Webinar: Sales Team Strategies to Help Drive Customer Growth

By: Phil Stern  |  November 4, 2022

This past summer, Karen Gray, Vice President of Sales at ResMan, had an “aha” moment while on vacation with her family in Greece. Following a full-day tour with a guide who saturated the visitors with facts until they lost interest, Karen and her family met a subsequent tour guide who started by asking about them. Having gathered facts about his customers, the guide then delivered a tailored tour that left Karen and her family feeling engaged and like they had received real value.

Back home, Karen started thinking about how this experience could be applied to her position as a sales leader. In this webinar hosted by Mainsail Partners’ Operating Principal Phil Stern, the pair talk about a fresh approach to customer engagement that can lead to growth within SaaS organizations.

The full webinar is available to watch HERE. Below are Mainsail’s top takeaways.

Take a story-driven approach to selling

In an effort to close every deal as quickly as possible, many sales teams make the mistake of overloading the customer with information. Anxious to impress, reps demo a bevy of product features without thinking about which ones the customer might care about, and why.

Instead of this fact-driven approach that may not resonate with customers, Karen suggests making your sales process story-driven.

Here are three ways to drive customer engagement through story-driven sales:

  • Complete thorough customer research before the call. Know their history and understand their organization so you come to the call informed.
  • Get curious about your customers. Ask questions to learn about them. What are they looking to achieve? What challenges are they facing? How can your product be a potential solution?
  • Actively listen to what the customer is saying. Seek to understand context. Ask thoughtful follow-up questions that help you define your customer’s needs.

As you learn more about your customer, you can personalize your demo to spotlight the functionalities that could solve their specific challenges. This type of discourse is more likely to leave your customer feeling excited about your product. Bottom line: Keep your customers, not your product, at the center of your conversations.

“Salespeople do a lot of discovery work to acquire a customer and then think, ‘Okay, we’re done.’ But in reality, every conversation with your customer is an opportunity to learn something new about them,” says Phil.

“We have to ask ourselves, ‘Are we overloading them with facts and information? How are we delivering the information to resonate with customers?’ Ensure every engagement is delivering value and be protective of customers’ time.” – Karen Gray

Customize your storytelling by segmenting your audience

As your sales team gets more comfortable with the story-driven sales approach, they can start to create strategies to optimize the process. Start by defining your customers’ expectations about the sales experience. Then, segment the customer base according to key buying criteria such as their industry, size, location and persona.

Equipped with this segmentation, you can start to provide a tailored selling experience. For example, selling to a C-suite at a larger company might require showcasing how your product can offer a higher-level view and analytics that help them implement data-driven strategies, whereas an individual contributor at a smaller company will need software that streamlines their day-to-day workload. It is critical to recognize this difference to provide the best experience to your customers.

Segmenting your customers also enables you to forecast more prescriptively and answer:

  • What products and features can you sell to which segments?
  • How should you sell to each segment?
  • What’s the expected time frame to close deals to each segment?
  • How should you partner with the customer success team to engage with them regularly?
“Customer segmentation is valuable to the entire organization. You’re better able to understand your customers’ desired experiences, segment them, and dig into their personas at a deeper level.” – Phil Stern

How to tell if your strategies are working

The most effective way to understand if sales is providing a valuable customer experience is to look at product usage and adoption.

“When you look at how someone has embraced your product,” says Karen, “you understand whether you’re hitting their pain points. Remember, it’s product usage that drives revenue, not sales.”

To measure product usage, look at the adoption of specific modules within your product and supplement with metrics like expected revenue, NPS, and survey and customer sentiment when the support team closes a ticket. Consider whether customer use aligns with your sales messaging, then make appropriate adjustments.

Once you tie these insights together, you can determine how a customer segment feels and uses your product, helping you better understand both your target audience and how to develop and sell your product.

Don’t be afraid to upsell

“As salespeople, we don’t want single one-and-done transactions because we miss out on important conversations and opportunities to upsell,” explains Karen.

She suggests a two-pronged approach to selling that is both reactive and proactive. “Engage that customer by asking about their business goals. Think about how to deliver a product that solves a need for what someone is trying to achieve.”

Ask if the customer has used a specific functionality or offer suggestions based on experiences of customers within the same segment. Approach every interaction with the mindset of being a better partner to your customers and respecting their time.

“You are the expert in your industry and of your product, so you must act as a consultative domain expert,” says Karen. “You’re here to help solve your customer’s pain points. Don’t be afraid to upsell them.”

To teach this approach within your sales organization, train your team to apply expertise and product value in every conversation. If they revert to a fact-driven demo or sell without being proactive, help them realize they’ve missed an opportunity to connect, be a better partner, and upsell.

“We should not be afraid to upsell our customers.” – Karen Gray

Demos shouldn’t be a monologue

In a world where everyone is incredibly busy and overloaded with meetings, we need to be cognizant of both our own and our customer’s time. In sales demos, many companies emphasize product functionality over customer interaction, but having a conversation with the customer is the opportune time to build a relationship.

“Demos shouldn’t be a monologue,” says Karen. “Listen carefully to your customer, bring information from previous calls to the meeting, and map your product features to the problems they solve for your customers so that your demo resonates.”

When planning your meetings, shorten the introductions, stop stacking meetings, and leave sufficient time for customer follow-up, even if it’s negative.

“I love when I get the opportunity to say, ‘Tell me why you can’t buy my product,’ says Karen. “It means I can learn how the customer is struggling and then tailor the demo to fit their needs.”

Maximize the moment

In many ways, Karen’s approach to sales is counterintuitive to the “grind” selling culture some SaaS companies rely on. She encourages her teams to slow down and let the customer be heard. She emphasizes storytelling, relationship-building and a nuanced, customized sales experience that speaks to the customer’s needs while respecting their time. By shifting away from a feature-heavy sales presentation and toward one that is tailored to the customer’s pain points, Karen believes a sales team can become better partners, drive customer engagement and discover more frequent opportunities to upsell and cross sell.

“When we maximize moments with our customers, we have the opportunity to show them what we’ve done in our business that will help them grow,” says Karen. “Make the most of those opportunities.”

Phil is a Operating Principal at Mainsail Partners. He leads the firm’s Center of Excellence for Sales and is responsible for helping Mainsail’s portfolio companies optimize their growth strategies and deploy sales practices.
More by Phil Stern
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