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Sales Development, Sales Process, Sustainable Growth

7 Key Challenges for 2017 voiced by 24 Start Up CEOs

Jacco van der Kooij

Written by Jacco van der Kooij

Founder, Winning by Design


Late January 2017 we invited a group of Storm CxOs to participate in a conversation around the challenges they are anticipating for 2017.

group of Sstorm cxos

Key Challenges in 2017

As part of this process we started with a short workshop in which attendees teamed up to identify 2–3 key challenges for 2017. These were the key issues:

Q1: How to develop more/faster top of funnel?

Q2: How to get to the right decision maker?

Q3: With limited resources — how do we identify the right market to go after?

Q4: How do we measure success?

Q5: Customer are not in a hurry — How can we inject a sense of urgency?

Q6: Continued pressure on discount — Any advice on a pricing strategy?

Q7: A noisy market that is getting nosier! — How to stand out in 2017?

Most of these issues are no surprise. However what does stand out is that people across verticals such as Healthcare, Human Resources, IT Infrastructure and Security all experienced the exact same issues!

At Winning By Design we believe this stems from companies using the exact same andrapidly failing sales approach. It is as if all companies are still going back to the same well. And the well has run dry.

rapidly failing sales approach

Advice for success in 2017

#1 Customer Centric Selling — Prospective customers time and time voice clearly and loudly that they do not want to be sold, and treated as a trophy with a bonus on their head.

The role of your sales organization is to assist a customer through the buying process by diagnosing and providing the information that allows your customers to make the right trade-off.

customers demand a series of great experiences

Figure 1: Customers demand a series of great experiences

Thus organizations have to rethink how they approach a prospective customer

  • Customers hate to be Qualified! As a provider you want to see if the customer is worth your time. This sets of strong emotional feelings of discrimination. Why? Because this is a one-sided process in which the customer gains nothing. You have to rethink that process so that the customer gains value out of your diagnose. For example help them establish the Impact on their business. Use that as yourqualification.
  • Assisting the customer. When a customer promises you a P/O by Monday — Don’t call on Tuesday to ask Where is my purchase order?. Instead ask Are we still on track to hit your date?
  • Please don’t Close your customer! Both of you Commit to a plan that helps achieve success. Ahum…Both of you. This commit needs to be clearly spelled out as a two-way agreement.
  • There is no discount in SaaS. Many providers believe they need to offer a discount to get a customer to commit. Instead think of this as trading in which you receive something in return of equal/bigger value to you. Imagine the impact of 20% churn on your business… well if you give 20% discount you just churned 20%! Learn to trade and have a list of items to trade ready.

#2 Use of Impact and Critical Event: For decades we have used BANT(TM) as a way to qualify/measure a deal. Sales specialist all agree this is a completely outdated. Today we recommend companies to focus on two key areas:

  • Impact. There are two kinds of impact; Emotional impact such as making a promotion, and a rational impact such as improved RoI. Understanding Impact requires understanding on the business of a client. Often this falls well beyond the skill set of most Sales Development Reps who disqualify a deal on Need (outer layer). This requires training, practice and drilling.

it can take up to 7 questions to identify the real impact

Figure 2: It can take up to 7 questions to identify the real impact.

  • Critical Event —Your sales team needs to learn that priority is a function of time. To determine priority they need to know if there is an event on the horizon that drives the sense of urgency. As you see in the picture below, #4 is one of the ideal moments to help a customer as they experienced the pain of not having a solution before. Even more so than #2. During #2 the client never experienced the pain before and did not anticipate this to become a MUST HAVE. This requires your sales professionals to help a customer “look back” first before they look “forward”.

Priority is not static. It changes over time.

Figure 3: Priority is not static. It changes over time.

Answers to the questions raised

Based on these insights we now go back to the questions raised in the hope to provide a satisfactory answer to some of them.

Q1: How to develop top of funnel/DemandGen.

A1: Focus on customers who have gone through a past event, and whose business you can impact. Dominique Levin provided a separate write-up on this (Calculate. Don’t Guess.)

Q2: How to get to the right decision maker.

A2: Focus on asking your client if they have “bought a solution like this before”, if they have “ask what was the process”. If they say no — ask “who has?”

Q3: How do we identify the right markets.

A3: Focus on markets with past events such, and on whose business you can make the biggest impact.

Q4: How do we measure success.

A4: Measure the Impact your product has created on a customer’s business, e.g. revenue up, cost down, or improved customer experience. Or emotional impact: At Verisign they measured how many CISOs were Verisign graduates.

Q5: How to inject a sense of urgency.

A5: If a customer says I need this by x/y. Ask “What happens if you miss that date”. If nothing it means this is likely not going to happen. Alternatively you are identifying Impact “We will miss our targets” or “I will get fired.” Once you found a critical event go after similar customers who experience the same event!

Q6: How to develop a stronger pricing strategy.

A6: Don’t focus on price, focus on identifying the impact you make on a customers business. Be maniacal about asking your customers all the time about this.

Q7: How do we stand out in 2017.

A7: In a noisy digital world, consider your sales team, and the way they communicate with your clients the #1 USP of your company. Make the way they communicate stand-out; use of video, personalized snail mail messages etc.

Learn more?

The team at Winning By Design frequently shares gained insights and best practices at events in San Francisco, Atlanta, Dublin, Amsterdam, Sydney, and we do online events as well. If you want to join the conversation we love to hear from you.

Winning By DesignThank you

A big thank you to Tae Hea Nahm, Ryan Floyd and the team at Storm Ventures to facilitate these conversations with the aim to raise awareness on the transformation of sales.

Dominique and Jacco