Attention Closes on $3.1M Round

Attention, an AI-powered sales assistant, exited stealth mode and closed a $3.1 million seed round led by Eniac Ventures.  Other participants include Frst, Liquid2 Ventures, Maschmeyer Group Ventures, Ride Ventures, and the founders of Ramp, Level AI, Truework, CBInsights, and Zoi.  The new funds will be deployed towards advanced AI capabilities and market growth for the New York City-based startup.

Attention helps sales teams “overcome inefficiencies at every stage of the sales cycle,” including CRM hygiene, sales acceleration, and revenue growth.  Attention accelerates sales rep ramp-up, drafts follow-up emails based on customer statements, improves forecasting, and automatically enriches Salesforce and HubSpot with post-call deal intelligence. 

Attention maps discussions to custom CRM fields specific to standard sales methodologies such as MEDDIC and BANT.

Attention Battlecards

Attention also provides real-time suggestions and question responses, “resulting in all sales representatives having higher rates of success and closed business.”  Recommendations include product responses to technical questions and objections handling.  The Attention AI determines common unsupported questions and builds battlecards based on sales responses.  Battlecards can also be developed or edited by the sales enablement team.

One novel feature is the ability to query the meeting transcript with a question, allowing reps to summarize or revisit the discussion around key topics quickly.

Sales reps can share call snippets with managers or SMEs via Slack, allowing them to forward open questions in the voice of the customer.

“Attention is a game-changer.  We’ve rarely seen any product like this in terms of efficiency gains and ramp-up acceleration.  We’re also blown away by how fast they’ve been releasing new capabilities.” said Peter Santis, head of sales at RocketChat.  Santis both licensed the service for RocketChat and participated in the seed round.

Founders Anis Bennaceur and Matthias Wickenburg founded competing AI software startups before joining forces in September 2021 to build Attention.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Anis and Matthias as they leverage the latest developments in AI generation and natural language understanding to superpower sales organizations,” remarked Hadley Harris from Eniac Ventures.  “We love working with repeat founders and couldn’t be happier with the strong pull they’re already getting from the market.”

Attention supports communications platforms, including Gmail, Outlook, Slack, Teams, Meets, Zoom, and Zapier.

Attention’s initial customers are in the technology sales space, most commonly with 50 to 100 licensed sales reps.

Bigtincan Acquires SalesDirector.AI

Australian RevTech vendor Bigtincan acquired SalesDirector.AI, a Revenue Intelligence and Data Capture company based in Irvine, California.  SalesDirector offers automated activity capture from emails, calls, SMS, and meetings.  It also offers pipeline analytics and sales coaching.

“The acquisition extends Bigtincan’s lead in AI-driven revenue intelligence by improving B2B sales organization’s ability to scale by delivering insights and recommendations directly to sales reps for better decision-making to increase revenue,” the firm told investors.  “The SalesDirector.ai technology links people, activity, and engagement across the buyer’s journey to derive insights, including opportunity risk and relationship strength, and then makes intelligent recommendations.  By capturing all sales, marketing, and customer success activity the technology drives actionable revenue insights required to make the right business decisions.”

Bigtincan stated that SalesDirector’s technology would improve its AI-powered insights capabilities and forecasting accuracy.

SalesDirector ingests data from GSuite/Gmail, Slack, Microsoft Office, and Microsoft Exchange and feeds contact data (e.g., Title, Department, Level, Phone) to Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.  SalesDirector also captures Engagement Signals and writes them back to CRMs as custom fields:

  • Executive Engaged on Opportunity / Account
  • Single or Multi-Threaded Opportunity Relationship
  • Last QBR Complete / Next QBR Scheduled
  • Partner / Sales Engineer Engaged on Opportunity
  • Next Step / Meeting Scheduled

AI tools include stakeholder identification, individuals who are supporters or detractors, disengaged stakeholders, account risk scoring, sentiment analysis, and deal health.

SalesDirector.AI Account Insights and Next Best Actions.

“Every organization has to be more productive,” said Bigtincan CEO David Keane.  “With the Sales Enablement market shifting towards a more holistic approach encompassing Revenue Enablement, we can deliver more value to our customers by providing full-cycle sellers with AI-driven recommendations on the next best actions based on intelligent sales analytics from SalesDirector.ai.”

SalesDirector pricing begins at $29 per user per month for activity capture.  Revenue Insights pricing is not published.

AI-assisted stakeholder mapping.

Bigtincan will incorporate SalesDirector’s functionality into its product suite and phase out the SalesDirector brand.

“Traditionally, when we do small tech-focused acquisitions, they become part of the Bigtincan product suite, so that capability gets added to the existing platform we have,” said Keane.  “We don’t tend to run these things as separate businesses, mostly because we miss out on some of the benefits for our shareholders of taking it all together and taking that technology and really getting in the platform.  This is no different than our existing strategy – embed, connect it all together and make it something that our customers can choose to add.  We do believe that it is all about choice, and we want people to be able to buy these technologies from us as additional value-added options.  I think that’s going to be the case here as well.”

Bigtincan paid $1.2 million in cash and equity for SalesDirector. 

