Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms: A Guide for Purchasing SEPs

I am pleased to announce that my next enterprise software purchasing report is available through this website and my partners at Tenbound. “Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms: A Guide for Purchasing SEPs” assists with the purchasing decision of this rapidly developing SalesTech category.

Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms

Single User License (October Discounted Price)


The report is available as both a single buyer license for smaller firms evaluating the sector and as a buyer-committee license for larger firms. The Buyer Committee license covers a team of seven and includes a Word document checklist to assist with the evaluation.

Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms – Buying Commitee License

Seven-User License (October Discounted Price) + Word Document Checklist


Report Coverage

The 13-page report covers the following topics:

  • Sales Engagement Platform
    • Definition
    • Value Proposition
    • Core Features
    • Other Features
    • Industry Pricing
  • Purchasing Questions

I also offer detailed overviews of several major vendors:

  • SalesLoft Product Overview
  • VanillaSoft Product Overview (coming October 18)

GZ Consulting / Tenbound reports are independently written and not sponsored by any of the profiled vendors. Michael R. Levy of GZ Consulting wrote this report.

SalesLoft Purchaser Profile

I am pleased to announce that the first in a series of sales engagement profiles is available through this website and my partners at Tenbound. These reports are written to assist with the purchasing decision.  SalesLoft is the first Sales Engagement purchasing profile to be completed, but additional reports for Outreach, VanillaSoft, and Salesforce High Velocity Sales are planned for release.

SalesLoft Buyers Profile

Buyer's Profile of SalesLoft Sales Engagement Profile (Single License).


SalesLoft, based in Atlanta, provides a set of sales engagement tools for SDRs, Account Executives, Sales Operations, Sales Managers, and Sales Training. Features include

  • Multi-channel cadences spanning email, phone, social, text, and direct mail.
  • Email templates, snippets and call scripts
  • Automated meeting scheduling and meeting intelligence
  • Analytics, dashboards, queue prioritization, and coaching tips
  • Salesforce bi-directional sync
  • Partner ecosystem for chat, video, sales intelligence, security, LinkedIn, etc.

Report Coverage

This 33-page report covers the following topics:

  • Company Overview
  • Features
  • Return on Investment
  • Ecosystem Partners
  • Product Roadmap
  • Strengths & Weaknesses
  • Pricing
  • Summary

GZ Consulting / Tenbound reports are independently written and not sponsored by any of the profiled vendors. Lynne Trocciola of GZ Consulting wrote this report.

InsideView Purchaser Profile

InsideView Buyers Guide

I am pleased to announce that the first in a series of sales and marketing intelligence profiles is available through this website and my partners at Tenbound. These reports are written to assist with the purchasing decision.  InsideView is the first purchasing profile to be completed, but additional reports for D&B Hoovers, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and DiscoverOrg are planned for release.

InsideView Buyer’s Guide

Buyer's Profile of InsideView Sales and Marketing Intelligence (Single License)


InsideView, based in San Francisco, provides a set of sales and marketing tools for browsers, CRMs, Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs), and mobile devices.  Key tools support sales research and account monitoring, list building, sales connections (“six degrees”), CRM viewing and hygiene, company and contact enrichment, web form enrichment, Ideal Customer Profiling (ICP), Total Addressable Market (TAM) sizing, and marketing automation hygiene.

InsideView targets technology, finance, corporate/consulting services, manufacturing, commercial real estate, etc.

Firms of all sizes license InsideView solutions.

Report Coverage

This 22-page report covers the following topics:

  • Company Overview
  • Content
  • Content Coverage Numbers
  • Product Screenshots
  • Functionality
  • Sales Products
    • InsideView for Sales
    • InsideView for CRM
    • InsideView Append (Lightning Data)
    • InsideView Mobile
  • Marketing Products
    • InsideView Enrich
    • InsideView Refresh
    • InsideView Target
  • Analytics Products
    • InsideView Apex
  • Other Products
    • InsideView Open API
    • Expert and Data Services
  • Recent Enhancements
  • Futures
  • Unique Features
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Competitors by Category
  • Pricing
  • Resources

GZ Consulting / Tenbound reports are independently written and not sponsored by any of the profiled vendors.

