This series on mastering ‘B2B Sales for Startup Founders’ is authored by Himanshu Goel who has 30+ years experience in creating & executing business and sales strategy for Motorola, IBM, Microsoft & Cisco. Himanshu is also an active angel investor on the LetsVenture platform and a mentor to startups. His latest adventure was a self-driving expedition to the Mt. Everest Base camp!
In Part 1 we addressed how you can arrive at your sales strategy & build your very first sales team!
In Part 2 we get into B2B Marketing and explore why the two can’t be divorced from each other.
Marketing assumes a completely different flavour in a B2B scenario. It’s still all about reaching the right audience to increase their mindshare and developing a good pipeline but if done right, achieving a great measurable Return on Investment (RoI) from B2B marketing is relatively easier than in B2C businesses.
#1 | Customer segmentation
The first step is segmenting the customer. For B2B marketing purposes, it is the size of customer that will impact your decision on what strategy to deploy. A simple “small, medium & large” is a good start.
#2 | Account based marketing
Marketing keeping in mind a specific large customer is very effective. Some of the activities to consider are:
- Organising tech day at the customer’s premise to impart new skills to their employees (their HR can be helpful)
- Seeking views / endorsement of a customer’s customer
- Developing customised presentations
- Developing business case or the RoI for your customer
- Joining customer analyst conferences
- Reading a customer’s quarter / annual results and arriving at a fine tuned message for them
- Creating quick and impactful Proof of Concept (PoC) to be used by sales is also a great marketing activity
#3 | Inside Sales / Webinars / Reseller Training & Engagement
These work well for “medium touch” customers. Organising reseller trainings, RoI tools, canned presentations, deputing pre-sales single point of contact (SPOC) or even a dedicated e-mail ID with defined turn around time (TAT), Service-level agreements (SLAs), proposal templates, product collateral are most helpful.
For “no touch” customers organising regular 30-45 minute webinars for resellers and customers alike, search engine optimisation, interactive website with active reseller database, an effective inside sales engine (*Inside sales as described here is a team of tele-sellers who sell to resellers and customers over phone) with impactful phone / email scripts to support the resellers and customers is most helpful. Periodic incentive schemes detailed during webinars for resellers is also a good tool to use when pipeline enhancement is required.
#4 | Case study inventories & speaking at events
Most business customers are quite inquisitive about the offerings impact on other organisations and so writing and keeping inventory of case studies is most useful. Creating a steady pipeline of events where subject matter experts or CXOs from your organisation can speak is also impactful in pipeline generation and increasing mindshare. Whether it’s a LinkedIn post or an article in a magazine or online publication, it goes a long way in creating a pipeline and increasing mindshare.
#5 | Partnerships
Scouting for partnerships with other organisations to create new offerings or complement each other’s products or simply a joint go-to-market (GTM) to each other’s customer base is a great idea for creating additional pipeline. However, do take care to understand each other’s value systems and ensure that there is a fundamental alignment right at the start. Irrespective, I strongly recommend that marketing should look for such partnerships. Some years back we partnered with a large marquee organisation to chase big deals together and landed a INR 200+ crore a year contract as lead.
#6 | Regulatory interface
If relevant, a marketing interface to influence policies & specifications and be a liaison between regulators and the product team can at times be very impactful. This also helps in creating new products or offerings for the market segment.
#7 | Attending events
Finally, after 3 years of hard work, fundraising, several wins and accolades you are participating in an industry event – you will have a stall, get listed in event ads, get a seat on that panel too. Wow, you have arrived. But how do you measure the success of the event for you? Number of meetings, visiting cards collected, photographs appearing in magazines? While these are all important things to achieve, in my opinion, the main target from such events should be – pipeline!
To get the maximum benefit from attending industry events or exhibition you must generate a good pipeline. And generating a good pipeline takes a lot of hard work and preparation; it’s not good enough to just ‘be there’.
Some of what is required is as follows:
- Choosing the right event: For every industry or subject there would be choice of many events and choosing the one which will lead to maximum interaction with potential customers and influencers
- Preparation for the event: It typically takes 3-4 months of preparation to make these events successful for a participant. Stall location & design, reaching out to potential customers and requests for meetings, collateral & souvenirs for distribution, advertising & PR for the event, micro website for the event, etc are some of the major activities
- Event participation: During the event, the crucial activities are selecting the right folks from within the organisation to represent you, reaching out to potential customers, sending reminders for meetings, ensuring the right people attend those meeting, capturing the minutes of meetings and then assigning the follow-up of the meeting.
- Post event: Sending out thank you notes to all customers, reaching out and scheduling follow-up meetings, capturing all the meetings and follow-up actions into your CRM. A pipeline of 15-20x of the event cost is a good figure to chase from each of these events.
Marketing > < Sales
All of the above will be of no use unless sales & marketing work in close partnership. Often they are at logger heads and this is counter-productive. The key role of marketing is to help build out the pipeline and the role of sales is to engage and close deals from that pipeline. PERIOD. To achieve this, founders can have:
- Single Team: Sales & marketing teams report to one person OR create a position of Chief Revenue Officer to whom all customer facing roles report
- Joint Go To Market: Tie the teams together in a smart incentive program
That’s it in Part 2 – if you have any questions, our comments section is open. Also watch out for our webinar with Himanshu, that’s coming soon!
In Part 3 of this B2B Sales Playbook for Startups we will be focusing on ‘Creating & Working Your Sales Pipeline Effectively’.