SalesLoft Rainmaker 2019 Keynote

SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter Gave the Opening Keynote at the SalesLoft Rainmaker 2019 Sales Conference.
SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter Gave the Opening Keynote at the SalesLoft Rainmaker 2019 Sales Conference.

At their Rainmaker 2019 conference, SalesLoft announced a doubling of their ecosystem, mobile functionality, a rebuilt analytics engine, and a hot leads feature.  The show attracted 1,300 attendees to hear 164 speakers.

“We’re in the middle of an evolution in the relationship between sellers and buyers,” said SalesLoft’s CEO, Kyle Porter.  “Sales teams need to tear up their playbooks and start fresh with a blend of human, relevant sales tactics and the modern technology needed to create an authentic sales experience that is repeatable and scalable.”

SalesLoft’s purpose is to “to activate the authentic seller in all of us” and elevate the sales profession by offering “world-class experiences.”  The firm operates under a quintet of values that inform its hiring and operations:


SalesLoft Operating Principles.

These principles led to SalesLoft being named the top-midsized employer in Atlanta for the second year in a row.  “We embrace the transformative power of technology innovation for our customers, but we believe in people first,” said Porter.  “Our founding purpose is to create an environment where others can come to learn more, do more, and become more.  Team members are encouraged to take their talents and skills and apply them to serve others and find fulfillment.  We show love to our people so they can share that sentiment with our customers.”

SalesLoft’s sales engagement platform is designed to support evolving buying behavior.  B2B buyers are swamped by messaging and “super busy,” yet need to solve complex problems.  Buyers are looking for an “engaging, authentic experience” that understands buyer needs and solves their problems.  However, sellers are inefficient and operate with broken processes.  SalesLoft is looking to address process failures by centralizing sales workflows and encouraging best practices.  Objectives include elevating the sales profession through community, encouraging diversity amongst its staff and event speakers (54% of whom were women or minorities at Rainmaker), and transparency in its policies and outcomes.

Porter described his future vision of sales where “every single seller has a digital assistant by their side” along with a “sales coaching network” which is a “giant distributed network of sales activity.”  Sales reps are supported by a digital assistant which delivers broad data and context-specific insights based on seller, stage, and customer to help reps “connect authentically with the buyer.”

Porter contends that “you can’t take the human out of the equation” but you can make it “easier to distribute a world-class experience to your customer.”

“[It’s time to] elevate the profession of sales to focus on delivering customers world-class experiences.  With that, you can maximize revenue.  A sales experience must be authentic, engaging, relevant, human, one-to-one and, most importantly, it understands buyers’ needs and solves their problems.”


SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter

Sales reps have long suffered from a bad reputation, being forced to take ethical shortcuts to meet managerial demands.  SalesLoft is looking to lead by example.  According to Porter, when “we do right,” SalesLoft customers are able to hire, innovate, and invent new things.

SalesLoft’s other goal is to improve the efficiency and efficacy of sales teams.  A SalesLoft study found a 22% increase in opportunities created when comparing the 90-day windows before and after implementing their platform.  To back up their research, they commissioned a Forrester study of their customers which found a

  • 2.5X improvement in response rates
  • 20% lift in conversion and productivity
  • Doubling of the funnel
  • 13% increase in renewals
  • 329% ROI

“Many people say we’re in a state of digital transformation,” said SalesLoft CMO Sydney Sloan.  “For sales, we’re entering a revolution of how we engage customers.”

Buyers are looking for partners that work with them to identify and resolve issues.  “Today’s successful seller has to be a problem solver and you do that by asking great questions and collectively solving the problem with and for your customer,” said Sloan.  “It doesn’t matter if the product goes 10 miles an hour or 50 miles an hour, it’s the people I want to work with in partnership and, at the end of the day, it’s the people I want to work with.  I’ll pick a company because of the relationship.  The product still has to solve my problems but if two things are equal, I’ll go with the partnership.”

Buyers are looking for partners that work with them to identify and resolve issues.  “Today’s successful seller has to be a problem solver and you do that by asking great questions and collectively solving the problem with and for your customer,” said Sloan.  “It doesn’t matter if the product goes 10 miles an hour or 50 miles an hour, it’s the people I want to work with in partnership and, at the end of the day, it’s the people I want to work with.  I’ll pick a company because of the relationship.  The product still has to solve my problems but if two things are equal, I’ll go with the partnership.”


Part II: SalesLoft Rainmaker Product Announcements

Transformation (Not Digital) is the Key to Digital Transformation

Searches for Digital Transformation on Google
Searches for Digital Transformation on Google (Source: MIT Sloan Management Review)

George Westerman, principal research scientist with the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, wrote an excellent article on Digital Transformation titled Your Company Doesn’t Need a Digital Strategy.  His key point was that the true value in digital transformation comes from using digital technologies as the fulcrum for transformation not as the objective.  When focusing simply on a technology for technology’s sake, the return on investment is much lower.

