Launching a new business means a lot of work in building processes from scratch! For one of the first things, I've been building our own Sales & Marketing Playbook for the beginning of our journey. Our Sales & Marketing Playbook aims to figure out how we will get new customers – here’s how I approached it.
For a starter, this is my philosophy: Most companies try to optimize their sales process, and I'm trying to keep in mind to maximize our buyers' buying process.
Changing the mindset from yourself to the customer makes a significant difference!
Here's what I included in our Sales & Marketing Playbook. Feel free to steal.
Our sales & marketing mission & vision
First, I started thinking about what the buyers should think when buying from us. In other words, what should be our sales & marketing mission? I wrote down that I want our customers to think: "Buying Talent Acquisition services has never been this easy & fun.”
I tried to keep this mission in mind when working on the rest of the playbook!
I proceeded to write down two visions for what our own success in our sales & marketing would look like for us:
- SaaS companies always want to talk with us when they look for a TA partner.
- Getting new ICP customers isn’t a growth bottleneck for us, and we can choose who we want to work with.
These are huge visions that will need a lot of actions to become reality! So, what else did I write down in our Sales & Marketing Playbook?
Goals & KPIs for our sales & marketing in the beginning
As a company we want to differentiate and focus, so at this point almost all of our Sales & Marketing goals & KPI’s are about building brand awareness and affinity in our own niche. These are also some of our strategic focus points in the beginning of our journey.
Here’s what we aim for in 2022–2023:
- Sustainably growing brand awareness & affinity through our weekly podcast-marketing.
- We rank on page 1 on Google by chosen keywords.
- 100 % of the companies we contact have heard of us.
- A growing number of contacted people agree to have an intro call (yes/no)
- We get five inbound leads each month from our marketing efforts.
- Close-rate from inbound cases +70%
So, this work won't be done tomorrow! But we know we have reached our goals when these things come true bit by bit in the desired time frame.
Identifying an Ideal-Customer-Profile
When reaching for our sales & marketing vision, an essential step is to identify an Ideal-Customer-Profile. Who is the Ideal Customer?
“One exciting way to identify ideal customers is to start with identifying the bad ones.”
An Ideal Customer in general is someone who
- Naturally understands the value of our services
- Is easy to sell to
- Doesn't try to get a better price
- Won't churn & buy again and again
- Is a profitable customer
…But that’s just a start! You need to dig deep in the topic to identify who exactly is the ideal customer.
One exciting way to identify ideal customers is to start with identifying the bad ones. We wrote down a list of things that tells us that we are not the best partner for the company.
TalentBee’s bad customer is someone who is / has:
- Not a cultural / Value-fit (perstuntuma)
- Negative background/reputation → Putting us in a bad light
- Financial situation / problems
- Has a significant employee turnover but wants to focus only on recruiting new people & doesn't let us talk with their old employees to understand why they left.
- Doesn’t understand the value of Talent Acquisition.
- Doesn't have a recruitment plan or is unwilling to do one with us. They want to do only ad-hoc work.
- Demand our people be on-site with them.
- Is not doing enough recruitment / aiming to grow.
After this, we started to write down what makes an ideal customer. This is what we wrote down. Our Ideal Customer is someone who taps a majority of these things:
- A SaaS company
- Positive vibes & gets our people excited and motivated
- Appreciate their own people, experience (candidate, partners, etc.) & quality
- High maturity of Talent Acquisition (We are not really sure about this and whether it’s a good or bad thing. Something for us to figure out.)
- Open, honest & ready to learn new things.
- Understands that talent acquisition should be long-term and strategic vs. ad-hoc and wants to have the best talent for them.
- They are hiring +10 people in the next 12 months.
- Thinking that remote work is ok.
- Willing to talk about salaries openly, + wages are competitive.
- CEO is involved/interested in talent acquisition.
- Raised a round of funding → Needs to scale and hire people.
- Some tech in place for Talent Acquisition processes
- Hired a VP of something to grow some part of the business.
- Planning to open new markets
- Has followed us before buying from us
- Has an internal HR function
Then we started to identify different stages of SaaS business growth & in what situation we can provide the best possible value for. Here's what we got:
We also identified that most likely, when the company is moving from one growth stage to another, it opens a lot of potential for us!
“Of course, there are real people inside those companies making buying decisions.”
All of the stuff until this point was actually about the customer companies. There are, of course, people inside those companies making hiring decisions.
We wrote down the following:
- What are the different roles who would buy from us?
- How is their success at work measured?
- What is their challenge regarding talent acquisition?
- What is our value proposition to this person?
Here's what we wrote down on these topics:
Most of the stuff we wrote down is just our hypothesis or information collected from a customer research we have done already. We will continue to do that in the future to understand different buyers even better all the time!