The entire SalesDirector team is joining Bigtincan.

Bigtincan, listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, has acquired a series of RevTech companies, including ClearSlide, Brainshark, and VoiceVibes.

Salesloft Product Management SVP Frank Dale on Ethical AI

Frank Dale, SVP of Product Management, Salesloft

Happy New Year.  While off on vacation last week, I published an interview with Salesloft SVP of Product Management Frank Dale concerning Ethical AI.  He joined Salesloft in November 2019 when Costello, the opportunity management firm he founded, was acquired by Salesloft.  He has served as either CEO or COO at several investor-backed software companies, including Compendium, which Oracle acquired.

Dale earned a BA and MA from Valparaiso University with a concentration in ethics.  He also received an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

What experience have you had developing AI tools?

As the SVP of Product Management at Salesloft, I am working with our team to bring Rhythm, Salesloft’s AI-powered signal-to-action engine platform, to life.  Rhythm ingests every signal from the Salesloft platform as well as signals from partner solutions via APIs, ranks and prioritizes those signals, and then produces a prioritized list of actions.  The action list gives sellers a clear, prioritized list of actions that will be the most impactful each day, along with an expected outcome prediction.  In addition to simplifying a seller’s day-to-day, it helps them build their skills by providing the context about why each action matters.

AI is becoming increasingly important in RevTech, with many of our interactions being mediated by AI.  Where do you see AI having the biggest impact on Sales reps between now and 2025?

AI will enable significant improvements in both seller efficiency and effectiveness.  The most obvious impact will continue to be automating away low-value, repetitive work.  What will surprise people will be the rapid advance and adoption of AI to suggest next best actions to take and content to use in those interactions with buyers.  A typical workday for a seller will see them greeted by a recommended list of actions to take each day.  Each action will be prioritized based on where the seller sits in relation to their targets, with each action accompanied by suggested content where appropriate.  For instance, I might see a suggestion to respond to an email from a champion in an in-flight deal.  The recommendation will include suggested text for the response as well as a resource to attach to the email.  That’s a future we are actively investing in at Salesloft, which is at the heart of our soon-to-be-released Rhythm product.

Same question, but looking further out to 2030…

As AI becomes more commonly deployed across the sales profession, buyers will experience a more consistent sales experience in each buyer-seller interaction.  As this becomes more common, it’s going to raise the bar on what buyers expect from a sales experience today.  That will put more pressure on sales teams to deliver consistently in ways that today may seem unreasonable but will be possible with AI assistance.

One of the key ways to raise the seller performance bar will be high-impact, tailored coaching.  Manager time is a constrained resource, and seller coaching augmented by AI provides a path to realizing performance improvement without manager time constraints.  We should fully expect AI to help coach sellers to hit their goals based on each seller’s unique profile.  We can expect AI to evaluate the seller’s entire game (activities, conversations, and deal management) to identify the highest leverage areas each individual seller should focus on to improve.  Some of the coaching will be provided by AI at the point of execution, like on a call or when writing an email, with the rest provided throughout the workday as recommendations.

What are the most significant risks of deploying AI broadly across the Sales Function?

Two areas come to mind.  First, AI used without clear boundaries in a sales process can lead to problems.  If you employ AI and automation capabilities, it should be to allow the user to be better armed to make a decision, not make it for them.  AI tools should not replace the human touch but rather augment it.  There’s a lot of pseudo-science tossed up around the topic of AI, but ultimately, humans understand the nuance of relationships better than machines.  One of the ways to address that concern is to deliver models that not only provide a recommendation but can provide the insights that led to it; humans will better trust the model when making decisions based on those recommendations as well as know when to ignore the recommendation.

Second, there’s a privacy component as well.  Companies may create AI models that share data about a particular buyer with other companies’ sales teams without said buyer’s knowledge.  The buyer may know they shared their data with one company but have no idea that multiple other customers at this company are using that same data.  Creating models with this type of function puts companies and sales teams in a high-risk zone that can tread on the unethical.  It isn’t clear that building models in that way may be considered legal in the future.  If you plan to deploy AI in a sales org, it’s important to understand how data is collected and used.      

AI Models are only as good as the underlying training data.  How concerned are you about biased models recapitulating discrimination?  For example, emphasizing sales skills that are gender or racially biased when evaluating sales rep performance?

It is a legitimate concern.  AI products are based on probabilities, not certainties.  The recommendations you receive or workflow automations that fire happen based on the probability that the given recommendation or action is right.  Not the certainty that it is right.  In a good product, the model is correct more often than a human would be when faced with the same decisions.  At times, this is because the model can evaluate a larger set of factors, and in some cases, it is simply that machines can apply rulesets at a higher level of consistency than humans.

One of the key determinants of the AI model’s value is the dataset upon which it was trained.  If the dataset does not properly represent the real world, the model will produce results that are either biased or provide poor recommendations.  We’ve already seen several examples of that with image editing software that didn’t include black-skinned people in the training dataset.  This led to either poor outcomes or worse dehumanizing results when the AI product was used in the real world.  If you plan to deploy AI in your business, you should ask the provider what precautions they take to prevent bias in their models.  We are very intentional about removing factors that could lead to bias in our training datasets.  Still, it isn’t something I see most technology companies paying attention to in the revenue tech space.

