Alyce for Salesloft

Keeping on the gifting theme, Boston-based Alyce announced a partnership with Salesloft to support “smart gifting” on the Salesloft Sales Engagement Platform.  The partnership lets sales and marketing teams natively send gifts through Salesloft. 

Alyce appears within the Salesloft People page side panel, where reps can select a gift and personalize the message.  Gifting options include physical gifts, gift cards, subscriptions, branded swag, on-demand services (e.g., in-home massage, portrait session), experiences (e.g., walking tours, helicopter rides), and donations.  Alyce’s AI suggests three gift choices, but reps can select other choices from the marketplace.

“Actionable insights, seamlessly integrated together can help your sales team say the right thing, to the right person, at the right time with the right gift to drive action that’ll ensure your team hits your targets month after month,” wrote Alyce.

A gifting history provides details on which gifts have been received and how the prospect engaged with the gift, helping revenue teams “optimize follow-up to drive greater impact.”

Alyce employs AI to assist with gift selection from its curated global marketplace.  Alyce recipients are sent a physical or digital notification of a gift, which they can choose to accept, exchange, donate, or decline.

“Our partnership with Salesloft is such a natural match. We are both committed to enabling revenue teams to build strong relationships and improve business results with the help of smart technology.  At Alyce, we are thrilled that our integration with Salesloft is giving marketing and sales teams new gifting superpowers right in their workflow that will allow them to deliver meaningful moments, increase revenue, and create greater impact.”

Alyce CEO Greg Segall

In a case study, Salesloft enjoyed a 50% increase in alignment between BDRs and strategic marketing with Alyce and drove a 9% increase in meeting attendance.  Furthermore, twenty percent of gifts sent resulted in new opportunities.

“Through the platform, we have uncovered an increase in the sales team’s ability to sell to our target personas,” stated Nabiha Balala, Senior Manager of Enterprise Marketing at Salesloft. “Alyce has been such a game-changer. It’s organically become part of our everyday sales process.”

Alyce’s physical gifting is currently limited to the US and Canada. However, gift cards may be sent to the US, Canada, Britain, and Ireland.

Alyce raised a $30 million Series B in April.


I’ve been running a series on Offline Marketing Automation (E-Gifting and Event Marketing) this week: My other posts:

Postal.io $22M Series B (Part II)

Continuing my coverage of Postal.io following their $22 million Series B


The Postal market supports 600 vendors, providing them with a corporate sales channel without spending on corporate channel marketing.  Their vendor network is growing organically through word of mouth.  Last month they added 149 vendors.

“Vendors can add their products to the Postal Marketplace and get direct access to B2B buyers as their preferred corporate sending partner,“ Product Marketing Director Allyssa Eclarin explained to GZ Consulting.  Items can be purchased off-the-shelf or customized.  For example, companies can send cookies with corporate logos or baby gifts with the child’s name or curated boxes for special occasions.

“People don’t necessarily want another Starbucks gift card.  They want to hear that you heard them, that you value them, and that you understand their interests.  Maybe you send them a mug of their favorite sports team or where they went to college, or a new baby bundle.  Personalization matters.  And that’s what we’re finding is people are getting more personalized than ever. People are automating this channel, and it’s working.”

Postal Director Product Marketing Director Allyssa Eclarin

Furthermore, now that we are entering people’s homes via Zoom, there is a greater level of intimacy for personalizing gifts.

Postal also supports automated direct mail, incentive marketing, brand advocacy, internal and external events, and branded company swag. CRM and MAP partner platforms include Salesforce, Marketo, HubSpot, and Eloqua.

For Salesloft and Outreach, Postal may be added as a sequence/cadence step, streamlining the gifting process.  Gifts may be sent via email, social, direct message, or direct mail, with  Postal tracking gifts and supporting analytics such as the cost per touch.  Postal also offers a “Magic Link,” a unique URL that can be inserted into an email or social channel. For example, reps can send gifts through a DM and avoid the “what’s your email?” discussion with a magic link.  The link is then tracked for shipping, attribution, budgeting, and analytics.  Magic links can also be used for “send on behalf of” situations (e.g., an SDR building a relationship for the AE).

Postal.io is positioning itself alongside market leaders in managing customer and prospect touchpoints.

