How B2B Tech Companies Can Get Revenue
If you need short-term results, e.g., revenue, don’t assume that the key is capturing more demand. This strategy is becoming less effective, and it’s a way to burn precious resources. Focus on creating demand where you can get near-term wins. The buyer’s journey cannot be “bent to our will.” If you cannot map out the process that buyers in your market follow, you may be investing in programs that will not work. Get expert guidance by talking with your customers and prospects and asking crucial questions to improve your marketing and sales effectiveness.
Go-to-market today starts with outlining the sales activities and supporting marketing efforts that you control, and you have high confidence that you’ll get the desired output. Simply saying, “we need to put more focus on sales” is not enough. Just as the mantra, “we need to hire more salespeople,” may not produce the revenue and results you seek.
How to win in today’s market.
Listen to my podcast interview about what is working in B2B marketing today.
Getting short-term results requires more than doubling down on a particular activity or strategy or working harder by adding resources (people).
With the ubiquity of solutions and comprehensive technology available in today’s market, the customer already has a working solution in many cases. In short, they don’t “have a need” for what we sell. We can make a case for how our product or solution/technology improves their life, reduce costs, or delivers some other tangible benefit, but the reality is that what they have isn’t broken. I did an interview on the Let’s Talk Sales Podcast about why buyers hold the power today; it’s an important interview to listen to and digest.
Many go-to-market and marketing strategies get jammed because of the following:
1. Exclusive focus on finding customers who have an immediate need which translates to “get us more leads” activities for marketing teams, leading to SDRs and AEs calling people who don’t want to be sold and who may not qualify to be a customer. It’s a classic capture demand modus operandi, and capturing demand is expensive in today’s B2B market. Further, it doesn’t work when an ecosystem is oversaturated with similar offers and solutions.
Don’t believe me? See the implosion of company valuations where highly funded startups were built on the idea that they will invest $2-3 to generate $1 of revenue to drive valuation for the next round, which one day will lead to the company exiting as a Unicorn. It never was a viable model, and yet, it’s like everyone forgot that the goal of a business is to produce profit sustainably.
Finally, for those customers we uncover in the market, odds are they won’t or cannot qualify for our offer either based on a lack of ability to integrate the technology, inappropriate budget, or some other constraint that is not easily solved.
2. Assumption that we can bend the buying process to meet our needs (this is vendor focused and not buyer centric). It’s a common pitfall for teams selling into ecosystems with no significant domain knowledge.
This interview will be helpful for additional context.
In my years of working with startup founders and building technology companies, I have seen many better solutions fail commercially over this one issue. No technology, service, or platform is so transformational that it can modify the buying structure and power lines for how technology and product decisions are made. My Jobs to be Done interview is an excellent place to start if you are trying to understand where to go from conventional thinking. (hint, they don’t teach this stuff in business school)
For companies selling anything that is even slightly outside of a clearly defined existing buying process (e.g., unless you are selling a commodity, you most likely fit here), you will want to invest in building relationships with actual users to understand how they approach making decisions.
Here are a few things that you want to learn:
Do they have a regular buying cycle? Ask what their last buying process was.
Do they perform periodic reviews of possible solutions, or do they wait until there is a specific need? If yes, what “needs” will drive a review?
Who is on the buying committee? Who makes the final decision (this one is always surprising and yet critical to know)?
Is there any single feature or problem/solution that would be so valuable or strategic that it could interrupt an existing process? e.g., cause them to make a buying decision out of cycle or enable a less established vendor or technology to be a viable consideration.
The Go-To-Market Framework for Results Now.
Rather than double down on promotional, marketing, and sales efforts, the most effective framework to produce results now is to focus on the process that creates new customers. The CMO and CRO thinking and strategy must be integrated as the diffusion of the buying journey have elongated buying cycles, making it harder for all but the most pedestrian self-serve SaaS product to operate in a clear-cut funnel or sales process. The framework I outline requires sales and marketing outputs, meaning these are not siloed activities.
How to get revenue now begins with the following questions and, more importantly, executing the activities associated with each:
1) What are the selling motions and associated activities we can control?
Though we are in control of everything that our sales team does, there are certain things that we cannot control, and thus, we must carefully analyze the impact of shifting (going away). For example, for many enterprise sales orgs, before 2020, events made up more than half of their marketing and sales activities and strategies. With the pandemic, webinars and virtual events became the only mechanism available to replace in-person events. Yet, not all companies even today have pivoted to virtual meetings and events. Consider what sales activities you control and whether you are executing well on each.
2) What number of sales activities do we need to perform to meet our objectives?
It’s essential to quantify the actual units of output that our sellers need to deliver the revenue and business results. We also must know how frequently to perform the specific activities. Without this level of abstraction, we can apply selling resources to the wrong areas. Many growth-stage companies have failed because they didn’t correctly model the resources required.
3) Do we know our core sales and marketing funnel?
Though I make the case that the traditional sales funnel is dead, I am not saying that there is no process that we should follow and that we cannot track the stages that our prospects align with to make a buying decision. Rather than directing our marketing team to run more ads or the sales team to make more calls, it is more effective to guide them around a specific activity to get the desired output. In this interview, I outlined a playbook for building a market.
4) What changes if we fall behind on our outputs?
Goals represent the outcomes, and systems represent the workflow needed to achieve the desired result. Especially important is controlling what is in our grasp. We cannot guarantee five new customers for this period, but we can guarantee the activities necessary for the highest chance at the desired outcome.
Check out my blog post on the Wartime CMO if you want to read more about how to engineer your go-to-market to win in today’s challenging business environment.