2016 in Review: New Sales Intelligence Products

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Artesian opened an office in Boston and launched a US / Canadian edition of their Social Selling service.

Over the past week, I’ve been discussing how the fourteen vendors in my new 2017 Field Guide to Sales Intelligence Vendors have improved their products.  I broke this discussion into four categories:

  • Content: What are the inputs to these offerings?
  • Functionality: How are the sales and marketing functions able to leverage the content within these offerings?
  • User Interface: What have the firms done to improve the presentation and workflow of their products?
  • Connectors: Which integrations were updated? Which ones were launched?  These spanned CRMs, MAPs, Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) platforms, APIs, and Google Chrome.

So far, this framework has only looked at existing products and services.  This blog addresses the final question: What new Sales Intelligence products and services were launched in 2016?

Sales Focused Products

Artesian launched the US edition of their sales intelligence offering in 2016.  The firm also opened an office in Boston.

DiscoverOrg launched the TiLT certification program for sales development reps and marketers.  The program is available at no charge to current clients and provides “microburst” learning with videos, curated content, and challenge tasks.

In early 2016 they announced their Technology, Engineering, Development, and Design (TEDD) offering which focuses on product management and engineering.  In H2 2016, DiscoverOrg rolled out datasets for Sales (50,000 new contacts), Fortune 1000 CxOs (30,000 new contacts), and HR (80,000 new contacts) bringing the overall database coverage to one million executives at the end of Q3.

RainKing rolled out a global enterprises dataset with coverage of AsiaPac, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.

InsideView launched Tech Profiler in 2016.  This add-on dataset provides technology profiles within InsideView Sales and can be used as a filter when building lists with Target.  The technology information is also available via API and InsideView’s Professional Services.  The API offers two new calls: retrieve technology implemented at a company and retrieve companies that have deployed specific technologies.

The dataset provides information about technologies used by InsideView’s top 525,000 global companies.  It covers more than 2,600 front-end and back-end technologies in more than 100 categories.  InsideView did not disclose whether they collected the technology file themselves or licensed it from another vendor.

Salesgenie Team provides a set of team tools to Salesgenie.  New features include lead assignment rules, add messages to leads, customer cloning, and tracking and reporting tools.  A new My Leads list displays assigned leads while a Sales Pipeline report provides team member analytics.

Infofree introduced a lower priced version of its service called SalesFlower which removes several features including background checks, business credit reports, CustomerCloner, and the CRM101 SFA platform.

Owler introduced an enterprise API service for calling corporate firmographics, competitors, and news.

Marketing Focused Products

Hoover’s added a trio of Concierge Services to its Hoover’s product line which target SMBs with revenue up to $250 million.  Hoover’s is providing three related services:

  • Targeted List Building – Identifies prospects similar to a client’s best customers.
  • Effective Email Marketing – Delivers email services including messaging, design, email coding, blasting, and testing.  Dun & Bradstreet also supports email verification, analytics, and unsubscribe / bounce management.  Landing site hosting is provided via an undisclosed partner.
  • Optimized Customer Data – Supports data cleansing, standardization, and data enrichment for customer company and contact files.

Avention’s OneSource DataVision is a hosted platform which consolidates and cleanses multiple customer data sources, integrating internal and external customer intelligence.  By matching Avention company and contact data against customer and prospect files, Avention improves the accuracy and firmographic fill rates of marketing databases.  The result is a unified view of customer data for accurate customer segmentation and targeting based upon enriched data from Avention’s Global Content Live database.

OneSource DataVision also provides analytics and visualization tools for marketers.  “As a result, you will be able to identify and leverage key customer and prospect segments to make more informed decisions, identify cross-sell opportunities, key industries, verticals and much more,” states Avention.

OneSource DataVision includes a gap analysis tool which assesses the total addressable market in order to identify underserved markets and growth potential.  After enriching and segmenting the data, OneSource DataVision users can prospect for similar companies.

OneSource DataVision, along with the flagship OneSource platform, form the OneSource ABM Solution, also launched in 2016.    This solution ensures sales and marketing teams are aligned around the right accounts to target, then provides the deep insights needed to create account plans, and targeted sales messages and content.

Zoominfo repackaged its service as the Zoominfo Growth Acceleration Platform for sales and marketing effectiveness.  The new platform helps sales and marketing teams “identify, connect, and engage with qualified prospects and replicate success.” The Growth Acceleration Platform is a cross-product branding that supports company and executive searching, list building, file enrichment, and data Insights (segmentation analysis and persona identification).  Other tools include a Salesforce.com connector, web form enrichment (FormComplete), and a new Google Chrome Extension called ReachOut which provides quick access to contact information from Zoominfo and LinkedIn contact profiles.

InsideView Refresh was launched as a new product in 2016. Refresh provides automated account cleansing within CRM. It’s currently available for Salesforce CRM.

InsideView also launched an ABM solution in partnership with Marketo. It’s a bundle that includes products and data services to enable targeted account and contact selection, campaign execution, and measurement.

In H2 2016, DiscoverOrg launched an Enhanced ABM Toolkit which builds an ideal customer profile and then identifies similar companies.  Users upload a file of their best customers which is matched against the DiscoverOrg database.  The system then performs firmographic and technographic segmentation analysis and then suggests similar companies.

Net

In 2016, the focus of the established sales intelligence companies was on extending their services into the marketing department and aligning their positioning around Account Based Marketing.  On the sales side, their were fewer new products or major functional enhancements.  Instead, they focused on expanded content and workflow improvements.  This strategy was best exemplified by Avention and InsideView.  Both firms doubled their company and contact universes, improved their user interfaces, and launched additional marketing products and connectors.  However, they added little new functionality to their sales products.

