Apollo.IO $32M Series B

Sales Intelligence and Engagement vendor Apollo.io closed a $32 million Series B led by Tribe Capital, with participation from NewView Capital and existing investor Nexus Venture Partners. In addition, Sri Pangulur, a partner at Tribe Capital, joined Apollo.io’s board.  Total funding sits at $41.3 million.

Apollo is deploying the funds towards building out its product and engineering teams.  It will also expand its sales, marketing, and operational resources, including additional leadership hires.

In a blog announcing the transaction, CEO Tim Zheng admitted that the Apollo brand is not well known and that Apollo will be using the funds to address brand weakness.  “Our next steps include increasing awareness of Apollo, increasing our user base outside of small teams, and building out an intelligence layer in Apollo to make individual sales reps and teams more successful.”

Apollo is growing rapidly, with its customer base increasing 200% over the past year despite awareness issues.  It has been profitable for the past eighteen months and has more than one million users and 9,000 paid customers.

Recent enhancements include an international dialer, contact and company data improvements, and prospecting and Chrome extension upgrades.

“Apollo is challenging the status quo in B2B lead intelligence and sales engagement by making contact data and prospecting tools in this space more accessible,” said Pangulur. “Seeing the company’s incredible growth over the past year, enhanced product offerings, and new client acquisitions, we are confident in Apollo’s ability to disrupt the SalesTech market for B2B companies, offering a more intelligent, more cost-effective, and simpler solution.”

Apollo falls into a category that I’ve labeled Hybrid Engagement that combines sales engagement tools with sales intelligence and B2B DaaS.  Other vendors with Hybrid Engagement capabilities include ZoomInfo, Cognism, Data Axle Genie, and VanillaSoft.

“Sales professionals at B2B companies are burdened by a go-to-market process that’s manual, tedious, and complex. It’s stifled by convoluted workflows, very little guidance, lengthy onboarding, and high price tags for name-brand solutions,” said CEO Tim Zheng. “This funding will help us further accelerate our product-led growth model, which has seen tremendous success in the contact data space. 

“Apollo’s vision is to give its customers the most powerful and intelligent GTM platform in the industry, so they can reach their full market potential,” continued Zheng. “We want to make access to B2B data even easier, while enhancing the data with sales intelligence and automated workflows.”

Apollo Job Change Alerts

Apollo has assembled a database of 200 million contacts across ten million companies.  Data include direct-dial phones, emails, funding intelligence, technographics, and job changes.  Apollo’s dataset supports direct research, lead prospecting, and LinkedIn matching via a Chrome Extension. In addition, Apollo Refresh performs real-time updates in Salesforce.

Sales Engagement features include sequences (cadences), automated emails, A/B testing, a click-to-call dialer, and a rules engine.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, buyers want an Amazon-like experience where companies are anticipating their needs. You need user data to better drive the sales experience, and as it evolves more personalized capabilities as well,” said Zheng.  “Apollo has some unique positioning in that they are doing product-led growth, but also covering the data stack as well.”

Apollo employs a freemium model with ten free exports per month, the Chrome extension, a Gmail extension, and limited sequences. 

Basic, at $49 per user per month ($39 billed annually), provides 250 export credits per month, unlimited sequences, email integrations, and a broader set of reports and Dashboards. 

The Professional edition adds the dialer, call recordings, customizable reports, and 1,000 exports per month.  Professional is priced at $99 per user per month when billed monthly and $79 per user per month when billed annually.

There are additional fees for full Salesforce synchronization, API access, Apollo Refresh, and exporting up to 10,000 records at a time. In addition, advanced dialer features (e.g., international dialing, call transcription, local presence, and CRM logging) are only available as part of custom packages.

Apollo employs a freemium model with 9,000 paid customers.

Introhive – BoardEx Partnership

Introhive and BoardEx announced a partnership that will “enable shared clients to uncover more high-quality connections and business opportunities that accelerate growth.”  The partnership will assist with discovering opportunities, deepening relationships, increasing internal collaboration, and mitigating risk.

