I’m Kvetching about Grammar Again

“Schoolmarm” Royal Daulton figurine (Source: WannabeEditor on Wikipedia)

I’m starting to feel like the schoolmarm* calling out grammar and spelling errors. I am not normally a stickler about such things, but sales reps and marketers need to do a better job on the basics. I called out marketers a few weeks ago (“How Not to Write a Press Release“) and this week it is sales reps. Here is my letter to Sales Reps:

As you adopt sales engagement tools, you will be sending more emails, but writing fewer words for each email.  Your email templates should be perfectly grammatical, so the 20% that you write to personalize your messages should also be perfectly grammatical.  I’m not seeing this.  Saturday, I received emails from two different tactile marketing companies (the bizarre category name of companies that send direct mail gifts) with run-ons and missing punctuation. 

You do yourself and your company no favors by failing basic grammar checks (I use Grammarly) before hitting send.  Good grammar supports clarity, displays professionalism, and signals that the small things matter.

Here is an example from earlier today:

“Call a play to connect with me for a quick overview and I’ll send you an example NFL team swag item (your team) or a $25 Dinner eGift if you are more of an NHL fan, like myself.”  

The Call to Action from a tactile marketing vendor

If you received this sentence in an email, would you be more or less inclined towards their call to action (CTA) due to the poor grammar and twisted syntax?

Yes, the $25 gift is a strong CTA, but the poor grammar undermines trust. If you can’t do the small things right (e.g. proofing your email), then why would I assume you would get the big things right (e.g. managing the logistics of thousands of individually packaged and personalized eGifts)?

We all make mistakes when writing, and some of us are better than others at the mechanics of the written word. I’m simply suggesting that you do a quick readthrough of what you write before you send it. Using a grammar checking tool is a good backstop.

Another trick: put on our headphones and use Microsoft Word’s read aloud function. Close your eyes and listen for clarity, word choice, and messaging. Yes, this is a timely step; you may want to reserve it for key decisionmakers at ABM accounts, but sometimes you want to slow down to ensure you get things right.

Word choice is also important. When you are unsure whether you are properly using a word, select a different word or type Define <word> into Google or Bing. For emails, simple words should be employed and jargon avoided.

Bing’s first response to Define Kvetching

And to sales engagement vendors, how about some tools to flag style and grammar issues? As you develop AI tools for email, flag both best practices (e.g. Subject line too long, CTA not in the top third of the body, bullet points lower click through rates) and grammar issues.

Let’s write well, not good.


* Readers of the future: In 2019 the term schoolmarm was a bit antiquated and slightly pejorative, but not on the politically incorrect list of phrases. If in 2022 the term enters the list of micro-aggressions, mea culpa.

Outreach Makes LinkedIn’s Hot Companies List

Seismic content can be included in Outreach email templates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cognism Series B

Cognism logo

Sales Acceleration Platform Cognism closed on a $10 million Series B from PeakSpan, bringing total funding to $16.5 million.  Previous investors included Oliver Wyman, South Central Ventures, LCIF, and Newable Ventures Limited.  The firm, founded in 2016, grew ARR over 4x last year.  

The funds will be deployed for opening local offices in Singapore and New York City as well as growing its machine learning team.  According to CEO James Isilay, the firm has already “won significant business remotely” in both regions.

Isilay called Asian expansion “particularly interesting” due to SaaS being relatively young in the market.  Cognism has already leveraged its partnership with investor Oliver Wyman to acquire two “blue-chip financial clients” in Asia.  “Investment here looks to be a promising tonic to the barriers to trade growth that are disrupting business in Europe and America.”

“Having been granted our first machine learning patent in December 2018, Cognism is now building a portfolio of IP which will drive the next evolution of sales and marketing technology,” said Isilay.

“Sales and marketing technology has been a core focus of ours for many years, arming us with a long-term perspective on the segment and a nuanced understanding of market trends and buyer dynamics that drive strategic value.  With such a proliferation of tools and technologies emerging across the marketing and sales landscape over the last decade, it’s no secret that go-to-market leaders today aren’t asking for more software tools – they’re demanding better outcomes.  Cognism’s pragmatic application of AI, which underpins the whole solution suite, is paving the way for a new category focused on turning disparate data points into coordinated insights to drive predictive and prescriptive lead generation and improve conversion across all engagements.”