Five years ago, the sales intelligence services were firmly planted in the sales department with some also providing services for analysts.  Now, however, the marketing department is receiving equal or greater capital investment as firms look to support “sales and marketing alignment” with CRM and MAP connectors which leverage a common reference data set.

In 2017 I anticipate additional product announcements with ABM positioning across the revenue lifecycle.  The Sales Intelligence companies realize that if they establish themselves in the marketing department with a broad set of services, then their position within the sales department will be less subject to churn.

2016 in Review: Sales Intelligence UIs

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InsideView for Sales Company Profile (New UI)

Over the past few days, I’ve been discussing enhancements made to the 14 sales intelligence services covered in my new book, 2017 Field Guide to Sales Intelligence.  On Monday, I discussed content enhancements and on Tuesday I covered functionality.  Wednesday was supposed to be user interfaces, but Dun & Bradstreet dropped a bombshell and acquired Avention, so the UI discussion was bumped a day.

There are two approaches to UI enhancements: Big Bang and Incremental.  With the big bang approach the entire product is refreshed.  Such a project is a major endeavor and often involves a completely new look and feel to the service and upgraded workflows and design elements.  It may also involve new standards such as responsive design in support of mobile devices.

Big Bang

One example of broad product redesigns are the new interfaces found in Bureau van Dijk’s Orbis and Fame products.  These products focus on financial analysis and account research.  New design elements included a navigation bar, a contemporary UI, faster list building, new report types, shared information sets (e.g. reports, lists searches), and new analytical tools.

Unfortunately,Bureau van Dijk has not indicated any plans for addressing the old-fashioned Mint sales intelligence user interface.

Another example of redesign is InsideView which refreshed its user interface for its web browser and CRM connectors.  The browser changes were relatively minor, but the CRM connectors had a broader set of design and workflow upgrades.

DiscoverOrg also redesigned their user interface at the beginning of 2016 (it was in beta in 2015).  In February 2016, DiscoverOrg released a new platform designed with better speed, performance, and scalability. It included a new UI and enhanced features:

  • Streamlined prospecting against 62 variables across five broad categories: companies, employees, technology products, location, and triggers. The new UI immediately presents an updated result list as variables are selected. The same selects are available across three results views: companies, contacts, and triggers.
  • Export of contacts as profiles or as VCF
  • Company and contact notes
  • Suppression of companies or contacts when prospecting (e.g. suppress named accounts from lists for territory reps).
  • Admin user management and usage reporting
  • Ability to toggle between multiple departments on the same page (depending on subscription)
  • Ability to follow a company or contact with update alerting, including if they leave a company and reappear in the database under another profiled company (a unique DiscoverOrg capability)
  • Customizable dashboard based on followed lists
  • Contact profiles include previous job history and education
  • Company profiles include lists of current employees and recently departed staff.

RainKing went through a rebranding exercise which included a refreshed user interface. The platform has faster response times, improved searching, and an expanded technology taxonomy.

Zoominfo repackaged its service as the Zoominfo Growth Acceleration Platform for sales and marketing effectiveness. The new platform helps sales and marketing teams “identify, connect, and engage with qualified prospects and replicate success.” The Growth Acceleration Platform is a cross-product branding that supports company and executive searching, list building, file enrichment, and data Insights (segmentation analysis and persona identification).

Incremental

The second approach is more incremental.  Instead of changing the overall look and feel of the platform, workflow and layout improvements are made to a set of contained tools.  For example, list building is a contained functional category.  Upgrades to prospecting workflows do not impact the whole product, but are focused in a functional subset, allowing the upgrades to be compartmentalized.

Avention took an incremental approach to workflow with redesigns of their active homepage, build a list, and watchlists. The Build a List user interface was redesigned to improve usability while expanding to 150 selects. Lists may now be exported to Salesforce, MS Dynamics, Oracle for Sales, Marketo, and Eloqua.  New list management features include rename, pin to desktop, delete, modify criteria, and clone list.

The Avention active home page is now customizable with users able to drag and drop information tiles.   There is also an improved SmartList tile display and onboarding tiles containing product tips.

Expanded notification functionality allows Avention reps to manage new company and sales trigger alerts from a centralized location. This Watchlist supports filtering by read/unread notices, priority flag, trigger type, and list. A new flag allows users to flag notifications as important.

Likewise, Data.com originally launched the Dun & Bradstreet family trees in the classic UI, but implemented the Lightning UI for family tree viewing.  The family tree information mashes together the Dun & Bradstreet global family tree (e.g. linkages, location type, city, country, revenue, and employees) with Salesforce.com account intelligence including whether the location is already an account and the name of the account owner.  Users may expand or collapse nodes and add an account via clicking on a Plus button.

Owler improved the user interface for their advanced search (Build a List). They also added selects for area code and ZIP/Postal Code.

Net

Unlike content and functional upgrades, one would not want to have annual UI upgrades as they require customers to relearn key elements of the service.  There is value to both stability and change (a fact which is true of both product design and life in general).  If a platform goes too long without a refresh, it becomes stale and fails to leverage new browser and mobile device capabilities.  Furthermore, as new content and features are added to a platform, it can become overly busy and illogical.  Conversely, a platform which changes its design elements and workflow too often will frustrate users.  There are benefits in knowing how to efficiently complete a task or where to find specific information.  Change should never be simply for change sake.

