Sales expansion and new frontiers
Expansion can mean different things to different businesses.
It might mean increasing headcount, exploring new verticals, territory growth, international moves, or optimizing your existing customer base.
Over the last six months all of these avenues have been impacted.
We invited four leaders with substantial experience in the field to map the strategies and question whether it’s something we should be considering at all in the current sales climate.
Andy Hallett, Managing Director, Recspand
Dale Zwizinksi, SVP of N. America Sales, Smart Action
Nils Brosch, Founder, SaaSCollective
Chris Neenan, Founder & Chief Growth Facilitator, Relentless Growth
Are you ready for growth?
General Motors, Kelloggs, Disney, Microsoft, Airbnb, IBM, and Zoom are all businesses that either expanded or were forged during financial crises.
However, with a sustained period of uncertainty ahead, it’s more important than ever to de-risk every consideration to expansion.
What can you test before you move and how can you start firing bullets into markets before you start launching cannonballs?
Before you look to expand you need to have a clear understanding of:
- Your ideal customer profile
- Your current addressable market
- Exactly what your value proposition is for them
- And where it’s successful
You can take this knowledge and explore how it might translate to similar customers, adjacent verticals, international shores, and the opportunities within your existing customer base.
The second port of call would then be to look at how you could evolve or broaden your proposition, extend your addressable market, or re-evaluate your commercial setup.
Replicate what’s currently working
Expansion can be the quickest way to sink a company.
Walmart lost north of $1bn in its failed move into German territory. Target spent two years bottoming out in Canada and eventually closed 133 stores and 17,000 jobs at a cost of billions.
Even the goliaths need to do their due diligence on market fit.
A new international market – and new vertical to some extent – have different cultures, colloquialisms, selling mechanisms, cadences, and processes that you have to account for.
The biggest indicator of how you should expand will often be sitting in your existing customer base.
Segment it by those that are currently performing well, engaging with your product or service, and then build your ideal customer profile around them.
It’s likely that the recent shift in market conditions has changed who amongst your customer base is doing well.
Then ask what the similar markets and verticals are that those customers operate in?
Do you have the additional resource, expertise, and infrastructure to deploy into this area, or is it going to open attrition in your current footholds?
No man is an island
Who makes your best salesperson on the ground successful?
Will you still have the resources, tech stack, lead generation, sales collateral, and support to make them successful in a new environment?
Moving into new territories and verticals means you won’t have the existing advantage that you hold in your established markets.
The relevant “proof” from case studies and referrals, the trodden routes to market, and the same competitive landscape.
To gain a foothold in a new frontier think of deploying a pod instead of an individual.
The same applies to your existing customer base and the number of customers that your saddling account managers with.
Can they effectively nurture those relationships and make the necessary touchpoints and analysis to upsell, renew, and source new business?
Empower your customer success teams
As the curtains draw on the year, it’s time to pursue wallet share.
Look introspectively at your existing customers and those that are experiencing the success of your services.
Across many businesses, customer success is still seen as premium support and maintenance, instead of success.
Empower them to be successful. Give them the mandate to facilitate those up-sells and cross-sells. They hold the relationships and relationships drive revenue.
It’s arguable that sales teams actually expose your existing customer base to risk because the nature of good salespeople is to breed new ideas in buyers.
You might encourage the loyalty of an existing customer to look left and right at a new opportunity.
It’s still a young discipline that’s underserved, but the winners will be those that rapidly move it from the second tier to a revenue centre.
Earlier on the series, we spoke about how we ask salespeople to do one thing and compensate them for doing something entirely different.
This extends into customer success and the split-remunerations that exist between departments.
Remove the friction points and align everything to the experience of the customer and how you serve them.
Values are universal but culture has to be localised
What do you want your brand to be recognised for?
Culture is a term that’s been gradually hijacked in recent years and misrepresented as foosball tables, beer taps, and lunch-hour yoga sessions.
That’s all been left in the office.
In an earlier episode we spoke about the growth of remote culture, and how processes are being codified and culture reimagined.
Culture grows organically and it’s more ethereal. It’s not something that you can roadmap or stringently ringfence.
There are elements that you can control. Who you hire, how they fit, their onboarding experience, universal values, playbooks.
With any expansion, it’s a good idea to deploy a cultural lightning rod into a new area to cultivate the environment you want.
It’s only when you blend your universal brand with the nuances of localised culture that you start resonating and connecting with local buyers.
Footholds require familiarity, understanding, empathy, and resonance. Do your narratives, playbooks, credibility, and success stories apply at a local level?
Berlin is unlikely to be interested in a case study from the West Coast of California, because it doesn’t demonstrate the same success.
Make your sales narratives contextual and situational to the customers you’re speaking to.