Exceed.AI Seed Round for AI Lead Conversions

AI Lead Conversion start-up Exceed.AI closed on a $4 million seed round led by Glilot Capital and West Fountain Global Fund.  Also participating were Alex Pinchev, former President of Red Hat, and Gur Shomron, the chairman of Israel’s WalkMe.  Funds will be deployed to expand into new markets and onboard additional marketing clients.

Exceed.AI pulls lead information from Marketo, Eloqua, HubSpot, Pardot, Salesforce, and SugarCRM to assist with conversations.  Features include an AI chatbot, SMS chatbot, email response bot, CRM synchronization, and an automated meeting scheduler.  Exceed also offers rules-based lead qualification and the ability to respond to questions.  Exception handling features include out-of-office follow up and no-show follow up.

“Some of our clients have seen up to a 39.5% increase in qualified leads for the same marketing efforts they already undertake without additional headcount,” said CEO Ilan Kasan. “Our strength lies in our multi-channel approach.  We reach audiences where crucial conversations occur when marketing teams are qualifying their leads.”

Exceed research found that out of office follow up results in a fifty percent lift in lead qualification.  They recommend a “short, cheery” welcome back email two days after the lead returns to the office before resuming the previous drip campaign.

“In a perfect world, every lead gets engaged by a human, but human follow-up isn’t scalable, and sales reps give up on leads too quickly,” said the firm. “So the majority of your leads are left untouched and sales opportunities are missed.”

Exceed noted that 44% of reps give up after one or two touches, leaving many leads to go fallow.  Bots will continue the touches, waiting for engagement.

“Robots are very good at speed, working at scale, they never get tired, they never complain, they’re persistent and they can process huge amounts of information,” Kasan explained to Entrepreneur. “Humans are good at relationships, feeling empathy. They’re very good at understanding nuance in complex situations.  Everything the robots are good at, humans hate doing and actually are not that good at doing.  And everything that humans know to do, robots don’t know to do.  This in essence is a partnership whereby the robot will automate all the manual repetitive tasks so the humans can focus on doing what they know to do best, which is closing deals, having conversations and having relationships.”

Sales reps should focus on tasks that require “critical thinking and evaluation,” blogged Head of Marketing, Billy Attar.  Conversely, “all tasks that can be handled by automation should be automated.”

“As a Sales Manager, you need to maximize the time your reps spend on tasks that require real human insight – the insight only they are qualified to give, ultimately representing the value they bring to the company.  Those human insights include researching prospects and evaluating each leads’ needs, interests and objections, answering their asked and unstated questions… all the things that Sales Reps and SDRs are supposed to do.”

Exceed.AI Head of Marketing Billy Attar

Exceed.AI lists Demandbase, SugarCRM, Hearst, The YMCA, and Universal Robots as clients.  Exceed.AI is located in Israel and Sunnyvale, CA.

Monthly pricing starts at $1,500 for 20,000 leads and unlimited use cases (campaigns).

Clari Revenue Insights

Revenue Operations vendor Clari announced Relationship Insights, its new Revenue Intelligence service.  Relationship Insights adds “visibility into all the buyers and sellers actively involved in sales pursuits.”  The new service helps revenue professionals assess the “true health of account relationships, more effectively manage their territories, and lead their teams in the new remote selling era.”

Relationship Insights ends the manual auditing of accounts by sales managers and interrogations of sales reps about customer and prospect relationships.  Relationship Insights lets them understand

  • Who are we talking to?
  • Are we single or multi-threaded at the account?
  • When was the last time we interacted with the executive buyer?
  • Have we engaged with the CFO?
  • Do we have the right internal SMEs working on this account?

“Our data shows that deals over $250k require an average of 19 external stakeholders to close successfully,” said Clari CEO Andy Byrne.  “With Relationship Insights, we’re providing total visibility to revenue teams so they can drive exceptional execution in their deals, accounts, and territories across their entire revenue process.”

Buying Groups: The New Norm for B2B Sales,” Clari, December 3, 2020.  Based on Closed-Won Deals.

Smaller deals require significant relationship building as well.  A Clari analysis of closed-won deals found that opportunities up to $50,000 required relationships with an average of seven external stakeholders.  Successful deals between $50,000 and $250,000 averaged ten relationships between the company and demand unit members at the closed opportunity.

“Buying groups are not only getting larger, [but] they’re also diverging in personal and organizational priorities. Sellers need to navigate this big group of influencers and decision-makers, including business line managers, IT practitioners, executives, and finance leaders.”