2016 in Review: Sales Intelligence Functionality

InMail 2.0 provides full profile access, a signature block, attachment support, shared connections, icebreakers, and synch to CRM.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator InMail 2.0 provides full profile access, a signature block, attachment support, shared connections, icebreakers, and synch to CRM.

In yesterday’s blog, I discussed how expanded content is a common path for adding value to sales intelligence services.  Today, I am looking at how functionality, which usually leverages new or existing content, added significant value to product offerings in 2016.

Many of the vendors covered in my new 2017 Field Guide to Sales Intelligence Vendors added new feature functionality to their service:

  1. LinkedIn Sales Navigator: LinkedIn rolled out a series of enhancements to their service:
    1. Sales Navigator introduced InMail 2.0 with support for signatures, attachments, and conversational insights.
    2. Sales Navigator updated its prospecting user interface and added additional searching tools and screening variables. Sales Spotlights are LinkedIn specific variables that are displayed on top of screening results allowing for additional filtering:
      • Accounts with senior leadership changes in the last three months
      • Lead changed jobs in past 90 days
      • Leads with TeamLink Intro
      • Lead mentioned in the news the past 30 days
      • Lead posted on LinkedIn in past 30 days
      • Lead shares an experience with the sales rep
      • Leads that follow rep’s company on LinkedIn

       

    3. New prospecting filters include
      • Department [Job Function] employee ranges
      • Department [Job Function] employee growth (plus or minus 100%)
    4. Lead search results have been expanded to include a previously viewed flag, tenure at current company, and a quick drill down to TeamLink introductions.
    5. The Sales Navigator app added a new Discover tab which acts as a “Tinder for leads.” The tab provides five daily new lead and account recommendations.
    6. Sales reps may now add tags (e.g. Qualified) and notes to leads and accounts. Tags are searchable and synch with Salesforce.
    7. The Sales Navigator Android and iOS apps now display up to ten daily account or lead recommendations based upon user preferences. Recommendations will expire after 24 hours and be replaced with fresh recommendations.
  2. Artesian Solutions: Artesian rolled out V14 and V15 of its platform. New features include
    • Salesforce Opportunity rollup information in Artesian and Artesian intelligence within SFDC Opportunity records.
    • Improved Company Searching rolls up companies into a group
    • Improved de-duplication logic reduces news duplicates and rolls similar articles into a group.
    • Added North American prospecting filters for counties, business type, and the presence of specific job functions at a company.
    • A redesigned CRM connector for SFDC and MS Dynamics
    • Full sales trigger customization
    • Market sector alerts
    • An updated employees page which supports executive filtering by job role and seniority.

    Artesian rolled out version 3.0 of the Artesian Ready mobile app which provides company and executive insights synched with the mobile calendar. Ready also supports collaborative note taking and a “360° comprehensive profile of customers and prospects.”  New Ready features include company searching, company add to Watchlists, Twitter timelines and Twitter sharing, social links (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, AngelList, Crunchbase), job information, and a data quality form for reporting incorrect information.

  3. DueDil: Along with entering the US market, DueDil implemented a series of product enhancements.
    • Export Custom Company reports in PDF format.
    • DueDil Connect helps users identify and connect to decision makers, map and understand their network connections, and alert users on company news related to their contact network. Users can also filter by colleague connections within Advanced Search.
    • An ownership tab which makes it easier for users to perform due diligence (e.g. Know Your Customer compliance) and assess a firm’s governance structure. Ownership content includes directorship information, shareholders, and portfolio companies. The new tab also contains a Related Companies widget which identifies companies which are not formally linked but which have a high likelihood of sharing an economic interest. Related Companies may be registered at the same location, share several directors, have a set of similar investments, or have name similarities.
    • Dynamic company lists automatically update allowing firms to keep tabs on customers, prospects, partners, and competitors.
    • Alerts are provided on lists, with notifications displayed in a new DueDil dashboard which breaks events into news, opportunities, and risk sections. DueDil event alerts include changes in leadership or ownership, recent news, updates to budget windows, changes of address, changes in employee number, company blog posts and changes in credit score.
    • Upload a file into a list for matching, deduplication, and enrichment.
    • Custom list formats may be downloaded as CSV files.
    • Segment reporting on uploaded lists
    • Match and enrich functionality against uploaded files.
  4. Avention: Avention had a series of enhancements including content, UI, new products, and new connectors.  As each of these categories is being covered under a different blog, the number of strict functional enhancements is more limited.  These included
    1. New list management features including rename, pin to desktop, delete, modify criteria, and clone list.
    2. When lists are uploaded for match and append, improved matching heuristics and a larger reference database result in significantly higher match rates. The system now also tracks unmatched records.
    3. Expanded notification functionality which allows reps to manage new company and sales trigger alerts from a centralized location. This Watchlist supports filtering by read/unread notices, priority flag, trigger type, and list. A new flag allows users to mark notifications as important.
  5. Data.com: Salesforce began offering a two-part account record data assessment report. The new Lightning report analyzes both data quality and segmentation. The data quality section begins with a Data Health overview score which assesses account data quality across three factors: Matchability vs. Dun & Bradstreet WorldBase data in Data.com, Accuracy vs. WorldBase, and Uniqueness (lack of duplicates).  In Data.com Clean, Lead records are now enriched with the Dun & Bradstreet WorldBase file.  Finally, Data.com announced a new Data Exchange with three partners: HG Data, Bombora, and MCH.  Bombora released their integrated intent file service just before the end of the year.
  6. DiscoverOrg: In September, DiscoverOrg launched Deal Predict which ranks prospects on a one to five-star scale based upon a set of firmographic, technographic, and biographic variables defined by marketing or sales operations. Deal Predict scores are displayed in both DiscoverOrg and CRMs.
  7. Dun & Bradstreet: Hoover’s doubled the Build a List download size to 10,000 records.  Meanwhile, the NetProspex Workbench data hygiene platform added company record enrichment. The service also added profile discovery and TAM analysis to its set of marketing capabilities.
  8. Infofree:  Infofree added support for text-only email templates to its CRM101 platform. Users may send up to 25 emails in a single blast and up to 250 emails per day from Infofree’s SMTP server.  Infofree also now lets users integrate their Outlook or Google calendar accounts with CRM101.
  9. Zoominfo: Zoominfo released a set of enhancements to its service in March 2016 including a country select field in its List Builder. Other new features include contact Send to Salesforce and email an electronic business card to the user’s inbox.
  10. Owler: Owler implemented a set of advanced heuristics that help personalize the service. Stories are displayed according to interest in a topic and frequency of stories for tracked companies (i.e. rarely covered companies are given higher priority).
  11. Salesgenie: Salesgenie launched a Custom Fields service which provides scoring and custom analytics models. Infogroup builds custom models for cross-sell, upsell, acquisition, and at risk accounts. Scores are based on deciles and available for screening within Build a List.

