How to Build Your Revenue Engine Without a Sales Unicorn
Part 1: Sales Unicorns Don't Exist
In the initial stages of growing a company, every business owner eventually reaches the same realization — the tactics that propelled you to a certain point are no longer sufficient enough to help you reach the next goal in terms of revenue growth.
In essence, you've reached a plateau. Early-stage business growth formulas combined with your zealous, hardworking spirit fostered some initial success, but now you're stuck sitting on flat ground with no signs of growth in sight.
We know one thing for certain: as an entrepreneur, you didn't invest time, effort, and money into your dreams just to trek up a hill and enjoy the view. No, you made those initial sacrifices with the ultimate goal of scaling mountains, of conquering the seemingly unconquerable.
That's the kind of heart entrepreneurs have, and there's no turning it off. So, what are you to do when you see that plateau approaching? How do you go from plateau to peak? How do you avoid the pending decline and, instead, find your Mt. Everest to climb?
If these questions keep you up at night, you're in the right place. This article on Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success alignment breaks down our approach to holistic revenue growth and guides you on how to build your Revenue Engine.
To begin, we'll discuss why the old way of defeating this plateau — hiring a do-it-all "Sales Unicorn" — doesn't work and set the stage for fostering success through a Revenue Engine.
Revenue Growth vs Revenue Scale
Before anything else, it's essential to make the distinction between revenue growth and revenue scale. While similar, the two terms have distinct differences that business owners must understand to be successful.
- Revenue Growth: Revenue growth is just what it sounds like — your ability to grow revenue by increasing sales, no matter what it takes.
- Revenue Scale: Revenue scale, on the other hand, is the ability to increase sales rapidly while only slightly increasing expenditure on the resources that help you win those sales.
Scaling revenue ultimately comes down to a CEO's willingness to invest in proper resources early to avoid consistent expenditures in the long run that end up taking away from Sales.
We're here to scale revenue, not just grow it. With that base understanding in place, let's dive into what it takes to scale your revenue.
Is this the answer to your revenue plateau?
Think back to the early successes of your business when you accomplished a couple of exciting revenue milestones. You built something from the ground up and acted as a solopreneur to reach the $250,000 milestone, and you continued to grow your business as the Chief Everything Officer to eclipse $1 million.
It's close to this point where many business owners realize the need for additional help in many departments and areas. But with cash flow still relatively limited, they make the critical error of trying to hire a jack-of-all-trades team member to fix everything — A Sales Unicorn.
What is a Sales Unicorn?
A Sales Unicorn is a person you bring into your company with the hopes that they will be able to save the day and do it all from a sales perspective. They're a sales Swiss Army Knife when it comes to prospecting, cold calling, CRM upkeep, client management, proposal drafting, email communication, and so much more.
Typically, they're a former high-performing sales rep at another company. Still, when this person loses the infrastructure and automation that bolstered their success in the first place, they are left to do everything manually. Essentially, you're asking one person to grow revenue by themself without the help of automation or infrastructure.
Why Sales Unicorns Don't Exist
Think about the connotation of an actual unicorn. Unicorns are mythical, legendary creatures that possess magical capabilities that nobody can find anywhere else. Now apply that statement to the sales world, and you start to get the idea of just how unfeasible the role is.
The fact is that hiring this person as your be-all, end-all hurts your company more than anything else. They are tasked with so much manual work that it wastes their time to win sales and make money.
No matter how talented a salesperson is, it will only mean something if they spend 75% of their time building a list of leads and manually entering data and information into an outdated spreadsheet before they're even able to do what they're best at!
In the end, this wastes time and money and prevents you from scaling revenue effectively. So what's the alternative?
You Must Develop an Infrastructure to Grow Revenue
High-performing salespeople are incredibly valuable to your company — that's a given. But they won't reach their full potential if they don't have the tools to succeed.
Establishing and investing in internal infrastructure is vital to the overall success of your company. We all know that Sales, Marketing, Revenue Operations, and Customer Success work in tandem with one another — why, then, would you expect a salesperson to succeed without any of that in place?
Automation, technology, marketing, branding, and website design all play a massive role in the success of the sales process. The sales landscape is inherently collaborative, from generating inbound leads to optimizing workflows and improving customer experience throughout multiple touchpoints.
This kind of collaboration and infrastructure is the beginning of a high-performing Revenue Engine.
Part 2: The Revenue Engine
When something becomes obsolete and unsuccessful, it's naturally replaced by something else. That's true in everything, especially in a world as fluid as Sales. Because buyers are constantly evolving, the sales process must adapt at an equal pace to stay up to speed.
In Part 1, we discussed the death of the sales unicorn and why hiring a do-it-all salesperson to get you passed a revenue plateau is a waste of time, effort, and money.
We know the Sales Unicorn is a thing of the past, so what fills the void? As a CEO, how can you find and implement a new solution that actually helps you get over this stagnant period and continue scaling your revenue? What is the inclusive solution that accomplishes everything the Sales Unicorn was meant to accomplish?
