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.

6Sense – Outreach Integration

A new 6Sense integration with Outreach helps reps plan account activities from within their CRM and then take actions through the Outreach Sales Engagement Platform.  6Sense insights help reps “prioritize their Outreach strategy, understand their buyers, and time their outreach based on AI-driven predictions of where accounts are in the buying journey.”

6Sense warms up accounts and determines when they are in-market and ready for sales outreach.  With a single click on a contact record, reps can start an Outreach sequence.  If a sequence is already underway, the rep is notified.

“The combination of having comprehensive account and contact data, the right workflow, a customized cadence, and personalized messaging based on buyer behavior can be the difference between a loss and a win,” blogged 6Sense.

The two platforms are complementary with 6Sense managing marketing outreach, enriching data, and scoring prospects and Outreach managing multi-channel sales communications, including email, phone call, text message, social media, direct mail, video, and calendaring.

While SEP ecosystem profiles often rehash features and one partner’s messaging, 6Sense and Outreach focused on their joint value proposition:

“For customers of 6sense and Outreach, our partnership means a union of insight and education around intent and engagement data necessary to target the right accounts and contacts, as well as the predictable, real-time pace at which to engage and ultimately increase conversion rates.  Sales intelligence technology such as ours helps sales reps focus on the more human moments throughout the buyer journey.  Together, 6sense and Outreach help marketing and sales spend less on the time-consuming, calculated risks of sifting through seemingly qualified leads and haphazardly reaching out to them.”

6Sense Blog

The partners highlighted additional benefits, including more relevant sales conversations based upon 6Sense sales intelligence, expanding messaging across the buying committee, and next-best-action recommendations that help reps “better prioritize their day and make stronger connections with buyers.”

SalesLoft Plug-in for Sugar Sell

BrainSell announced the immediate availability of their SalesLoft Plug-in for Sugar Sell.  The native integration provides SalesLoft multi-channel, cadence-based sales engagement from within SugarCRM.  The plug-in supports data syncing for Accounts, Contacts, Leads, Emails, Calls, and user data.  SugarCRM customers can create, update, and convert leads inside of SalesLoft.

“With the Sugar Sell integration, mutual customers gain an automated data flow between both systems.  This means users maximize efficiency with less manual data processes and streamlined employee workflows,” wrote BrainSell.

“SugarCRM’s no-touch, time-aware customer experience platform acts as the nucleus of your company’s tech ecosystem to help companies create customers for life.  We’re proud to have a partner like BrainSell focused on innovating the way they help customers grow.  This integration completely streamlines and optimizes sales and development reps’ productivity by giving them tools like SalesLoft designed specifically for their role, all while ensuring data is pushed back and forth between Sugar Sell.”

Clint Oram, Chief Strategy Officer of SugarCRM

“At SalesLoft, we take pride in the deep partnerships we have with companies like BrainSell to maximize the value our customers gain from using our solution,” said Sean Kester, SalesLoft VP of Platform Strategy.  “With partners like BrainSell, we’re excited to expand the value of our platform by enabling our customers to integrate all their data in Sugar Sell, all while positioning sales teams to continue working within SalesLoft.”

The integration is available through SugarOutfitters for $2,495 per year for an unlimited number of users.  The connector supports SugarCRM 7.0.0 and above.

Last month, BrainSell released a similar plug-in for Outreach.  It is also available through SugarOutfitters for $2,495.

Outreach KAIA Meeting Assistant

Sales Engagement vendor Outreach presented its 2020 product roadmap at its Unleash virtual conference.  The most compelling announcement was Kaia, its voice-enabled sales assistant that works alongside sales reps during video calls to record, transcribe, and deliver real-time assistance.  Other new capabilities include Sequence Intent Reporting, Outreach Voice Connectors, and Bombora Intent Scores.

