With Terry Arnold, Vice President, Marketing, True Influence
Everyone has a number to hit. After a challenging year of tightened budgets and multiple reforecasts, many B2B marketing and sales teams want to get a jump on booking revenue for this year.
Don’t get me wrong – at True Influence, we are firm believers in a strategic approach to B2B revenue operations. So talking about finding quick wins may sound a little counterintuitive. But this is the real world. Some of your customers may have an unexpected budget they are looking to spend, and your sales reps are always interested in earning that next commission or bonus.
It always comes back to revenue.
Fortunately, if you’ve adopted Account-based Marketing (ABM) and other data-driven B2B sales and marketing strategies, you already have the account and market intelligence you need to identify and accelerate promising sales opportunities. Now it’s just a matter of tweaking your offer and narrowing your focus to the personas that can make a relatively quick purchase call.
In this post, I’ll focus on the most promising source for shortening the sales cycle, your existing customers and first-party SQLs. In my next post, I’ll look at how marketing can find new, and maybe unexpected, quick turnaround opportunities to jump-start the new year.
Optimizing Current Customer Relationships
Your current customers are your best source for faster deals because you have an existing relationship with them. You know their buying patterns and, if your sales reps are on top of the account, you should have a pretty good idea of their budget status. And you also understand the current barriers to closing that next deal.
Here are a few key tactics that sales, customer success, and marketing can engage in today to shorten the sales cycle.
Ask Customers What Would Make a Big Difference in Getting a Jump on Their Results
As I said earlier, everybody has a number to hit. The most compelling pitch you can make to a customer is one that shows an immediate revenue impact or cost savings – it’s really about the low-hanging fruit. This question is most often handled by sales reps, but customer service and marketing can also collaborate on a quick email survey.
Just Go Ahead and Ask Them if They Have Budget
This may seem a bit awkward, but if you have a healthy ongoing relationship with your customer, your sales rep should be able to tactfully ask about buying opportunities for the new year. You should already know what kind of year the customer had last year, which should help you explore current budget levels.
Sweeten the Deal a Little
There’s a balancing act here, to be sure. Position the offer as being mutually beneficial, and as a way to prove the value of further spending for the year. Which is the perfect approach to …
Look for Smart Ways to Upsell
If you have current customers you’ve been pushing toward a new service level or related product, the beginning-of-year is the perfect time to pitch a three-month trial as a smart investment. Any discount you offer is understood to end when you review the results of the trial, and if you make good on your promises, you’ve expanded the customer relationship. I can tell you that we have tremendous success with this approach at True Influence with getting customers to try new data and lead-gen programs. Of course, we believe that our products will quickly prove their value, so that’s a big leg up for us. You can probably find an opportunity for a similar quick-win trial in your own offerings.
Bring in the Big Guns
Don’t be afraid to ask your C-Suite for help closing a deal if you determine that opportunity is there. You don’t want to look desperate, but an executive’s presence on a call can make it clear that you view the deal, particularly a trial of a new product or service, as a real long-term progression in your relationship, and not just a way to book a few dollars.
Use Intent Data to Find Active Influencers, and Give Them a Little Nudge
This is where really understanding your buying group models and ABM strategies pays off. If marketing can use intent data analysis to find key purchase influencers who have helped research previous purchases, it can’t hurt to warm them up with some assets that reinforce the “win now” message sales is pushing to the decision-maker. We’re talking quick reads with big, highlighted numbers that stress the bottom line.
Many of the tactics I just discussed for current customers also apply generally to SQLs, with the obvious exception that you don’t currently have an ingrained customer relationship. In a way, closing deals with SQLs boils down to treating them a little more like a customer and less like a lead. You want to dramatically shorten the sales cycle, and that means escalating your approach and tailoring offers directly to the opportunity.
Focus on the Best Opportunities in Your Sales Pipeline
Time and resources are short, so identify the most promising deals you are currently working on for Q1 2022 and accelerate them. What qualifies as “most promising” varies from company to company, of course. A good touchstone is perhaps any deal you think has a potential conversion rate of 50 percent or better is a good place to start.
Revisit Stalled Deals That Looked Like They Might Close
Review the last two quarters of 2021 and find any promising opportunities that for some reason didn’t convert (other than that they entered a long-term deal with your competition, of course). Get back in touch with these contacts with an offer specifically tailored to address the reason you didn’t close last time. Again, you don’t want to look desperate, but now is a great time to position the offer as “we really want to work with you in the new year, so let’s get started now.”
Look for Accounts That are Exhibiting Purchase Research Activity
One reason a qualified account hasn’t previously closed may be simply because people got busy with other tasks. It happens. If it’s not already part of your sales process, work with marketing to evaluate the purchase intent activity across the account and buying group, not just the individual contacts the sales team is working with. Our Peter Larkin wrote recently about how different research patterns within an account can indicate readiness to buy. Look for category search language and topical research that indicate the account is ready to buy – feature comparisons, pricing, results. Prioritize these opportunities for sales escalation, and probably a little additional support from marketing.
Target Key Decision-Makers with Highly Personalized Content
With a shortened sales cycle, you need to focus most of your resources on the key decision-maker who can sign off on a deal. So you need to be high-touch with these contacts and offer them highly detailed content about why you are the best choice. Again, this basically boils down to moving up content offers that might otherwise be reserved for leave-behinds on a Zoom or field call. It’s a little extra work, but it’s worth it.
Remind the Whole Buying Group Why You are the Right Choice
With an SQL, the decision to work with your company is the real call, and that is going to require at least some group consensus. Again, you can’t wait for your full purchase journey model and nurturing programs to play out. So your best bet is to have marketing offer the entire buying group targeted content assets, even if the workflow says they may not be entirely ready for it. Again, focus on the immediate, demonstrable payoff of your specific offering.
Your Best Opportunities, Accelerated
The tips I’ve discussed in this post are a great starting point for accelerating the best opportunities that are already in your sales pipeline. As you can see, the approach is basically in line with your current ABM practice – you just move with more urgency and focus on the contacts who can make quick purchase calls. In my next post, I’ll look at some ways you can quickly qualify your best marketing leads for sales, as well as find sales opportunities in places where you aren’t currently looking.