How To Build a lean predictable Sales Engine to go from $0 to $10.000.000 in ARR

Marcel Hollerbach
Aug 25, 2020 · 8 min read

When startups embark on their journey to attract clients, it’s often a daunting experience where the fine art of balancing resources is at play. Depending on the situation, funds may be tight but progress must still be made. So how is this even done? Here’s how to set up the most effective Account-based Sales and Marketing Approach to scale your business, particularly in the regards to SaaS startups.

Here is a summary of the concept. I’ll dive deeper into the various components throughout the article.

Using your resources effectively

The money that flows into a startup generally comes from investors or from your own pocket. Founders need to make the right decisions on how to spend it effectively all while achieving maximum growth. That’s why aside from the founding members and perhaps a developer, it’s important to hire a Marketing and Sales workforce as well. The structure and workflow that many SaaS startups have used to their advantage is the Account-Based Sales and Marketing approach. This ensures a smooth client flow so only the qualified leads are being targeted.

The best team structure is fairly simple, and small, yet very effective. However, they must perform certain tasks that allow them to cover as much ground as possible and optimally narrow the funnel where it counts. This team structure can also be scaled by adding new people when business does prosper. So, no matter the size of the company, this team constellation is what you need to aim for.

Success and gratification

Aside from scarce resources, there are other reasons for using this approach. Your Sales team members will only be presented with qualified leads and are not distracted with those that won’t pan out, thus avoiding lost time. They are much more successful with precise pre-qualification and also feel the gratification of closing a lot more deals.

3 hires is all it takes to get started. Account-based Marketing and Sales Team Structure

The Sales and Marketing Team all work hand-in-hand with a common goal in sight. Here is the “starter pack” for startups that I highly advise:

To begin with, you want to hire Markting and Sales people in the Account-Based Marketing and Sales Approach. Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Responsibilities of each team member

As mentioned before, each individual has their own set of responsibilities to take care of. This list of tasks has been crafted over years of experience and success. In other words, I save you the work, time and money needed to figure it out for yourself.

Performance Marketing Manager

To start, only one Performance Marketing Manager is really needed. They focus on digital marketing avenues with the biggest lead-generating power. The manager casts the fishing net wide and creates volumes of inbound leads via Search and Social Marketing Channels.

In terms of channel, the best return on investment typically is SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and Paid SMM (Social Media Management), both have their own purposes. I advise SEM (e.g. Google Adwords and Bing Ads) when potential leads have a specific problem and are looking for a solution. However, if your solution is so new and potential clients are unaware of it, or they simply haven’t realized they had a problem to begin with, then SMM (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn) is a great solution. With educational and engaging content, it builds awareness around your product and spark interest.

That being said, SEM will often offer the best leads in any case. The job of the performance Marketing manager is to continuously do keyword research and test many different variables in order to attract new customers.

Digital ads

In addition, you won’t likely have a large budget to produce digital ads, so working with external agencies will in a lot of cases not be possible. As is the nature of startups, you need to sometimes be a jack (or jane) of all trades and create digital ads in-house. This does have the immense perk of allowing you to run analysis based on your own data and draw important lessons.

Business Development Representative

The Sales-portion of the team begins here. The BDR focuses on qualifying inbound leads from the lists amassed by the Marketing Manager. Qualifying inbound leads improves the efficiency of the Account Executive as they only are handed over highly relevant prospects.

The tried-and-true way to qualify the inbound prospects is the BANT principle. BANT stands for “Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline” and must be used prior to sending any lead to the Account Executive.

What are outbound prospects?

Business Development Representatives should also be spending time on outbound prospects. As the team grows, each BDR would be assigned to either inbound or outbound leads, seeing as each type has its own methodology. Qualifying outbound leads is done by making contact over the phone, to relevant contacts on LinkedIn and by sending out emails to high-quality prospects, each with personalized messages that serves to increase the response rate.

Putting energy into outbound leads often draws better results than inbound ones because you actively approach the customer that you want, as opposed to having to filter out the ones that don’t pass BANT.

Account Executive

To start the team, just one Account Executive will do the trick. If you can afford to hire additional staff, start by adding another Business Development Representative and Account Executive (keeping the single Performance Marketing Manager). This allows you to better compare and assess their performances. With just one, you’ll never know whether poor results are due to the market, your product or just bad Sales performance. Having two of each gives a certain failover.

At this stage, the funnel has been narrowed and the prospects found by the BDR have passed the BANT test — they fit the customer persona profile to a tee and are now called Sales Qualified Leads. After showing an interest in the product during their interaction with the BDR, they are then handed over to the Account Executive.

The role of the Account Executive is to reach out to the Sales Qualified Leads, do a product demo with the lead, write them a proposal and close the deal.

Sales and Marketing Team getting leads and making deals.
Sales and Marketing Team getting leads and making deals.
Using this structure and workflow will increase your success-rate and motivate the team to continue with an upbeat momentum. Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Account-based Marketing and Sales Workflow and Goals

By building a team made up of the three roles listed above, you create a system that will always fill the funnel of prospective customers and ultimately move the Sales Qualified Leads to the Account Executive. In doing so, the latter are able to maximize their efficiency and have better results. It’s a good thing too, seeing that they also tend to be expensive hires.

Here is the recommended workflow:

Digital Marketing Campaigns

Performance Marketing Manager targets Marketing Qualified Leads by running wide-reaching campaigns (SEM, SMM) over the course of six months. During this time, enough volume is created and the campaigns are regularly optimized based on data accumulated

Campaign optimization / Switching gears from MQL to SQL

After the sixth month, the goal is switched to targeting and creating lists of Sales Qualified Leads, as these are what will ultimately drive your revenue. Optimizing digital Marketing campaigns for these types of prospects allows the BDR to produce better results. At this point, the focus is now on quality over quantity in regards to campaigns — Sales Qualified Leads won’t engage with any type of poor content.

Engaging with Sales Qualified Leads

The Business Development Representative has two main goals. The first is to assess and contact SQLs that are provided to them by the Marketing campaigns. They schedule demos with these qualified prospects and the more the better. Demos and Deal Closure

The Account Executive is handed over qualified prospects, runs demos and closes the SQLs.

How to align goals and reward the team

Remember to reward the team, as it has been proven time and again that this truly pushes the numbers in the right direction!

Everyone in the Account-based Marketing and Sales Team should be provided with an incentive. I recommend paying the Marketing Manager a bonus on each MQL during the first six months, and on the SQL afterward.

The Business Development Representative should receive a fixed amount for every SQL generated. Some may be tempted to cap the amount paid here, but if the BDR overperforms, pay them more. Next, they should also be paid a percentage of the Total Contract Value (TCV) of the deals closed by the Account Executive. The BDR will feel rewarded for bringing lucrative clients and are more invested in the deal. They will be more likely to follow up with the Account Executives on the success of the demo or on how the deal is progressing.

To motivate to the Account Executives, they will also receive a percentage of the closed deal’s TCV. Percentages typically go up if the customer signs for a longer period of time.

By implementing a smart bonus structure — in addition to paying money where it is due — you make sure everyone’s goals are aligned and that the individual team members challenge each other.

Shaping your Startup for success

The Account-Based Marketing and Sales Approach creates a seamless stream of MQL and SQL that Business Representatives and Account Executives can work with to produce great results. When resources are tight, this system not only saves you time and money, it also motivates each of the team members, encourages them to work together. Try it for your business and reap the positive effects.

About the Author

Marcel Hollerbach is the CMO at Productsup and a Co-Founder of Cavalry Ventures.

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