Nudge.AI Bows Out with Class

Relationship strength analytics company Nudge.ai folded this week.  Nudge identified the corporate relationship strength with contacts and filtered the open web and social media to provide contact insights.  Relationship strength analytics has long been an area of unfulfilled promise going back to early Relationship Capital Management vendors such as VisiblePath.  LinkedIn is the only major firm that has successfully built such tools.  They provide lead recommendations, referrals, and TeamLink networking with colleagues, but relationship strength is not a focus of their offerings, but more of a side feature in Sales Navigator.

Nudge was available on the SalesLoft and Outreach partner ecosystems and the AppExchange.

One of 22 employee bios posted in the Nudge.ai Thank You coda.

Nudge did something classy when it folded.  It thanked its customers, employees, and investors in its coda.  They also turned their website into a thank you page which highlighted the strengths of each employee and provided a link to his or her LinkedIn profile. Because they were a startup, the bios are based upon knowledge of each employee and serve as a reference from management.

“While we can’t say we are “celebrating” failure today, we are thankful that the journey was possible.  Although the failure itself is sad, it’s only because it is the end of a journey that was so challenging and rewarding.  Every product innovation, customer win, market recognition, or challenge overcome was a step towards a goal we all were working towards.   We didn’t reach that goal, but because of everyone around us, we did have a chance to try.   And that – that chance to try – is worth celebrating.

Nudge.AI celebrating the journey

LeadSpace Fall Release

LeadSpace rolled out its Customer Data Platform (CPD) fall release with improved processing of first-party data, enhancements to their Salesforce app, and refinements to their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) modeling.  Automated ingestion of first-party data and custom data sources deliver unified customer profiles “for use across systems.”  Automated data onboarding assists with AI modeling, scoring and analytics, and enterprise software activation.

“Customers can use data on engagement, product use, relationship, and other information unique to their business to power real-time orchestration of activities and processes,” stated the firm.  “Decisions about how to route leads, assign nurture programs, segment for campaigns, and personalize interactions can now be made with all the intelligence of the CDP and a complete customer view.”

The fall release also supports data hygiene with the sunsetting of Data.com Clean in mid-2020.  Both real-time and on-demand matching and enrichment are supported.  Triggers automatically identify new or updated records and automatically look to match them against the LeadSpace CDP.  At the end of the year, a sync button will be displayed within individual records.

“Getting a complete view of the customer is critical to improving the customer experience for B2B.  Buyers no longer tolerate generic and impersonal content and interactions.  Our Customer Data Platform gives B2B marketers a real path to being able to orchestrate the ideal customer experience at scale.  Improving the ability to ingest 1st party data makes that even more powerful because it is unique to each of our client’s journey with their customers.”

LeadSpace CEO Doug Bewsher

Enhanced ICP Analytics help select the right accounts and personas for ABM targeting.  Interactive, filterable reports display account, contact, and intent data matched against conversion and revenue data to “uncover which categories and segments have performed well historically.”  

LeadSpace On-Demand look-a-like segment building now supports company suppression.

LeadSpace customers include Microsoft, HPE, SAP, Iron Mountain, IBM, and Symantec.

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.

Einstein Service Cloud Voice and Voice Skills

Einstein is embedded within the Salesforce platform, providing tools for users, admins, and developers.
Einstein is embedded within the Salesforce platform, providing tools for users, admins, and developers.

At Dreamforce, Salesforce rolled out a set of Einstein Voice capabilities which will be launching in the coming months. New services include Einstein Call Coaching for sales, Service Cloud Voice, and Einstein Voice Skills for developers and Salesforce admins.

Service Cloud Voice provides an integrated console which unifies, phone, digital channels and CRM data in real-time.  The service also performs real-time voice-to-text transcription allowing Einstein to offer recommended responses, support content, and next best actions.  Service Cloud Voice will enter its pilot phase in February with a June GA date.

“Voice is a huge shift for the industry and will be as impactful in businesses as it’s been in our homes. With Einstein, Salesforce is bringing the power of voice to every business, giving everyone an intelligent, trusted guide at work.”

Salesforce Chief Product Officer Bret Taylor

During an insurance claims call, for example, Einstein would recognize the nature of the claim and pull up the policyholder’s coverage specific to the claim, delivering a faster and superior customer experience.  Next best actions such as additional riders or cross-selling opportunities are presented to the rep.  During its beta, State Farm closed cases 31% faster.

