There’s often a belief that if you have had a great idea, and you go and build a product, that people will simply recognise that your product is exciting. That means that they should go ahead and buy it, right? Wrong.

As part of your research, there has to be a laser focus on not just the problem that you solve (this needs to be very clear in all communication) but first, what are the likely sectors (and companies within those sectors) that are likely to buy your product?

For example, if you have a piece of construction technology, is it relevant for housing associations, house builders or merchants? Is it just for those in the UK or does it go further afield than this?

Once you have identified the profile of the Target Accounts (even better the specific companies you are going after), then it is time to identify who within those organisations are likely to buy your technology, otherwise known as the Ideal Buyer Persona.

Having an intimate understanding of this person, such as their pains, issues, blockers that your technology could potentially unblock, makes your sales pitch significantly easier.

Once you have your Accounts and Buyers mapped, then you can start looking for contacts. This can be done through different pieces of B2B software (such as Cognism, ZoomInfo, etc.), and then you can start the outreach. Your outreach cadences – i.e. how many times you attempt contact – are going to be governed by where your software sits in the price continuum.

If your market is <£100 per calendar month, so ‘self-serve’, then it can be low touch outreach and it is best done organically.

However, if you are enterprise, say >£10k per calendar month, then the higher CAC (or Customer Acquisition Cost) would be best executed by direct outreach. An example of this could be field reps using phone, email, social media, etc. to get in front of time-poor decision makers.

Across these different approaches there are 4 things you can try when it comes to building out your pipeline:

1) Social Media Engagement

Love it or loathe it, a firm social presence and an engaged one is a must in today’s B2B climate. Being seen as active by sharing, commenting, posting on relevant topics for your buyers personas will create a brand that people feel connected with. Where do your buyers hang out? Which platforms? Become relevant there.

2) Thought Leadership

For example, if your product is technical then creating whitepapers, blogs, articles, etc. can offer valuable and interesting content for your market. You quickly become recognised as someone that is knowledgeable and therefore worth talking to.

3) Virtual Events

These opportunities can come in various formats. You can seek out the chance to be a speaker yourself or can try hosting an event directly. To support this, try setting up an email marketing campaign that drives traffic to the event you are hosting. This can really encourage buyer intent and beyond, plus is a low-cost way of raising awareness.

4) Website Trackers

Quite a tactical suggestion, but there are services like Leadfeeder or Lead Forensics that can add code to your website. This code can track who visits your site so you would be able to set up alerts, meaning that if someone from one of your Target Accounts visits the site, you would get notified.

This would allow you to get the ball rolling because relevance will always beat personalisation in my view.

Using some, a combination or all of these methods allows you to convert those potential customers into your greatest supporters. Another way of looking at those stages is:

Suspects > Prospects > Customers > Fans > Evangelists

Did you know that it is estimated that SaaS businesses have a 20-30% loss in revenue due to operational efficiencies?

To put this in alarming perspective: for a Seed or Series A company, this could mean that if you are running at £20k MRR, this would be reduced to £14k. Your ARR would reduce from a possible £240k ARR to £168k. Very basic maths I appreciate but startling when you think about it!

How to stop this?

Bring in a RevOps person/team to help manage and effect change to this potential revenue loss, and ensure their effectiveness is measured. But how?

By now, and from many other articles I have written, I have clearly defined what RevOps is, it’s purpose and the responsibilities it carries. This article is to focus on how and what gets measured to understand the department’s effectiveness. I am of the view that there are 4 critical metrics:

Value

This is more commonly known as the Average Contract Value (ACV). Taking the pulse of a business and its current ACV is a metric to be very concerned with, as well as how to raise this. This is one of the first ways a business can increase its net profits.

If all customers were to pay 5% extra, when extrapolated across the whole portfolio, what does that actually mean?

Volume

This is the number of deals in the pipeline. There will always need to be a sense check on these deals, especially if net new, to ensure that they align with the ICP of the business (this is something to check in the SDR > AE handover process when producing Sales Accepted Opportunities).

However, this needs to be considered alongside value. For example, the ACV of the deals could have gone from £25k to £15k in between quarters because you had entered a new market, but there are double the amount of deals. Look at these two together, not independently.

