The following post was contributed by Mo Yehia. 

Companies that sell software to businesses (SMBs) have it all wrong.

  • Marketers focus on the top of the funnel and don’t personalize outreach. e.g. Vistaprint, which offers a slew of technologies including a Facebook page builder, often doesn’t know which of its inbound prospects have Facebook pages.

  • Salespeople focus on the bottom of the funnel and painstakingly research SMBs using disparate sources (e.g. website, Facebook, cold calls). e.g. Some BBB reps spend up to 90% of their time researching prospects to turn a cold call into a warm one.

Marketers who don’t personalize outreach waste money, and salespeople who manually research prospects waste time which ultimately decreases company profits. Despite these inefficiencies, knowing that SMBs continue to adopt technology and purchase more digital products (most haven’t), software companies are hiring armies of salespeople and increasing marketing budgets to capitalize on this. So, what’s the solution?

Inspired by Aaron Ross’ Predictable Revenue, these sales best practices can help companies close more sales in less time. Aaron’s framework helped Salesforce.com, one of the most successful startups ever, increase recurring revenues by $100 million. Without further adieu…

Specialize to increase productivity. It’s hard to switch between mindsets.

As a general rule, when people spend 20%+ of their time on a secondary function – e.g. sales development folks handling large (hundreds/month) incoming lead volume – break  out that function into a new role…

Inbound Qualification/Market Response (“qualifiers”)
Focus 100% on qualifying incoming leads.

Outbound Prospecting/Sales Development (“initiators”)
Focus 100% on outbound prospecting.

Account Executive/Sales (“closers”)
Focus 100% on closing deals from their live pipeline.

Account Management/Customer Success (“frictionless karma”)
Focus 100% on making customers successful and happy.

The best source of predictable revenue is predictable lead-generation.

Duh. This statement seems obvious, but it’s easily forgotten. Lead-generation (outbound prospecting/sales development) is the lifeblood of any sales-heavy company trying to reduce revenue volatility/surprises. Set up funnels early, collect data, define performance (conversions, abandonment, etc), test variations (across channels, reps, etc), improve processes, and stay focused on big picture goals.

Limit yourself to only a few kinds of “ideal customers.”

You can have more than one ideal customer, but limit yourself to no more than five profiles. If you need more than five profiles, your marketing strategy needs focus. Once you have a dozen unaffiliated (not friends, investors, etc), paying customers, identify what they have in common (vertical, title of purchaser, revenue, etc), create a hypothesis on your value add, and talk to customers to validate it. Finally, sketch out your ideal customer profile and determine how to reach this market at scale.

You can send “unsolicited” emails to businesses, so long as…

The subject and header are not misleading.

You have a physical address in your email.

You include a way to opt-out from future communications.

Voicemail can be effective in combination with email.

When a prospect hears your voice, it helps them establish credibility that you’re a real human. Don’t get too mechanical with scripts and lose the personality in your voice. Similar to sending an email, keep voicemails brief, establish a point of reference, and state your name and number. Do not ask questions, reference failed attempts, or sell.

Mo Yehia is Crossing Guard at Sidewalk, a tool that helps marketers and salespeople close more sales to SMBs through targeting and automation. He’s lesser known for stints at Sparkle Buggy Car Wash and Lehman Brothers. He's a self-proclaimed banker turned human.