For State Farm, Einstein Voice is tracking both products and Life Events.  Managers can drill down to recent mentions for review and coaching.

80% of consumers stated that speed is the most important element in delivering an “amazing customer experience.”

Finally, the call notes are automatically transcribed for the rep, allowing him or her to quickly move on to the next support call.

“Einstein is specifically designed for simplicity.  It’s designed for Salesforce Admins or Developers to be able to set up for a Salesforce user to be able to understand, and, as a result, folks that use Einstein get real results,” said VP of Einstein Products Marco Casalaina.  “So, how can you become successful with Einstein?  It all starts with a question.  You need to formulate a question that makes sense for your business.”

Questions could be which opportunities will convert, which customers will drop, will a researcher engage with my email, or will the customer buy this item?

Einstein Voice Skills will be in beta in February with a 2021 general availability.  Voice Skills will allow admins and developers to deploy custom voice apps across the Salesforce Customer 360 Platform.  For example, a technician can call up a customer’s service history while en route.

“Each app is purpose-built for the specific needs and processes of each role. Plus, admins can also control how the information will be read back to the user, including the ability to offer next steps or follow-up tasks within the response, and which channels and devices that the skill is accessible on, such [as] smart speakers or phones,” said Salesforce.

Einstein Call Coaching

Einstein Call Coaching Dashboard

Salesforce has been teasing voice services since the last Dreamforce when they launched Einstein Voice Assistant which supports routine Salesforce CRM functions such as creating or updating customer records, getting personalized daily briefings, and exploring dashboards.  This year, they announced Einstein Call Coaching, Service Cloud Voice for transcription and AI-powered recommendation services, and Einstein Voice Skills.

Einstein Call Coaching is currently in pilot and should be generally available as a Sales Cloud High Velocity Sales (SEP) service in June.  Call Coaching utilizes natural language processing against call transcripts.  Managers view “insights and trends within conversational data.”  NLP tags keywords, alerts managers about spikes in competitor mentions, and monitors pricing discussions and objection handling.  Managers can then focus their coaching based upon individual rep needs.

“Companies with dynamic sales coaching programs see 28% higher win rates, unbelievable results.  And Einstein call coaching is your coach.  This is an AI feature that can process audio clips to serve up those key moments for this type of coaching,” said Sarah Patterson, SVP of Product Marketing.  

Being able to track keywords, discussion topics, and competitors should prove highly valuable for one-on-one and team coaching sessions and broader analytics.  Sales reps often fail to record competitor and objection details (or they are trapped in notes).  Even when custom fields are set up to capture these details, they are often weakly populated. Being able to track objections and competitor discussions provides improved coaching and product road mapping input.  This is far better than querying sales reps to be told that they lost on price or aren’t sure who won the deal.

Product tracking and objections also assist with gathering early intelligence following a product launch.  Are the sales reps balking at discussing the new offering, unable to handle objections for which they weren’t trained, or tripping on a missing feature that should have been included in the MVP?

“You launch a new product, but you have no idea whether your reps are actually comfortable selling it,” said Patterson.  “Well, now you are getting the insight you need to know if they are.  And if they’re not, you can lean in to guide them, to coach them, to help them.  More than this, you can even customize this to look for things that matter to your business.”

Call Coaching provides “management-level visibility into key moments during a sales call” allowing the coach to listen to those moments and how the rep handled them.  Those moments are then immediately available for one-on-one review or group coaching.

Call Coaching Insights include tabs for objection mentions, product mentions, talk / listen ratios, and custom topics.  For State Farm Insurance (the Dreamforce demo), this includes life events.

Call Coaching conversation trends help identify market shifts, opportunities for bundled offerings, and emerging competitors.

“73% of managers spend less than 5% of their time coaching their reps, and we wanted to make the most of that time. Einstein Call Coaching helps managers more effectively coach individuals, provides the ability to scale those learnings across teams and gain deeper insights into customer needs and experiences.”

Efrat Rapoport, Director of Product Management, Salesforce Sales Cloud

“Just like athletes can sit down with their coaches and look at video clips, now sales reps can sit down and listen to audio clips,” said Patterson.

