Vishal Salunkhe gave this presentation at the Future of Sales Festival in June 2021.
My name's Vishal Salunkhe and in this article, I'll share a short, simple, crisp guide around enhancing the B2C go-to-market on sales performance as a model, especially more relevant to today's times of living in the post-COVID world.
I'm currently leading the regional sales strategy and operations team for Carousell. In the past, I have a hugely diverse background, both in B2B and more recently in B2C.
In terms of regional background most of my work, and my current scope is based in and around the Asia Pacific region. But for certain short periods and projects I've also been involved in global projects around sales strategy, sales enablement, and sales operations around India, as well as in North America.
In terms of the role that I played and do play today, the bulk of it is around executive support or chief of staff. This involves a lot of the execution side of strategy, especially on the commercial side.
Sales strategy is one of the biggest front ends of what we do. Of course, there's also the usual keeping-the-lights-on stuff around sales operations, which includes forecasting, commissions, sales processes, rules of engagement, sales support, as well as other key parts of field sales enablement, sales productivity, trainings, and so on.
About Carousell Group
I’m going to quickly cover the company I currently work for as this context will help as part of the article. I work for Carousell Group, those in Singapore might know Carousell as a brand. But for those who don't know, we are a group of multiple brands across multiple ASEAN countries, but also slightly beyond.
We have four brands, three of them are key ones. We have Carousell in most of the regional countries, and then we have Mudah mostly in Malaysia and we have ChoTOT in Vietnam.
We also operate outside of ASEAN to some extent in Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Canada, where we also have a small presence.
In terms of the business itself, we are a classified app company, we are both on the web and on an app. It’s a similar model to something like eBay, where we have a lot of people doing C2C transactions.
It's a marketplace where we have folk like you and me coming in and posting either our used, pre-owned, or new goods. It can also be labels, property, services, and so on and so forth.
Why is the difference between B2B and B2C more relevant today?
I think the key difference between B2B and B2C is typically the volume. In B2B you have more human, face-to-face relationships with your customers, you connect on a one-on-one basis as much as possible, or in some cases five or 10 to one but there's still a connection and a relationship.
There's a value selling based approach, which is more prominent in today's time.
Traditional sales funnel: B2C
The volume game
But when you see this in terms of B2C it's usually a volume game. B2C can be your stores selling shoes or it can be general stores or supermarkets selling you anything from shampoos through to toys and games.
This is where the business is directly selling to mass consumers. There's not necessarily a personalized level of connection with the customer.
Of course, there's a lot of things happening at the marketing and at the brand level to create a mass connection to a certain segment of customers that you want to attract for your product and service.
When it comes to selling on the ground, the salesperson, let's say at the shoe store may not necessarily have an individual connection with every customer they sell to. For them, it's selling to the customer, and then moving on to the next one.
That's the volume game I'm talking about.
When you use that analogy of a shoe store and look at today's age of digital app or internet companies, especially the big ones, like Facebook, Google, Instagram, Tik Tok, or even ones like Carousell where the users are a mass but let's say the paid users, your actual customers, can just be a few from those masses who want to probably make either a living on the side or full time by moving their business online to one of your apps.
Traditional customer flow: B2C
Quickly looking at how this translates to the volume game I was talking about. In stark contrast to B2B, B2C has heavy involvement by both marketing and sales.
The moment you have a product or service that's aligned with the brand and the market you're working with, marketing teams, campaign teams, or lead generation teams will run mass digital campaigns, in-person events, and more.
Typically, that will translate into leads that come out of these events. There's a level of interest that comes out as a first step. That then gets converted into a database of contacts and then gets passed on to either a digital sales engine, virtual sales engine, automated sales engine, or even in certain cases like my company, to our actual sales people.
So when I say digital or virtual, it's typically online selling in a programmatic fashion in terms of tech during the selling part after the contracts come in. It means all the marketing contacts will be sent through a series of email campaigns, and then whoever clicks and goes online and pays for it, or the service or the subscription that they want to buy becomes your customer.
I'm sure a lot of you use LinkedIn and you see emails from LinkedIn for their paid services, value-added services, or paid subscriptions. When you click on that email and you want to pay for that service, then you become a customer.
That's the digital sales part after the marketing part which I'm referring to.
