Thursday, June 11, 2015

Highspot Sales Enablement Helps Sales People Find Content and Marketers Measure What Works

“Sales enablement” is something of a catch-all term for a wide range of solutions that help sales people do their jobs better. Highspot has staked out the corner of this world occupied by systems that help sales people find the right marketing materials. It grew out of the pain that co-founder Robert Wahbe felt which running marketing for Microsoft’s Server and Tools Division, where he found no good tools to help sales people and channel partners find the right materials when they needed them.

When Highspot was founded in 2012, it focused on better content discovery for sales people. But the firm soon learned that this wasn’t enough. It has now redefined its core mission as improving results by showing which content is working.  This is currently measured by tracking how often each item is used by sales people and read by recipients. The July release will supplement this with opportunity information from CRM, allowing correlation of content usage with funnel stage conversions and revenue.

Highspot mostly does what you’d expect from this sort of system: it lets users load content and sales people, tracks who sends which content to which prospects, and reports on results. Users can set up collections (called “spots”) of materials for a particular product, sales team, funnel stage, region, or any other purpose. They can find content by looking in a spot, by filtering on sales stage, industry, product, and other attributes, or by doing an “intelligent semantic search” that recommends content based on past choices by the user and others. Users can view, download, bookmark or email the selected content or do a live pitch to a prospect. The system automatically adds pitches and emails to the prospect history in Salesforce.  It can also track when a piece of emailed content is opened by the prospect, how long they kept it open, and which pages they viewed. A dashboard can highlight new and featured content. The system will also analyze the inventory of available contents to find gaps or redundancies by sales stage, product, region, etc.

The operational details are all nicely executed, which is probably the most important consideration for a sales enablement system: if it's not easy, sales people won’t use it. But from a technology standpoint, what’s most interesting about Highspot is what the vendor calls “content genomics”. This uses machine learning to examine each piece of content – such as each slide in a Powerpoint deck – and identify properties including text, color, graphs, and images. Different pieces are then compared to find similarities and grouped into “content families”. This approach lets Highspot recognize when a piece has been modified and reused, for example by taking a slide from one deck and adding it to another with some reformatting along the way. Identifying these relationships gives a much more accurate understanding of how often each item is used and how well it is performing. Without this grouping, results from the system could be highly misleading.

Highspot now has more than 100 paying customers. The system is now sold primarily to marketing departments as the system of record for marketing content. There’s a limited function Business Edition and a full function Enterprise Edition, which includes Salesforce integration. Pricing for the Enterprise Edition isn’t published but the vendor says that, once volume discounts are included, it is usually less than the $30 per month per user charged for the Business Edition.

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