Call Coaching also supports a library of best-practice call excerpts for new hire training and sales refreshers.


Tomorrow, I will discuss the other voice tools launched at Dreamforce.

Episerver Acquires Idio

Idio's AI Powered 1:1 Marketing Platform

Web content management vendor Episerver acquired web content personalization and analytics firm Idio.  Episerver will now be able to predict the interests and intent of buyers and deliver “hyper-relevant” content.  The combined company is able to deliver personalized content, product recommendations, product search, triggered emails and messages, and visitor intelligence.  B2B solutions span manufacturing, wholesale and distribution, technology, information services, and financial services.

“At the end of the day, people realize every digital interaction is fueled by a business selling something to them whether the sale is via a shopping cart, a service or a subscription,” said Justin Anovick, chief product officer at Episerver.  “Persuading people to act is not problematic if the business is providing something of value to them but most digital interactions are created for the masses and end up catering to no one.”

“Idio powers 1:1 digital experiences at global scale. This acquisition is the next part of our mission to help our enterprise clients serve their end customers with timely, relevant and cross-channel experiences.  The combined organization, with Episerver’s deep content and commerce expertise and Idio’s predictive and analytical capabilities, make for an exciting future for customer-centric marketers.”

Idio CEO Edward Barrow.  

Idio will continue as a standalone product but will be “merged functionally” with Episerver.

“The combined company, with the financial backing from Insight Partners, intends to aggressively grow our deployment and success teams, as well as a significant acceleration in product innovation to help marketers achieve greater value from customer-centric marketing,” blogged Idio.

No financial terms were disclosed as both companies are private.

Note: Idio slide courtesy of Idio.

Zoominfo Acquires Komiko

Zoominfo (FKA DiscoverOrg), Acquisition History

Sales and Marketing Intelligence vendor Zoominfo acquired Redmond, WA startup Komiko.  The deal extends Zoominfo’s sales AI capabilities with CRM automation, playbooks, lead scores, and predictive analytics.  

Komiko’s analytical and recommendation tools support sales, account executives, and customer success teams.

Komiko’s AI tools are being rebranded as ZoomInfo InboxAI.

“Organizations are realizing that how they manage and leverage data is a strategic function that can accelerate or inhibit lead, pipeline, and revenue generation. While our offering is a SaaS platform for GTM, we feel ZoomInfo is in the business of helping marketing and salespeople hit their numbers. So, when we see an opportunity to build or buy additional capabilities essential to strengthen that edge — as we did with Komiko — it’s an easy decision.”

Zoominfo CEO Henry Schuck

Komiko employs machine learning and data science “to better automate CRM processes.”  InboxAI gathers contact and activity data from email inboxes and calendars and populates the CRM.  The mined intelligence also triggers alerts and generates “analytics essential to supporting renewals, managing new business pipelines, and more.”

Komiko offers a “data-driven platform” which helps reps understand the likelihood of each opportunity closing.  The platform also captures all customer-facing interactions and contacts.  Komiko claims to “make it easy to see who is interacting with the customer and what activities are taking place.”

Komiko data includes the strength of connection with each account (k-score), the relationship of contacts at accounts, the last communication with the account (outbound or inbound), and key contacts at existing accounts.

Komiko integrates sales playbooks into the CRM and recommends when to deploy them.

Current customers will continue to receive the Komiko service with no changes in support or service.

InboxAI is already deployed at Zoominfo.  The firm discovered 60,000 records that had not been logged into Salesforce.  “We found a number of accounts where we were only talking to one buyer – when we know that we need four buyers engaged to get across the finish line. InboxAI not only completes our CRM, [but] it gives us the visibility we need to push the right opportunities at the right time,” said Zoominfo CRO Chris Hays.

Komiko functionality will be integrated into the recently launched Zoominfo powered by DiscoverOrg platform.

Komiko is GDPR compliant and qualifies as a data processor.  It supports the right to be forgotten through a blacklist of blocked emails.  The system also deletes any historical emails related to blacklisted emails.

Komiko does not monitor internal emails and includes an external blacklist for blocked processing.  Thus, HR, Payroll, Board, and Legal department communications will not be ingested.  Komiko does not add Salesforce accounts but employs Salesforce accounts as a whitelist.

