Grow your business by pursuing new customers
Three Strategies For Accelerating Business Growth — Without A ‘Slush-Fund’ Budget
In 2017, our company made a decision to really pursue new business growth. We had been growing at a nice clip for over 15 years, but primarily through expanding relationships with existing customers. New account acquisition needed more focus.
Our approach can best be categorized into three groupings: strategy, tactics and the principles that directed our decisions. Here’s how you can adopt our strategy for accelerating growth.
The Strategic Effort
• Simplify the message. Historically, we led conversations with everything we could offer. This creates a challenge for prospects: there is too much noise when they speak with you, and it can lead to confusion in calls and emails and when looking at your website. When you reduce your message to the core offering most customers want, you may see an increase in leads.
• Break apart the offering. This ties into a simplified message. Because we were focusing on less of our products, we didn’t sell everything upfront. The deals you win may be smaller in terms of your product set, but you could win significantly more. In asking less of customers, you can win more relationships you can upsell into later.
• Change the structure to reach more new prospects. Some reps love to win new deals. Some love to farm. A precious few love to prospect. Confusing who wants to do what and who can do what can cost companies far more than they realize. Instead, you can specialize roles and create a team that prospects, a team that wins the relationship and a team that upsells into accounts. When we did this, our pipeline quadrupled, and deals began to close at record rates.
The Tactical Effort
• Find the low-hanging fruit. I’m not a rocket scientist, though I work with some smart people. What I do know is to look for quick and easy wins. For example, it’s often simple to improve your site’s messaging, as well as the ability to book a meeting with you. Putting in an outbound campaign that never existed can be easy, relatively inexpensive and capable of delivering outsized results. The same can be said for running webinars and attending conferences.
• Automate to accelerate. Sales enablement and marketing automation tools seem scary to some, especially technophobes such as myself. But by putting in good software solutions (and actually learning how to use them), you can make the lives of your marketers and salespeople much easier.
• Put principles over playbooks. There’s a lot of talk about playbooks in the sales and marketing literature. And many of them work, especially when you’re staying in the same industry with companies at a similar stage in the corporate life cycle. But crossing industries may not work with a copy-and-paste approach. I found the following principles to be more reliable guideposts for making decisions about growth.
• Make small bets, and test constantly. To some, this looks like a lack of a plan. To me, it’s merely rapid A/B testing to enable teams to learn what works best. For example, we didn’t plan 12 months of spend. We’d plan for 2–3 months and then test an approach, measure its efficacy and then determine if we needed to spend more, adjust it or kill the effort. Constantly try new things whenever you see a plateau or dip in leads you’re creating.
• Avoid orthodoxy. Because most of us who are engaged in account acquisition came from outside the industry, we weren’t beholden to “this is how it’s done here.” In fact, whenever industry insiders say not to do something because it won’t work, it can prove to be a reliable route you should try. This can allow you to steal concepts from tech sales, such as decoupling winning deals and growing accounts. It can also encourage you to hire from outside the industry to find people who aren’t convinced traditional methods have to be followed. For us, those people were curious, skeptical and ready to try new approaches.
• Find great people. It can be helpful to value intelligence, adaptability and drive over industry knowledge and experience. Flexible, coachable employees who were willing to try new things in outreach or messaging proved more successful for us than pulling directly from the industry. I believe you can teach people key concepts, but what you cannot do is instill intangibles and the raw goods: they bring it or they don’t. I’ve found one great employee to be worth five or more average ones. This has helped us reduce headcount while boosting productivity.
The net of our experience is that there a few ways to boost account acquisition rapidly, especially in a company that hasn’t experienced significant internal change in several years.
1. Identify what people want to buy versus what you want to sell. It’s often easier to grow an existing account than it is to sell everything to an account you don’t yet have. Remove the friction so it’s easier for them to sign on.
2. Seek out practices from other industries in web design, lead generation and messaging. Chances are that you’ll find at least a few small changes that deliver significant results.
3. Be clear on what core concepts you believe in. I’ve bet on smart people who can handle change and ambiguity for a while, and on questioning traditional methods to find breakthroughs. And that can make all the difference.