Outreach 'System of Action' Aims to Pick Up Where CRM Leaves Off

The sales analytics firm says sales reps are too bogged down with administrative tasks that Salesforce and other CRM systems require to operate effectively.

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Outreach Sales Analytics 2

What’s new in CRM? There's quite a lot, judging by a flurry of product news released by Salesforce.com and other providers of customer relationship management systems.

But Outreach, a provider of sales analytics and related tools, says new features and new CRM tools haven’t fundamentally changed the challenge of using them efficiently.

“The way reps use Salesforce and other CRM software hasn’t changed since the days of Siebel,” Manny Medina, CEO of Outreach, told eWEEK. Siebel Systems, owned by Oracle since 2005, was a provider of CRM apps organized in 1993.

Medina argues that CRM software is only as good as the data it collects and the process of collecting and managing that data is too time-consuming. A survey by Accenture released in September supports his thesis: In the survey of 500 sales executives globally, 59 percent said they have access to too many sales tools and are bombarded by too much disaggregated customer data to be effective. Another 55 percent said the sales tools their company uses are actually obstacles to selling.

Rather than replace CRM, the Outreach “system of action” is a complementary system designed to automate outbound selling. “We take leads from the CRM or however they’re acquired and we organize them and then those prospects get sequenced so they are right for the rep,” explained Medina.

On Oct. 25 the company announced the addition of Outbound Analytics to the Outreach platform, which automatically aggregates prospect data from a variety of third-party sources, including social media sites such as Twitter and specialist sales data providers. The idea is to make it easy for sales reps to monitor engagement and key buying signals at both the individual prospect and account levels.

Outbound Analytics also provides sales managers an analysis of which team members may need help refining their sales techniques and which sales reps are high performers who would be effective mentors.

While sales contests and simple notification typically reveal the top salespeople in an organization, Outreach’s system goes further to reveal insights as to the top-performing sales techniques and provides detailed team performance measurement metrics, according to the company.

The insights are displayed on what Outreach calls “intelligence tiles” that are part of the Outreach Dashboard.

“You don’t need to have eight browser tabs open to pull different information up about a prospect, it’s right in the tile,” said Andrew Kinzer, chief product officer and co-founder of Outreach.

For example, salespeople are always looking for ice breakers to start a call with, such as a common area of interest. The Outreach Dashboard can pull news or weather into a tile that’s relevant to the prospect or customer. Outreach has an application programming interface (API) that connects to other sources as well. Kinzer said, for example, a planned link to CBS Sports will provide relevant sports news.

Outreach can also recommend the best method to contact prospects or to follow up with existing customers. He gave an example of how Outreach used its own software to refine its email marketing. The company believed it had to invest more time personalizing marketing email sent to executives. “What we found was that spending a few more minutes personalizing each message didn’t produce a significant return, but phone calls did,” said Kinzer.

As for the basic value proposition for Outreach, Kinzer said salespeople face a tension in doing their jobs between making more calls or doing the legwork to get their records and systems up to date.

Medina added that systems such as Salesforce often are underutilized because they don’t have all the information they need. “A company may have Salesforce, but you run into a problem of adoption. How do you get the reps to put more data in? We (the Outreach software) put it in so you can make sense of it.”

Outreach says its current customers include sales teams at Cloudera, CenturyLink, Pandora, Adobe and Zillow. Outbound Analytics will be available to select beta customers now with general availability of the finished product set for the first quarter of 2017.

The initial beta will include Prospect Intelligence, the service that feeds relevant third-party data into the salesperson’s workflow. Two other services, Coaching Analytics and Engagement Insights, are slated to be available later in beta, but the final release of both components is scheduled for release in the 2017 first quarter.

Coaching Analytics uses analytics to coach the sales team, while Engagement Analytics uses artificial intelligence on a massive dataset of customer and prospect activities.

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...