How to Develop New Business and Break Into New Industry Sectors (Quadrant 4)

develop new business

“How to Develop New Business and Break Into New Industry Sectors” is part of our “Four Quadrants for High Growth Quick Start Guide”.  To access the full series click here

Quadrant 4: Develop New Business Outside your Industry


Overall Goal: Find a new customer type for each new product every two years, thereby increasing sales by product by another 10%-20% every two years.

As may have been apparent by now, the first three quadrants are very similar to each other. Quadrants 1 and 2 are particularly similar to each other since they consist of your existing customers. Quadrant 3 should also be similar since, at least in theory, it is from the same industry as your existing customers.

Quadrant 4, however, is different. It consists of non-customers from different industry sectors than those to whom you normally sell your products and services. It is actually an exercise in new business development.

The right approach to developing Quadrant 4 is to follow Geoffrey Moore’s advice in Crossing the Chasm and first establish a beachhead.  Assemble a team of your best people to go after a few selected accounts that will make key wins for you within the new industry, enabling you to establish credibility early on. Your team members should be highly entrepreneurial and have a very strong “whatever it takes’’ attitude to winning these new customer types in an industry that no one in your company is familiar with.

In Quadrant 4, what you are really trying to do is to sell a product you first developed for a different market segment, with some modification and customization. You have some idea of what that customization might look like, but in truth you don’t really know until you get you are working hard to get your first sale in that segment. This is more like a custom project, which is why you need the team to be highly entrepreneurial, capable of building something from the ground up and finding a solution for a problem that you have never really addressed before.

Below you will find a Best Practices checklist for optimizing high growth within Quadrant 4 for Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, and Innovation.


Marketing Checklist


Identify other market segments similar enough to your current market segment so as to be able to leverage many of the capabilities you already have.

  • Setup a Market Strategy team that explores applications of your current products to solve problems outside your current market.
  • Build a disciplined market segment analysis approach to identify the best opportunities

Sales Checklist


Find the early adopters and key accounts in the new market segment

  • Setup a New Business Development unit charged with finding the right entry points within the selected potential growth area.
  • Define the compensation plan for rewarding success.

Customer Support Checklist


Do everything necessary to create highly satisfied and referenceable customers.


Set up a “Special Accounts” team whose priority is to do whatever it takes to make these early adopters highly successful with your products.

Innovation Checklist


Make it easy to custom fit your products to new market needs within 90 days.

  • Create a platform for your products that enable you to customize and support various versions of your products.
  • Rapidly complete Proof of Concept (POC) projects.
  • Rapidly convert approved POC into stable products.

Increase Your Customer Base with 4 Handy Checklists (Quadrant 3)

“Increase Your Customer Base with 4 Handy Checklists” is part of our “Four Quadrants for High Growth Quick Start Guide”.  To access the full series click here

Quadrant 3: Increase Customer Base

soma-quadrant3Overall Goal: Increase the number of your customers by 15%-20% per year

Quadrant 3 Sales is what most companies think of when they talk about revenue growth—increasing your customer base numbers. In fact many of the companies we work with focus so much time, effort, and money on Quadrant 3 that they neglect working Quadrants 1 and  2.

At the same time, most of these companies do not use the most critical strategy for farming in Quadrant 3: Four Funnel Framework. This is the most important strategy for winning new customers because it ensures tight integration of Sales and Marketing efforts. We will discuss the Four Funnels Framework in more detail in the next section.

Below you will find a Best Practices checklist for optimizing high growth within Quadrant 3 for Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, and Innovation.

Marketing Checklist


Deliver the necessary number of Marketing Qualified Leads.

  • Define the marketing content (assets) necessary to drive prospects through the various levels of interest: awareness, understanding, acceptance, preference, and conviction. The marketing assets must deliver the first three stages to generate Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)
  • Build the automation that scores the activities of very early prospects and provides them with more marketing assets until they score high enough to be MQLs ready for handoff to the Tele-prospecting team

Sales Checklist


Increase the number of customers by 15-20% per year.

  • Define the qualification criteria that makes a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL).
  • Develop the qualification and SQL acceptance process and build it into the Sales Operations and Sales Automation system.
  • Automate the handoff and notification process so that Sales immediately follows up on SQLs.
  • Build the right compensation plan that rewards progress through the Sales Cycle so that deals do not get stalled in the middle.
  • Build the right comp plan that rewards hunters for getting even small deals in key accounts that have significant upside potential.

Customer Support Checklist


Convert new customers to happy and fully satisfied ones within the first 2-3 weeks.

  • Design the new customer onboarding process to be as quick and as painless as possible.
  • Develop a scorecard that identifies the components of onboarding a new customer and rates the new customer onboarding team along each component.
  • Map the components of the scorecard into the customer support system and processes so that agents can do their work with a high level of efficiency and accuracy.

Innovation Checklist


Make your products easy to learn, use, and support so as to free up scarce resources for new product.


Review your current products and determine what can be done to centralize, standardize, componentize, and optimize to make them easy to sell, support, and use.