How do you curb racial and gender bias when performing sentiment analysis?

We take great care at Salesloft to remove things that would lead to discriminatory factors.  For example, for our Email Sentiment model, one of the ways we prevent bias is by removing all mentions of people’s names within the email because that could provide clues to their gender, race, or ethnicity.  We do that kind of preprocessing with any data we use in an AI model before we build our models.

One of our assets is our scale.  We’re fortunate that we operate globally and are the only provider in our space with offices in the Americas, Europe, and APAC.  As a result, we work with organizations of all sizes globally, including many of the world’s largest companies.  That means when we build models, we have one of the largest datasets in the world for sales execution.  This enables us to train models based on datasets with both breadth and depth.  When we build a model, it is easier to train it in a way that fairly represents reality and includes safeguards to avoid racial or gender bias.

AI will increasingly be deployed for recommending coaching and mediating the coaching.  What concerns do you have about replicating bias when coaching?

As with any AI product making a recommendation, the potential to make a recommendation with bias is a concern that needs to be addressed when building models.

We take our responsibility to avoid bias in any product we release very seriously.  The revenue technology industry as a whole hasn’t demonstrated a similar commitment to avoid harmful bias as of yet.  I don’t hear other companies talking about proactive steps to avoid it, but I think that will change.  We’re monitoring potential governmental action in both the US and EU that will require companies to raise their standard in this area.  It is only a matter of time before laws are passed that require companies to prevent unlawful bias in their AI products.

Sales activities are becoming increasingly digitized, a boon for revenue intelligence, training, and next best actions.  What guardrails do we need to put in place to ensure that employee monitoring does not become overly intrusive and invade privacy?

Let’s start by recognizing it is reasonable for an employer to have insight into what work is getting done and how it’s getting done.  On the other hand, getting a minute-by-minute record of how each seller spends their day is unreasonable, as is dictating every action the seller takes from morning until nightfall.

We have to start with the right first principles.  I think we can all agree that humans have inherent worth and dignity.  They don’t lose that when they go to work.  The challenge is that we have some companies in the technology industry that forget that fact when developing solutions.  When you forget that fact, I believe that you actually harm the customer that you’re trying to serve.  That harm happens in two ways.

First, you lose the opportunity to realize the true potential of AI, which is to serve as a partner that enables humans to do what they do best…which is to engage with and relate to other humans.  AI should not be used to make final decisions for humans or to dictate how they spend every minute of their day.  Good AI solutions should be thought partners and assistants to humans.  It’s Jarvis to Tony Stark’s Iron Man.

The second way overly intrusive technology harms companies that employ it is via employee turnover.  It’s no secret that industries that offer low autonomy to employees suffer from high turnover.  Most humans fundamentally desire a base level of autonomy; if that’s threatened, they leave whenever a good option opens up.

In short, if the seller is working for the technology instead of the inverse relationship, we’re on the wrong path.

In 2018, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff argued that the best idea is no longer the most important value in technology.  Instead, trust must be the top value at tech companies.  How does trust play into ethical applications and AI?

We get to build the future we want to realize.  We can either build a future that perpetuates the things we don’t like about today’s world, or we can build a future that elevates human potential.  AI can be used to take us in either direction.  That means what we choose to build with AI and how we build it should be a very value-driven decision.

We can absolutely build highly effective AI-powered solutions that elevate the people who use them and deliver tremendous business value.  The people that believe otherwise simply lack the imagination and skill to do it.

What I love about our team at Salesloft is that we exist to elevate the ability of the people we serve and to enable them to be more honestly respected by the buyers they serve.  In sales and life, the way you win matters.  It matters to the people you serve on your revenue team, and it matters to your customers.

An emerging category of AI called Generative AI constructs content (e.g., images, presentations, emails, videos).  It was just named a disruptive sales technology by Gartner.  They stated that “By 2025, 30% of outbound messages from large organizations will be synthetically generated.”  What risks do you see from this technology?

There are two immediate risks that come to mind.  First, the messages need to be reviewed by a human before they are sent.  The technology has made extraordinary leaps forward.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time playing around with some of the tools released by OpenAI and others.  The output is impressive and also, at times, very wrong.  This goes back to the fact that the output is based on a probability that the answer provided is correct.  You can get a very professional, persuasive email, or you can get something that approximates a professional email but won’t land well with your intended customer.

Second, it has the potential to make every outbound message sound the same.  Generative AI doesn’t replace the need for human skill.  It changes the areas of focus for that skill.  Specifically, the opportunity for humans is to use Generative AI to help generate a higher volume and variety of ideas and then to edit and refine the output.  The returns available to creativity are always high, but they become even higher when everyone is doing the exact same thing in the same way. 

Having said that, I see tremendous potential in the technology and think if used properly it will be very valuable to revenue professionals.

SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter has long emphasized authenticity and personalization in sales conversations.  Do you see Generative AI potentially undermining trust?