“I’ve been waiting five years for Outreach Kaia.  This is the most powerful tool to be introduced in the sales industry in a long time, and we are very excited to be bringing the next generation of sales technology to life,” crowed Outreach CEO Manny Medina, who demoed the digital assistant during his keynote.  “Now more than ever, sales teams need Outreach Kaia — especially when so many of them are working remotely.  Outreach Kaia’s ability to surface real-time information exactly when a sales rep needs it during a live conversation is powerful.”

“Imagine you’re on a sales call, and someone asks you a question about your product or your competitor’s pricing, and you don’t know the answer.  Well, Outreach Kaia will automatically pull up the information you need – in real-time.  This level of intelligent assistance will make sales teams productive immediately.  Outreach already drives a nearly 5x return for our customers.  Now, with Outreach Kaia, we expect that ROI to soar.”

Outreach CEO Manny Medina

Kaia (Knowledge AI Assistant) delivers guided engagement for sales reps.  At the outset, reps are shown meeting and attendee information.  Tabs provide additional details on the account and opportunity, providing a quick pre-meeting review opportunity.  As the call gets underway, real-time transcription and analysis take place so that reps do not need to jot many notes during the call.  At any point, the rep can set a bookmark or add a short note.  As the note is stored in context, it might only require a word or two (e.g. Roadblock, Budget).  

Outreach Kaia operates as a real-time intelligent assistant that supports sales reps during customer calls. It transcribes the call, sets bookmarks for review, notes attendees and action items, and provides topical summary cards.

Kaia both records and analyzes the discussion, providing in-line prompts to the rep, such as a quick overview of a third-party mentioned during the call, short answers to technical and product questions, or objection handling tips.  The answers and objection handling are customer-defined, ensuring that company-specific details are displayed on a just-in-time basis.  Not only does each content card provide a technical and product backstop for new sales reps, but it allows experienced reps to speak with confidence on more technical details or dynamic topics from which they might shy away.

Content and people cards are trackable, “so managers can see which cards produce the best results and scale these insights across their teams,” wrote Product Storyteller Sunny Bjerk.

Kaia also notes action items during the call, again relieving reps of note-taking duties.  After the call, a summary is emailed to the rep with a set of action items, bookmarks, notes, and attendees.  The rep can then customize the document and share it with other stakeholders.

Kaia is displayed as a meeting participant, with attendees alerted at the beginning of the call that is it being recorded.  Transcripts and recordings are “securely stored within Outreach, which has enterprise-grade security measures already in place.”  Transcripts are available for training or review after the call.

Outreach Kaia is available for Early Access Signup for the summer 2020 beta and will be generally available in late 2020.  It is currently available for Zoom video conferencing with additional video partners in development.

Outreach Preaches Strategic Pivoting

CEO Manny Medina used his Outreach Unleash virtual conference, which was rescheduled from an early April live event, to inspire and motivate leaders to pivot their businesses.  Noting that his company nearly failed before finding value in some internal sales engagement tools that saved his company, he discussed two strategies for companies: hunkering down or pivoting.  His recommendation was to pivot into new markets, products, and messaging.  For most companies, their “customer’s realities have changed, and the old value proposition won’t work.”  

Some will hunker down, pare employees, marketing, and spend, hoping to wait out the storm.  This is a survival strategy, but it leaves the company weakened when things improve and demand returns.  Hunkering down assumes that the current situation is temporary and won’t have a long-term impact on their markets.  Firms that hunker down may survive, but they cede market share, ongoing product development, and an understanding of evolving market requirements.  Bolder competitors continue to build their product, establish relationships, and prepare for the thaw.

There are a few companies in segments where demand is exploding.  These lucky firms need to manage explosive growth around e-commerce, e-delivery, or digital services.  To these firms, Outreach is asking how can we best meet your needs?  But most companies do not fall into those categories.

“A lot of customers are coming to us looking for guidance on how to get through this.  They want insight into how to manage their teams remotely and how to pivot their business.”