Hila Segal, Clari VP Product Marketing

Relationship Insights provides sales reps and sales management with a deeper understanding of the demand unit, letting them see all sales activities, including emails, meetings, and file exchanges.  This monitoring helps ensure that “all selling motions are multi-threaded.”

“An in-depth understanding of your customer relationship landscape is critical for building full buying consensus, reducing cycle time by uncovering potential blockers earlier, and increasing win-rate by getting multi-threaded (building relationships with multiple stakeholders) when your competition may have only relied on one or two contacts.”

Clari VP of Product Marketing Hila Segal

Clari Activity risk tracking identifies the risk of disengagement, providing reps the opportunity to re-engage before the deal goes south.  

“It’s not enough to see who is engaged. You need to understand the strength of the relationship over time—how many meetings did you have with a key individual, when was the last time you met with them, when is the next time you’re scheduled to connect, have they been responding to emails,” argued Segal.

Account auditing ensures that the primary personas and team members are engaged so that reps can run plays to broaden support.

Relationship intelligence also leverages the company’s varied skills and knowledge, so tracking who has been engaged on the selling side is critical.  Segal noted that successful enterprise sales “takes a village,” with many team members, including technical SMEs, product specialists, implementation consultants, and executive sponsors, helping close the biggest deals. “A clear understanding of key players in every account drives stronger account relationships resulting in more qualified pipeline, better win rates, faster cycles and more predictable revenue,” said Craig Rosenberg, Chief Analyst at TOPO.

RingDNA Releases Guided Selling

Sales Enablement vendor RingDNA released Guided Selling, a set of Next Best Actions (NBA) for sales reps.  Guided Selling advises sales reps on what to do, when to do it, whom to contact, and what messaging to employ.  Sales managers can create and deploy preferred playbooks to their salesforce, even without face-to-face training.  Both inbound and outbound selling plays are supported, helping “implement proven playbooks at scale.”

“When you know what winning deals look and sound like, you know exactly where to focus to improve outcomes,” said RingDNA CEO Howard Brown.  “Guided selling uses artificial intelligence to provide revenue teams with tools, insights, and next best actions necessary to win deals, grow accounts, maximize revenue.”

“It’s a fool’s errand to expect a 22-year-old sales development rep (SDR) fresh out of university to develop a consistent, scalable, repeatable prioritization, execution, and qualification process.  Be prescriptive in your expectations and methodical in the tools you arm your teams with…for the overwhelming majority of your team—who have never held full-time, quota-carrying roles and aren’t able to think strategically yet—you must be prescriptive.  You need to show them how to think strategically and tactically as they approach their daily work.”

TOPO analyst Phoebe Conybeare

Guided Selling is embedded into the Salesforce Sales Cloud and delivers prioritized actions for opportunities, contacts, and leads, helping reduce sales rep planning time.  The AI-powered task list recommends the tasks that will put sales reps on “the shortest path to revenue.”  The task list is dynamic, updating based upon prospect behavior.  Thus, priorities are reassessed based on prospect interaction with e-mails, web forms, multi-media, and social media.

Guided Selling includes a set of best-practices templates based upon billions of sales interactions monitored by RingDNA since its 2012 launch. Salesforce Dashboards help managers optimize cadences and messaging, allowing them to test and refine rep workflows.  Cadence activities across e-mail, phone, text, and social are synchronized with Salesforce.

Gartner stated that 51% of sales organizations have deployed or plan to deploy algorithmic-guided selling over the next five years.

“Intended to augment more traditional sales tools, such as sales playbooks, algorithmic-guided selling uses sales data to boost the seller’s ability to engage with prospects…Algorithmic-guided selling leverages artificial intelligence technology and existing sales data to guide sellers through deals, automating manual sales actions while reducing the need for individual seller judgment in the sales process.”

Tad Travis, Gartner VP of Research, “Algorithmic-Guided Selling to Have Significant Impact on Sales Productivity”

“In this new remote paradigm, companies are having to do more with less,” said Brown.  “Guided Selling is a total game-changer for sales teams, as it uses AI to focus reps on next best actions while empowering them to build stronger relationships and better solve customer problems.”

Guided Selling is Generally Available.

ZoomInfo Acquires EverString

ZoomInfo continues building up its data assets with the acquisition of EverString, expanding Zoominfo’s coverage of companies and contacts.  EverString employs machine learning, deep learning, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing to build profiles on 100 million companies, 120 million locations, and 70 million business professionals. Data are ingested from both online and offline content.  The expanded company universe is five-times larger than ZoomInfo’s current company universe, with roughly 30 million international profiles.

