Owler Pro Coming Soon

Owler is now promoting its first paid service, Owler Pro, which will be launching in a few months.  Owler Pro is priced at $9.99 / month but will be discounted to $4.99 / month for the first 1,000 users (lifetime guaranteed pricing).  The service is offering the following additional features:

  1. Go straight to article, bypassing the Event Page.
  2. Skip Owler recommended content such as competitors of your followed companies
  3. Follow groups of companies
  4. Customize the displayed instant insights (event triggers)
  5. Ad free

As I haven’t seen advertising on Owler, I’m assuming that the free version will become a sponsored platform.  Most of these features are fairly insignificant, but at $4.99 per month the pricing is reasonable to prevent advertising and avoid the Event Page click-through.

Subscriptions are available from the following landing page.

If you haven’t checked out Owler, the free service provides company profiles, M&A and Funding histories, competitor lists, event alerts, and user-based surveys.

Owler Pro Features

RampedUp Account Scoring

RampedUp Profiles now include account based scores (zero to five stars).
RampedUp Profiles now include account based scores (zero to five stars).

Sales Intelligence vendor RampedUp added account scoring to their platform. Other new features include saved searches for leads and trigger events, lead and trigger event downloading to CSV files, importing corporate URLs into searches, and the auto-population of decision makers and preferred technologies.

The new scoring doesn’t employ predictive analytics, but rates accounts on a zero to five basis, with a star awarded for each of five conditions:

  • One of top 5 industries based on the client roster
  • One of top 5 market segments based on client employee count
  • Installed Technology based on products important to the client’s sales process
  • Contacts present with preferred title based on selected buying committee
  • Recent trigger event article showing activity over the last 90 days

“Two things that have always set RampedUp apart from other sales intelligence platforms have been the tailored nature of the data we provide,” said CEO Scott Miller. “Our customers are exposed to contacts that are unique to their buying committee. We also share look-alike customer data based on a Salesforce.com sync that pulls customer data into our platform in near real-time. RampedUp also tracks triggering events and installed technology used by companies to help sellers understand their prospects better. All this information is used to create our unique scoring methodology.”

Your Biggest Competitor is No Decision

Back when I was a product manager, I used to conduct sales training classes.  I often opened up the session by asking the question, “Who is your biggest competitor?”  The reps invariably listed a company or two they had heard over the prior day and a half of training.  Even seasoned reps would answer the question incorrectly.

Unless you are in a duopoly or there is a competitor that controls half the market, your biggest competitor is probably NO DECISION.  Either the purchasing decision is kicked down the road or no funding is found.  It may also be that the opportunity was poorly qualified to begin with.

Sales reps no longer control the conversation due to the informed buyer who leverages the Internet and social media in order to research vendors prior to contacting them.  This is one of the reasons that marketing is looking at digitally influencing anonymous individual on the web via Visitor ID, SEO, SEM, and Programmatic.  Sales reps are also confounded in their sales efforts by a second change in purchasing patterns.  B2B budgetary decision making processes have become more complex.

Budgetary centralization and committee-based buying decisions have increased the number of decision makers in the purchasing process, resulting in a greater likelihood of no decision.  According to a Forrester survey of IT sales reps, 43% of lost deals weren’t to competitors but to a category titled “lost funding or lost to no decision: customer stopped the procurement process.”

Furthermore, the rise of cloud computing has shifted budgetary decision making authority away from the CIO to the heads of various functional departments.  Purchasing decisions are being compared to a broader set of non-related purchases from across the organization.  It is therefore critical that sales reps “understand and navigate complex agreement networks and processes within the buying organization that span different altitudes and functional roles,” blogged Forrester Sales Enablement Analyst Mark Lindwall.  “Because decisions are more cross-functional, every dollar is compared against how it could add value in potentially completely non-related areas of investment.”

Thus, sales reps need better tools for identifying who to engage and when best to engage.  They also need to be better informed about companies, individuals, and the industries into which they sell.  In short, they need to know who to call, when to call, and what to say.  They need to quickly navigate what Forrester calls agreement networks to establish relationships across multiple levels and job functions at the organization.

Fortunately, Sales 2.1 tools provide rich biographies and full family trees for navigating these networks.  Users can target specific job functions and levels across the corporate hierarchy, research the appropriate individuals, and reach out to them via social media, email, or phone.

Newer ABM tools help identify the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), score leads based on the ICP, and call out similar accounts and contacts that are not on the company’s radar.  Thus, it’s not just about selling more intelligently based on insights, but targeting and prioritizing one’s sales efforts more effectively.