Putting Lipstick on a Pig

The task of software product developers has become increasingly difficult.  It used to be that marketing could “put lipstick on a pig” and sell a poorly designed product based upon futures, a few cool features, and a high ROI claim.  But increasing competition and higher user expectations make dressing up a weak product more difficult for several reasons:

  1. Buyers do much of their research upfront, so marketers and sales no longer control the narrative.  Purchasers are now able to frame their requirements and conduct much of their basic research before raising their hands.
  2. Review sites such as G2.com (FKA G2 Crowd), TrustRadius, and PeerSpot provide input on what users like and dislike about software products.  If there is a disconnect between promises and reality, these problems will be surfaced.  If there are connectivity, performance, or scaling issues, these will also be flagged. (Warning: be wary of reviews that are manufactured by vendor campaigns.  Look at the review dates and note if reviews are tightly bunched in time or if a small vendor has several-fold more reviews than its larger competitors.  These reviews are often derived by campaigns, some with rewards, for reviews.)
  3. We’ve all come to appreciate great design thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple.  Most of us are not experts in what makes for great design, but we are much better at identifying poor design, balky workflows, and ugly interfaces.
  4. Services must integrate with each other.  It is no longer possible to build a product that only weakly integrates with key vendors.  Simply providing a download CSV for enterprise software platforms is unacceptable to admins.  The AppExchange has thousands of vendors on it.  In SalesTech and Martech, it is expected that your service integrates with Salesforce, MS Dynamics, Adobe/Marketo, and Eloqua/Oracle.  Other common integrations are Chrome Connectors, Hubspot, Gmail, Exchange, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator (SNAP).  We are already seeing Sales Engagement vendors such as SalesLoft and Outreach.io build their own partner ecosystems.
  5. Competition is fierce.  In the Marketing Technology space, Scott Brinker identified approximately 3,500 Martech vendors in his 2016 graphic, up 87% over 2015.  By 2019, the vendor count had doubled to 7,040. That is a large gaggle of voices calling for attention.

"Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2016)" courtesy of Scott Brinker and Chiefmartec.
“Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2016)” courtesy of Scott Brinker and Chiefmartec.

Products rarely succeed if they are backed by poor marketing.  But is increasingly difficult for poor products to gain traction by marketing alone.  Firms now must tie strong marketing to strong design and an unmet user need.  A company like SalesLoft identified an underserved market (Sales Development professionals) and gave them “sincerity at scale.”  Likewise, DemandBase was talking about Account Based Marketing for years (and supporting it with their programmatic marketing platform) before other vendors recognized the value of targeting your best clients and prospects.

In a blog, Gartner Research VP Jake Sorofman warned marketers:

When your value proposition, use cases and features are all in perfect harmony with a high-value need, customers take notice. You’ve won their minds. When the user experience doesn’t just fulfill these use cases, but does so with artful simplicity and deep respect for the user, you’ve won their hearts, too.

When I’m evaluating which products to profile, a poor UI is a red flag.  I’m also wary of profiling products that lack an integration story, have typos on their website, push marketing puffery into bald-faced lies, or whose pitches suffer from featuritis.

So be wary of the firms that sell features over value, that promise ROI with gauzy claims of indirect benefits, or that fail to understand the underlying needs of their customers.  A pig with lipstick is still just a pig.

Marketing Technology Buyer Research from Walker Sands

Walker Sands Marketing Research (N = 313 Marketing Professionals)
Walker Sands Marketing Research
(N = 313 Marketing Professionals)

A recent survey of US marketers by digital marketing firm Walker Sands Communication found that 62% of marketers had led a marketing technology purchasing process in the past three years.  At firms with fewer than 50 employees, 79% of marketers had managed the decision making process with the percentage dropping to 41% at larger organizations.

Amongst millennials, 55% had served in a purchasing leadership role.  “The new martech buyer journey is being shaped by a new generation of marketers,” said Walker Sands’ Director of the Marketing Technology Practice. “B2B brands shouldn’t underestimate the influence end users and millennials have on the marketing technology stack.”