With face-to-face meetings stopped during the pandemic, e-gifting and personalized gifts are among the few methods for building goodwill and generating positive memories.  Offline marketing platforms such as Postal, Sendoso, PFL, and Alyce have seen robust growth over the past eighteen months as sales reps struggle to build relationships.

Traditional gifting has been cumbersome and difficult to track, but offline marketing platforms streamline gift selection, logistics, and tracking, letting reps know when a gift has been received.  Gifting serves multiple purposes: establishing a relationship, rewarding webinar attendance, keeping in touch with a champion during an absence (e.g., health, maternity / paternity leave), or maintaining goodwill (e.g., holiday gifts, birthday gifts).

“As marketing becomes increasingly technical and formulaic, businesses are struggling to create moments that break through the noise.  The adoption of digital marketing has ironically made it harder than ever to truly connect with consumers.  Postal is among the first to personalize marketing automation by creating a bridge between a boutique front-end marketplace and the established systems already embedded in most marketing technology stacks.  The friction between offline and online marketing disappears, making it simple for brands to build more meaningful connections with consumers in any industry.”

Eugene Lee, OMERS Ventures (Postal.io investor)

Along with the funding round, Postal announced a set of product enhancements:

  • Domestic and international warehousing for branded products.
  • International gifting across seventy countries with wallets and pricing in local currencies.
  • Postal Events, launched in February, supports hybrid teams.  Postal Event enhancements include custom event images on event pages, customized event email templates and messaging, custom form fields on registration pages, and integration of Postal Events with Salesforce Campaigns.
  • Calendar booking on gift landing pages

Postal.io posted 10X ARR growth year-over-year and added over 250 new customers and 4,000 users.  The firm is based in San Luis Obispo.

Postal and its competitors disagree on their category name, with terms such as Tactile Marketing, Sending Platform, and Personal Experience Platform.  Postal uses the category name Offline Marketing Automation. The G2 review site has the firms categorized as Account-Based Direct Mail Software.

Postal customers “get it.”  They say, “you’re going to automate this channel that I know works. I’m already spending the money, but I have no way to attribute it, track it, push it back, check the ROI, or anything like that without a platform.  Now, with Postal, they can, and customers are resonating with the term ‘offline marketing automation’,” explained Eclarin.  “We’re seeing the same thing happening to our category as we saw with email marketing automation boom, with the rise of MailChimp and the like. We have given teams an automated, scalable, and repeatable way to manage their offline channels. “

A Postal license runs across the company with no per-seat pricing.  Instead, admins set up individual and departmental budgets.  Thus, the HR department can leverage Postal to build camaraderie (e.g., events), welcome new employees with swag packages, and express congratulations (e.g., baby, company anniversary).  Likewise, managers can send gifts to reward performance.

Building camaraderie during WFH has become increasingly important for Postal.  When events launched, roughly 70% were for marketing and 30% for team building. However, as Zoom fatigue settled in and the pandemic slowed the return to offices, companies began looking for fun team-building exercises that avoid Zoom burnout.  Thus, corporate event volume has moved closer to parity with marketing events.

Postal promoted a Second City roast to demonstrate the value of digital event marketing hosted on their platform.

This is the third in a series of articles on Offline Marketing Automation (i.e. e-gifting and digital event marketing).

Postal.io $22M Series B

A Second City Improv show is one of the most popular Events on Postal.

Offline Marketing Automation Platform Postal.io closed on a $22 million Series B led by OMERS Ventures, with current investor Mayfield Fund also joining the round.  The series raised total funding to $31 million.

The funds will be directed toward growing the Postal.io team, ongoing product development, and international expansion.  The firm is looking to address the lack of tracking, attribution, automation, and scale in the $120 billion market for direct mail, personalized incentives, branded swag, and corporate gifting.

Postal offers an “expansive marketplace featuring high-end, locally curated items from specialized vendors” that foster “meaningful experiences to drive better engagement with prospects, increase conversion rates, and boost employee engagement.”

“Teams that were once manually sending offline touchpoints are now able to efficiently automate and track direct mail, branded company swag, personalized gifts, and virtual events at scale.  We help companies leverage this proven channel with a frictionless, team-agnostic platform.  Companies are using Postal.io across their organization to deliver more meaningful, impactful, and delightful experiences.”

