What do companies that are global majors have in common? Their customer-centric approach is their core value. The focus here is not just to grow the customer base, but also to build a loyal cohort of repeat customers who want to come back for more.
In an era of instant gratification, meeting customer expectations is a daunting task for MSMEs who don't have the financial means or the geographical footprint of global companies. Although an easy way out is to entice new customers, the pandemic has taught us that there are simply too many uncertainties in the environment to bank on the novelty factor as a sales acceleration strategy.
Sales, especially for B2B MSMEs, are heavily dependent on customer satisfaction and subsequent referrals. Let’s see how we can accelerate sales through a customer-centric approach, just like the big players.
Sales acceleration is a numbers game
The first and most basic principle to understand here is that sales acceleration is a numbers game. Our consulting work with established large companies and start-ups has shown that irrespective of the size of the company, the framework and the core principles to reform the sales funnel remain the same, it is only the inputs that change.
Sales acceleration is the force which drives the business to a set speed, or in this case a target. Considering that the sales ambition is a predefined number, there are only two possible outcomes—either you achieve the target, or you don’t. If you’ve hit the magic number, even if you are facing bottlenecks that curb your velocity, you’ll still be out of the danger zone, much like the car that flattens out temporarily at cruise control.
What becomes critical, therefore, is having a planned structure or framework in place. If you advance without a plan, you will be left with defending a failed performance that leaves you with no learnings or motivation to move forward.
End state approach to acceleration
When you are in acceleration mode, you have to be very clear about what you want to achieve. Like all of life’s big questions with simple answers, planning for sales acceleration begins by defining your end state. And don’t forget that with customer centricity and customer lifetime value being the fulcrum of revenue growth, your strategy for activating the levers of sales transformation must not lose sight of what your customers need, particularly your existing ones.
It may seem very facile, but the conundrum of knowing exactly what the end state of a sales acceleration strategy is, is something leaders of many young or small companies wrestle with, just like the heads of giant corporations do when market dynamics propel them to either grab a larger share of the pie, or defend their position as a market leader.
When your end state is identified, the first step is syncing the leadership at the infancy stage of the plan itself. As a business leader, if you have delegated sales planning to someone else, it is time to step in and grab the steering wheel—your intellectual bandwidth is necessary to execute the plan in the right direction.
Next, take a hard look at your sales pipeline. When sales acceleration strategies are in motion, the conversion ratios that you are used to will change, as the plan intensifies efficiencies and streamlines processes to achieve a set target in a finite time period. You have to plan aggressively to increase funnel intake, and manage leads and sales closures. It’s important that you have a firm grasp of the situation at this time, but do not micromanage.
Leveraging existing customer relationships
The third—and perhaps one of the most critical steps—is to lay out the strategy for packaging value-added services and repeatable selling and keeping your customer lifetime value on the rise. While it is important to win new customers to meet the demands of your revenue target, you must ask yourself—how are you going to leverage the existing customers to drive sales acceleration? It is vital for you to have explicit programmes to manage and expand this cohort. After all, your existing customer is your best brand ambassador, whose referrals bring in the new customers that you aspire to have.
Some of the key account management imperatives to prioritise existing customers include special privileges, pricing and appointing dedicated resources. This aspect of pipeline management is especially crucial for B2B MSMEs, whose revenue stream depends on boosting renewals.
Simultaneously, I always advocate that for companies in the B2B space especially, it is important to implement a time and tested manufacturing principle for sales acceleration—the PDCA or the Plan, Do, Check, Act. When every business function or action, be it marketing or training is nudged to fulfil this cycle, you have a clear picture of what needs to be done to move the speed to the next needle.
If the PDCA routine is not commonplace, there will be a tendency to either erroneously inflate the outcome of the sales acceleration as a victory, or abandon the process by prematurely declaring defeat—neither of which is helpful to achieve the end state.
A landing point for growth
Sales acceleration is not merely about revenue—in my experience, I've often found it to be, what I call the ‘landing point’, a sort of inflection point from where the business suddenly develops clarity on what other efficiencies can be harnessed, how the drivers of sales and enabling environment can be activated. This awareness is invaluable, as it sets the stage for further growth.