Velocity

This is the measure of how much money is flowing through your pipeline on a daily basis. There is a nice formula for working out the velocity:

 

Improving the speed and therefore accelerating the revenue recognition of converting a stranger into a customer is what all SaaS companies are in business to achieve. This metric keeps eyes firmly on the prize.

Conversion rates

Perhaps an obvious one but… this is not just the SQL to Closed Won ratio, but conversion rates of all stages. Understanding how many proposals it takes to get a win, how many demos it takes to get one proposal, and how many discovery calls it takes to get one demo (etc.) is the key to understanding where some efficiency gains can be achieved.

For example, think what the difference to your pipeline could be if you increase your win rate from 25% to 33%.

To define customer experience, it is the sum of all interactions a customer and a company share throughout their working relationship and so not only are there lots of opportunities to wow the customer, there are just as many to disappoint them.

Customers have become more demanding as the decades have progressed. Even in 2020, where the world changed and therefore more and more transactions were completed online, customers want and need support and it gets to a stage with some businesses that without technology, they will not be able to support their customer base, which means unhappy customer experiences and therefore customers taking their business to a competitor.

Customers expect things immediately. Just consider Amazon One-Click – wouldn’t all businesses want to be like that, to offer that kind of service and experience? Admittedly, this is an extreme example of a business that has got it right but at the same time, focussing on the customer and using technology to enhance your service proposition can only be a good thing, so ask yourself these questions:

  1. How available are you? Customers are global and so 9-5 has been extended out to mean 24 hours. If you are not available between 5pm and 9am the next day, your business will be lost. Decision trees/chatbots will be your best friends.
  2. How do you gather feedback and what do you do with it? There are so many tools that can offer end to end analytics, giving you the opportunity to track your buyer’s behaviour. You could also create and distribute pulse surveys as opposed to an old-fashioned DM survey by having a popup on your website asking “How are we doing?”
  3. How self-reliant is your website? Customers who can navigate your website, find what they are looking for with minimal intuition and zero help creates a great customer experience. It also helps loyalty and builds credibility.
  4. What is your AI strategy? AI helps humans provide answers to customers quickly, which improves satisfaction, eventually.
  5. Have you considered VR? This is a bit left-field but if your product or service aligns itself with an immersive experience, then why not? Customers love this way of trialing a product and it helps put them in a mindful state that they are only going to achieve by purchasing your product – Guinness and Tesco did it incredibly effectively and there are no reasons why other businesses cannot follow suit

Companies have to use technology to improve customer experience in today’s buying climate. Where you spot opportunities for automation, scalability and efficiency, leverage technology. Can technology replace humans? My view is no. You have to use technology and humans as a hybrid approach. Get this right, and your customers will forever be coming back.

There are two areas of automation to help a startup grow: customer acquisition and customer support. I’ll focus on the latter, suggesting that if your support is automated as far as possible, the requirement for human beings is scaled back and a more enhanced customer experience is achieved.

The software space offering CX tools is noisy but I have picked out 3 (with one bonus) that I feel achieve what they set out to achieve. The names are recognisable to most, and there will be cheaper options, but the thing to do is understand how the best in class do it. If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, either negotiate or find another vendor who has a similar value proposition (but doesn’t break the bank).

Zendesk

Perhaps the best known in the CX space. Trusted by over 200k customers, Zendesk is the leading cloud-based help desk software built with support agents in mind. All your customer interactions are in a single, dynamic interface with features like web widgets, pre-defined ticket responses, and full customer history.

Get up and running quickly, and expect to see results even faster – on average our customers see ROI after 3 months with Zendesk. Lower support costs, raise productivity and increase customer satisfaction by starting a free trial today.

Survey Monkey

SurveyMonkey Enterprise empowers businesses to capture and act on critical feedback to drive growth and innovation at scale with advanced security and compliance features. Integrate survey feedback with your technology stack to enrich decision-making and automate workflows.

SurveyMonkey’s products, enterprise solutions, and integrations enable more than 335,000 organizations to deliver better customer experiences, increase employee retention and unlock growth and innovation.

