Pipeline Insights—No Analytics Needed: Interview with Lara Shackelford, CMO at The TAS Group
We talked to Lara Shackelford, CMO at The TAS Group, about the Dealmaker platform and The TAS Group’s new product release: Dealmaker Sales Performance Manager. Dealmaker helps sales reps and sales managers better visualize their pipeline, assess sales velocity, and understand risk and trends. Because The TAS Group focuses on strategic sales pipeline management, account targeted selling best practices are built into the software in the form of guided insights and coaching. Dealmaker is built natively on the Salesforce1 platform, which Shackelford explained maximizes accessibility, usability, and security. This is also a differentiator within the marketplace, since pipeline analytics competitors aren’t native to Salesforce.
Introduction to The TAS Group
Give us a brief introduction to The TAS Group.
The TAS Group is focused on helping sales professionals and sales managers get the best sales performance and guidance every day through our built-in sales expertise. We do that in real-time, built natively on the Salesforce1 platform.
We help sales professionals crush their quarter with insights and total visibility into their pipeline and performance—no analytics needed.
Companies don’t need to hire a business analyst or a data analyst to try and figure out what’s happening with your sales pipeline. We help them identify trends and insights within the pipeline, giving customers the information they need to make smarter business decisions.
Can you give us some examples of how your product is used?
We’re announcing the launch of a product called “Dealmaker Sales Performance Manager,” which is part of our Dealmaker platform. It’s built around account planning and opportunity management to help sales leaders use account planning for large, complex deals. We typically sell to B2B, enterprise-level companies.
We had a client come to us who was trying to scale his company from about 60 reps this year to 100 within the next twelve months. They were growing very fast and wanted to build their business strategically, aiming where they intend to be a year from now, not just today. They bought our Sales Performance Manager product and we delivered them real-time insights into their pipeline and information about what salespeople were doing, right at their fingertips. We also allowed them to see sales velocity and visualize their pipeline more effectively. And we did more than just sharing data. We gave them insights and coaching, so they knew what to do about risks in their pipeline and increasing rep effectiveness.
We have a passion for helping people manage their business more strategically. What people have always been missing is expertise combined with data, and we built knowledge into our system to help sales leaders lead more effectively.
Platform & Methodology
What do you mean when you say TAS Group has built in knowledge and expertise into the platform?
As a company, we were founded based on the Target Account Selling methodology. We have over thirty years of sales expertise about the best practices in sales and how sales leaders get the most out of their sales teams. Most sales methodologies fail their clients because the employees don’t retain the knowledge from sales training.
Donal Daly, who purchased the company about ten years ago, started The TAS Group. He has a strong background in AI, and he felt there was a need to build sales knowledge into the software. We took the information from thirty years of experience, insight, and knowledge, and we built a smart application. We figured if Google Maps and Waze could use knowledge, data, context and reasoning to get you to your destination, you ought to be able to use a an app to get you to your deal.
Why did you choose to build on the Salesforce1 platform?
Being native to the Salesforce1 platform is an integral part of our value proposition. We provide insights in real-time through Salesforce, always giving the user the most up-to-date information.
Previously, we had been working on several other CRM platforms. A few years ago, we made the decision to go native on Salesforce, and it was a great decision. Salesforce was clearly the leader in the CRM space. We realized being in the cloud was more difficult when we were trying to do it on our own. Any questions about security were addressed when we moved to the Salesforce platform about three years ago. That’s when our business really started taking off. A big part of the advantage is being accessible where sales managers and reps already work. People are used to working within the CRM system, and we’re part of that experience.
Customers & Users
Who is TAS Group’s primary customer base? Who is the target customer?
We target customers that have complex sales processes and at least 1,000 sales reps. Our clients include GE, HP, Virgin Media, and—actually—Salesforce as well. We don’t really focus on companies with a churn business and highly transactional sales. We’re more interested in helping build long-term customer relationships. We help our customers choose the right deals with insights based on their unique business requirements. We know that companies spend twice as long on the deals lost in comparison to time spent on deals won, so we help our customer spend time on the right deals and know when to walk away from the ones that aren’t going to be a fit.
How many customers does TAS Group have? What does the deployment typically look like as far as number of users goes?
We have over 200 customers and, because our customers see results within a short time of their go live, we often expand to new departments quickly. HP started this way. Our product can easily be used by any number of sales reps within a company, from 100 to several thousand.
Positioning in the Market
Who are TAS Group’s primary competitors?
There are lots of new players who add value to pipeline and data analysis but are not native on the Salesforce platform--companies like InsightSquared and Clari. Or there are analytics players such as Tableau, QLIK and Domo, who try to customize their analytics tools to help salespeople. These tools were built to analyze large data sets, not to help make the world of sales better.
What are TAS Group’s key differentiating factors?
One of the things we’re proud of is the fact that Salesforce is a customer. They leverage our software to do account planning and they have actually been known to share the account plans they build in TAS with their customers.
The real differentiator for us is not just the insights based on knowledge and data but also the coaching and guidance we provide.
As an example, say a sales manager has been gone for the weekend and returns on Monday morning. They log into Salesforce and learn that five of their must-win deals for the quarter are at risk. The sales manager can easily see what has changed on those deals and receive guidance on what they should do about it. They get advice on how to coach an individual rep and also recommendations on how to build business rules into the process to help them be more effective.
With our Sales Performance Manager product, which we announced this morning, we help sales leaders answer the questions they are most concerned with:
1. What is the best cadence for managing my sales business?
2. How can I understand the sales performance KPIs in my business?
3. Can I reduce risk and avoid surprises to make my sales forecast?
4. Are there enough real deals in my pipeline? Where are the risks?
5. QBR: What happened to my forecast/pipeline last quarter?
Who is the typical buyer for TAS Group? What pain points are you helping customers solve?
We typically sell to the VP of Sales or VP of Sales Opportunities. These are the people who are feeling the most pain.
The pain point is typically when companies don’t know if they will make a quarter or don’t know if they can trust their forecast. This can happen when a company has a lot of new sales reps. For one of our large enterprise customers, a very well known cloud company, about 40% of their go-to-market staff is new within the past 24 months, and many of them are millennials. We help them onboard new reps and make sure they know how their reps are ramping and performing to quota.
Another concern many have is an age-old problem: the misalignment between sales and marketing. One of our products, Dealmaker Align, allows a sales rep to be working within Salesforce and surface customer problems specific to a customer’s industry and the sponsor’s role. We allow reps to identify key problems and pain points those people might be having, and then find sales tools that will support a conversation with them. In this way, we help our customers to have conversations in which they are co-creating value. This is the new era of sales.
How has the marketing strategy for TAS Group changed over time as you have grown?
What Marketo did to drive marketers to a greater level of insight and performance, TAS is doing for the sales profession. Our company has done incredibly well with our customers. They are some of the happiest customers I’ve seen in my career. We’ve grown by having individual customers move on to a new company, bringing The TAS Group with them. We’re a company that has grown organically and intelligently. In the last three years since we moved to Salesforce, our business has grown at a rapid clip.
We’re now investing in growing our sales and marketing functions, and we’re doing more to claim “the voice” in the market. We think that the market opportunity is now and we intend to claim it.
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Megan champions research at TrustRadius. Her mission is to ensure we gather the highest quality data from authenticated reviewers, and provide useful curated reports for prospective software buyers. Prior to joining TrustRadius, Megan was Director of Sales and Marketing at a media company. She holds MA degrees in Journalism and Latin American Studies from the University of Texas.