“We are excited to offer our clients a joint solution with BoardEx,” said Diana Sapienza, Global Head of Strategic Partnerships and Alliances at Introhive. “With Introhive’s advanced AI-powered relationship mapping, automation, and enrichment capabilities and the BoardEx alerts on role and/or company changes at the executive and board level, our clients can better manage their ever-growing networks to spot opportunities sooner and grow their businesses faster.”

BoardEx, a division of Euromoney People Intelligence, employs a team of over 300 global research analysts focused on mapping relationships between more than 1.5 million business leaders and decision-makers.

“Having a resilient network is critical to the success of any business, and that resiliency relies on the ability to understand and leverage the most impactful professional relationships,” explained Jubayer Kalam, Head of Product for BoardEx. “We are excited to partner with Introhive by embedding BoardEx data and insights directly into their environment for our mutual clients.”

Introhive, which describes itself as a Relationship Acceleration Platform, released a set of enhancements last month that include a new Salesforce Sales Activity Dashboard, Business Intelligence Webhooks, MS Dynamics hygiene tools, and an Outlook Intelligence Panel Search.

Introhive Sales Activity Dashboard for Salesforce

The new Sales Activity Dashboard “cuts through the noise of activity data and delivers the signal directly to sales professionals and leaders alike,” blogged Lead Product Marketer Julie Taylor.  “At a glance, Sales Leaders can get a sense for the type and volume of activities their teams are investing their time in, and individual sellers can keep a pulse on their own activity levels to see where they stand.”

The Sales Activity Dashboard is available at both the team and individual rep levels.  The report summarizes calls, meetings, and email volumes over the past seven and thirty days.

Global View of Relationships Dashboard is one of Introhive’s new BI webhooks.

New Business Intelligence Webhooks include a Global View of Relationships, Account Relationships Dashboard, and Activities Dashboard.

Introhive’s Cleanse for Microsoft Dynamics added contact record merging and archiving stale records.  The service already supported CRM contact data entry and updates. “Understanding your data provides your team with powerful capabilities. 

Your success lies in the ability of your people to understand your data and use it to make better decisions,” explained Taylor.  “The faster you can make sense of your data by transforming it from information to insights, the further you and your team can go.”

Cognism a Future Fifty Company in UK

UK Sales Intelligence vendor Cognism was named to Tech Nation’s Future Fifty 2021 list.  CEO James Isilay called the past year “a year of incredible transformation” for Cognism as it grew revenue by 90% and closed in on $20 million ARR. 2021 is the second consecutive year that Cognism made the exclusive Future Fifty list.

Cognism was also named one of the top 15 UK Startups by LinkedIn.  The firm continued hiring through the pandemic, with LinkedIn listing 277 employees in the UK, US, and Europe.  Cognism has been rapidly building out its sales team, growing it 165% over the past year to 90 headcount.  Its support team grew 58% over the past year to 40 CSMs.  Cognism also doubled its product management and IT teams.

London-based Cognism grew its headcount 63% over the past year and 115% over the past two. It’s ARR is nearing $20M.

Cognism plans to retain a flexible working environment and recruit talent outside of its primary office locations.  LinkedIn lists 23 positions in London, Boston, New York, Germany, Croatia, and South Africa.

On Monday, Cognism announced Diamond Data, “a new standard in B2B data quality.”  It emphasized that its contacts are accurate, compliant, and phone-verified.  Mobile numbers are phone-verified and checked against global do not call (DNC) lists. Cognism contacts are GDPR and CCPA compliant.

Cognism promises to “minimise inefficiencies due to inaccurate job titles and incorrect / misdialed numbers and create a leaner, faster sales process.”  Cognism offers revenue teams “unrestricted access to prospect data” available through its platform and via CRM and SEP connectors.

A new Diamonds-on-Demand request feature supports on-demand phone verification.  Users simply click on a Diamond Verify button to initiation validation.  A diamond appears on headshots of verified contacts.

“As a company we are constantly researching and identifying new opportunities and partnerships to ensure our platform delivers the best possible results for the highly competitive B2B market landscape. Diamond Data is just that – the best you can get. It is always evolving, and we want to assure our clients that they can target their prospects in confidence, leaving the compliance and data accuracy to us.”