Walker Sands provided the following tip when marketing or selling to millennials:

Millennials are beginning to step into decision-making roles, so it’s important to understand how to sell to them. They’re more tech-savvy than their older counterparts. Emphasize how your technology is more innovative and user-friendly than competitors. Also, it’s important to get more specific with millennials. Exactly how does your technology help them in their day-to-day role? When trying to reach millennials, spend more money on online display and social media marketing because they’re influenced by more information and a variety of content.

“With so many people potentially involved, B2B marketers have to understand who’s driving and influencing the decisions for specific pieces of technology,” said Parro. “Sometimes it’s the CMO, but the end user often has almost as much pull.”

Two-thirds of marketing professionals believed that they were able to provide input into the marketing technology tools used by their firm.

Martech purchasing committees most commonly consist of three to five members (57%) with one-tenth of the committees containing ten or more members.

The biggest obstacles to implementing new marketing technology issues were budget (69%), difficulty of implementation or integration (35%), and internal resistance to change (33%).

When it comes to conducting research, laptops and PCs continue to be the primary tool with 91% of marketing professionals beginning their research on these devices and 92% conducting all or most of their research on their laptops or PCs.  Nevertheless, marketing content should be mobile-enabled as non-research phases (e.g. lead nurturing, quick lookup) are more likely to be from mobile devices.

When beginning to research solutions, buyers see themselves as in control with thirty percent first learning about the technology from peers or colleagues, twenty percent on news publications or blogs, and thirteen percent from search engines.  Sales reps initiated the education process only five percent of the time.

Sales reps also lack much influence over the final decision with only eleven percent of purchasers finding sales reps to be very influential and 58% somewhat influential.  Unsurprisingly, marketers placed more weight on vendor websites or blogs (89% said they were very or somewhat influential) and vendor content (86% found it to be very or somewhat influential).  Trust, though, was placed in peer recommendations (63% very influential), online reviews (44% very influential), and analyst reports (33% very influential).  Of the eleven information sources they asked about, vendor’s social media accounts were the least influential with 48% saying they had no influence on their decisions.

The Martech data aligns closely with a Conference Board study which found that 57% of the purchasing decision is made before reaching out to a sales rep.  Only 14% of purchasers reached out to sales early in the process (zero to twenty percent completed) and only 46% raised their hands to vendors before completing half of their decision making process.  A full quarter of purchasers are eighty percent complete with their purchasing decision before contacting vendors.

The Walker Sands research on Buyer Phase before formally signaling the firm of interest is consistent with other B2B purchasing research.
The Walker Sands research on Buyer Phase before formally signaling the firm of interest is consistent with other B2B purchasing research.

The report noted that “Marketers are doing so much of their own technology research that many have already made a decision and are ready to purchase before contacting a sales rep.”  In total, slightly over one-third of decision makers didn’t self-identify as a purchaser until they were at the decision or purchasing phase leaving little opportunity for companies to actively influence the decision.

Walker Sands advised marketers, “Your customers are almost to a decision before they even contact you. The key is to make sure that your technology is fully represented within the content they’re consuming and that this content is aligned with reviews and other news articles online. Buyers will rule you out if they can’t find the information they’re looking for or are confused during the discovery and research phases. Once you make it to the decision and purchase stages, make sure that you understand the prospect’s needs and why your product is right for them.  Remember, they already know the basics, so you’ll have to sell them on why your product fits their unique needs in order to convince them to make that final decision.”

As to publications, the top five sources of information on marketing technology are all business, technology, or general purpose publications: Forbes (44%), Wired (37%), Wall Street Journal (35%), BusinessWeek (31%), and New York Times (31%).  Only three advertising and marketing publications were seen as go to resources by at least ten percent of those surveyed: AdAge (30%), eMarketer (17%), and MarketingProfs (13%).

Understanding the New MarTech Buyer Journey” was based upon a July survey of 313 marketing professionals.  21% of the respondents were Managers, 26% Senior Executives, and 31% Coordinators or Specialists.