Qualification is key for effective pipeline management
GROWTH CHALLENGES SOLVED WITH BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
Strategic Business Development enabled this global software provider for the insurance sector to manage its pipeline more effectively across EMEA; helping to reduce its lengthy sales cycle while increasing deal sizes and expanding its global footprint.
A Driver for Change
As an established software provider, with a broad portfolio of products and a solid footprint in the UK market, the key challenge for this organisation was to increase revenue across existing and new name accounts. However one of the significant obstacles it faced was that its market – the insurance sector – is reluctant to embrace and implement new software, often waiting until existing platforms are failing technically or have become end-of-life and unsupported.
As a result, a major component of the go-to-market strategy revolved around increasing the urgency for prospects to move over to new software platforms. One of the significant challenges and a key strategy was developing sales capabilities that systematically allowed prospects to more effectively understand the business value that a new platform could provide. Particularly in terms of increasing underwriting volumes, reducing the cost of policy administration and eliminating claims risk.
To do this meant shifting sales conversations away from IT towards the Board and Department Heads who owned these business challenges. Yet this was only possible with a deep understanding of each insurer’s individual growth strategy and risk profile, combined with the ability to articulate the offering to them in the context of how it would add value financially to the organisation.
Field Sales, despite only having a small number of accounts, were struggling to find the capacity to conduct this level of account development. In particular maintaining an accurate view of opportunities within their key accounts, which was further hampered by long – 18 to 24 month – sales cycles and intense, complex bid processes. Relationships were held with a limited number of stakeholders and sales lacked the bandwidth to go deeper and broader into key accounts.
The impetus to introduce a strategic Business Development programme was to help accelerate new business acquisition, facilitate pipeline growth and reduce the time to revenue. Unlike traditional lead generation, Business Development is a strategic capability, a distinct part of the sales process designed to create genuinely winnable opportunities for high value complex deals.
Through an in-depth understanding of the factors that effect whether a deal does or doesn’t progress and applying advanced sales skills, a Business Development capability becomes a systematic approach to generating opportunities that have more winnable characteristics – more senior engagement, a stronger business case and a higher appetite to act.
How is Strategic Business Development Different?
Business Development specialists Clarify collaborated with the client Sales Account Managers in the following ways; seeking out and evaluating latent revenue opportunities in existing key accounts, identifying and profiling net new accounts and developing valueorientated messages to executive sponsors in order to encourage change earlier.
Business Development offers a highly skilled function that has been likened to having your ‘A Grade’ field sales solely focused on building pipeline revenue, with none of the distractions of managing live bids. It is Business Development’s role to connect with prospects, diagnose a need and demonstrate an understanding of what this need is whilst collaborating with buyers to educate them with new perspectives that bring value to the table.
The Clarify Business Development team had a background in insurance and a solid understanding of the market challenges, which enabled them to provide prospects with compelling reasons to engage. This was vital for this particular organisation because they operated in the competitive insurance sector, where P&L responsibility is held by a limited number of C-level stakeholders. Early engagement was a significant factor in creating and influencing the deal and identifying true opportunities was all the more important as it accelerated pipeline growth.
For example, the Clarify Business Development team identified a £1.5 million deal in the Middle East. After further qualifying the opportunity multiple senior stakeholders became involved. As a result the deal size increased to £10 million and the sales cycle reduced from an estimated two years to 12 months.
Market insight and intelligence is also a valuable part of the Business Development programme; Clarify’s ability to identify trends and high-growth segments to feed into the go-to-market strategy was fundamental to building a more customer-driven focus.
Given the nature of this sector, its long complex sales cycles and an average deal size in excess of £5 million, closed revenue was never going to be swift. In order for the client to see value in the Business Development programme, it was agreed that all sales opportunities would be progressed to 30% pipeline weighting to provide sales with the assurance that 1:4 of these opportunities would close and it was a worthwhile investment of their time to manage them.
Within 18 months of starting the Business Development programme, 52% of pipeline is now sourced by Clarify, which equates to £65 million*. At the mid-point of the second financial year, five deals (out of an initial target of four) had progressed beyond the 30% stage and to add to this, an extra £10 million in net new pipeline has been secured.
Relationships are key to making a difference; Clarify’s Business Development team understands the market having previously worked in this sector and this has helped to progress opportunities swiftly. Clarify is viewed as ‘trusted advisors’ by the sales team, not only giving insight into the market but directing and running account planning sessions as well as supporting the on-going development of the account and opportunities until they reach proposal stage.
Business Development as an Asset
The Business Development team has delivered a significant sales pipeline and created incremental revenue streams within all of its target accounts. Between four and five highly qualified opportunities are passed to the client each month; Clarify has improved the average pipeline value by 50% and the team are ahead of the forecasted delivery.
Business Development is a valuable asset in supporting the business’ corporate objectives.
The value Clarify brings as an outsourced Business Development function is summed up in these client quotes:
“From my perspective, Clarify has proven that they know our industry and business which means that they can open up doors. I have found that they have been able to get meetings within organisations that we know but with different people to those that we normally deal with.”
“Firstly, Clarify are not dialling down a long list of campaign names to find a bite or only finding exact end-to-end matches to our offering. I believe they are excellent at understanding our messaging and applying it to a conversation, discussing and understanding strategies for specified target accounts including relevant messaging and contacting wide in specified accounts to find interest and entry points.
“The value I have seen is setting up meetings with warm prospects, receiving the background research, briefing documents and the discussion pre-meeting. As well as keeping contact going on a regular basis with accounts not yet ready and helping to qualify out leads.”
* NB a Business Development programme is designed to scale so the ROI will continue to increase along with revenue, new logo opportunities and closed deals.