B2B Sales has never been more complex, but three core processes remain vital for Tech Start-ups to generate consistent & sustainable revenue…
In 1964, when sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke predicted the emergence of the internet, he displayed remarkable prescience about how advancements in communication would shape the world of work. Absent from his prophecy is just how complicated doing business in 2022 would turn out to be. Clarke’s famous BBC interview may not have been quite as compelling had it focussed on “B2B Sales of the future”, but he’d have saved today’s tech start-ups quite the headache.
Thankfully for tech founders, we’re here 58 years later to provide some guidance about the current state of play for B2B sales. This article explains:
- How the B2B Customer Buying Journey has changed over the last decade
- Which three fundamental processes you still need to get right for your tech start-up to grow
- Steps that your start-up can take to ensure that these processes are followed
Tech Start-ups Today
Sales For Startups’ research tells us that in today’s fast-paced & dynamic tech start-up industry, most B2B companies operate a total of 24 core business processes. These span everything from Finance through to Research & Development. Before you begin a mental count of all that’s taking place in your organisation, rest assured that no start-up has everything nailed down perfectly.
The majority of consultancy work that we provide clients, focuses on implementing & improving all 10 of the commercial processes that directly impact how B2B tech start-ups:
- Build predictable revenue
- Deliver value to clients
- Generate future investment
B2B Sales Fundamentals: Lead, Sales & Nurture
The successful execution of these commercial processes will ultimately dictate the potential for your company to grow. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are a number of fundamental processes that are vital to get right. In particular the three covered in this article have been imperative to driving business growth since the dawn of time:
- Lead generation
- Sales activity
- Nurture client relationships
“Without these three essential ingredients, no tech start-up can scale to their full potential” – James Ker-Reid, CEO – Sales For Startups.
So in spite of their importance, why are so many start-up founders today finding that the task of effectively implementing Lead, Sales & Nurture processes into their B2B sales strategy is more difficult than ever before?
Evolution of the B2B Sales & Buying Processes
As the internet has evolved (especially over the last decade), the same advancements in technology & infrastructure that have generated a wave of opportunity for new tech start-ups to ride, have also created a fiercely competitive environment.
B2B Sales: A Buyers Market
With more tech start-ups launching than at any other time, buyers find themselves with more choice than ever before. Customers are also able to switch technology partners more freely; no longer wedded to providers by lengthy contracts or costly investment, as was the norm in the pre-SaaS days.
Factoring in the vast sums of cash in the tech start-up space & the presence of Big Tech, gone are the days when founders could rely solely on the strength of their product to gain a competitive edge. While none of this will be news to you, it’s all too easy to overlook the impact that rapid developments have had on how you sell to your customers.
The Impact On B2B Sales
Back in the good old days (before Tim Cook & Mark Zuckerberg ruled the world), B2B sales was both a simple & linear affair:
Ten years ago, implementing Lead, Sales & Nurture processes into your B2B sales strategy would have been straightforward. Chiefly because: Lead, Sales & Nurture processes would have been your entire B2B sales strategy.
But tech start-ups are now vying for attention in an ecosystem where their customers are more connected than ever. The decision makers that you speak to have never had so much information at their fingertips; & much of it will be distracting or contradictory to what you are telling them.
In its 2019 CSO Update Report, US research company Gartner proposes that “The single biggest challenge of selling today is not selling, it is actually our customers’ struggle to buy.” You can get a sense of what they mean by this in the diagram below:
If it seems complex, that’s because it is. One of the foundations on which we’ve built a successful consultancy business, is our expertise navigating the B2B sales maze of misalignment, conflicting data & feedback loops. We’ve now helped c.70 tech start-ups between Seed to Series A funding rounds, cut through the noise & get their message across clearly, to the right people.
Whether you’re aiming for Unicorn growth or shoring up your existing revenue streams, building a bulletproof B2B sales strategy to get ahead of the competition won’t happen overnight. Incorporating Lead, Sales & Nurture processes & executing them effectively will require thorough planning.
As one of the greatest ever technical innovators, Alexander Bell once said: “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”.
To help with this, we’ve pointed out some of the immediate actions that your B2B tech start-up should be taking:
B2B Sales Actions
Below, we’ve pooled together some important steps that many tech start-up founders overlook when growing B2B sales:
- What problem does your product help customers to solve?
