Philadelphia-based startup PeopleLinx is announcing PeopleLinx 4 today, on the heels of a $3.5 million investment led by Osage Partners. The announcement brings several updates to the PeopleLinx platform that automates certain outreach and prospecting sales tactics on social media, known as “social selling.”

PeopleLinx got its start back in 2009 with two early LinkedIn employees who recognized sales and marketing teams could be using LinkedIn in more powerful ways. “Back then, LinkedIn was seen almost exclusively as a job site, not a sales tool,” PeopleLinx CMO Michael Idinopulos told me in an interview. At that time, the startup was mainly a training firm to assist large sales teams in using social media to be more effective sellers. “We needed to productize to scale,” Idinopulos said. The duo raised an early round and built a sort of LinkedIn analytics tool.

The company has evolved hugely since then, building a self-learning tool with a deep integration into your company’s CRM to automate much of the manual “social selling” processes, like building and tracking Twitter lists and seeding customers or prospects with relevant content. With B2B sales and marketing becoming such a content-driven industry, especially in the prospecting phase, PeopleLinx’s ability to automate much of this process — the key being the deep CRM integration — allows the tool to go into your individual deal flow in Salesforce (or other CRM) and make customized recommendations on what to do next. “It’s content-rich advice on what [sales]people should do and when they should do it,” Idinopulos said.

Screenshot of PeopleLinx integration within Salesforce

Above: Screenshot of PeopleLinx integration within Salesforce.

Many companies have eons-old sales processes and an “old dog” mentality to boot. Forcing a new tool into that workflow is inherently challenging. PeopleLinx manages this well by being available in so many different work tools salespeople are already using. I found the interface slick and intuitive. It’s customized to individual reps, guides you on what to do next, is predictive, and is easy to set up. When you log in, the tool will tell you what to do next, like which content you should share with what prospect, based on your deal flow.

ArticleLibrary

Above: The “article library” gives individual salespeople customized recommendations for which content to share with which prospects — with a leaderboard to show which reps get the Cadillac and who gets the steak knives.

It works on mobile and within Salesforce — but most reps actually engage with it via email, where it’s also integrated (e.g., Tweet to a specific user, share content on LinkedIn, or find relevant decision-making contacts on either platform using deep linking and search).

Engage with prospects on Twitter within the PeopleLinx platform, on mobile, or email

Above: Engage with prospects on Twitter within the PeopleLinx platform, on mobile, or email.

Sales tech landscape takes shape

Much like the marketing tech landscape VentureBeat’s research team is covering extensively, sales technology has been experiencing particularly explosive growth in the past several months. For instance, in our most recent report on the marketing tech funding space, we saw around $200 million doled out to upstart vendors like PeopleLinx focused on sales acceleration — with the vast majority of those companies categorized by their use of predictive intelligence to better inform the prospecting and retention phases of selling, in particular.

“The sales tech stack essentially comes together as you would see a sales process; prospecting/lead collection, probing, proving, closing, post-sales/satisfaction. Underpin that with analytics and connect it to CRM and you start to see some real value being driven by these startups,” VB Insight analyst Stewart Rogers said.

All interactions from the above feed in and out of the sales environment, or CRM/database. In between, they can be augmented with predictive tech (when/who to call, what to send and when), and other APIs or layers that add to the data (contact update solutions, company data, org chart solutions, purchase intent predictors, lead scoring, etc.).

Sales tech stack

The figure above represents some of the major categories in the sales tech landscape, as well as some sample companies in each bucket, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the hundreds of logos that could be scattered across this framework. VB Insight will be announcing a more formal research effort into this space in Q4 of 2015.