In the digital world, a strategic focus on digital sends the wrong message. Creating a “digital strategy” can focus the organization in ways that don’t capture the true value of digital transformation. You don’t need a digital strategy. You need a better strategy, enabled by digital.

Westerman cautions that technology doesn’t provide business value in a vacuum, but only when fused with a business strategy that transforms a key aspect of your business such as product delivery (e.g. e-commerce), customer understanding (e.g. analytics), “radically synchronizing operations” (e.g. IoT), changing business models (again IoT), etc.  Thus, “technology’s value comes from doing business differently because technology makes it possible.”

For example, sales intelligence isn’t about providing reps with additional contacts or feeding them with business factoids so they sound smooth on calls.  It is about transforming sales and marketing processes by infusing relevant, accurate, and timely intelligence into sales and marketing workflows; aligning sales and marketing objectives; prioritizing activities; and making sales reps more efficient and effective at selling.

Westerman offers four strategies for digital transformation:

  1. Get Away from Silo Thinking — Focusing on a technology strategy (e.g. Mobile, Big Data) can be limiting and ends once the technology has been implemented.  A technology focus results in incremental improvements, whereas a business transformation strategy employs multiple technologies and management interventions.  You begin with the objective and then determine the digital processes and workflows for implementation.  “A customer intimacy strategy, for instance, uses mobile along with other digital technologies to constantly increase personalization, engagement, and satisfaction.”
  2. Don’t push the envelope too far, too fast — Overly ambitious strategies may be very risky while more mundane projects may be ignored.  Cutting edge technology may not be ready or implementation strategies may not be understood.  “Business leaders leave easy money on the table if they ignore incremental steps and pursue risky opportunities that may not be ready to pay off yet.”
  3. Don’t ask your tech leaders to drive transformation alone — This is an old piece of advice, but still relevant.  Early CRM projects often failed due to a top down approach that lacked support from sales and support teams.  The CTO or CIO needs to work with other C-level and mid-level executives that provide expertise in the industry and function.  For example, The CTO cannot transform sales and marketing by fiat, but must work with sales and marketing management for expertise, cooperation, risk mitigation, implementation, and communication.
  4. Build essential leadership capabilities, not just technical ones — Digital transformation isn’t a project but the ongoing development of enterprise capabilities and business value.  Digital leaders should “create a transformative vision, engage their people in that vision, and then govern strongly to chart a course across a whole portfolio of digital transformation efforts — some planned and some yet to be discovered.”

Not all problems require expensive cutting edge technology.  Many problems are still soluble through low tech solutions, small dollar investments into current platforms, and modified processes.  A focus on technology not only brings about silo thinking, but could increase complexity and cost.

I’m reminded of my high school Geometry teacher who said, “there are two ways you can kill a fly.  You can use a fly swatter or you can use a bazooka.”

I suspect the bazooka would be a lot more fun, but costlier and riskier.

That being said, there are also great risks in moving slowly or lacking a digital strategy.  Forrester highlighted the risks of being a Digital Dinosaur.  The author Nigel Fenwick noted that the digital predators are customer obsessed:

While all companies profess to put customers first, it’s clear from the data that executives at digital Predators care more passionately about the customer across multiple dimensions: In every customer metric we measured, these executives rated the importance of the customer higher than peers in transformers and dinosaurs – in short, they are not just customer obsessed, they are really, really customer obsessed.

And consistent with Westerman’s advice, customer obsession is a business objective, not a technology focus.  It is this deep understanding of customer needs that both informs the business and technology strategy and creates a defensible technology advantage.

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.

Are you ready for EU GDPR Compliance?

On May 25, 2018 the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect, creating data privacy and security concerns for firms both inside and outside of the EU.  The GDPR covers both companies that provide goods and services to EU residents and those that are part of the value chain.  The regulation covers all individuals domiciled within the EU, regardless of where the company is headquartered.

According to Forrester, the regulation has five key requirements:

  • If a firm has “regular, systemic collection or storage of sensitive data,” they need to hire or designate a Data Protection Officer (DPO).  The function may be filled by individuals with legal, privacy, security, marketing, or customer experience.  The International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) estimates that the regulation will require 30,000 privacy officers.  The DPO will need to work with security leaders with respect to identity and access management (IAM) and encryption.  They will also be involved in purchasing decisions around CRM, analytics, and other platforms.
  • Should a data breach occur, firms have a-72 hour window for reporting breach details to the authorities and customers.  The window begins as soon as the breach is detected.
  • Privacy must be built into any new projects with a “Privacy-by-design” philosophy.  Forrester stated that “sustained collaboration between teams will be critical, so firms will have to establish new processes to encourage, enforce, and oversee it.” For example, privacy officers will need to review business requirements and development plans related to new apps.
  • Extraterritoriality places requirements on firms outside of the EU, making it a global requirement.  Forrester notes that “a US-based data aggregator that collects and resells EU customers’ data to other business partners will need to comply fully with GDPR requirements, rather than simply meeting international data transfer rules.”
  • Firms will be responsible not only for securing data but providing evidence that they have implemented appropriate risk mitigation.  Thus, a firm can be held in violation even if they have not had customer complaints or data breaches.

