Yesterday Forrester released their latest report, New Tech: Revenue Operations And Intelligence, where People.ai has been named a Late Stage Vendor. We’re thrilled to finally see the Revenue Operations and Revenue Intelligence spaces formally merge (we’ve been predicting this for quite some time, as you might have noticed on our website). This convergence of categories presents a slew of new opportunities, so I wanted to take a few minutes to share my point of view on the future of RO&I.
As Forrester notes in the report, COVID transformed selling from analog (coffees and in-person meetings) to an almost 100% digital experience, where the vast majority of selling is now done online. This move has created a tremendous digital footprint and as a result the technology landscape has been evolving at a rapid rate to capitalize on all of this new data and meet the growing demands of the customer.
I believe this newly found availability of comprehensive data, describing how sellers sell and buyers buy led Forrester to focus on buyer engagement as the linchpin to predictable revenue and consistent sales performance of enterprise organizations. That being said, revenue teams are still struggling to find a repeatable winning formula, and we believe the core of that problem comes down to one thing: data.
Too Many Technologies Capturing Data Differently Create Major Complications for Sales and Marketing Teams
Enterprise sales and marketing teams typically leverage anywhere from 20-50 different tools to instrument the buyer and customer journey. While the idea of automation and insights that every vendor has been promising sounds helpful, there are a few major challenges that sales and marketing teams are struggling to overcome:
- Reps Overloaded with Tools – Almost every single sales leader we work with is trying to figure out how to reduce the number of distractions (and open browser tabs) for their team so that they can “just focus on selling”. As teams have invested in tools to improve rep productivity, they’ve ironically accomplished quite the opposite – requiring reps to jump between way too many tools just to do their job. I recently surveyed a few of our customers and was shocked – the average rep is switching between 10-15 tools all day long. To make things worse, most of those tools are pulling reps outside of Salesforce, not the other way.
- Low adoption – The result of reps being overloaded, and feeling like they’ve got so many distractions taking them away from selling – They’re not actually using the tools or following the processes that leaders are investing in. The best in class adoption rate for sales tools today is 50% (!!!) – making it even harder to implement changes that will accelerate revenue attainment.
- Conflicting Data, Siloed Insights – Within the last two years many vendors have been attempting to deliver more value from an analytics perspective and they all thought pulling in email and calendar data is an obvious choice to do so. The unfortunate reality for leaders and ops teams is that the data that each of the vendors deliver are slightly different – just compare how many activities you can see on your largest opportunity this quarter in Clari, Gong, Outreach, and Salesforce – I’d be willing to bet each tool is reporting a different number of meetings and emails on your biggest deal. This data discrepancy (caused by varying maturity of data capture, matching and filtering technologies) is forcing revenue operations teams, sales leaders and reps themselves to spend hours cleaning up their systems and reconciling the insights (or worse, just giving up and continuing to operate on their hunch).
- Operational Nightmare – Building on the last two points, one of the biggest complaints we hear from sales operations and enablement teams is the change management that comes along with new tools and processes. And the #1 thing that always kills the adoption of their new tool or process is inaccurate data. With 10-15 tools all creating different data in your CRM, pulling reps outside of Salesforce, and showing conflicting insights, operations teams are in a constant state of clean up or distrust.
- Increasing Security Risks – With 10-15 tools requiring varying levels of access to your Salesforce, email, calendar, Zoom and other highly sensitive systems, the added risk and investment that comes with reviewing, approving, managing and monitoring the security of your environment is significant. Multiply that by various levels of enterprise readiness of your vendors (many of which historically focused on selling to small businesses), and you’ve got yourself one more job as a part time CISO (in case you didn’t have enough work already).
All in all – the sheer volume of sales tools and conflicting data across them is creating more than its fair share of friction across the entire GTM organization. We believe those pain points could be easily removed if there were a more distinct separation between revenue data collection layer and workflow tools to improve sales performance.
Unifying Revenue Data Aligns All Teams Around Account Engagement and Opportunity Execution
This is not the first time we’ve seen the separation of the data and presentation/workflow layer in order to create a more flexible ecosystem that accelerates innovation and simplifies user experience. Web 2.0 was built on separating data (XML) and presentation layer (HTML). Modern Cloud was built on separating data (storage) and compute layer (virtualization). Modern mobile computing was built on separating storage & compute (iPhone) from presentation layer (iPhone apps). Analytics industry was created through separation of data (Snowflake, Redshift) and visualization (business intelligence tools like Tableau).