Clarabridge

Clarabridge helps you understand and improve your customer’s experience by putting customer feedback to work and claim to be obsessed with delivering innovative customer experiences and contact center solutions. With over a decade of experience in designing and delivering industry-recognized best-in-class text and speech analytics, they have enabled thousands of global brands to transcend from insights to action.

CX crosses different parts of the customer journey and, to optimise your whole CX, you need to consider developing a great post-purchase environment. That involves also linking back to optimising your UX, and so the following tool could help you:

Smartlook

Smartlook is a qualitative analytics solution for web and mobile helping over 300,000 businesses of all sizes and industries answer the whys behind a user’s actions. Why do users churn, or why aren’t they using that feature?

Remove any guessing: always-on visitor recordings and heatmaps show real user behavior, while automatic event tracking and conversion funnels reveal trends in behavior. Not just numbers and graphs, Smartlook tells you why users behave the way they do.

There are many conflicting views on sales forecasting. I read an article in quite a well known online publication that used phrases like “easy to get right” and “guess, art, assume, one person doing it” – all terrible words, suggesting that writing a sales forecast for your business is easy. It’s not, it’s tough but manageable and there are a few considerations.

A sales forecast is a map of where your company aspires to be. It is best reverse engineered, starting with your company goals (ARR, net new logos, products sold, renewals, etc.) and then this plots how you are going to get there. It needs to be thought of as a collaborative document, including those departments who are indirectly affected, like Operations, HR, Finance, etc. because they will use a sales forecast for different reasons.

One person can do a forecast, but better done as part of a team because there are always things even the best CRO/VP of Sales will miss. Everyone needs to buy into this document as well, not just front-line salespeople; there are other considerations like seasonality one should be aware of like December being a short month, the summer being quiet, the tax year in the UK ending in April, etc.

One thing is for sure, your forecast, where possible, needs to use available historical data. Therefore, it is a critical point for those using your CRM to input the correct data on a day/week/month basis. I recommend having data hygiene as a target for each rep going as far as suggesting commission will be held back if data hygiene drops below a certain level – see behaviour change then!

Once you feel you have the data available (if you don’t and it’s a new startup then don’t worry), there are 6 methods of sales forecasting you could choose, most pertinent to your company:

  1. Opportunity stage forecasting – this is where you focus on the percentage likelihood of opportunities closing. Top of the Funnel deals will attract a lower percentage (i.e. 10% likelihood), whereas bottom of funnel deals will attract close to 85-90% chance of closing so your forecast can reflect this
  2. Length of sales cycle forecasting – this looks at the age of the opportunity. So, if you know it typically takes a company 6 months to buy, and the opportunity is 3 months old, it has a 50% chance of closing.
  3. Intuitive forecasting – this is more gut feel and whilst subjective can be a good way of forecasting if your startup is very new.
  4. Historical forecasting – this is where you look at previous months or quarters and assume you are going to match that amount but may add a little bit on top as an aspiration.
  5. Multivariable Analysis forecasting – this is the best way, but the most complicated with the requirement of an advanced analytics system
  6. Pipeline forecasting – this looks at the win rate against the opportunity value per deal, which does work but does take some time.

A sales forecast is important and it takes time. If your new company year starts in April for example, I would start considering this forecasting at the beginning of March to give you time to assess your data set, draw in colleagues and go through some drafts of it before you present it to your board at the start of the new year.

A team can achieve more than an individual. Perhaps too obvious a statement, but it is worth reinforcing because the greatest sales organizations have not only hired the right people, but they have retained them within an environment that encourages risk-taking, rewards performance and is a safe place to not be afraid to fail. So how do you foster this? I feel you can break it down into 5 areas (in no particular order):

