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The Top 5 Reasons Revenue Engines Fail

Mary Grothe June 8 2022

Meet Host, Mary Grothe

Mary Grothe is a former #1 MidMarket B2B Sales Rep who after selling millions and breaking multiple records, formed House of Revenue®, a Denver-based firm of fractional Revenue Leaders who currently lead the marketing, sales, customer success, and RevOps departments for 10 companies nationwide. In the past year, they've helped multiple 2nd stage growth companies between $5M - $20M, on average, double their MRR within 10 months, resulting in an average ROI of 1,454% and an average annual revenue growth eclipsing $3.2 million.


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Mary Grothe: Hey everyone, this is Mary Grothe - Founder and CEO - and you're listening to the Revenue Radio® podcast brought to you by House of Revenue®. Each week, we'll talk about common revenue challenges and how to get past them, share real-world experiences, and get a glimpse into my life as a CEO scaling my own business. If you're a struggling entrepreneur, or just an entrepreneur looking to be inspired, this podcast is for you. I'll give you honest, unfiltered, and practical insights into growing your business and getting past your revenue plateau.

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I got one of those "Top 5 Reasons" podcasts today. Those are my favorite when we can take thought leadership and sum it up in 5 key points. Today is the Top 5 Reasons that Revenue Engines Fail. Maybe I'll turn this into a blog as well. Quick side note before we jump in here. For all you longtime listeners, you might be scratching your head wondering why I'm still here, even though I said I was hopping to a different podcast. As it turns out, God's plans are always better than mine. He has me staying in this seat right now. Yey! I will have two podcasts.

The other one will launch later this summer, more of my personal viewpoints on faith, leadership, entrepreneurship, mental health, being a wife, a mom, and a co-founder investor. Everything in that realm will be discussed on the "Destination; Remarkable." podcast. That's going to go live later this summer. Also, it will be filmed. I can't wait. I will create a beautiful little set here in my office, get it all decorated, and get you some good high-quality content.

Back to Revenue Radio®, my first true love of a podcast. Today, let's talk about the Top 5 Reasons Revenue Engines Fail. There are many reasons revenue engines fail, but I made myself sit down and create the Top 5 list. Hey, you may think of something not on this list, you should send me a message, and maybe I'll add it to the blog. Number 1, you don't know your customer or intimately understand the problem you solve for them.

Several years ago, I was on a panel as a speaker and was asked, "What is the top way a small business can be successful when growing sales?" The number 1 I said is to sell something people want. That is a product of knowing your customer intimately and genuinely understanding the problem that you solve for them. It's gaining alignment that the problem you identified is worth solving, specifically how you imagined solving it with your product or service. It brings greater value than the price point you're asking them to pay. Knowing your customer is critical.

Many small business owners are innovators and idea generators. That's entrepreneurship. "Hey, I have an idea." I've said that 1 million times in the last 12 months. I am an idea generator. Those ideas are born out of acknowledging that I see a problem or experiencing pain, witnessing someone else experience a problem. Therefore an idea is born. Well, it's great if you have one viewpoint from yourself, maybe a couple of people you talk to, but will the broad market of your customer agree with you? Are they in alignment with how you've decided to solve their problem? Or is that also your idea?

Let's dig into the Top 5 Reasons Revenue Engines Fail. Number 1 is you don't know your customer or the problem you solve. If your customer is confused, uncertain, or has hesitation when they start experiencing your brand messaging, website, speaking with a salesperson, or interacting with your brand through an event or social media, that's on you. You may not know your customer intimately enough. That you have built brand messaging, a sales playbook, chained up your sales team, or how you've written your website and built your inbound funnel set up for conversion.

Whatever that pathway is to get new customers. You should have it constructed so that the customer lands on your brand and says, "Whoa, they get me. I need this. I had no idea there was a solution to this problem. I'm willing to spend whatever dollar amount to solve this problem. This looks amazing. You need to get there.

Number 2 is you're not competitive. Yikes. One of the pieces of due diligence that I do when a prospective client is looking at House of Revenue® for us to scale them is I take a survey of their market. Are they competitive? Do they show up just like everyone else in their industry? Are they willing to let our team go through the initial audit and research phase if they show up just like everyone else in their industry? Then, come back with innovative ways to drive a wedge between them and their competition.

Deliver and develop a brand promise that they can say, "We do this when no one else does. Or by working with us, this is what you'll experience that you can't get from other service providers, technologies, widgets, or whatever in this industry." What is the competitive advantage? Because of my background working in payroll and HR sales, we've had the privilege of working with more than a dozen payroll and HR companies and accounting firms. Every time one comes through, they look very similar to others. It's our responsibility to build a unique and powerful brand.

