Miracle Grow: Sales Pipeline Edition

“We’re going to target recession-proof industries!”

                                                 — every SaaS sales team right now

Don’t do this.

I can only imagine how many teams are cold calling into $ZM right now.

There’s no doubt that every sales team is scrambling. The easy way to overcome the objection of: “I no longer have a budget for this” is to go after recession-proof industries that would hypothetically have the budget. … Right? Maybe. But I’m going to tell you why targeting recession-proof industries is not necessarily the silver bullet you may think it is. There are other things you need to consider before shifting your sales strategy in the second half of 2020 (let’s be real, no one knows what’s ahead).

In the “Miracle Grow: Sales Pipeline Edition” five-part series, I’ll share a blueprint to help you focus on the controllable factors that will help fuel overnight sales pipeline growth, Miracle Grow style. Everything you read about in this series is something you can start implementing now and, most importantly, it’s practically free or requires minimal costs (unless you want to pay for it). Here’s the rundown:

Part 1: Why you have all the answers sitting in your CRM 

“Sometimes when you‘re looking for an answer, you search everywhere else before you take a look at what’s right in front of you.” – Dean Hughes

Thanks for the words of wisdom, Dean. But this doesn’t apply to sales.

Oh yes, it does. 

Before making a knee-jerk reaction and uprooting your sales strategy, consider thinking about your existing customers to fill your sales pipeline before searching for potential new customers.

In particular, take a look at all of the customers you recently signed on, but not a laundry list of every logo that’s bought your product over your company’s lifetime. Customers you’ve signed in the last 30-60 days will be your secret “Dry Powder” for determining if you need to adjust your sales strategy or not. This will be your dry powder for future outbound efforts as well. Pulling up a name and logo is not enough; you’re going to have to pull in very specific data fields to create a compelling story that will be used across your entire team (and should be circulated to marketing, product and other cross-functional teams tied into customers).

Finding and Classifying Newly Signed Customers

Ready? OK, here’s how to do it.

  1. Using your CRM, pull a report for Closed/Won in the last 60 days. 
  2. Depending on what data you’re capturing on the opportunity page, you may need the account owner to fill in additional details. At a minimum, you want to be able to pull the following data fields:
    • Contract size
    • Persona (your product’s end-user)
    • Title of the purchaser/signer. (Double check that the titles listed in your CRM are up to date. Cross reference LinkedIn and other publicly available sources. This is crucial.)
    • Industry.
    • Location (city, state, country).
    • Attribution (where did the lead come from?).
  3. Pull this data into a Google Sheet with two tabs. 
    • In one tab, include a summary of the data through a series of graphs:
raw data sales prospecting within your CRM

4. Look for correlations. You want to be able to break this up into multiple tiers or buckets.

  • Stack rank the Closed/Won and assign a score based on the Total Contract Value [3 = above avg. deal size, 2 = avg. deal size, 1 = below avg. deal size]. Stack rank by score.
  • Filter by Title. 
  • Filter by any other data field you track that would be meaningful (intent scores, marketing attributed content piece, etc.).

Voila! You now have a fresh list of customers that recently signed on with you since news of COVID-19 broke globally (late February). You may not realize it, but these customers are the ones who decided to purchase your solution amid a global crisis. This is a strong indication that you have a mission-critical tool that is going to help their business. Congrats. That’s a powerful statement.

Now, let’s extract the value those customers are getting from your products and why they decided to sign on with you. The best way to do that? Talk to your customers, they will provide your key for outbound efforts


Gathering Customer Quotes

Work with your customer success team to schedule 15-minute calls with all of the clients from the list you just made. This should be a tag-team effort by sales and customer success.

Keep a lightweight agenda, like thank you/pulse check.” Throw in a picture of your dog and tell them your dog has an update it wants to share with them. Or send them a new recipe for guacamole that you tried this weekend. Set the tone that this won’t be a serious call and they can be casual and comfortable.

If you can’t get them on a call, create a 2 to 5-question Google Survey. 

Whether it’s over the phone or through a survey, ask your customers a few questions on why they chose you (vs. a competitor or pausing this purchase altogether). This is standard for most kickoff calls after a client onboards, but these questions should be different than your standard questions. Remember, you want them relaxed on the phone and not on the defensive.

Tell your clients that all of these responses will be anonymous; you won’t be recording their name, title or company in any marketing materials. 

Before asking them any questions, you should thank them again for their business. Only do this if you mean it, because everyone can spot a bullsh*tter, even if it’s over the phone.

You should only ask 2-5 questions. Your goal is to keep it short and sweet and not make it feel like a survey they’d fill out online. 

Record their responses on a third tab in your Google Sheet. These should be different from everything else on your website. Do not name the individuals you spoke with and keep them anonymous.  

Sample questions:

  • Thanks again for coming onboard when you did (COVID). Did anyone question this project or try to shut it down? What was your rebuttal?
  • There’s plenty of other vendors that offer a similar solution. Why did you end up going with us?
  • If you were to re-evaluate us again (May 2020), would your evaluation criteria change? If so, what would you change?
  • If you were me, what would be the No. 1 thing I should say on every call?

Every person on your sales team should memorize this sheet. These nuggets should be incorporated into any discussion moving forward with existing opportunities, sales pipeline audits, new prospect conversations and any COVID-19-related objections (around timing, budget, need, authority). Examples of nuggets you should be able to find:

“You won’t find this on our website, but I can tell you we just spoke with a customer who told us about this 30 days ago, and why this was indeed mission critical for their business.”

“XXX company signed on with us two weeks ago, and noted that they had one of the most pleasant onboarding experiences for any SaaS tool they’ve bought.”

“We signed on three new manufacturing companies in the past three weeks. Every one of them mentioned they didn’t think they had the budget for this, but got approval.”

Buyers are only going to prioritize business-critical projects and they need to know why others are buying your solution right now. These lightweight quotes carry much more weight than a 2017 case study on your website or old slide deck that talks about all of the bells and whistles (feature overload, as some call it). 

Bookmark this Google Sheet. It’s your new battle card, and you should begin using it immediately for both internal and external purposes.


Communicating and Applying Your Findings


  • Marketing: Let your marketing team know who’s actually buying…now. They should double or triple their paid campaigns based on these titles, personas, geos and any other correlation you can make.
  • Product: Continue taking care of your top 20 percent of customers supporting your ARR growth for feature requests, but keep a close eye on customers who just signed on and see what new challenges they might be trying to solve (COVID or non-COVID-related). Don’t assume they have the same pain points as your other customers. It’s a new world order.


  • Inbound Leads: Reaffirm they made the right decision by reaching out to learn more about your product. The timing couldn’t be better.
  • Open Sales Pipeline: Hammer home the business impact and the bottom line. Let them know they are not the only ones buying right now.

OK, enough for now. In Part 2, we’ll talk about how to take this list and create an intelligent outbound strategy (spoiler alert; it’s ABS and not lead-based) that you can call your own.

Until then, happy selling.

– Shamus (the sales guy)

While these are considered short-term sales pipeline hacks, there are long-term solutions for analyzing your customer base and surveying existing customers:

Find this article helpful? Check out the rest of this series!

  • Originally published April 23, 2020, updated November 4, 2020