Cognism CEO James Isilay

Diamond Data is immediately available.

Cognism is also delivering Bombora’s intent dataset for identifying in-market buyers and related contact information.  Intent data is available as a screening select and displayed as a build-a-list Heat Map.

Cognism’s new Diamond Data offering.

Finally, Cognism announced that industry veteran Phil Garlick joined their board.  Garlick served as the VP of Corporate Development at DiscoverOrg and President of OneSource Information Services.

Echobot TARGET 2.0

German Sales Intelligence vendor Echobot released version 2.0 of its TARGET prospecting service with a refreshed UI, improved data quality, and AI tools for ICP and segmentation analysis.

“If you want to digitize your sales processes and save a lot of time, money, and nerves, you can’t ignore Echobot,” said CEO Bastian Karweg.  “TARGET 2.0 inspires the everyday sales life of our customers – the new version is fast, intuitive to use, and simply fun.”

Echobot has set its product vision based on the “first principles of data” delivered through its service.  “For data to be useful, it has to be high quality, connected, and fully compliant,” said Karweg.

The first step was unifying their database across regions and datatype and removing data silos within the platform.  Echobot implemented a “unified, nested data index” that improved query times up to ten-fold and allowed for enhanced switching between company and contact results.

Users no longer need to build company and contact lists separately. Instead, build-a-list results are displayed as tabs, allowing users to analyze both company and contact results without requiring them to rekey their query.

Echobot also implemented a new Email Validation Engine (EVA) that “eliminates stale records” and implements mail server and pattern checking to improve data quality.  The EVA reduces bounce rates by up to thirty percent.

Echobot licensed company records directly from trade registers and implemented a “True Compliance” process.

“For your outreach to be truly GDPR compliant, you not only need a Legitimate Interest but also be mindful of the preferences of the people you are trying to contact,” stated Karweg.  “Using Echobot, each contact record comes with a public source URL so you can be 100% confident when a prospect asks you, ‘Hey, where did you get my data from?’”

Echobot Job Title Suggestions

Echobot implemented AI to assist users, building a subject taxonomy that covers over 100,000 topics and industry keywords.  TARGET 2.0 sports a keyword type-ahead tool that “guides you towards the right queries and also intelligently suggests alternative keywords or job titles you also might want to include in your search.”

The firm’s new segmentation analysis is their “most advanced AI” that builds a company vector model for clustered analysis of highly similar companies from uploaded files.  The clusters identify similar companies for downloading to the desktop or uploading to the CRM.  Thus, users can upload their Ideal Customer Profile and expand it with similar companies.  The ICP is also used to score prospects and sort them by priority.

“Echobot uses a new company vector model for the first time in addition to rigid industry codes. The technology is based on machine learning and makes it possible to select companies in a fine-grained manner according to thousands of specialist areas. The assignment takes place automatically on the basis of text content that is associated with the respective company. This means that if you are looking for industries, Echobot now offers an immense wealth of detail and can thus easily find even high-precision target groups. With the help of so-called cross joins, filters of different data areas can be combined with each other in real-time. This completely eliminates the time-consuming storage of interim results.”

Echobot Press Release (Translated from German)

TARGET 2.0 supports a broad set of screening variables:

  • Industry – Industry codes or keywords.
  • Keyword
  • Contacts – Department, Level, Title
  • Trigger Events
  • Location – Region and Radius
  • Company Size
  • Financials
  • Technographics – Software and Systems
  • Firmographics
  • Data Completeness

Their instant access to data allows for complete data visibility without slowing down users with credits to display contact details. In addition, the contract includes a minimum of 10,000 monthly record uploads or downloads with a FLAT-RATE Guarantee that provides an additional 5,000 monthly data records after consuming the EXPORT quota. The guarantee ensures budgeting stability while providing export flexibility should the marketing department consume their entire download quota mid-year.

Echobot pricing starts at €999 per month for up to three users.  This price is introductory and will increase for new customers in 2022.

