Can you hear that screeching sound? That’s the brakes being gently applied to tech sales.

According to McKinsey & Co., the pandemic sped up digital transformation by seven years as companies loaded up on work-from-home solutions, collaboration platforms, and more. However, as companies face the prospect of an economic pullback, B2B tech sales have slowed.

Slowed, mind you. Not stopped. From where I sit, overseeing sales for a range of tech sector clients, there’s still plenty of revenue to be generated in the channel. But more of it may now come from existing customers than a rush of new ones. And maximizing the value of current customer relationships requires a slightly different approach.

Many solution providers are gradually emerging from a grow-at-all-cost mindset. Demand was spurred by pandemic conditions; vendors hired extra sales staff and worked hard to grow their businesses. Now it’s time for many to expand upon the company they’ve built over the last couple of years.

In enterprise tech, McKinsey urges a go-to-market strategy based on expertise above products and solutions. I couldn’t agree more. Done right, it’s been my experience that sales to existing customers can outpace new business, provided companies position themselves for success. Here’s what works:

Make Sure You’re Staffed Appropriately

Maximizing the value of current customer relationships is less about straight sales and more about experience management. This can require a different skill set. Your team should go from being a vendor to being a partner, leading with insight, success stories, and a knack for listening.

If you have folks on your sales staff with customer service skills, you’re on your way to an experience-based go-to-market strategy. If not, you may need to hire the right people, keeping in mind that the old linear process of marketing generating demand, handing off to sales to close business, and handing off to customer service to manage experience, may be less linear than before. Everyone needs to be marketing, selling, and servicing to generate added revenue from current customers. And they may need new skills, like data analytics or strategic consulting, to look at existing relationships and user information to identify new opportunities.

Learn Everything About Your Customers

Having positioned yourself as an expertise-driven partner, it’s essential to learn everything you can about your customers. I’m talking here about learning everything. Yes, understand their business and industry, but then go deeper. Read their 10-Ks and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) reports. Connect on social media. Follow the LinkedIn posts of executives, department heads, and others. Spend time with users to understand their goals and challenges. Have them introduce you to others in the company. What are their interests and hobbies?

In other words, develop trust and report. For many, this is account management 101, but as customers transition to seeking more expertise from their vendors, they’ll be more inclined to receive it (and pay for it) from a trusted source. Ultimately, you’re helping them solve a problem rather than selling them a solution. In fact, consider ways to create value that have nothing to do with your solution. Recommend a hire for key roles or introduce them to others with unique experiences. Basically, go deeper in your understanding and service of customers; account management 301, perhaps.

Learn Everything About Your Own Products and Solutions

In helping SaaS companies with sales, I’ve learned that most customers use just a portion of many SaaS platforms. So, while it’s tempting to sell them on the most prominent features, understanding everything about a solution (including that portion they may not use regularly) makes me more valuable.

Suppose everyone on a customer team is to be a marketer/salesperson/experience manager. In that case, they should probably add some level of product manager to their repertoire. When I’m asked for advice on selling solutions, I often turn around and ask if the person is a user themselves. Because when I sit down with an existing customer, I find it invaluable to talk about my personal experience with the solution. Maybe that leads to new service and training agreements or references to other departments that would benefit from the expertise.

Or it could lead to new applications of existing solutions by users you wouldn’t think are users. Features that could apply to different jobs and challenges are often buried in those underutilized capabilities. For instance, having sold HR software to a company, you may find that performance management features could enjoy more comprehensive applications among different users. Or who else besides project managers could benefit from project management software? When you really understand a customer, and you really understand your product, it can lead to those “ah ha” moments in which you develop a new use case and potential revenue stream

Find Ways to Apply the Multiplier Effect

Call this one “learn everything about the channel.” Because as great as your solution is, maybe it’s even greater when used in conjunction with another vendor’s solution. I consider this a multiplier because it can create significantly more value for the customer while simultaneously building additional trust and cementing you as a source of expertise.

And when you and your channel partners create that multiplier, take it on the road, along with willing customers, to talk about use cases and success stories. Maybe it’s through webinars or in-person lunch-and-learns. Because of having invested significantly in technology over the past couple of years, customers are now interested in deriving the most value from those solutions. If you can introduce customers to others like them facing similar challenges, your value multiplies — and sales follow.

Manage the Levers of Growth

Regardless of big-picture trends — health emergencies, rapid spending, potential recession — it’s important to look at customer experience management and new business acquisition as two separate growth engines — levers your company can pull as the times dictate. In the case of the former — the lever that grows existing business — you may need to refocus or newly empower certain teams. It can’t always be the sales staff. You’ll need strategies that empower account managers or customer service staff to engage on net revenue retention (NRR) for growth. I suggest looking at compensation plans to help align your organization to this strategy where possible.

In IT, many are reaching for the customer experience lever, calling on existing clients to grow the business. In that case, those who have built their expertise, recalibrated their organizations, and proven valuable partners will thrive.

Shea Stringert is Vice President of Client Services for MarketStar, a leader in outsourced inside sales, partner enablement, and customer success teams. With 18 years of sales experience at SaaS, adtech, and marketing technology companies, Stringert has managed sales teams and helped drive revenues for clients such as Google, Reddit, SiriusXM, and many others.

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