We can take something commoditized and make it special. Align it with a unique type of buyer. We want to identify a particular niche of customer they will be serving. We want to make sure the product or service is uniquely aligned to solving the unique problems that that niche buyer has. We make sure that the product and solution set is marketed. The buyer of that specific type says, "Finally, an accounting payroll HR service built for fill in the blank themselves. They're saying, "Well, the competition doesn't do this. The other providers don't do this. They don't do X for me in my unique situation."

If you want to scale revenue, more sales, and grow, you have to be competitive. Otherwise, you're going to have a costly sales problem. Take time to differentiate yourself. If you're doing the same thing that a hundred or thousand other companies are doing, your marketing and sales efforts will be a black hole. You might as well write a cheque and throw it out the window. Some people don't have checks anymore, but you can just throw your credit card away. How's that sound?

Hear me out. Doing factual competitive analysis is critical. It's not that you can't serve the masses and you can't do all the things that many people in your industry do. That's okay. But to market yourself, grow, and add revenue, you don't want it to be super expensive revenue. You have to understand how you will compete if you can find the competitive edge. The easiest way to do it and a top way to avoid your revenue engine from failing is to make sure that you can compete in the market.

Number 3 is your tech stack is working against you. Fun story. This is a general story, not picking on anyone specific. In most companies, you start small. You'll get a free CRM, something light, or even an Excel spreadsheet. You track fields. Then you grow up a little bit. You take a data dump or your Excel spreadsheet. You import it into a CRM that doesn't have automation or functionality for sequences or workflows. You add in other tools, connect them, and have fields that don't match. You're doing duplicate data entry, which means data is different in two systems.

Then, you bring on a new sales leader who says we can't live without this data source and this automation tool, so you add it on. Then you have someone who has a vision that says, "Hey, I'm heading up customer success, and we needed to have these 4 fields. You add more fields. Now you have a new head of whatever who says, "We also need to be tracking this data to have visibility into these client acquisition costs."

Next thing you know, you go through another migration to another CRM. You look at what you have in your text as a giant mess. There's no rhyme or reason for the fields that you have. Your salespeople are banging their heads against the wall. They don't want to put data in the CRM. It doesn't make sense. Often, you're still asking them, in addition to the CRM, to track data in a spreadsheet or report it separately in a weekly meeting in a different format. It's maddening.

We are a HubSpot partner. We live, breathe, and die by HubSpot. We love it. We work in that small business space. HubSpot now goes head-to-head in the enterprise. Again, Salesforce is genuinely remarkable. Typically, when we do a tech stack audit, we'll find 8 to 12 technologies that can be replaced by HubSpot. It's real, especially now with the new payment functionality. You can build custom quotes and templates there. You don't need a PandaDoc, Proposify, DocuSign, HelloSign, etc. It's all native inside of HubSpot. You don't need a separate Stripe or payments account. It's all inside of HubSpot. It's remarkable.

That's reason number 3 that your revenue engine is failing. Your tech stack is working against you. You must consolidate that tech stack. I recorded an episode about revops being the glue. I explained from start to finish what it looks like to have a beautiful revenue engine and how to build that. That was the episode before this one. Go back and listen to it.

Reason Number 4 is wrong people, wrong seats. Don't start with the people. Start with the seats. When you are re-imagining and rebuilding your revenue engine, a powerful exercise is to look at the roles you need. It starts by looking at your customer, how they buy, and how the marketing industry has shifted. We need to look at buyer behavior. How do they want to purchase what you sell? Do they want to do it online? Do they want to talk to a salesperson? Do they want to buy it through a partner? Should it be bundled with something else? How does the buyer want to buy your product or service? Look at their behavior in doing so. What are their patience and temperament?

Don't make the buyer buy through the process you've developed, which is usually pretty rigid with many different roles like an SDR, BDR, or inbound qualifiers. You have a human and a salesperson. You may have a sales engineer, someone doing a quote or estimate, or fill in the blank. We need to figure out the engine and how the buyer buys. The buyer comes first. What do they want to buy? What roles do you need? This is one of the biggest reasons revenue engines fail.

A company will change its engine and go-to-market strategy, change some innovations, build a new brand promise, and elevate its tech stack. But they don't change the rolls. They might have a very fragmented sales process, or it's the other way. I'm not bashing on BDRs. Maybe they have full-cycle salespeople, and how they've rebuilt the engine requires an inbound team to qualify or an outbound team. Perhaps they don't have that today. They're not able to handle the volume. Full-cycle salesperson time isn't prioritized correctly, so they can't hit efficiency. It could go both ways, but what are the roles? This is a huge miss.

Probably the hardest, one of the most sensitive topics right now is we're watching companies do massive layoffs. People are getting offers rescinded. Layoffs are happening across the world, and this moving fear of recession. A big miss by a lot of companies has the wrong roles. Hear me out from the leadership side of things, especially from the CEO, the founder, who cut checks and was responsible for keeping the company afloat.