Echobot supports four countries – Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the UK – and two languages – German and English.  The Echobot roadmap includes “intelligent” email alerts, “helpful” trigger events, and “smart” campaign management.  Additional languages and countries are also in development.

ZoomInfo Chorus Integration

Go-to-Market Platform ZoomInfo announced that it completed the first stage of its Chorus Integration after acquiring the Conversational Sales firm in mid-July.

“Since announcing ZoomInfo’s acquisition of Chorus…our team has made great strides in seamlessly making key features of the Chorus platform available to our customers. These integrations will allow sales, marketing, and operations teams to instantly use both ZoomInfo and Chorus to expand their pipelines via a data-first approach that they can’t get with any other platform on the market.”

ZoomInfo CEO Henry Schuck

Conversational Sales functionality has also been added to ZoomInfo’s Engage SEP.  Chorus transcribes and analyzes calls, helping them build strong customer and prospect relationships and be more present during calls. For example, ZoomInfo dialer calls are recorded and stored in Salesforce while Chorus transcribes and analyzes the conversation.

Chorus’ Momentum Insights are displayed in the ZoomInfo platform under the Chorus tab.

Momentum Insights are available in ZoomInfo, Chorus, and Salesforce, delivering call insights wherever the rep is working.  “Combined Chorus and ZoomInfo users can now view conversation and relationship insights within the ZoomInfo platform for better visibility and management of their prospect and customer pipeline,” stated the firm.

The new Chorus tab in ZoomInfo lets revenue teams see with whom they’ve engaged across the account; whether the interactions were via inbound email, outbound email, or meeting; and the most recent interaction.  The Momentum Insights chart shows touchpoints over time with the ability to search by participants and activity type.  Users can drill down on any of the interactions for email or call details.  Audio can be reviewed from within ZoomInfo’s account and contact views.

Users can also drill down on Quick Signals or search by keyword from the Chorus tab, allowing reps to research deal risks, wow moments, negative sentiment, next steps/to-dos, timeline discovery, etc.  Chorus supports hundreds of topics that can be customized.  For example, companies can filter by specific competitors or product feature capabilities.

While the primary use case for Signals is rep account review, managers can use the tool for deal discussions, skill review, and coaching.  Likewise, product managers can broadly investigate customer calls to research specific topics (e.g., product complaints, competitors). 

When the user clicks on a signal, a textual synopsis of the discussion is provided, along with the ability to review that part of the discussion.  These tools are essential for reviewing negative sentiment, pricing discussions, competitors, etc.  Also, call snippets can be extracted for training (e.g., objection handling, competitive parrying, value messaging) or forwarding questions in the voice of the customer to subject matter experts or service departments.

Chorus users also benefit from the integration, with ZoomInfo serving as the reference data set for customer contact intelligence.  ZoomInfo claims that switching to ZoomInfo’s database and matching logic (from Clearbit) resulted in a 33% lift in match rates and a 10X faster load time for contact records in Chorus (150 MS).  Enriched company and contact intelligence include department, job function, seniority level, business email, phones, industry, location, and company.

According to Chorus, ten percent of calls have attendees that were not announced, leaving the rep blind to the role and importance of the additional attendees.  In other cases, a third party is mentioned, but that individual is not in attendance.  In either case, ZoomInfo will surface contact information for these individuals, helping fill out the Buying Committee.  ZoomInfo also recommends personas who are likely Buying Committee members, fostering multi-threaded discussions across the Demand Unit.

“In addition to helping you expand across your deals, you’ll gain a new understanding of which deals are more likely to close, helping improve your forecast accuracy and visibility across your pipeline,” blogged Senior Director of Customer & Product Marketing Sophie Cheng.  “ZoomInfo’s rich company insights like noteworthy scoops (news and events), intent data, and reporting relationships, infused with Chorus’ new Momentum suite will help paint a clearer picture of the entire relationship context like who’s involved in each deal, what’s being discussed, and the likelihood to close.”

