite term when she caught us in a lie) might close a few more deals early on, once you have been found to be slippery with the truth you are unlikely to close more sales at that account. 

My mother worked her territory for over a decade and didn’t win any significant business at some prospects for the first few years.  At the outset, her company had little market presence in the region. But she hung in there and sold a few beachhead deals that solved niche problems.  It was with this long-term approach that she slowly built trust with her new customers.  They then brought her in when new RFPs were being written – she had earned their trust.

Because she sold capital goods to only three segments (Hospitals, Nursing Homes, and Universities), she approached the market with an Account Based Marketing (ABM) perspective.  Each account represented a series of opportunities over the next five to ten years.  She treated each account with respect and built her relationships well ahead of RFPs. She intuitively understood Lifetime Value (LTV).

It is only with a reputation for integrity that you can expect to be called when an exec moves to another company. 

It is only with integrity that you will be asked to advise on an RFP. 

And it is only with integrity that customers will be willing to take referral calls for you or recommend you to their colleagues.

Being shady eventually backfires.  Who is going to call you back when you have failed to deliver on your promises?  It can be a scorched earth approach that is contrary to today’s ABM focus.  With ABM, there are a limited number of top accounts within your territory which are to be nurtured and grown.  Playing fast and loose with the truth, delivering shoddy products and services, or failing to live up to your promises will undermine your reputation at key accounts and erode your brand value.

It can even backfire quickly.  One time, my mother responded to a state RFP with aggressive pricing she knew her competitor was unlikely to match.  She attended the bid award meeting and was shocked to find she was underbid.  As state bidding is open, she reviewed the competitor’s bid and found they had substituted refurbished equipment for new even though the RFP barred used equipment.  She contested the bid on the grounds that the firm had failed to comply with RFP requirements and was later awarded the multi-year contract.  Not only did her competitor lose the contract in question, but it undermined its reputation at the state purchasing department.

Ethical Competitive Strategy

When training sales reps, I also emphasize staying “above the fray”.  Besmirching a competitor’s product also sullies your reputation.  It shows a lack of class and a sense of desperation.  It is much better to position the value of your offering and focus on areas of differentiation than it is to throw mud.  You should lay landmines for competitors, not besmirch their reputation. 

A landmine is simply an emphasis upon those features and benefits where your product or service offering excels.  The goal is to frame the discussion around the dimensions in which your product provides superior value to the end user.  Keep in mind that value is dependent upon the customer in question, so you need to factor in job function, industry, company size, etc.  Also, be careful to select areas in which your firm excels overall, not dimensions in which you are superior to competitor X that is vying for the deal but inferior to competitor Y.  Otherwise, you may later find out you lost the deal to Y.

Likewise, you should expect your competitors to be laying landmines for your sales reps.  They need to understand where these mines are laid and how to diffuse them.

One tool I recommend is the quick parry.  This is a quick response to the question, “how are you better / different than company X?”  A quick parry is only three or four sentences and usually begins by saying something positive about the competitor before transitioning with a BUT or HOWEVER.  The positive item can be a recognition of some dimension in which they are the acknowledged leader or a dimension that is of limited importance to the customer in question.  Thus, if you are selling to an SMB, you might emphasize the breadth of their solution for enterprise customers vs. the ease of use, quick implementation, and pricing models you offer for smaller firms.  Such a tool differentiates your service from the competitor without throwing mud.

Sales Tools

While modern sales tools don’t make sales reps more or less ethical, digital tools allows them to focus on relationship building instead of cold calling and administrative tasks.  When I’ve shown my mother the current generation of sales tools, she becomes jealous of today’s sales reps.  Think about

  • How much closer she would have been to her customers had she been able to review profiles for each company; seen detailed lists of contacts with titles, emails, and phone numbers; and received daily email alerts with account and prospect sales triggers.
  • How much less time she would have spent filling out monthly pipeline reports (three-part carbon forms) had account intelligence been integrated into a CRM.
  • How easily she could have reached out to clients via email or social media by quickly leveraging a trigger.
  • How much faster she would have learned that a key contact moved to another company and planned her strategy accordingly.
  • How she would have benefited by viewing her accounts and prospects displayed on a map to assist with road trip planning.
  • How she could have mapped out the demand unit, identified gaps, and tracked engagement with revenue and sales intelligence tools.

What about the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) strategy?  I tend to dislike it unless it addresses a true pain or fear of the buyer.  When I worked at MCI back in the ‘90s, one of AT&T’s strategies was to emphasize their reputation and solidity.  We used to refer to it as the “Nobody ever gets fired for recommending AT&T strategy”.  It addressed the inherent risk aversion of recommending an upstart over the industry behemoth.  Such a strategy often works best for incumbents as it allows them to focus on their strengths (e.g. experience, stability, breadth of solution, zero transition costs).  Upstarts using FUD need to make sure that they don’t come across as mocking the larger firm instead of emphasizing their strengths as an upstart (e.g. innovation, flexibility, focus).

When training your sales reps, make sure they fully understand your value proposition and those of your competitors.  Reps should only be discussing competitors when directly asked about them.  Landmines and quick parries emphasize your value proposition and differential value while avoiding the pitfalls of mudslinging.  My mother understood these truths four decades ago.


Happy Mother’s Day. I also posted a blog about her sales career in 2016.