So it was a busy year on the functionality front.  As I have broken out integration connectors and the user interface as separate topics, you should view this as a sub-list of product enhancements.  Thus, even though Bureau van Dijk did not make this list, they introduced a new user interface for Orbis (Global) and Fame (UK) this spring.  Likewise, InsideView rolled out additional connectors and refreshed their CRM connector user interfaces.

2016 in Review: Sales Intelligence Content

InsideView Coverage as of April 2016.
InsideView Coverage as of April 2016.

One of the most straightforward ways to increase the value-add of a Sales Intelligence Service is to expand the content it delivers to its users.  Generally, a vendor can license additional content within the same general category (e.g. more contacts) or expand coverage into new content categories not previously supported by the product.  The first approach is usually faster and less expensive as there is limited development involved in adding additional coverage within a currently supported category (assuming the vendor is not hitting up against platform limits), but there are still costs involved with licensing, de-duping, and merging content sets.  As such, it is much more common for firms to increase the scope of current data sets than to add entirely new content categories to their services.

So which of the fourteen sales intelligence vendors discussed in my new Sales Intelligence book invested in increasing their depth of coverage?  Basically, all of them.  Of course, the scope of content investment varied greatly:

  1. Avention roughly doubled their global company, contact, and email coverage.  Their product now spans sixty million companies, eighty million contacts, and twenty million emails (US and UK).  I previously discussed their AsiaPac expansion, but the coverage expansion was global with most of the new content outside of the US, UK, and Canada where they already had significant depth.
  2. DiscoverOrg also greatly increased its coverage as it grew to 60,000 editorially researched company profiles and one million researched contacts.  Over the past twelve months, DiscoverOrg had a 91% increase in company coverage, 134% increase in contact coverage, and a 371% increase in non-IT contact coverage (numbers supplied by DiscoverOrg). The non-IT increase was due to an expansion of their job functions datasets to include Product Management (TEDD), Sales, CxO, and HR.  The firm also continued to invest in their marketing dataset.  CMO Katie Bullard noted that “the Marketing budget has begun to meet or exceed the IT department budget in many companies and vendors” while “service providers selling into marketing continue to proliferate.”
  3. RainKing continues to build out its company and contact coverage and expects to hit one million executives by the end of 2016. The firm roughly doubled the number of decision makers in its database while extending its international coverage. They also have increased the number of marketing, finance, and HR decision makers.
  4. InsideView’s executive coverage grew to 17 million US contacts and 8 million European contacts. Total global contacts more than doubled to 31 million and global emails grew by 10 million to 17 million.
  5. Bureau van Dijk added RepRisk environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risk reports to their service while continuing to build out their company database.  At the end of the year, Bureau van Dijk provided close to 210 million active and inactive company profiles
  6. DueDil rolled out enhanced financials for UK and Irish registered companies. Along with performance and growth metrics such as EBITDA and multiple CAGRs (compounded annual growth rates), DueDil is providing historical graphs for key metrics. In total, six new metrics and 12 key performance indicators (KPIs) have been added.
  7. Data.com expanded the Dun & Bradstreet content displayed in a new Prospect Insights view.  Extended company intelligence includes D&B WorldBase firmographics and linkage, Hoover’s top company descriptions and competitors, and First Research industry overviews with call prep questions and industry summaries.
  8. Infofree grew its executive email file to 26 million.
  9. Salesgenie raised its business email count to 58 million US contacts.
  10. Owler’s primary focus in 2016 was to expand their Competitive Graph and gather additional company intelligence. The Competitive Graph improved as the user base has grown and the firm has implemented a set of data cards (simple user queries such as is company X a competitor of company Y) which help refine sizing data, competitors, and a few other firmographic topics.  Revenue and employee figures have grown to 2.7 million companies.
  11. Zoominfo expanded its set of company enrichment variables with the addition of 200 new Company Attributes in October 2016.
  12. LinkedIn continues to add two members per second.  At the end of the year, they delivered 467 million global profiles across ten million companies.
  13. Dun & Bradstreet grew its WorldBase file of global companies to 265 million active and inactive firms.  Over the past few years, they have also focused on improving the depth and accuracy of their international file.

