Conversational Cloud vendor Drift announced it had integrated OpenAI’s API into its chat service. The GPT integration suggests chat replies to sales reps, helping them answer complex customer questions. Responses are based on a company’s website content, marketing material, conversational context, and GPT.
Reps can choose to send the response verbatim, edit it before responding, or request a refined response.
“The ability to generate suggested replies by repurposing any available content also provides real-time on-the-job training for new sales reps (which currently takes three months on average), teaching them how to respond accurately and in the right brand voice,” explained the firm.
Drift listed a trio of capabilities it will be releasing later this year:
Automated content creation and ongoing optimization of playbooks
Automated onboarding and AI topic training
Personalizing sales outreach and prioritizing target accounts
“The buzz around ChatGPT, and the widespread experimentation that followed, has only underscored that conversation-based AI is paving the way of the future. But it needs to be tailored to solve meaningful business challenges,” said Matt Tippets, SVP at Drift. “With Drift’s ability to use Conversational AI to contextualize responses that augment the efforts of human teams, we’ve created a feature that helps sales reps of all experience levels be more productive, particularly relevant now with pressure on during a more difficult economic climate.”
Drift’s approach offers a human-in-the-loop option for sales chat that ensures responses are accurate and not subject to hallucinations.
“We have years of experience and real-life use cases that are already being applied to how we manage and bring GPT capabilities to our customers,” blogged Drift Senior Director of Product Marketing Aurelia Solomon. “And we’re excited to continue embedding GPT into our products for marketers and sellers to automate more of their workflows to save time and help them create quality pipeline, faster.”
Drift became the latest RevTech unicorn following a strategic equity investment by Vista Equity Partners. The firm did not disclose the size of the investment nor its valuation, only that the valuation exceeded $1 billion. Vista will hold a majority stake in Drift when the transaction closes in Q4.
“In partnership with Vista, Drift will continue to invest in its customers’ success while expanding its product leadership, scaling globally and bringing Conversational Commerce to more B2B businesses,” announced the firm.
Vista exclusively invests in enterprise software, data, and technology-enabled businesses.
Cancel told TechCrunch that Drift’s goal wasn’t to create a unicorn but that he and founder Elias Torres are proud to be examples for other Latino entrepreneurs:
“Drift is now part of the less than 1% of #latinx founded companies to ever achieve that milestone [$1B+ valuation].
Elias Torres ⚡️ and I believe we have a responsibility to pay it forward, to inspire other people, who are often marginalized and don’t believe they can break the glass ceiling to know that they too can do it. So today we want our #latinx community to know that together we have taken another step forward in our fight for an equitable future.”
Drift CEO David Cancel
Drift, which offers “conversational commerce for B2B,” has over 50,000 sales and marketing customer teams on its Conversational Sales platform. Drift integrates chat, email, video, and artificial intelligence to power conversations on the website and with sales reps.
75% of its customers were described as mid-market enterprise clients by Cancel. Customers include ServiceNow, Okta, Grubhub, Mindbody, Adobe, Ellie May, and Snowflake.
“Over the next decade messaging will continue to eat the world and that in order to survive and compete, enterprise businesses will need to flip the traditional model, remove friction, and put customers first. The businesses that win will be the ones that make it simpler for customers to buy from them…
Our bet is that conversations will transform the entire B2B revenue function, and with a partner like Vista, who has helped to transform and grow companies like Marketo and Wrike in recent years, we are excited for what’s next.”
Drift CEO David Cancel
Drift continues on its hypergrowth path, growing ARR 70% in 2020 with a similar growth trajectory this year. However, the company is not yet profitable as it is focused on growth.
“Our purpose as a company remains simple and consistent: Build a platform that makes it simpler for customers to buy from you. We have an opportunity to bring learnings from the B2C buyer experience to the enterprise and introduce Conversational Commerce as a new B2B category,” said Drift CEO David Cancel. “Given its extensive experience investing in next-generation SaaS companies, we believe Vista is the best partner to help Drift – and our customers – further these efforts. I am excited to work with Vista’s team of investors, operators, and technologists who will help us fulfill our ambitious vision and lead the Conversational Commerce category for decades to come.”