▪ Matt Melymuka, Co-Founder and Partner at PeakSpan

The Cognism database spans 400 million contacts and 10 million businesses.  Cognism’s products support Prospecting, Sales Triggers, and CRM Enrichments.   CRM Connectors are available for Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, HubSpot, and PipeDrive.  A cadence tool sends templated emails through Gmail and Outlook.  

Marketing Features include A/B testing, Personas, ICP and TAM Analyses, and webform enrichment.

Cognism for Salesforce supports lead prospecting, contact enrichment, and ongoing data maintenance.

ConnectLeader Blogs

ConnectLeader Logo

While most of my blogging is published here, I also write commissioned blogs where I own the editorial. This provides me with additional channels for discussing sales intelligence, sales engagement, and B2B DaaS.

One of these channels is ConnectLeader, a sales engagement vendor based in Salem, NH. Their TruCadence platform supports three softphone dialer services: Click Dialer, Personal Dialer (power dialer), and Team Dialer (agent assisted). Other features include email templates, cadence management, analytics, gamification, Data Genie (data enrichment), and TrueInbound (inbound call management).

Here are my ConnectLeader blogs with their opening paragraphs:

  • Marketing Approved Templates and Scripts, “For at least a decade, there have been discussions about sales and marketing alignment and the inability of sales and marketing teams to provide a unified go-to-market strategy.  Marketing is concerned that sales reps fail to use their leads, share their copy, or conform to the company’s positioning.”
  • Drive Sales Productivity with Integrated Sales Engagement, “At their recent Dreamforce show, Salesforce rolled out a Sales Cloud upgrade called High Velocity Sales which helps “identify the best leads, eliminate busy work and boost pipeline.”  High Velocity Sales adds customized sequences for sales teams which incorporate best practice sales cadences within Salesforce.  Features include email and phone sequences, templates, and call scripts.”
  • Closing the Loop on Inbound Leads, “My career began as a tele-support rep for an insurance agency automation system.  Our role was to quickly return calls from customers and help resolve their system problems.  Speed was paramount with emergency calls placed at the top of the queue.  Because inbound calls were categorized with brief descriptions and codes, we also gave priority to problems that could be quickly resolved (while it was good for our quotas, there was also no reason to make customers wait an hour for a two-minute fix).”
  • How to Improve Your Sales Productivity Using a Sales Engagement Platform, “As soon as I submitted my last blog on Sales Productivity, CSO Insights published an update to their quota attainment research.  The good news is global sales rep quota attainment rose from 53.0% to 54.3%.  The bad news is that it falls within the range of error, so we probably won’t know if sales productivity is truly improving for another year. Even at 54.3%, sales reps remain well below the 63.0% quota attainment level of 2012.  When CSO Insights Research Fellow Jim Dickie looked at the underlying metrics, 22 of the 23 operational metrics declined over the past five years.”
  • How to Think about Sales Productivity, “Research performed by CSO Insights found that sales reps are failing to meet quota at alarmingly high rates. Global B2B quota attainment was a mere 53% in 2016, dropping ten percent over five years. That means that only one in two sales reps is likely to meet quota this year with only a small percentage entering Q4 confident that they will reach quota.”
  • What GDPR Means to American Firms?, “Back in May, there was a good deal of news coverage around the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  Unfortunately, most of the coverage was hyperbolic with a focus on penalties and how few companies had complied.  While the GDPR fear mongering has died down, there is still a need to understand GDPR and comply with the law, even if you have no operations in Europe.”
  • Local Presence: Handle with Care, “Sometimes, the most effective sales approach may be the wrong strategy.  One of these techniques is local presence.  For generalized telemarketing, it can lift call connection rates and revenue, but for strategic selling it may result in a negative return on investment”

Gong: Sales Rep Sins

Usually, I hate listicles. They are one of the laziest formats for blogging and feature articles, but Gong.io put the format to good use in a recent LinkedIn post titled “The 7 most horrifying sales call mistakes of 2019.” I would have gone with the “Seven Deadly Sins of Sales Calls,” but that is a minor editorial nit. Unlike most listicles, the post contained seven in-depth discussions of sales errors with supporting data.

