Marketing automation solutions are getting a lot of attention lately, as discussed in the last issue of CUSTOMER magazine. But marketing is not alone on this front. The idea of leveraging automation, big data, and software to allow for more personalized and timely responses is also now taking off in the sales arena – and money is pouring in to fund the companies that deliver what has become known as sales acceleration software.
"2015 will be the year sales acceleration technology crosses the chasm to become mainstream,” said Nick Hedges, president and CEO of Velocify. “In the past few years, many SaaS and technology companies have embraced sales acceleration to build inside sales teams very quickly and scale successfully. Now we are seeing businesses from a wide range of industries, including services, manufacturing, and financial services beginning to adopt sales acceleration technology as well.”
The market for non-CRM, non-marketing automation sales acceleration technologies was $12.8 billion in North America last year and some sources believe it will be worth $30 billion by 2017, according to Rob Forman, COO and co-founder of SalesLoft.
Sales acceleration tools are important because they put the power in the hands of the people that have the actual relationships with customers. Specifically, sales acceleration software enables these individuals to more easily identify hot leads, to reach out to those prospects with appropriate prepackaged emails and other content, and it automates the follow up process so sales people remember how and when to circle back with clients and prospects for best results.
Such tools “give sales reps an extra pair of arms and legs,” explains LiveHive CEO Suresh Balasubramanian. That’s because they power repeatable sales processes, so sales people no longer have to create emails from scratch, but instead can easily select the most appropriate existing email from a simple drop-down menu on their computers. In addition to saving time, email templates allow for consistency, ensure all information is in the right place in the communication, and lessen the chance of typos, he adds. Solutions like the one LiveHive offers also have triggers for automated follow up at the appropriate times. All that, says Balasubramanian, can add up to higher sales force productivity and improved sales results, which can reduce staffing costs while increasing revenues.
It’s important to be able to quickly reach customers and prospects at the right time given that 57 percent of the buying process is typically complete by the time people are willing to engage with a live salesperson, he adds. That means buyers are more informed than in the past, and that – as well as the rise of new marketing automation tools that are flooding sales people in a sea of leads – is resulting in a massive transformation in the sales process that requires automation for faster response times.
"Research shows 65 percent of a salesperson's time is wasted on busywork because of ineffective sales software," says Tawheed (TK) Kader, founder and CEO of ToutApp. "Our mission is to empower the modern, more consultative sales culture by providing salespeople and sales managers with the best possible platform to close deals."
Meanwhile, a March study by Seismic indicates that the average sales rep spends nearly 20 percent of his or her time creating and assembling presentation materials and completing administrative tasks, while spending just 23 of his or her time actively selling to new clients.
InsideSales.com, LiveHive, Pegasystems, SalesLoft, Seismic, Showpad, ToutApp, and Velocify are among the estimated more than 200 companies in the sales acceleration arena.
This space is so hot that it’s already attracted more than $1.2 billion in funding, according to an April article on The Huffington Post (News - Alert). March was an especially active month in sales acceleration funding announcements.
InsideSales.com in March closed a $60 million investment, led by Salesforce Ventures, Salesforce's global corporate investment group. Microsoft also participated, as did existing venture investors Hummer Winblad, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Polaris Partners, U.S. Venture Partners, and Zetta (News - Alert) Venture Partners.
Atlanta-based SalesLoft also had a funding announcement in March. The company revealed it had raised more than $10 million in venture funding. Emergence Capital, SaaS VC guy Jason Green, and Joseph Floyd led the round.
ToutApp also garnered new funding in March, when it announced a $15 million Series B round led by Andreessen Horowitz. That means the company now has total funding of more than $20 million, and a handful of investors, which also includes accelerator 500 Startups (where ToutApp grew up), Founder Collective, Launch Fund, and Sigma West.
Mobile sales acceleration platform Showpad, meanwhile, announced in November that it had raised $8.5 million from Dawn Capital and Hummingbird Ventures.
“Sales are tired of the traditional approach to selling,” says Pieterjan Bouten, Showpad co-founder and CEO. “Many companies are looking for technology to shorten sales cycles, close more business, and accelerate their sales.”
A Snapshot of the Players
Here’s a quick rundown of what some of the specific sales acceleration solutions in the marketplace have to offer.
InsideSales.com's Neuralytics-driven platform uses big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence to scientifically pinpoint sales patterns and provide continuously smarter recommendations to sales teams, increasing customer revenue growth up to 30 percent. The company now provides sales acceleration solutions to approximately 2,000 companies, including large enterprise organizations like ADP, Sprint (News - Alert), Fidelity, Microsoft, Groupon and Marketo.
LiveHive offers automation tools including prebuilt email templates, automated follow up, and group email, as well as engagement tools. including buyer engagement analytics, new lead generation, and visibility into most interested buyer data. More than 30,000 professionals in such functions and verticals as insurance, human resources, and marketing, use LiveHive’s platform today. LiveHive, a VC-funded company that was founded in 2011, provides its offerings for $19.95 per user per month, with volume deals.
The Pega Sales Automation application from Pegasystems provides salespeople with intelligent guidance and predictive analytics to improve seller effectiveness at every stage of the sales lifecycle. It automatically recommends the best sales activity so sales executives know they are making the best offer at the right time across B2B, B2C and B2B2C sales models.
SalesLoft sells a solution called Cadence, which is marketed as a simple way to set up qualified appointments and demos over the Internet with prospects. “It allows you to set a process and rhythm of emails, phone calls, and social drips over a period of time and easily execute in order to maximize the likelihood of converting a prospect into an appointment,” CEO Kyle Porter wrote in a recent blog. The company has more than 800 clients and increased its revenue by more than 2000 percent last year.
Seismic offers end-to-end sales enablement solutions that increase sales productivity and marketing effectiveness by delivering the right content at the right time on any device.
Showpad is a mobile sales acceleration platform that increases the productivity of sales, while providing marketing-relevant data on sales interactions. It turns every device – tablet, smartphone and PC – into a sales and presentation tool. The service makes it possible to provide sales reps, partners, and customers with the right information in any format and gives insights and analytics on how a customer responds to the information shared. The three-year-old company has recurring revenues of $4.5 million and more than 500 paying customers.
ToutApp offers a single streamlined sales software platform with tracking, templates and predictive analytics directly integrated into Gmail, Outlook and CRMs, such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, to help sales teams close more deals. The company says it has a 150 percent dollar renewal rate, and more than 300 percent top line revenue growth.
Velocify provides cloud-based intelligent sales software that helps sales teams increase revenue by driving rapid lead response, increased selling discipline, improved productivity, and actionable selling insights. More than 1,500 companies have used the Velocify solution.
Benefits of Sales Acceleration Solutions
Companies that deployed sales enablement solutions realized the follow benefits:
• 51 percent of respondents said the most important benefit to sales enablement software was the ability to easily and quickly share presentation materials with others;
• 36 percent reported spending fewer hours per week creating and assembling materials;
• 28 percent said materials contained fewer inaccuracies and data issues;
• 28 percent said branding was presented clearly and consistently;
• 36 percent reported materials are more effective and increase their sales/marketing effectiveness;
• 33 percent benefited from being able to analyze performance of presentation materials; and
• 31 percent saw sales reps having a better sense of what to present to clients and when to present it.
Edited by Maurice Nagle