These are the event meeting notes from the May 25, 2023 Revenue Collective meeting at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, CA in the heart of Silicon Valley. The opening speaker was Philippe Bouissou from Blue Dots Partners who reprised his TEDx talk:
Aligning the Dots
Philippe used the metaphor of a complex, mechanical watch, with its many moving pieces, that requires aligning the “blue dots”, i.e. the jewel bearings which enable flawless movement, to function precisely over literally billions of cycles.
Each “blue dot” alignment point is critical to the accurate functioning of the watch, and Philippe uses this analogy to explain his framework for effectively and repeatably running a complex business.
His proven framework for a company’s execution is based on optimizing four axes of alignment:
- The customer’s pain must align with your company’s claim;
- The customer’s perception must align with your company’s message;
- The customer’s plan to purchase must align with your company’s sales processes;
- Customers must be delighted with your company’s offering.
The group discussed the challenges of creating a marketing and sales plan, which requires a ton of analytics and science but also a fair amount of art and magic. Aligning the perspectives of the different teams across the revenue process requires a shared understanding of the measurable goals and objectives for each phase in the sales pipeline. Agreement on what qualifies as a lead or a prospect, agreement on the timeline of the sales process, and agreement on the Ideal Customer Profile requires a lot of communication.
Philippe wrote a great blog about predictive revenue last year for Premonio.
Johannes Hoech was asked about sales progress at Premonio, the sponsor of the event, and he reviewed a process workflow showing which partners were involved in each piece of the value chain. Johannes is usually involved in the growth model building and the strategy, and then a number of partners have helped with the actual implementation (getting numbers into the model and pulling data from source systems where possible). Support for ongoing usage is a key part of each partner’s relationship with the customer.
Johannes was also asked about new feature development and reviewed his plans to simplify the current user interface and invest in better automation of dataflows and integrations.
Bill opened with the observation that people (in the US especially) have become hostile when responding to outreach, and are allergic to cold calls and obvious prospecting activity. His company (IgniteGTM) is hosting a thousand conversations every day, trying to warm up leads so that they are open to being contacted. Bill noted that the key to “cold opens” is to sell without being a salesperson and to bring authenticity to each contact. The initial opening is everything – can’t be too obviously a sales pitch, and leverage social engineering practices to ensure that you are offering something of interest from the first contact.
Jill noted that businesses have changed the way they buy, shopping through their network of contacts and doing their own research online rather than depending on a sales rep for information. Businesses are not open to marketing pitches and are not asking companies to come in and compete for business. The buying decision has often already been made by the time a company hears from this type of prospect.
Martin noted that it is critical to use an authentic voice in B2B communication and to make it personal. No one reads press releases, and they will not respond to formulaic or lazy messaging. When asked how to be authentic, Martin suggested that you have to couch your pitch in the right terms, avoiding hyperbole and techno-babble. Reach out to people in the language that they speak, and reference concrete problems that matter to them.
Jill added that a key to authenticity is to provide value early in the selling process – provide something helpful or insightful to the prospect as early as possible. Bill added that authentic is another term for showing that you are human – if you are responsive and open to feedback, you are more relatable.
Another attendee suggested that “selling through curiosity” works. If you can deepen your knowledge of each prospect, you can create interest by appealing to something that they care about.
Johannes stressed the need for micro-targeting, i.e. to custom-formulate each outreach message to each prospect, and for building detailed knowledge of prospects by harvesting information available online. Traditionally this has required manually researched and crafted outreach messages, which – while highly targeted and relevant – is not scalable. To showcase how to at least semi-automate the crafting of custom messages to each prospect, Katarina Danisova demonstrated one such tool called clay.run, which uses ChatGPT to (semi-)automate the building of highly targeted outreach messages (customized for each outbound email or LinkedIn message based on available knowledge).
- Hostile response – B2B customers today don’t want to be sold to; don’t “pitch slap”
- Be authentic – Build trusting relationships that should be personal, helpful, and authentic.
- Understand their WIFM – Micro-target and research each new relationship. Really get to know your prospect on a personal level. Determine their business and career goals.
Breakout Sessions: Effective Emails, the Power of Fans
The last segment of the day consisted of two breakout sessions, one focused on how to get your emails opened and the other discussing the concept that twenty fans are worth more than two thousand prospects.
How to contact and nurture prospects after the death of email marketing.
Petr Svoboda, Founder and CEO of CodeNOW, asked for advice on improving his company’s email effectiveness. Petr was a first-time visitor to the Revenue Collective and a business owner. They have invested heavily in lead generation and creating multiple marketing messages but got no response (a single request to unsubscribe).
When asked, he responded that the leads were purchased through ZoomInfo (unqualified), and they were sending emails through HubSpot with an unfamiliar reply-to address (unknown to the recipients). The group agreed that blind emails sent to cold leads were very unlikely to ever elicit a response, and suggested a more personal approach that provided some value upfront. The CEO has a strong reputation, and so the company could leverage his credibility by reaching out on Discord or Reddit to start a conversation and to get feedback from the community. As noted earlier in the day, the indirect method of engaging with a prospective customer through a conversation about something they are interested in is far more likely to end up in a positive relationship. Lessons learned: 1) email is dying as a lead generation tool (45% of emails are considered Spam by the recipients)
The group agreed that having an actual client with marketing and sales challenges added to the discussion. Having a real-life case to analyze and address made the discussion much richer for the attendees. The Revenue Collective will consider inviting more customers for future meetings.
The second group discussed the fact that fans (true promoters of your product) drive B2B sales organically and noted that a few fans can make a huge difference in both revenue and reputation.
As noted earlier, B2B customers are increasingly relying on their network when making important buying decisions and an enthusiastic user can influence many prospects. One member quoted the claim that twenty fans were worth more than two thousand leads, and noted the outsized impact a fan can have in online communities or in industry forums like trade shows.
The goal of this discussion was to find ways to turn raw contacts into relationships and then into champions and fans, who will recommend you and your products to their friends and colleagues. In a way, this is reverting back to personal sales relationships 101 and not relying on the automation of marketing tools. There is much more to be written about this topic.
One lesson that came from the fan discussion was the importance of adding business value. One story was of a CFO who was being wined and dined by partners, but those perks were quickly forgotten. But another vendor provided a branded tool and that tool was used over and over, for years and much more appreciated as a value add. So the lesson is, help people do their jobs (or get new jobs) and they will appreciate and remember you.
- 54% of respondents who had shared a bad experience said they shared it more than 5 times, compared to only 33% of those who had shared a good interaction.
The group agreed that it is important for every company to nurture its fans and at the same time to invest in addressing any serious customer issues.
Next Revenue Collective meeting is scheduled for September 21, 2023 at 1 pm; go to the Premonio events page for more details.