And this data both supports the sales efforts of its clients and prospects and demonstrates the value of its Conversation Intelligence platform which assists with new rep onboarding and play recommendations.

Gong provides aggregated sales data to back up its statements.

For years, it has been gospel that sales reps should focus on a product’s unique value proposition and benefits. Features should be discussed when the prospect asks HOW, but should not be the focus of a sales pitch. In one graphic (see above), Gong has backed up this recommendation. What is amazing is how quickly a feature dump can sour a deal.

Feature dumping is to sales what bad breath is to dating. It kills “what could have been.”

Chris Orlob, Senior Director, Product Marketing at Gong.io

Chris Orlob, Senior Product Marketing Director at Gong, argues that “Most salespeople are overtrained on their products and undertrained on sales skills.”

My experience is different. It’s not that sales reps are overtrained on features, but that they aren’t trained in how those features map to benefits and their product’s value proposition. They also lack specifics around use cases and how their product provides value to specific industries. This causes them to take a least common denominator approach and hope a feature resonates. It’s the proverbial spaghetti on the wall. But this strategy leads to feature dumping and relying on your prospect to map features to benefits and benefits to value. Reps need more sales training, but they also need to understand their value proposition in the context of each prospect.

Sales reps that understand the concerns of their prospect by industry, job function, job level, and company size and can map those concerns to buyers across the buying committee don’t engage in feature dumping. They focus on their product value in the context of the customer. Features are discussed when they are must haves (“We are GDPR compliant”), but only in detail when the technical buyer or end user requests such details.

I don’t want to recapitulate what is a very strong post from Orlob. Instead, I recommend that you go see what he has to say about steamrolling objections, grand finale product demos, and four other sales sins.

People.ai Round C

San Francisco-based Revenue Intelligence vendor People.ai announced Round C funding of $60 million along with the launch of its new The Wire next-best-action (NBA) service.  The round was led by ICONIQ Capital with participation by Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed Venture Partners, GGV Capital, and Y Combinator.  Will Griffith, Partner at ICONIQ Capital, has joined the People.ai Board of Directors.

People.ai has received $97 million in funding to date.  Its valuation was not provided, but TechCrunch placed the valuation at “mid-nine-figures.”

“Today’s announcement of our Series C funding represents a critical milestone in achieving our vision for the Future of Work,” said People.ai CEO Oleg Rogynskyy.  “We’ve already enabled customers to, for the first time, capture all of an organization’s critical business data, such as contacts and customer activity data, and deliver it directly to the CRM.  This has significantly improved sales productivity and CRM data accuracy and liberated the enterprise from time-consuming manual data entry.  Today, we’re taking People.ai to the next level with AI-driven intelligence that provides customer-facing teams with a simple, personalized set of actions based on current, historical and industry data that will help accelerate revenue.  When you use The Wire, you’ll have your most productive day at work, every day.”

People.ai was founded in 2016 and already supports Red Hat, Lyft, Zoom, New Relic, and Splunk.  The firm describes itself as a Revenue Intelligence System:

“People.ai offers the industry’s only Revenue Intelligence System (RIS) that automates the capture of all contact and customer activity data, dynamically updates CRM and provides actionable intelligence across CRM, collaboration, business intelligence, and other management tools for sales, marketing, customer success and services teams – exponentially accelerating growth and delivering actionable insights for strategic business decision making.”

People.ai Website

People.ai fills out buying committees for active opportunities, maps contacts and interactions to accounts and opportunities, and suggests next best actions.  Applying natural language processing and machine learning to buying committee discovery and NBA are the latest advancement in sales and marketing intelligence.

People.ai also supports contact updates derived from email signatures and pulls “critical information” such as product or competitor mentions, sentiment, and buyer intent.

People.ai’s recently launched Campaign360 service supports marketing attribution by tracking opportunities influenced or generated by marketing activities.  Campaign360 is the “industry’s only AI-based solution that equips Marketers with the real-time, full funnel campaign visibility they need at their fingertips,” said the firm.

“We’re thrilled to partner with People.ai as they execute their vision to unleash the potential of AI to drive enterprise revenue,” said Griffith.  “People.ai is well positioned in a highly strategic enterprise market, leveraging automation and AI to fundamentally change the way people work.  People.ai’s product, powered by strong network effects, is delivering insights and productivity at the scale and quality we have not seen previously.  We see an incredible opportunity to accelerate People.ai’s game-changing technology as they redefine the meaning of the Predictive Enterprise.  People.ai is the Future of Work.”