How to Sell New Products to Existing Customers (Quadrant 2)

existing customers

“How to Sell New Products to Existing Customers” is part of our “Four Quadrants for High Growth Quick Start Guide”.  To access the full series click here

Quadrant 2: Introduce new products

soma-quadrant2Overall Goal

Increase the number of products that each customer uses by 15-20% each year.

Quadrant 2 is all about selling other products and services you offer that your customers have not yet purchased. The most important of these are Upgrades, Add-ons; and Bundles or Packages. Quadrant 2 offers some highly attractive growth opportunities for a company that is set up to take advantage of it.

Below you will find a Best Practices checklist for optimizing high growth within Quadrant 2 for Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, and Innovation.

Marketing Checklist


Continually market to existing customers about how the value of their existing products increase significantly when used with another product that you sell, but that they don’t currently use.

  • Have an accurate database of which customer has which products installed.
  • Build an automated marketing that works on the logic, “If a customer has product A, then use Campaign X. If a customer has products A and B, then use campaign Y”, and so on.

Sales Checklist


Build an effective account management team that is very good at selling new products to existing customers with the goal of increasing revenue per customer.

  • Set up an account management system that uses the marketing database to call on customers to cross-sell and upgrade them to higher tier products.
  • Build your compensation plan to reward such account penetration.

Customer Support Checklist


Make customers highly successful at using your new products within 30 days of acquiring these.

  • Build a library of training material and resources to enable customers to self-train to use new products.
  • Build scalable support infrastructure such as chat and self-help portals to provide quality customer support with less impact on the Support organization.

Innovation Checklist


Introduce new products and services on a regular schedule—at least every 2-3 years.

  • Set up a Product strategy team that continually reviews the product pipeline and prioritizes new projects.
  • Set up agile development practices to enable rapid and iterative releases of products so as to enable quick changes based on shifts in customer priorities and preferences.
  • Set up Product Management to translate big initiatives that come from Product Strategy into clearly defined tasks that are implemented through the agile development process.

How to Sell More to Existing Customers (Quadrant 1)

This article is part of our “Four Quadrants for High Growth Quick Start Guide”.  Click here to access the full series.

Quadrant 1 Goal: Increase Usage from Existing Customers

Overall Goal: Increase usage of existing customers by an average of 5-10% over the previous year.


Quadrant 1 consists of existing customers who already buy a particular product. The goal here is to get these customers to order more of what they are already buying. If you sell software licenses, can you get them to subscribe to more licenses? If they buy boxes of widgets, can you get them to order more boxes?

Whatever product a company sells, the goal is to increase their consumption of that product by a targeted amount. If you are selling software licenses, can you increase the average license purchase per customer by ‘x’ amount? If your customer orders 100 boxes of widgets a year from you, can you increase that to 110 boxes? And how do you do that?

This is a low-touch sales environment. You want to simplify and standardize your operations so you can automate as much as you can. You want it to resemble a self-help portal where you let customers order what they want, when they want. The key is to continually market to them to drive them to do just that.

Below you will find some important tips on optimizing sales and marketing in this quadrant.

Marketing Optimization


The goal here is to automate all marketing to continually touch existing customers and give them new reasons to buy more of the products they are already using.

  • Continually come up with new ways to use your existing products that your customers are not currently doing.
  • Constantly update customers about new features that make things easier, faster for the customer
  • Give additional promotional incentive to increase usage–price savings on additional purchases, discounts on other products, etc.
  • Make certain premium services free for purchasing higher volumes
  • Send at least one promotional email campaign each month to make sure you stay front-of-mind

Sales Optimization


Increase Sales of existing products to existing customers

Ideally, Quadrant 1 sales can be completed without the help or involvement of a sales rep.

  • Make it very simple for customers to order more.
  • Automate price quotes, contracts, and ordering.
  • Make it simple to fulfill the order immediately.
  • Automate workflows to send orders to fulfillment as soon as contracts are signed.

A Quick Start Guide to the Four Quadrants Model of High Growth

Four Quadrants

The Four Quadrants of High Growth

The Four Quadrants of High Growth is a highly effective sales strategy that enables B2B companies to optimally deploy their limited marketing and sales resources to maximize revenues. The model divides a company’s total addressable market—first vertically into two halves of customers and non-customers, and then by product into existing products and new ones.

Unlike other segmentation strategies that mostly focus on non-customers and can be difficult to implement, the Four Quadrants system ensures that Sellers look at the entire potential market for growth–including their existing customers, and new markets that they can enter.

We discuss each of these highly targeted strategies in the sections below:

  1. Quadrant 1: Increase usage
  2. Quadrant 2: Introduce new products
  3. Quadrant 3: Increase customer base
  4. Quadrant 4: Find new lines of business

Four Quadrants

The end result is four quadrants representing different levels of risks and relationships:

  • Quadrant 1: Selling existing products to existing customers. Here we are selling more of the products that our customers are already buying from us.
  • Quadrant 2: Selling new products to existing customers. Here we are launching new products within our existing customer base.
  • Quadrant 3: Selling existing products to new customers. Here, we are selling our standard products to non-customers.
  • Quadrant 4: Selling new products to new customers. This is the same as entering a new market.