Here, there's no interaction with the salesperson and it's again a typical B2C format.
Traditionally, this has been how B2C has worked. It's always been a volume game, it's always been, to my previous analogy, you sell to one customer and you move forward.
If you look at this from a customer's point of view, the process will be to have non-users of your app/product/service become users first.
They start using your free version, whether it's LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, Carousell, whatever.
Then, moving from that to value-added services, either through the virtual or digital selling parts, or the marketing campaigns on top such as the nurture campaign that I'm talking about. They become paid users afterwards.
You can also have salespeople, especially if you are a small SMB level organization or a specialist in certain areas. You may even have salespeople reach out to you one on one, to convert you into a paid user. That's been the traditional flow.
How do you change this model now?
Especially with COVID, the volume itself is starting to dry out in many industries.
How do you start changing the way you go to market on B2C sales to focus on making your customers more successful? It’s not rocket science, nor is it something that's new.
How to make customers and sales succeed together
It's obviously a page from the B2B book, but how do you make it effective and how do you approach it from a B2C perspective to make it more meaningful? At the same time, you also want to do more with less.
This doesn't mean just throwing more bodies at the problem or hiring more salespeople. How do you repurpose what you do have, to make your customers more successful?
The reason you want to make customers more successful is because that will eventually convert to, and translate into more revenue for you.
Below are the three high-level things we have been testing for the last two to three quarters which are providing very good results. As a result, I thought it'd be good to share what we've done and what we've seen with you all.
Strategy 1: managed user approach
One of the first strategies is to move the traditional volume game to a managed user approach. When I say managed users, in this context, I mean our customers.
For us, given we are a web or app company, we call them users.
Basically, what I mean is bringing a managed account model or an account management approach into the B2C space, which is not necessarily very common.
Customer flow B2C
So how do you convert the old model to the newer one?
What we did was start experimenting by looking at our current paying user base. Of course, we started dividing them and segmenting them in the traditional way: a pyramid. We started looking at monthly ARPU and dividing each of our customers into the top, medium, and low tier first.
Once we did that, it gave us a very good perspective of who the repeat spenders are, who the ones that occasionally spend with us are, who the ones who spend with us on a regular basis are, and who the ones who probably spend with us once a year are.
That gave us a lot of insights into how to further manage them.
The first thing we did after dividing our customers was dividing our sales teams. In the past, we only had a generic sales flow so we decided to again, not rocket science, take a page from the B2B book and make three different roles for our sales team.
The first one is a very simple hunter role who will get net new users or net new paying customers into the business - that part is very easy.
Dedicated onboarding team
One of the new things we added to make our customers more successful was a dedicated people team, or a team of folks for onboarding these new customers, especially the new ones, and especially the ones that are the top paying ones, as well as managing the whole lifecycle of their subscription.
So if it's a three-month or six-month or 12-month subscription, you'll have dedicated people who will manage these accounts just like in the B2B space, and we'll still give them a very personalized level of customer service.
The reason we want to give them service is not just for the sake of service but to make them more successful on our platform. The hypothesis obviously is, the more successful the customer, the likelier they'll stay with us on the platform.
That's why we say that we will pass them through the tiers, we'll have the pyramid of segmentation, and the top tier will be managed through people, the middle and low tier will also be managed but through digital campaigns, through virtual farming efforts, if I can call it that. While all the management will be managing the top-tier accounts.
What does managing mean?
What does managing exactly mean? And how will this kind of management lead to better retention as well as better upsell/cross-sell opportunities in terms of moving tiers and reducing the number of churning customers that stop spending with us after a certain time?
That's actually where we started doing a lot of the extra work.
Strategy 2: customer 360 dashboard
We began building 360 degree dashboards for every customer. In the past, we used to have different siloed information in different places for every customer.
- How many tickets has the customer raised?
- How many escalations has the customer done?
- How many times has the customer written to us needing help with the features, and with all the different things that they've bought from us?
- How effectively can they use these?
- What's the average revenue/what's the lifetime spending by this customer on our platform?
- What's the potential? Renewals coming up, etc.
We had these things in various different formats and under various different teams.
Dashboard complexity with B2C volume
The first thing we did was to create a customer 360 dashboard and this becomes extremely complex for those who understand B2C because we are talking about a huge, mammoth list of customers here.