EverString also provides ZoomInfo with over one million linkages.  “This additional data gives sellers and marketers across all verticals better access and visibility to their total addressable markets, more complete enrichment results, and additional points of contact at their target accounts.”

ZoomInfo CEO Henry Schuck described the combined EverString and ZoomInfo data cloud as the “first-ever business identity graph of its size with a level of accuracy and completeness purpose-built to help go-to-market teams identify actual buying centers rather than legal entities with no purchasing power.”

Along with corporate hierarchies, EverString expands ZoomInfo’s intelligence concerning website redirects, legal entities, and aliases.  Firmographics include sizing data, URLs, social links, contact information, year founded, DBAs, FKAs, and long-tail industry keywords.

“The acquisition of EverString gives ZoomInfo a comprehensive business data graph, providing the foundation needed for enterprises to identify their total universe of customers and prospects, define their ideal profiles, leverage granular keywords and attributes to predict success, and focus their go-to-market motions.”

Director of Communications Steve Vittorioso.

Headquartered in San Mateo, EverString was founded in 2012 and has 50 employees.  It made the 2020 Inc. 5000 list with three-year revenue growth of 112%. Customers include Snowflake, FedEx, Nokia, Seagate, and Staples. 

EverString’s DaaS platform delivers firmographics, technographics, contacts, machine learning insights, and intent signals.  

EverString also offers predictive analytics which will be incorporated into the ZoomInfo platform.  Other functionality includes similar companies, ICP modeling, and TAM modeling.


Continue to Part II.

MSD 365 Customer Insights Enhancements

Microsoft has begun beta testing a set of enhancements to its Dynamics 365 Customer Insights CDP.  The upgrades focus on extending CDP capabilities into deeper insights and AI capabilities.  The new functionality will GA during the first half of 2021.

Engagement Insights, currently in preview, provides cross-channel analytics that assess customer behavior and intent across the web, mobile, connected devices, and other touchpoints.  Engagement Insights combines behavioral analytics with transactional, demographic, survey, and other data sets “to create interactive and rich insights that help drive the next best actions and personalized experiences.”

Engagement Insights begins with standard analytics around web site visitors, pages viewed, and visit duration.  A custom report builder lets marketers “curate the exact views to answer the business questions at hand.”  Funnel reports track customer journeys, identify gaps and opportunities, and inform next best actions.

“Engagement Insights is about directly funneling web, mobile and connected product data back into Customer Insights to help continue to enrich that understanding of the customer in order to better serve them.

James Phillips, President of Microsoft Business Applications.

Insights are deployed across the customer lifecycle and assist with personalizing offers, including presenting new product or services that better match customer needs.

“As everything’s gone digital, the need to deeply understand your customer and to increase the efficacy of those engagements has really been heightened through this pandemic,” said Phillips.

AI enhancements focus on better customer predictions.  The AI functionality employs Azure Synapse Analytics and includes a set of pre-built templates for predicting customer churn, automating product recommendations, and evaluating customer lifetime value.  The templates help marketers gather customer insights without requiring data science or IT professional support.

A new integration with Dynamics 365 Customer Voice captures customer sentiment and feedback.

According to Phillips, Customer Insights is the “fastest-growing application in the Dynamics 365 portfolio.”


Part II covers Customer Insights partnerships.

Gong and Chorus Growing Rapidly During Pandemic

Gong, which closed on a $200 million Series D round earlier this month, is in one of the SalesTech segments that has benefited from remote working. Demand for conversational AI tools from vendors like Gong and Chorus that record, transcribe, and analyze meetings and calls accelerated with the pandemic.

“With global sales teams switching to remote work and field sales teams grounded for the foreseeable future, we are seeing substantial demand for Gong’s solution even in a challenging business environment,” said Gong CEO Amit Bendov.

“Gong’s Web site is like a direct view into the subconscious of those hyper-enthusiastic salespeople who make the rest of us nuts but get the job done.  The actual product is AI technology that captures video, phone, email, and face-to-face interactions and extracts insights about people, deals, and market events.  It must work: they just raised a $200 million Series D, bringing total funding to $334 million.  Did I mention their chatbot is a bulldog?”

David Raab, CDP Institute

Carl Eschenbach, a partner at Sequoia Capital, argued that firms benefiting from COVID fall into two classes, those that are enjoying a temporary lift and those that will enjoy long-term benefits due to social and technological shifts.