Chorus speaking track analysis

RelPro – IBISWorld Partnership

Sales Intelligence vendor RelPro announced a partnership with well-regarded industry research vendor IBISWorld to deliver an integrated solution for commercial banks.  The joint offering, delivered via the RelPro platform, assists with meeting preparation, due diligence, and industry research.  Ten commercial banks have already deployed the integrated solution, including three of the top five.

RelPro serves business development and relationship management professionals in Financial Services (banking, insurance, wealth management, private equity) and Professional Services (legal, and advisory).  RelPro users are often industry generalists who serve SMBs across many industries.  IBISWorld provides broad industry research across sectors along with economic and environmental changes.

RelPro is a traditional sales intelligence service with company and executive content sourced from seventeen partners.  Data partners include ZoomInfo, Dun & Bradstreet, BoardEx, GuideStar, Crunchbase, and HG Insights.  RelPro users build prospecting lists, perform account planning, identify additional contacts at key accounts, and, with the IBISWorld partnership, research industries based upon each company’s industry codes.

IBISWorld industry intelligence is linked by industry codes to company profiles in RelPro.

“RelPro has always been a client-driven solution, focused on the needs of business development and relationship management professionals in financial services and professional services, so when our clients asked us to integrate with a new intelligence source we listened!” said RelPro CEO Martin Wise, “The value of industry insights has been so evident as our users have pivoted and navigated through the shifting economic landscape, preparing for meetings with prospects and clients.  We are thrilled to be partnering with IBISWorld and delivering our combined capabilities to mutual clients.”

RelPro said that the partnered solution is consistent with its mission “to deliver valuable insights and time-saving efficiencies to business development and relationship management professionals” across banking and professional services.

The partnership began a year ago when a top five commercial bank requested an integrated solution.  The firms polished the integration over the past year, with the announcement synced to the April launch of My IBISWorld for Banking.

My IBISWorld for Banking includes tailored industry tools, data, and analysis to support banking professionals throughout the entire credit process.  Expanded content includes enhanced financial ratios, localized statistics “to understand concentration and major market data,” role-based views, risk snapshots that highlight industry risks and trends, and targeted meeting prep questions.

“Recently, we’ve seen a shift towards banking professionals working more closely with other functions, creating cross-department synergies in this newly-remote world.  We’ve also seen a great need for hyper-local data so banks can better serve small businesses during these unprecedented times. My IBISWorld for Banking fosters this cross-departmental work and helps banks support their customers.”

Carmen McKinney, Chief Operations Officer and Head of Customer Success at IBISWorld

“Being a part of our clients’ workflows has been a continuous goal for us at IBISWorld,” said Jason Falkowitz, SVP, IBISWorld Industry Research Division.  “From the launch of our My IBISWorld for Banking platform and our robust API offering to our new partnership with RelPro, we are committed to offering world-class industry information in client-led formats. Combining IBISWorld’s industry intelligence with RelPro’s focus on targeting companies and decision-makers, mutual clients will be best positioned to win and retain commercial relationships.”

IBISWorld content is delivered within the RelPro solution, with single sign-on supported.  The partners initially focused on their set of joint customers with contracts written on separate paper.  There is no surcharge for the cross-product authorization and functionality.

RelPro company profile screen showing links to IBISWorld Research on primary NAICS / SIC Codes.

Last year, RelPro released a similar solution with Vertical IQ.  Both Vertical IQ and IBISWorld provide industry profiles and economic data, with Vertical IQs content written in plain English for cross-industry generalists, while IBISWorld offers a more formal format.

“RelPro now integrates with the two leading independent sources of industry research,” Wise told GZ Consulting.  “It is for clients to decide which of these two solutions best meets their needs, and RelPro can deliver an integrated and time-saving user experience to either / both sources. This new partnership announcement is consistent with RelPro’s mission to deliver valuable insights and time-saving efficiencies to business development and relationship management professionals in banking and other financial and professional services sectors.” RelPro revenues (bookings) grew 40% in 2020, and the company expects that growth in 2021 will be at least that much

Bombora in D&B Hoovers

Search Results include Bombora Intent Badges.