Kyle is absolutely right.  At the end of the day, a sale happens when a seller connects with a buyer to help them solve a problem.  You can’t do that without authentic connection and trust.  Generative AI should not replace that human connection, and I don’t think buyers want it to replace human connection.  A close friend of mine was a sales leader at a now-public PLG-driven SaaS company.  They added sales reluctantly.  When they did, the company learned that buyers both bought more from them and were happier customers.  That company now wishes it had added sales much earlier. How we interact with one another can evolve as technology evolves, but it doesn’t change the fact that humans are wired to connect with each other.  I think emerging tools like Generative AI will help us be more productive, but they won’t replace the need for authentic human connection and trust.

Seismic Recommendations in Microsoft Viva Sales

Seismic content and training recommendations are presented during calls.

Seismic and Microsoft announced an integration partnership that will embed Seismic’s sales enablement workflows within Microsoft Viva Sales.  Seismic will provide “content production, collaboration, task automation, and engagement intelligence for Viva Sales users across the meeting experience to help drive deals and relationships forward.”  The goal is to “streamline” buyer engagement at relationship-based sales teams.

Microsoft Viva Sales became generally available on October 3.  Viva Sales is “a new seller experience application that brings together any customer relationship management technology (CRM), Microsoft 365, and Teams to provide a more streamlined and AI-powered selling experience.”  The new solution is designed for the hybrid work environment where reps leverage video conferences, chats, emails, and documents to close deals.

The partnership supports AI-powered virtual meetings.  The Seismic Enablement Cloud will initially recommend content and training for post-meeting call summaries.  Future functionality includes content and training recommendations, pre-built digital sales rooms, and meeting analysis powered by Seismic.

​​“We’re united with Seismic in our commitment to empowering sellers through relevant content and an improved seller experience.  Our plan to integrate Seismic with Viva Sales will help sellers have more personalized customer engagements whether they are in the office or on the road, with a helpful assist from the AI-driven insights and content,” said Lori Lamkin, CVP, Dynamics 365 Customer Experience Applications.

Viva Sales customers include Adobe, Crayon, and PwC.


Resources: Seismic | Viva Sales Profile

Winn.AI Launched

The Winn.AI Zoom app supports real-time playbooks and intelligence capture.

Conversational data capture has been a popular theme this month with announcements from People.AI and NektarWinn.AI, a Tel Aviv-based AI Assistant and playbook vendor, came out of stealth mode this month to offer AI-based playbook coaching during digital sales calls.  Winn.AI also captures real-time conversations and syncs account intelligence with Salesforce and HubSpot.

“Winn.AI relieves salespeople of…administrative busywork so that they can focus on their customers — not their keyboards.  Its magic lies in its unique ability to monitor, interpret, and document sales calls,” said CEO Eldad Postan-Koren.

Winn.AI also supports playbooks and tracks key topics during calls, helping salespeople stay focused on their prospects.  Winn.AI captures all relevant data during sales calls, such as pain points, timelines, competitors, and team size.  Product, competitive, and technical information are also displayed during calls, reducing the frequency of “I’ll get back to you” responses and presenting competitive parries.

“One of our core competencies is that we’re training our AI in real-life sales meetings.  This greatly helps us make it more accurate versus standard training resources,” said Postan-Koren. “Furthermore, the more a customer uses the product in their own sales meetings, our AI capabilities will improve to match their exact needs.”

To speed up playbook definition, Winn.AI includes a set of templates based on common sales methodologies.

Winn.AI joins conversational platforms, beginning with Zoom.  Teams, Google Meet, and additional conversational platforms (meetings and dialers) are on the roadmap for Q4.

Other features include time warnings, attendee lists, and post-call meeting summaries.  Editable summaries are displayed as soon as the call ends, adding them to the standard call workflow but removing most data entry.  Salespeople can also send a personalized recap email to call participants.  This review and notification process is generally completed within four minutes of call conclusion.

The Winn-AI post-call meeting summary pops up on call completion and supports editing and matching against CRM records.

Winn.AI does not create new records at this point but updates and enriches current Account, Contact, Lead, and Opportunity records.  Winn.AI does not yet support inbound calls or SDR outbound prospecting performed on dialers.

Playbook coaching reduces onboarding time and gives reps confidence that they have proper messaging, competitive knowledge, and technical details at the ready.

Like most SalesTech companies in 2022, Winn.AI positions itself around productivity and effectiveness during lean times.

“The funding round timing made perfect sense.  During turbulent times, when salespeople’s productivity and effectiveness are more critical than ever, a tool like Winn.AI provides the additional edge sales leaders and individuals are seeking,” Postan-Koren said.  “The Winn.AI real-time assistant acts as an extra pair of hands during meetings, giving salespeople the freedom to focus their attention entirely on the customer.”

Winn.AI is backed by $17.25 million seed funding from Insight Partners and S-Capital.  The firm has 25 employees and plans to double its headcount by the end of 2023.  The funds will be invested in “improving our deep technology” and building a sales and marketing organization.  All employees are in Israel, but they will be hiring in the US over the next two quarters.