Sales triggers assist with identifying executive changes, M&A events, product launches, and other reasons for reaching out to individuals.  Triggers can also indicate an expanding opportunity or that a proposal is potentially at risk due to company or market dynamics.

And yes, sales reps should research both the company and the executive.  They need to understand the key trends in the prospect’s industry, why their last quarter was soft, and what does the executive muse about on social media.  While such facts may not be immediate hooks, they provide context and potential talking points down the road.  It also shows that the rep is willing to invest time in understanding the exec, her company, and the environment in which she is making decisions.

There is an opportunity cost to poor targeting, prioritization, and account planning. It shows up as No Decision in your CRM, slow deal velocity in your pipeline metrics, and disappointing sales growth.

Form Follows Function

InsideView users can quickly target additional executives by function and level.
InsideView users can quickly target additional executives by function and level.

One of the key aphorisms in architecture is that form follows function.  The quote, attributed to Louis Sullivan, holds that a building’s design should be based upon the underlying purpose of the building, not driven by ornamentation.  Twentieth century design took this maxim to heart with similar thinking spreading through industrial and software design.

In the case of information services, a focus on flashy design or “bells and whistles” can be a distraction if the underlying service fails to meet the basic informational and workflow needs of its users.  One of the great things about Google is that it returns high precision results from a few words entered into a search box.  It was this simplicity that allowed them to grab and hold two-thirds of the search engine market share, leaving Bing and Yahoo! to pick up the scraps.

A well-designed sales intelligence solution supports multiple sales and support workflows.  These users span multiple functions and departments (e.g. sales, sales directors, sales operations, sales support, service departments, business development, and marketing).  Furthermore, there are multiple types of sales reps within larger organizations so your sales intelligence platform needs to be flexible enough to meet differing information requirements and workflows.

Thus, tactical sales reps need to quickly locate contact information and a few prospect qualification variables.  They want to make sure that the contact they are about to call is in their territory and doesn’t work at a subsidiary of a named account.

Conversely, a strategic rep has broad information requirements around companies, company structures, executives, and key events.  Strategic reps are focused on who to call, when to call, and what to say.  Sales triggers are not only a flashing green light that a prospect is more likely to buy, but conversational material for catching the prospect’s attention and signaling that the rep has prepared for the call.  Likewise, SWOT reports, biographies, industry market research reports provide insights into client interests and needs.

Named account reps sell only to a few firms so need a deep understanding of their target accounts.  They need to be apprised of key events at an organization that could positively or negatively impact their pipeline.  Furthermore, named account reps are looking for additional contacts and locations for extending their corporate footprint.   Thus, searching across a company for specific job functions and then reviewing subsidiary profiles and bios is an important task in growing the account.  Named account reps also benefit from PDF exportability so they can review the latest information about their client or prospect while traveling.  These reports can also be shared with other members of the sales and support team.

Territory reps and financial services relationship managers need to be apprised of sales triggers within their territory, quickly research and qualify companies, and dig deeper on larger opportunities.  Furthermore, as they generally sell cross-industry, they  also benefit from industry overviews from vendors such as First Research.  These primers are written in plain English and provide a set of Q&A sections by topic and job function.

First Research reports, found in Dun & Bradstreet products, provide a series of Q&A topics by C-level functions, opportunities, and challenges.
First Research reports, found in Dun & Bradstreet products, provide a series of Q&A topics by C-level functions, opportunities, and challenges.

Most reps work within a CRM, so review the capabilities of sales intelligence CRM connectors.  The tighter the integration the better.  If your CRM is your system of record, you want the sales reps working within the CRM on desktops and mobile devices.  Services that bounce the user between a web browser and the CRM are less effective than those that provide most or all of their content and functionality within Salesforce.com, MS Dynamics, or other CRMs.  Also, look for “stare and compare” updating of records, batch and real-time synchronization of data, custom fields, and duplicate checking.

Many sales intelligence services also support the marketing department.  Standardizing the two functions on a common vendor helps reduce cost and channel conflict.  It also provides a basis for successful ABM programs which cross the two departments.  Several years ago, sales intelligence vendors only offered prospecting to marketing, but now they also support web forms, real-time and batch enrichment of leads, lead-to-account mapping, marketing automation connectors, lead scoring, segmentation analysis, Ideal Customer Profiling, TAM analysis, and net-new leads and contacts.  A few also offer standalone services for the marketing department such as programmatic advertising, visitor id, multi-channel marketing, and SEO.