Cancel has his eye on taking the company public, with Vista providing a “clear path” to an IPO.
“As a next-generation SaaS company with a strong leadership team, differentiated platform, and passionate customer base, Drift is uniquely qualified and well-positioned to define and lead this new market of Conversational Commerce,” said Monti Saroya, co-head of the Flagship Fund and senior managing director at Vista. “It is a privilege to partner with talented founders like David and Elias, and we look forward to supporting them and the entire Drift team to help advance their vision to remove the friction from business buying, and in turn, create tremendous value for customers as Drift’s hypergrowth continues to accelerate.”
Boston-based Drift slowed its employment growth rate with the advent of the pandemic but accelerated its hiring in 2021, with an increase of 151 employees since December. In addition, the sales team has grown 33% over the past six months to 136.
The company appears to have started a consulting organization, growing from 2 to 18 consultants over the past year. In August, the firm hired Ryan Slinkard as their VP of Professional Services.
RevTech is a field with several minority immigrant founders of unicorns. I have recently also covered Manny Medina (Outreach CEO; Ecuador; $4.4 billion Valuation) and Tope Awotona (Calendly; Nigeria; $3B+ Valuation). Awotona was recently named a board member of SalesLoft, another RevTech unicorn.
Revenue Acceleration vendor Drift announced a pair of new services last week. I covered Fastlane, its new webforms/chatbot hybrid service yesterday. Today I’ll be discussing Sales Seat, Drift’s entry into SalesTech.
Sales Seat alerts reps when intent and engagement signals have exhibited buying activity. Drift monitors the website, SEPs, MAPs, and CRMs for buying intent. Sales Seat is Drift’s first sales product and helps reps with timing, messaging, and discovering the buying committee. Sales professionals can reach out with personalized messages via chat, email, or video, based on intent and engagement.
Sales Seat is integrated with Outreach, letting reps create sequences from the service.
A mobile app notifies reps, supports conversations, and lets reps record and send Drift videos.
A Chrome extension displays all conversations happening in Drift, monitor engagement (e.g. email opens and clickthroughs, page visits), and drop calendar information in Gmails. Reps can optionally bcc Gmails to their CRM for tracking.
The Drift Profile acts as an online business card with a link that can be dropped into emails and social media messages. Recipients can chat with the rep or book a meeting. The profile contains the rep’s title, location, a short bio, headshot, phone, and social links. The chat supports default messages to display when the rep is available and when not.
“Sales success is all about engaging today’s buyers on their terms: Digitally and immediately when they express interest,” said Drift Chief Product Officer Leo Teneblat. “With Fastlane and Sales Seat, Drift customers can ensure their best buyers and highest intent visitors receive express treatment without overloading the sales team. Not only that, but sellers have context to engage buyers with a personalized experience on the exact topics they care about in the moment they’re expressing interest.”
According to Drift, reps are six-fold more likely to book a meeting if they engage with a buyer during the first hour. Thus, immediately transitioning webform submissions into chats and notifying reps that high-scoring prospects are engaging with the company dramatically increases the likelihood of converting a lead into a meeting.
“Not all accounts are created equal. Your target accounts should receive the most personalized and high-touch buying experiences. Account-based marketing lets you create this experience while engaging with VIP buyers and connecting them to sales. By cutting through the noise, you can close more deals – faster,” blogged Drift Product Education Marketer Gauri Iyengar. “When it comes to booking meetings, there is literally no time to waste. Speed is essential to not just set up a meeting but to turn that meeting into revenue.”
The pair of services was released to early adopters that enjoyed an 82% increase in meetings booked, a 77% jump in opportunities created, and a 67% rise in pipeline influenced.
Revenue Acceleration vendor Drift rolled out a pair of sales enablement tools to facilitate rapid qualification and lead routing: Fastlane lead forms and Sales Seat intent and engagement alerts.
Fastlane combines traditional lead forms with chatbots to create “conversational forms.” Prospects fill out a lead form with contact information enriched, scored, and routed to the Drift chatbot for high-scoring leads. Thus, high-scoring prospects immediately move to sales rep conversations from the website.
Low scoring leads are passed to nurture or “other automated activations.”