Near-term roadmap goals are expanding the set of supported conference platforms and dialers, broadening the set of supported customer-facing roles (e.g., customer success, support, SDRs), adding playbook measurement and optimization tools, and implementing multiple, dynamic playbook branching (e.g., competitive handling, verticalized playbooks, technical discussions).

Postan-Koren offered GZ Consulting a compelling vision of “automated knowledge and personalization” feedback loops with the sales enablement team.  Closing the loop helps the enablement team maintain playbook recommendations.  Winn.AI will collect common responses and discussion tracks and feedback this intelligence to sales enablement for review and adjustments.  This human-in-the-loop approach facilitates playbook and coaching refinement and filling in coaching gaps.  It also identifies potential training needs as markets evolve.

“Winn.AI’s innovative and intuitive technology has identified a solution that addresses the pain points of Busy work.  By allowing salespeople to focus on making the sale, Winn.AI enables organizations to Improve performance and increase the quota,” said Hagi Schwartz, Managing Director at Insight Partners.

Postan-Koren explained that Winn.AI employs NLU (Natural Language Understanding), which goes beyond NLP (Natural Language Processing).

“Understanding is not processing because I can ask you, ‘Michael, how many employees are you?’ And your answer will be 20 employees.  But I can also ask you, ‘Mike, do you have 20 employees?’ And your answer will be yes.  Or I can ask you ‘how many employees?’ and your answer will be 20.  So here are three different ways to ask the same question to get the same answer, and the computer won’t understand it.  Understanding context is the secret sauce here.”

What also differentiates Winn.AI is the combination of playbooks with real-time call coaching, data capture, and CRM syncing, allowing reps to be more present during calls.  These elements are supported across many products, but I have not seen a company combine them into a single offering.

“The system is a personal assistant for the salespeople and relieves the burdensome administrative work of taking notes, having a list of answers, and entering information into the CRM,” stated Postan-Koren.  “ It does so all at a level of detail that does not exist in other tools on the market, so much so that in real-time, it can exactly match a specific topic of conversation to the relevant field in the CRM.  Also, the system knows how to follow the topics of the conversation in real-time, check the full coverage of the conversation’s agenda, and give instructions that will help improve performance.  This is a new category in the SalesTech world, and Winn.AI aims to lead this category.”

Winn.AI is currently in beta with plans to formally launch in early 2023.  The firm is not targeting specific verticals as it believes it has a compelling cross-industry solution that supports digital sales, customer success, and service departments.

Winn.AI is SOC II, Type 2 compliant.

Pricing has not been disclosed.

People.AI Enhancements: Engagement Dashboards Account Planning & People.AI for Oracle Sales Cloud

Revenue Intelligence vendor People.AI announced a trio of product enhancements to its Platform: Engagement Dashboards, Account Planning, and People.ai for Oracle Sales Cloud.  The enhancements are intended to “help sales and ops teams drive greater efficiency, deeper relationships, and clearer visibility.”

According to Seth Marrs of Forrester, 82% of sales activities are digital and available for capture and analysis.  Furthermore, these analytics go beyond historical engagement data such as email opens and downloads and include insights concerning the nature of the interaction, buyer sentiment, open questions, and next steps.

Marrs sees the biggest RevTech trends as “the availability of interaction data and what that can do to really drive visibility into where you want to go, visibility into how you can better interact with customers, visibility into what you need to do to win more.  It’s unprecedented.  Now the big thing is how you pull that all together into an insight engine that can really help sales leaders and sellers.  And on the other side of it, how do you get sales leaders and sellers to adopt this.”

One issue is the fragmentation of channels, with few vendors supporting cross-channel insight gathering and analytics.

“The real nuggets and the real value are in your ability to go out and find insights in that data that are actually new or that you couldn’t see before that you can use to help the seller win more deals, that you can use to identify more deals,” expanded Marrs.

Marrs called Revenue Intelligence insights “force multipliers” that aren’t geared towards doing things faster but improving sales efficacy.  While automated activity capture offers efficiency gains by removing sales rep data entry, its true value is in standardizing the data capture and offering insights.

“The industry today has turned selling into an obstacle course, where reps need to navigate so many hurdles in order to actually do their job.  We’re clearing the pathway so teams can focus on what matters: building revenue,” said Oleg Rogynskyy, CEO of People.ai. “Our newest product offerings aim to transform the B2B sales process by providing our customers with more data and greater insight to accelerate business decisions that will grow pipeline, increase deal sizes, shorten sales cycles and boost win rates.”

Custom Engagement Dashboards can be quickly built via a drag-and-drop UI.

Engagement Dashboards improve the visibility of buyer and sales engagement and identify at-risk accounts and opportunities.  Engagement Dashboards offer personalized tables with custom metrics for any CRM or People.AI field, providing an improved understanding of opportunity and pipeline health.  Dashboards are self-service and can be created by either users or admins.

Reps can find out which high-value accounts have low engagement or are missing key stakeholders, which accounts have pipeline potential, and which accounts are vendors properly engaged at the department and persona level.

Engagement Dashboards also assist with rep coaching with a My Performance page that compares current performance against past performance and peers.