D&B Hoover’s customers can now view and build lists of in-market accounts using the Bombora intent file.  Users can set up SmartLists (dynamic lists) with a combination of account and intent data to identify in-market ICP accounts.  The list is then displayed on the sales rep’s desktop and daily email digest.

Target lists can be assembled from over 175 selects that span company, contact, intent, and technographics.  Bombora intent data is gathered from over 4,000 B2B media website and span 7,000 pre-defined topics.  70% of the websites are exclusive to Bombora.

Dun & Bradstreet provides a sophisticated approach to selecting intent topics that tie to business strategy.  Instead of simply choosing the obvious topics, the firms recommend that customers employ topic clusters, “a group of like-minded Intent topics [that are] representative of all facets of a product or service.”  Clusters would include

  • Brand/Products (core): Brands, products, key functions
  • Competitors/Partners: Brands and products of competitors and partners
  • Industry/Vertical: Strongly associated categories, use cases, and product/service capabilities
  • Pain Points/Challenges: Pain points, issues, expected outcomes
Multiple intent topics may be monitored in a SmartList.

Dun & Bradstreet has removed intent scores, which are often confusing.  By creating clusters, topics are either surging or not, with no interpretation required.  Instead, the number of clustered topics serves as the indicator of surge strength.

The firms recommend that content be adjusted based on the number of intent topics identified for a prospect.  Sales and Marketing should “serve higher-level or awareness-based content to those showing interest in one or two topics, and lower-funnel content to those showing interest on many topics.”  Furthermore, prospects with many surging topics are probably closer to making a purchase.

D&B Hoovers also added 4 million direct dial numbers to their database, bringing the product total to 6.2 million.  Direct dials contain a set of standard and mobile numbers, so users should hover over the direct dial number to determine the phone type.

“As more business contacts work from home, direct dials are essential to engage customers in real-time, from anywhere,” wrote Product Management VP Phil McWade.  “Access these numbers in the lists you’ve already created, when viewing a Contact Profile, or within Contacts Search & Build a List results.”

D&B Hoover’s coverage has grown to 209 million global companies and 235 million contacts

EXPLORE Sales Intelligence

EXPLORE.FR, which has historically been more of a niche data provider for the French market, now offers a full sales intelligence and DaaS offering covering the entire French market.  In March, EXPLORE took a minority stake in Societeinfo and published its set of registered Sirene data for ten million active businesses.

“With Societeinfo, we can offer a wide range of data enrichment scenarios, contextualized email generation, semantic targeting without equivalent on the market,” said Laurent Nicouleau, Associate Director of EXPLORE.  “These data can, of course, be integrated into the information systems of our customers, including those deployed by GESTINNOV, our subsidiary dedicated to CRM & ERP integration.”

EXPLORE describes itself as ”a designer of high value-added B to B behavioral data solutions” that “identify all the life stages of your prospects and customers and transforms them into a lever for commercial performance.”

EXPLORE French market intelligence includes company and executive profiles, financials, and triggers.  Features include prospecting, list mapping, news alerts, and mobile apps.

EXPLORE offers connectors for Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Sage, Oracle, SugarCRM, Efficy, and SAP.

A new Microsoft Teams feature lets users look up and share company profiles within the Teams discussion stream.  Company profiles may be looked up via their Siret # (registration number), name, or address.  From the mini-profile, colleagues can link to the company website or view additional details in EXPLORE.  The service works as a freemium with non-EXPLORE users viewing a limited profile and EXPLORE users viewing a complete profile.

The Teams application is French only.

EXPLORE captures business signals from news, social media, the open web, and governmental sources.

EXPLORE triggers are gathered from regional and national news, social media, the open web (e.g., governmental sites, real estate developers, public purchasers), and public data resources (e.g., building permits, legal announcements).  Triggers fall into three categories:

  1. Strategic events such as M&A, Fundraising, IPO, Investment Projects, and Restructuring.  EXPLORE captures 3 million strategic events per annum.
  2. Relocation Projects and profiles spanning 15,000 annual events.
  3. Legal News such as company registration, dissolution, change in capital, divestitures, litigation, etc.  EXPLORE tracks 2.7 million legal events per annum.

