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Demand Generation Management Sales & Marketing

Less budget, higher goals? 5 ways to grow B2B revenue pipeline in challenging times

NOTE: This is another partner blog, this one created with Inner Onion, a Premonio partner. Inner Onion has a unique offering, helping firms set up partner ecosystems to execute national and international go-to-market systems. Inner Onion also helps European companies set up shop in the US and vice versa.

As anyone who regularly reads the business press or has a venture capitalist or private equity partner on their board knows, macroeconomic conditions in the U.S. are, shall we say, uncertain. Are we in a recession, maybe. Have startup investors pulled back on the free flowing rocket fuel of investment capital that was fueling the engine of growth? Stories of VC’s asking their portfolios to slash costs to outlast the impending recession are common. No one, not even a flush VC, likes a downround on their investments. 

But the CMO still has to generate leads. The CRO still needs to grow revenue at double, even triple digits rates. And oh by the way, you can’t hire any more headcount. With senior managers no longer in the job market, the law of supply and demand says that workers who can find new jobs at higher wages will jump ship as quickly as they can set up a LinkedIn job alert. Which means you would have a tough time hiring, even if you had the open headcount. The business train doesn’t stop or even slow, while you are scanning resumes and holding endless interview Zoom sessions. 

What are we facing?

A key new reality of the turbulent economic uncertainty of the last two years is that teams and executives have to produce more pipeline and revenue with fewer resources and lower budgets. Collectively we have dealt with dozens of companies in this new circumstance, and this blog captures some of the lessons learned. 

Let’s review five key strategies to optimize outcomes, even in this constrained environment: 

  1. Unified strategy and approach
  2. Fractional everyone
  3. Go digital
  4. Measure, diagnose, and adjust
  5. Sell success and repeat

  • Strategy 1 – “Everyone singing from the same hymnal” – Unified strategy and approach

As a mid or upper level manager or even executive, the success or failure of your team, department or company rests with you. There could be failures of execution or acts of God, but often failures are also those of strategy and alignment. So first things – first. Get the strategy right and communicate it consistently to everyone. Make sure your team of superstars knows and adheres to the strategy you and them have defined. 

Because your team is likely disparate people or even firms, they are unlikely to have worked together. (If they have – bonus for you!) To create cohesion of purpose across such dispersed resources, your team should have a common methodology (i.e. common measurements, definitions (e.g. ICP), lead flows, reporting and dashboards, etc.), and your team should have a common platform to collaborate and communicate. 

Here is what we’ve seen work in ensuring new and old team members are aligned:

  1. Key to success is knowing what worked / works and what didn’t / doesn’t
  2. Setting up clear, synchronized lead sources and stages across the whole org, and measure or estimate conversion rates, as possible
  3. If one team member is goaled on performance, make sure all share that goal so there is no working at cross purposes
  4. Have someone play objective analyst; typically Rev Ops (who should report to the CEO, COO or CFO to avoid bias)
  5. Analyze pipeline generation for the whole company, not just sales or marketing alone
  • Strategy 2 – Fractional (almost) everyone

One non-obvious but necessary implication of the current “less budget, higher goal” Zeitgeist is the need for fractional resources: if the budget for a full-time resource isn’t there but the work still needs to get done, then the only possible way out is working with part-time experts that can work together but are not full-time employees. 

This is not a brand new development as these days just about every function has an experienced fractional resource. All sorts of marketing or sales functions can now be achieved by fractional people, from product management to product marketing, to marcom, to field marketing. Public relations and social media marketing has been provided by consultants for years. However, rather than being a luxury, they’re now becoming a necessity given the above reasons.

Most companies jump to hire inside sales people or business development reps (BDRs), but even this can be outsourced. Out-sourced BDRs will require access to your customer relationship management (CRM) system and other tools so you retain ownership of all prospect and customer data. 

Maintaining an in-house core team is important, for one to explain so the external teams fully understand the product and market as well as the tech stack. But they can be surrounded with a group of very talented people who can be found in lower cost geographies. Within the US you can find work-willing and cost-effective people outside the bi-coastal major metros. Outside the US, look to Ukraine, Czech Republic, Philippines, LatAm, etc. that have well-trained people but are off the beaten path.

Get recommendations from your networks for capable contractors, such as Inner Onion who specialize in helping European companies enter the US market and vice versa. SLACK communities or the Clubhouse online community can also be great sources for finding talented people. 

  • Strategy 3 – Go digital and up the mid-funnel

One of the macro trends that has enabled the potential of a team of outsourced fractional all stars (FAS) is the plethora of new (and not so new) technologies that have arrived on the market and been ubiquitously adopted.

If you ever used a manual app or spreadsheet to do anything, there is now an application that replaces it. Project management: Monday.com or Asana; File storage: Dash by Bright; Measuring demand generation impact: Premonio or Funnelcast, etc, etc. Never use a spreadsheet or other “dumb” application when low cost or free versions are just an online search away. 

As pipeline generation is the life-blood of any successful company, its digitization has played a major impact on changes in job descriptions.

Focus on where the issues are:

If top of funnel is below target, go digital (i.e. LinkedIn, Email, virtual events, syndication, social very selectively, etc.) and drive further efficiency by being super clear on targeted Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) and value propositions.

If mid-funnel is bad (e.g. reps are ignoring marketing leads and / or marketing leads are bad), then bring in outsourced BDRs and have clear lead quality definitions and BANT* criteria.

If bottom-of-the-funnel is bad, then bring in sales training, do sales enablement, focus down on the closers, and train or let go of the other reps.

  • Strategy 4 – Measure, diagnose, and adjust – often

Just because your virtual team is not on the payroll, doesn’t mean you should measure them and hold them accountable. They should be a primary source for finding, diagnosing and remediating problems. 

A key to success is knowing programs and promotions worked / works and what didn’t / doesn’t. Testing alternatives is key to success. Traditionally, large spend items in many organizations are PR, advertising, events, and web development; now it’s the time to be clear on which of these contribute to pipeline growth.

A remote team approach requires setting up clear, synchronized lead sources and stages across the whole org, and measuring or estimating conversion rates.

Have someone play objective analyst; typically rev ops should report to the CEO, COO or CFO to avoid bias. Analyze the whole company, not just Sales or Marketing alone.

  • Strategy 5 – Sell Success & Repeat

No boss, regardless of how plush their budget is, will approve a project without a plan for success and demonstrated progress. So take a little bite before rolling out the full scale effort. Carefully measuring progress in early stages will help you justify phase 2 and 3 budgets.

Sell your outsourced program’s success not just to your direct boss, but also to other audiences. It is likely that others will learn from your success. 

Once you can document success, repeat that process over and over. 

Wrap Up

A few items for you to remember as you manage your own factional all star team. 

  • Use best-in-class benchmarks to compare your old pipeline / budget combination to your new goals and see where you can become more efficient
  • Launch programs and try things out; be ready for rapid experimentation and compare planned vs. actual results via weekly sprints
  • Once your processes are fixed and you have good data, you can then more effectively focus on the art of marketing and selling because you know what works – or not

Several new trends have come together to provide very experienced people available to work at a fraction of the cost of a full time headcount. Not least of which is a shift in attitude that outsourced all stars can be successful. 

If you need or want to hire a factional person or team, now is a great time to find excellent talented people ready to help. Keeping in mind the advice above should help improve your chances for positive results.

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