The People.AI Account Planning application operationalizes a company’s account planning methodology within Salesforce.  Account Planning helps visualize each “buyer’s business, goals, and obstacles” for enhanced opportunity discovery.

ClosePlan, a 2021 acquisition, has been integrated with People.AI.  ClosePlan offers scorecards and playbooks designed around sales methodologies such as MEDDIC, MEDDPIC, Miller Heiman, BANT, and Value Selling.  Reps can quickly qualify opportunities and identify blind spots.  Deal Scorecard dashboards display opportunity health to align deal conversations better and take corrective actions.  New features include the ability to attach opportunities and account maps to account plans.

Engagement data is integrated into account maps, identifying which departments are engaged and which ones present deal risk.  Maps also identify positive and negative relationships across accounts.

People.AI Stakeholder Overview

New stakeholder insights cards (see image on the right) detail engagement trends, upcoming activities, sales team connections, and the opportunities with which the stakeholder is affiliated.

PeopleGlass, which offers a single pane of glass for viewing and updating opportunities across accounts, added field-level commenting and sharing across the account team. 

People.AI also refreshed the PeopleGlass UX to simplify onboarding, personalization, navigation, and integration with Salesforce templates.  Users can also @ share with colleagues specific fields, share the full PeopleGlass view, and quickly create new opportunities in Salesforce.

People.AI for Oracle Sales Cloud helps generate revenue by “increasing sales productivity, which will drive more and bigger deals faster and increase buyer satisfaction.”  People.AI supports automated data capture with matching, filtering, and contact enrichment, freeing “sellers from tedious data-entry tasks,” allowing them to focus on selling.  The service also offers “prescriptive and contextual seller actions” that assist with account targeting and activity prioritization.

“We’re collaborating with People.ai because we’re equally laser-focused on transforming the sales process into a modern revenue engine,” said Katrina Gosek, Product Management VP, Oracle Customer Experience.  “Together, we will be able to provide our mutual customers with the actionable revenue insights needed to drive significant revenue transformation and growth.

People.AI already supports Salesforce, with over 250 implementations.

In its November release, People.AI will be supporting summary visualization for addressing questions such as with which personas and departments we should be engaging, which high-value accounts have low engagement, and how much pipeline is at risk.

Summary Visualizations will be available in the November release.

People.AI will also begin managing data gathering and reporting across multiple CRM instances, providing an overview of account activity across different divisions or regions.  Multi-CRM unification provides “visibility into who’s talking to which accounts, identify cross-sell opportunities, and gain buyer group intel across business units and acquisitions.”


I am covering CRM data capture and enrichment vendors this week in my blog. Yesterday, I covered Nektar.AI, and on Thursday, I will cover Winn.AI.

Abstrakt Salesloft Connector

Abstrakt’s playbooks and real-time coaching are available within Salesloft

Abstrakt announced an integration with Sales Engagement Platform Salesloft to deliver its real-time call coaching and automated playbooks for calls initiated on Salesloft.  Abstrakt also offers real-time call transcription and passes call details to the contact record after each call.

Playbooks guide sales reps with the “correct questions, relevant customer stories, or high-level demo points for every possible scenario.”  Playbook questions are highlighted during a call, and responses are immediately tagged.  Playbooks can be configured by team, rep role, persona, and stage. 

“Our partnership with Abstrakt shows commitment to our customers by bringing a first-of-its-kind, real-time call coaching software to our platform,” said Devin Schiffman, VP of Alliances at Salesloft. “Real-time is a critical element of sales coaching, and this strategic partnership will continue to drive more opportunities for our customers.”

Abstrakt real-time coaching and playbooks help sales reps focus on prospects “without missing qualifying questions.”  It also provides recommendations for managing objections within 0.2 seconds.

Call recordings and transcripts are available within a few seconds of call completion.  The service also provides talk tracks, talk ratio metrics, topic tagging, and playbook completion percent.

Next Step Items are on the Abstrakt roadmap.

Abstrakt is available as both a standalone and Salesloft integrated solution.  Salesloft is Abstrakt’s first integration partner.  Outreach and HubSpot connectors are coming soon.

“When we looked into the market, we knew we wanted to do two things: work with the leader in the sales engagement space (Salesloft) and make sure Abstrakt filled a void in their current offering (which we do),” said Abstrakt CEO Greg Reffner.  “I am very excited about the opportunity to provide a great experience for all Salesloft & Abstrakt customers.”

Abstrakt supports sales, recruitment, and insurance agent use cases.

Abstrakt is priced at $100 per user per month, with a ten percent discount for annual payment.  Volume discounts are available.  There is no surcharge for the Salesloft connector.

Abstrakt will have five employees by the end of the month with a distributed workforce.  It has managed its initial product development with Beeso Studio, a startup studio in Omaha Nebraska. Abstrakt launched in April 2021 and operated as a paid beta until early this year.  Crunchbase lists them as receiving $730,000 in pre-seed funding.

