Supercharging Your Sales Engine: Best Practices of High-Growth Startups

Patrycja Maka
November 1, 2021

Many growing startups look at growth and scaling a little bit like the “chicken-or-the-egg” conundrum. 

It makes sense: Most small businesses are so busy growing, they don’t bother to step back to consider how to scale for growth. 

You don’t have to learn how a car works to be able to drive it, but if you want it to go fast, you better know what goes into it. 

At GrowthGenius, we’ve identified the critical components of any effective sales engine. Why do we focus on a “sales engine” as opposed to a “sales process” or a “sales methodology”?

Framework matters. If you understand the components you need in place, it’s that much easier to pivot or tweak your strategy, test new methodologies, and automate to scale faster. 

Without a sales engine in place, there is no structure for any process to be applied. Without structure, there is chaos—and we’re not referring to the colloquial “chaos” that many startups identify with. 

If you’re going to become a sustainably growing and profitable company you need a sales engine in place. 

Here are the 4 key elements to your sales engine that you should know: 

Identify Your Ideal Customer Profile 

Do you know who your ideal customer is? 

Often times growing startups take on anyone who will buy their product or service. This is necessary for early-stage growth when you’re still validating your solution and your place in the market, but if you’re looking to scale, you have to focus on finding out who your ideal customer really is. 

Identifying your Ideal Customer Profile is necessary to figure out how to hone in on the companies that are most likely to need your business, thus allowing you to effectively target your marketing and sales efforts. 

This empowers you to focus resources on high-quality leads, meet sales goals more consistently, increase your CLV (Customer Lifetime Value), and ultimately generate more referrals from existing customers. 

First, it’s important to do research into who your Ideal Customer Profile. Who is going to want what you’re selling the most? Who needs it the most? And, how can you target them

Learning as much as you can about this group or groups of people is vital in crafting the right message for them. Using relevant language is a great way to get onto their level (such as acronyms they use, processes they’re familiar with, etc.). 

What is message-market fit and why does it matter?

We’ve all heard of product-market fit before—do you have a product that your market wants or needs? Once you’ve figured that out, well, you need to communicate why your market should want, or need, what you’re selling or they won’t buy from you. 

Message-market fit means you’re communicating your message in a way that fits your target market. Your message should change depending on who you’re talking to based on what that market needs, their pain points, what tone makes sense, etc. 

If your message fits your market, you’ve got a better chance of building a relationship and making a sale. 

Tip: Be careful not to confuse jargon with industry language. Use language and terms that make sense to your prospect, not just to impress them. 

Let’s take a look at what you should consider when determining message-market fit: 

Pain points and value propositions

In any kind of sales, people don’t care about what you do, but care about what you can do for them. Taking a deep-dive into what pains your business or product solves is vital in crafting a message that fits your market. Ideally, each pain should be tied to a value proposition. 

In its simplest form: 

Pain → What you’re doing now is costing you too much money.

Value → With us, you can save that money.

Now here is an opportunity to be specific about what it is they’re really missing out on if they don’t invest in your service or solution (it’s important to talk about how much money they are needlessly spending and what they could do with that money instead: such as reinvesting in production, employee training, etc.)

Identifying pain points by understanding your buyer psychology is especially effective if you understand FOMO—fear of missing out. You can use this to drive the value of your offering home, and create an aspirational vision for them to align to. 

Discovering and determining what pains and values resonate with your Ideal Customer Profile is invaluable in communicating what prospects really want—and aligning your product or service as the obvious solution to their problems. 

Drilling Down Your ICP  

Once you’ve determined your Ideal Customer Profile, or profiles, and general pain points and value propositions, you can further break down that profile and get more detail and nuance for how to align your business to your prospect’s needs.  

It can be helpful to consider what roles the decision makers and buyers have. What size companies do they work in? Where are they located? Have you tried to reach out to this market before? If so, any insights on what worked and what didn’t?

Adjusting your language based on who you’re reaching out to specifically is an important element of tailoring your outreach. 

Let’s say you’re targeting someone in finance and someone in HR at the same company. Is their message the same? Absolutely not. Sure, they work at the same company, but they have different pain points, and therefore, different values are important to them. 

The finance person may be more concerned with annual budgets so a value that speaks to cost savings may be more relevant. Conversely, someone in HR may be more concerned with employees’ work-life balance and job satisfaction, so highlighting a value that addresses ways using your business or product makes someone’s job easier may resonate with them more. 

When doing your outreach, consider different ways of getting buy-in at the companies you’re targeting by tailoring your message to the different roles at the company. The more you speak to their specific pains and needs, the more your message will be right on the money. 

Tone (it’s really something you have to own)

Language changes based on a variety of factors and tone plays a big part in this. Just like you would talk differently to your mom, best friend, and boss, you would talk differently to a CEO, peer, and salesperson. Are you reaching out to young adults? Maybe GIFs work great here. Reaching out to CEOs in law? A more formal tone feels appropriate. It’s all about finding the right balance within your message and crafting the message to fit the market you’re targeting. 

