The Cultural Shift Needed for B2B Success is Right in Front of You

In Revenue Capital

Culture can mean a lot of things. Especially in business. I never really knew what people meant by company culture until I experienced a seismic shift in company culture personally for the worst.

I was in my previous role for nine  years before the company was acquired. I often heard about the perception of our culture from the outside. I also knew how differently people on the inside described it. I never really took too much stock in it – what does it really matter, right? I figured we are who we are, everyone who works hard and carries their weight seems to succeed. Those who didn’t… didn’t.

They say you can’t see the forest through the trees, and that’s what happened in this case. I had been in it too long to realize the culture that was built. I describe it now as an entrepreneurial group of hard chargers who simply figured it out.

Our culture was one that put revenue front and center. It was not only the job of our sales team to care about and contribute to revenue. There were clear KPIs across the organization focused on building relationships, consulting and uncovering pain that ultimately lead to pipeline and revenue.

Nothing was single threaded, it was everyone’s job to meet people across our customers, prospects and partners. Those multi-threaded relationships helped us to identify real business outcomes we could solve for companies. Use those outcomes to have conversations with people who were willing to pay to accomplish them.

Now removed, I see that this wasn’t normal and most B2B SaaS organizations have a culture problem.

Since Salesforce put SaaS on the map, the majority of founders have been product people. They are brilliant people who identified a problem, designed a solution and built the solution into a SaaS business. The culture disconnect comes with the lack of exposure to go-to-market functions like sales, marketing and partnerships.

Founders tend to have a perception of what those functions should be doing and that is often a stark contrast from reality. Founders often view sellers as pitch people, road warriors that make hundreds of calls, set meetings, get on a plane and close deals.

Marketing and partnership functions typically get distilled down to a single word… LEADS!

This single threaded view of the critical go-to-market functions of a company also sets the tone for the culture of the business. The problem with that is that fewer than 1% of leads convert to closed deals. Fewer than ONE PERCENT.

A recent report from Forrester pointed out: “…we’ve built our internal cultures on pursuing MQLs, even though they’re fixated on a single person (the MQL) and often ignore other signals and people.” But that’s not all. Terry Flaherty, at the Forrester B2B Summit 2024, observed: “…the number one reason organizations aren’t moving to buying groups, signals, and a more advanced revenue process is one word: culture. We’re addicted to MQLs as the cornerstone of our culture.”

There needs to be a shift, a shift to building a culture focused on the customer vs. the MQL. Every function in the business needs to know their customer intimately. What do they do, say, think and feel? How do they describe their problems in their words? Who are the people that deal with the problems we solve?

The MQL culture established by Salesforce in the early 200x0s is simply outdated. People are looking to trusted relationships to make buying decisions. Those relationships are forged by trusted partners, vendors, customers and even competitors.

When I think back about the culture shift I was a part of during our acquisition it less about the hard charging group of people focused on revenue and more about the clarity.

What do we sell and who do we sell it to?

If you can’t answer that fundamental question with extreme clarity all the MQLs in the world won’t mean a thing.

What is culture in B2B SaaS? It’s the commitment to serving the customer and building relationships to surround them.