Microsoft Viva Sales

Microsoft announced Viva Sales, “a new seller experience application that brings together any customer relationship management technology (CRM), Microsoft 365, and Teams to provide a more streamlined and AI-powered selling experience.”  The new solution is designed for the hybrid work environment where reps leverage video conferences, chats, emails, and documents to close deals.  Viva Sales will also support Salesforce at launch.

Viva Sales “represents a new way of working by breaking down silos of data and breaking down silos of experience,” explained Microsoft Corporate VP for Business Applications Emily He.  Sales reps “really want a more simplified experience.  So, Viva Sales enables a seller to use the tools they already love and use every day, including your email system like Outlook, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, as well as Teams,” she said.

Unfortunately, reps manage these disparate communications channels and their CRM to organize administrative tasks, collaborate on sales, and attend virtual sales meetings.  “Yet, all sellers really want is to spend more time with their customers,” stated Microsoft Chief Commercial Officer Judson Althoff.

Continued Althoff, “What if everything a salesperson needed to do their job was brought together in one place – where they already spend most of their day – in calls, meetings, and chats?  What if their customer records, data, and tasks were intelligently organized and accessible in the tools they use every day?  What if the collaboration environment sellers use to talk to customers automatically provides the next best action and sentiment analysis?”

Viva Sales is a “new modern way of selling” that operates as a “smart CRM companion” that simplifies the seller’s workflows and enriches the CRM.  Viva Sales captures AI-driven insights from Outlook, Teams, and Microsoft Office and feeds this information to the CRM.

“Viva Sales empowers sellers to be more connected with their customers, resulting in more personalized customer engagements and closed deals faster,” stated Althoff.  “This happens through a simple customer tagging feature, which automates the data capture, saves the seller time, and provides their organization with a more complete picture of deal and customer status.  With AI embedded throughout, Viva Sales is like a sales coach to move deals along with recommendations and reminders.  This intelligence layer provides sellers the information they need to help them be more productive.”

Viva was launched last year as an employee portal, but Sales is the first functionally-specific edition of the service.  Viva Sales will be in public preview in July and generally available this fall.  Microsoft Dynamics Sales is inclusive of Viva Sales and “addresses both sellers’ and sales leaders’ needs by automatically enriching Dynamics 365 Sales with customer engagement data captured in Office 365 and Teams.”

Once an email is tagged to an account, Viva Sales presents a sidebar with CRM intelligence. Customer interactions are then logged to the CRM.

Sales reps tag customers or prospects in a Microsoft application.  This “tag to capture” functionality alerts Viva to begin capturing account intelligence and offering insights to the sales rep.  Viva Sales employs Microsoft’s recently announced Context IQ for capturing relevant content across Microsoft apps and services.  This data can then be synced with any CRM.

“What we are focused on is removing the drudgery of manually entering the data into a CRM and then providing the AI capabilities for the sellers,” explained Product Marketing Senior Director Neha Bajwa.  “There’s a virtual personal assistant that is sitting and helping them out doing all the busywork that we would normally have to do.”

The objective is to solve the problem of manual data entry without destroying the CRM.  Viva runs alongside the CRM, capturing intelligence from other enterprise sales apps commonly deployed across sales teams.  The data capture and CRM syncing improve rep productivity while the AI suggestions improve sales effectiveness through better recommendations, reminders, and Next Best actions.

“As you work with a customer, you can not only see your own interactions, [but] you can also see across your company and find all the people that are interacting with your client as well,” said Microsoft VP for Modern Work Jared Spataro.  “We’re trying to apply AI not only to remove the boring stuff, but also to provide real value add so that you can cope with the volume and the expectations associated with you doing your job.”

The service recommends next steps, displays complete interaction histories, and pushes reminders to reps.  It is also connected to LinkedIn, providing the names of colleagues with strong connections to a contact or account, allowing sales reps to conduct research before a Teams chat.

Viva Sales recommends colleagues with pre-existing relationships for pre-meeting briefings via Teams Chat.

During a Teams call, reps can view the relevant customer information in a sidebar and access meeting prep notes.  After the call is recorded and transcribed, Viva Sales summarizes the call and captures action items.  Conversation KPIs and talk tracks are also generated.

Another feature is the generation of customer lists with recent activity, sentiment graphs, and engagement within Excel.

Customer lists within Excel are enriched by Viva Sales. A sidebar provides contact-specific insights, including colleague connections and meeting summaries.

“The future of selling isn’t a new system.  It’s bringing the information sellers need at the right time, the right context, into the tools they know, so their work experience can be streamlined,” said Althoff.  “Empowering sellers to spend more time with their customers has been our goal — and we’ve done that by reimagining the selling experience with Viva Sales.”

One of the core issues at the heart of CRM implementations is the reliance on manual data entry, argued Paul Greenberg, Managing Principal at The 56 Group.  What is necessary is ongoing automation to remove this busy work.

“Sellers rely on digital collaboration and productivity tools to connect with customers and close deals, but a lot of the insights they uncover with these tools don’t make it into the CRM,” Greenberg.  “Microsoft is taking on this challenge by offering a solution that complements the CRM.  Viva Sales automates the busy work, captures critical information about the customer, and helps sellers get the job done.”