When evaluating sales intelligence solutions, you should understand the workflows and information requirements of each of your sales groups along with other potential beneficiaries of the service.  Don’t evaluate simply on counts and features, but on the information needs and workflows of your various sales and marketing teams.

Artesian CEO on US Market Entry

Artesian Solutions provides deep trigger functionality combined with word cloud and filtering, helping sales reps hone in on talking points.
Artesian Solutions provides deep trigger functionality combined with word cloud and filtering, helping sales reps hone in on talking points.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Artesian Solutions CEO Andrew Yates and discuss topics including their 2016 entry into the US market.  Artesian provides a social selling solution for the UK, US, and Canada.  Their sales intelligence is delivered via a web browser, Salesforce.com, and their Ready mobile app.


Michael: You launched in the US exactly a year ago, officially. How’s your product buildup going?

Andrew: It’s going pretty well. I have to say, most of the progress has been in the last three to six months, because it took us a couple of releases to really get the US edition right. We learned quickly that there were some nuances in terms of the way sales teams work together in the US. The US sales focus is a very contact-centric mechanism. We realized pretty quickly because contact data is so sparse and difficult to get a hold of. We doubled down on our efforts to implement. We’ve got three contact data intelligence aggregation partnerships.  We got those into the product pretty quickly which dramatically enhanced not only access to the contact intelligence but also the social profiling capabilities.

Then in the third release, we were able to start to bring in some refinements. In the States, news gets syndicated a lot more than it does in the UK, in Europe. The same story you can get syndicated and copied many, many times. We were getting an unacceptable level of duplication, and, even if the stories were similar, we hadn’t trained the algorithm to discard similar stories. Only stories that were the same.

We rewrote the algorithm and we created the ability to group stories which are similar together. What we do now is we publish one and then underneath it there’s a little icon that says similar stories. Again, these are things you don’t learn until you deploy the software for real [in the US], and customers start beating it up and giving you their feedback.

Michael: Can you provide any growth stats for the US?

Andrew: We’re not publishing the numbers at that kind of level, but in percentage terms it’s huge because we started from virtually nothing. It’s growing steadily. The majority of the growth is still coming in the UK. I don’t think we’re backward in coming forward in terms of explaining that we’re a UK-centric organization with relationships in the US and capabilities in the US. In the last eight weeks. we’ve had a number of pretty decent large corporate opportunities land and I don’t know if that’s as a consequence of one of our competitors unraveling.

Michael: How else do the US and UK markets differ?

Andrew: A big learning for us was how much customers didn’t want to meet face-to-face. We weren’t ready for that. We need to go visit these customers, and we would be flying all over the place.  I think it was four months in and somebody sat me down and said, “You know you’ve got to stop this flying around stuff.” Nobody expects that. People just expect to do things on the phone. From a kind of scaling standpoint, we’re doing a bit of scaling locally, but we’re also doing a bit of scaling remotely because to the customer, as long as the time zones are aligned, it doesn’t matter where you are.

The kind of sales pursuits we’re getting more involved in are the ones that are better suited to our sweet spot. We’ll walk away from opportunities that we think are better suited to others. We might even recommend others.


The interview will be continuing over the next few days with discussions of artificial intelligence, what it means to be a “customer curious” business, and how Artesian maintains a very high engagement rate amongst its users.

Artesian Solutions: “Biggest Ever” Release

Artesian Insights Agents for Salesforce Opportunities
Artesian Insights Agents for Salesforce Opportunities

US and UK social selling vendor Artesian Solutions claimed that their 16.1 software release was their “biggest ever.”  The release included functional upgrades, expanded content, user experience improvements, and new artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

The new Insight Agents are their first step towards delivering “intelligent chat bots aimed at automating many of the tasks carried out by B2B professionals daily.”  The new AI tool combines advanced natural language processing and behavioural analytics.  The goal is to “deliver commercially valuable and immediately actionable insights, telling the user what they need to know and what action they need to take.”

The evolution of Natural Language Processing, Machine Based Learning and Artificial Intelligence technology is set to have a profound impact on the activities of those in commercial teams.  This product release is a significant stepping stone towards an AI future, the culmination of months of behind-the-scenes R&D based on an incredibly rich understanding of the enterprise B2B landscape through the eyes of some of the biggest and most influential companies in the world. We have been working closely with them to understand what their future looks like and where the biggest gains can be made.

  • Artesian CTO Steve Borthwick

Continued Borthwick, “Artesian has been evolving and improving its relevance and analytic algorithms over the last 10 years, benefiting from the feedback and success that our trusted customers have provided, and that has always kept them one step ahead of the sales intelligence race.”

