In a seemingly endless sea of potential clients, you need to know who wants to purchase, or who might buy, what you’re selling so you can target your pitches (and your time and energy) more effectively. On the heels of great growth in the previous year, a firm that builds solutions for organizations to aid with lead generation, especially in B2B sales, has announced a large amount of investment. Qualified, a pipeline generation platform developed exclusively for Salesforce users, has secured $95 million in a Series C round of investment, which it intends to utilize to expand its technology and entire business. Sapphire (formerly the investment arm of another major CRM provider, SAP, but now independent) is leading the round, with Tiger Global and prior investors Norwest Venture Partners, Redpoint Ventures, and Salesforce Ventures also participating. (Qualified’s Series B was headed by Salesforce last year.)
The valuation has not been disclosed, but PitchBook valued Qualified at $376 million last year, and it is likely to have grown to more than a simple valuation of $376+95 million, given Qualified’s other growth: revenue for the San Francisco startup is up 400 percent year over year, and net customer retention is currently at 150 percent, according to CEO Kraig Swensrud. Autodesk, Fujitsu, GE Healthcare, GrubHub, HashiCorp, iHeartMedia, LaunchDarkly, Matterport, Netskope, OwnBackup, Poly, Recurly, Talend, Transplace, and Vonage are among the companies that have used the service.
Swensrud’s Salesforce emphasis is both practical and cultural. Not only is it the most popular CRM package in use these days, providing Qualified with a highly qualified audience of potential customers, but both he and his co-founder Sean Whiteley used to work for the company — as CMO and SVP, respectively — and thus are familiar with both its potential and functional shortcomings. (Qualified’s platform is now known as “Pipeline Cloud,” a nod to Salesforce’s own product line nomenclature.)
Swensrud stated, “We’re concentrating on Salesforce customers.” “That market alone has hundreds of thousands of B2B clients, allowing us to communicate with them in their own language.” We have no intentions to cooperate with any other CRM vendors. “This is our primary and exclusive emphasis.” The fact that most B2B transactions are now launched, if not entirely completed, on digital platforms, anchored by a company’s website, is the issue and opportunity that Qualified has identified and is working to meet. This has been a developing tendency, but it was increased significantly during the COVID-19 epidemic, when many in-person gatherings vanished.
The difficulty with doing business online is that you lose a lot of the personal touch that is so important in starting, developing, and closing deals. As a salesman, you have access to a lot more data about who is interested in a product – as long as you can figure out how to use it. This is where Qualified comes in: the company offers a set of tools that can be integrated into a site and other digital channels, as well as a dashboard for salespeople, to help them better understand who is visiting their site, learn more about them, and see how they might “qualify” as a good lead.
These are not unlike the kinds of programmatic, anonymised tools that adtech or marketing tech professionals could use to assess audiences on the web, except that they’re being applied to a very specialized, B2B sales use case here. They may examine how a visitor arrived at a site, if they are current customers, and link them to further information in a company’s Salesforce database. “Then we take those and purchasers who are ‘qualified,’ so you can talk to them,” Swensrud explained. Traditional digital tools, such as filling out basic information to view a white paper, are no longer sufficient. They are not only inconvenient and bothersome, but they are also quickly becoming obsolete, given people’s decreasing tolerance for providing personal or other identifying information about oneself and then being spammed (or worse) as a result.
Given how much customer involvement is assessed across social media, apps, and other channels, it’ll be fascinating to watch how Qualified perceives the location of a website, which serves as a digital proxy for a real office, corporate headquarters, or event. It becomes a gathering spot for “meetings.” In a statement, Sapphire partner Rajeev Dham said, “Qualified’s vision of transforming the website into a sales and marketing machine for companies by harnessing buyer intent data and providing an in-the-moment, personalized sales experience will transform how B2B companies approach their pipeline generation process.” With this round, he also joins Qualified’s board.