Postal.io CEO Erik Kostelnik

Events began as mostly marketing activities, but with so many employees working from home, roughly half of their events are employee team-building activities or celebrations.  Postal claims an average attendance rate of 90% for its events.

Postal offers a concierge team that operates as an “extension of your marketing team.”  Postal Concierge assists with managing “curated, branded, specialty items, and experiences that are guaranteed to surprise and delight your prospects and clients.”  The Concierge team also assists with event customization and talent booking.

A Postal collection that provides a set of coffee or tea options.  The collection is being displayed with the rep’s name via a Magic Link.

Another feature is collections.  Instead of picking a single item, the rep sends a link to an array of themed items, allowing the user to choose from the collection.  Thus, a drink collection would include coffee, tea, and cocoa options.  Likewise, a cocktail-making event would offer a mocktail option.


Part II continues with a discussion of the Postal Marketplace and integrations.

Sendoso $100M Series C

With travel restricted and many executives continuing to work from home part-time or full time, face-to-face meetings and tradeshows will remain difficult for the foreseeable future. One of the successful workarounds has been offline marketing and e-gifting. Firms such as Sendoso, Alyce, PFL, and Postal have had significant success in rising above the din of digital marketing. I will be posting a set of articles on these firms over the coming days, beginning with Sendoso’s recent funding round.

San Francisco-based e-gifting platform Sendoso closed on a $100 million Series C round and announced plans to open a European headquarters in Dublin.  The Irish office will include a dedicated logistics and supply center to support the firm’s 20,000 global customers.  The new facility supports its multinational customers and expands its opportunities within the EU.  Beyond logistics and warehousing, the Dublin office will host an engineering team, marketers, customer success, and an inside sales team focused on European sales.

The funding round was led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and raised Sendoso’s total funding to $152.7 million.  Existing investors Oak HC/FT, Struck Capital, Stage 2 Capital, Craft Ventures, Signia Venture Partners, and Felicis Ventures also participated.

“We believe Sendoso offers the most comprehensive end-to-end gifting platform in the market,” said Priya Saiprasad, partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers.  “Their platform includes a global marketplace of curated vendors, seamless integration with existing tools, global logistics, and deep analytics.  As a result, Sendoso serves as the backbone to enterprises’ engagement programs with prospective customers, existing customers, employees, and other key stakeholders.”

Sendoso Funding Rounds (Source: Crunchbase)

CEO Kris Rudeegraap termed the round a “major milestone” for the firm.  The funds will be deployed to expand its products, services, and global footprint, including the Dublin facilities.

Sendoso sends corporate swag, regular physical gifts, and gift cards on behalf of its sales and marketing clients. In addition, the platform supports gift ordering, logistics, packing, custom packaging, and shipping.  Sendoso is integrated with CRMs, MAPs, and SEPs, including Salesforce, MS Dynamics, HubSpot, Marketo, Outreach, Salesloft, and Groove.  The firm has also partnered with ABM Platforms Terminus, Demandbase, and RollWorks.

Sales reps can order gifts and send follow-on emails to customers and prospects via the Outreach / Sendoso integration.

According to Sendoso, customers enjoy a 55% net increase in new opportunities by “creating authentic connections that show prospects you care.”  The firm suggests that marketers “send a coffee eGift before an event to encourage prospects to stop by your booth.”  Reps can then “show them you’re listening by sending personalized gifts based on their interests and hobbies. If they’re a sports fan, send them a blanket with their favorite team or give them tickets to a game.”

In the absence of face-to-face meetings, e-gifting has helped build relationships and break through the digital noise.  According to HubSpot platform data, virtual selling became significantly more difficult due to a flood of messages during the pandemic.  For example, sales emails spiked 59% in Q2 2020 compared to pre-Covid levels, causing a thirty percent drop in buyer response rates compared to before the pandemic.

“Everyone was stuck at home by themselves, saturated with emails,” said Rudeegraap. “Having a personal connection to sales prospects, employees, and others just meant more.” Sendoso claims that it has the “marketplace selection and logistics precision of Amazon.com,” but with greater personalization.  For example, Sendoso supports handwritten notes, special boxing, and an Amazon partnership that routes Amazon orders to Sendoso for repackaging.