So who did I omit?  Technically Artesian Solutions did not make the content list, but that is simply because their new US edition will be discussed in the new product category.  Likewise, InsideView’s Tech Profiler Premium is also being discussed as a new product.

Owler: CEO Jim Fowler on Marketing

Owler's Profile of General Electric.
Owler’s Profile of General Electric.

Jim Fowler, CEO of Owler and former CEO of Jigsaw, has an excellent interview with Brian Carroll on the B2B Lead Blog.  They discuss SEO, virality, why successful entrepreneurs itch to start additional companies, and the give and take between sales and marketing.

Here is Fowler on the subject of the future of B2B Sales and Marketing:

Sales people are going to continue to have to become better marketers.

With Jigsaw, we provided a set of contact data so that you could communicate with people directly with phone numbers and business email addresses. I said at the time, what this means is that the people on the receiving end of these communications are going to get more and more and more communications. It’s kind of a funny thing. Sales and marketing, their job is to communicate with people that don’t really want to be communicated with, but they need to be because they need to buy stuff.

I think that we’re going to continue to see the buyers or the receivers of these communications get more and more of it, and it’s become more and harder to rise above the noise. What it means is sales people are going to have to become better marketers. They’re going to have to work hand in hand with marketers to get them.

Marketers, frankly are going to have to become gods, because their job is just getting harder and harder. I mean, people have no attention. We’re in the age of a hundred and forty character limit is all people will read, and this makes the job tough. I just think that with that in mind all of our communication is crisp, simple, scannable data.

For instance, our descriptions of companies are one sentence long. We only allow a hundred and forty character description of a company, because we know people won’t read more than that. I just think understanding these trends is critical regarding future success. It’s going to continue to accelerate, is my prediction.

It is clear that reaching B2B professionals is becoming more difficult for sales and marketing which is why Marketing Automation, Account Based Sales Development, and Sales Intelligence services are so necessary.  It is about having a compelling message when you can get their attention.  It is also why Account Based Marketing is gaining traction — when it is difficult to garner attention, make sure you are focusing your sales and marketing efforts on your best prospects.

However, I disagree with Fowler’s contention that 140 character business descriptions are sufficient to describe a company.  While sales reps would rather be selling than reading long reports, 140 characters is simply too short.  It is really an editorial decision made by Owler.  They didn’t want to invest editorial resources in writing and maintaining business descriptions.  Instead, they are focusing their editors on fine tuning their triggers and collecting funding and M&A details.  Whether you are using Owler for competitive intelligence or sales intelligence, 140 characters will often be insufficient to provide an actionable description.

Here is Owler’s description of General Electric:

GE provides capital, expertise and infrastructure for a global economy.

Let’s compare that to what Reuters says about GE:

General Electric Company (GE) is a global digital industrial company. The Company’s products and services range from aircraft engines, power generation and oil and gas production equipment to medical imaging, financing and industrial products. Its segments include Power segment offers products and services related to energy production and water reuse; Renewable Energy segment offers renewable power sources; Oil & Gas offers drilling, completion, production and oil field operation; Energy Management offers technologies to electrical power; Aviation designs and produces commercial and military aircraft engines, integrated digital components and mechanical aircraft systems; Healthcare provides essential healthcare technologies; Transportation is a supplier to the railroad, mining, marine, stationary power and drilling industries; Appliances & Lighting offers appliances and a subset of lighting products, and Capital offers continuing financial services businesses and products.

And that is Reuter’s short description.  The long description from Reuters runs one to two paragraphs for each of their divisions.

To be fair, when you are looking to cover millions of companies, short descriptions are understandable for the vast majority of companies.  But top companies should have deeper profiles.  Owler, with half a million registered users, has sufficient usage data to identify the most heavily researched companies and write longer profiles.  The question is whether they wish to invest expensive editorial resources in expanding beyond Twitter-length descriptions.

Sales Intelligence Vendors Still Don’t Get Social

For some reason, sales intelligence vendors have never properly understood social selling and how to integrate social media into their products.  This has long amazed me.  Instead of building an integrated social media viewing tool with sharing and feedback, they all seem to nibble around the edges. You’ll find social hyperlinks directly from company or contact profiles, but these simply window out to the social media site.  Also fairly common is the inclusion of corporate blogs into their news and sales trigger feeds, but fully integrated social media tools have yet to be offered by vendors.

The closest any of them have come is InsideView which added a Buzz Tab about five years ago to its InsideView for Sales product.  The Buzz Tab provides a consolidated view of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter feeds.  However, the social content remains segregated from their other discovery tools and the population of Facebook and Twitter feeds is limited.  Other social tools include a Who Knows Who “Six Degrees” tool and the inclusion of Personal Tweets from business executives in their alerts.

The InsideView buzz tab supports keyword searching and filtering for company blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.
The InsideView buzz tab supports keyword searching and filtering for company blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.

There are also a set of social selling tools that focus on social media, blogs, and news but which are light on company and contact information.  As these tools improve, one of the sales intelligence vendors is going to make a build vs. buy decision and either OEM the upcoming service or buy a social selling service outright.

