Everyone wants to grow revenue. For most sales teams this means aggressive prospecting, mass email blasts, and cold-calling. Throughout my years in sales management at Google and YCharts I sought a more strategic approach to scaling sales efforts. Over time I began to discover the best source of sales wasn’t outbound. It wasn’t even inbound. I realized the best way to find my next customer was to leverage my current customer base.
Over time I developed this inkling into a full-blown methodology which I employ at every organization I work with. Here is my tried-and-true method to identifying gaps in the sales process and squeezing every last drop of value from the pipeline:
- Understand the current position and identify goals.
- Audit the existing pipeline.
- Identify any opportunities for improvement.
- Analyze and refine the sales strategy.
- Lay groundwork for new strategy.
STEP 1: Understand the Current Position and Identify Goals
Before I do anything else I like to get a better understanding of the current position of the sales team. To do this I’ll look at some key metrics including:
- Average LTV of existing customer base (LTV)
- Average Revenue Per Customer (ARPC)
- Current growth: how much is revenue growing year over year? (ARR)
- Current growth: how much is revenue growing month to month? (MRR)
- Goal: what is the target MRR?
STEP 2: Audit the Existing Pipeline
For me, the next step is to look at my what my sales team currently has going on in their pipeline. At this point I’ll analyze all available data from the past 12 months and identify:
- Average number of prospects added to the pipeline per month
- Average CR (conversion rate)
- ARPA (average revenue per account)
- ACV/month (average contract value)
With this data in hand, I work backwards, starting with the target MRR determined in Step 1. Based on ACV, ARPA, and the current conversion rate I determined in Step 1, I can figure out how many meetings my sales team will have to generate to reach target MRR. This equation shows me the roadmap my team needs to take to hit target MRR.
STEP 3: Identify Any Opportunities for Improvement
Once I have my “equation” — it’s time to identify opportunities for improvement. At this step in the process I focus on finding ways to change the equation for a better result. This means either:
- Increasing the number of meetings booked (through cold-calling, email blasts, etc.)
- Increasing CR
- Increasing ACV
I find that aiming to improve quantity-based metrics (like number of meetings booked) is the least effective at impacting MRR. Instead, I focus on how I can help my team improve either conversion rate or ACV on deals. Once I identify an area of opportunity, I move on to analyzing the current sales strategy.
STEP 4: Analyze and Refine the Sales Strategy
In this phase I analyze the current sales strategy and see how it relates to the opportunity area I pinpointed in Step 3. At this point I like to ask what strategy is the team using to generate interest? To find prospects? To move leads along the stages of the pipeline? My goal is to identify how I can change my team’s prospecting approach to impact CR and ACV. I’ve found that in general, there are two main ways to impact CR and ACV:
- To increase CR: target only the prospects who are most likely to convert.
- To increase ACV: target only the prospects likely to have the highest contract value.
If I find my team’s current strategy is not taking into account one (or both) of these factors, I know there’s an area of opportunity to improve the sales strategy. In my experience, most sales teams follow a traditional sales funnel approach. This involves phases of awareness, interest, decision, then action. This approach can often be ineffective at targeting only the best, highest-value prospects. A more effective approach can be taken when the teams “flip their funnel.” Beginning by identifying target accounts, then finding key influencers, engaging decision makers, and finally creating product advocates.
I know that implementing a more strategic sales approach can help my team hone in on the best prospects and consistently crush their sales goals. With this in mind, I move on to creating a system for my team to implement this refined sales strategy.
STEP 5: Lay Groundwork for New Strategy
In this last step I lay the groundwork for my team to successfully implement a more effective sales strategy. This involves screening the current customer base against key criteria to create an ideal customer profile (ICP).
When it comes to increasing CR, I find the best customers to look at are those who are happiest with your product. When screening the current customer base things I look for are:
- Which of the current customers had the shortest sales cycles?
- Which of our customers have stayed with us the longest?
- Which of the current customers are brand advocates? Which customers mention our brand/product on social media, have provided referrals, or have a Net Promoter Score of 9 or 10?
In terms of ACV, it all comes down to the numbers. When screening the current customer base things I look for are:
- Which of our current customers have the highest ACV?
- Which of our current customers have increased their LTV over time by adding additional services, upgrading plans, growing their user base, etc.?
Once I identify five or six of our current accounts based on either CR or ACV criteria I figure out key similarities between the accounts. Some factors I consider are location, annual revenue, growth, funding stage, employee count and technology stack.
After identifying overlapping similarities I’ll have a well-researched “profile” for the easiest-to-win and highest value types of companies my sales team should be targeting.
At this point I pass the baton off to the team, allowing them to run with the framework I’ve set up. They can use the ICP to find the best-possible companies to target. From there, they can identify key decision makers from within those companies and implement strategic outreach to win sales.
This methodology has helped me scale sales efforts across the board with every team I’ve worked with. I’ve learned that the sales pipeline is a wealth of information, you just have to know where to look.