Why Equals Networking Works 

At GrowthGenius, our outbound sales strategy involves targeting decision makers at companies that match your ICP, and drafting outreach with an “equals networking” tone. 

Equals marketing establishes credibility by acknowledging you recognize and respect their role, while aligning yourself with them. This also allows for a more informal and direct “person-to-person” tone (and throwing in a GIF works well here to keep it light).

You’re a sales leader reaching out to a sales leader. You’re an executive who can understand their needs as an executive. Or even better, you’re a founder reaching out to another founder. 

Equals networking gives you an immediate “in” with the prospect, captures their attention, and makes your outreach feel more human and direct. 

Once you get their attention, you can be more effective in getting them to listen to what you want, why you’re reaching out, and who you are to them (and why they should care). 

Creativity never goes out of style 

We all get flooded with emails, many that look the same as the last. How do you get your outreach to stand out from the spam? 

Here are a few tips to cut through the noise: 

  • Tell a joke relevant to their industry
  • Write them a story about how your company and theirs could become partners
  • Try a quirky GIF. Our sales reps often use an ‘alien’ GIF in their follow-up, asking if they’re not responding because they’ve been abducted by aliens–and it actually works!
  • Ask thought-provoking question that shows insight into their industry or challenges. Tip: Avoid rhetorical questions or questions that warrant a yes or no response. The idea is to start a conversation
  • Comment on something relevant in their market, or share feedback on a piece of content they shared. The more personal, the better! 

Experimentation is the best way to learn what works and what doesn’t, so don’t be afraid to try something new to see what resonates with your market. 

Does it sound like a real person wrote it?

Remember back in high school when you would use a Thesaurus to replace all the words you knew with fancier ones to sound smarter when writing an essay?

In business, that’s kind of the equivalent of using “marketing speak” when selling. 

Taglines are great, but in sales outreach it becomes painfully obvious you’re trying too hard. Messages come across as robotic, salesy, and forced. 

It’s important your message fits your market, but no matter how great your message is, it has to sound like a real person wrote it. 

At GrowthGenius, our sales experts are trained copywriters. We’ve iterated on hundreds of successful campaigns and we know that human 1:1 messaging works with sales outbound. 

Our best tip for sales reps to make your messaging more human? “Beer language”. 

Think about what you would say to a prospect over beer when talking about your business, the value you can deliver, and the types of problems you solve for your customers. 

Are you using marketing jargon? Most likely not. Practice this and write down what you think sounds natural. Use this as your pitch. 

Tip: It’s not a 5-beer language pitch, so it’s important to still keep it professional. Avoid “wanna”, “gonna”, and anything that comes across as too casual for a first conversation.

The art of the follow-up

So, we all know that we have to follow up, but when? What do we say? It can be confusing to know the how-to’s in a process that is simple in concept, but more complicated in practice. 

Following up is quite an interesting phenomenon. Any good sales process includes a solid follow up strategy. 

Let’s explore some how-to’s on how to send a good follow-up. 

Reflect on your initial message 

When you initially reached out, how did you align your prospect with your understanding of what is most important to them? Following up is an opportunity to go deeper and drive this point home harder. 

That’s because you don’t sell at someone, you sell to someone.

The follow-up is usually where the magic happens, because you can really show off the research you’ve done into your prospect by going more personal in your follow-up (people don’t care what you do, they care about you can do for them). 

By reframing the value your business or product can bring in a slightly different way, you’re giving more context for why they should work with you. 

It’s important to look back on your first communication with the prospect and think to yourself, “If I received this message, what would I want to hear next?”.

Create a cadence for your outreach

It’s important to keep track of your communications with prospects and come up with an outreach strategy. How many emails do you want to send after reaching out? 4? 5? There’s no magic number (though some will argue otherwise), but 4 or 5 is generally a good place to start. 

A good rule of thumb for knowing how far apart to structure your outreach is: the more emails you send, the more amount of days should be between them. 

For example, the second email could be sent 3 business days after the first email, the third email could be sent 5 business days after the second email, and the fourth email could be sent 6 business days after the third email. 

A good rule of thumb is referencing the previous messages in your outreach and acknowledging you’ve reached out more than once. This also means you should consider what is appropriate to send for a 4th email; sometimes a 3-line “ping” at this stage can be more effective. 

Have a reason for reaching out and communicate it

It’s always a good idea to have a reason to reach out (prospects want to know why you’re showing up in their inbox again if they haven’t replied to your first message). You can reach out to give them some more information, check on what they’re thinking, pose a relevant question, explain more value of what your business or product can bring, provide more detail to create appeal, or say “hey” again and ask if they want to talk to you. 