Partners include Salesforce, Slack, Outreach, SalesLoft, Exchange, and G Suite.


On Monday, I will be covering The Wire, People.AI’s new Next Best Action service.

Preferred B2B Communication Channels

While Sales Engagement vendors continue to expand their supported channels, email and phone remain the preferred B2B channels.  Preliminary results from a VanillaSoft survey of 2,000 executives indicated that email is the preferred communication channel.  SMS and Social Media were not listed as preferred channels with social media peaking at 24% during the need stage and falling to 15% during the evaluation stage

“We often read and hear about the rise and role of social selling at various points in the sales engagement process,” said VanillaSoft CEO David Hood, “However, as these initial findings show, more traditional channels – from email to phone to simple word-of-mouth – are actually preferred by B2B buyers.”


VanillaSoft Survey of 2,000 Executives.

Phone contact grows in importance from 39% in the Need stage to 54% in the Evaluation phase.

Social Media remains low, but it is a broad category and likely perceived as more of a consumer channel.  Even young professionals (25 to 34) had little interest in social as a sales contact channel with only 18% looking favorably upon social as a desirable sales communications channel.  41% of young professionals favored the telephone.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator has had significant success as a third channel with messaging, InMail, and PointDrive.  Had LinkedIn been broken out as a distinct category, it likely would have scored higher.  SNAP connectors are now available from Outreach, SalesLoft, InsideSales, and Yesware.  VanillaSoft is in the middle of its certification process.  SalesLoft has indicated that Sales Navigator is their top ecosystem partner.

Also omitted were video meetings (e.g. WebEx, JoinMe, BlueJeans, Zoom) which are commonly used within organizations and work quite well for establishing trust with prospects, demoing a product, and walking through documents.

“Understanding these types of reality-based findings will allow smart sales professionals to align their activities to their customers’ wants and desires,” said Hood.

Outreach Reaches Unicorn Status

Outreach Crunchbase Profile
Outreach Crunchbase Profile

Sales Engagement vendor Outreach achieved unicorn status following a $114 million round which valued the firm at $1.1 billion.  Total funding reached $239 million.  Round E was led by hedge fund manager Lone Pine Capital with Meritech Capital Partners and Lemonade Capital joining the round.  Also participating were previous investors DFJ Growth, Four Rivers Group, Mayfield, Microsoft Ventures, Sapphire Ventures, Spark Capital, and Trinity Ventures.

Outreach had a very strong 2018 and now has over 3,300 customers and 50,000 users.  The firm more than doubled its revenue last year and grew to 315 employees.  Outreach expects to close 2019 with 450 headcount and hit annualized recurring revenue of $100 million in the next year.

“This financing will enable us to infuse every aspect of the customer journey with the power of machine learning so organizations can identify the actions that move the needle in order to make better, faster decisions,” blogged CEO Manny Medina.  “We will also expand in the coming months by doubling our machine learning team, increasing our international footprint, and investing in our partner ecosystem, Galaxy, as well as our recently announced integration with Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 for Sales.”

Outreach offers Salesforce and MS Dynamics connectors and plans to release an SAP SE connector by year end.

It’s top competitor, SalesLoft, also received a large funding round. I will cover that tomorrow.

Vidyard GoVideo Expands SalesTech Partnerships

Vidyard GoVideo
Vidyard GoVideo supports on demand video creation, screen recording, and previously uploaded videos from within ConnectLeader templates.

Vidyard announced six additional sales platforms for its GoVideo platform: Outreach, EveryoneSocial, Reply.io, 366 Degrees, ConnectLeader, and FunnelAmplified.  Previously announced partners include SalesLoft, InsideSales, HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, Drift, and Salesforce.  Vidyard supports over 40 sales and marketing solutions.

Integrated video helps personalize a message and increases open and clickthrough rates.

Outreach and ConnectLeader offer Sales Engagement platforms with personalized videos being integrated into email steps.  Outreach sales reps can include personal video within their sequences and monitor video engagement.