What tools such as Artesian Software, Owler, Contify, and Trapit do isn’t revolutionary.  They basically provide a unified view of news and social content.  Users can filter the feeds and interact with the posts.  If a free service such as Owler can build such functionality, why can’t the sales intelligence vendors?  Core functionality could provide the following features:

  1. A deep set of direct links for companies and executives to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, G+, etc.
  2. A unified view of the corporate social media content across Twitter, Facebook, SlideShare, YouTube, Vimeo, corporate blogs, business blogs, etc.  This view would be easily filterable by source, date, keyword, etc.
  3. Social Media Metrics for a company charted over time.  If the company is also selling into the marketing department, then comparative metrics should be available.
  4. When filtering Twitter, allow the user to see both the Tweets from a company and mentions (these are separate options).
  5. Support basic widgets from the major social media vendors.  These are small applets that display key statistics along with a brief description and logo/headshot.
  6. Allow any news article, sales trigger, or social media post to be shared via social media, enterprise social (e.g. Chatter, Yammer), and email.
  7. Support expanded alerts that include targeted social media alongside sales triggers.  Thus, an alert could consist of the half dozen most important sales trigger topics, Twitter posts from the company, Blog headlines, and YouTube / Vimeo uploads.
  8. Executive alerts based upon social media posts and news mentions.

Who Know Who Six degree tools are also worth considering, but this functionality is so well locked up by LinkedIn that relationship discovery tools have remained a standalone category.  Amongst Sales Intelligence vendors, only InsideView and DueDil Connect have built relationship finder tools in competition with LinkedIn.

To be fair, the sales intelligence vendors all understood early on that they needed to work with LinkedIn.  Most of them adopted the LinkedIn widget or the LinkedIn API to provide relationship and executive intelligence into their service.  But then LinkedIn decided it was going to offer its own sales intelligence service called Sales Navigator and began blocking sales intelligence vendor access to LinkedIn.  Since then, with the exception of InsideView, the sales intelligence firms have done little to integrate social content into their services.  Hopefully, the vendors begin to see this gap in their offerings and begin to address it.

Evolution of Sales Intelligence

Darwin's_finchesThe Sales Intelligence (SI) space has been undergoing some rapid change over the past year.  This evolution in functional scope and content sets has resulted in an expansion in the number of companies I cover as well as the categories (ABSD services, PE/VC funding databases).  There is also a movement of sales intelligence vendors into marketing intelligence as the traditional SIs look for additional revenue opportunities and a broader value proposition.

A year ago, Account Based Marketing (ABM) was discussed mostly by DemandBase, a top of the funnel programmatic marketing vendor, but the predictive analytics vendors and Zoominfo began discussing the methodology.  Thus, a year ago, ABM meant anti-ballistic missile or activity based management to all but the most well-versed marketers.  Now the term is commonly found in corporate blogs and collateral and has spawned ABSD (Account Based Software Development) which follows ABM down to the middle of the funnel in the sales development function.  There are now several ABSD vendors which I have begun to include in my newsletter including SalesLoft and QuotaFactory.  ABSD shifts the sales development focus away from “smile and dial” calling towards targeted messaging into a set of top prospects.  Since the prospecting activities are targeting higher value opportunities, there is a benefit to personalizing calls and emails.  SalesLoft refers to this activity as “sincerity at scale.”

What is even more impressive about SalesLoft and QuotaFactory is that they are both less than two years old and yet they have already grown in commercial stature to the point where they are building out partner ecosystems with traditional SIs and other vendors.  SalesLoft rolled out their Sales Development Cloud at their customer conference last month with nine partners including DiscoverOrg, InsideView, Datanyze, and Owler.  At the same time, QuotaFactory announced partnerships with Bedrock Data, Ambition, HG Data, and InsideView.

A second area of rapid growth is the technology sales intelligence vendors.  DiscoverOrg and RainKing have grown revenue and capabilities, transforming what was historically a sleepy niche into a significant sub-category.  Both vendors have posted high multi-year growth rates, internationalized their datasets, expanded their technology trigger events, and developed CRM and marketing automation connectors.  While they continue to gather rich profiles of IT execs, they are broadening their functional coverage to include non-IT functions that are significantly investing in IT cloud solutions such as marketing and finance.  DiscoverOrg is continuing this functional expansion with product management (the recently released TEDD dataset), HR, and Sales.  Furthermore, their databases, which once focused on the Fortune 1000, now cover nearly 50,000 top global companies and 700,000 executives.  Both firms announced significant funding events in the past six months.

Aberdeen Group, which was spun off of Harte-Hanks last year, has begun to invest in the AccessCI database.  Once the leading source of technology profiles and leads, the AccessCI (aka CiTDB and CITDS) dataset had received little investment from Harte-Hanks over the prior decade.  Under new ownership, the product is once again receiving management attention.

The SIs have also increased their coverage of technographicsAvention acquired SalesQuest two years ago and integrated their Crush profiles into their products while other vendors have licensed vendor/product data from HG Data or mined technographic intelligence.  HG Data has become so adept at collecting vendor/product data that DiscoverOrg and Aberdeen Group have begun licensing content from them.

Several firms that began as fundings databases found that Business Development was a logical extension of their value proposition and have since repositioned themselves as sales intelligence solutions.  Firms such as DataFox and Mattermark are focusing more on sales intelligence functionality while CB Insights has launched a sales intelligence solution (with technographics) while retaining its focus on the PE/VC space.

For the most part, the SIs have avoided the predictive analytics space.  The exceptions are Avention, which supports business signals and ideal profiles, and Radius which morphed  from an SMB SI into a predictive analytics company.  Meanwhile, the predictive analytics companies are beginning to offer a subset of SI features such as net-new leads.

