Like any year, 2017 had its share of interesting B2B sales success stories. For a few of these, the importance of creative sales techniques played the most significant role. This article will highlight a few such tales, addressing the major milestones achieved, the professionals who made them possible, and the strategies they used to achieve their goals.
Competing with products manufactured overseas can prove a difficult proposition for American manufacturers, primarily because of pricing. In many cases, foreign goods undercut the prices of those made in the United States, but that’s not the case with the story of 50 Strong, who recently secured a contract to produce 5 million plastic water bottles for retailer Walmart after a 30-minute pitch session.
A confluence of factors made this success possible, the first (and perhaps most notable) being that Ashley Thompson, the CEO of 50 Strong, took advantage of Walmart’s annual open call for American manufacturers — part of the company’s pledge to add more US-made goods to its shelves. This was a rare opportunity, one that offered little forgiveness for mistakes. Thompson was able to turn it into a success by keying in on the details her prospect valued most:
“For 50 Strong, selling to a large retailer, like Walmart, which has nearly $500 billion in revenue worldwide, means navigating the tradeoff between price and quantity. Lower prices mean lower profit margins, and less room for error.”
Thompson’s intimate knowledge of her product and ability to clearly express its advantages served her well. Combined with her ability to convince Walmart that 50 Strong could provide both a low price and substantial quality, Thompson was able to make her product that much more appealing.
In 2006, Splunk had a grand total of 150 customers under its belt. Fast forward to 2017 and the San Francisco-based B2B IT company has more than 13,000. According to an article in Harvard Business Review, the company’s VP of Global Field Success, Bart Fanelli, and his focus on identifying the right sales professionals for the job, was a significant boon:
“Splunk developed profiles that specified skills and capabilities relevant to each role… For a field sales position, for example, Splunk specified skills that managers could look for and discuss in the applicant’s work history during interviews–e.g., forecast accuracy, messages to relevant market segments, and other categories.”
While the authors of the HBR article note the approach might not have worked for every startup in every situation, they also highlight that having a streamlined methodology for bringing such talent into the fold is a key component for continued success.
Andrew Joyce created Found, an Australian job platform, in April of 2015. Over the course of seven months, in 2017, he was able to increase his company’s annual revenue to $1 million, a feat he credits to shifting focus to B2B sales. Attempting to gain traction solely online, he states, his team “tried a range of different search/display options, and couldn’t get results that were economic.” The approach worked, he believes, because of the added human touch:
“After all, nothing beats the conversation that a great salesperson can have with a potential customer. It establishes that you’re a ‘real business’, the salesperson can address any customer concerns, and the feedback (from missed sales) to the product team can be invaluable.”
Joyce added that because of the competitive nature of B2B markets, strictly online methods of capturing potential clients’ attention tend to fail. Branching out offline and cutting through the “noise” of the internet helped make a greater impact that Found turned to its advantage.
After BlackBerry was ousted from its position at the top of the smartphone food chain, the company’s revenues declined and its future seemed, to many, to be in peril. Shifting away from hardware and toward enterprise sales of software, however, has turned things around for the Canadian company in 2017:
“Software and services revenue rose 26 percent to $196 million in the second quarter ended Aug. 31 from a year earlier, above the average forecast of $175 million of two analysts polled by Reuters.”
By switching up its focus and providing its sales teams with renewed direction, BlackBerry managed to bag 3,300 orders in the second quarter of 2017. In Q3, it secured 36 deals with US Federal Government agencies, each over $1 million, and it also inked deals to sell its services for next-gen automotive software systems.
The successes have paved the way for the company to reverse its troubled fortunes, and BlackBerry plans on building on the momentum by hiring additional staff to support the company’s enterprise sales and marketing efforts.
In today’s technologically focused sales landscape, a diminishing percentage of cold calls net a meeting, and building a sales strategy around them, like Trinity Manning, Rod Brown and Ty McLaughlin of OnceLogix did, is an idea that should have been dead on arrival. They were able to make it succeed, however, by targeting a niche with a near-irrefusable offer:
“They targeted smaller customers that couldn’t pay the big startup fees their competitors charged, but would happily sign up for a subscription-based service at a price of $45 per user per month.”
The result? The trio has managed to gain a foothold selling software in 11 states across the South, generated $3.5 million in sales in 2016, and is on track for more than $5 million in sales for 2017 — proof-positive that an old-school, direct approach can still work if it’s concentrated on the right audience.