Highspot $248M Series F

Sales Enablement Platform vendor Highspot closed on a $248 million Series F that valued the firm at $3.5 billion, up from its February valuation of $2.3 billion.  The firm, founded in 2012, has raised $648 million to date.  The round was led by B Capital Group and D1 Capital Partners, with Iconiq Growth, Madrona Venture Group, Salesforce Ventures, Sapphire, and Tiger Global Management also participating.

“Technologies that unlock human potential are foundational to our economic future,” said Rashmi Gopinath, General Partner, B Capital.  “Highspot’s undeniable performance, coupled with the enthusiasm of their customer base, is a testament to how transformative their technology is for companies across industries and geographies.  We believe Highspot’s platform is an imperative for businesses aiming to drive sustainable growth.”

Highspot will deploy the funds to hire additional staff and open offices in the EMEA and APAC regions.  The firm, which doubled in size over the past two years to 800 employees, plans to add 500 staff over the next twelve months.  Highspot is based in Seattle, with offices in London, Munich, and Paris.

The pandemic accelerated demand for digital platforms such as Highspot as “road warriors have become home warriors,” said Wahbe.  In addition, the shift from traditional selling to digital required new tools and skills.  “Salespeople have to be better than ever in holding the attention of the customer.”

“Even before the onset of the pandemic, buyers were trending toward self-reliance with a plethora of resources at their fingertips, researching vendors on their own time and relying on salespeople as mere transaction facilitators,” Wahbe told VentureBeat via email. The sudden shift to a remote business landscape caused by COVID-19 accelerated this trend, and now modern buyers prefer — and expect — fully virtual sales … A handful of sales tech companies anticipated the trend toward digital selling and strategically designed their products to help turn salespeople from transaction helpers into heroes. Highspot is one such company.”

Highspot CEO Robert Wahbe, “Highspot raises $248M to bolster sales enablement using AI,” VentureBeat (January 13, 2022)

The firm, which has over 170 open positions, is broadly hiring across engineering, product, design, marketing, and sales.

“We see an incredible opportunity in front of us,” said CEO Robert Wahbe. “We need to continue to invest very significantly and invest in our go-to-market team, invest in our product, and [invest in] the capabilities of our product.”

Last month, Highspot announced a quartet of executive hires:

  • Arvind Prakash, Product Management VP: Prakash is a global product and technology leader with over twenty years of experience at Compass, Expedia Group, and Microsoft.
  • John Zhang, Engineering VP: Zhang held Engineering roles at Microsoft, Twitter and Weibo.
  • Julie Valenti, Account Management VP: Valenti has over twenty years of experience running customer-facing teams at DocuSign, Oracle, Responsys, and Yesmail.
  • Kelly Lewis, Revenue Enablement VP: Lewis joins with over 15 years of experience in revenue leadership and technology sales.  Lewis is a former Highspot customer joining from Amwell.

Highspot supports content recommendations, content engagement analytics, sales training, and sales coaching

The recently launched Highspot Marketplace is a partner exchange for marketing, sales, enablement, and customer success partners.  Companies can import packages of content, tools, and training from two dozen partners, including Sandler, Challenger, and Winning by Design.

Highspot Sales Training Dashboard

Highspot has grown revenue 935% over the last three years and posted an Annual Recurring Revenue net retention rate of 130% over the past year. 

Last year, platform usage increased 150%, with Highspot providing training to eight million salespeople, channel partners, service reps, and customers in digital sales experiences.  Highspot counts DocuSign, General Motors, Nestle, Siemens, and Verizon Media among its 700+ customers.

Wahbe envisions the firm going public but did not set an IPO timeframe. “Our focus continues to be on building a significant company in the enablement space,” said Wahbe. “We’re focused on growing the company, which of course then enables us to go public.”

SalesHood Expands Training Tools with SkillsHood

Sales Enablement vendor SalesHood announced the general availability of SkillsHood, an asynchronous training platform for the entire organization.  The SkillsHood Enablement Platform “automates and scales organizational readiness and messaging alignment processes both for distributed and remote employees.”

“SkillsHood is our latest innovation created to boost employee productivity by elevating how employees learn, coach, and collaborate asynchronously across their organization,” posted CEO Elay Cohen on LinkedIn.  “The SkillsHood Enablement Platform automates and scales organizational readiness and messaging alignment processes both for distributed and remote employees.”

SkillsHood delivers personalized learning and development training for both onboarding and ongoing training.  Features include prescriptive learning paths, video role-playing, manager coaching, video storytelling, employee recognition, peer feedback, quizzes, and assessments.   Streamed content may be delivered just-in-time by role and tenure.  Other features include gamification, badging, and analytics.  The enablement platform is integrated with Domo, GoodData, Tableau, and PoweredBI.

“It’s amazing to see sales enablement mature and transform to company-wide enablement,” said Cohen.  “Now more than ever, all departments are looking for innovative ways to lift employee productivity and bring teams together virtually.”

Remote training will remain a core requirement after the pandemic.  Gartner forecasts that 48% of employees will work at least part of the time versus 30% remotely before COVID-19.