Today’s market is complex and unpredictable, but one thing is certain — retention matters more now than ever before. By embracing the role of a trusted advisor and focusing on overall profitability over top-line growth, sales leaders can navigate the rollercoaster days ahead.

Andee Harris sits down with Marinus Maris, industry veteran and VP of international sales at Challenger. Marinus provides a unique perspective on the current landscape of sales culture, skills, and growth strategies. Drawing inspiration from his journey, Marinus provides details into the necessary shift toward profitable growth and the art of building and retaining customer loyalty.

Marinus and Andee break down:

  • Why focusing on profitability is the new norm in sales
  • How sellers can leverage customer improvement for profitable growth
  • Strategies that prioritize profitable customer segments for long-term growth

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Why focusing on profitability is the new norm in sales

We’ve seen sales leaders react to volatile economic conditions by moving their focus from top-line growth to profitable growth. Focusing on profitable growth includes accountability for efficiency alongside effectiveness — how do sales reps apply that strategy in the long term?

“The sales teams doing this really well are not focusing on the idea of sales,” Marinus says. “First and foremost, they’re focusing on customer creation and retention, which is a little bit of a different ballgame.”

The sales world focuses on selling; in the sphere of customer creation and retention, the focus is solving specific customer problems. The difference lies in the mindset. To problem solve, it takes: 

  • Genuine curiosity
  • Storytelling
  • Proactive account planning

Sellers typically ask “How do I sell more of this product/service?” When the focus shifts to retention, the key question becomes “What problems need to be solved within this organization, and what can I teach them about these problems that they might not understand?”

Taking on an advisor role is far more beneficial in the long run than settling for a quick sale. To be an effective advisor, a rep must understand every facet of the customer’s problem areas and goals.

How sellers can leverage customer improvement for profitable growth

When companies consistently meet a buyer’s needs at the right time, and with the right outcomes, they will almost undoubtedly choose to stay in that customer relationship. 

“The metric you want your customers to have in their mind is, ‘I can’t live without this person because what they’re bringing to me is insightful,’” Marinus says.

One critical element for providing insightful advice? Focus on customer improvement — offer new perspectives on issues, help them look around the corner, and open their eyes to new possibilities and solutions.

“It’s far more profitable to go after your existing base,” Marinus continues. “One of the expressions that we use in the team here is that the customers you want are like the customers you already have.”

What are the commonalities across those customers? Where is the common ground for high-spending accounts? What is the total addressable market within each of those accounts?

“Really start to think about, ‘Where’s the ICP here? Does it exist? Do we have champions in certain accounts?’ When you start to take those into account, you start to see your Champion League of accounts, your division one and your division two of accounts you want to be going after.”

Mobilizers — aka Champions — are essential for account growth and retention. Identifying who will help champion positive business results throughout the organization can spread into more leads in the relevant pool. Working together yields the most rewards.

Strategies that prioritize profitable customer segments for long-term growth

Without an on-their-game Account Director, even the best-suited customers can struggle to achieve their goals. It takes a dedicated leader to retain customers and maintain customer improvement.

“The best account directors are asking for accountability, which is to say, ‘I want to be able to build this amount of pipeline, I want to be able to ask for this many referrals, I want to make sure I’m doing this quality follow up,’ or so on and so forth, ‘I need your help to hold me accountable to these things,’” Marinus says. 

When everyone understands the objectives and has clear steps forward, that clarity transfers to customers, helping them to overcome challenges and leading to positive growth.

Want to learn more about how to effectively and efficiently problem-solve for customers? Listen to the full episode of Winning the Challenger Sale where Marinus reveals more about the art of building and retaining customer loyalty, working as a team, leveraging mobilizers, and more.

To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the Winning The Challenger Sale podcast on our website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or just search for it in your favorite podcast player.

Andee Harris

Andee Harris is CEO of Challenger. Andee brings more than two decades of experience growing and scaling service and technology businesses. She has previously led multiple companies, both as CEO and Senior Vice President, through periods of rapid revenue growth, critical fundraising, and successful acquisition. These companies include Highground (acquired by Vista Equity Partners), TMBC (acquired by ADP), Syndio and Emerging Solutions (acquired by Emtec).