Cognism Funding Round

European Sales Acceleration vendor Cognism continues to demonstrate strong momentum out of the gate with a second funding round.  The firm closed on a £2.8 million round from investors including Oliver Wyman, South Central Ventures, LCIF, Newable, and existing investors.

The expansion capital will be “used to enhance the solution for Enterprises and also expand the offering into the Financial Services sector.”

“Cognism is moving beyond sales intelligence and applying its patented machine intelligence technology to understand the revenue challenges at the Enterprise level,” said CEO James Isilay.  “There is a natural fit between the data and analytics the Cognism platform provides and the strategy that can then be derived to enhance revenue at the Enterprise level. We are keen to showcase this value to this sector and hope our collaboration with Oliver Wyman will propel us forward and continue our strong growth.”

Cognism, which was founded in 2016, already has over 200 customers and has posted 617% revenue growth year-to-date.  The firm offers a data set of 400 million global companies and contacts.  Their Prospector service supports persona based prospecting, sales intelligence, and CRM connectors.  Other products include Refresh CRM enrichment and Engage sales acceleration (sales engagement).

“Our clients are continuously looking for new ways to accelerate growth. Cognism technology will provide our clients with dynamic insights into their existing client base, enabling them to develop more targeted solutions and improving sales success. At the same time, Cognism technology will allow our clients to make a step change in their prospecting efforts. Cognism’s data asset will allow our clients to identify prospects matching detailed personas, leveraging data on over 400M companies and individuals.”


Kai Upadek, Partner at Oliver Wyman

Cognism also announced the addition of Vidyard GoVideo to outbound emails.  Vidyard’s video “selfies” help sales reps personalize communications and “build stronger relationships with their prospects” with “one-to-one videos on-demand in a matter of moments.”

Outreach & Drift Make LinkedIn Top Startups

LI Top StartupsCongratulations to Outreach (#15) and Drift (#22) for making the LinkedIn Top 25 U.S. Startups list.  To be eligible for Top Startups, companies must be 7 years old or younger, have at least 50 employees, be privately held, and headquartered in the U.S.  Selection is based upon employment growth, engagement, job interest, and attraction of top talent between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018

Coincidentally, I just began covering Drift in my subscription newsletter.  They will be covered here in two weeks following my standard embargo.  I’ve been covering Outreach for several years.

Outreach is a sales engagement platform that helps sales reps manage their multi-channel communications with customers and prospects.  Along with templates and cadence tools, Outreach offers call recording and coaching, analytics, a partner ecosystem, and meeting management.  The firm has 285 employees and is looking to double its headcount over the next year following a $65 million funding round.  LinkedIn noted that they have 2,400 customers.

Outreach Employee Count
Seattle-based Outreach said in April that it plans to double its headcount over the next year. (Chart Source: LinkedIn)

Conversational marketing firm Drift landed a $60 million Series C round earlier this year.  The funds will be used to quadruple its office space with an expanded presence in Boston and new space in San Francisco.  As one-third of their clients are outside of the United States, they plan to open international offices later this year.

The Drift platform removes webforms and offers chatbots for conversational discovery and qualification.  “A sale doesn’t get made until a conversation happens. So, with Conversational Marketing, we created a new way of doing marketing and sales that removed the roadblocks and hurdles that can get in the way of someone talking to your business. This creates a better customer experience, makes it easier for people to buy, and ultimately creates a faster path to revenue,” said CEO David Cancel.

Drift supports email sequencing, revenue reporting, visitor id, chatbots, playbooks (templates), reporting, email reply management, and meeting scheduling.  A new Conversational Advertising capability provides conversational landing pages instead of webforms.

Drift’s goal is to be the Amazon for Business.  “Amazon revolutionized how people buy with the one-click buying experience, and that’s what we all expect online today,” said Cancel. “But when it comes to B2B, the buying process is painful. Companies force buyers to fill out forms and jump through so many hoops just to talk to them, despite the fact that most buying decisions have already been made by the time someone comes to your website. We’re on a mission to build the most customer-centric company in the world and make B2B buying as easy as buying from Amazon.”