Additionally, even if you have the right roles, they have the wrong people. I've watched teams love a person so much that they create a role for them. I've done it myself, and it usually doesn't work out. You create a role around a person. What happens when they are not there anymore? Their interests change, or they want to do something else.

If you've built a role around a person, that person is not forever. Now, what are you going to do? Go find another unicorn like that person, and change the role. This is consistent in just about every business book I've read. You must have the right roles and people in the roles. They must get, want, and do it. That's an EOS thing, Entrepreneur Operating System.

They need to get it and understand it to be proficient. Have an opportunity to bring their knowledge set, and perform well in the role. They need to want it. Their heart, passion, and desire must be there to do that work and capacity. Even if they get it and want it, they're not going to do it if they don't have the capacity. They're not going to do it as well as possible, and it will not get done. So right people, right seats,

The Top 5 Reasons Revenue Engines fail. Number 4 was wrong people, wrong seats. Do not forget to change your roles based on the revamp and reimagining your revenue engine. You have to create a role that makes sense.

Number 5 is siloed leadership. Who is your internal revenue engine champion that oversees the customer journey from when they're a buyer, through the buyer's journey, and the second half of the bow tie funnel in the customer journey?

One person has to own the vision. They need to ensure no bias in marketing sales or customer success. They need one solid high-level experience from start to finish. We have leaders like the Head of Marketing and Sales and the Head of CES. They'll all report to the CEO. It's common in small businesses with 2 to 12 million in revenue. The CEO needs to be responsible for holistically leading all these revenue departments. Unfortunately, most CEOs aren't trained as CROs, or Chief Revenue Officers.

Companies that don't have a CRO, whether a full-time hire or a fractional CRO, are a disservice. You're going to have a bias in different departments. You'll have some that are performing better than others. You will not frequently communicate between marketing, sales, ops, or customer success. It could be messy because you have 3 passionate leaders about their department and people. But are they taken into consideration the full-funnel experience?

If you think about the marketer, marketers should feel responsible for retention. They should feel that they've got to crack the code and pour their passion and ability into the right brand, messaging, and time in front of the right prospect. Solving the right problem and articulating it perfectly to stand apart from the competition. Create good lead flow to have high conversion rates and attract the right customer.

Marketing should own retention numbers because client retention will be higher if they bring in a good fit. If they're bringing in wrong fit clients, they're not going to succeed with sales. Sales should own the responsibility of that feedback loop to marketing and feel tested after those conversations. They should hold the success of their own pipeline.

Communicate with marketing. Talk to them about what's working and what's not. Their feet on the street, sometimes figuratively, because they might be inside sales. What are they hearing that the feedback loop needs to go back to marketing?

The two need to be working in tandem to have high-quality leads and enablement materials. Marketing is serving sales, sales is serving the marketing, and then you look at how sales is helping customer success.
Sales should also be responsible for that retention number and clearly articulate what the product or service does. Be specific, clear, and accurate. Not overselling, not being a yes, person.

We need to train our sales teams and sales leaders to build a culture that would rather say no to business because it's not the right fit. Then, cram it onto the service. Good luck, customer success team. Yeah, have fun with that one, but we don't want to do that. What is their ownership of this another area for a feedback loop? They get to live and breathe by that customer. They know them so intimately. They will have the best firsthand knowledge of that product or service is actually delivering how the branded marketing message and messaging in the sales team is communicating. They will know it is their responsibility to create a feedback loop.

It needs to go to the other department heads to say that we need to keep our eye on x or be cautious when we use this phrase. We should update that because it's been interpreted this way. It's not setting us up for success.

We also need that customer success team to report back to sales. What do they need on the handoff? What more information needs to come their way? How can we ensure a seamless experience, from purchase through onboarding through retention, expansion, advocacy, talk about growth, and marketing? There is so much that could be done in that relationship. Customer success should be communicated because marketing can help build a client advocacy program and a program to educate clients to increase transaction volume. Buy more products and services to help with education and retention.

The CRO should be leading the charge of communication between all departments. Otherwise, you don't have any of that. You have 3 potentially excellent, brilliant department heads whose hearts and passion are in the right place, but they're leading in a silo.

Now, we know the top 5 reasons that revenue engines fail. Reason number 5 is that you have siloed leadership. You've got to have one person in charge of the entire funnel from start to finish.

That wraps today the Top 5 Reasons Revenue Engines Fail. We're going to turn this podcast into a blog. If you can think of additional reasons, maybe we'll turn it into top 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10. Go ahead and send me your thoughts. You can message me on LinkedIn, and find me, Mary Grothe. You can also email that comes to me. I'd love to see it. Some of you know me. You can just text me. All right. Thanks, everyone.

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Thanks for listening to today's episode. If you're interested in being on our show or want to learn more about how we can help you scale your company, connect with us at or with me Mary Grothe spelled       G-R-O-T-H-E on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram.

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