SalesTech Star

SalesTechStar Interview with Jonah Lopin, Co-Founder & CEO at Crayon

Jonah Lopin, Co-Founder & CEO at Crayon dives into a few top sales data points that every sales and marketing leader should be focusing on while sharing his thoughts on the evolving use of sales intelligence:

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Hi Jonah, we’d love to hear about your journey through the years…tell us more about Crayon and what inspired the Crayon platform and journey?

My co-founder, John Osborne, and I met at MIT Sloan doing our MBAs back in 2007, although it was almost a decade after graduation before we founded Crayon in 2015. In the interim, John was in the Bay Area at AdMob. I was the 6th employee at HubSpot and on the management team, helping the company grow from an unknown startup to going public in 2014 with a $1 billion market cap.

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The thesis behind Crayon is that there’s never been a good way to do competitive intelligence (CI), because it’s always been a human-driven, research-driven discipline. This means insights are very expensive to generate, and even worse, they lag the market by weeks or months, and therefore often aren’t actionable or impactful. At Crayon, we drive CI to a software discipline. What if competitive intelligence could be programmatic and continuous? When CI is software-driven, not only are the insights inexpensive, they are real-time and therefore much more actionable. Finally, CI can be timely and hyper-actionable in sales, customer success, marketing and product.

What are some of the top trends in marketing and sales intelligence today that you feel are redefining processes and plans for sales and marketing leaders?

There are 2 shifts that make it possible to solve for market and competitive intelligence with software, where that was never possible before.

  • First, there is exponentially more signal online in the digital footprint of every business relative to what there was a decade ago
    • Google’s index is 100x bigger
    • Sites like G2, Glassdoor, and Reddit did not even exist 10-15 years ago, and now they’re some of the most trafficked sites on the internet
    • This explosion of digital footprints means there’s a ton of insight out there that you can access using software
  • Second shift is the dramatic adoption by frontline teams of workflow and messaging platforms
    • There are 100m people active every day in the US on Slack and Microsoft Teams.
    • There is the adoption of CRM systems, sales enablement platforms, and obviously email is ubiquitous.
    • This shift does 2 things.
      • First, enables you to mine employee intelligence programmatically and pull out insight from your frontline employees
      • Second, since your front line is using these systems every day, we can integrate back into these platforms to finally get the right intelligence to the right people at the right time

So in one sentence – the explosion of digital footprints on the web and massive adoption of messaging and workflow systems by your front line means there’s a much better way to compete that’s software-driven.  And that’s what we do at Crayon.

How have you seen leading brands use competitive intelligence to drive better goals: a few key best practices and learnings to share from these stories?

Crayon’s platform helps clients win more competitive sales deals, differentiate more effectively from the competition, and improve execution and decision-making in product, marketing and executive teams.

Here are two examples of how clients are using the Crayon platform:

Dropbox

Crayon is the competitive intelligence backbone for all of Dropbox. Every won & lost competitive deal globally flows through Crayon via our Salesforce integration, we power competitive alerts across the company via email & Slack integration, we’re the system of record for employee-sourced intelligence, and we’ve enabled the CI team at Dropbox to have a big impact on competitive win rates and other KPIs. Three of the big use cases at Dropbox include:

  • 1) Dropbox is using Crayon to speed up time-to-market in product by having their PM, PMM and pricing teams monitor competitors in real-time.
  • 2) Dropbox is enabling better executive decision-making through an enhanced quarterly business review process. QBRs require a competitive lens, and now in Crayon they can select the competitive set for a product line, pull all insights with takeaways, and see the patterns/trends from a quarter with a few clicks. So it’s days down to hours to get insight for execs in the QBR process.
  • 3) The Battlecard program has expanded from all direct sales folks to the channel team as well, and they’re now rolling out our Crayon battlecards to their website chat agents. Engagement with Crayon Battlecards is up 300% in the last year!

ZoomInfo

Over 500 sales folks at ZoomInfo use Crayon Battlecards & Slack/email alerts every week to access real-time win/loss insights, team-sourced intelligence, and competitive shifts. This effort has positively impacted their ability to sell – and win – against the competition. The ZoomInfo team is also using Crayon to support executive decision-making through regular intelligence briefings.

