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Chuck Ganapathi, founder and CEO of Tact. Courtesy of Tact

Microsoft Is Backing This Voice-Driven Sales Assistant

Dec 12, 2016

Companies spend an enormous sum of money on sales automation and relationship management software, a category that could reach $51.5 billion in revenue by 2020, according to a forecast by Cowen and Co.

But the not-so-secret truth is that many salespeople resent the amount of time it takes to keep these systems manually updated.

That has created a troubling adoption gap: only one-third of companies surveyed by researcher CSO Insights reports that at least 90% of sales employees actively use their prescribed sales management systems consistently. Many sales managers are hard-pressed for ways to get more out of that investment, which, in turn, has inspired a wave of startups selling add-on software to automate some of these administrative tasks.

Tact, a 2-year-old startup founded by former Salesforce (crm) Senior Vice President Chuck Ganapathi, is tapping that ethos with a "conversational" mobile app that uses artificial intelligence to help salespeople interact with their software via voice commands.

The software helps with tasks like alerting a sales rep when a prospect reads an email, or helping puzzle out the logistics of scheduling customer visits. You can think of it as similar to the Cortana or Siri or Alexa voice "assistants," except that it has a specific focus on activities in the sales process.

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"Our goal is to own the salesperson's workflow," Ganapathi told Fortune. "We can connect to every system that their workflow touches."

At least, that's the theory.

Right now, Tact primarily connects with the Salesforce cloud service and LinkedIn, as well as the Microsoft (msft) and Google email services. But on Monday, the Redwood City, Calif., company disclosed a $15 million Series B funding round led by Microsoft Ventures and Upfront Ventures that will be used to extend its support to other applications in 2017, including, as you might expect, Microsoft Dynamics. The infusion brings Tact's total funding to more than $30 million, with Accel Partners and Redpoint Ventures serving as the company's other backers.

Tact currently employs approximately 65 people, and its customers include conglomerate General Electric, staffing firm Kelly Services, and power company AES.

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