B2B Sales Strategy for Startups: 4 Killer Ideas to Consider

By Fraser Gillies Published: 6 July, 2022

Man with a tablet

When there’s a downturn in the economy, it can be the making or breaking of a startup.

Particularly in the case of B2B startups, recession has a profound effect on the sales pipeline. This is commonly due to company leaders misreading what the market wants. In fact, a report by CB Insights showed that 42% of failed startups happened because of misunderstood market demands.

Therefore, with the current climate the world finds itself in, startups need to adapt to the changing realities faced by its target audience. But how exactly can B2B startups keep bringing in new business in challenging times?

We’ve outlined four simple B2B sales strategy examples that will steer your startup towards lead gen security.

1. Become a ‘painkiller’, not a ‘vitamin’

When companies’ profits begin to shrink, they first look to cut costs where possible. As the old saying goes, you can’t control revenue but you can control expense. For B2B startups, they must position themselves as essential components to the prosperity of their customers.

A ‘painkiller’, as such, is a company that markets its solutions as tangible revenue-drivers or cost-savers. What does this mean?

For example, take Xtract, an insurtech solution for automating the auto claim process for insurers and fleets. Xtract has positioned itself as a direct cost-saver for both of these audiences, making it difficult for prospects to pass up on its services.

On the flip side, we have a ‘vitamin’, a company that could positively impact the growth and health of a business in the near future.

Take a cloud management solutions company that lowers infrastructure costs as clients’ data increase. This cost-saving solution is material, not direct, meaning that it’s contingent on something happening in the future. Companies like these need to pivot their messaging during the sales process to demonstrate necessity.

2. Use the golden circle

Coined by leadership expert Simon Sinek, the golden circle is all about rethinking your company’s value proposition.

In a TEDx Talks presentation, Sinek lays out how a few innovative companies are able to inspire action and see off all other rivals through one simple idea. ‘Why’ your product matters is more important than ‘what’ your product is.

The Golden Circle Infographic

Showing your startup’s purpose rather than what you do ‘speaks to a prospect’s limbic system’, says Sinek. This is the part of our brain that governs emotions like trust, loyalty and heavily influences our decision-making processes.

Focus on the this in your next sales call. By leaving your product’s awesome features to come through later on, you can explain your value to a prospect more effectively.

3. Upchunk and downchunk

Upchunking and downchunking should be staple in any B2B sales strategy framework for startups. Sales ‘chunking’, derived from NLP, is the hierarchy of language you use when asking questions.

To ‘chunk up’ is to bring the conversation to a higher level. For example, if you ask a client ‘what are your current business challenges’, upchunking could be simply asking ‘what are your targets for the next quarter?’.

To ‘chunk down’ is taking the conversation to a more specific place. Take our example above. From asking about what their quarterly targets are, downchunking could be ‘how are you measuring whether these targets are met?’.

By leveraging these techniques, you can create a clearer picture of what a prospect really wants, and how your startup can help them achieve their goals.

4. Develop social proof

When it comes to a B2B sales strategy for startups, social proof is often neglected. Building out credibility through media coverage feels like a top-of-mind activity, and less associated with the sales process.

If you think this, you’re wide of the mark.

Social proof is significant in why customers choose to work with one startup over another. With the saturation of online content, people are now sick of advertorial content.

Many startups can talk a good game across their marketing channels, but many prospects question why they should trust them. After all, many startups are at an early-stage of business development. Maybe they can deliver a quality product, maybe they’ll be one of the 70% of startups that fail within the first five years. The best way to overcome this is to be seen as a credible organization through organic media coverage.

So, why does this matter during the sales process?

Simply, being able to refer to interviews, events and articles your startup has appeared in helps convince prospects to sign on the dotted line. It shows that established journalists believe in your company and shows why they should do the same.

The Bottom Line

In the quest for a consistent B2B client acquisition process, startups must look both internally and externally.

Understanding why their startup exists is the first step to convincing leads to become buyers. Likewise, carefully chosen wording through chunking will help to fully understand a prospect’s need.

Finally, some well-placed organic media coverage is crucial to proving their legitimacy as a trustworthy organization. Within trying times, it’s even more important that startups follow these principles to continue to grow and prosper.


Fraser Gillies

Fraser has been working in the digital communications space for four years. Currently the Head of Revenue at Publicize, he is leading a team of talented content creators to build powerful tech narratives that engage, educate and entertain audiences.