XANT: Inbound Lead Response Rates

In March 2011, the Harvard Business Review published “The Short Life of Online Sales Leads,” which discovered that companies were slow to respond to sales leads, and there were considerable benefits from rapid responses.  The study is often cited, but there was little subsequent data to determine whether these issues and opportunities still held.  Fortunately, XANT recently replicated the study, looking at three years of inbound lead response and contact rates.

The new study analyzed 55 million sales activities at over 400 companies.  XANT looked at 5.7 million inbound leads and found that 57.1% of first call attempts took place after a week or more, and only 0.1% of inbound leads were responded to within five minutes.  However, firms that responded within those first five minutes had an 8X conversion rate versus later return calls.

“Maybe we simply didn’t realize what we were leaving on the table,” wrote XANT. “Maybe we over-rotated on targeted ABM strategies at the expense of speed-to-lead.  Marketing automation shouldn’t replace meaningful and quick sales engagement.”

XANT proposes a second problem that slows lead response times, the manual assignment of leads to individuals, resulting in two sets of delays – the lead routing process and the sales reps’ ability to respond quickly when a batch of leads is handed to them.

“Leads sit, go cold, and revenue slips,” warns XANT.

To address the slow response problem, XANT added a shared record option to their Sales Engagement Platform.  The goal is to work every lead with named accounts properly routed and other leads delivered to a shared pool with priority leads immediately offered to reps.   XANT provides AI tools and a rules-engine to auto-assign leads from target accounts and load others into a shared pool with prioritized leads labeled urgent.  The top-rated leads are then offered to the sales team on a round-robin basis, ensuring that all reps have access to top leads and that priority leads have rapid response rates.

“With records in a shared pool, reps won’t get bogged down or locked out,” said XANT. “High-performing reps can blow through their leads quickly and continuously draw from the shared pool.”

XANT describes Shared Leads as another robot that improves the efficacy of sales reps.

“Whereas many treat automation as a way to email spam, we treat it as an enhancement to improve engagement and sales,” explained XANT Head of Product Mark Littlefield. “The basics of Robots include auto-enrolling records, opportunity funnel progression, prioritizing tasks, triggering reps to customer events, performing reliable data entry, and a lot more.  With Shared Records, we’re bringing teams the flexibility to compile records into shared folders or automatically assign them to the right reps so they can accelerate their speed-to-lead and their time-to-value.”

Outreach: $30 Million for Empowering Sales Reps

Outreach Workflow Intelligence combines Outreach prospect and process analytics with third-party company and contact information.
Outreach workflow intelligence combines Outreach prospect and process analytics with third-party company and contact information.

Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) vendor Outreach announced a $30 million Series C round led by DJF.  With the capital injection, Outreach raised its total funding to $60 million.  The valuation was not disclosed.  Other round participants included Four Rivers Group and existing investors Mayfield, MHS Capital, Microsoft Ventures and Trinity Ventures.  Funds will be deployed towards additional product development, staffing, and marketing.

“The future of selling will be machines helping sales reps by removing the barriers of what bogs them down and empowering them to do their best work,” blogged Outreach CEO Manny Medina.  “This round gives us the ability to make the required investments in machine learning and natural language processing. We’re doubling down in an area many in the market are talking about, but have yet to make a reality. With this investment, Outreach will continue to innovate to improve the day-to-day life of sales reps and their impact on the companies and communities they serve.”

Outreach helps automate, track, and analyze sales rep tasks across multiple communication channels including email, phone, and LinkedIn.  Activities are tracked and synchronized with Salesforce, Gmail, and Exchange.  Outreach supports over 1,200 sales teams including sales organizations at Adobe, Pandora, eBay, Marketo, and Zillow.  The firm supports the efforts of over 15,000 sales reps.

Like many industries, technology is transforming sales from an art to a science.  Sales is no longer about following up on inbound leads and hunting for a few big deals. It is about sales excellence – predictably executing the right selling activities at the right time.

  • Outreach CEO Manny Medina

The firm, founded in 2014, doubled its employment over the past year to 170.  Outreach is looking to grow its product and engineering group from thirty to fifty staff before the end of 2017.  Outreach is based in Seattle with offices in San Francisco and State College, PA.  They recently opened an office in Tampa, Florida which has hired some of the talent from recently shuttered competitor KiteDesk.

While I have not heard the specific rationale behind the KiteDesk shutdown, a former CxO at the firm suggested that they lacked the capital to compete against well-funded competitors such as Outreach and SalesLoft.

Along with the funding round, Outreach announced that DFJ Growth Partner Sam Fort has been added to Outreach’s Board. “The opportunity for a platform that simplifies and automates the sales process is massive and we are thrilled to have Outreach join our portfolio,” said Fort.

DiscoverOrg: TiLT Sales & Marketing Certification

Conviction is one of the ten "micro-burst" training modules in the Sales Development certification program.
Conviction is one of the ten “micro-burst” training modules in the Sales Development certification program.

