The Fourth Pipeline Category: Turning former customers at new jobs into your best sales channel

Todd Busler
October 3, 2022
The Fourth Pipeline Category: Turning former customers at new jobs into your best sales channel

Selling in B2B is harder than ever - and competitive advantages are hard to find.

Over the course of my sales career, I’ve been able to follow the rise of sales intelligence and engagement tools in real-time. By and large, these tools have dramatically helped sales teams sell better by allowing them to templatize winning plays, increase their raw output, and improve efficiency.

Simply having these tools now, though, is no longer a competitive advantage—everyone in B2B sales has access to the same stuff, and are largely using them in the same ways. The “go-to” tactics aren’t working like they used to, and pure cold outbound specifically is knocking on death’s door:  

  • According to Hubspot, in just the past two years, outbound email volume has increased by 250%—yet response rates are down 40%.

  • Research from The Bridge Group shows that quality conversations (“a connect or response where at least one piece of qualifying or disqualifying information is learned”) are down 45% since 2014.

In other words: These prospecting channels are being flooded with activity (because these tools make it extremely easy for even novice reps to do so), triggering dramatic drops in efficiency and conversion.

On top of prospecting challenges, the way people buy is also changing.

We’ve all felt shifts in the way prospects are researching and buying.

At the consideration phase, B2B buyers have more resources and confidence than ever to do their own research before they’d ever have interest in talking to a sales rep.

And farther down the funnel, the rise of product-led growth (PLG) strategies and the consensus sale has meant more people are involved in buying decisions than ever before, as C-level leaders and VPs increasingly lean on their direct reports to make product evaluation and procurement recommendations.

You no longer have to convince just the head of IT or a VP of marketing over dinner and a round of golf—you’re selling to a whole team, who all have their own preferences, experiences, and biases about the tools they want to use.

In order to work smarter, sales teams don’t need more ways to do outreach, but better ones. Enter the fourth pipeline channel.

How former users and champions are key to conversion

Most sales teams have already operationalized workflows for three main sales pipeline channels: outbound, inbound and partnerships. These channels are well-oiled machines, and the operators responsible for the results of these channels are accustomed to measuring, tweaking, and optimizing results. However, that doesn’t mean they are the most efficient, cost-effective, or enjoyable selling channels. even though they fall short to varying degrees on being the most efficient, cost-effective or enjoyable selling channels.

Champify introduces a fourth pipeline channel—your former customers who have joined a new company. This is likely familiar to most reps as a concept. It may even be something they try on occasion.

High-performing reps have been able to cobble together ad hoc methods of reaching out to former customers using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, because they see the value of leveraging existing relationships—but these methods can’t provide the administrative oversight, transparency, alerting, reporting, and program management that’s necessary to scale it across a sales org. Historically, however, it hasn’t been something that’s easy to build a process around.

That’s where Champify comes in. It operationalizes the fourth pipeline channel, your former customers, to drive pipeline efficiency and win rate while selling to people who already like you.

The impact of tapping into customer job changes to sell more efficiently

Let’s say you're a 750-person B2B SaaS company who is thinking about how operationalizing the previous customer channel can improve your teams’ performance:

  • If you have 30,000 key users and former buyers, you can expect roughly 6,000 of them to change jobs every year.

  • If you’re able to book meetings with even just 8% of this group—which falls in line with the typical 2-4x response rate we see at Champify for outreach to previous customers versus cold outbound—this means you’re adding an additional 480 sales meetings per year from this fourth pipeline channel.

  • On a team of 20 AEs and SDRs, this means an extra 2 meetings per month per person.

  • For a typical B2B SaaS company that might set a goal of 10 meetings per month, that 20% increase in meetings booked is substantial!

Now, you might say, “Well my team is closing some deals through this channel already, so is this really additive?” We’ve found through running a data test with our customers pre-sale, that in this example, even the best companies are only manually finding 5-10% of what Champify will surface.

The value of increasing sales meetings is obvious—you’re booking more meetings, which is great, but sales efficiency and win rates are going to be significantly improved given how warm these leads are. You know that they are qualified customers, because they have already been qualified customers who have had a positive experience with your software. At Champify, for example, we’ve found that sales built on preexisting relationships (i.e. former customers who’ve changed jobs) close nearly twice as often with ~30% faster sales cycles. 

But the benefits of focusing on the fourth pipeline category don’t end there—consider these additional reasons for investing time in selling to former customers:

1. You don’t have to start your sales outreach from scratch

By going after previous customers, you’re not just hitting up warm leads, you’re essentially hitting up warm leads on steroids. They don’t just have casual familiarity with your product or brand—they’ve already gone through a sales cycle, procured budget, and have actually used your product. It’s the same reason why it’s easier to renew or expand an existing customer than land a new one.

You’ve already done the work of winning them over once, so why should you have win them over again? The best place to sell is where you’ve already sold. 

2. You’re incentivized to create long-term relationships built on trust, not transactions

It’s easy to forget that buying decisions aren’t made by companies, but rather people at companies. Experienced reps understand this, and some of their most valuable customers are ones they’ve followed from company to company.

Strategically selling to former customers incentivizes reps to close good deals that fit your ICP from the start, because they know the deal isn’t “one and done”; your reps will be able to reuse and revisit that value they’ve created to close deals quicker and easier next time.

As you leverage existing relationships over and over again and build a reputation as someone who solves problems and is easy to work with, you forge long-standing relationships with your customers—relationships that can be incredibly lucrative over time as your customers progress in their roles and careers (and increase their responsibility over budgeting and procurement decisions).

3. It’s just a better way to sell

Given the state of B2B sales I mentioned at the start of this article, it can’t be understated how much more enjoyable it is to sell this way. Making easier sales off warmer leads boosts confidence and morale, allows more reps to hit their goals, and means you aren’t burning your team out on mind-numbing, activity-focused cold outreach. This is also a powerful way to reduce turnover on your own team.

Understanding the opportunity is the first step. Operationalizing comes next.

If the idea of the fourth pipeline channel has you excited, you might be asking, “What can I do now?” The next steps of building out a process for reaching former customers, champions and power users might seem daunting—understandably so.

Maintaining an ever-changing employee graph with thousands of customer contacts is challenging, especially as you close new deals. Continuously updating relevant customer accounts with product usage history, firmographics, ICP fit, and the routing/alerting workflows would be a lot of work to manage on your own.

Luckily, here at Champify we’ve built a tool that lets you manage all of this—right from within Salesforce.

If you think you’re ready to tap into your pool of former users and supercharge your selling process, you can demo it now. But as you move to operationalize, it’s important to remember that your success in selling to former users will only pay off in direct correlation to how happy they are as customers. Investing in tools to help you build a process around selling in the fourth pipeline is important, but focusing on constantly improving their success, results and bottom line with your product is just as critical.