Sales Strategy

The 🅰–to–🆉 of Closing New Business

Part two of our six-part series explores 26 components of any winning new business sales strategy.

February 7, 2024

Part 2: New Business Sales

Our 6-part series kicked off last week with how to build an effective go-to-market strategy and included eight famous examples.

Now, let's pivot to closing new business. How do we crush new business sales? Let's explore the 26 alphabet soup-style ingredients of an effective customer acquisition strategy.

A: Account-based marketing. Rally GTM, marketing, and sales teams around the top 10-20% of key accounts. Over-invest in those prospects and customers most likely to buy from us with dedicated campaigns, events, gifts, and unique deliverables.

B: "Best Case" forecasting should be aspirational but grounded in reality. We may have the verbal approval to move forward, but timing or some other critical ingredient is not working in our favor. Lean on executives to help pull these opportunities forward. These deals shouldn't be a "hail mary" or one where we must give a significant discount to get it across the line in the 11th hour. Consider Salesforce's Closed + Commit + Most Likely + Best Case formula.

C: Conversation intelligence. Analyze transcript data from sales calls to identify legitimate patterns and signals. Start with calls from our high-performers. What do they do differently from the rest of our reps to close deals consistently?

D: Death to the disco! Is the discovery call dead? We called it over a year ago. Sean Murray, Chief Revenue Officer at Greenhouse, agrees and gave this F-bomb-laden spin on a recent podcast.

E: Enterprise segment. It's worth it with the right product and service. Think platform over a "point solution," where closing six and seven-figure deals after six months to two years is worth the (Board and CEO) patience required. But not everyone can sell to the "enterprise." It requires a radically different GTM, value prop, and seller talent profile. And pay sellers double when they close these whales.  

F: Forecasting. Top performers forecast and hit within +/– 10% of their original quarterly call, 5% of their monthly forecast, and 1% as we head into the last week of the quarter homestretch. Accurate forecasting is arguably the most valued skill in the sales world today.

G: Goal-setting. We like SaaStr's model of "worst case" goal = 90% probability of hitting, base plan = 60% probability, and stretch goal = 10% probability. Ensure our board, CEO, and CFO don't mistake our stretch goal as the base plan.  

H: High-performers. Please give them the best leads. We're costing our company when we don't. Is it special treatment? Yes, it is, but they've earned it. Ditch the round robin lead distribution with our star reps.  

I: Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). It's most likely bigger than it needs to be. Pick our top 10 customers based on account value (and profitability), customer satisfaction, likelihood to renew, and ability to serve as a reference and advocate for you in the marketplace. Find the next 100 prospects who look like that top 10 list. That's a great starting point for our ICP.

J: JOLT Effect. This book goes deep into what the best sellers do––midway through the sales cycle, we stop selling and help prospects decide and buy. We first (J)udge if the prospect can make a decision. Then, we (O)ffer a solution recommendation. Next, we (L)imit additional market exploration and research. Finally, we (T)ake risk off the table by setting realistic expectations, offering a smaller package to get started, and delivering a detailed project plan before the deal closes.

K: KPIs. Sales leaders can choose from a slew of performance data points, but the best know to prioritize three or fewer at any given time. Top choices include pipe gen, pipe coverage, pipe by stage, # of qualified opportunities, days-to-close, average contract value, and win rate. Experiment with a new leading indicator each quarter that impacts our core KPIs, e.g., the percentage of opportunities with multi-threaded relationships provides an x% lift in our overall win rate.

L: Lead gen. There's never been a better time to marry marketing and sales teams. Both need help being the signal in a super noisy marketplace. Lead gen will require more outside-the-box thinking on how to reach prospects. Customer and prospect dinner events, direct mail, or text messaging could be the breakthrough lead gen levers.

M: Mid-market segment. Often overlooked, mid-market prospects and customers can be surprisingly efficient. These companies have outgrown their homegrown or cheap solution and need an upgrade. Typical deal sizes range from $25,000 to $100,000.

N: Networking. Conferences, events, and shows are back. If we don't have the budget to sponsor or set up a booth at these events, send a few reps to walk the floors and network with prospects. Consider smaller local events, like happy hours, customer dinners, or joining professional networking groups.

O: Outbound selling. With weaker demand gen and fewer top-of-funnel leads, revenue teams turn to outbound sales as the answer. Unfortunately, this go-to-market sales motion looks unchanged from 2018––go scorched earth with email, LinkedIn messages, and impersonal cadences that get reinforced with sales leaders demanding high-volume activity. The results look more abysmal than ever. There's no magical answer, but we believe a good place to start is "give to get" thinking with our outreach.

P: Process. Review and revise (if necessary) our sales process. Be explicit with the stage gates and what's required of the rep and prospect to move the deal to the next stage of our sales process. Hot take: if our sales process has six stages, make it five. If it's five, make it four. By the time sales get involved, most buyers are 60-80% done with their purchasing journey. Our sales process–essentially unchanged–isn't keeping pace.

Q: Quota attainment. Sales leaders must set realistic quotas where 100% of all reps can hit goal. The financial payout far outweighs the benefits from rep confidence, a more engaged sales team, and less turnover. Try the Reverse Buffer.

R: References. Asking every customer to serve as a reference is an undervalued sales tactic. It even works with prospects, too.

S: SMB segments, described as high-volume transactional selling, with deals closing in under 30 days, can be fruitful with disciplined discounting, 14-day trial periods, and quick time-to-value with the product or service. Customer churn is high in this segment.

T: Tech stack consolidation is underway and will continue. Sendoso's acquisition of Alyce could be a signpost as data suggests sales pros are overwhelmed with the number of tools in place. Gong and ZoomInfo appear to be winning with their "platform" plays. Our eyes turn to Outreach and Salesloft as potential takeover targets. Bring this awareness to the market if we sell software to other verticals. Assume buyers everywhere are looking to consolidate.

U: Unit economics. As customer acquisition costs continue to worry investors, CEOs, and CROs, the breakout winners in 2024 will include sales teams that figure out how to repurpose sales development reps, transform their outreach strategy from activity-focused to a "give to get" mentality and gift the best leads to their star reps.

V: Value prop. Our messaging to the market has to be tighter than ever. It has to align with our go-to-market strategy, how our product or service delivers value, and does so differently than our competitors. And our brand, website, and marketing collateral also need to sync.

W: Win/loss analysis. We have a hunch that too many sales teams, sitting on a mountain of conversation intelligence data (see "C" above), own exclusive insights, patterns, and trends only they can access. Gen AI makes it easier than ever for sales ops or enablement leaders to analyze win and loss conversations. Pick the top three topics or phrases that appear most in both call types.

X: X-factor. Those intangible qualities or characteristics that set apart high-performing salespeople from the rest. While technical skills and knowledge are essential, these X-factors are often the differentiators that push someone to exceed expectations and close more deals consistently. Reflect on how our sales game is different from other sellers. Ask our peers or manager what separates us as the best on the team at "X." It could be our resiliency, emotional intelligence, or problem-solving skills.

Y: Year-over-year growth. Too many historical YoY trend lines won't justify the annual growth expectations in 2024. Ask CEOs, founders, and revenue leaders for the actual plan or what we have a 60% chance of hitting as a growth target.  

Z: Zombie leads. If prospects haven't responded after multiple attempts, it's time to move on. And there's no need for the highly ineffective "break-up" email.

Remember, there's no magic formula for new business sales success. But by focusing on these 26 ingredients, from accurate forecasting to emulating high-performers, we can build a winning strategy that fuels consistent growth. Embrace the ever-evolving landscape, experiment with new tactics, and never stop learning from our customers and team.

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