Can you talk about some of the core competitive intelligence data points that you feel sales people and especially sales leaders need to be assessing more in today’s business environment?

 Any sales team should be focused on consistently gathering the following data on competitors:

  • Competitive deal performance: Sales leaders need to know how they perform against competitors with hard numbers, in real-time and coming from their own CRM. Crayon’s Impact functionality does this in a really powerful way allowing you to view your pipeline in a unique way tying it to competitor activity and ultimately revenue.
  • Field intelligence: Your sales and support teams gather valuable competitive intelligence every day when they interact with prospects and customers. It’s crucial that they can share that and it can be analyzed, put in context and turned into actionable intel for the organization.
  • News & Events: How your competitors are positioning themselves by looking at the latest announcements and investments they’re making, events they’re sponsoring, awards they’re winning, and what media coverage they’re getting.
  • Personnel Intel: Identify competitor strengths and weaknesses from employee reviews, key leadership changes, and office openings.
  • Product Competitive Intel: Stay on top of any changes to features, pricing, and packaging to drive executive and product strategy.
  • Discussion Thread Intel: Hear what real users think of your competitors’ products through third party site reviews. Get insight into product and service gaps by monitoring help articles and forum threads.
  • Positioning Intel: Keep tabs on competitors’ positioning and messaging, both on and off their website. Catch new website sections added, new design and branding launched, and changes to company profiles on third party sites.
  • Customer and Partner Intel: See which customer case studies are getting added or removed, and take note of industry or use case focus. See which partners they’re adding or removing to get insight into product strategy and where there may be gaps.
  • Content and Social Intel: Monitor what competitors are publishing across the web so that you can create differentiated content and get insights into their target audience and keywords. Social media activity shows you what they’re promoting and how, and can surface opportunities for you to participate.
  • Marketing Campaign Intel: Review the latest conversion campaigns and promotions running in your market, even if they’re still in testing mode. Get inspiration for differentiated campaigns and take advantage of this insight into marketing strategies.

How do you feel platforms such as this will evolve in future and what will drive demand for more innovations and what kind?

We are constantly updating and evolving our product based on customer needs and reviews. We are currently investing across three key areas, where we feel the most customer demand:

  • Data & intelligence: This is all around driving the sharpest insight for customers through the broadest intake including new data sources like Gong and Clubhouse, and new ways to help customers synthesize the data and separate signal from noise.
  • Activating Crayon intelligence inside their business: We’re enabling customers to be multi-threaded in how they enable their sales team, building self-service options for folks across the company, and enabling collaboration inside Slack & Teams.
  • Measurement: How do you know your CI efforts are driving better win rates in sales and better outcomes across the company? We’ll be building more on top of our current analytics and win/loss offerings to help customers measure impact.

A few thoughts on what you feel today’s sales and marketing leaders need to do differently (and suggestions on martech / salestech) to help them stand out from the crowd!

Sales and marketing leaders should be re-thinking how they can compete more effectively using data and software. It’s time to instrument the way we go to market from a competitive standpoint!

Most businesses lose about ⅓ of their sales deals in head-to-head competition. Three quarter of tech buyers think the vendors they’re evaluating look the same – a failure to differentiate. What if you could buck these trends? What if you could win more competitive sales deals and stand out in your market?

According to our 2021 State of Competitive Intelligence Report, which surveyed more than 1,000 companies, over 60 percent of businesses report competitive intelligence has positively impacted revenue, a 17 percent increase from their 2019 report.

It’s time to dedicate both technology and human capital to competitive intelligence so your business can see and seize on opportunities to build competitive advantage!

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Crayon’s market and competitive intelligence software platform enables businesses to capture, analyze, and act on market movements from their competitors, customers, and partners.

Jonah Lopin is the CEO and co-founder of Crayon. Prior to Crayon, Jonah was VP Customer Success at HubSpot, joining as an early employee and scaling the team over six years to thousands of customers and hundreds of employees. Jonah has also built and launched social and mobile apps and served as a consultant in the Strategy & Operations group at Deloitte Consulting. Jonah has lived and worked in China, where he focused on entrepreneurship and non-profits. He holds a BA from Cornell and an MBA from MIT Sloan.

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