“As a result, sellers can focus on high-converting buyers while routing lower-priority leads to nurture campaigns or other automated activations,” wrote Drift. “The net outcome results in more qualified sales pipeline, an efficient workflow for sales reps, and overall revenue acceleration for the organization.”
If the buyers are too busy to speak immediately, they can schedule a meeting through the chatbot. Likewise, if the rep isn’t available for chat, the bot can schedule a meeting after collecting additional prospect intelligence.
It may seem odd that a firm that is a #noforms proponent would choose to begin offering forms, but not all marketers are ready to eliminate forms.
“For most marketers, it’s the number one source of leads that they drive for their sales team. And if they didn’t have that, sales teams would be on the hook to create nearly all of their own pipeline – which is very inefficient. So we realized we had to do more. We have to support our customers in every way that they work. From the inbound motion that relies on forms to the outbound motion for customers who can’t rely on marketing alone to hit their numbers.”
CEO David Cancel
There are also scenarios where a form makes more sense than a bot. Registering for a webinar works better as a form than a bot as it is transparent about the requisite data entry. Likewise, enabling forms with optional bots increases their flexibility and value.
Continue to Part II which discusses Sales Seat and the importance of rapid sales responses for inbound leads.
Revenue Acceleration platform vendor Drift launched Drift for Salesforce, a new integration that creates and updates Salesforce Leads and Contacts then syncs chat conversations. Drift also offers the option to pass leads into Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua, or HubSpot.
Drift employs Contract Attribute mapping that derives contact attributes from chats, with both standard and custom attribute variables supported. Drift Admins map the variables between the two platforms and set overwrite rules at the field level.
When leads book sales meetings through Drift, the sales rep is assigned as the lead owner in Salesforce, a Salesforce event is created, and the chat transcript is stored as a live chat record once the chat has closed.
Drift also syncs with opportunity records, helping operations teams understand which Drift conversations impacted opportunities, the dollar value of the interactions, and which conversations influenced the deal. Thus, revenue operations teams can understand which conversations affected the bottom line, wherever they occurred across the buyers’ journey. Drift reports and dashboards assist with attribution.
“Drift’s pre-built reports and custom dashboards give you an at-a-glance view of your performance so you always have the information you and your stakeholders need – right at your fingertips. You can also use the app to analyze your performance across the business, by specific metric, or by teammate, so you can easily identify specific areas where you should double-down.”
Drift can also display customized welcome messages for target accounts and immediately route important contacts to sales reps.
Drift looks at the email and domain to map records. If a domain is new, then a new lead is created, but if the domain already exists, either a new contact record is created or the email is used to match the conversation to a current contact.
Drift for Salesforce is available for Enterprise, Unlimited, Developer, and Performance plans.
In other news, Drift ranked #6 on the Deloitte Fast 500 North American list, with 35,474% revenue growth between 2016 and 2019.
“We founded Drift because we recognized that we were going through a paradigm shift,” commented CEO David Cancel. “We were moving from a world where the company controlled the buying process — to one in which the buyer was in control. This is even more true now — and we’re just getting started. Our mission is to change the way businesses buy from businesses, and we’re thrilled that our customers have chosen us to create frictionless, more human experiences.”
Five vendors covered in my newsletters and blog made LinkedIn’s Top 50 US or Top 10 UK startups list, an indicator to the economic vibrancy of SalesTech and MarTech solutions, particularly during the pandemic.
Sales Engagement vendor Outreach placed #6 in the US, its second year making the list.
“We work hard to be a great place to work and to create an environment where [the] top talent of any background feels welcome and can thrive,” said Outreach CEO Manny Medina. “We’re always looking for passionate, tenacious employees who think differently and live and breathe our core value of having each other’s backs. I’m thrilled that we continue to attract the best of the best, and LinkedIn named us one of the top startups in the US.”
Outreach focused on “emerging and resilient startups that are navigating the ever-evolving nature of work in the wake of COVID-19.” The firm also focused on delivering sales management tools during the pandemic, helping “leaders closely monitor their team’s success and keep employees motivated and productive.”
According to CEO James Isilay, “We have just made a key hire in the US and will be expanding the offering there from October.”