Komiko also positions itself as a “dynamic coaching” service which goes beyond informal or “formal, random” processes:

Dynamic coaching is not just a buzz word. It has been proven that taking this approach makes a big impact on win rates. Since taking the dynamic path means defining a formal process combined with your CRM to monitor, evaluate and support your coaching processes…Komiko builds playbooks based on your definition of success, the accounts segments you identify and the input from email capture and CRM. Your playbooks will outline actions that drove success in the past. Each recommended action will include recommended target and its weight (significance) to the overall success. Komiko will enhance your team’s efficiency by triggering call-to-actions based on the customer profile and playbook in real-time.

Komiko website

Komiko claims that clients can “get up and running” within 24 hours after only 30 minutes of work.  They support “customers of all sizes” across software, healthcare, distribution, professional services, and insurance.  Clients include Adecco, Tata Communications, Pemco Insurance, and Chorus.ai.

Terms of the deal were not released.  

How Komiko works

Komiko was founded in 2015 by former Microsoft engineers Hal Howard and Ami Heitner.  Owler lists Komiko’s revenue at $3 million.  However, marketing activity (blogs, LinkedIn) seems to have slowed around three months ago, indicating a firm that was reserving cash for a managed exit.

Komiko has 60 customers and expects to double the count by the end of the year.

According to Komiko CEO Howard, “We want our product to be seen by millions of people.  Our choices were we could take an additional round of venture funding and build our market, or partner with ZoomInfo and use an already-existing go-to-market.  This was the fastest path to that market and to millions of customers.”

“Combining Komiko’s machine learning chops with ZoomInfo’s data pipeline creates a much stronger value proposition than either company could have offered independently, so the combination makes a ton of sense for both,” said Chris DeVore, managing partner at Founders’ Co-op, Komiko’s Seed Round lead investor.

“Everybody dreams of the unicorn exit. And those are all well and good, but the goal of every technology innovator is to get your technology in the hands of as many people as possible,” Howard told GeekWire.

Zoominfo has over 1,100 employees and more than $300 million in revenues.

I’m Kvetching about Grammar Again

“Schoolmarm” Royal Daulton figurine (Source: WannabeEditor on Wikipedia)

I’m starting to feel like the schoolmarm* calling out grammar and spelling errors. I am not normally a stickler about such things, but sales reps and marketers need to do a better job on the basics. I called out marketers a few weeks ago (“How Not to Write a Press Release“) and this week it is sales reps. Here is my letter to Sales Reps:

As you adopt sales engagement tools, you will be sending more emails, but writing fewer words for each email.  Your email templates should be perfectly grammatical, so the 20% that you write to personalize your messages should also be perfectly grammatical.  I’m not seeing this.  Saturday, I received emails from two different tactile marketing companies (the bizarre category name of companies that send direct mail gifts) with run-ons and missing punctuation. 

You do yourself and your company no favors by failing basic grammar checks (I use Grammarly) before hitting send.  Good grammar supports clarity, displays professionalism, and signals that the small things matter.

Here is an example from earlier today:

“Call a play to connect with me for a quick overview and I’ll send you an example NFL team swag item (your team) or a $25 Dinner eGift if you are more of an NHL fan, like myself.”  

The Call to Action from a tactile marketing vendor

If you received this sentence in an email, would you be more or less inclined towards their call to action (CTA) due to the poor grammar and twisted syntax?

Yes, the $25 gift is a strong CTA, but the poor grammar undermines trust. If you can’t do the small things right (e.g. proofing your email), then why would I assume you would get the big things right (e.g. managing the logistics of thousands of individually packaged and personalized eGifts)?

We all make mistakes when writing, and some of us are better than others at the mechanics of the written word. I’m simply suggesting that you do a quick readthrough of what you write before you send it. Using a grammar checking tool is a good backstop.

Another trick: put on our headphones and use Microsoft Word’s read aloud function. Close your eyes and listen for clarity, word choice, and messaging. Yes, this is a timely step; you may want to reserve it for key decisionmakers at ABM accounts, but sometimes you want to slow down to ensure you get things right.

Word choice is also important. When you are unsure whether you are properly using a word, select a different word or type Define <word> into Google or Bing. For emails, simple words should be employed and jargon avoided.