Boston-based Drift has had rapid employee growth over the past two years (Source: LinkedIn)
Boston-based Drift has had rapid employee growth over the past two years. (Chart Source: LinkedIn)

 

Outreach Acquires Sales Hacker

Sales Hacker and Outreach

Sales Engagement vendor Outreach acquired sales training firm Sales Hacker. The acquisition amount was not disclosed.

Sales Hacker offers sales training webinars, conferences, podcasts, and online courses. Its blog draws 150,000 unique monthly visitors, and it runs meetups in more than thirty cities. The acquisition will allow Sales Hacker to drop sponsored content, raise the quality of its content, and enjoy access to a deeper set of industry insights.

“Sales is the only profession where the score gets zeroed every few months, which means the best reps are always looking for new ways to stay fresh and attack the coming quarter,” said Outreach CEO Manny Medina. “By providing relevant, unbiased and actionable content directly from seasoned practitioners, Sales Hacker plays a key role in helping today’s reps understand the latest trends, get inside the mind of their buyer, and ensure they are not left behind.”

Sales Hackers’ eight remote employees will be retained including CEO Max Altschuler who will join Outreach as the VP of Marketing. However, Medina told GeekWire that Sales Hacker will continue as an independent company and will not provide preferential treatment to Outreach in its coverage. There will be no Outreach branding on the Sales Hacker site nor will Outreach have access to the Sales Hacker database.

“Our main impediment to growth is awareness that this [sales technology] category exists,” said Medina. “Given that we are the largest, the fastest growing, and the leader in the space, I felt like it was upon us to inject the tide that will raise all boats.”

Medina argued that his competitors will also benefit from greater category awareness, but “given that we are the biggest, we have the most funding, we are the fastest growing, it’s kind of like our responsibility to make sure that the industry continues to grow and the category continues to grow,” said Medina.

“The mission is bigger than just building a company,” said Altschuler. “It’s about building a whole new category around Sales Engagement and Revenue Efficiency. Like how Salesforce pioneered the Cloud and HubSpot pioneered Inbound.”

The deal came together at Outreach’s user conference when Altschuler, an angel investor in Outreach, sat down with Medina.

“Max has this incredible asset, and every year he needs to figure out a growth plan for it, and we have an incredible need to educate the community that sales engagement exists,” Medina said. “So we came together almost magically when we sat down to map out what our problems were, what his problems were, we realized ‘hey we have a lot of alignment here.’”

Outreach is valued at a half billion dollars following a $65 million round D in May. The firm has approximately 300 employees and plans to hire another 50 before the end of the year. It has grown from $0 to $30 million in annualized recurring revenue in three years.

“Outreach has passed the inflection point where it’s less about marketing the company and more about creating a market for the company,” said Altschuler. “Investing in Sales Hacker in this way will allow us to create a better content experience for our readers and our customers.”

SalesLoft Acquires NoteNinja

NoteNinja transcribes calls, tags them, and supports quick topic searching for insight discovery.
NoteNinja transcribes calls, tags them, and supports quick topic searching for insight discovery.

Sales Engagement vendor SalesLoft acquired B2B SaaS Collaboration tool Noteninja. Durham-based NoteNinja provides meeting intelligence which transcribes, tags, and annotates meeting recordings. The service is managed by an AI bot which recognizes upcoming meetings on the rep’s calendar and attends the meeting.

“I realized our category of software was missing something important,” said SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter. “Neither us nor other engagement solutions were solving an additional problem. Customers told me they need more insights on what’s actually happening during sales meetings. They realize (and Gartner reports) ‘three out of four customers report spending more with a company because of a positive buying experience’. Modern revenue organizations need meeting intelligence software to solve painful problems.”

SalesLoft listed a set of sales challenges that are addressed by meeting intelligence platforms:

Meeting Challenges. Source: SalesLoft Blog.
Meeting Challenges. Source: SalesLoft Blog.

Tagging assists with meeting review, helping users search for key moments such as pricing discussions or prospect objections. According to Noteninja, “No longer do you have to click around a meeting aimlessly looking for the right spot. Save time and quickly hone [sic] in on the moments that matter for you and your team.”