Following a staff survey, Cognism will be moving to a smaller office presence and emphasize WFH options.
“Despite a challenging year with the pandemic, Cognism has continued its strong growth recently passing the key $10 million ARR mark,” wrote CEO James Isilay. “We see growth accelerating next year as we bring our go-to-market intelligence and engagement platform to new markets across Europe.”
Two tactile marketing companies, Alyce (35) and Sendoso (46), made the list. Both firms positioned direct mail e-gifting as a method to connect with customers and prospects during the pandemic.
“While many companies and entire industries were dramatically impacted by the pandemic, the need to create personal bonds as the world moved almost fully digital in the age of no major trade shows, events, and public networking became ever more paramount,” wrote Alyce. “Alyce actually thrived as a company, and swiftly pivoted to deliver digital gifts for their enterprise customers looking to create personal experience moments for their audience. Despite the market shifts, Alyce has experienced a milestone year of growth, with a vast percentage of its Annual Recurring Revenue (AAR) coming from its enterprise customer base and new use-case expansion, more than 5x-ing over last year.”
Firms were based upon four criteria: employee growth; jobseeker interest; member engagement with the company and its employees; and how well these startups pulled talent from LinkedIn’s Top Companies list. Startups must be no more than seven years old and have at least 50 employees.
One of the new elements of Drift’s Revenue Acceleration Platform (discussed yesterday) is the just-launched Drift Prospector, which “helps your sales team accelerate revenue by knowing which accounts to focus on and what to say. ” Sales reps can home in on engaged accounts, determine members of the buying committee at those accounts, and reach out to prospects.
“Gathering all the touchpoints a prospect has with a company, Drift Prospector helps sellers see which of their accounts have the highest intent so they can connect with more of their buyers faster, helping to accelerate revenue for the business,” wrote the firm.
Drift Prospector analyzes customer touchpoints from Drift, 6Sense, Demandbase, Marketo, Pardot, Outreach, and Salesforce. The service prioritizes target accounts, unifies behavioral insights across the buying committee, and supports outbound communications. Buying signals are converted into engagement scores, which help prioritize accounts for outbound messaging.
Buyer intelligence includes contact name, title, number of activities, and when the contact was last active. Deeper insights include “what the person was doing – including what pages they were on and which emails they opened, so [that] the seller can respond to each person on the buying committee in a personalized way.”
Prospector identifies additional contacts within the buying committee and tracks their engagement. When buyers land on a customer’s website, the revenue organization can “capitalize” on buyer’s intent and notify the team that somebody is ready to “engage them in a real-time conversation.” If there is nobody available to chat, the revenue organization can “easily send them an email, enroll them in an Outreach sequence, record them a Drift Video, or connect with them on LinkedIn.”
“There are a lot of tools out there that are focused on solving a single problem. For example, there’s Salesforce to manage accounts and log activities, Outreach to orchestrate outbound prospecting, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator to research key contacts at target accounts, and so on. Don’t get me wrong, I think these tools are a step in the right direction. But the reality is that your sellers still have to jump between them. And none of these tools tell your team where they should be spending their time in order to deliver the best result – whether they’re goaled on meetings or bookings.”
Drift CRO Todd Barnett
Drift is offering a broad vision of digital marketing which includes intent monitoring, buying committee identification, chatbots, live chat, video, and meeting scheduling. While they do not support all of the top of the funnel channels, partners 6Sense, Demandbase, and Marketo LaunchPoint can fill that gap; they are staking out a full customer lifecycle approach to marketing that moves beyond lead generation. The vision includes tools for unifying sales and marketing activities, analyzing engagement, prioritizing accounts, and buying committee discovery.
Drift is based in Boston, with offices in San Francisco, Seattle, and Tampa. They were founded in 2015 and claim over 50,000 customers. The firm continues to grow with 35 open positions across sales, marketing, product, engineering, customer support, and customer success.
Drift announced its new Revenue Acceleration Platform, which it described as a new category that expands its original positioning of Conversational Marketing to a broader company vision.
Revenue Acceleration “combines conversation, marketing, and conversational sales to help companies grow revenue and increase customer lifetime value,” said Drift CEO David Cancel.