Outreach CEO Manny Medina

Medina recommends pivoting in search of new markets, products, and opportunities.  Doing so requires that firms carefully analyze their skills, assets, and messaging.  Firms need to “measure and iterate,” “be one with the customer,” and “act with urgency.”  Sales reps and management need to be doing more check-ins with clients.  The goal isn’t to be selling today, but sharing ideas, building trust, and empathetically discussing needs.  Sales reps need to be disciplined and ”listen to understand, not to respond,” while management must identify new markets, personas, and messaging.

Medina views the pandemic and subsequent crisis in demand as an opportunity to grow, become more efficient, and get closer to one’s customers.  In a shrinking market, the bold may not grow revenue; still, they will increase market share, investigate new opportunities, and build relationships, which will allow them to outperform when the market improves.

Outreach is “working hard to master the ability to create trusting relationships — at a distance,” said Medina.  “Only two months ago, it was religion that you needed to meet someone in person to build trust – now we are doing it all over video.”

Now, COVID has given everyone an excuse to come in below their number this year.  However, you have no excuse for not answering yes to the following questions.

– Did your teams become more efficient?
– Did you iterate and pivot until you found a sweet spot that worked?
– Did you level up your sales process to make WFH successful?

Now is the time to act on the things you CAN control.  To build for the future.

Outreach CMO Max Altschuler

Internally, Medina has emphasized communications, switching from weekly emails to weekly videos and weekly office hours via Zoom.  “It helps me be visible and showcase both a serious tone and an optimistic one.”

Outreach is also building loyalty amongst its staff.  It has retained all of its 550 employees.  To assist WFH parents, Outreach is providing $100 per week for educational materials, tutoring, tools, and supplies.   Outreach has also provided additional support beyond its healthcare plan to employee families impacted by COVID-19.

Outreach chose not to apply for PPP loans even though its investors suggested they do so.  The firm, however, continues to invest 40% of its revenue in product development, preparing for the next market inflection point.

Outreach also chose to continue its expansion. It opened a London EMEA office in February with plans to its first East Coast office in New York City later this year.  The firm has over 400 clients headquartered in NYC, nearly ten percent of its customer base.  The new office will be led by Regional VP David Rubenstein who has over fifteen years of industry experience, the past six years at Salesforce.

Outreach Opens EMEA Office

Sales Engagement vendor Outreach opened its London EMEA headquarters, intending to treble its London customer-facing headcount by the end of the year.  The firm already has over 20 local staff in support, sales, professional services, and customer success.  The firm has over 500 customers with local or global teams in Europe, including DocuSign, Deliveroo, and Protegrity.

“We see a very real opportunity to help evolve the sales industry and customer experience in Europe, and we see London as the best place to do so.  U.S. teams are engaging with customers in new and innovative ways.  Our customers in Europe have shared with us that they believe Outreach can provide European customer-facing teams with the tools they need to transform the sector and turn sales into a true engine for business growth.”

Outreach CEO Manny Medina

“I want to thank our customers here in the U.K. who have been on this journey with us since we launched, said Outreach CEO, Manny Medina.  “Thanks to their early and ongoing support, we knew we had market fit – we just needed the right person to grow and lead our team here.”

Tom Castley was named the head of EMEA sales, where he is “hard at work” assembling the London sales office.  Castley has over twenty years of experience building “high functioning” technology sales organizations.  He previously led Apptio’s pan-European account team and held several sales roles at Oracle.

“The sales industry needs to brush up on its image of an industry full of mavericks who magically secure their sales pipeline at the last minute.  We think it’s time we put this cliché to bed,” said Castley.  “This is why we’re swapping it for a data-driven approach that helps create a steady flow of prospects filling the pipeline and replaces the ‘peaks and troughs’ of the sales cycle with a predictable process.  Companies can then arm their team with relevant data to not only perfect the art of customer engagement but also increase the productivity of the sector and give the board a simple system to predict their revenue.”

Outreach has over 450 employees and 4000 global customers.  Last year, the firm nearly doubled its revenue to $70 million, according to Forbes.

Last week, Outreach canceled its annual 2020 Unleash Conference due to the Corona virus.