Insight Agents are initially available within the AppExchange as Salesforce Opportunities.  This feature surfaces trigger events based upon the opportunity stage and preferences of each client.  “It provides a step change in productivity and customer engagement, enabling you to focus on the most important aspects of your most critical deals,” said VP of Product Management Rich Clark.

For example, Insights for Sales Opportunities will place higher emphasis upon opportunity alerts at the front of the pipeline and risk-based alerts during later stages.

“This latest release without doubt places Artesian at the leading edge of innovation for enterprise B2B,” said CEO Andrew Yates. It delivers the first milestone on our road-map to predicting customer needs, automating and directing pipeline activities, and the delivery of hyper-personalised communications and custom marketing.”

Administrators can now tailor the trigger topics available to their users including adding custom topics and constructing a topic taxonomy focused on industry-specific triggers.

User experience improvements include easier access to topic filters, color-coded triggers in email alerts, and adaptive HTML design for improved mobile navigation and display.

Other design upgrades include the social media viewer which now surfaces social media links alongside inline blogs and tweets and a social selling leaderboard at the team or corporate level which benchmarks Artesian usage versus peers.

Hotness flags were added to the US service. They were already available in the UK edition.
“Hotness” flags were added to the US service. They have long been available in the UK edition.

In the UK edition, Artesian partnered with Blue Sheep to add three million contacts and double the number of emails to 875,000.  The additional executives were focused on non-directorial positions, helping expand coverage beyond filed corporate directors.  The new set of contacts raised the UK contact count to 9.7 million.  Furthermore, the new execs were matched against the Full Contact file, providing additional social media links and biographic relevance to contact profiles.

The expanded contacts and social media links are also available to users of the Artesian Ready mobile app which combines mobile calendars with Artesian insights.  Ready helps reps prepare for meetings by supporting on demand company and executive research, sharing meeting notes with colleagues, and reviewing the latest attendee triggers and social media posts.

The firm also added Auditor Fees as a new UK select.  Auditor Name was already supported.

For the US edition, Artesian now supports a “Hotness” indicator highlighting firms with recent key trigger events and improved event prospecting (see image above on right).  The Hotness indicator was already available in the UK edition.

Artesian has formalized its training and certification program with an integrated leaning management system.  The older training was more PowerPoint oriented but the new system is more blog-like with videos and quizzes.  Along with tool certification, Artesian includes annual refresher courses.

 

Ignite Technologies Acquires FirstRain

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FirstRain Coverage of Lattice Engines includes web volume, business influencers, market drivers, Twitter trends, recent stories, related topics, and subject filtering.

Ignite Technologies will be acquiring news analytics vendor FirstRain as part of a pre-negotiated, Chapter 11 corporate reorganization.  The acquisition is expected to close by the end of July subject to court approval.  The acquisition is being funded by Ignite’s parent company, ESW Capital.

FirstRain provides a set of company-specific insights and analytics derived from news, press releases, filings, Twitter, and other open web content sets.  FirstRain applies a high-precision taxonomy to the “business web” which spans companies, industries, geographies, and business topics.  For the past few years, FirstRain has been the source of company and industry news for Dun & Bradstreet (Hoovers Classic, First Research, D&B Direct, and D&B 360), Mergent, and other OEM partners.  FirstRain also provides integrated solutions on Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, and Microsoft SharePoint.

FirstRain Who to Call Panel.
The FirstRain Who to Call Panel provides insights on which accounts have Deal Threats and Accelerators, Reasons to Check In, or New Information.

“FirstRain’s leading-edge, analytics technology providing actionable insights for its clients’ sales and marketing teams strengthens Ignite’s portfolio of sales and marketing solutions,” said Ignite’s CEO Davin Cushman. “Additionally, with the close of the FirstRain acquisition, Ignite will be materially expanding our foundation of sales and marketing solutions that Chief Marketing and Chief Revenue Officers can depend on to drive their business.”

Once the acquisition closes, FirstRain will be part of the Ignite Prime product offering which provides access to enterprise software by simply paying a maintenance fee on at least one Ignite standard solution.

“Ignite has a proven track record of buying, strengthening and growing the companies it acquires, and FirstRain is excited about the potential for our world-class teams to carry the FirstRain solutions and customers forward,” said YY Lee, Chief Executive Officer of FirstRain. “Through this acquisition, Ignite’s foundation of success and innovative programs, including their unique Ignite Prime program, extends the value proposition even further for FirstRain customers, now and into the future.”