Quadrant 1 has the lowest perceived risk from the buyer’s perspective, followed by Quadrant 2, 3, and lastly 4. What we need to do in terms of marketing and selling is also quite different from one quadrant to the next.

In Quadrant 1, the seller hardly needs to educate customers on the company or product since they are already very familiar with both. At the other extreme is Quadrant 4. This is a totally different market from the one(s) to which the seller has traditionally sold, and the likelihood that Quadrant 4 buyers have adequate familiarity the company or its products is quite low.

Therefore, using the same approach for all quadrants will not work—marketing and sales efforts will likely be overkill in Quadrants 1 and 2 while insufficient in Quadrants 3 and 4.

By segmenting our total addressable market into four quadrants and optimizing our messaging, offerings, and resources for each, we are more likely to maximize revenues at the lowest costs possible, thereby maximizing our net income.

The Four Quadrants approach is one of the foundational strategies of the Predictable Revenue Model; it’s designed to position a company to achieve a consistent High Growth rate.

Strategy Matters

Companies that out-perform their competitors do so primarily because they execute a defined strategy. They don’t try to go after everyone with the same message, product, or offering. They segment — then tailor everything they do to fit that segment.

Segmentation makes it easier to isolate the right opportunities for a given company and highlights the right strategies to win those opportunities. Because you have the right message and the right offering for the right customer, you can shorten your sales cycles and increase your closing ratios. Effective B2B marketing naturally leads to effective B2B selling.

This is the essence of strategy – focusing limited resources on the best opportunities in the most optimal way to maximize results.

The Four Quadrants approach makes the segmentation process more intuitive. It also makes execution simpler and more full-proof.

Each Quadrant is Different

We all know that if we really want to sell our products and services, we have to tailor them to our customers’ preferences. What we tend to forget is that this is just as true regarding how we market and sell our products. We must tailor our sales and marketing according to how customers want to buy.

Marketing/selling to existing customers is totally different from marketing/selling to non-customers. And even for existing customers, the kind of marketing/selling necessary to get them to order more of what they already purchase is different from the strategy that gets them to try new products they haven’t used before. We know this is true from our own direct experience as customers.

Sometimes the right strategy is just to automate and make it simple for customers to order whenever they want. Why slow them down by having them talk to a sales rep?

At other times, there is a great need for consultation before sales can happen. Case studies, demos, and references are all a necessary part of reassuring a skeptical buyer that she won’t regret her purchase. And while the high-powered consultative sales rep is essential with a new customer buying for the first time, he would be expensive overkill for a simple reorder of a product a customer has purchased dozens of times before.

The essence of Four Quadrant selling is matching a company’s limited resources to the type of selling opportunities a company has and doing this as an everyday process – increasing sales, while keeping the costs of selling low.

  • Quadrant 1 is about customers who buy a given product. Your goal is simple — get them to buy more of what they are already buying. How do you get them to do that?
  • Once you have maximized your revenue from Quadrant 1, the only way you can get more business from existing customers is to get them to buy some of the other products you sell. That is how you get growth in Quadrant 2. What is the best way for you to do that?
  • As mentioned above, there is only so much you can sell to existing customers. And sooner or later, for one reason or another, you are going to lose some customers. You must acquire new customers not only to continue to grow but also to replace those you lose. That’s what growth in Quadrant 3 What is the best way to achieve this?
  • And if you are very successful and grow fast, you will eventually saturate a given market segment and can’t sell more there. We will need to find a new market segment where you can continue to expand, which is what Quadrant 4 is about. How do you do that?

When you look at it this way, it is apparent that your sales and marketing strategies in each quadrant need to be sufficiently different.

However, it is not just the strategies that need to be different. Systems, processes, assets, and people you use in each quadrant also need to be optimized for that quadrant to achieve the best result in that quadrant. Just as you look for a specialist when you want to see an eye or heart doctor, you also need specialists if you need to grow each sector on a consistent basis. You need people who are experts in each quadrant.

End Goal–Predictable Revenue Growth

If you have one-size-fits-all marketing and sales strategy, you will see mixed results. You want reliable, predictable revenue growth. That is why you have to optimize sales and marketing for each Quadrant.

We discuss these highly targeted strategies in the sections below:

  1. Quadrant 1: Increase usage
  2. Quadrant 2: Introduce new products
  3. Quadrant 3: Increase customer base
  4. Quadrant 4: Find new lines of business

Why the Four Funnels Framework is Your Key to Predictable Revenue

The Four Funnels Framework is a systematic methodology for generating high-quality B2B leads that deliver predictable revenue. This framework helps to overcome the “missing link” that sometimes develops between a company’s marketing and sales functions. Businesses can bridge this gap by implementing the following four funnels.

Four Funnels Framework

Funnel 1: Build Awareness

In order to sell to buyers, companies must first build awareness with their target market. The constant noise and crowding of increased market flooding creates buyers who are habituated to tuning out. Due to this, it takes nearly 16 distinct touches to sway prospective buyers to purchase; and this number only continues to rise.