“There are a lot of things we do uniquely in terms of what we have built throughout our software, gifting options, and logistics centre. We really personalize our gifts at scale with handwritten notes, special boxing, and more,” something that Amazon cannot do.  We have built a lot of unique technology and logistics software that would make it hard for Amazon to compete.” He said that one of Sendoso’s integrations is actually with Amazon, so Sendoso users can order through there, but then the gift is first routed to Sendoso to be repackaged in a nicer way before being sent out.”

Sendoso CEO Kris Rudeegraap

Rudeegraap is a former sales executive who found gift-sending valuable but cumbersome.  This experience led him to found Sendoso in 2016 with Chief Alliances Officer Braydan Young.  The firm has fulfilled three million gifts over the past half-decade.

“I was manually packing boxes, grabbing swag, coming up with handwritten notes,” he recalled. “It was inefficient, but it worked so well. So I dreamed up an idea: why not be able to click a button in Salesforce to do this automatically? Sometimes the best company is one that solves a pain point of your own.”

Sendoso has 500 global employees with plans to grow its headcount by thirty percent by the end of the year. Sendoso did not disclose its valuation, but TechCrunch estimated it at $640 million.


Continue to part I of my coverage of Postal.io which closed on a $22 million Series B last week.

Groove Integrates with Sendoso

Sales Engagement Platform Groove announced an enhanced integration with Sending Platform Sendoso for enhanced email-based gifting.  The partnership lets joint customers send direct mail, personalized gifts, eGifts, and celebrity greetings to over 165 countries.  

The service helps revenue teams “strategically leverage gifting in their daily workflows to strengthen relationships, accelerate deal cycles, and re-engage dormant accounts,” blogged Groove Director of Communications Jason Klein.

Sales reps can send gifts from their email or send gifts after a meeting through Groove’s scheduler link.

“Unlike other sales engagement platforms that were built for prospecting, Groove seamlessly aligns with our AE and CSM workflows, making them more efficient and effective in their day-to-day workflows,” said Alex Miller, Sendoso Director of Revenue Operations.  “Our teams took to it right away, and we’ve subsequently seen 95% percent adoption across our sales and customer success teams. Not only are our reps more effective, but we have complete visibility into pre- and post-sales activities for every prospect, customer, and partner account in Salesforce.”

Sendoso claims that its customers see a:

  • 4X increase in response rates
  • 50% faster deal cycles
  • 20+ hours saved per campaign
  • 450% ROI on campaign investment

Sendoso recently ran a reactivation campaign with a 50% open rate and 21% conversion rate for booked meetings, resulting in a ten percent meeting book rate from within Groove Flows.  Reps are notified when gifts are delivered, helping raise conversion rates.

“Our AEs love that they can now live in Gmail instead of a separate app and still have Salesforce data at their fingertips and add contacts with a single click,” said Miller. “Whether an AE needs to jumpstart a stalled deal or a CSM needs to ensure a customer shows up for a meeting, Groove lets them easily send out a Sendoso-powered gift without ever leaving their workflow.”

Groove also has partnerships with Salesforce, MSD 365, Google Workspaces, Vidyard, Seismic, Highspot, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

Outreach, Cognism, Drift, Alyce, and Sendoso Make LinkedIn’s Top Startups List

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.”

Cognism that was named a top 10 UK Startup to Watch, placing at Number 9.  The firm which, was founded in 2015, has performed well during the pandemic and recently acquired German signature-block messaging firm Mailtastic.  They have already opened a UK Mailtastic office and closed their first UK deals.

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.”

Conversational Marketing firm Drift, which recently broadened its vision to Revenue Acceleration, landed at #21 on the list.  Drift offers chatbots, email, video, and a new Prospector service for intent monitoring.

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.

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.

No Tradeshows, No Site Visits — Ideas to Maintain & Grow Pipeline

I had four tradeshows canceled this month and next. They were opportunities for me to meet with customers and prospects (and conduct research for my industry newsletters). At this point, I’m assuming that at least two more will fall by the wayside in H1. I’m sure many of you are in a similar boat. Your marketing calendar is in a shambles, your field and inside sales reps are cloistered at home, and you are uncertain about how to manage remote workers.

