Your Biggest Competitor is No Decision

Back when I was a product manager, I used to conduct sales training classes.  I often opened up the session by asking the question, “Who is your biggest competitor?”  The reps invariably listed a company or two they had heard over the prior day and a half of training.  Even seasoned reps would answer the question incorrectly.

Unless you are in a duopoly or there is a competitor that controls half the market, your biggest competitor is probably NO DECISION.  Either the purchasing decision is kicked down the road or no funding is found.  It may also be that the opportunity was poorly qualified to begin with.

Sales reps no longer control the conversation due to the informed buyer who leverages the Internet and social media in order to research vendors prior to contacting them.  This is one of the reasons that marketing is looking at digitally influencing anonymous individual on the web via Visitor ID, SEO, SEM, and Programmatic.  Sales reps are also confounded in their sales efforts by a second change in purchasing patterns.  B2B budgetary decision making processes have become more complex.

Budgetary centralization and committee-based buying decisions have increased the number of decision makers in the purchasing process, resulting in a greater likelihood of no decision.  According to a Forrester survey of IT sales reps, 43% of lost deals weren’t to competitors but to a category titled “lost funding or lost to no decision: customer stopped the procurement process.”

Furthermore, the rise of cloud computing has shifted budgetary decision making authority away from the CIO to the heads of various functional departments.  Purchasing decisions are being compared to a broader set of non-related purchases from across the organization.  It is therefore critical that sales reps “understand and navigate complex agreement networks and processes within the buying organization that span different altitudes and functional roles,” blogged Forrester Sales Enablement Analyst Mark Lindwall.  “Because decisions are more cross-functional, every dollar is compared against how it could add value in potentially completely non-related areas of investment.”

Thus, sales reps need better tools for identifying who to engage and when best to engage.  They also need to be better informed about companies, individuals, and the industries into which they sell.  In short, they need to know who to call, when to call, and what to say.  They need to quickly navigate what Forrester calls agreement networks to establish relationships across multiple levels and job functions at the organization.

Fortunately, Sales 2.1 tools provide rich biographies and full family trees for navigating these networks.  Users can target specific job functions and levels across the corporate hierarchy, research the appropriate individuals, and reach out to them via social media, email, or phone.

Newer ABM tools help identify the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), score leads based on the ICP, and call out similar accounts and contacts that are not on the company’s radar.  Thus, it’s not just about selling more intelligently based on insights, but targeting and prioritizing one’s sales efforts more effectively.

Sales triggers assist with identifying executive changes, M&A events, product launches, and other reasons for reaching out to individuals.  Triggers can also indicate an expanding opportunity or that a proposal is potentially at risk due to company or market dynamics.

And yes, sales reps should research both the company and the executive.  They need to understand the key trends in the prospect’s industry, why their last quarter was soft, and what does the executive muse about on social media.  While such facts may not be immediate hooks, they provide context and potential talking points down the road.  It also shows that the rep is willing to invest time in understanding the exec, her company, and the environment in which she is making decisions.

There is an opportunity cost to poor targeting, prioritization, and account planning. It shows up as No Decision in your CRM, slow deal velocity in your pipeline metrics, and disappointing sales growth.

Creditsafe Expanded Country Coverage

CreditSafe Global Coverage Map
Creditsafe Global Coverage Map

Commercial credit and business profile vendor Creditsafe expanded its coverage footprint to over 100 countries with the addition of sixteen Middle Eastern and North African countries.  Creditsafe is now able to provide real-time reports for 240 million companies.  Key new countries include Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon.  In 2016, the firm added Southeast Asian coverage along with 40 million Chinese company profiles.

“This mark’s the single largest and most significant database expansion we have done to date.  And, it completes our global offering.  No one in the marketplace offers such a comprehensive solution supported by an incredible portfolio of analytics,” said Matthew Debbage, CEO of Creditsafe USA and Asia.  “Not only have we added critical financial data on thousands of public and private companies to our platform, but we are providing insight on many located in Middle East and Africa which have proven to be complex economies in the past. We can now provide International Database Reports on millions of companies instantly online. No one else in the market offers the level of data that we do.”