Bing’s first response to Define Kvetching

And to sales engagement vendors, how about some tools to flag style and grammar issues? As you develop AI tools for email, flag both best practices (e.g. Subject line too long, CTA not in the top third of the body, bullet points lower click through rates) and grammar issues.

Let’s write well, not good.


* Readers of the future: In 2019 the term schoolmarm was a bit antiquated and slightly pejorative, but not on the politically incorrect list of phrases. If in 2022 the term enters the list of micro-aggressions, mea culpa.

People.AI Launches The Wire

People.AI announced availability of The Wire, their new artificial intelligence service for sales reps which suggests next best actions. According to the firm, “Like a brilliant personal assistant who’s always on top of his game, The Wire uses AI intelligence to remind you when to follow up on key accounts, suggest next-best-actions, warn you when a rep or account is falling behind, let you know when customer champions switch jobs, and ensure you’re always prepped for every meeting.”

The Wire suggests emerging opportunities, opportunities requiring attention, and champions that have departed to other companies.

The Wire flags opportunities that are in jeopardy of slipping due to inaction.
The Wire flags opportunities that are in jeopardy of slipping due to inaction.

Managers are alerted when sales reps are falling behind targets.  A Rep Ramp Alert “helps you move from data-aware to data-driven, proactively leveraging industry data to guide and coach your teams.”

Ramp Alerts identify reps that are lagging behind best-in-class recent hires and suggest when a one-on-one meeting may be required.
Ramp Alerts identify reps that are lagging behind best-in-class recent hires and suggest when a one-on-one meeting may be required.

The Wire also supports meeting intelligence with meeting prep reminders and post-meeting note capture and CRM sync.


Last Friday, I covered People.AI’s Round C and the company more broadly.

Sparklane Predictive Account Scoring

French Sales and Marketing Intelligence vendor Sparklane released its Predictive Account Scoring Solution for B2B sales.  Sparklane Predict now supports dynamic account scoring based upon Ideal Customer Profiles (ICP), sales feedback, and CRM win/loss data.  The service is currently available in the UK and France with additional European markets in development.

According to the firm, Predict supports a “human-in-the-loop” lead review process which “feeds lead decisions back into the ICP model, providing additional intelligence towards distinguishing between good and bad prospects.”  Predict also collects CRM intelligence on opportunity outcomes, providing an additional basis for model refinement.  

Predict supports bi-directional syncing with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Marketo, and Eloqua.  Sparklane uploads suggested accounts and leads to CRMs and gathers historical outcomes for ICP modeling and dynamic scoring.

Sales Reps are shown list segmentation while reviewing individual leads.  Along with business descriptions and firmographics, reps see fit and need scores.  When reps flag a lead as interesting or not interesting, the decision is fed back into the ICP model.

Sparklane claims that it shortens sales cycles by 28%, increases contract volume by 25%, and improves the business conversion rate by 70%.

Sparklane Predict leverages Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools such as machine learning and natural language processing to dramatically improve sales productivity and customer insights.  Sales rep attention is directed towards accounts and leads most likely to close based on both fit (company attributes) and need (sales triggers such as international expansion, employee growth, or product launches).  Furthermore, automated data enrichment ensures that reps are working with accurate, complete, and current data.

Sparklane Press Release

When building Sparklane models, both win and loss scenarios are employed, providing a more robust model than current customer lists. Along with win/loss scenarios, Sparklane supports other binary outcome scenarios:

  • Account Renew vs. Account Drop
  • Account Upgrade vs. Account Downgrade
  • High Margin Profitable Accounts vs. Low Margin Unprofitable Accounts

Sparklane also supports multi-product line upsell and cross-sell models.

“Unfortunately, many of the vendors now marketing ideal customer profile solutions (ICP) are offering little more than basic prospecting or look-a-like lists under the ICP banner,” said Sparklane CEO Frédéric Pichard.  “A true ICP service begins with both positive and negative accounts so the platform can distinguish between accounts that closed and those that failed to close.  A true model also contains feedback loops from sales reps and the CRM.  It is the addition of feedback that refines the model over time, improving the predictive precision of account scores.”

Sparklane supports nearly 250 customers out of offices in Paris, Nantes, and London.  Last year, Sparklane grew its recurring revenue by 60%.