Technology Sales Intelligence vendor DiscoverOrg formally launched a sales and marketing training program called TiLT.  The certification program is available at no charge to DiscoverOrg clients.  Three programs are planned for sales development, marketing, and account executives with a ten module sales development program now available.  The marketing program should be available by early Q4.

“DiscoverOrg’s mission is to provide actionable sales and marketing intelligence that enables our customers to open the door to growth like they’ve never experienced, and we are leading by example. Our experience as one of the fastest growing companies in the country over the past decade gives us a unique perspective, and the TiLT training program is grounded in real-life, practical examples of what works and doesn’t work in today’s incredibly tough sales environment,” said Henry Schuck, CEO of DiscoverOrg.

The training sessions are platform and sales methodology agnostic and allow the sales rep to engage in “microburst learning” with a combination of videos and curated content.  Each module includes a recorded challenge with students self-reporting their level of sales-skill confidence along the way.  Course metrics are then available to sales managers for tracking the progress of their staff.  Thus, a new sales development rep might take two sessions per week over the course of five weeks.

DiscoverOrg is looking to improve the success of its sales clients, many of whom have devalued the value of good salesmanship.  “Conversation is a lost art due to the advent of technology,” said DiscoverOrg’s Senior VP of Customer Success David Sill.

Sheri Schiffman, Director of Inside Sales for WatchGuard, commented on a recent new hire TiLT training session for their Inside Sales team, “We were looking for a way to decrease ramp-up time for new sales employees, and give them new techniques for converting leads to sales. The TiLT training was relevant and provided immediately applicable information and sales skills. Their commitment to our success is outstanding, and we are looking forward to running other new employees through the training in the future.”

The ten-part sales development program contains the following modules:

  1. Improvisation
  2. Engagement
  3. Relevance
  4. Trust
  5. Conviction
  6. Authenticity
  7. Persistence
  8. Persuasion
  9. Creativity
  10. Storytelling

When LinkedIn acquired Lynda last year, I expected they would quickly integrate Lynda training tools into Sales Navigator, but they have yet to do so.  The Sales Navigator training and tools section is provided by Cornerstone OnDemand, not Lynda.  When searching on Lynda, there are five Sales Navigator courses, but four were five to seven minutes overviews and one was a seventy-eight minute Sales Navigator Basics class.   Thus, it appears that DiscoverOrg has stolen a march on LinkedIn with respect to professional sales development.

Historically, the sales intelligence vendors have avoided formal training programs.  They usually provide a set of short training webinars, both recorded and live, but these have tended towards tool training.  DiscoverOrg is going beyond mere tool training to certification training in “the art and science of sales and marketing.”

SalesLoft: Account Based Sales Development

A few months ago, I had not heard the term “Account Based Sales Development,” but it seems to have been rapidly adopted by several companies focused on tools for teams of sales development reps.  The term is an extension of the Account Based Marketing (ABM) methodology into the middle of the funnel.  Logically, the targeted focus of ABM programs, combined with predictive lead scoring, should be supported after opportunities are marketing qualified.  Thus, was born ABSD.

Traditional marketing is  volume based.  How many opportunities can we warm up?  How many are marketing qualified and forwarded onto sales?  But a volume approach lacks personalization.  It uses blast emails in a “spray and pray” approach to hit numerical targets.  The problem with this approach is that non-personalized emails are generally ignored.  While the approach might uncover a few more leads, it does so at the risk of tarnishing B2B brands, hurting email sender scores, and pushing low-yield opportunities down to your sales team (for them to ignore).

One of the most prominent advocates of ABSD is SalesLoft which built its Cadence product in support of ABSD:

SalesLoft defines Account-Based Sales Development (ABSD) as “a sales development approach in which prospective customer accounts are treated as markets of one, reached through hyper-personalized, targeted campaigns.” “Markets of one?” Sounds like a lot of effort for one prospective account. But it makes sense, considering the great shift in buying habits that’s been happening since the advent of the Internet. In order to become successful with ABSD, you need to deliver sincerity and personalization at scale. It’s a significant change in the way marketing supports sales, how sales supports the business and management’s expectations of activity and results from the revenue team.

Sincerity at scale sounds like an oxymoron, but the Cadence platform is designed for custom campaigns managed by the sales reps.  Thus, marketing can setup and tune the messaging and campaign steps, but sales reps may adjust prospect messaging during the campaign.  Hence “sincerity at scale.”

SalesLoft Cadence allows marketing to define campaigns which are managed by sales reps.

“While ABM’s best delivery tools are tools and technology platforms for content, ads and emails, the sales development rep (SDR) is the key in ABSD,” noted SalesLoft in an e-book.  “Sure, the SDR might have tools to help them do their job. But without personalized, sincere and professional communication, it doesn’t matter how good an SDR’s work ethic might be. They’ll fail in ABSD.”

