SalesGene debuts focused on needs of salespeople

Startup SalesGene emerged from stealth mode Monday with its Landslide offering aimed at improve salespeoples' sales and marketing effectiveness.

Software and services startup SalesGene emerged from stealth mode Monday. Aimed at helping salespeople improve their sales and marketing effectiveness, SalesGene's Landslide offering includes access to human agents to provide administrative support.

SalesGene is one of a number of companies looking to fill the gaps in sales force automation (SFA) software, according to Sheryl Kingstone, industry analyst with market research firm Yankee Group.

"The adoption of SFA and customer relationship management software by salespeople has been very, very low," Razi Imam, co-founder and chief executive officer of SalesGene, said in a phone interview Friday. Founded in May 2004, the startup developed Landslide after careful observation of the day-to-day habits of salespeople, he added.

Landslide consists of three integrated pieces -- Workstyle, a hosted software application that provides a step-by-step road map and relevant documents for closing a sale; io Channel, a secure collaborative Web portal for buyers and sellers; and Live VIP Assistant, a call-center service giving individual salespeople access to a human assistant. Landslide is priced at under US$100 per user per month, Imam said.

For each sales prospect, a Landslide user can create a secure io Channel Web site where the salesperson can interact with a potential buyer, Imam said. At the site, the salesperson can initiate a Web conference with the buyer, show online product demonstrations and exchange documents. SalesGene is considering adding wiki functionality to each site, he added.

What's key about the io Channel site, according to Yankee's Kingstone, is the ability for a salesperson to track how often a buyer has accessed the site, an important measure of the prospect's interest in a potential sale. Such capability has been offered in other products for the past six years, but salespeople have been slow to embrace it, she said. With the concept of software-as-a-service coming to the fore recently, now's a good time for a company to be offering this technology, Kingstone added.

Kingstone was intrigued by the Live VIP Assistant. "It's very, very cool," she said. In some ways a step back from the general move to automate, having access to a human assistant should prove very helpful to salespeople who have no administrative support, Kingston added.

SalesGene initially considered siting its first Live VIP Assistant call center in Pakistan or India, according to Imam. The company decided to provide support for North and South American Landslide users in Pittsburgh where SalesGene has its headquarters so once users dial an 800 phone number they will have access to native English speakers.

Depending on how the U.S. call center grows, SalesGene is looking at opening two more call centers, one in Europe and the other in India, Imam said.

Privately held, SalesGene is about to close its Series A round of financing, having already raised US$2.2 million from private investors, Imam said. The company employs 50 people, with engineering teams in Pakistan and India.

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