Remember, it's about optimizing your buyers' buying process. Not your sales process. So we started to work on our customer journey from their perspective. It was very difficult for us, to speak the truth, and I really want to talk with some of our customers to understand this better!
We looked at it from an awareness to advocacy & retention perspective:
Most of the stuff you will see next is still a work in progress, but I think this gives you the best idea about working in a start-up! You start from somewhere and continue to update stuff as you go & learn.
In the awareness stage, we asked the following questions from ourselves:
- What problems do the customers realize they have?
- Where do they look for help & how will they find us?
- How do they feel when seeing us for the first time?
- Why do they decide to investigate us further?
Here's what we wrote down:
Next, we moved to the Evaluate & Select stage to figure out how they choose between different options. I already got some great ideas on this topic since I had asked this same question from many SaaS founders.
In the Evaluate & Select stage, we thought about the following questions:
- How will the customers evaluate their options & what they want to see in the offer?
- What are their other options for solving the problem?
- Who participates in the buying process?
Here's what we wrote down:
I give one example of how we utilize this information when planning our sales & marketing process!
We have identified that the board or investors often make decisions when choosing a strategic partner for Talent Acquisition. To offer the best possible buying process, we want to provide our customers with all the needed materials that investors want to see regarding choosing a partner.
“One of the biggest mistakes companies make is that they only focus on the funnel until someone becomes a customer. There are so many essential things after that, too.”
Let's move forward to getting started with a partner stage.
You might wonder why I write about this when talking about our sales & marketing. One of the biggest mistakes companies make is that they only focus on the funnel until someone becomes a customer.
There are so many essential things after that, too, that affect sales & marketing as well as your company's growth.
In the getting started phase, we asked ourselves the following questions:
- What kind of expectations do our customers have for the first months?
- What type of support do they need in the first month?
- What kind of feeling do they have after the first month?
Then we moved to the Use & Success stage and answered the following questions:
- What kind of value are our customers expecting from cooperation?
- What has created a WOW moment for them?
- How are they feeling?
- What would make me think of changing our talent acquisition partner? (For example, this helps you to reduce churn but also think about what kind of customers you want to acquire in the first place).
Here's what we wrote down:
Lastly, we thought about Retention & Advocacy. Something that most companies don't believe in enough.
Keeping current customers and selling more to them is really so much easier and cheaper than acquiring new customers. Too often companies focus on getting new customers and forget the existing ones. But the truth seems to be: even a small change in churn has a huge impact on growth!
“Retention & Advocacy are something that most companies don't believe in enough.”
We want to focus on this, so we looked at the following questions with the eyes of a customer:
- Do I feel TalentBee is a vendor or a partner?
- What should happen so that I can recommend TalentBee to my friends?
- When would I buy more & what would I buy?
After writing down the answers to these questions, it's easier to work on how you should be marketing & selling your services!
The market is full of other recruitment agencies – How are we different?
When companies are answering this question, there is typically one thing they are missing. They are only focusing on the things that make them different from their competition. They often forget that they should be things that are different from their competition, and their customers care about it.
Source for image: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/points-difference-parity-balance-matters-sacha-oerlemans/
We identified a few things that currently differentiate us (These are, of course, things that might change in the future!):
Topics & Channels
When choosing the proper channels & topics for your sales and marketing, it's crucial to ask your ideal customers. We asked, and we created some of our hypotheses.
“We will heavily invest in building a community around Talent Acquisition in the SaaS industry.”
Here are the main channels that we decided to use for our marketing:
- Community: We believe communities are the most important thing to focus on. We will heavily invest in building a community around Talent Acquisition in the SaaS industry.
- Founder brands & employee brands. We believe that people want to follow people. Not only companies. We will invest & produce a lot of content on our channels.
- Podcasts & videos to different channels like LinkedIn, IG & TikTok.
- Website: How-to content, templates & checklists. SEO-focus.
Here are the topics we will talk about:
- Today and the future of Talent Acquisition in SaaS companies: insights, stories & case studies.
- Building a Talent Acquisition agency and sharing about the journey openly (E.g., this article you are reading right now)
- Combining Recruitment & EB.
- Talent Acquisition needs to be strategic. Not one-off.
- Different stages of SaaS growth & what Talent Acquisition does in various stages of the growth.
- Templates, guides, checklists, etc., to make talent acquisition professionals work easier.
When someone asks what TalentBee does – How to answer?
I've got this question so many times. I don't have a great answer to this. I wait for the moment when we have more customers & I can ask them: "How would you describe TalentBee to your colleague?"
“I believe that the best pitch always includes a question & the story.”
I still wanted to write something down about this topic, so we have something documented (even though it's pretty shitty still...)
