Selling in a down market: why you need to operationalize engaging former customers

Todd Busler
November 3, 2022
Selling in a down market: why you need to operationalize engaging former customers

Get the tldr; of why you should operationalize engaging former customers from Todd Busler

Selling in a Down Market

It’s getting more difficult to be a B2B SaaS seller, and the challenges are only exacerbated during a down market. According to SaaS expert Tomasz Tunguz over sales efficiency is down over 15% since Covid. As sales teams continue to grapple with an ongoing market downturn, it’s clear that the dynamics for both sellers and buyers are changing accordingly.

In a world where cold outreach email volume is up 50%, yet the response rate is down 40%, cheaper leads and opportunities—and customers who are willing to fight for budget—have become precious commodities.

But those commodities come with their own price. As buyers face tightening budgets and directives to consolidate down to mission-critical tools, they need to have extreme confidence in you to deliver a clear return before they ever consider advocating for your offering to their stakeholders.

Given these conditions, it’s no wonder the effectiveness of cold outreach is cratering! Who wants to stick their neck out and put their job on the line for a product they aren’t familiar with and a sales rep they don’t know or trust? Amidst this challenge is an opportunity to take advantage of a better way to create pipeline by tapping into a new channel: former customers, end-users, or key contacts that have left for new jobs.

I’ve previously discussed why investing time and energy into this pipeline category is so important (hint: They’re the easiest deals your team will ever close). This piece will delve more into why you should formalize a process for reaching out to these super warm leads.

Turning champions into raving fans into repeat buyers

Sales organizations and leaders invest hundreds of hours beating the drum on the importance of developing champions. Champions help push deals through when times get tough, give you the inside scoop on company politics, and foster relationships with other key contacts in the business.

And sales aren’t the only group focused on creating champions. Product teams can also help foster champions by delivering an exceptional product experience. Customers who get value from your software are going to want to use it again. 

Leading reps realized long ago that selling to product champions as they move to new companies and change jobs is simply a better way to sell:

  • They are easier and more efficient to sell to since they are already familiar with your product and may even have a strong relationship with you. Instead of starting from scratch on a new contact, why not invest time into someone you’ve already won over once before?
  • They are more responsive to sales outreach compared to other outbound and inbound methods, making them a more efficient lead source—and opportunities with former customers close at least twice as often as other channels.
  • They are already advocates for you since you’ve already won their attention or business at least once.

Expanding your definition of a champion to include sales, customer success, and product-led champions also means realizing that often, people can fill several of these definitions over the course of their career, depending on their current job status and what action they’re in a position to take:

Creating new opportunities from your champions is a loop that feuls more opportunity.

By mapping out key milestones in the journey from new customer to a champion to a repeat buyer you can see the multiplicative effect each champion can have on your business. Champions who bring your software elsewhere generate more product champions. it’s easy to see just how much value this fourth pipeline channel contains—and why you need to operationalize it to capture it.Historically, this is easier said than done!

Former customers: A valuable opportunity that’s difficult to execute on

Historically it hasn’t been easy to efficiently sell to these contacts - especially product champions. The reason is existing tools for doing so—while certainly useful—fall short in critical ways:

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a great prospecting search engine but isn't effective for tracking job changes at scale or operationalizing across your organization. Because Sales Navigator only tracks individuals linked to a closed won opportunity, fewer than 20% of your key customer contacts are actually accounted for. And since Sales Navigator does not automatically read from all Salesforce data, manually wrangling lead lists is enough full-time work for multiple people.
  • ZoomInfo is the market leader for CRM enrichment. Still, with infrequent updates to its large database and reliance on email signatures as a primary data source, their job change alerts are unreliable and late.
  • UserGems tends to surface as much signal as possible to the point where it overwhelms reps and requires SalesOps teams to go through intensive implementation processes to only highlight job changes and notifications in your ICP.

To cover the full spectrum of “easy sales,” you need to both expand your definition of a champion (to return to the question: “How do we know that our efforts selling to champions is working?”) and find an efficient way to operationalize the selling process to them. Ideally, you’d do this with a tool that can surface leads that have accurate data and are easily trackable within your system, with minimal work required to maintain this data.

Lead enrichment tools require inefficient  manual processes

Why you need to operationalize your process for selling to former buyers and users

Operationalizing your selling process for former customers is about leveraging the value of your fourth pipeline channel at scale. As you begin this, it’s important to remember why you’re doing it in the first place: You want to grow your pipeline by giving reps higher-converting leads.

Thus, formalizing a process and strategy of landing former customers and users does not mean adding unnecessary complexity—quite the opposite, actually.

It’s more about distilling the grueling, manual, hard-to-track activities that your best salespeople are already doing into easily repeatable, low-lift activities—not implementing some complicated architecture or entirely new workflow into your day to day work.

As you go through this process of operationalizing, the result should be increased transparency, measurability, and scalability in how you reach out to former customers. You’ll know it’s working when:

  • Job changes of former contacts are being surfaced to reps quickly and with accurate data.
  • Reps are spending more time booking meetings and moving deals along instead of learning new software or becoming boolean search experts.
  • Reps are plugging former customer data seamlessly into existing workflows in tools like Salesforce, Outreach, or Sendoso instead of hacking together lists in order to leverage the fourth pipeline channel.
  • Clear reporting on how these leads are being worked and how the channel is performing is making its way to leadership.
  • Channel tactics are being optimized and changed based on data-driven insights.

Landing new business with former users through Champify

Champify was designed specifically to support a fully operationalized approach to selling to former customers. It increases your sales effectiveness and saves you time by seamlessly integrating right into your Salesforce instance without adding unnecessary steps or an entirely new UX to learn.

If you’re ready to move on from highly manual tracking tools and get a steady flow of quality warm leads, tap into your former customer funnel with Champify.