- Your clients will only consider investing in a new solution that solves a clear & pressing challenge
- Make sure that this is clearly defined in all of your client B2B sales messaging
- Buyers will undertake a rigorous discovery process to find the best fit for their requirements
- Unless you operate in a specialised niche, it’s unlikely that prospects will even know your company name
- During their research, customers will be exposed to huge amounts of content: Whitepapers, Blog Posts, Online Ads, Competitor Websites & more…
- List all of the steps that your prospective clients take before engaging with you
- How can you ensure that customers hear your message as soon as possible?
- How does it simplify their decision making?
- Are you currently doing enough to advance past Discovery in the B2B sales process?
- Most customers will engage directly with competitors & other third parties: taking part in sales calls & email chains, attending meetings, webinars & events
- How can you simplify the buying journey early on for your clients?
- Align your sales & marketing efforts to deliver consistent messaging at every stage
- Provide concise & trustworthy information about how your product can help them throughout
- Be present in as much of the process as possible
Set Clear Goals (Lead / Sales / Nurture)
- Ensure that all of your Lead, Sales & Nurture processes are outcome driven. These could include:
- Improving customer experience
- Increasing spend
- Driving referrals
- Ensuring reactivations to drive ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue)
- Does your team (Sales, Marketing, Product, Onboarding & Customer Success) know what these outcomes are?
- Are they focused on these?
- Kim Atherton, CEO & Co-Founder of just3things, advocates using OKRs (Outcome & Key Results)
- She emphasises that “any company can become customer-centric if they take a shift from output to outcome seriously”. Discover how by:
Create a single source of Truth (Lead / Sales / Nurture)
- With so many customer touchpoints, it can be challenging to keep track of just one prospect
- As your business scales & you work on multiple opportunities at different stages, this problem quickly becomes magnified
- If you struggle under mountains of email threads & spreadsheets you are missing out on new opportunities & buying signals from prospects
- Implement a CRM that all client facing staff can access & update
- Our preferred CRM Partner is HubSpot. But whichever platform you choose, ensure that it is:
- Cost effective, quick & straightforward to implement
- Accessible for all of your team & easy to use
- Has solid reporting capability
- Capable of automated workflows
Plan Effective Workflows (Lead / Sales / Nurture)
- Updating your CRM shouldn’t be a box ticking exercise
- Plan consistent workflows that are triggered by events
- James Ker-Reid discusses some of these triggers in his recent webinar, WCIT Entrepreneurship Panel. These could include:
- Lifecycle Stage changes
- Loss Reason triggers
- Form Submission
- Event Attendance
- Page View(s)
- Social Media interactions
- Additional reading suggestions
- Internal capacity
Empathise with your Clients (Nurture)
- Take a step back & put yourself in the buyer’s shoes
- What are your prospects & clients thinking at each step of the Customer Buying Journey?
- It’s easy to assume what your clients are feeling. James explains this in the WCIT webinar, using “The 5 Keys”:
- Expressed Interest = This might help
- Discovery Call = Tell me a bit more
- Problem Fit = Is this who & what we want
- Solution Presentation = Will this work for us & is it a priority
- Closed / Won = Let’s get started
Review (Lead / Sales / Nurture)
- What Lead, Sales & Nurture processes do you currently have in place?
- Are they linear, or do they factor across the multiple stages of the Customer Buying Journey?
A Quick B2B Sales Summary
The steps included in this article aren’t a definitive plan to reach a $bn valuation. But, by following them, you’ll be on your way to incorporating Lead, Sales & Nurture processes as part of your overall B2B sales strategy. This will give your tech start-up the best chance of generating consistent & sustainable revenue, leading to growth.
For more B2B sales Advice, Information & Networking…
- For more advice on how to put these steps in place, why not Book A Call with us?
- You can also find articles, webinars & other useful resources about how to grow your tech start-up on our Insights Page
- For a better understanding of OKRs & planning for growth sign up to our next Founder Fireside Chat on 28th Jan with guest Kim Atherton, Co-founder & CEO of just3things
- If you’re a tech start-up Founder & you’re interested in collaborating, networking, sharing ideas & accessing exclusive resources, apply to join our new community: The Founders Collective on LinkedIn