What are the main mistakes start-ups should avoid when building their B2B sales engine?
Here is a short selection of the main points to keep in mind when establishing your B2B sales strategy – By Julie Cadalen, our B2B sales expert
1. Underestimate the importance of data
Data is the first marketing action and the fuel of your commercial engine. There is not point in hiring a team of sales and investing in tools if you don’t start with the basics: a good dataset!
“Cold calling” is largely over in B2B. Outbound call campaigns are no longer launched based on a simple list of contacts. Sales teams need to know who they are calling to better pass the gatekeepers and immediately catch the decision makers attention. And if you count on your salespeople to build their contact lists on their own, simply working on a set of criteria and researching on Linkedin and Google, then you better forget about taking the lead in your market.
Focus your salespeople on the task where they actually add the more value: engage with clients! The more qualitative data they are provided with, the less time they will spend on researching and preparing their initial contact, the quicker they will actually start building a pipeline and converting prospects. No data, no ROI.
Also make sure your salespeople understand that they are the cornerstones to enrich this data as they are the ones able to capture your prospects’ and customers’ feedback.
2. Rush to grow your sales team
When having raised money, many start-ups would think that recruiting in droves is the one option to accelerate the growth. But what’s the point of having a large crew if you haven’t already defined in which direction you want to, and whether the boat will be under sail or under motor?
Defining the market segments you want to tackle shall be one of your first thoughts. Using as much data and analytics as possible, your need to better understand your market potential and choose your key targets. And within those targets, then create a fine segmentation: who are the exact personas, who are the possible gatekeepers (the “no thank-you” people), etc.
The second box to tick is the definition of the ad hoc sales and marketing playbooks for each of these segments. Starting with a very large segment and a single value proposition may be exiting, but B2B buyers tend to expect more and more customized offers and services. The more you make them feel like you are adapting to their needs and offer them an ad hoc sales experience, the better chances you have to convince them.
This is only once you have a clear idea of what the ideal salescycle(s) will be for each of your targeted market segments that you will be able to set your recruitment needs. Because there is not a single sales profile, but a large chunk of it: the Business Development Rep (BDR) who usually focuses on lead qualification and appointment booking, the Inside Sales Rep (ISR) whose role is to generate and convert leads, the Account Based Marketer (ABM) who shall focus on high-value accounts, etc…
Last but not least, make sure you give your salespeople the means to succeed by equipping them with the right tools and by providing them initial and continuous training and coaching!
3. Don’t align marketing and sales
A common mistake when scaling an organization is to build marketing and sales teams in silos, usually setting them different objectives. Too often we hear sales teams complain about marketing leads not being qualified enough, and marketing teams complain about sales not converting the marketing leads.
If you want to grow your business, you cannot afford any misalignment between sales and marketing.
An easy fix to that is to have a unique Sales & Marketing funnel, with common objectives and joint KPIs for both teams. And this doesn’t come without a good communication and collaboration: sales people need to have a say in the marketing content as they are the ones connecting daily with prospects and customers, and they must also commit to collect as much feedback as possible from them to feed the marketing teams.
That being said, even with the best will in the world from both marketing and sales teams, without a properly configured CRM to track the customer engagement from end to end, this will not be possible. Especially in a context where you need to work on both Inbound and Outbound Marketing simultaneously to build a sustainable pipeline with both short-term and long-term opportunities.
4. Don’t anticipate your next move
Another trap that people fall into far too often is to focus on short-term issues and emergencies, to want to go fast, too fast, and to lose sight of the long-term potential. Applied to B2B Go-to-markets, this could result in losing agility to address different segments by creating a too rigid framework, for example a subscription process only applicable to small and medium businesses, while large accounts would require you to fit with more standardized procurement processes. Or by making choices or investments that will not allow for scalabilities in the medium-term, for example when choosing where to open an office and set your sales team.
You should always start small and local, to assess the potential of your business, but think big and global to prepare its future growth.
5. Focus only on new client acquisition
The subscription-based model has become predominant in B2B in the last years, in all industries and for all type of products/services, and has become a must-have for many start-ups. Clients cannot be “locked” anymore for 12-24 months with a company, leading to revenues being less secured. In response to this market evolution, companies tend to invest even more in the new client acquisition, with a prime objective to grow the client database.
But did you know that there is only 5-20% probability of selling to a prospect, while 60% to an existing client? A Customer Success Management approach is crucial to retain and develop your newly registered clients.
It is not enough to acquire new clients, you need to onboard them properly and make sure that they are adopting your product or service the right way, that it actually brings value to their business and that they are aware of it. Listen to your clients and put on your consulting suit. This is how you will identify upsell and cross-sell opportunities and thus develop both their value and their dependence to your business.
Creating a bond is also a good way to retain your clients You shall continuously and proactively engage with them all along their journey: it is not only about how good your product or service is or how cheap it is versus the competition, but also and mostly about how the end-to-end customer experience is. Never forget that switching from your company to another provider can be a no brainer if we relate only to business impacts, but that B2B buyers are individuals before all and that interpersonal matters.
Why outsourcing can help you build a sustainable and scalable B2B sales engine?
We offer B2B Sales and Go-to-Market expertise & delivery, from data generation, analytics, marketing, inside sales, to cash collection and renewal management, always with an industry-specific and omnichannel approach.
Through the right selling processes and end-to-end monitoring, we are able to optimize the productivity and results of B2B Sales teams, and thus achieve higher engagement and conversion rates.
We deliver flexible sales management for startups to support continuous changes in demand as you grow your business and/or need to test and learn on new markets or segments.
Our multilingual B2B sales hubs allow for centralized teams to consistently cover several geographies with top native-speaker talents.