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B2B businesses should double down on loyal customers as economic downturn bites

Published July 14, 2022

Tim Shercliff has decades of experience as a senior business executive and board level advisor. He believes B2B marketers will need to work hand-in-hand with sales teams to drive growth from existing customers during economic uncertainty.

With the current geo-political and economic turmoil, many companies will have to double down on their existing customers. Adopting an account-based growth strategy, creating an extraordinary focus on delivering sustainable value, will be key to riding out the current business cycle.

Much has been written about sales and marketing working more effectively together, including a famous Harvard Business Review article published in 2006, ‘Ending the war between sales and marketing’1. Still, in many B2B companies, marketing and sales often don’t gel. Either marketing is more focused on brand building and pushing out content to anyone who might be interested, or it is into demand generation, producing ‘marketing qualified leads’ by the bucketful only to be frustrated when sales fail to follow them up. Clearly salespeople have a different view of what constitutes ‘qualified’!

The B2B buying landscape is changing fast, accelerated by the pandemic. Increasingly, customers are either doing their own research or working with trusted third parties to decide what they need and what solutions might fit the bill, long before they talk to salespeople. As much as 70% of the buyer’s journey is completed before they reach out to potential suppliers.

There are two complementary responses to this. One response is to identify ‘intent’ at the start of the buying process, with a view to engaging earlier, influencing prospects’ needs and increasing win chances. Since it is marketing that is likely to be monitoring the intent, and marketing that ‘owns’ some of the channels that customers prefer to use, marketing and sales have to figure out how to work together seamlessly to complete a sale.

For a company’s existing customers however, another response, which is proving to have even greater ROI, is for the CRO and CMO to identify strategic accounts and implement an account-based growth strategy, focusing on the 3.5% of customers that often make up 50% of a company’s profitable revenue. This needs to be a company-wide commitment, demanding the joint leadership of CRO and CMO and drawing in the whole executive team, particularly customer success and service delivery leadership. It needs an objective way to pick the right accounts, and a review of the whole go-to-market approach, potentially leading to a radical re-allocation of resources, redefining key roles, processes and systems.

While the economic outlook may be challenging, last week McKinsey published research about ‘choosing to grow,’ pointing out that many high growth companies prosper in a business downturn, and also that companies achieve 82% of their growth from core growth2.


  1. https://hbr.org, July-August 2006, Philip Kotler, Neil Rackham and Suj Krishnaswamy
  2. https://www.mckinsey.com, July 2022, ‘Choosing to Grow’
Tim Shercliff

Tim Shercliff

Tim is a senior business executive and Board level advisor with a track record in delivering outstanding results in the technology sector. Tim provides an unusual combination of experience in P&L management of large business units, with strategy development and execution in global businesses and complex programme management.

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