I believe that the best pitch always includes a question & the story. So here's how I wrote it down:
Person 1: “Hey! What is TalentBee / What does TalentBee do?”
Me: “Have you ever been in a situation where you realized that you need to hire someone and you would need that person there right now, but it took a few months?”
Person 1: “Yeah, I know that feeling.”
Me: “Well, in short, we are making that problem go away. We help SaaS companies ensure that getting the right talent when needed won’t be their growth bottleneck, and we combine recruitment work with building awesome employer brands for our customers.”
Ideas on how to make this better? Send me a message!
Different stages of our sales process
As a reminder: This is my sales & marketing philosophy: Most companies try to optimize their sales process, and I'm trying to keep in mind to maximize our buyers' buying process!
I’ve been working in sales for almost 10 years. I’m always trying new things. Some have worked. Some haven’t. This sales process is build with the information from our customers & from my own experiences on what works the best ways. Our goal is to make buying easy.
When writing down our sales process & I wanted to have the following information in it:
- What are the steps we take with each customer?
- What is the goal for the customer in each stage?
- What is the plan for us in that stage?
- What are the exit criteria to move to the next step? (Basically, this means, e.g., .that we won't start to build an offer for the customers before we have confirmed the budget.
It’s important for me to make sure that everyone can do sales, and it’s not only something I do. I might become sick. I might want to take a holiday. Anything can happen. I want to make sure it doesn’t affect our sales. That's why I wanted to document things straightforwardly. This also includes what happens in different calls, what to say & what to do next:
- Preparing for and having an Intro-call
What do we do before the first call with the customer?
We do a background check & add information to HubSpot:
- What is the company doing
- Who are we meeting from the company: (Link to LinkedIn profile, their role & history & a fun fact about the person)
- Their headcount, according to LinkedIn
- Their Leadership team members: Founder, CEO, COO, Head of sales, Head of Marketing, Head of Product
- Their Funding round (Google: Company name + funding = Cruncbase or news)
- Check their open roles on their website
We send a VIDEO agenda & confirmation to the customer 1-2 days before the meeting based on your background work. Want to see an example of that? Check it out from here!
Here’s what we go through in the intro call:
- Set schedule: Confirm time. Figure out if it’s a fit: their situation, our approach & next steps.
Go through the following questions:
- Why do they want to have a call with us?
- Are they looking for a one-off partner or strategic partner?
- Their current TA team & other partners have?
- Budget for a partner
Agree on the following steps to dig deeper into their situation to determine if they are a good fit.
2. Deep-dive call
Here’s what we go through in the deep-dive call:
- Set schedule: To understand their situation so we can build an offer
Go through the following questions:
- Their business goals / how do they measure their business growth?
- MRR / ARR Goals
- Growth stage: Looking for PMF, PMF, or Scaling
- Current funding stage / when next one is coming?
- What are the biggest challenges on the Talent side? → Go deep.
- Hiring goals for subsequent years (remember churn!) How many to which functions?
- Confirm current partners & own team.
- Current tech-stack & have they noticed something missing?
- How will it affect reaching your business goals if you fail in your talent acquisition?
- How much have they invested in EB & are they happy with the results?
- Go through their timeline: When do you want to start, when making a decision on this, who participate in decision making?
Recap their situation using your own words.
Agree on next step: Time when we go through the offer together
3. The Offer
Here are the things we always have in our offer & how we make it unique:
- Customer goals & situation
- Our model: TA Strategy & ongoing model
- Some valuable ideas for customer
- References from similar cases
- For these, we, of course, use some templates!
Other things we always do in the offer phase:
- We always do a 2-min video walkthrough of our offer and send it to the customer (See example here)
- We always connect customers with a reference client to have a short 15min chat to understand what it is like to work with us.
Agree on next steps: We always set up a call to review customers' decisions.
4. A Decision-Making Call
Here are the things we go through in our decision-making call:
If we get a yes:
- Thank you for the trust.
- Agree on the next steps & go through the timeline.
- Ask why customers bought from us & feedback about our sales process
- Ask if we can share on social that we started together to get some visibility for both of us!
- Send contract for signing using PandaDoc.
If we get a no:
- Thank for the discussions
- Ask feedback from buying process & why they decided not to buy
- Ask when it would make sense to catch up to see if there would be potential for cooperation & send a calendar invite.
We haven't got a lot of objections yet from our customers, but I have already tried to write down the most common ones and how we should react to them. We will continue to add things here while we get new ones:
Here's what we got so far in our Sales & Marketing Playbook. We will continue to add stuff here as we go. We aim to have all the processes documented in a way that helps us scale & makes sure that anyone can take on any role and succeed in that.
If you enjoyed the read, I would appreciate it if you could share this with your friend or on your LinkedIn!