EXPLORE targets commercial real estate, real estate developers, financial services, building supplies, and B2B services.  EXPLORE pricing begins in the €2,000 to 3,000 range.

EXPLORE has 160 employees, with offices in Paris and Nantes, and an annual turnover greater than €14 million.  EXPLORE has 1,500 clients and over 40,000 users.

In other news, EXPLORE acquired Belgian data vendor CODATA which collects information about retailers in France and Benelux.  The dataset covers 370,000 retail locations at 4,600 sites (e.g., city centers, shopping centers, outlets).  The new content augments EXPLORE’s coverage of commercial real estate.

“EXPLORE has been present for many years on the commercial property market; our offer is mainly “project” oriented (construction and renovation of buildings, urban development, CDAC-CNAC decisions, etc.),” said Nicouleau.  “We were very impressed by the high quality of the teams and the data produced by CODATA in the field.  Associated with EXPLORE, CODATA will have new operational resources to develop and strengthen their positions.”

Vainu Industry Taxonomy

European Sales Intelligence vendor Vainu implemented a proprietary AI-based industry taxonomy.  The 700+ segments are derived from company website content and “extensive training data sets to determine unique industries for each company.”  Custom industry labels may be combined when list building.  Thus, sales and marketing can target companies, such as “Nordic SaaS providers building marketing automation platforms” or “Medical device manufactures developing machine learning applications.”

The industry codes are clustered into 46 custom industry groups.  For example, there are over 80 software codes and 19 sustainability codes (e.g., Biofuel, Biomass Energy, Clean Energy).  Vainu has focused the initial set of codes around emerging technologies and fast-changing markets.  Traditional industries such as agriculture, food and beverage, and manufacturing are supported by broad codes as these industries are well defined by traditional industry taxonomies.

Custom Industry codes may be combined to build lists such as Medical Devices that employ Machine Learning.

“Traditional industry classifications for B2B segmentation don’t do the trick anymore—they are too generic, broad, or even incorrect,” blogged Vainu Customer Marketer Ella Tyrväinen.

Custom Industries are available on the Vainu platform and via its API.  Industry-based target lists may be exported as a CSV file or JSON.

Vainu also recently added three fields to its list exports: Countries of Operation, Website Languages, and Technographics.  In February, Vainu released a webCRM integration.

Ethics and the Art of the Sale

Happy Mother’s Day. I wrote this blog about six years ago, but it is no longer available online, so I thought I’d republish it here with a few minor updates.


Clark Stanley, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

My mother was a highly successful sales rep in two different capital goods industries for several decades.  She regularly noted how important her reputation was in building her pipeline across her territory.  From her perspective, acting unethically was severe short-term thinking.  You were better off telling a customer that they should go to a competitor for a specific product if you can’t meet their needs than to shoehorn in a solution that only damages your reputation and that of your firm.  While fibbing (using my mom’s polite term when she caught us in a lie) might close a few more deals early on, once you have been found to be slippery with the truth you are unlikely to close more sales at that account. 

My mother worked her territory for over a decade and didn’t win any significant business at some prospects for the first few years.  At the outset, her company had little market presence in the region. But she hung in there and sold a few beachhead deals that solved niche problems.  It was with this long-term approach that she slowly built trust with her new customers.  They then brought her in when new RFPs were being written – she had earned their trust.

Because she sold capital goods to only three segments (Hospitals, Nursing Homes, and Universities), she approached the market with an Account Based Marketing (ABM) perspective.  Each account represented a series of opportunities over the next five to ten years.  She treated each account with respect and built her relationships well ahead of RFPs. She intuitively understood Lifetime Value (LTV).

It is only with a reputation for integrity that you can expect to be called when an exec moves to another company. 

It is only with integrity that you will be asked to advise on an RFP. 

And it is only with integrity that customers will be willing to take referral calls for you or recommend you to their colleagues.

Being shady eventually backfires.  Who is going to call you back when you have failed to deliver on your promises?  It can be a scorched earth approach that is contrary to today’s ABM focus.  With ABM, there are a limited number of top accounts within your territory which are to be nurtured and grown.  Playing fast and loose with the truth, delivering shoddy products and services, or failing to live up to your promises will undermine your reputation at key accounts and erode your brand value.