Based on its coverage map, the most significant gaps are in Latin America (e.g. Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica) and Africa (e.g. South Africa, Ghana, Morocco, Tunisia).

Creditsafe processes over one million daily updates collected from over 200 sources.  Furthermore, the firm claims that 99.9% of report requests are delivered in real-time.

Last year, Creditsafe launched US and UK sales intelligence services under the Sales Joe brand.  The product provides prospecting, look-a-like customers, light SFA tools (e.g. notes, dialer support, meeting scheduling), task tracking, and deal opportunity forecasting.

Sales Joe Deal Opportunities assist with pipeline tracking.
Sales Joe Deal Opportunities assist with pipeline tracking.

“The big development during the year was launching our new lead management tool, Sales Joe, which enables businesses to build effective sales campaigns using company information gathered from Creditsafe’s extensive database,” said Chris Robertson, global sales director at Creditsafe Group.  “Our positive results have been fueled by strong customer retention, an increase in new business, and a further expansion and strengthening in our international offering to UK customers.”

Creditsafe revenue has grown 28% over the past twelve months.  The firm maintains 18 offices and supports 200,000 users each day.  Globally, Creditsafe employs 1,500 headcount.

Creditsafe USA posted $12.8 million in 2016 revenue with a three-year CAGR of 75%.  Creditsafe opened US operations in 2012 and services 14,000 US customers out of its Lehigh, PA office.  “Over the past several years, we have focused incredibly hard on building our business and brand in the US,” said Debbage.

Creditsafe UK also posted strong growth with 2016 revenues up 12% to £35.5 million and pre-tax profits of £8.1 million.

“More growth is expected in 2017, our 20th anniversary year,” added Robertson.  “The growing sales force and the new products and technology being introduced this year will ensure our momentum continues and we further set ourselves apart from our competitors.”

Unique Company Identifiers

Amazon Family Tree (Source: D&B Hoovers)
Amazon Family Tree (Source: D&B Hoovers)

Associating company records with a common identifier is critical for Account Based Marketing as well as other sales and marketing methodologies.  Lacking a common identifier makes it difficult to

  • De-duplicate company records
  • Associate subsidiaries and branches with headquarters
  • Perform both real-time and batch data enrichment of firmographic, technographic, and social links.
  • Associate company news and sales triggers to key accounts.
  • Tie together company records across multiple platforms.
  • Assess the risk (e.g. credit, supplier, reputational) associated with a business.

The importance of a “unique identifier” was discussed by Owler CEO Jim Fowler in the Harvard Business Review:

The best way to keep data clean is to use a globally known, unique identifier, or a “data backbone.” My company prefers to use URLs as identifiers. They’re free, globally recognizable, high-quality data points that enable you to efficiently gather information on a business’s industry, online activities, and functionality. For example, Cisco is a company that also goes by Cisco Systems, Inc. and Cisco Precision Tools. If sales containers required users to type in one unique URL, http://www.cisco.com/ for all those different branches, it’d be much more difficult to create duplicate accounts, which helps keep data clean. Perhaps more important, URLs facilitate communication between people, systems, and even departments. Whether it’s the customer relationship management platforms used by sales teams, enterprise resource planning software used by purchasing teams, or the account-based marketing technology employed by marketing teams, the business intelligence platform can recognize a unique URL and attach it to clean, usable data. Unique identifiers let you know you’re pulling from the sources and contacts you’ve intended to track.

