Today’s post is by Henry Schuck, co-founder and CEO of DiscoverOrg, a leading global sales and marketing intelligence tool used to accelerate growth at more than 2,000 of the world’s fastest growing companies. DiscoverOrg’s solutions provide a constant stream of accurate and actionable company, contact, and buying intelligence that can be used to find, connect with, and sell to target buyers more effectively.
What’s the secret to growth? Maybe it’s because I spent my college years in Las Vegas, but I’d be willing to bet that, if you asked 10 sales leaders where they invest to maximize revenue growth, you’d get 10 different answers.
There are so many levers to pull when trying to increase sales effectiveness – new technology, staffing, training, processes – that it can be challenging to determine where to focus and which investments truly deliver on the promise of growth acceleration.
But I’m a data guy – and DiscoverOrg is a data company – so we were convinced that solid, empirical data could point to the secrets of growth.
To test the theory, we recently partnered with Smart Selling Tools to survey 200 sales and marketing leaders about the factors that accelerate or inhibit growth at their companies. We wanted to understand what high-growth companies do differently than their low-growth counterparts.
The findings of the 2017 Growth Drivers Report were illuminating and validated the hypothesis that there are a few key strategies and tactics high-growth companies execute more often and more successfully than other companies.
The survey found that companies realizing at least 40 percent growth over the past three years (designated “high growth”) are more often investing in account-based strategies, outbound prospecting, rigorous sales training, data quality initiatives, and technology.
Let’s dive into each of these five factors individually.
#1: Account-based strategies
First, high-growth companies are two and a half times more likely to use an account-based marketing strategy than low-growth companies – and nearly twice as likely to use an account-based sales development and account-based customer success strategy. Low-growth companies are 56 percent more likely to use no account-based strategies.
The correlation between high growth and the use of account-based strategies is one of the strongest and most telling in the survey. It supports the notion of achieving growth by favoring a cross-functional approach to engage multiple contacts at target accounts with highly personalized, multi-channel communications. It’s not always easy to get sales, marketing, and customer success aligned, but, when you do, it pays off.
#2: Outbound prospecting
When it comes to outbound prospecting, high-growth companies were twice as likely to view cold calling as effective, while low-growth companies were more often either undecided about its effectiveness or viewed it as dead. High-growth companies also ranked strong prospecting as one of the top three skills of their sales team – a characteristic that did not show up in the top three attributes of low-growth sales teams.
This data speaks to the value of having a strong outbound prospecting strategy and team organization as well as the right tools and data to execute it well. For these strategies to produce results, team leaders must develop sales skills through training, coaching, role playing, and managing teams.
Speaking of skills development, the survey also found that, while most companies provide one or two hours of training weekly, the fastest growing organizations provide three or more hours of training each week. The findings, however, suggest that training by itself does not correlate to high growth, but is critical in sustaining it.
Fast growing organizations need to train constantly to maintain momentum and enable teams to perform at a high level. Companies that err on the side of less training and coaching flat out do not set their teams up for the same level of success.
#4: Data quality
Data quality emerged as a theme in several survey findings, most importantly because respondents cited the lack of high-quality account and contact data as a significant inhibitor to growth. In fact, high-growth companies cited it as the number one inhibitor to even faster growth. Bad data leads sales reps to spend too much time in non-selling activities like scouring social media and corporate Websites for information and not enough time directly engaging with their prospects. It’s a complete waste of their time and talents.
Teams are most likely to accelerate growth when they exhibit strength in managing data quality. I know that doesn’t sound exciting, but good data is the foundation of a successful sales strategy. High-growth companies start by first keeping bad data out of their systems, then partnering with data providers that focus on delivering accurate, fresh, and actionable intelligence.
Finally, building a great technology stack is critical in high-growth companies, which leverage more than twice as many solutions in their sales tech stacks and 23 percent more in their marketing tech stacks than low-growth companies. Poor adoption of technology and systems, on the other hand, is the second leading growth inhibitor at low-growth organizations.
The right technology fully utilized can give companies a productivity boost, increase engagement, support team enablement, and create a competitive advantage. It is clear that organizations that adapt and adopt new technologies are poised to grow more rapidly than those that are slow to change or have sales forces that resist change.
In fact, from a skills perspective, the survey found that high-growth teams hired staff who are technology-savvy and adaptable to change – and valued them more than those who are experienced and disciplined in their sales skills. They take a chance on the less-experienced, adaptable reps who have that natural sales instinct...and then they coach and train them.
At DiscoverOrg, we’re focused on all of the above, but we’ve gone through multiple iterations to get our teams where they are today, and there’s always room for improvement. I’d be the first to acknowledge that not one of these tactics is are easy to implement. In fact, if there’s one summary conclusion to draw from the survey data, it is that high-growth companies execute well in the most diﬃcult aspects of sales and marketing. They take risks, but, ultimately, they reap the rewards.