“There will be less [SIC] field sales reps than ever before.  Said Eschenbach. “People will be working remotely and selling over digital mechanisms like we’re using Zoom.”

While Gong did not disclose their revenue, they said it has trebled over the past year.  Forbes lists their 2019 revenue at $30 million so 2020 revenue should clock in around $90 million.

Gong has over 1,300 customers, including Autodesk, HubSpot, LinkedIn, MuleSoft, Outreach, PayPal, Shopify, Slack, Twilio, Zillow, GE, and Zoominfo.

Over 64,000 sales and support professionals use the Gong platform, up from 45,000 in December.

They recently launched a Deal intelligence module which provides deal pipeline visibility and “deal at risk” alerts to sales reps (see the image at the top of this blog).

Gong Partners include

  • Conference: Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, BlueJeans, WebEx, GoToMeeting, JoinMe
  • ­­Sales Engagement: Outreach, SalesLoft, Groove, Xant, FrontSpin
  • CRM: Salesforce, HubSpot
  • Others: Slack, ClearSlide, Clari, Google, Outlook

“We made a bold prediction in 2016 that Gong’s technology would become the most significant innovation for sales since the invention of CRM,” said Bendov.  “The market has proven that prediction was correct.  With global sales teams switching to remote work and field sales teams grounded for the foreseeable future, we are seeing substantial demand for Gong’s solution even in a challenging business environment.  There is a new way to win in sales, and the best sales teams are turning to Gong’s Revenue Intelligence Platform to guide them down that path.”


Last month, Gong competitor Chorus closed on a $45 million Series C. The round was led by Georgian Partners, with participation from Emergence Capital, Redpoint Ventures, and Sozo Ventures.  Five-year-old Chorus has raised $85.2 million to date.  Georgian also led the $33 million Series B in December 2018.

The new funds will be deployed for product innovation and expanding its go-to-market team.  CEO Jim Benton said that they would continue to develop their interaction signal capture capabilities, particularly those tied to relationships and driving deals to close.

“The insights provided by conversation intelligence can be a lifeline, identifying risks as well as what is working so that they can replicate best practices across the revenue team,” said Benton.  “Sales floors in the office may be empty, but through the use of conversation intelligence, managers can still walk the floor virtually and offer coaching and a helping hand when needed.”

Chorus records, transcribes, and analyzes business calls.  Transcripts include time-stamped notes and a call summary with risk factors and upsell opportunities.  The Chorus platform helps reps capture and analyze interactions from calls, meetings, and emails.  Chorus looks for keywords and topics such as pricing, competitors, and next steps.

“We want to make sure each person says, ‘I was just watching the call, and here is where we left off,’ or ‘I noticed this theme in your conversation, so let’s get started there.’  We are putting the ‘R’ in customer relationship management.  There is a lot with the ‘customer’ and ‘management’ aspects, but in terms of ‘relationship,’ that does not always make it back into the CRM, and we think it should.”

Chorus.AI CEO Jim Benton

“We are continuing to make sure we are understanding these interactions for teams and leadership to see what works, so they bring their best,” continued Benton.  “You want to make sure you represent the best of your team, give feedback, coaching, have the right messaging and which interactions drive the best close rates–all the science behind what success looks like.”

The firm doubled its headcount to 100 and trebled its revenue in 2019.  Chorus has over 200 customers, including GitLab, Zoom, Adobe, MongoDB, and Qualtrics.  It is headquartered in San Francisco with offices in Boston and Tel Aviv.

Chorus Conversational Intelligence records, transcribes, and analyzes audio and video meetings.

Correction: I originally transposed the digits on Chorus’ Total Funding. The correct value is $85.2 million.

Gong Series D

Revenue Intelligence vendor Gong closed on a $200 million Series D, raising its valuation to $2.2 billion.  The firm indicated that it didn’t need the funds as it is still operating with its Series B funds from February 2019 ($40 million).  The $65 million Series C from December is also available, providing the firm with over $265 million in cash for growth and potential acquisitions.  Total funding reached $334 million.

“We weren’t looking to raise another round, but a lot of funds were eager to invest in us,” said Gong CEO Amit Bendov, contending that it is better to raise funds when they are available than when they are needed.

“It gives us the ability to buy companies, make strategic investment, accelerate plans, and it also, especially since we cater to large enterprise customers, gives them confidence that this company is here to stay,” he said.