It's something we like to call a Revenue Engine. This comprehensive, cross-department solution is the most effective way to set your revenue up to scale — we know because we've seen it happen firsthand with our clients.
In the second part of this series, we'll explain how Branding, Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, and Revenue Operations (RevOps) all function together to build a lasting Revenue Engine and how you can start building yours.
It's Time to Break Down the Silos in Your Company
Before getting into the specifics of a Revenue Engine and how to build one, we need to make one thing clear: you will not be able to scale revenue if your Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success departments are still operating in silos.
Siloed departments limit the potential of your organization as a whole. As a CEO, if you notice your revenue-generating departments working independently from one another, that's a problem. In something as collaborative as modern sales, departments cannot decide their priorities and goals without consulting with other units — it just won't produce long-term results.
On the other hand, departments operating in tandem will be able to set realistic, attainable goals together and understand their specific role in achieving those goals. This fosters communication, allows departments to hold each other accountable, and is the basis for what every CEO facing a revenue plateau should strive to create — A Revenue Engine.
What is a Revenue Engine?
At House of Revenue, we define a Revenue Engine as a machine constructed of equal parts Branding, Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, and RevOps designed to scale your revenue in the long run, not just grow it for a short period.
All departments in a Revenue Engine work in tandem with each other to lift and enable the other departments. Let's break down each department's role.
We start with RevOps for a specific reason — it's the glue that holds all the other departments together. RevOps breaks down the aforementioned silos between departments and improves internal alignment through technology and automation.
Creating a lasting Revenue Engine becomes infinitely more feasible when your organization has the appropriate technology and automation in place. (Our personal favorite all-in-one automation platform is HubSpot.) From tracking relevant marketing KPIs and automating email communication to organizing prospect information and utilizing a CRM, RevOps and automation set the stage for your entire Revenue Engine.
Your brand should create an emotional connection with your buyer. It comprises what your brand says in public and private forums, your values, how you communicate your product, and what you want people to feel when interacting with your company.
Essentially, your brand identity is the personality of your business and a promise to your customers. It will be one of the first things your target buyer experiences in their search process, engaging them throughout The Bowtie Funnel.
Remember: Think about your brand from the buyer's perspective: What makes this company unique and the clear solution to my problems?
With the appropriate technology and automation now in place, it's time to connect the revenue-generating departments within your organization, beginning with Marketing.
As we already pointed out, bringing in a high-performing sales rep is only meaningful if they have the tools to succeed. Improving your tech stack is the first fundamental improvement; investing in marketing is the second.
Marketing has gained significant momentum for a single reason — The Buyer's Journey has changed dramatically. Previously, it was the sole responsibility of Sales teams to prospect and connect with the right clients, and much of that responsibility now falls on the Marketing team.
Modern buyers discover you; they don't wait to be found. Today's buyer has already completed up to 80% of the traditional Awareness - Consideration - Decision process before engaging with a salesperson.
This statistic means that your company's success now hinges significantly on your marketing department. It's an enormous responsibility and not one that should be taken lightly.
First, they must attract your target buyer with persona-specific messaging. Then, they must directly engage with your prospects by producing numerous variations of consistent content and delivering that content to your buyer through multiple marketing channels.
The next cog in the Revenue Engine is Sales. Even if your marketing team perfectly executes a campaign that attracts your ideal buyer, it will only mean something if your Sales department is equipped to win the deal.
Sales training and implementation of strategic processes are effective in improving sales performance, but investment into RevOps and marketing play an equal role. By investing in industry-leading technology and allocating appropriate time and energy to create a sound inbound marketing campaign, you set your Sales team up to do what they do best — sell.
No longer will they have to spend countless hours doing the manual tasks of a sales unicorn. With an expansive list of qualified leads and the automation in place to reach those leads, well-trained salespeople will significantly improve their results.
You've won the sale, and revenue is flowing in; now it's time to sit back, relax, and pour yourself a celebratory drink, right? Nope.
The sales process doesn't end when the deal is reached. That's just the first half of The Buyer's Journey. It's time to take your customer from the adoption phase of their journey and turn them into brand advocates through The Customer's Journey. You can do this by ensuring that your newly acquired customer is blown away by their experience with you.
You want your customers to think, "Do I really get all this from just one company?"
The handoff from Sales to Customer Success is typically undefined and weak within most companies. To help strengthen this within your company, first define the process, remove barriers between Sales and Success, develop a new client implementation roadmap, and identify where Sales can assist in the process to create a frictionless experience for the customer.
Then, create KPIs that measure the success of new client onboarding. New client implementations set the tone for the Customer Success experience. It must match or exceed customer expectations up to this point.
Some companies measure speed to delivery of the product or service, change management metrics like user adoption and effectiveness of their usage of the product or service, and lastly, have a plan to graduate the client from implementation to ongoing customer support.
To scale revenue, this is critical for two main reasons:
- Upselling & Renewal: When a buyer's expectations are met and exceeded, it opens the door for your Sales team to present upselling opportunities for additional products and services they initially didn't consider. Should this trend continue, your customers are more likely to renew at the end of their contract rather than offboard.
