Another Oasis of Sales Intelligence?

I spent a fair amount of time working with a sales enablement platform some years back. So I am always interested to learn about any new sales tools out there. We came across Seattle-based Outreach this week when it announced a fresh $200 million funding round.

This latest round adds to the almost half a billion dollars the company has raised since launching about a decade ago. With the latest round, the company is now valued just north of $4 billion, tripling its valuation in roughly a year. 

According to CEO Manny Medina, “the pandemic almost did away with the on the field, on the road, sales rep job,” triggering demand for more technology-centric sales platforms. We’ve heard this line for quite some time. And the economics of sales would suggest that companies selling SaaS to SMBs would benefit greatly if solutions like Outreach could be successfully implemented. 

Unique or Just Table Stakes?

Outreach’s value proposition — “close more deals, faster” — is hardly unique in our view. We watched its video explainer.  Outreach’s hook involves knowing more about a prospect and having a flexible conversation sequence to engage with that prospect. Of course, knowing more about a prospect can boost a sales rep’s credibility. But this notion was unique maybe five years ago. Today it’s just table stakes. 

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The notion of a flexible conversation sequence is also alluring and right for the times. Prospects do have a tendency to be all over the map when it comes to engagement channels. So having a multi-modal conversation platform has considerable potential. Yet, when we view this through the lens of selling to SMBs, we wonder if there’s an overload effect here. Is receiving inbounds from every direction on every device something a prospect will value or find off-putting? Hard to know. 

The company has built a comprehensive set of app integrations. Again, nothing unique here. We didn’t do an exact count, but 40 would be a good estimate. Some of the apps are native to Outreach’s platform. Others are third-party apps. These integrations are powerful because they allow a prospect’s existing software application to connected to the Outreach platform. 

Is There a There There?

At the end of the day when we step back from the aspirational value proposition — “close more deals, faster” — we wonder how much of a lift software can provide to the success of a sales executive.

Are all these sales intelligence tools really just a means of helping the average sales executive close a few more deals? Do these platforms substantively change the outcomes for the best sales executives? Or would they succeed just as often using smoke signals to engage their prospects? And oh, what about the product that’s being sold? Can a great sales intelligence and enablement platform overcome the weight of a lousy product? 

Look, wouldn’t be a $215 billion market cap company if it didn’t help move the sales needle for millions of businesses. Nor would Hubspot have a $22 billion market cap if it wasn’t helping drive success.

That said, we do wonder if all these sales tools exist simply because there just are not enough really great sales individuals to go around. Perhaps, just perhaps, elevating the role of sales professional to the status of a doctor or lawyer or investment banker might nullify the need for these software platforms. Doubt it will happen, but one never knows. 

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