Winning globally by selling locally and strategically
GROWTH CHALLENGES SOLVED WITH BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
How strategic Business Development is enabling a high growth VC backed Silicon Valley software business, specialising in disruptive next generation technology, to expand and accelerate ‘Crossing the Chasm’ successfully in Europe.
Effective European Entry
It is widely acknowledged that for many high growth North American based companies moving into Europe is a critical part of their expansion strategy. Especially given that sectors of the European market have often been enthusiastic early adopters of innovative and disruptive new technologies.
When planned and implemented effectively, entering European markets can stimulate significant growth in global revenue and market share as well as positively impact a business’ valuation, and conversely delaying expansion can run the risk of opening the door to competition.
A move into Europe is not however without its challenges; with cultural and language barriers to overcome, building scalable, predictable sales pipeline should be a given – especially when replicating a successful home-grown formula. Establishing an effective, sustainable pipeline building programme is a fundamental priority, and securing early wins is important for many different reasons; not only to build confidence and momentum but to justify the investment of opening up an overseas operation.
Overcoming Barriers to Entry?
For this particular client, the barriers to selling its disruptive next generation technology were high; disrupting a mature market worth over $10billion globally where an established competitor is already well entrenched with over 90% market share.
Although this organisation’s new technology has some significant capabilities not found in legacy products, early sales efforts realised that the IT owners of the existing technology were reluctant to change; valuing the stability and familiarity of the competitor’s product over the relative unknown of an up-and-coming vendor.
From a sales perspective, this presented a real challenge. How to shift the engagement towards stakeholders who are not biased by the existing relationship who also have critical needs which are unfulfilled by the current IT infrastructure? Tackling this issue required a focus on articulating the business outcomes that could be achieved with the new technology – however a significant added complication is that the disruptive solution has a huge variety of applications and use cases.
Marketing’s strategy focused on investing heavily in content and assets that potential buyers could use to educate themselves, and then qualifying and managing these enquiries through a lead management process. However, due to the huge variety of possible applications, Marketing was unable to build assets and messages that were specific enough, except in a few key industries and use cases. Educating someone in the technology at a more general level (for them to identify their own use cases) meant delving into how it works at a technical level.
Although the strategy drove some impressive numbers in terms of enquiries and leads, the conversion into pipeline and closed deals was low. In parallel the salesforce had begun to shift its sales efforts away from technical buyers into a focused target account strategy with an emphasis on winning a high impact initial use case in a new account and then expanding this into additional use cases once the technology was proven.
One size doesn’t always fit all
Alongside this, a different approach to pipeline generation was also needed in order to create opportunities that presented a higher chance of closing. Rather than being reactive to incoming leads, a proactive approach was required. That said, there was also recognition that any Business Development staff would need to be highly skilled in order to gain access to senior stakeholders and articulate a complex technical solution in a format that they would both understand and was relevant to their role and industry.
Clarify, a specialist in strategic Business Development was brought in to build a dedicated team with an ability to ‘think outside the box’ and a particular skill set comprising of deep industry knowledge, high intellect and business leadership characteristics. On this foundation, use cases were developed. The quality of the message was key so that it could be delivered to senior execs in a credible, non-technical way that challenged their thinking, resonated with their business issues and demonstrated value. For example, one use case for a particular media firm focused on how to monetise content and how quickly this could be achieved, for a specific bank the use case centred on regulation and identifying all potential risk profiles.
Employing this different approach enabled investors to see the potential value and address issues that they previously thought unattainable. The conversations that were opened presented a strong enough business need to offset the technical managers resistant to change. Significantly, once a compelling need was highlighted this approach generated more winnable opportunities.
A Global Standard
As the European approach started to yield results it became clear that Clarify’s strategic Business Development supported the brand with a dual approach; education and awareness to ‘warm up’ new markets for the sales campaign and gathering deep insight into key accounts through the individual bespoke use cases. Ultimately it was then that this strategy was adopted as the corporate standard across the globe.
This realignment has resulted in opportunity progression rates increasing from 15% to 86% with an average opportunity value of $177,000 and a cumulative pipeline to date, across five European regions of over $13million*.
It’s a journey…
It is an accepted fact that the majority of sales people excel at closing deals, but creating and nurturing sales pipeline opportunities is a challenge, in fact analysts CSO Insights report generating enough quality pipeline has been the number one challenge for sales leaders for the last consecutive five years. It is Business Development’s role to ensure opportunities are nurtured until they are fully qualified and ready to be progressed by sales. The depth of qualification, nurturing of initial prospect interest and presentation of a valid business case is what sets Clarify’s Business Development programme apart.
In this instance, Clarify identified the need for compelling use cases and identified credible references. In one particularly challenging vertical, Clarify secured 90% of the client’s pipeline by developing and executing on this strategy.
Results are on going, but the programme is starting to scale with investment in new Business Development heads. Under the new working model, spearheaded by Sales, the first quarter generated 35% of in-quarter pipeline for one territory and exceeded the $1million quarterly target set.
To quote one of the European sales team:
“My work with Clarify is making a material difference to developing my territory. When I think about recent opportunities the quality and completeness of the account and opportunity information provided is first class. I see a level of professionalism and quiet doggedness that delivers real results.”
Business Development as a strategic asset
It is a testament to this activity that strategic Business Development is a now regarded as integral to supporting the business expansion in Europe.
Business Development is regarded as a strategic asset more so due to the shift in emphasis that marketing undertook when the business was establishing a foothold in Europe. It has witnessed first hand how a volume driven demand-generation programme was not the right approach for optimising pipeline for disruptive new technology. Rather, delivering consistent highly qualified, early stage pipeline opportunities – a ‘less is more’ strategic approach – is having a more measurable impact on pipeline and growth.
* 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.