It can even backfire quickly.  One time, my mother responded to a state RFP with aggressive pricing she knew her competitor was unlikely to match.  She attended the bid award meeting and was shocked to find she was underbid.  As state bidding is open, she reviewed the competitor’s bid and found they had substituted refurbished equipment for new even though the RFP barred used equipment.  She contested the bid on the grounds that the firm had failed to comply with RFP requirements and was later awarded the multi-year contract.  Not only did her competitor lose the contract in question, but it undermined its reputation at the state purchasing department.

Ethical Competitive Strategy

When training sales reps, I also emphasize staying “above the fray”.  Besmirching a competitor’s product also sullies your reputation.  It shows a lack of class and a sense of desperation.  It is much better to position the value of your offering and focus on areas of differentiation than it is to throw mud.  You should lay landmines for competitors, not besmirch their reputation. 

A landmine is simply an emphasis upon those features and benefits where your product or service offering excels.  The goal is to frame the discussion around the dimensions in which your product provides superior value to the end user.  Keep in mind that value is dependent upon the customer in question, so you need to factor in job function, industry, company size, etc.  Also, be careful to select areas in which your firm excels overall, not dimensions in which you are superior to competitor X that is vying for the deal but inferior to competitor Y.  Otherwise, you may later find out you lost the deal to Y.

Likewise, you should expect your competitors to be laying landmines for your sales reps.  They need to understand where these mines are laid and how to diffuse them.

One tool I recommend is the quick parry.  This is a quick response to the question, “how are you better / different than company X?”  A quick parry is only three or four sentences and usually begins by saying something positive about the competitor before transitioning with a BUT or HOWEVER.  The positive item can be a recognition of some dimension in which they are the acknowledged leader or a dimension that is of limited importance to the customer in question.  Thus, if you are selling to an SMB, you might emphasize the breadth of their solution for enterprise customers vs. the ease of use, quick implementation, and pricing models you offer for smaller firms.  Such a tool differentiates your service from the competitor without throwing mud.

Sales Tools

While modern sales tools don’t make sales reps more or less ethical, digital tools allows them to focus on relationship building instead of cold calling and administrative tasks.  When I’ve shown my mother the current generation of sales tools, she becomes jealous of today’s sales reps.  Think about

  • How much closer she would have been to her customers had she been able to review profiles for each company; seen detailed lists of contacts with titles, emails, and phone numbers; and received daily email alerts with account and prospect sales triggers.
  • How much less time she would have spent filling out monthly pipeline reports (three-part carbon forms) had account intelligence been integrated into a CRM.
  • How easily she could have reached out to clients via email or social media by quickly leveraging a trigger.
  • How much faster she would have learned that a key contact moved to another company and planned her strategy accordingly.
  • How she would have benefited by viewing her accounts and prospects displayed on a map to assist with road trip planning.
  • How she could have mapped out the demand unit, identified gaps, and tracked engagement with revenue and sales intelligence tools.

What about the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) strategy?  I tend to dislike it unless it addresses a true pain or fear of the buyer.  When I worked at MCI back in the ‘90s, one of AT&T’s strategies was to emphasize their reputation and solidity.  We used to refer to it as the “Nobody ever gets fired for recommending AT&T strategy”.  It addressed the inherent risk aversion of recommending an upstart over the industry behemoth.  Such a strategy often works best for incumbents as it allows them to focus on their strengths (e.g. experience, stability, breadth of solution, zero transition costs).  Upstarts using FUD need to make sure that they don’t come across as mocking the larger firm instead of emphasizing their strengths as an upstart (e.g. innovation, flexibility, focus).

When training your sales reps, make sure they fully understand your value proposition and those of your competitors.  Reps should only be discussing competitors when directly asked about them.  Landmines and quick parries emphasize your value proposition and differential value while avoiding the pitfalls of mudslinging.  My mother understood these truths four decades ago.


Happy Mother’s Day. I also posted a blog about her sales career in 2016.