Drift still backs Conversational Marketing and Sales “100%,” but is expanding its vision of marketing to impacting the entire customer lifecycle “from acquisition to renewal to expansion.”
“We weren’t thinking big enough,” posted Cancel.
Cancel described marketing as evolving across a series of eras. In the 20th century, “the madmen era,” marketing focused on the brand and didn’t have a seat in the C-Suite. Marketing was “in service to the CEO.” The Internet brought us the second era, “the demand generation era,” when “we became reliant on do-it-yourself in human ops,” and the CMO role was created. Marketing focused on lead creation and was “in service to the CRO.”
However, the world of marketing is continuing to evolve. Demand generation is “not enough anymore.” We are now entering the third era, “the revenue era,” which is broader than Drift’s original vision of Conversation Intelligence.
“We had a vision of the world where people are free to have a conversation with any business, at any time, on their terms. We thought what we were doing was helping marketers drive more leads. But what we found is that when companies adopted Conversational Marketing, it wasn’t just about marketing. In fact, what we were doing was unifying sales and marketing and directly impacting revenue. And not just revenue from new business, but revenue across the entire customer lifecycle. We have already seen this transition with some companies.”
Drift CEO David Cancel
COVID-19 has accelerated the transition to this new era where the buyer is in control, “digital is everywhere, and the best experience, story, and service wins.” The new Revenue Acceleration Platform brings together Drift Chat, AI [chatbot] Automation, email, video, and a new Drift Prospector service.
Josh Allen, CRO of conversational marketing vendor Drift, doesn’t believe in Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). Chat Qualified Leads (CQLs) are more valuable, argues Allen. CQLs are “the best leads that we have in the business.” CQLs show immediate intent as they capture prospects as they come to the website and interact with either a chatbot or sales rep. This moment is when they are “at their point of highest intent” and ready to engage with the company.
Allen said that CQLs are the highest converting lead source at Drift. They are often driven by outbound marketing campaigns and events. Chat conversations can also be driven by B2B social sites such as executive articles on LinkedIn.
“Because we’re able to engage when they are really trying to learn and are most interested in what Drift has to offer, there is a high conversion rate.”
Drift is a leader in conversational intelligence, a quickly developing market for chatbots, which support sales, marketing, and customer support. Drift also offers chat enabled video.
Congratulations to conversational marketing vendor Drift and sales intelligence vendor Cognism for making LinkedIn’s Top Startups: Hottest Companies to Work for Now lists.
Boston-based Drift was ranked 46 in the US. The firm has grown from 65 employees to 280 over the past year and plans to “double down” on its product and sales teams.
Yesterday, at their Hypergrowth conference, Drift announced the acquisition of Giant Otter, an AI and machine learning company, and the launch of Drift Automation.
Drift Automation understands the specific context of what someone is asking and can engage in conversations that go in a variety of directions. For the first time, this puts the customer is in control of the conversation — not the chatbot.
Lacey Berrien, Drift Senior Manager, Public Relations
Drift co-founder Elias Torres was impressed by Giant Otter which is based on research led by Dr. Jeff Orkin at the MIT Media Lab.
“When I met Jeff Orkin and he showed me what Giant Otter could do, I knew that I had seen the future of marketing automation,” said Torres. “We’ve been working on Drift Automation behind the scenes with early customers who have been seeing incredible results — including improvements in inbound sales velocity, pipeline and revenue growth, time back for the marketing team, and the ability to put the customer in control of the buying experience.”
London-based Cognism was ranked 21 on the UK list with plans to open offices in the US and Singapore and triple its headcount to around 200 over the next year. Cognism products include
Cognism Prospector for lead list building, prospect research, and prospect/account current awareness.
Cognism Refresh for CRM data maintenance and enrichment.
Cognism Wealth list building and TAM analysis for financial services firms and wealth managers.
Cognism closed on its Series B back in July. According to CEO James Isilay, the firm has already “won significant business remotely” in both regions. Isilay noted that Asia is a particularly compelling market due to SaaS being relatively immature in the region.
Cognism is hosting its first RevenueAI user conference at the Science Museum London on 19 September. I will be speaking on Trends in Sales and Marketing Intelligence at the conference.