Regardless of this tune out, businesses must still sell. To do so, they must first generate attention from prospective buyers. Buyers cannot purchase what they do not know exists. The most effective way to generate attention is by generating and publishing genuine marketing content. B2B sellers need to display knowledge of the pains and problems faced by their targeted buyers. Only when buyers feel that sellers understand their troubles will they consider entering into a purchasing transaction.

The goal of Funnel 1 is to drive a high number of the target buyers to where they can find out more and deepen the engagement with the seller.

Funnel 2: Build Trust

B2B buyers have little to no care about sellers’ particular products and services. Their primary concern is how to identify and address the problems they face in their companies and industries. To capture potential clients, B2B sellers must demonstrate care and understanding by freely providing the information required by prospects to solve their concerns and complications.

While such actions may appear to be giving away something for little to no return, providing this information establishes trust in the vendor. Trust generates quality leads that are more likely to transition into loyal clients.

The goal of the second funnel in the Four Funnels Framework is to feed the pipeline for Funnel 3—where Business Development Reps (BDRs) call those that have shown marketing engagement, qualify these, and pass on to Sales.

Funnel 3: Qualify

Until this point, seller engagement with buyers has primarily occurred electronically through the sellers’ websites, social media, and email campaigns. Now that contact information has been exchanged, it is time to qualify the potential buyer to determine if they are ready for engagement with Sales.

The object of this third funnel is to create a sales pipeline for the fourth funnel. In order to achieve this, sellers must ensure that the first point of in-person contact is done a professional, senior-level staff.

Many sellers have the mistaken notion that this is “telemarketing” and believe this is an entry-level job. Nothing can be further from the truth.

The task here is to interrupt a busy senior level buyer and in a matter of 20 seconds intrigue her enough to agree to a longer call or meeting at a later time. Most of the time, this requires not only knowledge of the subject matter and industry of the prospective buyer, but also an ability to know when to push and not, when to chat and when to get down to the point, all in a matter of seconds and over the phone. This is a task for an experienced Business Development Rep (BDR).

If the buyer agrees to talk for a bit, the BDR’s job is to make sure this buyer is qualified and then set an appointment with a sales rep as soon as possible.

A predictable revenue stream depends on two qualities of the Sales Pipeline:

  1. High Quality leads that close at a higher rate and close faster
  2. Sufficient number of HQLs to meet the company’s new revenue targets

Funnel 3 is responsible for achieving these objectives.

Funnel 4: Engage

With BDRs focusing on keeping the sales team’s pipeline full, sales reps can now focus on their primary role— deeply understanding the buyer’s world and building a partnership in solving the buyer’s issues, leading towards a successful close of the opportunity.

This is the primary function of salespeople—to work closely with motivated potential buyers and place their full attention on solving the issues of the buyer. Holding them responsible for both Funnels 3 and 4, while it may seem reasonable, is actually counterproductive.

In fact, a survey of sales professionals by Sales Insights showed that they spend over 26% of their time on average trying to generate a qualified lead. This is clearly a demanding task and takes a great deal of time away from a sales rep primary role.

Once a healthy sales pipeline and a quality sales lead has been established, the sales team can focus on continuing to qualify prospects while integrating them into the buying cycle.


The Four Funnels Framework provides a methodology for consistently achieving predictable revenues by generating High Quality Leads through a process that integrates marketing, prospecting, and sales. This integration removes duplication and waste, significantly lowering the total cost new customer acquisition.


How to Fix Missed Revenue Targets

In our work with clients, we have identified three fundamental reasons why companies have missed  revenue targets

  • Not enough opportunities in the sales pipeline to start with
  • Not enough of these opportunities are closing
  • And the ones that close take too long to close

Fixing these issues can have very significant consequences on revenues.

  • Improving pipeline provides directly proportional results. A 100% increase in Sales pipeline will result in a 100% increase in new sales, provided the quality of the incremental pipeline increase is comparable. In many cases, companies can grow their sales pipeline by two to five times by utilizing dedicated Business Development Reps (read Case Study).
  • Improving closing ratios, however, can have more than a one-to-one impact on incremental sales. It depends on what the delta (the difference between the old and the new closing ratio) is compared to the old closing ratio. For example, if the old closing ratio used to be 15% and this was improved to 20%, then this alone will increase new sales by 33%. The same 5% improvement when going from 20% to 25% will produce only a 25% increase in new sales—which is still a substantial increase.
  • Similarly, reducing sales cycles can have a dramatic impact on new Sales. The analysis of the effect is a bit more complicated and we discuss some of the consequences here. However, briefly stated, reducing the time it takes to close deals makes revenues more predictable. This, in turn, enables a company to invest aggressively with more confidence in areas that impact its growth and profitability. Which only improves pipeline development, closing ratios, and sales cycles–creating a virtuous cycle.

In this article, we first define the problem and its causes. We then recommend some solutions we have seen work for other clients.


Insufficient Size of Sales Pipeline

Typically, when a company’s sales pipeline is shallow, it is primarily because it is relying on its Sales organization to build the pipeline, rather than on Marketing.

Ideally, two thirds of a company’s sales pipeline should come from leads generated by Marketing Operations, either through outbound campaigns or from inbound leads.