  1. Focus on the individual: every person is different and might be at different stages of their career. Some may be fresh out of school or college and it is their first entry-level sales role, or, you may have seasoned AEs joining with 5+ years of experience under their belt. Either way, it is working with that individual directly, understanding what motivates them, and making the link between activity levels going up leads to results going up, meaning rewards go up. Understanding what motivates them, what they are working towards, will reveal this.
  2. Have an effective onboarding process: now, more than ever, a well thought out and detailed onboarding process for new recruits in a remote environment can be the difference between “up for the challenge” and “I’m going to look elsewhere”. This isn’t just the first week, but the first few months working with the individuals until they get to their full pipe, or time to get a second deal.
  3. Incentive plans: this isn’t simply what the base commission scheme is (although very important) it is also considering Named Accounts, Territory Splits, Industry splits (if relevant), Accelerators, Referral incentives and other ways of rewarding salespeople for bringing in new business.
  4. Well defined hiring criteria: so many businesses will clamour that they have a great sales culture and ask for gurus/rockstars/jedis to join their business (don’t ever use these terms in your job adverts by the way) but you have to hire against that criteria. You don’t have to have all the finished articles in the right seats. That is the beauty of sales. You can take an individual who initially isn’t as competent but very quickly grows, matures and develops into a top performer and that is the person you want on your team.
  5. Coaching and mentoring: as a leader, this may sound simplistic but ongoing coaching and mentoring i.e. listening back to reps calls, being involved in strategic discussions they may be nervous about, offering advice on an ongoing business to nurture this talent is not only empowering for the individual because they can see results coming as a result of this mentorship but it sets your team up for success by having extremely strong foundations on which to hire more great talent!

The Sales enablement space is growing all the time with new entrants coming into the market, snapping at the heels of the bigger, more established players in the market. I am going to discuss 4 here, trying to offer some guidance on which are best depending on your type of business.

If you’re an SMB, try HubSpot Sales Hub 

HubSpot started life as inbound specialists. They have grown to such an extent that they have managed to take some market share off the bigger CRM juggernauts, Salesforce and Microsoft. They have designed their UX so that you can very often find what you need and their Academy is stacked full of great content for how to be more effective in sales. If you need a helping hand in how to create content, how to schedule its release and the types of content you should be publishing to help drive traffic into your funnels, HubSpot should be your go-to option. One particular feature I like is the Customer Service/post-sales support you get, being replied to very quickly and efficiently.

If you’re MM, try Outreach or Mindtickle

Both great tools, and both have the feature of live presentations i.e. if a new figure was released by the company and you wanted to update all decks of all your field reps, a marketeer at central HQ could update the main document and this change would propagate to all field reps. Both softwares have a slightly different, slightly clunky website but once you are over this slight issue from a CX point of view, both platforms are very good.

If you’re an Enterprise, try Seismic

Seismic are one of the bigger players in this sales enablement space and have attained impressive market capture. Their big thing is being able to produce sales enablement strategies at scale, ensuring that all content is updated and circulated to enable reps to concentrate on selling.

There are other softwares one could have a look at but the decision should be made taking note of the type of companies the above work with and what works for you and your business. Another important aspect is to check the software you selected integrates with your CRM via open API or if you have to use an integrator like Tray.io.

Sales enablement and its associated technologies is here to stay which I only see as a positive. The more reps can do (i.e. close more deals) with less content, or needing to search for the right content but are unable to stumble across it is a pain point that all of these vendors are looking to solve and your decision on which vendor to go with should revolve around how large of a business are you and what strategic initiative you are trying to achieve.

There are going to be different conversations occurring between C-level when figuring out how to structure and align sales teams. I am going to focus on 3 different but very common sales organisations, a number of which I have seen all work very effectively, not just at the startup level but up to Enterprise too.

Account Based 

This is where you split your team into those serving SMB, Mid-Market and Enterprise customers

Pros: there is a clear definition of who looks after what and you are not limited by industry. You are able to cross-pollinate between industries and are not hindered by one salesperson looking after Financial Services, the other looking after Utilities for example.

Cons: it can get hard to manage resources and it requires a lot of communication and collaboration between all team members which is tough to manage.

Product Based 

This is where you split your team into focussing on particular products for your business and they sell those products into business regardless of size or industry

Pros: the expertise in each product is adopted very quickly and deeply because the salespeople understand the product inside and out.

Cons: with this, there is the danger of salespeople focusing on features and benefits as opposed to the best solution for the customer so it has to be managed very carefully.

Territory/Geography Based 

This is where you split your respective country into different territories or regions and assign a rep to each territory.

