How to enter a new B2B sales market in 3 steps: team, focus and company culture!
By Michael Humblet
Do you also have trouble entering new B2B sales markets? During my career, I received tons of questions of corporates on the subject, so I figured it'd be a good idea to discuss this topic with Aline Muylaert, co-founder of Citizenlab, about how they enter a new B2B sales market every single quarter by rolling out three essential steps: specialising your team, keeping your focus on customer success and creating a company culture that is focussed on speed.
Startup CitizenLab is a civic engagement platform on which citizens co-create their city. The platform facilitates a two-way communication between the city and its citizens. Citizens post ideas, discuss them with each other and upvote the best ideas. On the other hand, the city uses CitizenLab to consult the opinion of its citizens and to crowdsource their creative solutions to an existing problem.
Aline: “At CitizenLab we build e-democracy software for cities and municipalities. We are now active in more than 30 municipalities in Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark. So, we are growing fast!”
Humblet: “At Citizenlab you did a great job entering new B2B sales markets every single quarter? How did you do this?”
Aline: “First of all: build your team and specialise. When you start up your company, you don’t have a big team. You’re just two co-founders doing everything. So, when I started I did the whole sales pipeline: from sales development over closing deals and also a bit of marketing. And then you have your first deal and then you have customer success and customer support. So, in the beginning, you do everything. Then you realise you want to grow into other marketsFor example, Flanders was our first market, Wallonia was our second market. To enter new markets, we worked with interns that validated that market for a few months. So, they did some market research, they saw some opportunities. Once you know a market is an opportunity, you can then hire people in order to specialise your sales team. So, currently, we have people focussing on the different aspects of sales. And that part we also split it up in markets, because Europe has different languages. I, for example, do the Duch-speaking market, someone else is doing the French- speaking market, and now we have two people working on customer success. Again, one for every language.”
Humblet: “Now, how about moving on to our second point: focus. How did you implement focus?”
Aline: “Before we enter a specific market, we really focus on one customer type: being cities and municipalities. Then we also segment in number of inhabitants, languages etc.. We try not to make it too complex in the beginning: one market, one language and then we have different segments based on number of inhabitants.”
Humblet: “Ok. And then let’s move on to point three: company culture.”
Aline: “To enter a new market every quarter, you need to build a company culture that is focussed on speed. How do you create a sense of urgency within your team? You do this by having smart goals that everybody tracks. Transparency within the team on who is where on his targets and by giving the example yourself.”
Humblet: “So speed is more important than perfection?”
Humblet: “We talked about the three points. So, what has been the effect? What has been happening the last six months?”
Aline: “We are growing fast. We started in one market and now we are active in six markets being Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), the Netherlands, Denmark, France and Germany. So, we validated that point and we are now active in more than 30 cities over these markets. And the next big thing is, of course, entering new international markets.”
Humblet: “So, Aline, when you look at a new market: what is the first thing you do? You have your sales team, you have your software and you want to conquer a new market. What do you do?”
Aline: “First, we do market research. But when you really dive in, the most important thing is getting your first customer.”
Humblet: “So, do you buy your first customer? A lot of companies buy their first customer by giving things away for free.”
Aline: “I would never give things for free. We always aim at a partnership with a city. We want to learn from them and we give them discounts on our licence price, we offer them services etc..”
Humblet: ”That is a good idea, because free has no value.”
Humblet: ”So what about the team: how has that been growing?”
Aline: “We started with 2 people and now we are a team of 15 people of which 4 to 5 people are merely focussing on the sales funnel. And what is more: we are actively seeking for more people. Specialization, like I already mentioned, is important, so we are looking for people that can help us with sales development and with customer success.”
Humblet: “I wish you a lot of success in the future and let’s meet again in six months!”
Aline: ”Thank you, Michael, for inviting us. So, when you want to enter a new B2B sales market every single quarter, there are three things you should do: the first one is keeping your focus on customer success, the second thing is specialising your sales team, and the third is building a company culture that is focussed on speed.“
Looking for more inspiration to accelerate your revenue acquisition immediately? Check out the other videos of my Sales Acceleration Show, on YouTube.