Our typical thesis in SaaS is about backing great teams in new categories. This typically means that there is no established category (e.g. employee performance management or sales incentive compensation) that solves that pain point. Usually businesses solve these pain points through a combination of different tools with tacky integrations, spreadsheets and other means, compromising both efficiency and effectiveness. Examples of such theses for us in the past include Digital Adoption Platforms (Whatfix), Buyer Intent Intelligence (Slintel) and Buyer-Seller Alignment (BuyerAssist).
What makes this investment very different and contrarian for us is that this is smack in the middle of a very crowded category – Sales Enablement – a category that already has multiple unicorns.
Having been a software sales guy for a large part of my life, I have seen first hand the challenges sales teams face in finding the right content at the right time. Even something as simple as the “standard company pitch deck” has a hundred versions spread over the hard drives of different sales people. It gets even more complicated when you begin to segment content by verticals, size of customer, geography. Not to mention the type of content – competitive battle cards, customer testimonials, ROI proof points, implementation ease/ time to value, product roadmap and feature coverage. Imagine, therefore, this 4-dimensional space of customer type, content type, sales person and versions and what you get is a royal mess!!
This is complicated further by the specific situation in the sales cycle. We assume a beautiful linear flow of MQL to SQL to demo a proposal to nego and viola signature on the page and money in your bank. In reality, it is a lot more complicated, moving back and forth between a variety of different stakeholders on the customer side, and also on the vendor side. This creates additional context which requires the content to be tailored to that context.
Historically, when sales enablement did not exist as a category, all content was stored in either hard drives of various sales team members, or in a classical directory structure accessible through a web interface (what we called an intranet). In theory it should have worked but for the problem that there is a combinatorial explosion of content (as described earlier) and if there is one function known to not be disciplined, it is sales! Consequently, you have many different versions of what is the best content for different situations. As always, the best sales people, at best 15% of the sales force, are smart enough to get access to the right content and tailor it specifically to meet their needs. 20% never will even if you give it to them on a platter. But the mass middle – two thirds of your sales force can actually benefit if there were the right tools to make the right content available to them.
The first generation of sales enablement solutions went about creating more accessible file repositories – the category was earlier known as ‘Digital Content Management for Sales’. A decade later and after rebranding to become “sales enablement software”, the fundamental nature of the current solutions remains the same. They are basically a file repository, with decent content organization & search capabilities, and with an ability to share content links with the prospective customers with associated tracking on content engagement. These vendors have started expanding into adjacent categories such as LMS, while under-delivering their core value proposition.
In a day and age where software can automatically predict how you want to complete a sentence, and recognize what your prospect is saying on a video call and give you advice, a lot better can be and needs to be done.
That is where our first meeting with Sreedhar came in sometime last year. My initial instinct was a courtesy call as we got connected through Aneesh Reddy, co-founder and CEO of Capillary. I had little interest given that this is a very crowded category and therefore against the grain of my thesis.
However, the very first meeting with Sreedhar was very refreshing and it was clear that this was not an ordinary founder discussion. Sreedhar has created two large global enterprise software companies in his past – Host Analytics and Gainsight. The second one is a category creator with a $1B+ exit.
What most people see as a crowded market, appeared like a fertile ground of opportunity to Sreedhar, as he uncovered a ton of unmet user needs. This includes capabilities such as:
- Content is historically looked at as a collection of files – PDFs, PPTX, DOCs etc in a static file repository. But in reality the content has a meaning, a purpose – these can be a customer story, product deck, common objections, competitive content etc.
- An intelligent system ought to develop a semantic understanding of the basic nature of this content and the context in which the content is relevant. Such a system must be backed by AI models that are trained with the vocabulary used in that domain and even specific to that particular customer, competitor etc.
- Backed by such understanding of the content, an intelligent system must surface the most relevant content in the context of a sales conversation that is underway – say, an email exchange with the prospective customer, to identify what is being talked about, prior context of the account, buyer persona, stage of the sales cycle etc.
- And deliver this information to the sellers just in time to the sellers and in their daily workflow – with minimal friction.
- Given the bloat in the sales tech stack, we can’t expect the sellers to login to yet another tool to identify the most relevant information! This requires building systems with a ‘Seller first’ mindset to drive adoption!
When we partnered with Sreedhar, all of these were ideas. Fast forward several months, today GTM Buddy has the best sales enablement software in the industry, bar none. Feedback from early customers suggests that the unmet needs are even greater than what we anticipated.
At a more macro level, we believe that most of enterprise software will be reimaged, rethought with AI-first SaaS, i.e. SaaS where AI is a core underpinning and not just a side feature. GTM Buddy is one such company which is changing static content repositories into a semantic one with its users (sales team) being shown relevant content at the right time/ place using machine learning.
Looking forward to the journey with Sreedhar and his team, and to the emancipation of the seller tribes of the world!