Instead, the SIs have focused more on marketing analytics, data enrichment, and data hygiene which allows them to leverage their databases without investing in data scientists.  Dun & Bradstreet acquired NetProspex last year for its contact database and the Workbench cloud data hygiene platform.  They have also begun to offer Hoover’s concierge services including enrichment, segmentation reporting, and email delivery.  Avention launched its DataVision customer data platform earlier this year while Zoominfo, Data.com, and InsideView have placed equal weight upon marketing services and sales intelligence services.

Social Selling continues to be a core element of positioning for InsideView and LinkedIn Sales NavigatorArtesian Solutions, a UK vendor that is launching a US product later this year, also focuses on social selling.  A significant product gap across the SIs is the lack of social tools built into their offering.  I can understand why SIs have shied away from Who Knows Who tools (the exceptions are InsideView and DueDil), but it is perplexing why most SI vendors have only limited sets of social media links and little social media content displayed in their services.  Only InsideView, Artesian, and Owler have put much emphasis upon social media content.

Europe is also becoming a home of new services.  DueDil has evolved into a UK challenger to Avention and BvD Mint while IKO System and Sparklane (formerly Zebaz) have an established presence in France.

When I started my newsletter four years ago, many of the companies and products either had not been launched or weren’t on my radar.  I mostly focused on Avention, Hoover’s, InsideView, DiscoverOrg, BvD, Sales Genie, Data.com, and RainKing.  While these companies continue to innovate, much of the energy is coming from new entrants.  The rapid growth and diversity of sales intelligence functionality has been exciting to observe.

Credit: Darwin’s Finches are in the public domain.  Charles Darwin, 1845.

News Aggregators: Who Do I Use?

FR
FirstRain coverage of Lattice Engines includes web volume, business influencers, market drivers, Twitter trends, recent stories, related topics, and subject filtering.

The following is a Quora post I wrote concerning news aggregators…

As an industry analyst that publishes a weekly subscription newsletter on the information industry, I follow companies and industry topics related to my industry.  Coverage spans about fifty companies across North America and Europe with many of the firms having global footprints.  As such, press releases are likely to come from North America and Europe but news coverage needs to be global.

Alerts are basically a distraction so I employ daily push (email alerts) and pull (portals) approaches.  I only want alerts for major events (e.g. PE/VC fundings and M&A activity).

Also, I am not performing due diligence or media analysis, so duplicate filtering and high precision are critical.  I do not want five variants on the same AP story or passing mentions of companies in the twelfth paragraph of an article.  I also am not interested in stock market news as it is ephemeral.

I provided the above as I use information services to meet specific workflow needs.  Your needs may differ.  Here is how I achieve the above objectives (in order of importance):

  • FirstRain – I have used FirstRain for five years.  They have extremely high precision meaning that stories are almost always about the topic in question.  They include a FirstTweets feature which provides ten Tweets about my subject.  Instead of simply looking for Twitter keywords, they follow the Twitter links and analyze the linked content.  Thus, FirstTweets provides me with side door access to blogs, company website posts, and social media.  I am setup to receive daily news for companies and industries and can explore their news archive by company, industry, or business topic.  SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE
  • Owler – Owler combines semantic mining of open web news with social media crawling (Blogs, YouTube, and Vimeo), polling (e.g. CEO and transaction favorability), crowdsourcing (e.g. company size estimates and competitors), and editorial resources.  Editors review story tagging to improve precision and collect funding and M&A information.  I receive daily alerts of news and social media that complements FirstRain well.  I also receive editorially created M&A and funding alerts that provide transaction details and company overviews along with curated story hyperlinks.  FREE SERVICE
  • Feedly – I use Feedly as my RSS portal.  I have it setup for company blogs, industry analysts, trade publications, and a few individual bloggers.  I generally use Feedly as a backup system to make sure I haven’t missed a story or for when my newsletter is short and I’m looking for additional ideas. FREE SERVICE
  • Seeking Alpha – I have a short list of public companies that I cover with earnings news flashes.  Seeking Alpha provides me with alerts on transcripts, filings, and investor analysis (I generally ignore the investor analysis).  The key things for me are the earnings bullets and transcripts. FREE SERVICE
  • Trade Publications – I am setup for weekly feeds of a few trade publications.  FREE SERVICES
  • Factiva – Factiva is a subscription service, but I can access it through my alma mater’s library.  I generally access Factiva only a few times per quarter for archival research (they go back over thirty years) or Wall Street Journal articles (Factiva and the WSJ are both owned by News Corp).  SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE
  • YouTube – I have setup the corporate YouTube sites for many of the companies I follow.  YouTube provides corporate positioning videos, product demos, webinars, conference keynotes, and training tips.  I live in YouTube the week of Dreamforce (SFDC’s annual show) as I am not able to attend the show. FREE SERVICE

I also have licenses to various sales intelligence services but do not use them generally for my newsletter as it could bias my research.  If you have access to a subscription sales intelligence service (e.g. InsideView, Avention, Hoover’s) or news service (e.g. Factiva or LexisNexis), it can also be part of your aggregation mix.

Owler: Jim Fowler on Crowdsourcing Content

Owler Profile of Lyft

Jim Fowler, who founded three crowdsourcing startups (Jigsaw which was acquired by Salesforce.com and renamed Data.com,  InfoArmy, and ), was asked how crowdsourcing has changed over the past decade.  His observation was broader than crowdsourcing and applied to any tech company looking to gain mindshare:

I think they change in the same way that we all have. We all are just overloaded with information.  Getting people’s time and getting them to pay attention is much more difficult now than it was back in the beginning of Jigsaw for sure. Getting journalists and analysts to talk and write about you is different because there’s so much going on. In fact a lot of the big publications don’t even exist or don’t write about it anymore.