However, in many of the companies that miss their revenue targets, the opposite is true. Far too few leads come from Marketing, and sales reps are expected to prospect and build their own sales pipelines.

However, today, this is a nearly impossible task, and we discuss the reasons why in in a blog, “Why B2B Sales is no longer working”.


Low Closing Ratio

While the issue of Insufficient Sales Pipeline is primarily about quantity of leads, the problem of low closing ratio is one of poor quality leads. The issue is that “leads” that sales reps are working on are not yet well qualified.

These leads may be unqualified for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The prospect doesn’t have a compelling need.
  • The prospect has a compelling need, but there are too many show stoppers to make it work for the prospect

The likelihood that these kinds of prospects will become customers is very low. So why would Sales work on these?

There are a number of reasons why Sales take on leads that are not ready:

  • Marketing campaigns are probably not focused enough
  • Marketing is passing on to sales any “Lead” without first qualifying these
  • Because sales rep don’t have sufficient sales pipeline, they tend to be apprehensive about letting go of even unqualified leads

This is a highly unproductive use of expensive sales resources. Yet, we see it happening far too often.


Prolonged Sales Cycle

In many ways, this is a variant of the previous problem. Eventually, a lead may closes, but it takes far too long. The reasons are the same as for those that don’t close at all:

  • Not enough ROI for the prospect to move her along quickly
  • Too many things that have to be overcome on the company side before a prospect agrees to sign
  • Working with a prospect that has no decision making authority
  • Working with a decision maker that doesn’t have a budget this year

Any of these reasons can cause a stall. In the meantime, sales reps continue to hang on this deal thinking it will close next month, and if not then, the month after… The close date on these deals keeps shifting forward—from one quarter to the next. Each quarter’s forecast is missed.

As in the case of low closing ratio, the problem of prolonged sales cycle is a quality problem.


Fixing Insufficient Sales Pipeline

The key to building sufficient sales pipeline is building a robust b2b Marketing Operation.

  • Focus on the prospects that have the most compelling reason to buy.
  • Refine your message to make your case quickly and clearly to them
  • Educate and empower them with information so they know they are working with a company that understands their pain and potentially has a solution for their pain.
  • Contact them at the right time so they welcome your calling them
  • Have a Business Development Rep (BDRs) call, qualify to make sure he or she is talking to the right person and schedule time with one of your reps.


Fixing Low Closing Ratios

If a sales rep’s pipeline is filled with good quality leads, she is not going to be apprehensive about letting go the ones that are not likely to close. And because she lets those go, she will give her full attention to those that have a high probability of closing, which only increases the odds that these will close.

The solution, therefore, is to keep the sales rep’s pipeline 80% or more full at any given time. For example, if the ideal closing ration is one out of three, and a rep must close 20 deals a year to make her number, she needs about 60 high quality deals in her pipeline. At least 80% of these should come from Four Funnels operations (she can make the remainder through referrals and her own prospecting).

The key point here is to generate the necessary number of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQs) first. However, these should be well qualified before passing on to the sales team.


Fixing Prolonged Sales Cycles

By definition, leads that have a high probability of closing are the ones most motivated to solve their problem in the short term. This addresses the final problem of prolonged sales cycles. Motivated buyers have a timeline they need to keep and communicate that clearly. Whether they buy from you or your competitor, they will have arrived at a decision by then. There is no stalling.

The fix to long sales cycles is to improve the quality of the pipeline. The sales pipeline should only consist of highly motivated prospects with decision-making authority. The best practices for fixing this quality problem is to use a Four Funnels Methodology that enables you to control what’s in the sales pipeline.

While Sales reps are more than capable of qualifying prospects, they rarely do it since it is hard to connect with busy decision makers. It requires a great deal of dials to reach even decision makers that want to talk to a vendor. A BDR can make 80-100 dials a day and is far more likely to catch a prospect and make the appointment.

The conclusion seems to point to focus. First, focus on the right prospects. Then, focus the right skills on the right job. Let Marketing take care of the harvesting, let BDRs qualify and find the nuggets. And let your sales reps focus on closing the most motivated prospects. This is the Four Funnels Framework at work.


Why B2B Sales is No Longer Working


A fundamental shift we see in Business-to-Business (B2B) sales is that prospecting and sales results seem to have turned for the worse. Lead conversion rates are lower; sales cycles are longer; and closing ratios are not what they used to be.

We hear many Sales and Marketing executives complain that “solution selling” and other sales methodologies are no longer as effective as they were in the past.  We are also hearing that sales reps are losing control of the sales process, and that prospects just aren’t picking up their phones or returning calls.

We don’t believe these changes occurred overnight. Rather, they have been evolving over the past two decades to the point where they are now impossible to ignore.

What our customers are complaining about is the shift in the control over the flow of information—a shift in control from seller to buyer.

In past decades, sales people were conduits of highly valuable information for prospective buyers. They might open a sales call by saying, “…if you are anything like my typical customers, you probably have these challenges that are costing you a great deal of money. We have been very successful at solving those kinds of problems and I would like to share with you how we do that”.

