The excitement of meeting in person for the first time in three years was not the only feeling in Dublin this year. The sombre tone of conversations clouded the celebration of catching up with old friends and making new connections. In pubs, on stage and in the networking areas, you were never more than 5 minutes away from someone mentioning the dreaded word “recession”. Slower growth, rising inflation, and the rumours of yet another company announcing lay-offs…
”Everyone is in this ‘wait it out’ type stage, which makes it a lot harder to manage. VCs are waiting to give money. Companies are waiting to make hires. Companies are waiting to buy things. Sales leaders are waiting to make changes. Everyone is holding on to see what happens, creating a very interesting dynamic out there.” says Kevin ‘KD’ Dorsey, Practice Lead at Winning by Design, describing so succinctly what many of us are feeling.
The Tech industry is not used to uncertainty. How else would the hockey stick always be pointing to the right? All tech companies, large and small, are trying to adjust to the new reality. But what if being too cautious can hurt you months down the line? Are we in this for the next three months or the next three years?
While no one knows the answers and the right path forward, we know that ignoring reality is the worst path of them all. So together with Salesroom, we sat down with eight leaders to talk about the strategies still working in this environment and what you can borrow from their playbook!
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Marketing or Sales?
When leads are down and outbound is hard, is it sales or marketing that should propel the revenue org forward? The answer is, of course, both. It has never been more important to stay aligned than when you need to iterate on your value prop quickly to remain relevant.
The best way to achieve that alignment is to use a single metric as the North Star for the success of both teams. Fine-tuning the messaging and finding pockets of customers who are still buying should be the goal of every revenue team right now. And how do you do that? “As boring and beaten as it sounds, talking to customers is key,” says Tim Soulo, CMO of Ahrefs. You need to:
- Find communities where your customers are hanging out and learn what keeps them awake at night.
- Talk to your existing customers and ask them, “why are you staying with us”. The answer to this question should be at the forefront of your new customer outreach.
- Train your seller to be able to pivot the conversation from “growth” to “cost and efficiency” with a high level of empathy for what prospective customers are going through.
What about those new leads?
When companies are striving to increase efficiency, marketing budgets are often the first thing to go. But sales teams are still hungry for leads, so what can a marketer do to keep the sales team fed?
“There is no textbook answer,” says Gidi Pridor, the CMO and Chief Storyteller at Workvivo, “On the one hand, you have to be very tactical and optimise for the demand capture – the best you can squeeze out of the PPC on Google – but on the other hand, it’s more urgent than ever before to understand your story and elevate it’s criticality so that the pitch sounds better.”
Use data to guide your decision-making where possible, but don’t forget about your intuition and don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith. Because if you don’t, you risk being seen as a “nice to have” for your customers who are busy fighting for survival and growth.
No matter what your business sells, you have to keep experimenting. In the words of Alina Vandenberghe, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Chili Piper,“You can’t just bet on one idea, and you can’t just do one thing; you have to be constantly trialling and testing alternative ways to bring customers in”.
How do you make the most out of every opportunity?
Some of these experiments will work out for you. There are still companies out there that need to upgrade their software stack. They will take longer to make a decision, involve more people in the process and need to see a higher ROI, but they will sign the contract and wire the money. All you need is to ensure your sales reps can guide prospective customers through that process with empathy and expert knowledge of their problems.
“I’m a big believer in the idea that deals are won and lost in the first two conversations,” says Tripp Brockway, Global VP of Sales at Paddle.
Are your reps set up for success in those first two conversations? When leads are down, you must ensure you maximise your chances of success. Are you doing enough to prep for your calls, or do you let your reps go in “blind”? When the conversation goes off track, do you have the right tools to nudge your sellers to course-correct?
And most importantly, teach your sales team to approach every call with the mindset that this is going to be your best call because, as Kevin ‘KD’ Dorsey says: “You owe it to the prospect; they deserve your best.”
Mastering the way you interact with customers is vital in every market. But in a down market, customers expect more. So we must innovate not only the “what” and “why” of our message but also “how” we deliver it to the people on the other side of the screen.
“A lot of the best companies have been built during recessions, either by people who lost their jobs or companies that had to struggle a lot more. So when they suddenly got the resources when the recession was over, they exploded” – Gidi Pridor, CMO and Chief Storyteller, Workvivo.
You CAN grow revenue, and you CAN still hit your growth targets, but it will take a team of strong people aligned on a common goal and ready to do things differently.
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