Outreach: Growth through Redefinition

Sales Engagement Platform Outreach, which is enjoying significant growth and good press, has twice had to redefine itself.  The first time was a pivot from supporting recruiters to sales reps.  The second redefinition was cultural – reshaping its male-centric, burn-the-midnight-oil culture into a more inclusive, hospitable environment.

Forbes estimated Outreach revenue at $70 million in its last fiscal year (January 2020) up from $38 million in fiscal year 2019.  The firm is considering a direct IPO, but views that event as several years out.  In the meantime, “Our goal is to take Outreach and become a large, independent company,” says DFJ Growth partner Sam Fort.

Outreach’s initial sales were mostly into tech firms such as DocuSign, where the software saves reps at least ten hours per month by streamlining and improving sales communications.  “You have to land tens of thousands of customers and you can’t do that with a team of 100 people cold calling,” says DocuSign CRO Loren Alhadeff.  “Your best bet is to find a way to make your touches more important and more pertinent.”

Medina sees the opportunity as much broader and believes only 1% of the market has been tapped.  Sales engagement may even expand beyond B2B sales functions and support higher-end consumer sales roles such as financial advisors and mortgage brokers.

The path to success has been rocky.  The firm began in the recruitment space and was nearly bankrupt when it began marketing some internal sales tools it developed.  Outreach has also had problems with employee churn due to rapid hiring, a difficult winner-take-all pace that burned-out staff, and a male culture that permitted “sexually charged jokes.”

But Medina, an Ecuadorian immigrant, realized that cultural change was necessary.  “I don’t come from central casting.  I’m not an old white guy from Silicon Valley,” he said.  “I know what it’s like to be marginalized, so I take this to heart.”

To address these problems, the firm released managers that promoted the negative culture, centralized sales teams so that reps could learn from each other, and hired Anna Baird as COO.  Baird has focused on hiring and building an inclusive culture where “everyone has a fair shot.”

The executive team is now 40% female with a goal of parity.  “This is not a checkbox for me,” said Medina.  “This is the life I want to live.  I want to be surrounded by people who want to feel included, who are doing their best work with peers that they love and respect.”

Cancels Unleash 2020 (Covid 19)

SalesLoft and Outreach both made difficult decisions this week, canceling planned user conferences. SalesLoft aborted its Rev2020 conference, which was to open today, and Outreach scrubbed its April Unleash show.  Adobe, Zendesk, and Shopify also canceled events, while Twitter and Facebook pulled out of SXSW.

We have been closely monitoring the rapidly evolving situation regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Our first priority will always be the health and safety of our community, employees, customers, and partners. After careful consideration of the developing situation, we have come to the incredibly difficult decision to cancel Unleash 2020 scheduled for April 7-9. 

Unleash is my favorite event of the year. I love having the chance to meet with all of you and share in the excitement of what’s to come. It’s with a heavy heart that we made the decision, but we believe your health and safety should come first, no matter what. 

Outreach CEO Manny Medina (March 3, 2020)

SalesLoft will still be presenting its opening keynote, but as a virtual presentation on Tuesday.  Outreach is planning a virtual event and twelve-city Unleash Summit tour later this year.

Vendors invest millions in marketing dollars hosting their own events. It is an excellent opportunity for them to build their brand, promote ecosystem partners, roll out their roadmap, provide specialized training by job function and role, expand their organizational presence at current accounts, and convert prospects to customers.

Quora: Do salespeople keep track of their sales activity log?

Sales reps are expected to keep track of their activities (both previous activities and future tasks). Fortunately, Sales Engagement Platforms (SEPs) such as Outreach, SalesLoft, VanillaSoft, XANT, Yesware, and ConnectLeader do most of this automatically. As touches are completed, they are automatically logged to the SEP and synced with the CRM. The SEP also tracks outcomes (call answered, voicemail drop, email view, email click-through, etc.), records and analyzes calls, and offers recommendations (best practices, next best actions).

