High-tech start-ups are targeting large enterprises to fuel faster growth
In my recent interactions with colleagues and prospects in B2B high-tech, I am seeing a couple of emerging trends. One of these trends is “born in the cloud” companies that are experiencing impressive double-digit growth and doing so almost exclusively from inbound marketing and expansion of revenue in existing customers from robust investment in a customer success model. As a result of this growth, these companies are being rewarded with additional rounds of funding. Along with this new infusion of money come expectations for predictable and sustainable growth.
Aggressive Growth Objectives
The other trend I am seeing is that a significant number of these companies realize they need to transition from a “our processes have been good enough so far” mentality to implementing “professional grade” models and operations mindset to support the new and aggressive growth objectives put forth by senior management and their new financial backers.
One department that gets a lot of the new attention is the sales development team (inside sales, business development, outbound sales, etc.). These companies typically have robust inbound teams and a fledgling group focused on outbound prospecting. In most cases, these companies have been focused on SMB. and/or mid-market companies but have been newly tasked with going upmarket to large enterprises (to get bigger deal sizes and lifetime values, etc.) – while doing it in a predictable and scalable manner.
Account Based Outreach is a Successful Model
To help support the effort of this new emphasis on larger enterprises, some of these companies turn to account-based marketing (ABM). Most of us have heard about ABM and its importance, but there is another complimentary model, account-based outreach (ABO), where SDRs initiate outreach but use explicit and implicit information about target accounts, without losing sight of relevant industry and solution-based information/insights. This process is being touted as one of the most successful methods to generate qualified leads/appointments by many experts in the field of inside sales.
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There is a lot of overlap with traditional ABM regarding the successes and pitfalls that I will not get into here, but I will share a few tidbits that I have seen work at my prior companies and recent clients:
- Territory – Most B2B start-ups will deploy their outside salespeople in geographic clusters. That said, accounts in the Northeast (NE) part of the U.S. will be very different than ones in Southern California. NE SDRs will have to be very familiar with financial services and pharma vs. media and entertainment companies located in the LA area – two groupings of very different industries with very different problems and personas. It would be a good idea to train SDRs on the key topics of interest and then focus on the largest accounts in each of those segments.
- Alignment – The most successful SDR teams are the ones that align the same way their receiving organizations (sales) are deployed. An SDR should be considered and treated as a member of that team and be included on weekly/monthly sales team meetings. At a prior company, I encouraged SDRs to spend their time with the supported sales team during annual sales kickoffs – we had no official events or rooms scheduled for the team! Demand generation and content marketing are just as vital to align with (content marketing discussed below). As for demand generation, it is crucial to understand what relevant items are on the calendar that synch up with priority accounts in the territory and what sort of actions can be taken prior to a given event; this maximizes sales qualified leads output.
- Content – Once the SDR has worked with sales and marketing to determine what the top accounts are in a given territory, it’s time to send timely, relevant, and compelling content to the right contacts in both IT and line-of-business (LOB). SDRs also need to have enough variety and volume for multi-touch sequences. Don’t forget about having a proper mix of video (of appropriate length), text, blogs, landing pages (aggregated by use case), etc. Most companies fall down here as they typically build a handful of templates/sequences for SDRs to customize and load in a variety of tools – this is a big black hole of productivity as SDRs should not be your biggest content strategists and developers! A strong professional content marketing team and strategy is paramount in any account-based model.
- Data – Even with the proliferation of research and data tools like org (acquired RainKing and Zoom Info) companies continue to struggle with data acquisition, management, and hygiene. If you have SF.com as a CRM tool, having “bad data” is becoming a no excuse topic, as there is an entire eco-system of automated tools that will help keep your database reasonably clean. One complimentary tool that looks promising is LeadGenius, which automates finding your best customers while helping with database hygiene. Yes, your SDRs do and should play a large role in dynamically updating the database as they perform their roles. But they should not be tasked with doing regular “spring cleaning” before they have confidence that they can move with speed and agility during campaigns and confidence that they won’t generate spikes of unsubscribes because they inadvertently spammed contacts.
- Technology – Having a super strong sales or marketing operations leader is very important. The biggest nugget of advice I can give you here is to focus on having a strong ABO process first, then define the foundational elements you need from a technology perspective. Start by asking yourself some basic questions: can you separately track the results of campaigns executed in target accounts in your CRM tool? What happens if a target contact responds to an inbound campaign – do they get routed to the “right SDR”? How can I integrate chat into my ABO strategy? I think companies stuff too many requirements in at first (trying to find the efficiency of spend), then cut the wrong ones when deadline and/or budget realities set in.
These are a few nuggets that I have found to be helpful in my journeys that should not only apply to “born-in-the-cloud” start-ups but can apply to any B2B organization trying to get better results from existing outbound efforts with IT and LOB contacts in medium to large enterprises.