Twenty years ago, that opening was pretty effective. Short of buying and reading books on how to address such challenges or occasionally talking to their peers at conventions and trade shows, buyers had few sources of information, insights, or new ideas. Talking with a highly informed consultative sales rep was critical to their finding viable solutions to their challenges.

In fact, once they found such an informed sales person, many customers didn’t even make other purchases before talking to their sales rep. Such were the powers that sales rep had back in the day.

Not so true anymore.

This article discusses why sales people have lost their great influence and power, and what they can do to get it back. It makes the clear case that without effective B2B Marketing, B2B Sales will continue to ineffective and costly. The article also explains what we mean by “effective” B2B Marketing—one that provides highly valuable information to customers, rather than self-serving advertising.

So what changed?

The Internet changed everything—it is the ubiquitous, free, and on-demand information resource available to anyone who has access to the Internet and knows how to search. This is what has shifted control of the flow of information from sellers to buyers.

As buyers, we not only know this, but we take advantage of it.  What we don’t appreciate as sellers is the degree to which it has changed the entire B2B sales model—from a primarily seller-controlled process, to one almost entirely controlled by the buyer.

Let’s illustrate with a couple of simple examples.  Let’s look at a prospective buyer (let’s call her Jane) with some pressing business need, and a sales rep (let’s call him Tom) for a company that provides solutions.  Lets explore two scenarios, one that would have played out twenty years ago in 1996, and another that would play out today, in 2016.

Back In the Day

In 1996, Tom would attempt to reach Jane, and when he connected, would say something like, “Hello Jane, my name is Tom and I am calling from ABC Company where we help companies like yours solve their ‘xyz’ problems. We have been very successful at that and I would like 30 minutes of your time to share with you how we have done that.”

Tom doesn’t really know if Jane has the ‘xyz’ problem. If she does though, there is a good chance she will agree to a first meeting because, frankly, where else would Jane get ideas on how to solve her ‘xyz problem’?  If Jane doesn’t have a “xyz” problem, she may want to meet with Tom to see if he has information regarding how to solve the problem she does have.  Jane is willing to spend 30 minutes to find out.

In 2016…

How about In 2016? Is Tom a unique source of valuable information, or is he a self-serving, time-sucking nuisance?

In 2016 (and indeed, for a number of years now) all Jane has to do is to experiment with some key search phrases and immediately has access to all sorts of blogs, discussions, articles, presentations and more–to review at her convenience.

And, it makes no sense for her to see a sales rep until she has made her selection, a short list of candidate to speak with.

Jane has now has gathered the data she needs, and decides to contact Tom to schedule a time to speak specifically about her needs and challenges. Jane is in control of the buyer’s journey, not Tom.

If Tom and his company still think and sell like it’s 1996, they will send Jane emails and call her to schedule an appointment.  Jane won’t respond because the subject line is something irrelevant to her, like “I’ll be in your area in the next few weeks” or “Wanted to talk to you about our Product Q”.

Jane will simply look at the caller id, and since she doesn’t recognize Tom’s or his company name, Jane doesn’t even pick up. If Tom leaves a  voice mail, Jane will delete it as soon as she hears, “Hi, this is Tom, from ABC Company, the leading provider…”

As long as Tom continues to sell like it’s still 1996, he is a time-sucking nuisance rather than a valuable resource for Jane.

Is this the End of B2B Selling?

We are not saying that B2B selling is no longer relevant.

Rather, we are saying that selling today the way we did twenty or thirty years ago will no longer work.  In the next sections, we will explore why that is and how to fix this problem.

The problem with B2B Sales is B2B Marketing

The real problem with B2B Sales, why companies continue to sell like it is 1996, is B2B Marketing.

The typical B2B marketing campaign is unabashedly self-serving with few, if any, new ideas or perspectives in solving customer problems. Go to the average B2B website and it is hard to find anything that is not about the company or its products, with a link here and there that says” Learn More”.

To make matters worse, clicking on the “Learn More” button takes you to a form where you have to provide your contact information to get more information. It is basically transactional–first you, “valued” prospect, give me something I want (your contact information) and then I will give you something you want.

A great deal of  ‘white paper’ that is provided has little in the way of new ideas. It is mostly several pages of generally available information, with more advertising for the company and its products, than valuable and informative content.

But you already know that. So what do you do? You enter some bogus information where you can’t be reached (you know how to play that game too). Because, if you actually entered your real contact information, you can count on receiving a call—during business hours when you are busy—from someone trying to setup an appointment with a sales rep so you can “…get all your questions answered”.

It’s the old1996 B2B sales and marketing model that says, “Let’s setup an appointment and I will dazzle you—trust me.”

Does anything so far inspire you to have confidence that you will be dazzled?

Fix B2B Marketing and you will fix B2B Sales

Let’s imagine that Tom and his Company sell like it is 2016. What if Tom dazzled Jane before asking anything from her? Would Jane then give him 30 minutes?  It seems more probable since Tom has already proved his worth.

How to Dazzle

Let’s look at an example. Say your current selling cost is about 40% of revenues, and your CEO says you have to get it down to below 30% and increase revenues by 20% at the same time. I think we can agree that you will be doing some key word searches as soon as you leave that meeting.