Comments can be shared with co-workers or management, providing “game-film for meetings.” These excerpts can also be used for new hire training, objection handling, and learning from top reps.

“I’m incredibly proud for what this means to our customers and the advanced opportunity they will now have to deliver a better selling experience to their customers.  With the acquisition of Noteninja, SalesLoft is providing our customers with the first full suite Sales Engagement Platform that combines sales cadences with sales intelligence, serving AEs, SDRs, CSMs, managers, and execs to generate the most revenue.”

  • SalesLoft CEO Kyle Porter

Noteninja supports major web conferencing services including GoToMeeting, Zoom, JoinMe, and WebEx. Google Calendar, Exchange, and Office 365 productivity applications are also supported. While a SalesLoft connector already exists, the firm is working on a native integration of NoteNinja capabilities which will be offered as a premium feature set within their product line.  SalesLoft is targeting August for native availability.

SalesLoft complies with state privacy laws.  “We deploy call recording governance for our current dialer and will be incorporating our technology across the platform as we integrate,” said VP of Product Strategy Sean Kester.  “We also work alongside the governance and compliance assets deployed by screen sharing technologies.”

NoteNinja does not automatically join meetings with generic (consumer) emails nor does it join meetings with only internal staff. However, this rule can be overridden by including the Noteninja assistant in the attendees list.

Acquisition terms were not disclosed.

SalesLoft has grown to 277 employees with offices in Atlanta, Durham, and San Francisco. SalesLoft supports over 2,000 companies including Square, MuleSoft, Alteryx and Dell.

SalesLoft is ahead of plan in 2018.  Q1 was above a “very aggressive” revenue plan to once again double revenue in 2018.  Q2 is tracking 120% of plan.

Approximately one-third of NoteNinja customers are joint licensors of the SalesLoft solution.

Outreach Lands $65M Round D

Outreach Amplify Response Analytics
Outreach Amplify response analytics assist with intent classification.

Customer engagement platform Outreach announced a $65 million Series D last week, bringing its total funding to $125 million.  The round was led by Spark Capital and includes investment from Sapphire Ventures as well as from existing investors DFJ Growth, Four Rivers Group, Mayfield, MHS Capital, Microsoft Ventures and Trinity Ventures. 

Business Insider placed the valuation around $500 million, more than double the Series C valuation.  The firm is eyeing an IPO in 2021 subject to market conditions. 

Funds will be deployed towards product development “with a specific focus on machine learning and extending the platform beyond the sales team to every customer-facing role.”   

Outreach rolled out the first application of its Amplify AI platform in March for intent classification.  “This feature detects the intent of an email reply from a prospect and uses that intent to automate or recommend the next best action for the sales rep to take,” blogged product storyteller Chelsey Feldman.  “Our intent classification capabilities use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to go beyond reply rates and measure whether replies are positive, objections, or unsubscribe requests…The result is the ability to measure email effectiveness and classify intent at scale.” 

The firm now describes itself as a Customer Engagement company that is employing machine learning “to scientifically test, measure and optimize the performance of sales teams, while also automating non sales-related tasks.” 

Medina blogged about this broader company vision last week: 

Our mission is to help innovators, the evangelists of new technologies who face a lot of no’s before reaching the yes, to get their products to the people who need them, to successfully build new markets, and to fund the cycle of continuous innovation. For the past couple of years we delivered against that mission by equipping sales reps and leaders to drive predictable and measurable growth, to increase efficiency and effectiveness across the team, and to improve visibility into sales activities and team performance. We pioneered a new category of technology – the Sales Engagement Platform – that drove significant bottom line results for our customers.  

But achieving revenue efficiency and delivering a world-class experience to every customer is the job not just of your sales team, but of every customer-facing employee. Many of our customers have already realized the power of Outreach to drive efficiency and lift across the revenue organization and are using Outreach for account management and customer success in addition to pipeline generation and closing. The category has effectively grown beyond Sales Engagement to become Customer Engagement… 

You can only make smart decisions around improving customer experience if you can measure the outcomes of every process for all customer scenarios, and understand how those outcomes directly impact revenue. The next revolution in business will be driven not by big bang AI programs that produce lofty recommendations that are difficult to put into action, but by stacking thousands of these quick wins on top of each other to drive efficiency into every corner of the business.