Express a clear call-to-action

By giving the prospect a reason to respond, you increase your chances of them getting back to you. In your first follow-up, it’s better to play it cool by asking for a conversation or saying you’ll be in touch (a bit like dating, you never want to come across too strong when you’ve just met someone). 

In your second or third follow-up, you should introduce a soft offer (scheduling a demo, an audit, advice, etc.) to make it more enticing, and show that you want to add value.

This is a tactic we learned from “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini. By understanding the human impulse to “return the favour” after someone has offered us something (be it a favour or given us value in some way). 

In your third or fourth follow-up, and subsequent follow-ups, consider that you’ve been trying to get their attention and may not succeed. Acknowledging this in a “Break-up” email, with a quick summary of the more relevant value can be an effective way to get their attention. It can also be useful to use any special offers at this time (free trials, discounted offers) as a last resort. 

At the end of your outreach strategy (when you’ve sent your final message but haven’t heard back), it’s still important to have a clear call-to-action. 

You never know why someone has not answered—your prospect could be busy, your messages could be slipping from their to-do list, your solution might be right in the future, etc., so it’s important to keep the doors open. 

Thank them for their time, let them know they can reach out anytime, and wish them well. 

Don’t take it personally

Outbound sales shows no mercy. A lot of your messages won’t get opened, and many of the opened messages, won’t turn into a reply or conversation. It’s the nature of the game, no matter how good you are, so make sure to keep that in mind when prospecting. 

Multi-channel strategies for success 

It can be difficult to not only get your message out there doing outbound sales, but to get it to the right people. There’s a lot of noise since everyone is trying to engage with their potential and ideal customers, so what do you do? There’s one cliché that’s a cliché for a reason: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. 

Instead, use multi-channel strategies for success. By tapping into different channels, you could be tapping into different markets. It’s important to cover all of your bases (and not just stick to what you’re comfortable with). This means: send outbound sales emails, re-engage with prospects who weren’t ready to commit when you first talked, talk to current clients about referrals, message your target market on LinkedIn, level up your social media game, invest in some advertisements (LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Ads, etc.)—you name it, try it all. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when developing your multi-channel strategy: 

Consistency, consistency, consistency

And once more for effect, consistency. Having a consistent message across your channels is important in developing and maintaining a strong brand. What do you want prospects to think about when they think of your company or product? What values do you want to stand out to people? What tone are you using to present your voice—professional, casual, playful? Hand-in-hand with having a strong brand is having an identifiable voice. So once again, consistency. 

Listen to feedback from analytics and people

Keeping track of what’s working, and what isn’t, is vital in using multiple channels. Making note of impressions, engagement, and any other quantifiable metrics is important in learning what makes most sense for what you’re trying to do. Pay attention, and then reiterate (and repeat). 

Ask your prospects if there’s any way you can improve in your outreach, and ask your clients or customers for feedback on your business, product, and your relationship with them. Really listen, and then reiterate (and repeat). 

Get your teams to talk to each other

Every employee at your company has a different perception of your business or product, and a different experience with it. Companies using multi-channel strategies really shine when their teams talk to each other, and when it shows. 

It’s important to listen to the various teams that make up a company and create a space where they can talk to each other (you never know where a great insight can come from). The sales team knows what prospects are looking for, the marketing team knows how to talk to the Ideal Customer Profile, the customer team knows current client triumphs and frustrations, the operations team knows what’s coming around the corner, and...the list goes on. 

By gathering all of that invaluable knowledge to create your multi-channel strategy, not only are you putting your eggs in multiple baskets, but your baskets will be made to last. 

Having multi-channel strategies for success is important so let’s review them: 

  • Create a plan
  • Consistency, consistency, consistency
  • Listen to feedback from numbers and people
  • Get your teams to talk to each other

Success depends on iteration

It’s important to reiterate your sales strategy: What copy is working? What feedback have you received from prospects about your follow-ups and how that can be worked into the outreach? Can you communicate your value more directly to your prospects? Are prospects responding more with a certain type of follow-up? Which prospect? The list goes on. 

Understanding the different things to look for and keep track of is invaluable in the art of a follow-up. Always remember the key aspects when writing a follow-up: 

  • Rewind and consider your initial message 
  • Create a timeline for your outreach
  • Have a reason for reaching out and communicate it
  • Express a clear call-to-action
  • Don’t take it personally
  • Reiterate your outbound sales strategy

Create a plan

The key to a successful multi-channel strategy is planning it, and developing a process for it. 

How often do you want to message prospects? When, and how often, do you want to post on social media? Who is responsible for editing copy used in messaging and for ads, and do other teams have input? 

By having a clear process in place, it’s easier to keep track of what has been done, what needs to get done, and for each team member to understand their part.

Tip: Automating and outsourcing your multi-channel strategy is the quickest way to scale your sales efforts without burning out. 

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