Your search will return a lot of stuff you already know and are probably already doing.   Some of the searches will land you at a site where you are required give up your contact details to obtain the information. From time to time, you play that game to get something you think might be useful.

But, say you found some really interesting articles with some really good ideas. And, you weren’t asked to provide your contact info to access this content. Here is how I think that scenario would play out:

  • You quickly scan, select, and assemble resources for further reading later
  • You block a few hours—maybe for the evening or early next morning—to read what you bookmarked
  • You read the articles more carefully and take notes
  • You then setup a meeting with some key members of your team to discuss what you found
  • Based on your meeting, you will assign some action items for the team to further review the information.
  • Your team will report their findings back to you at the scheduled time
  • During your next meeting, you will review all findings and then decide on a short list of potential vendors you want to contact
  • You assign someone to schedule discovery call meetings

Does this sound sensible to you as a buyer?

As a buyer, yes. But you see how the table is turned upside down from the seller’s perspective. The buyer is the one doing the discovery call, not the seller.

How 2016 B2B Marketing Enables 2016 B2B Sales

When B2B Marketing is adjusted for the 2016 buyer’s process, it enables B2B Sales as follows:

  1. B2B Marketing provides a deep information resource for which the Buyer is looking
  2. Therefore, the Seller is now a valuable resource rather than a self-serving, time-sucking nuisance
  3. Due to both the quality and depth of the information found, the Buyer feels confident that this Seller knows the Buyer’s challenges and can potentially provide a viable solution
  4. Confidence is established, which is a prerequisite to trust, and trust is a necessary condition for making buying decisions
  5. Buyers find the Seller’s open approach a welcome change compared to other vendors that seem to want the Buyer to first commit to something before giving anything
  6. The Buyer want to make sure this Seller is on the short list of potential vendors and reaches out to the Seller to schedule time for a presentation, probably before the Seller contacts her.
  7. This is what we call an “A” lead that is highly qualified with the buyer seeking a solution for a real and current need.  Marketing has done its job; providing an inbound lead.

Now, it’s up to Sales to convert this high quality lead into a long-term customer.

The Fear and Frenzy of Demand Scarcity

We believe Sales and Marketing executives agree, in principle, that what we outlined so far makes sense.

So, why isn’t the above how most companies market and sell today?

The single most common reason we get is, “If we had the time and luxury to do it that way, we would, but it takes too long to do it that way, and we have to meet our numbers now. Besides, we can’t wait for customers to come to us. We must go after them and win before our competitors do.”

At first glance, this sounds like a rational and savvy statement to make.

However, its underlying assumptions are flawed:

  • A lot of companies are either missing their revenue targets, or their selling costs are way too high (40% or more) as they cut prices to win deals, or hire more sales reps to generate more sales. Neither approach solves their fundamental problems—not enough Sales Pipeline; sales cycles are too long and too few opportunities exist to close.
  • We are not suggesting that the Seller’s organization should simply wait for prospects to call them. On the contrary, we advocate the use of highly targeted lead generation and nurturing campaigns that increase inbound leads. In fact, we advocate that B2B marketing should be responsible for at least 50% of all new revenues generated in any year.

The B2B Marketing-Sales Model

The 2016 B2B Marketing-Sales Model is a single continuum that starts with highly targeted potential customers at one end and long-lasting customers at the other end. In other words, Marketing and Sales must have a single goal and mission—to build and deliver a Predictable Revenue Model for the company.

We refer to this B2B Marketing-Sales Model as the Four Funnels Framework—four nested funnels, each feeding the next with what it needs to result in the fourth, the Sales Funnel. Each funnel is responsible for delivering measurable results that are inputs for the next funnel.

Funnel 1: Reach

Funnel 1 has two fundamental objectives:

  • Identify a clearly defined and targeted group of potential buyers about which Marketing knows quite a bit
    • Who they are and what they do
    • What are the most critical challenges they face in increasing/improving what they offer or cutting the costs and risks of making their offer or how to improve their business processes
    • Who the decision makers are and how to access them
    • Which are the key competitors (direct and alternative) to beat, and how to beat them
    • Reach out to these potential buyers with a clear and compelling message
      • What are the issues that must be addressed for each stakeholder
      • How to address these in a convincing way
      • Where to place the information so these stakeholders can easily find them

Funnel 2: Educate

As we discussed above, Buyers are now doing their own research to solve problems. What they are looking for, first and foremost, are ideas on how to solve problems in this fast-paced and changing world.

Therefore, they not only are searching for solutions to their current problems, but they are also looking for a partner who is a thought leader, and will continue to be a viable long term partner who can be counted on to offer new solutions for new problems, in the future.

