Startup tips: Sales and Marketing in a Digital-First Environment
January 15, 2021
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced workplaces to operate remotely, many startups relied upon digital-first initiatives into new regions. Instead of deploying hundreds of salespeople to crisscross the globe selling software and services, B2B companies have increasingly focused on online touchpoints to identify and engage new prospective customers. No industry has been on a hotter growth trajectory in the past few years than SaaS-based platforms, where companies have rapidly grown Sales and Marketing teams to keep up with global demand and competition.
But if digital sales and marketing offered some competitive advantage before COVID-19, they will likely be mission-critical for enterprise software and other startups to scale in a new, digital-first global business climate. Companies mapping new pathways to global expansion are re-assessing the allocation and impact of spend on sales and marketing and need guidance for how to navigate this new-normal.
B Capital Group’s in-house team of seasoned operators researched the most relevant, updated best practices to help startups retool and re-deploy sales and marketing teams and initiatives. We sat down with a few thought leaders from our network for detailed conversations to help any B2B startup prepare for a new, digital sales environment, including:
- Amy Kalokerinos, Founder and CEO of Akalaid and former Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Akalaid works directly with founders to speed up their time to market and provide meaningful and lasting connections with Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies.
- Shiv Narayanan, Founder and CEO of How To SaaS, a management consulting firm that enables companies to scale their marketing and create enterprise value.
- Karla Berman, is Vice President of Sales at Yalochat, a conversationalist commerce company redefining the customer service experience in B Capital Group’s portfolio.
We compiled specific feedback into a series of detailed Virtual Sales and Marketing playbooks:
- 4 Steps to Strengthening Your Digital Sales Pitch
- 4 Steps to Scaling Marketing and Achieving Real ROI
- 3 Strategies for Succeeding in a Digital Sales Environment
Here are several common themes we heard throughout these conversations:
Content is needed more than ever before
In sales outreach, “Content is still queen,” according to Amy Kalokerinos. Sales and Marketing teams need to work together to close deals, leveraging content to engage and educate prospects throughout the sales pipeline.
Even in the earliest stages of cold outreach, content matters. Sales teams that craft original, thoughtful and personalized cold emails typically see increased open rates and better responses than those that do not put in the extra time and effort.
Both Amy and Shiv Narayanan discussed how much influence content has on buyer behavior, because most people discover products and services through SEO and video search. According to Shiv, most buyers consume three to five pieces of content before speaking with a sales representative. Marketing teams need to develop purposeful and accessible content in coordination with Sales teams, educating them on the talking points that covert leads most effectively.
Streamline goals and critical work
Both Shiv and Karla Berman identified the importance of maintaining critical workflows when managing and deploying a virtual and remote sales team. Shiv emphasized the importance of marketing analysis to optimize for the channels that drive the most revenue. Data-driven research helps teams assess their baseline and develop an acceptable cost per MQL. Ultimately, becoming more scientific about your marketing approach will also help your marketing team advocate for a greater budget.
Karla, who joined Yalochat to lead sales shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, restructured her team for a virtual environment almost overnight. Centralizing sales benchmarks helped her team maintain its productivity levels by giving clear, achievable targets. She also shifted to a much flatter team structure to reduce the time her senior team spent managing others, putting the most seasoned employees in customer-facing roles. Additionally, as a remote company, team members’ location becomes much less constricted, and Karla was able to broaden the pool of employable talent.
One other piece of advice Karla and the Yalo leadership team employed was to make sure they were saying, “no,” enough. Getting comfortable with rapid prioritization and hyper-focus on primary objectives, the team avoids being stretched too thin or getting distracted from primary customer audiences and core offerings.
In addition to tactical guidance, all our experts shared a message that this digital-first environment, which we will likely experience (at least in part) in perpetuity, should not halt our personal or professional progress. If we’re willing to keep an open mind and be flexible, a world where we don’t hop on a plane every day to see a prospective customer face-to-face does not have to be any less successful or effective than one in which we engage virtually.
For more specific guidance, check out our detailed Virtual Sales and Marketing playbooks:
· 4 Steps to Strengthening Your Digital Sales Pitch
· 4 Steps to Scaling Marketing and Achieving Real ROI
· 3 Strategies for Succeeding in a Digital Sales Environment