The additional funds will help the firm “fulfill strong market demand for its Revenue Intelligence Platform, reinforce its market leadership, and invest in its product, engineering, and go-to-market teams.”

While an IPO is in the plans, Bendov sees it two to three years out when revenue hits a few hundred million dollars.  

Potential areas of acquisition include analytics, AI, communications, and other customer-facing technologies.

“Gong is building something that is bigger than CRM. Rather than rely on people to type in information, Gong automatically captures text, Zoom calls, etc., and improves sales forecasting, product, and market strategy, with zero effort.  Ultimately, we are creating a big system.  The product is successful today, but still, more is needed.”

Gong CEO Amit Bendov

In 2021, Gong plans to expand globally.  It has 350 employees with plans to add “hundreds” more over the next year and at least 100 before the end of 2020.  They are looking to expand across finance, human resources, sales, marketing, and IT.  Most of their positions are in the Bay Area, with offices in Atlanta, New York, and Denver.

“A lot of our San Francisco employees wanted to move to Atlanta after we opened our hub there [in March], said Bendov.  “It’s difficult to work from home in San Francisco, where you have five roommates, and you need to do a Zoom call.”

Coatue led the Series D round, with participation from Index Ventures, Thrive Capital, and Salesforce Ventures.  Previous investors NextWorld Capital, Battery Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital, and Wing Venture Capital also participated.


Part II of this blog delves further into Gong’s product offering and how they and competitor Chorus have navigated COVID.

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.

Outreach KAIA Meeting Assistant

Sales Engagement vendor Outreach presented its 2020 product roadmap at its Unleash virtual conference.  The most compelling announcement was Kaia, its voice-enabled sales assistant that works alongside sales reps during video calls to record, transcribe, and deliver real-time assistance.  Other new capabilities include Sequence Intent Reporting, Outreach Voice Connectors, and Bombora Intent Scores.

“I’ve been waiting five years for Outreach Kaia.  This is the most powerful tool to be introduced in the sales industry in a long time, and we are very excited to be bringing the next generation of sales technology to life,” crowed Outreach CEO Manny Medina, who demoed the digital assistant during his keynote.  “Now more than ever, sales teams need Outreach Kaia — especially when so many of them are working remotely.  Outreach Kaia’s ability to surface real-time information exactly when a sales rep needs it during a live conversation is powerful.”

“Imagine you’re on a sales call, and someone asks you a question about your product or your competitor’s pricing, and you don’t know the answer.  Well, Outreach Kaia will automatically pull up the information you need – in real-time.  This level of intelligent assistance will make sales teams productive immediately.  Outreach already drives a nearly 5x return for our customers.  Now, with Outreach Kaia, we expect that ROI to soar.”

Outreach CEO Manny Medina

Kaia (Knowledge AI Assistant) delivers guided engagement for sales reps.  At the outset, reps are shown meeting and attendee information.  Tabs provide additional details on the account and opportunity, providing a quick pre-meeting review opportunity.  As the call gets underway, real-time transcription and analysis take place so that reps do not need to jot many notes during the call.  At any point, the rep can set a bookmark or add a short note.  As the note is stored in context, it might only require a word or two (e.g. Roadblock, Budget).  

Outreach Kaia operates as a real-time intelligent assistant that supports sales reps during customer calls. It transcribes the call, sets bookmarks for review, notes attendees and action items, and provides topical summary cards.

Kaia both records and analyzes the discussion, providing in-line prompts to the rep, such as a quick overview of a third-party mentioned during the call, short answers to technical and product questions, or objection handling tips.  The answers and objection handling are customer-defined, ensuring that company-specific details are displayed on a just-in-time basis.  Not only does each content card provide a technical and product backstop for new sales reps, but it allows experienced reps to speak with confidence on more technical details or dynamic topics from which they might shy away.

Content and people cards are trackable, “so managers can see which cards produce the best results and scale these insights across their teams,” wrote Product Storyteller Sunny Bjerk.

Kaia also notes action items during the call, again relieving reps of note-taking duties.  After the call, a summary is emailed to the rep with a set of action items, bookmarks, notes, and attendees.  The rep can then customize the document and share it with other stakeholders.

Kaia is displayed as a meeting participant, with attendees alerted at the beginning of the call that is it being recorded.  Transcripts and recordings are “securely stored within Outreach, which has enterprise-grade security measures already in place.”  Transcripts are available for training or review after the call.

Outreach Kaia is available for Early Access Signup for the summer 2020 beta and will be generally available in late 2020.  It is currently available for Zoom video conferencing with additional video partners in development.