For example, to give you numbers, a typical account manager within our space will have 200 customers on an average that they manage compared to a B2B space where this can be between 5 to 15, at the most 20. That's a big contrast.
When you have such a huge list of customers you cannot physically go one by one and check. So what we did was started giving these kinds of dashboards to these account managers who have meetings coming up so they can go in with all kinds of information around the customer’s health, relationship, or usage of the different products and services they have bought from us.
Value is key
We have to ask ‘what's the value the customers are getting back for what they're paying?’. This becomes extremely important in terms of customer success.
The reason we want to do all of this is to make sure that if a customer has bought $1,000 worth of products or services from us, they have assigned a value to it, they expect a certain level of return from those $1,000 that are paid in the subscription.
It can be either in terms of the number of transactions they do, or in our case, number of leads per listing. So in a case where they list something, how many responses do they get back? Or in terms of liquidity, which is how long it takes for them to list something and then sell something, is it 5 days, 10 days, 15 days, or 3 months?
What's the value they're getting back after buying something from us? This was something we never looked at in the past and something we started triangulating together as part of these 360 degree dashboards to give a full rounded view per customer.
So we moved from a sales view, and a volume game, to a customer view, looking at everything with the customer being the centre of the universe. That’s in contrast to what we did in the past, which was just running brand new leads and trying to sell and then move on to the next one.
B2C volume and bandwidth: how can an account manager be successful?
Having said that, even after all of these different things we did, there was still an issue of volume and bandwidth. As I said before, we have close to 200 different customers assigned to every account manager. How can this account manager still be successful? How can they still make sure they can give enough adequate priority to the right customer?
Strategy 3: insight-driven customer success
This is where we further evolved this 360 degree dashboard into the last strategy. We said ‘not only are we giving you a full view, we'll also start giving you insights towards customer success’.
So we started sending weekly help emails for all customers that have a score below let's say 50%. In terms of the score, we can just look at it as a high/medium/low, it can basically be the value or the health of the overall returns the customer is getting.
Some parameters can also be whether the customer is using whatever they have bought fully or not. If they are not using it probably means either they don't know how to do it, or they're unaware that they can do it, or that they don't have the tips and tricks of when to do it to get the best bang for their buck.
Proactive vs. reactive customer insights
Using these insights, we get a list of red flag, yellow flag customers per account manager. So they have 200 accounts and they will get maybe five to six of these thrown at them on a weekly basis.
It becomes very easy then to service, even if they are spending an hour per day just doing this apart from selling. It gives a very customised experience to your B2C customer that they aren’t used to.
Insights to increase customer success
They're used to maybe some level of email campaigns, some level of nurture campaigns kind of service but they're not used to people calling them and saying, "Oh, did you know you have been using only some of your value-added products", for example. "You've been listing these categories on these days. If you do it on these days of the week, you will have a better response or better conversions".
Or you can also tell them "Okay, you're only using these things, you're looking at paid listings because you're a virtual shop, why don't you start using one of our visual visibility products in terms of bumping yourself on the top of the queue when someone's searching a certain product or category.
“That way, you will be on the top of the list and on top of the queue and hence, you’ll also have better conversions. Because your total current clicks on your ads or your total current liquidity seems to be very low".
Insights to improve sales success
In this way, you're not only making the customer more successful but also making the customer success and sales teams more successful in terms of upsell/cross sell, and also in turn, making your customers more likely to be retained at the end of the cycle compared to a lot of your competition in B2C, who are definitely not looking at this on a on a human-to-human relationship basis.
That's basically what we've been doing in the last two to three quarters. We've seen immense changes in the way we are not just improving our revenue but also looking at our NPS, looking at the customer testimonials that are coming out.
Looking at the customers that have been with us for three years and we are asking them how did you find our interactions with you in the past versus now?
And some of them have gone all out to say, "Oh, in the past, I used to have sales people come up to me two days before renewal after a full year of buying something from you. But today I have right from the first day or first month people calling me and say, do you know how to use whatever you bought, do you know how to make the best use of it?
And that gives me a level of personalization which is really helpful for me also. I see that you are invested in my success and we are partners on this in the COVID world and not necessarily consumer versus seller".
Those are the high-level learnings I want to share with you.