Yet in Revenue data, every vendor is trying to do everything (both data and presentation/workflow) and you end up paying not only 10X the bill (how many vendors asked you for $2000 per AE/year in license cost this quarter?) but also requiring customers to put in 10X the work to integrate all of these tools with Salesforce and with each other and then maintain separate user tables, settings, and enablement programs. The current state of Revenue tools is as if you carried in your pocket a separate flip phone for every app you needed vs having one smartphone run all the apps.
At People.ai, we know that the future of Revenue Operations & Intelligence needs to operate like a true ecosystem of tools & capabilities, fueled by a single and unified data platform.
- Consistent Buyer, Opportunity and Account Insights – With a single system capturing and analyzing every external touchpoint (email, calendar appointment, Zoom call) with the buyer and internal activity from the seller, the data debates between teams (and tools) will finally be over. Everyone, no matter the tool they use, will be working off the same underlying dataset.
- Reliable Data – By delivering complete transparency into buyer and seller engagement at opportunity, not just account level as well as consistent insights across teams, the conversation becomes far more constructive, energized by teaming together to increase account engagement and accelerate deals.
- Flexibility to Test and Iterate – As marketing, sales and customer success apps come and go, the foundational data stays consistent, allowing operations and enablement teams to try new tools at any time without driving massive change management. Think of how easy it is to try a new iPhone app on your phone. Your revenue tech stack should be just as dynamic and lightweight.
- Optimized for Innovation – By removing the headaches and friction points from the data side, teams can focus on the creative application and comprehensive enablement programs to build the winning playbook, instead of continuous re-training of reps on yet another interface.
The revenue app landscape will continue to evolve and your company’s needs will change, yet one thing is clear — your company’s tech stack will need to continue changing but the revenue & activity data powering it will need to stay stable, reliable and accessible. Without a unified foundation of GTM data, companies will be handicapped by conflicting data and the silos between teams will perpetuate, making it far more difficult to deliver predictable growth.
The Only Place to Go is Up
People.ai was the first in the market to build a universal revenue data platform, unlocking a unified set of business activity data (email, calendar, zoom) and making it equally available to all revenue applications (including our own) through a set of comprehensive APIs. Now, with more than 50 approved patents, we are the only platform that delivers comprehensive insights around buyer and seller activity at the opportunity level, connecting every activity to the health of accounts and progression of deals, and delivering those insights natively to your Salesforce and any other app you could use them for.
For B2B enterprises, selling to complex buying groups, having the most timely and accurate data on opportunities, accounts and contacts is at the core of predictive sales. From the beginning, People.ai offered us the most sophisticated opportunity-level matching algorithms, exposed through a flexible data layer to power the rest of our technology stack. Their solution keeps evolving to help us win by proactively surfacing account & opportunity-level insights. Great to see our work together converting into a new Forrester categorySaima Rashid, VP, Field Analytics & Insights, PTC
We’ve already seen the impact that a unified data foundation can have on the ability to align the entire GTM around account engagement and opportunity execution:
- PTC identified the buying unit on more than 10,000 opportunities and linked key personas to increased win rates
- ThoughtSpot is matching 40-80 converted leads to opportunity contact roles per week automatically to improve the pipeline generated from their ABM campaigns
- Zoom used People.ai to increase bookings per rep by 42%
Forrester paints a bright future for Revenue Operations & Intelligence, but the real ROI cannot be realized without a consistent and reliable understanding of how buyer behavior relates to sales outcomes, through revenue data you trust.
Realizing the benefits of sales tech platforms such as revenue operations and intelligence requires recognition of the step change in buyer behavior, as well as the reality that manual tracking is not a scalable or robust method to get the insights needed to orchestrate effective engagement, predict revenue, and manage performance. B2B organizations will increasingly struggle to compete without such insights and the ability to leverage these insights to build better buying experiences and manage core processes that deliver consistent revenue.Forrester “New Tech: Revenue Operations And Intelligence, Q4 2021”
We’re excited to be on the bleeding edge of this market and will continue to pioneer a more connected and smarter revenue ecosystem of the future. In the meantime, welcome to the newly merged Revenue Operations & Intelligence category.