Here are some ideas about how to retain momentum and deploy technology to mitigate pipeline and operational risks:

Video Meetings

If you haven’t deployed video widely across your workforce, due so ASAP. Vendors such as Zoom, WebEx, BlueJeans, Join.Me, and GoToMeeting provide reliable video conferencing solutions for multi-party meetings, demos, and document sharing. Video Meetings are a do not pass Go, do not collect $200 requirement. Every customer-facing, development, management, and planning employee should be able to join meetings from home or the office.

Setup scheduled video meetings for the next three months so they are blocked out on team calendars. This could be a 15-minute corporate call every few weeks, weekly team calls, and one-on-ones. Standing meetings should all be web-based. Office-based employees are going to feel disconnected socially, so build in some social fun at the team level (e.g. recognizing birthdays and work anniversaries, celebrating wins and releases, etc.)

I would also build training time into video meetings. It shouldn’t be all top-down. Give your staff the opportunity to cross-train peers. A sales rep could discuss her latest victory with lessons learned or provide insights into a target vertical. Marketing can review the latest product positioning and new collateral. Product Management can train on new products, review the product roadmap, and discuss the competitive landscape. The goal is to provide training, communications, coordination, and social interaction.

Record meetings and make them available to those who miss meetings with Slack or Team links. Expect that meetings will be missed due to illness, parenting requirements, and meeting conflicts.

Marketing Work-Arounds

As event marketing is off the table, marketers will need to be flexible in how they deploy their budgets. For those that planned on hosting events, they should at least proceed with their Keynote as a webinar. For H2, a roadshow in September or October can be planned, but mitigate risk in your contracting and through joint shows (shared cost and risk).

Marketers will need to deploy or expand their use of other channels including webinars, press releases, analyst outreach, blogging, social, and video. Direct mail is problematic as prospects are likely to be working from home, but e-gifting is a viable option. Look at e-gifting vendors that are supported by your Sales Engagement platform (e.g. Sendoso, PFL, Alyce)

Here is an opportunity to test additional channels and provide your event marketing team with some cross-channel development.

Canceled shows are also a reason for re-engagement campaigns. You can restart the marketing nurture process with a message around “not being able to talk to you this season.” Keep the message short and serious. You don’t know if your prospect is worried about his or her job, family members, or personal health. Also, don’t appear to be taking advantage of the situation. Be empathetic, not opportunistic.

Also, make sure to reschedule meetings from those cancelled conferences. These are likely to be phone or video calls, but reps and executives should reconfirm calls now.

Conversation Intelligence

Once you have standardized meetings, make sure they are recorded and transcribed. This is particularly true for sales meetings. Conversation Intelligence vendors such as Gong, ExecVision, and Chorus record calls, transcribe them, and perform NLP/AI processing on the conversations. Conversation Intelligence allows sales reps to be more present during calls as they no longer need to focus on note-taking.

Transcriptions and analytics have multiple benefits:

  • Sales Reps can quickly review calls and return to key topics and issues (e.g. pricing, next steps).
  • Sales Managers can review calls related to accounts and opportunities at risk to provide coaching tips to reps.
  • Analytics identify both the strengths and weaknesses of reps versus their peers. They also flag missed actions (e.g. discussing next steps), customer concerns, and competitors. To assist with training and opportunity scoring, Conversation Intelligence vendors identify filler word frequency, monologue length, and conversational engagement.
  • Reps can forward snippets to peers for questions and help. If there is a question about a bug or support issue, the snippet can be forwarded to support personnel for an update. If a sales rep feels that they handled a question or issue poorly, a snippet can be forwarded to sales management or training for advice on how to better handle the issue next time. Snippets allow peers to hear the voice of the customer.
  • Snippets can be stored in a library for training purposes. These would include exemplars for objection handling, competitor parrying, value discussions, etc.
  • Product Managers can perform bulk analysis of sales calls to identify requested features, competitor discussions, and product issues. Vendors allow for keyword customization and analytics.

Sales Engagement Platforms

Sales Engagement Platforms (SEPs) have come a long way over the past five years. Originally, they focused on the SDR role, but now include tools for all sales roles. Vendors include SalesLoft, Outreach, Xant (FKA InsideSales), VanillaSoft, ConnectLeader, SFDC High Velocity Sales, Groove, and Yesware.