I agree with 90% of what Fowler states, but disagree with his recommendation that URLs are the best unique identifier for his “data backbone”.  There are a number of reasons that URLs fall short:

  • URLs are not persistent.  If a company is acquired or renames itself, the old identifier (URL) is not retained.  This creates a potential disconnect between the old and new name.
  • URLs have a many-to-one mapping which treats most subsidiary and branch locations the same as the headquarters.  For some companies, mashing together all locations into a single record may be sufficient, but it is a highly flawed approach as it loses much of the nuance concerning companies that operate across multiple sectors and countries (e.g. General Electric).  It also makes it very difficult for sales reps to sell deeper into an organization which lacks linkage data.
  • Conversely, companies with multiple URLs are not tied together.  This could happen due to differing country identifiers (e.g. .UK, .FR), division names, brand names, and subsidiaries.  Each of these scenarios treats companies as a separate business.  Amazon has many distinct businesses including Amazon Web Services (aws.amazon.com), Zappos (www.zappos.com), Alexa Internet (www.alexa.com) Audible (www.audible.com), Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com), and soon Whole Foods (www.wholefoods.com).  URLs do not provide a consistent data backbone when subsidiaries, acquisitions, and branches have different domains.
  • When a division or facility is divested, there is no way to determine which locations have been spun off.
  • Franchises are treated as part of the parent company when they are separate legal entities.
  • Not all companies have websites.
  • URLs can be sold.  They can also be reused if a company goes out of business or abandons a URL.

Finally, business decisions related to logistics, credit, supplier risk, and financing need to understand the underlying structure of companies.  It is not just marketing and sales that are impacted by standardizing on a non-persistent, quasi-unique identifier.

I would therefore recommend looking at credit data companies as a better source of unique identifiers.  Companies such as Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, Equifax, and Infogroup all offer location level detail and linkage associated with unique identifiers that have been developed over multiple decades.  They offer sophisticated entity matching and enrichment tools such as Dun & Bradstreet’s Optimizer service. Furthermore, these firms support multiple functions across the organization helping assist with cross-platform entity linking and on-demand decisioning.

Mattermark: Dataset Growth and Enhancements

Mattermark rolled out a set of enhancements to their product and content over the past few months.  The PE/VC funding data firm added Revenue Range and Zip Code to company profiles delivered via Mattermark Pro, Mattermark API, and their recently released AppExchange connector.   Mattermark now supports over 80 variables.

The Old Growth Score (Blue) was based upon historical growth data. The New Growth Score (Blue) is limited to the past 12 weeks.
The Old Growth Score (Blue) was based upon historical growth data. The New Growth Score (Blue) is limited to the past 12 weeks.

Mattermark also revised its Growth Score.  Previously, the firm evaluated the Growth Score over the company’s lifetime, which resulted in the ongoing display of Uber, Accenture, Amazon, and Google.  The new model employs a rolling twelve-week score which “better captures the dynamic changes over time,” said Marketing Manager Nick Frost.  “By reducing the span by which we calculate the Growth Score, our customers have a better representation of a company’s activity.”

Mattermark has been actively growing its company database, hitting four million profiles in February.  The firm continues to add missing firmographics.  For example, they added location data for 300K companies and industry tags for 700K companies.  Most profile vendors require these fields prior to publication.

Moody’s Acquires Bureau van Dijk

Moody’s announced this morning that they are acquiring business intelligence vendor Bureau van Dijk for €3.0 billion (approximately $3.27 billion). Moody’s stated that “the acquisition extends Moody’s position as a leader in risk data and analytical insight.”  The deal is subject to EU approval and is expected to close in Q3.

Bureau van Dijk will be acquired with approximately $1.3 billion in offshore cash and $2 billion in debt.  Bureau van Dijk will be folded into Moody’s Analytics’ Research, Data & Analytics (RD&A).

Last year, Bureau van Dijk earned $281 million (€258 million) and posted and EBITDA of $144 million (€132 million).  Bureau van Dijk has a ten-year Compound Average Growth Rate (CAGR ) of 9.3%.  The firm anticipates $45 million of annual revenue and expense synergies by 2019 and $80 million by 2021.