It’s become much more flat, if you will. More players in it, so that’s interesting, but I just think the biggest thing is just people … There’s so much stuff flying around out there now that really making sure you have a crisp clear message so that they understand the value is even more important than it ever was and that’s just been the big change. People are more sophisticated, they’re more … They know how to use data and I see that trend continuing.

Fowler also noted that Owler combines crowdsourcing and semantic mining with editors.  While machines can do much of the work around event aggregation and structured alerts for exec changes, M&A, and funding rounds, editors ensure that information is properly tagged and mapped.  While this editorial review of news introduces a short delay in information delivery, it reduces the number of false positives and passing mentions of companies.  Furthermore, it allows them to de-dupe the stories and accurately capture M&A and funding content.

Basically, it solves your signal to noise problem through the addition of a short editorial review step.

If you just used technology to try to do this, you would get a lot of noise in there because really it’s a lot harder than it looks to figure out that the article is actually about Apple. Apple gets mentioned in millions of articles. To know that it’s actually about Apple is … To just do it with technology is really hard. What technology can do is say, “We think this is an article about Apple and we think it’s an Apple acquisition and we think this is the company that they did and we think this is it,” but what you need to do is create a task that gets prioritized very highly that a human looks at really quick. Checks out all the data and goes, “Ah, that’s right. We’re good,” and then sends it on to the people.

Otherwise you get a lot of noise, what I’m getting at is that technology can get you way down the road, but you need humans to get you all the way down the road if you want high quality data.

It is this multi-process approach that is likely to be the future of data collection and aggregation.  Traditional methods of data collection via phone interviews or analyzing filings information are quite expensive while semantic mining can get tripped up on context (is this about company X? Is this a relevant story? Is this a discussion of current events? Is this an actual event, proposed event, or mere rumor?).  Likewise, crowdsourcing requires a very large audience to obtain the wisdom of the crowd and works best on easily defined fields such as address, phone, and email (i.e. Jigsaw contacts).  Crowdsourcing also works well at gauging sentiment.  For example, Owler captures sentiment around whether the CEO is doing a good job and the projected fate of private companies.  But crowdsourcing does a poor job around complex information such as industry code tagging or corporate linkage.  It is through complementary methods that vendors will drive qualify forward while keeping data costs in check.

Using Sales Intelligence Services to Prepare for Sales Interviews

Update: Avention was acquired by Dun & Bradstreet and Business Browser was renamed D&B Business Browser.  The blog is no longer available online.


Avention recently published an excellent blog by Jay Webb, President of the J. David Group, concerning preparing for sales interviews.  His firm specializes in placing sales reps at technology companies.  Webb marveled at the frequent lack of preparation by job candidates who fail to understand the company, its industry, and the individuals conducting the interviews.  They often make silly mistakes like saying they are looking to work for a smaller company when they are interviewing for positions at larger organizations.

Webb emphasized the value of preparing technology sales candidates for interviews and noted six areas of focus beginning with the product.  He observed that candidates often fail to sign up for software trials.  Not only are they not researching the products they are looking to sell, but they are failing to show interest to the sales and marketing departments at the company where they are interviewing.  Of course, not all technology companies have software trials, but there are still webinars, white papers, and other tools for researching the product and demonstrating interest to the firm.

Other preparation steps include

  1. Researching both the organizational structure of the company (who reports to whom) and corporate family tree structures (how big is the company? What other industries is it involved in? Does it have additional offices in other cities or countries?);
  2. Reviewing corporate SWOTs (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).
  3. Researching the firm’s competition
  4. Understanding the firm’s industry

“In [staffing] sales we use tools such as Avention (OneSource for those who remember that name) to do account research. Turning that idea on its head, I am able to provide candidates with a report containing the relevant information they need, gain a little more control over the process, and save time so I can work more deals,” blogged Webb

S-2_BusinessBrowser_CompanyProfile
Avention OneSource Business Browser provides a broad set of company and industry intelligence including family trees, executive profiles,  competitors, financials and filings, company news, SWOTs, analyst reports, earnings call transcripts, and industry research.

“If I can deliver better prepared candidates, I stand a better chance of winning,” wrote Webb.  “Additionally, if my candidate is that prepared, they draw from the higher end of the salary range, which means more commission for me. What’s more, when a candidate is that attractive, hiring managers move very quickly for fear of losing them to their competitors. More sales, higher value, and faster close. That’s pretty easy math.”

In short, every sales rep should view the job interview as if they are a strategic sales rep preparing for their top client.  Why would any sales director hire you if you are unprepared for a critical meeting?

Of course, not every candidate has access to Avention products, but there are company resources available for job preparation through academic and public libraries.  On college campuses, look for OneSource Business Browser, Bureau van Dijk Orbis, Capital IQ Academic, LexisNexis Academic, Factiva, or Mergent products.

At public libraries, you should check out ReferenceUSA, Mergent, or AtoZ Databases for company research.

I would also look at Owler and CrunchBase for free online research.  Both provide company overviews, funding data, and news alerts.  Of course, company websites, LinkedIn, and social media should also be reviewed.

For industry research, check out Plunkett Almanacs, First Research, IBIS World, MarketLine, Freedonia, Euromonitor, Mergent Intellect, or Business Browser’s industry module.

Happy Job Hunting.