– B2B Rocks

Sales as a Science, a scientific approach to B2B Sales

Andy Farquharson, GM EMEA at Winning by Design, gave this talk about scientifically increasing sales productivity by 2X, at B2B Rocks Paris — the international conference for B2B & SaaS startups.

More info on https://b2brocks.co/paris/

How can you actually go through an increase in 2X your productivity?

In SaaS, if you close the relationship at that very first sale, that’s the most amount of money you will ever lose with that customer. You need to win that customer every day, every week, every month, and every year to be able to enable that to be productive.

Another thing that I’ve been loving about SaaS is that lowering about the average contract value means that B2B customers are now being much more consumer-like in how they purchase. They are not looking at our horizon a year out. They want to solve something today. They’re used to going online clicking on Amazon and having something delivered the next day or two days later. And they were expecting the same kind of impact in SaaS.

That also brings another huge challenge is that we as companies, need to also match that velocity, match that impulse. We’ve got to stop thinking about salespeople having the whole sales cycle because we can’t be that efficient. We’ve to specialize which means we’ve got to increase collaboration.


#1 Missing the target

In the past, when companies were building quotas in the technology space, you’d build a quota for your really experienced execs, that have 10 to 20 years’ experience. And a lot of companies still based their budget of 80% of their sales reps hitting quota.

But with SaaS, we’re hiring people with only three to five years experience because we need more salespeople to deal with higher demand. The big challenge is that far more people are missing their target. It is a huge change. They’re missing it by much bigger margins and they can go from hero to zero in a month.

#2 No one seems to work hard

Does anyone think that their sales team does not work hard? Everyone does this. When I was in sales, it was just, “Hey, we need more. We need you to generate more revenue in a few months, work harder now. Go out get more meetings.” How do you get more meetings? I don’t know.

We’ve actually got to start thinking very, very differently about how we’re going to get them to drive performance. We’re going to start looking not so much at the volume metrics. More does not equal better, especially in the world of SaaS.

If you compare two salespeople, one is having many deals and strong MRR versus the other. This doesn’t mean the first one is better than the other. But in SaaS, it’s not just about what happens in the first month. If you are bringing the wrong type of customers in, the churn will be high, and the sales will not be ending up upselling.

So we’ve got to be looking beyond the traditional metrics and start actually looking more at the performance in the long term, rather than the volume in the short term.

#3 Training does not seem to improve sales

Of the 400 companies we helped, we’ve coached and trained thousands, tens of thousands of sales reps. And one thing that we’ve learned is training does not impact sales. It helps people be certified. So we need a bit of a mindset shift that training isn’t going to be that cure-.


Take for example the Magic Castle Hotel in LA. The hotel is not fancy, but it ranks in the top five hotels in LA, quite a performance. They were able to achieve it thanks to a hotline accessible everywhere within the hotel. So what happens when you pick up that phone to order a “Popsicle”? Someone on the other end, “What flavor would you like?” and a couple of minutes later, someone runs out with your order. They’ve got not so great pool, not so great bedrooms but they’re creating this fantastic moment. They’re really delighting their customers and really got this emotional connection.

What does this have to do with B2B SaaS? When we look at across all the different parts of the sales funnel from prospects all the way through to expansion, there are seven key moments.

In the 80,s, IBM invented the “BANT” qualification method:

  • B: Do you have a Budget for this project?
  • A: Do you have the Authority to make that decision?
  • N: Do you have a Need or problem we can solve?
  • T: Do you have Time?

The world has moved beyond since the ’80s. One of them is how we need to have conversations with our customers. People don’t have a budget for anything anymore. The corporate executive board went and surveyed the Nasdaq, all the Nasdaq companies. They found that over 70% of all their purchases the year prior were not allocated for in the budget.

On the authority side, a study showed that there are 7.2 average decision-makers in every sort of B2B purchase decision.

The way that we sell is our unique differentiator. We’re not selling to close, we’re selling for the relationship.

You know 70 to 90% of your revenue as a SaaS business, comes from the end of the customer cycle. That happens with great experiences.

When we ask a VP of Sales “what’s the number one thing that’s going to increase my revenue?”. What do you think that they’d say? “Let’s throw it to marketing. Let’s make it their problem. Double my leads, I’ll double the sales.”

But in the world of SaaS, don’t focus on the beginning of the funnel, focus on the 7 key moments that matter the most all along the journey and improve the customer experience.

Increase the quality of the customer experience by 10%, you actually 2X your revenue. So, a 10% improvement across seven key moments is all you need.

What are your “Popsicle” moments?

Sales training fails a lot of people. Because people were unable to learn, we went back to learning science, to understand a little bit more about how people do learn. And we found that they follow this principle, 10/20/70:

10% happens within these workshops that people are traditionally doing. These are PowerPoint presentations that people go through maybe with a little bit of interaction but they’re usually pretty boring.

20% comes from role play. We need to do is get them engaged. One of the awesome things about role-plays is that it takes the sales leader or the founder out of the equation. When they’re doing role plays to a blueprint, opinions are gone. But people can give feedback on the process first then on the execution. Role-plays can be awkward but are super useful.

70% is coaching in real life, where most of the learning happens is in purposeful practice. How do you go out and excel at that for the next week? And how do you leverage? How do you measure the performance of that?

A big thing, we’ve got to be doing is call-analysis. Recording calls is such a powerful tool. There’s a reason why every professional sporting organization in the world takes game-films. People’s behavior very rarely matches their intention. If we’re able to capture their behavior, you can change their intention and having some real sort of effect on them.


So just in summary, we talked about the three symptoms of driving a lot of poor performance. To be able to make the change, you need to find what are the key moments for you and your customers. It’s about their experience, not about yours. Then adopt sort of the modern learning principles to be able to train your team to implement this better.