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The 2019 SalesTech Landscape: What’s Hot and What’s Not Today

salestech landscape 2019 image
Sales Technology

The 2019 version of the SalesTech landscape includes several changes from my last SalesTech landscape, reflecting a vibrant industry.

The influx of new entrants is not stopping. Markets across all industries are becoming more crowded. Even if the economy is doing well, it is becoming harder for sellers.

This hardship, combined with the CRM transition to the cloud and the rise of digital selling, has created a mini gold rush for sales software fueled by abundant VC money.

The SalesTech landscape now includes 950 participants, up from 830 just 12 months ago.

Fundings in the last 12 months remain at a high $1.8B, roughly the same level as the previous period. Early stage investments have declined 45%, offset by growth rounds.

Acquisitions grew 250% to $9.5B, driven by Private Equity funds.

sales tech landscape

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SalesTech in 2019: What You Need to Know

Gorillas on the Sideline?

I was expecting bolder moves from the large CRM players after SAP purchased CallidusCloud in January 2018.

Oracle bought Datafox last October.

Microsoft has remained quiet since its LinkedIn acquisition in June 2016.

While Salesforce Ventures continues to invest heavily in the space, Salesforce’s last major acquisition was Steelbrick in December 2015. Last September, it introduced High Velocity Sales for inside sales.

These large software vendors offer many capabilities in their sales portfolios, but their activations require projects often too big for many practitioners that turn to point solutions. They have the breadth and scale to start federating the sales stack but lately, they seem to have shifted their focus on becoming customer experience providers.

Chimps Are Starting to Emerge

A number of midsize players are emerging.

DiscoverOrg, after buying RainKing, acquired ZoomInfo to become a major contender of the Sales Intelligence space.

Outreach and Salesloft, with their latest growth rounds of $114M and $70M respectively, are battling for leadership in the emerging Sales Engagement category.

Xactly, after being taken private in 2017, is aiming at federating Sales Performance Management with the purchase of AlignStar, Obero, and OpsPanda.

Showpad, with the acquisition of LearnCore and Voicefox, is trying to do the same for Sales Enablement.

sales tech blueprint

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Categories Are Morphing

We are still in the early inning of the market and numerous emerging categories have been evolving.

Predictive Analytics remains fluid. Several players have been acquired or acqui-hired. The remaining participants are increasingly focused on assembling comprehensive customer datasets upon which one can run powerful predictive models. These models are becoming very important for planning and prioritizing sales activities.

Chat is being redefined by Drift. The category seats at the crossroad with conversation marketing, better addressing the promise of proactive engagement, leveraging bots and persistent contexts to eradicate the long and unpredictable wait times of legacy chat.

Forecasting remains mysterious to me. It has been a core capability of CRM for Sales since the beginning. Nevertheless, a plethora of applications has blossomed over the years to provide more accurate forecasts. The latest wave, exemplified by the likes of Clari, People.ai, and SalesDirector.ai, leverages automated activity capture across email, meetings, and calendars together with AI to gather a much broader set of signals on which powerful forecasting models can be built.

The market has chosen the name Sales Engagement for what I used to call Sales Orchestration. I had chosen the term thinking we would see three types of technologies blossoming:

  1. Orchestration of prospects engagement across email, voice, and other channels
  2. Orchestration account-based pursuits
  3. Orchestration of SBRs and BDRs workflow across multiple applications

Sales Engagement enables multi-channel and multi-touch cadences. The leading vendors offer APIs and already integrate many applications into the desktop of sales reps. It seems to be the approach the market is choosing to simplify workflows.

Offering sales-rep-centric experiences, sales engagement software is starting to enjoy adoption beyond inside sales departments. These platforms provide a rich set of analytics and are assembling rich datasets, paving the way for AI optimization.

One area remains nascent: account-based pursuit. Account-based motions are still mostly coordinated and tracked manually. I expect this to change, though.

New Categories Are Emerging

Several new categories are included.

The sales intelligence layer now shows separately Intent Data and Relationship Intelligence providers. They were previously lumped into Account Intelligence and Buyer Insights respectively.

Intent Data has become a critical element of account-based approaches and to help prioritize sales efforts. Its inclusion as a specific category of the landscape was overdue:
sales tech intent data

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While social selling continues to rise in importance, most sellers struggle doing it. LinkedIn inboxes are clogged with irrelevant invitations to connect from strangers. The industry is rediscovering the power of an introduction through a common acquaintance. This trend is giving a new youth to Relationship Intelligence solutions:
sales tech relationship intelligence

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Automation is another new category. Someone mentioned to me once that Sales Force Automation was a great misnomer. Indeed sales reps have consistently complained about the effort required to either input data or navigate through several screens of those applications. The cloud has democratized automation, offering new options to practitioners
sales tech automation

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Eventually, we are seeing a growing number of Sales Guidance & Recommendations software. With capabilities presents in many sale enablement software, the category is hard to delineate.

In particular, most Content & Collaboration or Onboarding and Training applications are either built around a specific sales methodology or let you implement the solution around one. I expect the category to further blossom, driven by the need to help sellers handle growing sales complexity and better enable buyers. We should also expect AI to make recommendations much more specific to a project context and stage:
Sales Guidance and Recommendations providers

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The last two new categories have too few vendors to be carved out and I had to lump them in a “miscellaneous” group.

The industry has come around and rediscovered the power of Direct Mail to send a personalized note or gift. It can often be the extra step that can get you an appointment. It can now be automated at scale using solutions like Sendoso or PFL.

The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and similar emerging regulations outside Europe have led to Data Privacy Compliance providers like Datagrail or Odaseva helping you deal with these complex privacy obligations.

Making Sense of All of This

The landscape is overwhelming and, as Jill Rowley likes to remind us, “A fool with a tool is a still a fool. A fool with lots of tools is an even bigger fool.” More than ever, it is critical to design your stack instead of adding incrementally the latest shiny pieces of software.

Your design should first reflect your sales methodology and process.

Second, and alas often forgotten, your sales stack needs to be built around your sales reps’ workflow, looking at what intelligence can be added and what steps can be automated.

Last but not least, it needs to factor data. Sales have become a number’s game. Your architecture must incorporate the instrumentation required to track consistently all activities and assemble the data to feed the AI that will optimize your overall performance.

Nicolas de Kouchkovsky

Nicolas De Kouchkovsky is CMO at Servion, one of the largest specialized system integrators of the customer interaction management space, and its product arm, Acqueon, an innovative provider of conversational engagement software. Nicolas has extensive software experience and held diverse executive roles at companies of all sizes. He is a recognized industry expert in sales technologies and has authored a comprehensive salestech market landscape.