Source: Moody's Investor Site (May 15 2017)
Source: Moody’s Investor Site (May 15 2017)

Bureau van Dijk offers three major product lines:

  • Orbis – Financial analysis tools spanning 220 million companies.  Information includes firmographics, public and private company financials, original documents, global family trees, shareholdings, news, and M&A research (Zephyr).  Orbis provides the deepest set of global private company financial coverage tied to very strong linkage data including minority shareholdings.  Orbis was redesigned last year with a new user interface and workflows.  The Orbis product line is also available as regional and local products such as Amadeus in Europe, Oriana in AsiaPac, and Fame in the UK.
  • Mint – Sales intelligence product line
  • Catalyst – Set of workflow tools for valuation, transfer pricing, credit analysis, wallet sizing, etc.

All three product lines leverage the Orbis global company file which is collected from 160 information partners.

“Bureau van Dijk is a high growth information aggregator and distributor that positions Moody’s at the center of a unique network of global risk data,” said Raymond McDaniel, President and Chief Executive Officer of Moody’s. “This acquisition provides significant opportunities for Moody’s Analytics to offer complementary products, create new risk solutions and extend its reach to new and evolving market segments.”

The Bureau van Dijk customer base is split fairly evenly across 6,000 financial institutions, professional service firms, government authorities, and corporations.  Key use cases include compliance, KYC/AML, risk decisioning, purchasing, transfer pricing, B2B sales and marketing, financial analysis, and economic research.

Source: Moody's Investor Site (May 15 2017)
Source: Moody’s Investor Site (May 15 2017)

Moody’s listed a three-pronged product strategy post-acquisition:

  • Apply MA analytics to data to generate off-the-shelf financial metrics

  • Package BvD data subscriptions with MA analytical software & models

  • Enrich MIS/MA data sets with BvD’s proprietary identifiers

Moody’s will also be looking to extend Bureau van Dijk’s commercial presence beyond Europe and to non-financial customers.  The acquisition helps Moody’s extend its addressable market beyond credit to provide “Moody’s-branded scores/assessments for tax risk, transfer pricing, compliance, financial crime, [and] supply chain management.”

“Moody’s is a highly regarded, authoritative source of credit ratings and analytical tools, with a strong brand and global reach,” said Mark Schwerzel, Deputy CEO of Bureau van Dijk. “The addition of Bureau van Dijk’s powerful information platform to Moody’s Analytics’ suite of risk management solutions presents a wide range of opportunities for us to better serve our combined customer base.”

Bureau van Dijk has been owned by a series of private equity firms with EQT acquiring the firm from Charterhouse Capital Partners in September 2014.  At the time, the sale price was not disclosed.  Charterhouse acquired Bureau van Dijk in 2011 from BC Partners for €960m.

EQT noted the following areas of investment during its ownership period:

  • Development of the organisational structure to prepare for further growth

  • Investments in the sales organization, including the introduction of a matrix sales structure, implementation of a global CRM system, and expansion of the salesforce

  • Strong focus on the development of new products and continued improvement of existing ones, e.g. the launch of a new user interface

  • Substantial investments in marketing and corporate branding

Bureau van Dijk Orbis Enhancements

Saved Searches is one of the new features added to BvD Orbis.
Bureau van Dijk Orbis Build a List

Bureau van Dijk rolled out the latest set of enhancements to its Orbis company research and financial analysis platform.  Orbis was re-platformed last year and given a modern user interface.  New features include a document ordering module, improved peer reporting, and enhanced customization.  The new document ordering module assists with KYC/AML and company research by delivering original images of business documents, such as certificates of incorporation, shareholders’ details, and annual reports.  The new module was built in partnership with aRMadillo (FKA RM Online) and delivers reports “usually within an hour.”  Users can even order reports for companies not found in the Orbis database.