Sales Cadences, also called sequences, are at the core of Sales Engagement. Cadences set up a structured set of multi-channel outbound communications supported by email templates, dialers, social, and SMS text. Cadences improve sales efficiency by eliminating follow up tasks, recording activities to CRMs, and deploying A/B tested content (emails, attachments, cadences, call scripts). While most commonly used for SDR outreach, cadences can also be used for meeting reminders, setting up quarterly account reviews, and training follow up.

SEP vendors understand that authenticity is the key to sales success. Simply blasting mindless emails at prospects is futile. Cadences can be customized by target role, industry, company size, technographics, and stage in the buyer journey. Furthermore, reps are expected to personalize emails before sending them out (SalesLoft says 20% is the optimal level). Most of the vendors now support 1-1 embedded videos from Vidyard, Hippo Video, or Videolicious.

SEP Vendors also provide a deep set of analytics. Initially, these focused on communication efficacy (e.g. open and click-through rates, best time of day to call), but now analytics assess conversations, call out deal risks, prioritize accounts, and suggest next best actions.

SEPs are now commonly deployed amongst SDRs and Inside Sales, but may still be foreign to field sales reps; however, field sales reps will be operating more like inside sales reps for the next quarter, so deploying SEPs to field sales makes sense.

Beyond outbound communications, SEP vendors are beginning to support meeting management (setting up calls), conversational intelligence, and opportunity management. SalesLoft and Outreach are the farthest along in supporting these emerging feature sets. SalesLoft acquired and integrated NoteNinja (meeting management) and Costello (opportunity management) into its platform.

SEP Vendors have taken two approaches to partnering. SalesLoft, Outreach, and Xant have partner App Directories while the other vendors integrate key vendors (e.g. Vidyard, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Zoominfo) into their offerings without a formal partner ecosystem directory.

LinkedIn

For B2B sales, there is no social platform more trusted than LinkedIn. Sales reps can leverage their networks by sharing marketing content (they should include some comments of their own) as well as writing their own content.

LinkedIn also offers an excellent Sales Intelligence product called Sales Navigator. It is available as both a desktop and mobile solution and provides additional communications channels:

  • InMail: An outbound email alternative, InMail allows you to message prospects for whom you lack emails and direct dial numbers.
  • Chat: A quick short-message way to keep in contact with members of the buying committee. It is also useful for quick reach out after establishing a LinkedIn connection with a prospect or to send a quick, congratulatory note. Chat messages are retained archivally, providing a conversational log. I have had success providing my Calendly link with initial chats, providing a mechanism for new connections to easily schedule a call (my Calendly includes my video meeting details so there is little friction).
  • Smart Links: Forward one or multiple attachments to a prospect via social, InMail, or email. Viewing and forwarding are tracked by LinkedIn, helping reps know which content was viewed and when. Forward tracking helps expand their understanding of the buying committee. Smart Links maintain corporate branding.

Sales Navigator provides several other high-value features:

  • SNAP connectors display LinkedIn content and Navigator functionality (e.g. icebreakers, mini-profiles, InMail) within Sales Engagement Platforms, CRMs, and other enterprise software.
  • TeamLinks allow you to leverage co-worker relationships for reaching out to prospects.
  • Build a List lets reps assemble Lead (contact) and Account lists within Sales Navigator. Lead and Account lists may also be synced from the CRM, allowing reps to track news and updates about key companies and contacts. While LinkedIn does not permit upload of account and contact data, they make exceptions for notes, tags, and messages entered by the rep in Sales Navigator. They also just added a thin record upload of contacts to CRM and the ability to flag execs that have left a company.
  • List Sharing — After building a list, users may share them with co-workers who have Sales Navigator licenses.

Sales Navigator can be a bit pricey, so running a test amongst your inside sales and field sales reps makes sense, particularly if you are concerned about H1 pipeline delays. Given the difficulty of reaching anybody by phone (made worse by prospects working at home) or email, adding additional sales communications channels is well worth testing out.

There are other LinkedIn services worth investigating or trialing. LinkedIn Marketing supports highly targeted B2B campaigns. Unlike other platforms, LinkedIn can target by company, job function, level, industry, geography, and education. LinkedIn provides campaign metrics and allows marketers to set daily budgets. Both CPM and CPC pricing are available. Pricing is based upon second-best auctions (you pay 1 cent above the second best bid price).