Link Encoding provides website or content viewing intelligence related to Outreach sequences.  For example, the new plug-ins help Vidyard “record and send videos within your Outreach email.  And when your prospect views the video, that activity triggers your next task so you can immediately take action to convert at the highest level.”

“Sales is becoming more personal every day.  You must use the right channel for the right engagement for the right prospect and customer, and we’re finding video to be a key channel in engaging buyers,” said Outreach CEO Manny Medina.

“Vidyard has been tightly integrated with ConnectLeader, which transforms your videos into lead generation machines,” wrote ConnectLeader. Features include camera recording, screen recording, and video uploading of previously saved content in Vidyard.

Reply.io is an email-centric platform with contact management, drip campaigns, reply recommendations, email validation, and reply prioritization.  The joint solution “lets users personalize sales drip campaigns, create personal intro videos or product demos, add them to email sequences in Reply.io, and automate one-to-one email engagement at scale.”

EveryoneSocial provides social selling tools for sales, marketing, communications, and recruitment teams.  Users can select pre-recorded videos from a library or record custom videos and share with prospects and connections.

366 Degrees and Vidyard support SMB marketing with dynamic content, multi-channel marketing campaigns, and campaign metrics.  Video can be integrated into newsletters, promotions, social media, and landing pages.

“With the changing behaviours of today’s buyers and the availability of new technologies, sales development is becoming a sophisticated business function that takes a strategic approach to identifying and developing new sales opportunities based a wide range of buying signals and sales engagement techniques,” blogged Vidyard VP of Marketing Tyler Lessard.  “On average, SDRs use six different tools.  And the days of SDR teams inheriting tech from the broader sales and marketing teams—such as customer relationship management (CRM), email automation, and social listening—and adapting them to meet their unique requirements for scalable sales prospecting are quickly coming to an end.”

SalesIntel: Company Profiles, Technographic Searching, & New Connectors

SalesIntel Company Profile
SalesIntel Company Profile

I profiled SalesIntel and its human-verified contacts last summer but failed to cover a series of announcements from them over the past nine months (they were covered in my newsletter, but didn’t make it into my blog).

SalesIntel continues its database build out with company intelligence alongside their database of nearly three million high-quality US contacts. Each of these contacts is reverified each quarter, providing a smaller, but significantly higher quality email and direct dial dataset than other vendors. The exception is DealSignal which is performing overnight data validation so also delivering recently verified contacts.

Along with high-quality contacts, SalesIntel added company profiles which provide contact context.  Company profiles are accessed by performing a company name search and clicking on the company name in the resulting contact list. The new profiles contain the following sections:

  • Company logo and name
  • Executive Intel — the names and titles of the top-level executives at the firm.  Users can click on the executives to view their details.
  • Firmographic data from Owler
  • HQ info
  • Industry & Sector info
  • Tech Intel — vendors and product deployed at the company
  • Contact Intel — a grid containing the number of executives available within SalesIntel by job function and level.  Clicking on a number takes the user to a list of contacts for the company at that function and level.  Users can also obtain filtered lists by clicking on the totals by job function or level.

The most recent enhancement is the incorporation of Owler firmographics into their database. SalesIntel users can also view Owler’s real-time news alerts for their prospects including IPOs, Funding, and Acquisition news.

“Owler helps sales teams work faster and smarter. We provide accurate and up-to-date information about companies and their top competitors, as well as deliver real-time actionable insights about the companies that matter to your pipeline.”



Tim Harsch, CEO of Owler

SalesLoft released sales engagement connectors for Outreach and SalesLoft late last year. Duplicate checking is performed.  Records are tagged and assigned to SalesLoft cadences and Outreach sequences.

A HubSpot connecter was also released. The integration allows users to select contact owners and assign exported contacts to a workflow. Duplicate record checking is supported.

New targeting features include US metro areas and technographic searching.  Users can screen by product, vendor, or category.  The technographics file was licensed from HG Insights (FKA HG Data).

Category searching may be performed by keyword or navigating a technology category tree.  Technographic searching is a component of the company module.

SalesIntel Technographic Screening
SalesIntel Technographic Screening

Contacts are sold in annual plans with contact records beginning at a dollar per record.

SalesIntel was launched last summer.  Ramnani said his firm is receiving “very positive feedback from the market.”