When our leadership team at Ambition co-wrote the Sales-Marketing Alignment Playbook last summer, we were grappling with the existential question that goes through the minds of SaaS sales and marketing professionals:
What is the best way to immediately, powerfully make prospects fall head-over-heels in love with my product?
Reams of insight have been authored on this exact subject, but today, I want to go back to the basics of getting new business in the SaaS industry. And by basics, I mean at the most atomic, elemental level.
So in this post, we’re going to begin at embryonic. The starting point of all SaaS growth: data and storytelling.
Using Data And Storytelling To Create A Growth Cycle
When we’re talking about data and storytelling, we’re really discussing each one in two forms: internal and external.
Your internal data and storytelling is your insider company knowledge. The percentage of your clients that come from a particular industry. A log of each deal’s lifecycle and how/why it closed.
Your external data and storytelling is what you, the sales and marketing professional, share with the public. The ROI you helped a Fortune 500 client achieve. A customer testimonial conveying the problems they were facing and how you solved them.
The more comprehensive, clear and compelling each segment of your data and storytelling, the more empowered your sales and marketing efforts will be.
To see how this works in practice, let’s hark back to the Customer-Relationship Management cycle.
SaaS Marketing, Sales and Support (for purposes of this post, we’ll leave Product/Delivery out of our analysis) can be seen as having two core duties - constantly nourishing the other’s efforts with ammunition (external data and storytelling) and knowledge (internal data and storytelling).
Doing this is the precursor to scalable, sustainable SaaS growth. And whether you’re a Director of Sales, VP of Marketing, Account Executive, Content Manager - whatever - here’s how to maximize your own effectiveness by leveraging internal/external data and storytelling.
Your internal data -- the raw numbers associated with your client base, sales and marketing efforts and company numbers -- are a perfect place to look when jumpstarting growth.
A prime piece of real estate for valuable, internal data is Customer Success. Here at Ambition, we keep an updated chart that scores 'Client Engagement' at each company on a variety of metrics, from feature usage to time spent on the platform.
There are also great tools out there (I’m looking at you, Intercom) that specialize in delivering real-time information and feedback about customer experience direct to sales and marketing.
The value of this data is that it tells you who’s getting the most out of your platform, where your next potential referral is and how companies vary in usage by shape, size and industry.
It all goes back to Lincoln Murphy’s great article advocating that SaaS business development should always view prospects through the lens of future Customer Success.
This is all about adding context to numbers.
Why did one particular Account Executive close the most deals? Why did these 10 marketing emails outperform all others? Why did this Fortune 1000 client decide not only to renew its contract, but expand your product into 3 more offices?
These are the stories that need to be shared throughout your organization, and most pivotally, curated in a centralized, organized, easy-to-access location.
In our industry, data often gets prized far above storytelling. But you don’t have to be Mark Roberge, necessarily. SalesLoft Director of Product Sean Kester has garnered plenty of industry recognition for being an amazingly detailed note-taker, which he’s cited as a primary cause of SalesLoft’s incredible 2015 growth and $10M Series A round.
Here at Ambition, we share, store and curate high praise from our clients in a central document, segmented by industry. It’s proven incredibly valuable in both our sales and marketing efforts.
The bottom line: kill your silos. Start with expanding intra-department storytelling. Create a master internal content library for sales, marketing and customer service. Then facilitate easy access to each library across each department.
All external data and storytelling springs from internal foundations. The key here is figuring out which data and stories should be shared externally, and when it’s most appropriate to share them.
For example, an Account Executive is in a sales meeting with a highly-interested Fortune 500 insurance company. In that scenario, the external data he needs on-hand should fit the prospect. He needs to know, ‘here’s how many Fortune 1000 insurance companies use us. Here’s 3 examples of crazy ROI. Here’s the size of the Customer Support team we’ll be providing you.’
Your sales and marketing team’s jobs are to know what prospects are looking for, in terms of hard data (and stories), then give them precisely the data that will put their minds at ease and get them excited, using cold, hard facts.
For SaaS marketers, this is where developing a segmented, hyper-specific and easily accessible log of supporting data will make you sales’ best friend. (Sales’ number one complaint about the data marketing gathers is that no-one in sales can find it!)
A photographic memory of your key data points is great, but you want sales to be able to access those points on command and over time develop a carbon copy of that data in their own brain.
Your SaaS product creates an experience - good or bad - for every one of your customers. Oftentimes, your clients are coming to you with the same set of problems. They experience the same onboarding/support process. And they reap the same benefits.
Figuring out the common threads amongst their individual stories allows you to create your most compelling 'super-stories' that marketing and sales can wield when interfacing with a prospect.
Ambition Super-Story #1. 'We were struggling to keeps reps engaged and get visibility into our daily performance metrics. We tried out Ambition and within 3 months, our SDRs were at 2x productivity and our progress towards individual and team goals were not only visible, but fully transparent.'
Ambition Super-Story #2. 'We track our key sales metrics on multiple systems - Salesforce, Cisco and a third-party system unique to our industry. Our data was all over the place and we needed a way to unify reps and keep them focused on hitting certain metrics. Ambition integrated all of our platforms, put all our key sales data in one place, and has helped us break productivity records via “fantasy sales” competitions, TV leaderboards and user “Ambition Anthems.”’
The great thing about these external stories -- all of them are backed up by testimonials, case studies, raw data and client referrals. They’re compelling stories, but they’re built up out of facts we can reference at any time. You need both. Plus, we know, based on a prospect’s industry, which super-stories will be more effective and how/when to wield them.
Aligning And Supercharging SaaS Growth
You want to supercharge SaaS growth? Get your internal and external data and storytelling down pat.
Then, most importantly, get sales, marketing and customer success on the exact same page with each one.
As easy as that looks, there are a lot of areas where SaaS companies can (and will) get tripped up. And the bigger you get, the easier it will be to find yourself struggling with mixed messaging, pivotal oversights of external data or super-stories and the tendency to overlook Customer Success’s role in the whole equation.
If you need help, feel free to ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Here at Ambition, our mission is to align teams, kill silos, create transparency and build epic organizational culture. We’ve been fortunate enough to help great SaaS companies like Outreach, Attend and FiveStars and we’d love to help yours as well.
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