For larger companies, LinkedIn Elevate should also be considered, particularly with remote workers. Elevate provides a curated feed of content to company employees for social media distribution (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook). Elevate amplifies corporate messaging and reduces the level of effort for sales reps and other employees to share content through social networks.

LinkedIn Learning is offering sixteen courses at no charge covering topics related to working from home, remote management, tools, and mindset.

“In the coming days, we will make 16 LinkedIn Learning courses available for free including tips on how to: stay productive, build relationships when you’re not face-to-face, use virtual meeting tools (Microsoft Teams, Skype, BlueJeans, Cisco Webex and Zoom), and balance family and work dynamics in a healthy way.”

Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn SVP of Product

Sales Intelligence

Sales Intelligence services help sales reps build prospecting lists, quality leads, refine account messaging, expand into new departments and locations, track accounts, and target additional buying committee members.

Many sales intelligence services also offer B2B DaaS services for updating CRMs and MAPs. Salesforce data hygiene is maintained through Lightning Data connectors, a sub-category on the AppExchange. Because data is synced with CRMs and MAPs, it is continuously updated, ensuring that firmographic data is accurate and that departed contacts are removed from sales and marketing activity (BTW — contacts decay at 30% per annum, so maintaining your enterprise software contact data is a valuable investment)

Sales Intelligence vendors also provide full workflow integrations into CRMs which allow reps to build lists; view and update accounts, contacts, and leads; and perform account qualification and account planning within CRM I-frames.

Sales Intelligence vendors include

  • Zoominfo: Deep contacts, emails, org charts, and technographic content. They are the leader in technology sales intelligence and recently added visitor intelligence, trigger-based workflows, and webforms. Zoominfo (FKA DiscoverOrg) also supports Ideal Customer Profiling (ICP), email verification, and B2B DaaS.
  • D&B Hoovers: The deepest set of global company intelligence for strategic sales reps. Includes full family trees, public company financials and filings, analyst reports, industry market research, SWOTs, European private company financials, and sales triggers. Dun & Bradstreet also supports ICP, B2B DaaS, Visitor Intelligence, Programmatic Marketing, and Customer Data Platforms.
  • InsideView: A global database with greater depth in North America and Europe, InsideView offers strong sales triggers and integrated social media viewing. InsideView also supports B2B DaaS and ICP.
  • Sales Genie: The best solution for reps that sell to both companies and individuals (e.g. insurance agencies, mobile, office supplies, landscaping). Features include light sales force automation for firms that have yet to implement a CRM, new businesses, new homeowners, email templates, integrated dialer, and marketing services (SEO, site design, direct mail).
  • RelPro: A specialist vendor targeting financial services companies.
  • Artesian Solutions: A UK-based social selling vendor with deep sales triggers and mobile-based meeting prep. They also offer a US solution.
  • Cognism: A UK-based sales intelligence vendor with sales engagement functionality, B2B DaaS services, and ICP tools.
  • Vainu: A Nordic-based sales intelligence vendor that also covers the Netherlands (France, US, and the UK are in beta). They also support B2B DaaS and trigger-based workflows.

Ongoing Investment

Research has shown that firms that continue to invest during recessions come out of the downturns much better prepared to grow market share and revenue than those that stop investing. Marketing is an investment in your pipeline and brand. B2B Data-as-a-Service is an investment in your data quality and ability to target prospects effectively. It also reduces sales and marketing waste in efforts directed at weak prospects and departed contacts. SalesTech and MarTech purchases are investments in your revenue generation capabilities.

This is also an opportunity for your sales and marketing teams to cross-train, develop new skills, and test out new tools and processes.

When we come out of the backside of what, hopefully, is a short-term recession, you want to be better prepared to meet latent demand for your products and services. While cutting back on investment and cash burn may be necessary for survival at some companies, don’t cut back on your ability to serve the market in 2021 unless you have to do so. Let others sacrifice the future of their revenue generation operations out of short-term concerns. Bank your savings in travel expenses and event marketing, but don’t cut back in other areas unless necessary.

Terra Incognita

We are entering a terra incognita for the next three to six months, so steady, empathetic leadership should be your objective. On 9/11, our CEO pulled us into the room and talked to us. I don’t remember his words, but I remember that he was calm and understood that we were all upset and anxious. Business was the least of his concerns that day. He wanted to show a steady hand at the tiller and sent us home to be with family.