Pros: the reps gain a very good rapport with their territory because they spend a lot of time there and understand the nuances of the region as well as being very accustomed at how to get around/accents etc

Cons: the danger is that this structure can encourage working in silos which is something you don’t want. There is also the very highly likely incident where some areas are more profitable than others (if you are in the UK, consider comparing the South East and the North East for example) which makes it harder to manage.

Like everything, the sales organisation that you choose has to represent what your overarching sales strategy is and how you want to take your product or service to market. Also, just because you have tried one organisational structure, doesn’t mean you can’t try another – after all, startups are agile and nimble!

Sales technology grows at a rate of knots. There are some serious standalone applications and services that can transform your business and can automate your whole operation. I have broken down what I feel are some useful tech’s to consider into 4 major categories: Prospecting, Opportunity Management, Proposals and Customer Success – or the whole customer journey if you will.

Prospecting

Perhaps the salespersons least favourite part of the job but right now, even more necessary. Let us assume that you have nailed your ICP and you have some customers, then look at ocean.io as a way to unlock data from your CRM. It will use its algo to group similar companies together based on what that company says they do on their website. Next up, LinkedIn Sales Navigator is clearly a great resource. It really does help your efforts.

Opportunity Management

Video is a great way to engage prospects. Vidyard enables you to incorporate video into your prospecting efforts, be hyper personalised and humanise you in the eyes of your prospect. Next up is Hubspot Sales Hub which creates a great kanban interface for you to maintain deal velocity by understanding where deals are stalling and the ability to diagnose where problems and their solutions may lie to keep deals moving.

Proposals

Betterproposals.io is a great service that has recently undergone a facelift. An easy way to create nice looking proposals that integrate with Hubspot and keep everything up to date. Panda Doc is also a good option for those wanting to create great looking proposals that can be hyper personalised which is what we all want.

Customer Success 

Grid is an Icelandic company that helps you create beautiful (their words!) web documents from Excel spreadsheets; let’s face it, Excel spreadsheets are dull to look at but the info is interesting. This is a way of making it less dull to go through. Asana is a great project management tool which can be used in place of an Account Plan. If you have QBRs with your customer or End of Year reviews this is a great way of tracking your customers goals and helping them break them down into actionable steps at how they are going to achieve their goals.

Bonus Category – Integration

Some of these techs stack together to create your workflow. However, some don’t. This is where you are going to need a few tools to help. Zapier links everything together without the need of an API. Very cool and great for automation. Tray.io also does something similar but is a little more techy and for architects who really want to get under the hood, this is something to consider.

Your sales technology stack is going to be limited by how each piece of technology communicates with each other. If they are not open API based, try an integrator. A relatively inexpensive way to get you that coveted process of all mundane and manual processes automated with only a peppering of human interaction when required.

You may have heard of Sales Operations before. Perhaps uttered in the same breath as Sales Enablement which focuses on the tech and equipment salespeople need to help them sell better? Great companies like Seismic are crushing it in the sales enablement space, as are many others. But what about its slightly more mysterious cousin, Revenue Operations? Why is this important and how is it different?

Sales Ops considers CRM engagement and other sales tech stacks to make the salesperson’s job easier. But RevOps looks at the whole customer journey and looks at ways that efficiency and effectiveness can be achieved across Marketing, Sales and Customer Success. From the Awareness stage all the way through to the Renewal stage, RevOps purpose is to increase pipeline throughput and sales velocity by taking a data-drive approach.

RevOps is there to de-silo these 3 departments and in a world where businesses are always striving to be better and offer a great customer experience, RevOps can give you this intelligence into the real value of a customer from when they first visited your site, to what content they engaged with, to how many activities it took to close them, how happy they are, to what other products did they buy from you etc, etc. The clear advantage of this function is that it enables strategic decisions around Go-To-Market to be made with a data underpin which in today’s competitive landscape is an absolute must.

There are some similarities between Sales Ops and RevOps. What is right for your company is going to depend on the size, lifecycle and age of the company but let me put it this way. RevOps gives you full visibility across your entire business and it brings together Marketing, Sales and Customer Success in order to reduce friction, increase collaboration and ultimately, increase revenue. According to Hubspot, 78% of B2B tech companies struggle with the problem of consistent revenue growth. Get this RevOps in place, you could be one of the 22% that really make it!