Secure better leads and more sales

Endless games of phone tag and send-wait-resend email cycles are frustrating when you’re trying to coordinate dinner with friends. But when a sale worth thousands or millions of dollars hangs in the balance, those games can devastate your bottom line. 

Tellwise is trying to solve that problem. The Bellevue startup’s goal is to help companies generate better leads and increase sales by enhancing communications between sellers and customers via its Smart Message platform.

CEO Conrad Bayer started the company to ease what he felt was a clunky system of communicating via email and telephone.

“Both of those communication channels are filled with problems,” he says. “Email is overloaded. Everything and its brother ends up in your inbox. There’s no way of really prioritizing what you see there. It’s not particularly real time. Most people’s time spent with email is frustrating. And as for the phone, people don’t like to answer it. They prefer instant messaging or texting.”

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Tellwise isn’t Conrad Bayer’s first run at a startup. The entrepreneur cofounded software company Alacris in 2000 and sold it to Microsoft in 2005.

The 3-year-old company learned from its earliest customers that cross-company collaboration needed to improve, and that communication woes were most painful between a buyer and a seller.

“We latched onto that idea and decided to leverage email for its strengths,” Bayer says. “Email has reach. If I have someone’s email address, I know I can get them a message. But it needs to be more than that. We wanted to layer a richer experience, one that’s real time, that has app integration, calendaring — basic things that email cannot do.”

Bayer believes Smart Message is the solution. The platform is a combination of real-time collaboration, multimedia content, and applications integrated with email. The goal is to create seamless communication between buyers and sellers. Messages sent on the platform can include video, documents, and a full history of the relationship between buyers and sellers. They track a buyer’s activity and gather analytics. Users also can add new recipients and fresh content. Smart Messages can be created from templates or from scratch, and the communication channel works across all mobile and desktop devices.

Tellwise’s client roster is impressive — Microsoft and F5 Networks use its platform, and Bayer has his sights on other Eastside companies such as Apptio and Concur, both of which are in pilot studies that will gauge the platform’s viability.

Paul Leto, director of inside sales at F5, has been pleased with Tellwise’s Smart Messages. “It gives you more feedback, more quickly, from the people you’re reaching out to,” he says. “The fact that you can know when they’re opening your communication, or when they’re passing your communication on to other people, is a big deal because as your messaging changes you can do A/B tests, you can find out what creates better open rates, and what creates better paths to other individuals in an organization.”

What’s most valuable to F5, Leto explains, is that Smart Message turns email into a personalized, interactive, and content-rich experience between the seller and the prospect.

Tellwise received $3 million in venture funding from Ignition Partners and Trilogy Equity Partners in June 2013, which allowed it to sprint to its current status. Growth is on the horizon, but staffing is a challenge. “People tend to not move,” Bayer says. “They’re comfortable where they are. And the ones who do move, the demands are so high and so they get picked up too quickly.” Bayer is hoping to augment his current nine-person team with more engineers, sales staffers, and customer-support specialists.

Bayer sees massive opportunity for Tellwise in the sales communications market that’s worth billions. “If you think about the amount of wasted productivity in the way that business-to-business communication tools are used, (such as) waiting more than 24 hours for an email response, all that can be easily solved in less than five minutes if you just had the ability to instant message with someone,” he says. “You know they’re online, there’s less friction in the communication, and everything is integrated into the message.”

There are plenty of startups hoping to disrupt email (Slack, anyone?). But by targeting the sales communication niche, and with Tellwise’s recent integration with customer relationship management platform Salesforce, Bayer believes his company’s revenue and profile will dramatically increase in the coming year.