To assist with personalization, SalesLoft launched its Sales Development Cloud earlier this month.  The partner hub provides company and contact content sets from DiscoverOrg, InsideView, Owler, RingLead, and Datanyze.  Other vendors provide advice on tone (Crystal personality profiles), customized email signatures (Sigstr), and conversational highlights (ExecVision).

One method for accomplishing such sincerity is switching the SDR focus from a single lead to an account.  This process reorientation allows the rep to leverage her research across many prospective buyers and influencers at an account instead of working a single opportunity thread.  Matt Amundson, the Senior Director of Sales Development at Everstring, described this shift on LinkedIn:

Account-Based Sales Development (ABSD) employs a similar strategy to hyper-personalization. The SDR still does high-level research on an organization, referencing an organization’s content released in blogs, social channels, and press releases.  The delta here is utilizing the same research across multiple prospects throughout an organization, instead of just one.  That means the same 20 minutes of research is infinitely more valuable and far more scalable.  A SDR focuses on the entire account by multi-threading, instead of just reaching out to a single lead.

For several years, ABM was an idea pushed by DemandBase at the very top of the funnel to identify anonymous individuals at targeted companies for programmatic campaigns.  The idea gained more traction as predictive analytics firms began to discuss ABM as part of their ideal profiles and scoring tools.  For them, ABM was a descriptor of the process of cherry picking the best opportunities within your funnel and finding net-new similar leads.  Thus, ABM became a method for strategic account targeting by the marketing department.  With ABSD, this focus on the best opportunities with targeted messaging has now worked its way to the middle of the funnel.

SalesLoft is not the only sales acceleration vendor discussing ABSD.  The term is also being propagated by QuotaFactory and KiteDesk.

QuotaFactory: Prospect Relationship Management for SDRs

Quota Factory displays daily objectives and progress towards goals.
Quota Factory displays daily objectives and progress towards goals.

QuotaFactory recently announced general availability of its Prospect Relationship Management (PRM) platform for sales development relationship (SDR) professionals.  Two service levels are available: Outsourced PRM which is managed by QuotaFactory’s SDRs and Team PRM for in-house sales teams.

QuotaFactory claims that the typical SDR uses eight different prospecting tools.  With QuotaFactory, prospecting is managed through a single platform.

“After years of successful sales development operations, we productized our internal know-how into the most user-friendly and impactful B2B prospecting platform available today,” said QuotaFactory CEO Peter Gracey. “With one platform for data, outbound messaging, call planning, reporting and automation, SDRs can now ditch the eight different logins for all the solutions they’re currently using and free up their time to do what they were hired to do – speak live with prospects.”

QuotaFactory helps firms define an ideal customer profile and develops a phone and email database of targeted prospects.  Tools include automated dialing, messaging templates, pre-built call planning, and daily objectives.  The service also supports “rigorous rules around qualification criteria, ensuring that each rep fully qualifies and passes as many targeted prospects as possible through meaningful conversations.”

“As an experienced sales leader, I have seen as much as 60 percent of sales teams’ time wasted on non-selling tasks.  Understanding that problem fueled our passion to create QuotaFactory. We are offering a complete platform to maximize prospecting and selling time for sales development reps everywhere. Our mission is simple: provide the necessary tools for every sales representative to exceed quota.” — QuotaFactory CRO Paul Alves

QuotaFactory’s PRM was developed in conjunction with sister company AG SalesWorks.  In essence, they have productized fourteen years of AG Salesworks SDR processes.

QuotaFactory licensed InsideView’s OpenAPI for prospecting and lead enrichment.  QuotaFactory contracts include up to 1,500 contacts per SDR per month.  They also include cleaning and enrichment for 10,000 records at the start of the engagement, unlimited sales development dialing, unlimited email and voicemail drops, and call recording.  Reporting includes a Prospecting Insights Dashboard and competitive intelligence.

“We are thrilled to formalize our partnership with InsideView, as it represents a great marriage of data, process and automation greatly benefiting our clients,” said Gracey. “Adding its full suite of market intelligence tools to the already robust QuotaFactory PRM platform means that we are truly the only place an SDR needs to go in order to prospect and crush their goals.”

Gracey welcomes competition from HubSpot and Salesforce which are developing similar tools.  Their entry helps validate the space and educate the market.  However, “as a company we don’t really worry about competition too much.  Our focus is on customer value and success.  We know our user because we are our user.  We built this thing for ourselves first.  What we are finding is that there are a whole lot of sales development teams out there that were experiencing the same issues as us.  We are building a pretty tight-knit sales dev community due to the design of our products.”

Gracey continued by noting that their focus is exclusively on sales development, “We do one thing extremely well for one set of people.  That specialization combined with our borderline unhealthy attention to client success are our greatest differentiators.”

QuotaFactory claims that their database is 95% phone and email accurate.

Outsourced PRM pricing was not disclosed.  Team PRM begins at $650 per user per month.