November 1, 2023

B2B Sales strategies and execution: Lessons from growing $1M ARR to IPO

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Caroline is a portfolio founder, launching Treefera last year and a former Chief Customer officer at UiPath. At UiPath, Caroline led teams ensuring successful partnerships and helped scale the company from $1 million ARR to IPO. Her hard-won experience driving rapid growth through sales and partnerships offers a blueprint for early-stage companies looking to scale.

Here are 3 key takeaways from Caroline’s session on how startups with limited resources can develop and optimise efficient sales strategies:

1) Know who you are selling to:

Caroline’s number one piece of advice is to clearly define and understand your target customer persona:

“You need to understand what drives them and makes them tick. Ask yourself, what are the triggers you should discuss with a potential customer that will make them fall in love with the vision for your product?”   

Avoid throwing facts about yourself at customers in sales meetings. Instead, demonstrate your understanding of their problem by describing it with examples, thereby telling a story of how your product will limit or solve their problem.

Advice on finding your target persona:  

  • Speak to as many potential customers as possible and listen closely to understand who to target. Finding the right personas are often done by trial and error. 
  • Have a set of questions you ask each potential customer. Everyone in Caroline’s sales team had a standard set of questions. In that way, they learned as much as possible about the different customer personas. 
  • Incorporate the voice of the customer into your platform vision. People love feeling like they are shaping the product.
  • Understand who holds the decision making power and tailor your message accordingly. The person who seems the most excited about your product might not necessarily be the one writing checks.  Therefore, the story you give two personas in the same sales cycle will be different depending on their role and authority.
  • Qualify opportunities rigorously. Caroline recommends using the MEDDPICC system  to qualify each opportunity. This is essentially a set of questions to ask yourself in order to assess the sales opportunity after interacting with a lead.

2) Leverage FOMO with early adopters

As a young startup with limited resources, you will have to seek creative ways to convert leads into early adopters and gain a network effect across markets. One approach to convert target personas to first customers is by creating exclusivity and urgency around early adopter offers.  

Tips on creating FOMO and early adopters:

  • One efficient way is to use Memorandum of understanding (MOU) with specific target groups. Caroline highlights the benefit of MOUs having no legal bearing, but still holding enough weight of a mutual understanding. Examples of this can be MOUs promising first access to your tech or giving their perspective before other customers if they sign up early. 
  • Offer reciprocal value to accelerate closing deals with big companies, as they find this to be an attractive option. Examples could be getting an advisory role, first access to your community or being a part of future investment rounds.
  • Do not be afraid to seek reciprocity from brands. Big organisations want to signal that they are a part of the future tech innovation. Use this to your advantage and ask for favours such as the permission to use their logo in your launch. Landing recognizable logos, even with smaller deals, can establish credibility and social proof for your startup. Additionally, they often have a venture or corporate services team with a set budget to use on innovative players in the market.  
  • Leverage launches, events, and partnerships to announce early customers. This builds awareness and drives more demand.
  • Create a waiting list to drive anticipation.
  • Utilise the networks around you, from friends and family, founders and VCs.

Moreover,  Caroline highlights the importance of avoiding over-reliance by giving all the perks to one client. The strategies could therefore be used for clients across different markets to maximise output. 

3) Focus on execution driven by metrics:

Establishing a habit of being metric driven in the early stage, helps to think about the output of the work you do and being mindful about your growth. The key metric here is Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR).

How to set metric driven execution:

  • Establish clear sales metrics such as ARR and Total Contract Value (TCV)
  • Set goals on adding new logos and signing up new clients to avoid dependency. Tech products should drive automated bookings, not constantly demanding sales.
  • Align sales and platform teams closely to create a booking business, this is crucial in ensuring that the customers voice is integrated in the building of your platform. This could be done by facilitating constant communication about customer needs between the two teams and avoiding competition between them. 
  • Aim for velocity when the time is right, usually post series A. Velocity sales refers to high volume, small transaction deals which gives predictability of your business. Based on her experience from running a 6 people sales team at XEROX doing new business worth $2.2Bn, Caroline advises founders to automate velocity as much as possible through your platform. 

Lastly, Caroline shares her advice around building a sales team. The top traits Caroline looks for in early sales hires are sales drive and a network that can open doors, as these people can be game changers for your business. That being said, founder-led sales can suffice in the beginning if you have great tech.

Huge thanks to Caroline who provided pragmatic tips for optimising B2B sales for early-stage startups!

Check out Caroline’s reading recommendations:

  • The MEDDPICC strategic sales methodology. More info here.
  • “The Challenger Sale: How To Take Control of the Customer Conversation” by Matthew Dixon and  Brent Adamson
  • “Do Scale: A Road Map to Growing a Remarkable Company”, by  Les McKeown. This is the strategy Caroline’s team at UiPath used for their B2B sales.