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Clari - Nipping at Salesforce's Heels?

Clari - Nipping at Salesforce's Heels?
Clari - Nipping at Salesforce's Heels?

A brief while ago I had the chance of talking to Andy Byrne, CEO of Clari, about how AI can help making sales organizations more effective and efficient. Clari is a vendor of Opportunity-to-Close solutions. G2Crowd lists the company amongst the leaders of its Sales Analytics Software quadrant, while Gartner Group in 2017 named it a cool vendor in the Tech Go-To-Market.
Shortly after the conversation Clari announced the closure of a $35 Million funding round “following record growth”, essentially a tripling of their customer base while maintaining a near 100 per cent renewal rate.
According to Andy, the company applies “machine learning focused on sales”, i.e. predictive and prescriptive analytics to improve pipeline visibility and to get more insight into which opportunities are more likely to close than others. This helps in focusing on these opportunities.
This solution was developed after having in depth conversation with a number of big sales teams, figuring out their challenges/problems.
As a result of this the company is addressing three problems.
1.     Many to most sales reps do not consider CRM systems (or SFA systems, for that matter) as particularly helpful.
2.     Sales managers do have a poor visibility into what their teams are doing, with which opportunities they spend their time.
3.     Executives and Sales Operations are dealing with “XLS hell” because the system’s forecasting ability is broken.
All in all, points two and three are consequences of point one.
If a system is not of help it is a time-waster and tends to be avoided. Data about opportunities will not be entered in a timely manner nor will it be very accurate.
Clari’s solution to this is to help the sales reps by taking the chores out of the process by tying other systems into the opportunity management process. These systems include Gmail and Exchange for email and calendaring, but also attachments. Further connections to marketing information systems (e.g. Marketo,), Docusign, Xactly, ClearSlide, and others are in the pipeline.
Data coming from all these sources is used to feed Clari’s prediction- and prescription engine to score the opportunities as well as suggest activities for opportunities.
That way, Clari wants to improve sales reps’ productivity, while giving managers insight and the chance of coaching their teams – all with the goal of increasing the conversion rate.
At this moment Clari integrates with Salesforce, but plans to integrate to other CRM/SFA systems, too. The approach is to not position itself as a competition but to augment and enhance the user experience by “marrying AI with beautiful design”.

MyPoV and Analysis

Having seen the capabilities and the UI of Clari, I came away duly impressed. Clari offers a clean user interface that helps people in instantly grasping the status and risk of the pipeline as well as the individual opportunities along with the activities going on to pursue them.
 Opportunity Analysis with Clari
Opportunity Analysis with Clari

And, looking at Salesforce being the main system to integrate into, this is quite a proposition, especially as Salesforce’s Einstein is still quite tied to Salesforce data. However, Salesforce is addressing exactly the challenges that Clari looks at. The company recently announced corresponding improvements to Sales Cloud Einstein, the Salesforce, Inbox and improved sales analytics. And the recent acquisitions of Cloudcraze and especially Mulesoft will improve Salesforce’s ability of tapping into very relevant data, which improves the company’s position.
The same holds true for Microsoft and SAP Hybris. Both solutions also offer opportunity-scoring solutions based upon machine learning. In the case of Microsoft already since late 2016. Both solutions take in data from various sources, too, although the link to past sales rep activities is less pronounced. Still, all three vendors, Microsoft, Salesforce, and SAP, offer activity recommendations targeted at optimizing the chances to successfully close opportunities.
And there are not only doing it for opportunities but also for leads and other entities.
Still, the VC community is upbeat about Clari, as evidenced by the successful recent funding round.

The Cautions

While Clari seems to have a strong Opportunity-to-Closure solution this laser focus also puts the company into a niche that the big vendors will close themselves, if not as good as Clari does, but still ‘good enough’. And they are on it. Personally I do not see Clari as an acquisition target of one of the big 4 (yet).
Further, there are not yet many partnerships with CRM vendors. Salesforce is a good starting place, but it is exactly that: A start. And Salesforce is known for usurping spaces that are owned by partners, if it sees an opportunity (this is not only true for Salesforce, of course).
For Clari this means that the company needs to do four things
·      Stay ahead of the competition from an output point of view. Integrating with Clari must show clear and measurable benefits for customers using a CRM system which already offers similar functionality
·      Go SMB. This is a largely underserved market that is still very fragmented and mainly covered by vendors that do not have the scale to offer wide solutions
·      Partner, partner, partner with vendors of CRM solutions, to gain broader exposure
·      Based upon the current offering, build complementary solutions that solve real business problems
And all this while staying at an attractive price point.
All in all, Clari offers a solution that enterprises and SMBs should look at.

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