While we have been revising the Enterprise 3.0 definition, and introducing sales methodology into the framework, I thought it would be a good time to drill down into certain aspects of Sales, and explore some best practices. With that goal, I first bring you an interview with a company called InsideView that focuses on making sales prospecting and account / opportunity research efficient and repeatable.
Now, this is a somewhat unsettling piece for me to write. In 1997, I started Intarka with precisely this mission, and much of what we will be discussing in InsideView was part of Intarka’s ProspectMiner productline. However, the web has changed significantly, and various services like Jigsaw, LinkedIn, Spoke, etc. offer opportunities today for solving the same problem, that simply did not exist a decade ago. The web was still in its infancy, whereas today, it is at least a toddler.
With that background, let us start our conversation with Umberto Milletti.
SM: Please describe your personal background.
UM: I am from Italy. I went to college in the U.S. and did my undergrad at Tufts, then I did my Master’s in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UC Berkeley. From there, I went to a company called Integrated Systems, which was a 30-person South Bay firm at the time, and stayed there for seven years. It went public after about three of those years. I have a wife; two sons, who are 7- and 9-years-old.
SM: Where did you get the idea for your current venture? What is your domain experience in the segment?
UM: The genesis for this really happened at DigitalThink, a company I co-founded that concentrated on Web-based corporate training. I served in key roles (as GM, Products; VP, Technology; and VP, Marketing & Product Management) and also helped lead the company to a successful IPO, growing annual revenues to $60 million. That ultimately led to its sale to Convergys in 2004 for $120 million in cash.
DigitalThink was a high-growth company, but we struggled with sales. We went through four VPs of sales. We kept thinking, maybe we’re hiring the wrong people. The cycle continued, until we started to realize it’s not just about hiring the right people, it’s about making your people productive and efficient.
I started to realize that it was also about thinking differently – the old model of writing content became weaker as the amount of information started to multiply overnight on the Internet. I realized there was a void in the market, a void where salespeople weren’t being as productive as they could be because they did not have the time or data to access rich pipelines.
In 2005, I partnered with Richard Horn to address shortcomings in traditional sales processes. Richard and I worked on what we called “opportunity intelligence,” which really started to transform sales from a haphazard activity, dependent on cold calls and luck, into a highly targeted, efficient and effective process.