Funnel 2 is responsible for nurturing potential buyers by deeply engaging them with valuable content, always pointing to additional relevant information (“If you were looking at this article, you probably also want to look at this article…”)

Funnel 3: Qualify

Once the prospect has shown clear interest in the Seller’s resources, the Seller’s Business Development Rep will be provided with a lead to qualify the following:

  1. Is there a current pressing need or is the prospect merely doing research for future projects (that’s fine too, but that will continue to be a nurture campaign)
  2. What is the compelling event that has caused the search
  3. Who is driving the initiative for this research and why
  4. Has a budget and timeframe been determined for this initiative
  5. Is the business driver ready to speak with a solution expert at the Seller’s company, and if so, when is a good time

Funnel 4: Convert

Funnel 4’s job is to work with the prospect to generate/explore viable ideas and work with the prospective buyer to architect a solution, of which the Seller is playing some part (perhaps a central one).

With continued demonstration of partnership and consultation, the Seller naturally converts the prospective Buyer into a long-term Customer.

The previous statement strongly implies the need to continue to consultatively partner with the customer in order to keep that customer for the long term. Sellers that think the selling is done when the contract is signed find themselves out with no reorder or renewal of future contracts.  Which only increases the fear and frenzy, leading back to selling like it is 1996.

Market likes it 2016

With that said, all of the Marketing and Sales automation tools continue to not only be relevant, but essential since none of what we outlined, above, can be done without true automation. What we are advocating is the following order of events:

  • First get the fundamentals of sales and marketing right (strategy)
  • Then build in automation to accelerate and improve on the accuracy of your marketing and selling efforts (operations)
  • Next plan to provide potential buyers with informative content, on an ongoing basis–“Always be Closing” is now “Always be a Resource”.

the goal of 2016 B2B marketing is to create highly qualified inbound leads that B2B Sales converts into long term customers.  Your prospect now sees your company as a viable and trustworthy thought leader.  When prospects are ready to buy, they will contact your company for an appointment. When we do these things in the right way and order, you will end up with a Predictable Revenue Model that will result in a sustainable high rate of growth.

Next Steps

If you found this article useful, perhaps moving to 2016 B2B Selling is easier than you think.

Do some Internal Assessments to see where the gaps may be.

Contact us if there is any way we can help.




Why Conducting Internal Assessments Could be What You Need to Get Ahead

the power of internal assessments

The Importance of Internal Assessments

Every CEO wants to achieve Predictable Revenue Growth. And the companies that are struggling with achieving their revenue targets are often baffled by why as they continue to do more of the wrong things.

Here are some of the issues we have seen some of our clients struggle with:

  1. A simple change in workflow would save 40% of the time a team was spending to fulfill customer orders
  2. A company that generated 57% of its revenues from just 2% of its customers was spending 80% of its sales team’s efforts going after exactly the wrong types of customers
  3. A company that was meeting its sales targets was baffled by how cash flow was always a problem. It found out that 18% of the closed deals never converted into invoices because newly signed up customers canceled after being frustrated with protracted onboarding processes.
  4. A ten person sales team that received on average 3,000 leads per month was complaining that they were not receiving enough leads. Interviewing the team revealed that the team was getting such bad leads that they had stopped even looking at them.
  5. A sales team that was expected to meet its quarterly revenue goals with an average of 50 deals was not meeting its revenue goals after turning in over 100 signed contracts per quarter. The sales team thought it was working hard and doing well.
  6. A company that was struggling to meet its revenue objectives repeatedly said that the number one predictor of a closed deal was a site visit by a prospect. Yet, the company didn’t have a single program for drawing prospects to its site or in any way increasing site visits by a prospect.
  7. A company that repeatedly told its sales team to focus 80% of their efforts in selling a new product saw no progress until they walked through the process of selling this product and found a number of roadblocks that had to be removed.

You may look at the above and say, “Well those should have been easy to prevent in the first place. Our problems are more complicated than those”. And perhaps they are.

Yet, in each of the above cases, the company had a smart hard working management team in place.

So, why did these relatively straightforward issues slip through and persist for months, sometimes years, before being discovered?

One major reason is that all of the above issues are deeply baked into the day-to-day activities of everyone at the company. Things used to work well that way in the past, but as the company added more products and went after different kinds of customers, or as customers themselves changed, as they often do, what used to work well no longer does.

Those that have been with the company for a while will find it difficult to notice because what is routine becomes the background no one notices.

That is why internal assessments made by an outsider are imperative. Outsiders are needed to ask the “obvious” questions to which no one has any good answers. People in the room start looking at each other, waiting for someone to provide a decent response. You will find here some of the kinds of questions you should be asking.

Don’t spend more money doing more of what is evidently not providing you with the results you expect.

Get outside perspective. Do thorough investigative internal assessments of your company–starting with Sales, then Marketing, then Customer Service, and finally with products.  These should be completed in about a week so as to maximize the learning and better connect the dots.

It will be hard to impossible for your Management Team to set aside a whole week to do thorough internal assessments. It will be even harder for your team to stay objective and intellectually honest in asking tough questions, and especially in explaining why they continue to do what they do.

If you seriously want to achieve Predictable Revenue Goal, you must know what is preventing you from doing that. To find out, you must conduct thorough internal assessments. Get outside help to come in, interview, review, analyze, and report back to you within a week.

SOMAmetrics has the expertise to conduct a thorough assessment of your company’s systems, processes, and people. Call us at 510 206 9263 for a free initial consultation.