Our raison d’être is not to work, and sometimes we are jolted back into that reality. Family, friends, and health are a higher priority. COVID 19 is not the new normal, but simply a bad storm that will pass.

Outreach Unleash

At its Unleash user conference, Outreach rolled out its expanded Galaxy partner ecosystem that “offers deeper partner integrations and enables sales teams to more effectively access multiple sales tools directly from the Outreach platform.”  Outreach also announced a set of new partners including Vidyard (1-to-1 video), Intercom, (chat) and Sendoso (direct mail) along with a set of new plugins for composing emails, event streams, and link encoding.

Outreach Galaxy provides:

  • “More visibility on information and actions performed by third-party applications like video views or website chats.  Outreach Galaxy puts actionable information at reps’ fingertips so they can have more contextual conversations.
  • ‘Next best actions’ enabled through integration partners.  Outreach automates customer touchpoints and can trigger or be triggered by external information fed into Outreach.
  • Greater ability to meet changing buyer preferences.  Outreach is the system of action for modern sales teams, and now enables reps to communicate with buyers through even more mediums.

“Sales is evolving to become more personal and accurate.  You must use the right channel for the right engagement for the right prospect and customer,” said Outreach CEO Manny Medina.  “A sales engagement platform must be multichannel and have the ability to optimize on each depending on the customer.  Now you can do that, with Galaxy.”

Tactile Marketing Automation vendor (Translation: Direct Mail Swag) PFL also announced an Outreach integration.  Sales reps include a direct mail or reward step within Outreach sequences.

“We’re all inundated with thousands of digital messages a day, but studies show that touching something physical stimulates our emotions and ultimately improves the perception of a brand,” said PFL CEO Andrew Field.  “We are joining the Outreach Galaxy partner program to put the power of direct mail and high impact packages directly into the hands of sales reps so they can engage prospects and customers.  Together with Outreach, we are pioneering a new approach to B2B marketing that empowers sales reps to do what they do best: stand out, get noticed and close more deals.”

Outreach listed a set of future partners including Alyce, BombBomb, Clari, LeanData, OneMob, and Tiled.

When composing emails, third-party content is immediately accessible.  Vendors leveraging the new plug-in capability include Vidyard and Sendoso.

The new events stream plugin feeds third-party events to the Outreach activity feed.  These events can then act as triggers for additional action.

An Enhanced Team Performance Dashboard is planned for 2019.
An Enhanced Team Performance Dashboard is planned for 2019.

Link Encoding provides website or content viewing intelligence related to Outreach sequences.  For example, the new plug-ins help Vidyard “record and send videos within your Outreach email.  And when your prospect views the video, that activity triggers your next task so you can immediately take action to convert at the highest level.”

In 2019, Outreach will roll out an enhanced Team Performance Dashboard and expanded Sequence Analytics to help sales managers and sales operations professionals better determine best practices.

Over 500 Outreach customers have has already built integrated solutions using the Outreach API.  The firm has over 40,000 weekly active users performing 47 million actions.

Outreach added Out of Office reply detection.  The firm noted that 18% of email responses are out of office emails.  Amongst out of office messages, 25% include an alternate contact name with over half the names being manager titles or above.  The Out of Office reply detection extracts the return date and alternate names then pauses cadences until the prospect returns.  The sales rep is notified of automated actions.

“Modern sales means using technology to interact with buyers in the ways they expect.  Outreach has the responsibility to enable this, but we can’t do it alone.  The solution is a variety of different technologies.  Unfortunately, these solutions aren’t well coordinated, if at all.  They’re used on multiple computer windows, by multiple departments, using different devices.  We owe it to our mutual customers to string everything together, for reps to do their jobs on one single pane of glass with each action informing the next.”


Outreach Strategic Programs Manager Stephen Farnsworth

Medina defined Outreach’s objectives as making “things simpler.  Making every rep successful.  Every manager amazing” and “elevate the profession.”  To help define and promote the category, Outreach published a book titled “Sales Engagement: How the World’s Fastest Growing Companies Are Modernizing Sales through Humanization at Scale.”

Outreach supports over 3,000 customers.