This is a fairly new category of software which is mostly used in technology sales but beginning to extend into other B2B categories. Initial functionality focused on Sales Development Reps (SDRs) but richer functionality is being added which assists all sales positions.

These platforms set up cadences / sequences of planned activities that include email, phone, social, text, inbound, etc. Throughout the day, the system recommends the next best action. Because much of the work is scheduled by cadences, reps do not need to record most follow up tasks. Cadences include A/B tested email templates, scripts, and schedules so reps can be confident that they are employing a tested strategy. Email personalization is encouraged to improve click through rates and convey authenticity.

Other features of these platforms include

  • Automated meeting setup
  • Inbound call and chat support
  • The insertion of short personal videos from vendors such as Vidyard, Drift, Hippo Video, Videolicious, etc.
  • Recording, Transcription, and Analysis of calls and video meetings. Key moments are indexed for review (e.g. Next Steps, Pricing, Competitors, Feature Analysis, Talk Length and Ratios, Junk Words, etc.) and coaching. Call snippets may be forward to managers for questions (How should I handle this situation next time? Can we support this request?). They can also be forwarded to customer support (what is the status on this problem? Could you open a ticket?) and customer success (Is this feature supported?). Some vendors even support video libraries for training and coaching purposes.
  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator (SNAP) integrations
  • Cadence Pause (e.g. out of office) and Stop (e.g. Meeting set)
  • A/B testing and analytics for Sales and Marketing Operations
  • Opt-out tracking in general (do not contact) and specific (do not contact via text or phone, but email is OK).

If you are interested in evaluating SEPs, I wrote an overview that discusses the value proposition, key features, and questions to ask vendors.

Administrative Control Screen for Email Synching.
SalesLoft Administrative Control Screen for Email Synching.

Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms: A Guide for Purchasing SEPs

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

Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms

Single User License (October Discounted Price)

$495.00

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

Evaluating Sales Engagement Platforms – Buying Commitee License

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

$1,195.00

Report Coverage

The 13-page report covers the following topics:

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

I also offer detailed overviews of several major vendors:

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

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

Outreach Makes LinkedIn’s Hot Companies List

Seismic content can be included in Outreach email templates.

On Wednesday, I congratulated Drift and Cognism for making the LinkedIn Hot Companies list. Somehow I missed that Outreach also made the US list at #50. Perhaps I stopped looking at #49.

So congratulations to CEO Manny Medina and the team at Outreach. The Sales engagement firm has been going head-to-head with SalesLoft to become the leading vendor in its category.

Outreach is based in Seattle and reached unicorn status earlier this year, a rather impressive feat for a five-year old company that doesn’t rent scooters. It is on track to hit 450 employees by the end of the year and has doubled its revenue growth each year since 2016.

Outreach has 3,500 customers including Adobe, DocuSign and eBay.

One area of rapid growth is in its Galaxy partner ecosystem. New partners include Seismic, BombBomb, and Sendoso.  The Seismic integration allows reps to insert Seismic content into emails and multi-recipient sequences via a Seismic icon.  Reps are notified when prospects view content, allowing them to “transition the prospect into a high-priority, more personalized Sequence.”  Sales reps can also send follow-up content after a successful demo or meeting and modify messaging based upon which Seismic content is resonating.

BombBomb supports personalized videos which are inserted into sequences.  When a recipient watches the video, reps can trigger an urgent call task or place the viewer into a high-touch sequence.  Recorded videos and screen captures are also supported.  BombBomb is priced at $29.99 per seat per month with volume discounts.

Sendoso supports sequences which include e-gift or direct mail steps.  Reps can also setup triggers when e-gift links are activated or direct mail items received. For example, I recently attended a trade show and received a box of mini-cupcakes afterwards with an accompanying note from the Sendoso sales rep.

Other new partners include Aircall, BigPicture, Crystal, Dooly, LeanData, LiftIQ, Nova.ai Intelligent Customer Management, OBMetrix by Iceberg RevOps, Reachdesk, RingLead, SnapApp, Sona, and TopOPPS.