US companies are still obligated to comply with the 2016 Privacy Shield agreement between the US and EU.  Forrester also warned UK firms to comply with the GDPR as lowering British privacy standards would only serve to complicate UK-EU data transfer rules post Brexit.

Forrester suggested that firms take a cost-benefit analysis to data instead of simply storing everything:

“Firms will learn to better assess the costs and benefits of records they process, store, and protect. They will progressively focus on collecting, buying, processing, storing, and protecting only the data that offers them the most value and will kill the rest.”

Forrester also suggested that privacy should be part of a firm’s DNA and some firms will integrate privacy into brand perception and the customer experience, providing a basis for competitive advantage.

Osterman Research conducted a survey of mid to large companies subject to the law to identify technology expenditure increases for GDPR compliance.

GDPR compliance expenditure increases (January 2017)
GDPR compliance expenditure increases (January 2017)

GDPR non-compliance costs are potentially very high with penalties up to the greater of €20 million or 4% of total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year.

Digital Transformation and Sales Intelligence

Data Source: “The 2016 Guide To Digital Predators, Transformers, and Dinosaurs," Forrester Research, May 2016.
Data Source: “The 2016 Guide To Digital Predators, Transformers, and Dinosaurs,” Forrester Research, May 2016.

Forrester released a study titled “The 2016 Guide To Digital Predators, Transformers, and Dinosaurs” which argued that companies need to quickly transform themselves into digital businesses.  The study broke businesses into three digital categories: Predator, Transformer, and Dinosaur and evaluated the percent of business that are either digital services or sold online.

Predators are already generating over 80% of their business digitally and will grow their business to 90% by 2020.  For them, digital is a foundational element of their operations.

Likewise, transformers are quickly evolving into digital businesses while dinosaurs are plodding along.  In 2014, only one in six dollars was generated digitally at transformers, but by 2020, two of every three dollars will be digitally mediated at transformed businesses.

At the dinosaurs, only one in three dollars will be digitally generated in 2020.

Forrester found that transformers are customer-centric in their business strategy and processes.  Customer obsession is part of their corporate DNA:

While all companies profess to put customers first, it’s clear from the data that executives at digital Predators care more passionately about the customer across multiple dimensions: In every customer metric we measured, these executives rated the importance of the customer higher than peers in transformers and dinosaurs – in short, they are not just customer obsessed, they are really, really customer obsessed.

  • Nigel Fenwick, Forrester VP and Principal Analyst

Overall, Forrester found that 29% of current total sales are influenced by digital, but that 47% would be digitally influenced by 2020.  Thus, any business that wishes to remain competitive must have a digital strategy which encompasses sales, marketing, credit decisioning, contracting, and all of the elements across your sales funnel.

My blog focuses on sales intelligence (with some discussion of marketing intelligence and DaaS), so I’m covering a subset of this transformation.  But sales intelligence is a key element of the digital transformation of sales and marketing.  Its goal is to make sales reps more efficient and effective at generating revenue through

  • Improved understanding of customers and prospects.  Whether the company is employing ABM, ABSD, social selling, trigger selling, or other techniques, customer-centricity begins with an understanding of the customer at the contact, company, and industry level.  Sales intelligence vendors go beyond firmographics and contact data to deliver business descriptions, SWOTs, biographies, social posts, industry research, financials, analyst reports, technology platforms, etc.
  • Current Awareness. Improved awareness of changes at customers and prospects helps to improve account planning, messaging, and forecasting.  Where once this intelligence was delivered as generic company news, the sales intelligence vendors have refined their tagging and now provide high precision sales triggers which are accurate at both the company and business topic level.  Some have even begun to integrate sales triggers into their prospecting engines.
  • Reduced busywork + improved data quality.  Sales intelligence vendors cut the time wasted on busywork through the implementation of DaaS enrichment of accounts, contacts, and leads.  Enrichment provides more accurate firmographics, corporate linkage, and contact information which is then propagated to downstream systems.  It also reduces the keying done by prospects on web forms and sales reps in CRMs.  Furthermore, targeting, segmentation, and messaging are much more accurate when the ongoing maintenance of account intelligence is managed by a third party.

Over the past decade, sales intelligence firms have grown from standalone web information portals to integrated workflow services that deliver a broad set of account intelligence to CRMs, marketing automation platforms, sales acceleration (ABSD) services, Google Chrome, web forms, and mobile devices.  Thus, sales intelligence is now becoming available to sales, marketing, and service departments across a broad set of platforms and devices.

If you would like to read more on my thoughts concerning the digital transformation of sales and marketing, I have also discussed the topic on Sparklane and Avention’s blogs.