 “Outreach has been instrumental in creating and evolving the customer engagement category, which is growing at an exponential rate,” said Alex Clayton, Investor at Spark Capital. “Outreach’s technology, approach and leadership team make it poised to capture this multi-billion dollar opportunity.” 

The Series D follows after a strong 2017 where the company doubled its customer base and posted more than 100% revenue growth. Outreach also doubled its headcount over the past year to 300 employees with a goal of 350 by the end of the year.  The firm has 22,000 global users and 2,400 customers including Cloudera, Adobe, Microsoft, and DocuSign. 

“The customer engagement category is experiencing explosive growth, due in large part to high rates of usage, a rarity for enterprise software which is often used as a data repository or even worse, purchased and forgotten,” said CEO Manny Medina. “Our north star isn’t number of customers, it’s number of Weekly Active Users. This metric is proof we have created a technology that not only drives revenue, but also is viewed as indispensable to every member of the revenue team.” 

Usage remains high with 75% of sales reps signing in daily.  “Now salespeople have a place to live,” Medina said.

E-Mail Guessing Strategies Work Poorly

I’ve long suspected that email guessing strategies based upon corporate email templates are risky.  If the hit rate is low, you can quickly undermine your sender score and hurt your firm’s ability to communicate with customers and prospects.

Almost every sales rep does it as a quick workaround.  Hell, I’ve done it.  But, as a strategy for building marketing datasets, it is a dead end.  When sales reps do it, there is a high probability that their well drafted email will bounce.  When marketing does it, they will kill their email deliverability.

Two companies provide evidence to the failure of this strategy — DiscoverOrg and SalesLoft.

SalesLoft offered the Prospector service in 2014. It was a gerry-rigged Google search of LinkedIn that employed an email guessing strategy. The service was discontinued when CEO Kyle Porter decided to focus on Sales Engagement.
SalesLoft offered the Prospector service in 2014. It was a jerry-rigged Google search of LinkedIn that employed an email guessing strategy. The service was discontinued when CEO Kyle Porter decided to focus on Sales Engagement.

SalesLoft began as a LinkedIn scraping service that employed Google to build lists and then utilized email guessing to enrich the lists with dubious quality emails.  SalesLoft Prospector grew into a multi-million dollar business, but CEO Kyle Porter saw the business as unsustainable.   Instead, Porter used revenues from Prospector as a financial bridge for building out a sales engagement Cadence service which has grown rapidly.  Porter describes their service as “sincerity at scale.”

Yesterday, they announced the acquisition of partner SalesNinja which provides integrated meeting analytics for their sales engagement platform.   The tool transcribes and tags meetings for sales coaching, new hire training, and meeting note searching.  The goal is to improve sales efficiency and efficacy while identifying best practices.  Instead of dubious lists, the firm is looking to build quality conversations between sales and prospects.

SalesLoft’s mission is to “enable salespeople to sell with true intent and sincerity,” said Porter several years ago.  “The concept of getting a good prospect list and pounding it to death is old, trite and has become a terrible strategy and drag on our customer’s brands. We have never intended to participate in that process. SalesLoft Cadence is a different process, creates a different relationship, much different results and is executed by professionals with professional solutions.”

DiscoverOrg was never tempted by such strategies and employs a large editorial team to research and maintain executive profiles.  In a recent test of 2,700 editorially gathered emails that were also SMTP verified, DiscoverOrg found that basic template guessing was only 62.4% accurate.  When nickname substitution was employed, the rate only rose to 66%.  When they analyzed the incorrect guesses, they came up with multiple reasons for failure:

  • Large companies have multiple email formulas
  • Brands and subsidiaries create complications
  • Subdomains are becoming more popular in email addresses
  • Some companies use multiple email domains for different roles
  • Nicknames are very common
  • Middle initials and middle names
  • Duplicate names
  • Foreign names
  • Secretive email formulas

“A lot of data providers offer ‘confidence levels’ or likelihoods that a specific email is good,” blogged DiscoverOrg SVP of Data and Research Derek Smith.  “They’re just peddling their own guesses. Anybody can pass along their best guess at an email. Real sales intelligence gives you accurate, actionable data that won’t result in a bounce of your carefully crafted prospecting message.”

