Category Archives: Enterprise

4 Products Microsoft and LinkedIn Need to Ship

An op-ed piece I wrote for VentureBeat:

Last week, Microsoft stunned the tech world with the largest ever software acquisition – the purchase of LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. While early news coverage has addressed plans to keep LinkedIn independent, there’s been little discussion about what exactly the two companies will do together. As someone who’s entrenched in the LinkedIn and Microsoft ecosystems, I thought I’d share four exciting products this acquisition makes possible:

1. Redefined business email

The quickest and broadest impact Microsoft can make with LinkedIn is to redesign its Outlook interface. The companies could easily bring LinkedIn insights, profile photos, etc. into the email experience (similar to what Rapportive offers today but with a seamless, actionable approach). Outlook could even show recent updates and thought leadership pieces from a particular profile as talking point suggestions to automatically populate in an email when selected.

Microsoft could also add automated email filtering and prioritization features with folder recommendations that improve email productivity. Imagine if you could get emails that meet certain criteria — say they come from a particular job title and are second-degree connections with at least 500 connections themselves — to stick in the top of your inbox until they receive your attention.

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Filed under Blog Stuff, Enterprise, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Non-Technical-Read

Ranking Companies on Sales Culture & Retention

A company’s sales retention rate is a very important indicator of business health. If you have a good gauge on this, you could better answer questions such as: should I join that company’s sales department, will I be able to progress up the ladder, are reps hitting their numbers, are they providing effective training, should I invest money in this business, etc. But how does one measure this rate especially from an outside vantage point? This is where LinkedIn comes to the rescue. I essentially cross applied the approach I took to measuring engineering retention to sales.

sales_ret_2

This chart reveals several key technology companies ranked in reverse order of sales churn – so higher on the chart (or longer the bar) the higher the churn (so from worst at the top to best at the bottom).

So how are we defining sales churn here? I calculated the measurement as follows: I took the number of people who have ever churned in a sales role from the company and divide that by the number of days since incorporation for that respective company (call this Churn Per Day), and then I compute the ratio of how many sales people will churn in one year (the run rate i.e. Churn Per Day * 365) over the number of current sales people employed.

For ex. if you look at the top row, which is Zenefits, the value is 0.40 – which means that 40% of the current sales team size will churn in a one year period. In order to maintain that sales team size and corresponding revenue, the company will need to hire 40% of their team – and sooner than in a year as that churn likely spreads throughout the year as well as given new sales hire ramping periods (if you’re churning a ramped rep and say it takes one quarter to ramp a new sales rep, then you need to hire a new head at least one quarter beforehand to avoid a revenue dip).

A few more notes:

The color saturation indicates Churn Per Day – the darker the color, the higher the Churn Per Day.

Caveats listed in the previous post on engineering retention apply to this analysis too.

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Filed under Data Mining, Economics, Enterprise, Entrepreneurship, Job Stuff, LinkedIn, Non-Technical-Read, Startups, Statistics, Trends, Venture Capital

Want to compete with Salesforce? Buy Marketo

An op-ed I wrote for TechCrunch:

There are several enterprise players that want a share of Salesforce’s business, but just aren’t making headway by knuckling up against the company’s dominant, entrenched SaaS CRM offerings. Rather than competing head on, a smarter approach for these businesses is to “front door” Salesforce, instead.

By acquiring Marketo, a competitor could get into Salesforce’s accounts, then, over time, work themselves down the funnel and leverage better integrations with Marketo in order to eventually displace Salesforce. Marketo’s strategic foothold in the enterprise and its current market value relative to potential acquirers like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and even Salesforce make this a great time to buy the leading marketing automation vendor.

Many industry watchers overlook the mission-critical role Marketo plays in its customers’ go-to-market operations. The majority of Marketo’s 4,000 customers also use Salesforce, but the marketing automation system has access to more data about the funnel than its CRM counterpart. Marketo can sync bi-directionally with Salesforce, capturing all the data stored there, while also holding top-of-the-funnel lead behavior data that doesn’t get stored in CRM. Hence, it has access to an invaluable superset of data about a company’s potential and existing customers.

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Filed under Enterprise, Entrepreneurship, Management, Non-Technical-Read, Startups, VC

How LinkedIn Could Take On Salesforce

An op-ed I wrote for TechCrunch:

Today’s B2B sales and marketing folks struggle with the overwhelming number of channels for finding and reaching new leads. The customer “funnel” continues to expand as buyers do more of their own research before raising their hand to connect with a sales rep. But imagine if you could make the funnel taller by identifying leads when they’re just browsing your site and haven’t yet filled out your “contact me” form, or leads who haven’t yet visited but are likely to be a good fit for your product? That’s hard to do with the primitive tools that are available for sales and marketers today, unless you bring together some very rare assets – which just so happen to all exist at LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is the only company with fairly clean, accurate details on pretty much every contact that matters in the business world (unfortunately, most other data providers’ contact info contains 80% garbage, and they can’t really improve it without violating CAN-SPAM laws). LinkedIn also reflects the direction sales is heading with strong channels for thought leadership. Via LinkedIn, you can educate and advocate for your customers vs. just selling to them.

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Filed under AI, Blog Stuff, Enterprise, Entrepreneurship

Salesforce’s Wave Hits the Analytics Market

An op-ed I wrote for VentureBeat on why Salesforce launched Wave and the impact that will have on the analytics industry at large:

At Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco on Monday, Marc Benioff unveiled his company’s much anticipated Wave Analytics Cloud product. Marketed as “analytics for everyone” with a focus on mobility and slick visualizations inspired by video games, Wave aims to bring more analytics to decision makers more quickly.

Wave is great news for Salesforce’s massive customer base. Current customers will gain the ability to easily attain valuable insight via modern dashboards on any device, and to even execute advanced analytical operations on all types of business data. This business-intelligence (BI) approach, which appears to treat customer analytics (sales, customer support, and marketing) as a first-class citizen, is quite a departure from current horizontal BI tools like GoodData, Birst, and Tableau that focus more on performing analytics across a myriad of functions. This Salesforce Analytics Cloud is sure to deliver real business value by offering a platform that’s more specialized for customer needs, which makes sense since most use cases for BI are related to sales and customer analytics.

Why analytics is a great move for Salesforce

Anyone close to Salesforce knows that Analytics Cloud is a huge step beyond the company’s standard reporting capabilities, which have historically been rather limited. Until now, the system really just scratched the surface of a business’ sales data (try to report on something like your sales cycle lengths by lead source over time, and you’ll see what I mean). That said, it was smart of Salesforce to leave analytics up to its AppExchange partners in the beginning, because the company was busy building the SaaS world we all play in today, starting with its customer-relationship management platform. Tackling analytics at that time would have been like running two entirely different companies.

However, over the past couple years, the data needs of modern sales and marketing leaders have grown dramatically with the rise of big data. Customers are hungry for insight, and have been asking why Salesforce doesn’t offer seamless, built-in, advanced analytics. Most companies just don’t want to move data between multiple services, especially if they have rigorous security policies or huge data sets. In this data-driven environment, Salesforce’s customer satisfaction has become heavily dependent on partners it can’t control, making it increasingly important for the company to shift toward a hands-on approach to analytics and meet customers’ needs directly.

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Filed under Blog Stuff, Data Mining, Enterprise

5 Things You Should Know Before Starting an Enterprise Company

Just posted a guest article on The Next Web on some of the key startup learnings my team and I have picked up while building up our company Infer. Although our company is emerging and in the enterprise space, I think you’ll find many of these insights to be broadly applicable.

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Filed under Enterprise, Entrepreneurship, Startups, Venture Capital