- Referrals: Suppose a satisfied customer has completed their engagement and is ready to offboard. In that case, they are more likely to refer your exceptional work to their friends (aka other buyers) in the future. The ability to create meaningful, lasting relationships generates a neverending flow of revenue.
If you neglect the customer after the sale, the entire foundation upon which your Revenue Engine is built could/will collapse.
There are no shortcuts.
Part 3: How Revenue Engines Scale Revenue
There's a difference between setting your revenue up for scale and following through on the plan to create something substantial. Think about your Revenue Engine from the perspective of a vehicle — the engine does most of the difficult work, but the car still needs a driver.
In the first two parts of this series, we discussed how the old way of solving your revenue problem only works if you review all the aspects of building the Revenue Engine and an unshakeable foundation.
Now comes the fun part — capitalizing on your initial investments and seeing an upward trajectory in your revenue growth. A well-oiled engine impacts the buyer positively at all points of their journey with your company, from the first touchpoint all the way through renewal or offboarding.
The Modern Buyer's Journey
To outline the benefits an aligned revenue ecosystem can have on your company, we'll briefly walk through The Buyer's Journey. Remember, this process has changed significantly in recent years.
Rather than buyers waiting to be contacted by your Sales team, they actively find you. This is crucial to keep in mind as we walk through the journey and investigate how the Revenue Engine answers a question on the mind of every buyer: What makes your company the best solution for my problems?
To present yourself as the clear and obvious answer to that question, let's see how a Revenue Engine impacts each stage of the funnel.
Before any marketing or sales efforts can begin, you need to understand your audience, how they interact with your business, and how you want to engage with them. This will help you get people into the funnel so you can strategically encourage them to work their way through the funnel.
Crafting ideal client profiles (ICPs) and buyer personas is the only way to do this effectively. While you might think target audiences, ICPs, and buyer personas are the same thing, there are distinct differences between the three:
- Target Audience: a group of people or businesses at which your product or service is aimed.
- ICPs: the most valuable persons or businesses within your target audience who are most likely to purchase from you.
- Buyer Personas: the specific buyers within your target audience and ICP.
Well-crafted buyer personas go beyond general target audiences; they show individual buyers that you understand their everyday pain points and present your product or service as the solution to those problems.
Top-of-funnel marketing efforts should combine short- and long-term goals to both get in front of your buyer quickly (paid digital) and develop long-standing infrastructure (SEO and content marketing). If done correctly, these marketing efforts will intrigue a prospect enough to fill out a lead capture form which then directs the buyer through the funnel.
This is where automation plays such a valuable role. Suppose your tech stack still needs to be updated, and processes need to be automated. In that case, your lead capture process probably involves the following:
- Internal Sales team members monitor each individual lead.
- They manually add the lead to a leads list.
- Draft individual welcome emails.
- Manually communicate with prospects throughout the entire process.
Is it doable? Yes. Is it efficient? Not at all.
RevOps and automation solve these problems by updating leads lists and automatically communicating with prospects to save you time and decrease the potential for costly mistakes.
With a prospect now in the funnel, it's time to engage with them to prove how much you value and understand them. Because modern buyers prefer to educate themselves rather than listen to a sales pitch, it's vital to deliver engaging content they can use to their benefit.
Thoughtful content marketing efforts can include anything from emails with downloadable checklists that solve their biggest problems to video series that outline how your company understands the struggles they face every day to engaging newsletters that provide information and entertainment.
Whatever your content marketing and SEO strategy are, it's crucial to remember that the practice has developed far beyond blogging and keyword stuffing. You must create engaging content in various mediums directed at specific buyers. If not, a prospect who perfectly fits your ICP may take their business elsewhere.
The middle of the funnel is where we start to see the handoff between the Marketing and Sales teams. Collaboration at this point in the funnel is crucial to set your Sales team up for success when it's time to engage with the buyer directly.
Automated processes and successful inbound marketing campaigns have directed the buyer down to the bottom of the funnel; now, it's time for the Sales team to close the deal.
Because you invested in every component of your Revenue Engine at the beginning, you can take comfort in the fact that your sales process is polished, your handbooks are finalized, and your reps are trained to engage with your unique buyers. Combined with ongoing customer satisfaction, this is the crucial last step to scaling revenue.
You'll notice that the steps become shorter and shorter as you make your way through the funnel. A Revenue Engine is intentionally designed to make the sales process as simple and successful as possible by investing in the infrastructure from the get-go.
Automation, technology, and marketing combine to create a prospect ready to engage with a sales rep and convert. Without inbound marketing, that person never would have entered the funnel; without automation, they would have struggled to make it through the funnel; and without Sales, the deal cannot be won.
Let Our Team Help You Build Your Revenue Engine
We hope this series helped you understand why we are so passionate about building Revenue Engines that set your company up for scale. The modern buying process is constantly evolving, and we are proud to serve CEOs who are looking to stay at the forefront of those changes.
If you have questions about our process or are ready to get started with our team, we'd love to chat to see if we're a perfect fit.