In the end, prospecting shortcuts are problematic.  The best sales and marketing professionals employ accurate data and insights for their messaging.  Furthermore, in the era of GDPR (three days from now), you can’t have explicit consent to communicate with an EU citizen when you are guessing at how to contact her.


DiscoverOrg Study

 

 

DiscoverOrg Outreach Connector

Sales reps can upload individual records, selected records in batch, or all records to Outreach. A similar process supports uploads to CRM or Marketing Automation Platforms. Leads may be uploaded as new accounts or matched to current accounts within Outreach.
Sales reps can upload individual records, selected records in batch, or all records to Outreach. A similar process supports uploads to CRM or Marketing Automation Platforms. Leads may be uploaded as new accounts or matched to current accounts within Outreach.

Sales and marketing intelligence vendor DiscoverOrg announced a “refreshed” connector with sales engagement platform Outreach.  The update provides improved “synchronicity” between the two services, making it “faster and easier for reps to sequence DiscoverOrg contacts,” said Russell Van Leuven, DiscoverOrg Senior Director of Sales.

According to Van Leuven, the updated “solution will remove barriers and help people sell more by addressing three mission critical sales problems: (1) a disjointed sales tech stack, (2) inconsistent or untrustworthy data, and (3) maintaining governance practices to preserve data quality.”

“The value of great data lies in what our customers DO with it.  The integration of Outreach with DiscoverOrg means sales teams can get the best data and insights on their target accounts, engage them with the right message at the right time, and never worry about that data going stale again.”

  • DiscoverOrg CEO Henry Schuck

The solution addresses both the dearth of quality data for small teams that perform open-web Google research and “tech overload” at enterprises that are balancing email, CRM, and “a huge stack of tech tools to find, cross-reference, and confirm the information they need,” said Van Leuven.

Van Leuven highlighted the difficulties of maintaining data quality in CRMs:

It’s hard to trust the murky origins of the data in your CRM. It’s usually old (Did you know: data decays at a rate of 30% per year). A lot of distrust comes from the fact that most people have had a traumatizing experience with bad data or bad data providers that’s landed them in spam filters, blacklists, or worse. And when your sales team doesn’t feel like they can trust the data, they stop trying to keep records updated. Bad data perpetuates a burdensome cycle of bad data.

The connector feeds editorially researched prospect data into Outreach and Salesforce.  Both individual records and bulk prospects are pushed to Outreach and assigned to Outreach sequences.  There is “no downloading, uploading, copying or pasting required,” said Van Leuven.

Prospect lists can be assembled in DiscoverOrg and assigned to specific Outreach sequences and tagged by the owner.  Company and contact information can also be passed to Outreach via DiscoverOrg’s Chrome extension.  Thus, a sales rep can identify a prospect on LinkedIn or a company website, match and enrich the record against the DiscoverOrg reference file spanning 130,000 companies and three million companies, and then upload the enriched record to Outreach.

“Great sales results require an in-depth understanding of who you are targeting, and then reaching those individuals with a message that moves them to take action,” said Outreach CEO Manny Medina.  “The partnership between Outreach and DiscoverOrg makes that simple.”

The joint service also offers automated DiscoverOrg enrichment of new leads within Outreach.  The nightly scan appends DiscoverOrg contact information, firmographics, and technographics to Outreach for both new records and records updated within the DiscoverOrg reference library.  The nightly scan also identifies bounced emails and departed employees.

The connector supports field-level configuration allowing admins to set custom field mappings.  Admins are also provided with a weekly summary report which lists all account and contact updates.

DiscoverOrg has a 95% data quality SLA based upon their 90-day editorial review cycle and monthly bounce testing.

Along with Outreach, DiscoverOrg supports sales engagement vendors SalesLoft and Tellwise.  DiscoverOrg plans on enhancing those connectors along with adding additional sales engagement vendors.