Branching out to new verticals is particularly tricky for small and medium businesses. With limited resources, you risk shifting focus away from your core customers and potentially losing them in the process. On the other hand, your business can reap huge rewards and spur growth. Mastering a new vertical means knowing the market, key players, and their products or services so you can bring critical insights to your prospective clients and become an essential part of their business. It’s hard work alright, but here are 5 steps that will help you effectively penetrate a new vertical.
1. Understand the market inside and out
Start by gaining a thorough understanding of the vertical market segment you’re trying to set your foot in. The key point of this step is diving into market research in order to identify the breadth and depth of the segment. This will allow you to fully understand the competitive landscape, ongoing and emerging trends, regulations, compliances, and other key attributes that are a part of a business environment.
How exactly can you get a better understanding of the market? For starters, have your sales team map out your top competitors as whatever you’re selling, there is always a competing product or service. As you get a clear(er) picture of the competitive landscape, you’ll figure out how to stand out and obtain valuable information about specific types of companies attached to your competitors - your potential clients. This includes the number of overall customers your competitors have, their top clients, geographical spread, as well as their technology stack to gain a sense of how they use competing solutions in order to determine if there is a product-market fit for your business. Don’t forget about your own customer base as you might have already built up a number of customers in a specific vertical.
2. Map out your ideal customers
As you begin to understand the vertical more and more, you’ll want to map out the types of companies that would form an ideal buying persona. That way, you can sketch their buyer’s journey and understand their buying cycle and habits: how they engage throughout different stages at different touchpoints.
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As the frontline of your sales effort, this is where your sales team (and subsequently, you) can really shine. There are lots of criteria to go through, such as the company size, their web traffic, geolocation, current technology stack and previous tech adoption history, annual revenue, relevant position holder (your target person within the organization), their top clients, and so on. All too often, sales reps chase good contact data as opposed to focusing primarily on identifying greenfield opportunities. Identifying your ideal customer is important for a myriad of reasons, from building a systematic selling approach to building a reputation through customer success stories and everything in between.
3. Hone in on customers’ needs
Perhaps the most critical step in this 5-step journey, focusing on customers’ needs is what will ultimately make or break your presence in a new vertical. There’s no cutting corners here: your sales reps need to be armed with every bit of relevant information they can get their hands on. To effectively sell into a particular vertical segment, your salespeople need to present the right message that fully addresses the customers’ pain points, not just learn new terminology. A great deal of that targeted message for a new vertical should be rooted in the research from steps 1 and 2. Your sales force should already have an outline (at the very least) of what content resonates with your prospects, making it all the more easier to polish it into a consistent and tailored message framework they can modify per customers’ needs and demands.
4. Go back to basics
Once the time comes for your salespeople to reach out to your prospects and start selling your solution, make sure they start from scratch. They should listen more than they talk, ask relevant questions, and generally learn and fill the missing pieces about prospects first hand. After all, you’re trying to penetrate a market with an already established presence and even culture. There’s usually not much to fall back on in such cases as there’s no track record to rely on to yet, so sales reps need to be highly flexible and accommodating to buyers.
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Your sales team should also pay attention to their timing. Converting your prospects into customers significantly depends on reaching out at a proper time. Engage them too soon or too late and the deal may be as dead as dodo. The key is to slowly build a meaningful relationship, which is where using real-time triggers can alert your reps when a certain company adds or removes a specific solution like yours, as well as help you identify if the prospects are ready to buy. This will allow you to stay ahead of important events and react as quickly as possible with a message your prospects want to hear. Everything needs to be tailored to each stage of the buyer’s journey and good preparation and due diligence in the previous steps will allow you just that.
5. Measure and optimize your results
In the B2B world, a sale is not a one-and-done deal, especially in SaaS. It’s important to measure and optimize your results in order to make the best out of your newly found source of sales. A lot of time, effort, and resources get devoted in selling to a new vertical so you need to know if the process is working and how to improve it. Apart from the obvious increase in the bank account being a clue, you need to set some metrics and KPIs along the way to track. Be it early stage like the number of prospects generated or late-stage metric such as closed-won deals, make sure to set metrics that make sense to you specifically. Once you set them, you’ll get good indicators of your success and know how to scale it.
Selling in a new vertical is always a challenge, especially if your focus is solely on the “selling” part. That’s where most SMBs struggle. It’s about assuming an advisory role and providing a complete integrated solution that matches prospects’ needs. By following these 5 steps, your sales team will be able to sell to a new market and confidently face and solve any problem that may arise. The goal is to deliver a more personalized experience that relieves all the pain points and the right preparation is essential to the cause.