Customization features include calculated variables which can be shared across the account group, chapters, and classifications.

“The new interface arranges company reports into “books” that are further organised into “chapters”, that contain related information,” said CMO Louise Green.  “This feature lets you create your own customised chapters, which could include: your company logo or other images; widgets from the profile page; worksheets with selected financials; and any of your own fields that you have imported into Orbis.”

Custom classifications allow users to map their own industry and geographic codes to ORBIS data.

Bureau van Dijk recently released a 2:33 demo of seven key workflow improvements that were implemented in last year’s release:

  1. Favorite Search Criteria
  2. Instant Currency Switch
  3. Alert Management and Quick Alerting
  4. Quick View of a Company
  5. Random Sorting and Sampling
  6. Pivot Analysis
  7. Corporate Ownership Explorer

The Orbis database, which is available for Orbis financial analysis, MINT sales intelligence, and Catalyst workflow product lines, now spans 220 million companies across 200 countries.

Bureau van Dijk Orbis Company View
The Bureau van Dijk Orbis Company View is customizable.

DueDil: New Chairman, Expanded Coverage

DueDil Group Graph for Spotify
DueDil Group Graph for Spotify

DueDil, which provides financial research and sales intelligence services for the UK and Europe, named Alan Millard as its Chairman.  Millard is a consultant for the Table Group and has worked with CEOs and executives at IBM, JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, SABmiller, and GSK.  Previously, Millard was the COO at Hiscox UK and CEO of its subsidiary Hiscox Underwriting.

“Alan is helping us transition from a founder led team to an executive led organization,” said DueDil founder and CEO Damian Kimmelman.  “He brings with him the eye of the customer which is so critical as we scale. I am honoured to have him on board guiding our global ambitions.”

DueDil recently expanded its database beyond the UK and Ireland to provide company coverage of France, Germany, Benelux, and the Nordics.  However, they are already talking about a true global dataset to rival Dun & Bradstreet and Bureau van Dijk.  By the end of the year, they expect to offer pan-European coverage and begin to extend their reach to additional global markets.  Thus, their database will grow from 11 million companies at the beginning of the year to 40 million companies in March and 100 million by the end of the year.  Their goal is to be the “largest source of private company information in the world,” said COO Justin Fitzpatrick.

“A more open business world is essential to global growth and prosperity. DueDil is already the largest and richest source of private company information in the U.K., and one of the largest in Europe. We are on an incredible journey to cover over 200 million companies globally by the end of 2018. I am excited to be part of a company that genuinely improves the business landscape and encourages growth and trade,” said Millard.

“Our mission at DueDil is to create the largest source of private company information to help businesses to find opportunity and mitigate risk,” stated DueDil CRO Pierre Berlin at DueDil’s recent Spotlight user conference.  “We help businesses in the digital transformation.  Leveraging it by transforming the business relationship with the key stakeholder in the organization.  Our value proposition at DueDil is to make your business more agile [and] resilient, by providing access to the richest information on the company that matters to you.”

According to Fitzpatrick, DueDil will accomplish their mission via superior data, new insight, and automation.

Along with expanded geographic coverage, DueDil is extending its Know Your Customer (KYC) checks to include beneficial ownership, UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) registration data, and adverse media coverage.  According to the FCA, it “regulates and supervises the conduct of more than 50,000 firms in the UK that provide financial products and services to both UK and international customers.”

In March, DueDil also announced an upgraded API that supports a host of functions including opportunity identification, risk mitigation, auto-populating sign up forms, data enrichment, and verifying credentials during customer onboarding.

The API also supports a new partnership with consumer information vendor CallCredit.  The partners “will offer an integrated solution for verifying a business and the people who run it,” said DueDil Product Marketing Manager Sam Hockley.  Initially the consumer information will only be available via the DueDil API.

Coincidentally, Dun & Bradstreet announced a Beneficial Ownership product a few weeks ago.