With Salesforce Investment, InsideSales Preps For Another Year Of Triple-Digit Growth

Jim Steele was still chief customer officer at Salesforce.com back in October when he was walking through the expo floor at Dreamforce with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. The two were scoping out the 2,500 partners at the Salesforce conference, trying to identify which were the hot ones.

Steele and Benioff spotted a booth with a line that appeared 10 deep and began speculating on what schwag was being doled out to attract such interest. But the InsideSales booth wasn't giving away anything -- the people in line were arriving for scheduled appointments, Steele told CRN.

"Marc and I were watching and then we got pulled into the discussion," Steele said. "We got excited."

[Related: Salesforce.com's Revamped Partner Program: New Tier Calculations, Training, Annual Fee]

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Benioff invited the InsideSales management team, including founder and CEO Dave Elkington, to present the marketing analytics platform to Salesforce executives. "We were all kind of blown away," Steele said.

Benioff, a longtime champion of data science, was excited enough to make Salesforce an investor in the company from Provo, Utah. And Steele was so excited that after more than 12 years as a Salesforce exec, he left the CRM leader altogether a month later to join InsideSales as president of worldwide sales.

"What got me excited, and what got Marc excited, and why Salesforce is an investor," Steele said, is InsideSales has "now captured 13 billion sales transactions over the last 10 years."

That mountain of data is extremely powerful. When advanced analytic techniques are applied by the company's Neuralytics engine, the data can help customers identify the right profile for their salespeople, motivate those agents through gamification methods, help them measure their success, and provide buyer insights, helping the agents determine whom to call, when to call them and what message to deliver, according to Steele.

The accumulated data, working in sync with more traditional sales acceleration technologies like a power dialer and gamification methods, enables a more effective prescriptive approach to selling, Steele told CRN.

"That's the exciting part. That's the Holy Grail," Steele told CRN.

Lindsey Armstrong, another former Salesforce exec who recently joined InsideSales, said the "enormous database" the company has compiled over a decade represents "the collective knowledge of millions and millions of sales calls from different industries and different businesses."

InsideSales incorporates information from weather, sports, news, social media and dozens of other sources, running an algorithmic analysis against its proprietary data to suggest "not just the best customers to go for but also what to do with those customers. "It's pretty remarkable," Armstrong told CRN.

Elkington, the company's founder, had worked for an investment bank before earning a master's degree in computer science. He wrote his thesis on predictive analytics and machine learning, studying how human behavior and technology coming together can help drive certain outcomes.

InsideSales customers can benchmark their own sales stats against the anonymized data from the larger pool of customers.

"That's the machine learning. As you learn more and more about those customers, the algorithm starts to steer you toward your unique customer's experience," Steele told CRN.

The software, of course, also integrates quite seamlessly with Salesforce's CRM.

Salesforce is, by far, the biggest channel partner for InsideSales, and the partnership "is growing like crazy," Steele told CRN. The company recently became a Salesforce Premier technology partner.

Since conception a decade ago, the company sold its analytics platform entirely directly to its customers.

But now, "as we try to grow this business, in triple digits, we really have to embrace the channel. Just like Salesforce, we're going to have to leverage the partner channel," Steele said.

InsideSales has yet to enter any official partnerships with solution providers, but has engaged in projects with some Salesforce partners, and is in discussions with those partners about formalizing a solution provider relationship.

Armstrong told CRN that people in the industry always talk about sales being an art and a science. "That's the piece that InsideSales delivers -- the science part of selling," she said.

Armstrong will be leading the company's international operations, which are about to be launched in the U.K. In Europe, "the channel is absolutely a critical route to market," she said.

The company has raised $141 million in funding to date from the likes of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, as well as the recent Salesforce investment.

Steele said his first goal is to "capture the opportunity" of reaching out to many of the sales organizations he has tended to over his 12 years at Salesforce.

"Every single Salesforce customer is a target and opportunity for us," he told CRN.