The Journey from 1 to 200 Customers

Last March, Cognism decamped to the B2B Marketing Expo at London’s Excel Centre. We had a large branded area where we could talk to customers old and new. We also had our own stage for presentations. One presentation was from Jonathon Ilett, Cognism’s Sales Director. Jonathon has been at Cognism from its infancy. In fact, he was employee #6. Jonathon is better placed than many to talk about what drives high-growth companies. His talk was on how to make the journey from 1 to 200 customers.

Jonathon has picked out some highlights from his talk, so even if you weren’t able to attend the event in March, you can still gain some valuable insights.

Inbound vs outbound

There are two types of ways to win customers in B2B sales:

  • Inbound channel – where you create a reason for customers to come to you (e.g. advertising, content, referrals)

  • Outbound channel – where you go out and find customers yourself (e.g. prospecting, cold calling)

While it’s important to have an eye on inbound sales, when you’re starting from scratch, not many people are going to know who you are or the benefits your company provides.

At Cognism, only 10% of our first 200 customers came via inbound methods. The reason for this is inbound prospects are likely much further along in the buying journey, aware of competitors and are looking for a benchmark prior to making a decision. This is contrary to outbound prospects, who may be completely unaware of your solution or niche. To achieve the growth levels we wanted, we had to educate the market, find new prospects and make them aware of our solution.

Creating an effective outbound sales process

At Cognism, we created an assembly line for outbound sales, splitting the sales team into separate, clearly-defined functions:

  • SDRs – to book meetings and qualify inbound leads

  • BDMs – to conduct product demos and close business

  • CSMs – customer success, to manage signed accounts

This method ensures each division becomes practised specialists, due to continuous repetition. It also presents a clear line of progression, which keeps the workforce motivated.

Creating predictability in sales

When growing a company, especially if you’re looking to raise money from VCs and other investors, predictability is essential. Predictable sales show investors that you have a strategy for growth. It’s all about creating sales equations, that when you raise the number on one side, the number on the other rises in proportion.

  • X calls = X meetings

  • X meetings = X opportunities

  • X opportunities = X deals

Once your BDM level is at full capacity, you can promote an SDR to BDM and create new SDR roles. All the numbers rise in proportion.

This was our equation at Cognism as we were growing:

  • 70 calls = 1 meeting

  • 20 meetings per month = 12 opportunities per month (60% to opp)

  • 12 opportunities = 4 deals (25% win rate)

If 70 calls eventually lead to 4 deals a month, you can predict what you need if you want to make 8 deals, or 80.

The importance of a proof of concept

Proof of concept is a period of time where you demonstrate the value of your product to a customer before they sign up to a fixed contract. It’s a great idea when you’re growing a company from scratch, especially in tech where it can be harder to warrant longer contracts without proving value first.

The initial feedback from your early customers is vital, helping you identify inefficiencies and allowing you to improve your product features. It also gives you justification to insist on a longer-term contract with your customer, post the proof of concept. You’ve demonstrated value, so it’s virtually impossible for them to refuse!

Customer Success

Just because you’ve closed a deal with a customer, it’s not the end of the story. You could even say it’s just the beginning. Customer Success is the division of the company responsible for managing the relationship between the vendor and its customers. They serve a vital purpose in relation to increasing revenue, identifying upsell opportunities, ensuring renewals and also generating referrals. If you can help make your customer as successful as possible as they use your product, you maximise customer lifetime value (CLTV) for your company.

At Cognism, every customer has their own dedicated Customer Success Manager who shares insight and best practice tips on the Cognism platform.

A plan for growth

When you create an outbound sales factory, bringing in predictable revenue and maximising customer success, you construct an environment where your company can achieve the high growth levels you want.

You also create a feedback loop, helping you improve on every metric. When all departments in your company are aligned and working together, you bring in more sales, more customers, more revenue and better product developments. This leads to more sales, more customers, more revenue etc!

Creating a high-growth company isn’t impossible. It can be done, even in today’s highly competitive business world. Follow the above techniques and you too can go from 1 to 200 customers!

Contact Us Today

Cognism’s sales acceleration platform, powered by our patented Revenue AI technology, has been instrumental in our journey from 1 to 200 customers. If you want to get a snapshot of everything Cognism can offer your B2B sales team, register today for your free demo. Or alternatively, call us on +44 203 858 0822.