"Survive to thrive" - How GTM Teams can win in a challenging macroeconomic environment

Best practices to help your sales team navigate a challenging macroeconomic environment and effectively “survive to thrive” over time.

Pete Prowitt
September 8, 2023
"Survive to thrive" - How GTM Teams can win in a challenging macroeconomic environment

2023 represents a very different selling environment for B2B SaaS than the previous five years. Deals have become more complex, fewer projects are getting funded, and more stakeholders are involved in software evaluations. According to Gartner’s 2023 Global Buying Trends survey, 65% of the respondents involve 4-10 stakeholders, and a higher percentage of these purchases are being elevated from the VP level to the C-Suite as the final signer. In short: Selling software in 2023 has become considerably harder than it was the previous five years.

Number of people involved in buying new software - Gartner
Source: 2023 Global Software Buying Trends - Garner

That said, all is not lost. Software evaluation cycles have shortened, and with an increased focus on maximizing ROI and minimizing the time-to-value to see return on a software purchase, there are ways you can tweak your approach to stand out from the competition. Downmarkets are a great teacher and a forcing function to get back to first principles. 

Here are four best practices that will help your sales team navigate a challenging macroeconomic environment and effectively “survive to thrive” over time. 

#1 Avoiding "the rule of cool"

The allure of "cool" technology can be intoxicating. However, in 2023, “cool” projects are not getting funded at the same rate they were in past years. Executive stakeholders have taken an increasingly active role in evaluating software projects. According to a Gartner report, 80% of executive stakeholders now play a direct role in software project funding, compared to just 55% in 2019.

The solution? A concrete business case that outlines the clear ROI of your offering. Instead of banking on the allure of new technology, successful sales strategies must focus on measurable business outcomes. Getting buy-in from stakeholders now demands thoroughness, precision, and a value-driven approach.

At Stytch, we build a “Mutual Business Case” alongside prospects to help us validate the ROI of Stytch at a company. In it, we share materials and solicit the input of champions to help us quantify:

  • Problems with the Status quo, and any organizational pain associated with the current approach
  • Go-forward options, inclusive of the status quo or selecting a competitor
  • Technical and commercial considerations associated with purchasing Stytch
  • Relevant customer stories or example customers
  • An implementation plan that showcases our ability to support a customer post-sale

By taking a collaborative and transparent approach to build a mutually validated business plan with prospects, we’ve seen that we have built trust and credibility faster which led to winning more impact deals. Ultimately, this exercise helps foster a strong sense of alignment between your champion and your team, and hopefully makes their life easier when they present this project to internal stakeholders.

🪄 Get Pete's Mutual Business Case template.

#2 Reviving the enterprise deal review

Between 2020 and 2022, the trend moved away from intensive, synchronous deal reviews. These reviews, although exhaustive, were often sidelined during the boom period in favor of quick wins. But these reviews are making a comeback, and for good reason.

In the past six months, after reintroducing a weekly synchronous deal review, our ACV has nearly doubled, and our close rates have soared. The recipe for our success lies in three crucial components:

  • Adopting a Proven Sales Methodology: Whether it's BANT, MEDDIC, or another trusted approach, the choice of methodology can significantly impact the depth and effectiveness of your reviews. Based on your average contract value and deal complexity, you might want to adopt a more streamlined or robust framework. The key is that you adapt this framework to your customer profile and buying committee, and make sure that gaps in a deal are clearly surface-able in deal reviews.
  • Establishing Meeting Ground Rules: The first time I had to defend one of my deals in a team review, I was surprised and taken aback by the experience. Now a decade later, I absolutely love the process. Effective deal reviews require well-defined goals, a sense of psychological safety for participants, and a clear action plan. The nature of a deal review discussion should invite healthy challenges from teammates and leaders but should be a collaborative exercise. Building trust early and highlighting wins resulting from healthy debate is key to building this muscle on a sales team.
  • Iterative Evaluation: Like any other process, deal review meetings must evolve. Regularly evaluating and refining the format ensures continued relevance and efficiency.

🪄 Here’s Pete’s deal review template - including milestones and sales qualification process.

#3 Disqualifying poor-fit deals: The art of saying no

In the 2020s, with a surfeit of opportunities, chasing every lead might have seemed logical. But 2023 is different. According to McKinsey, organizations waste approximately 30% of their sales efforts on poor-fit deals. In a challenging macroeconomic environment, every ounce of effort counts.

Understanding and defining your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), evaluating past deal data for actionable insights, and continuously assessing the open pipeline against these benchmarks ensure that sales resources are laser-focused on high-potential deals.

#4 ​​Put focus back on growing existing customers 

In the boom years, it felt like software expansion revenue was on autopilot. Companies didn’t have to work very hard to renew customers, upsell them to higher-tiered plans, or expand seats. You barely had to train the team on this playbook.

In a downmarket, this source of valuable pipeline has slowed. Every bit of spend is under scrutiny, so your teams need to come armed with data. Just like having a mutual business case is important for closing new business, arming your team with valuable product usage data is key for spotting and closing expansion opportunities. 

Training the team to research accounts and uncover insights about usage that can be tied back to the enterprise-level value is key.

🪄 Pocus gives you visibility into playbook and individual rep performance, so you can optimize your sales motion and determine where to focus your training.


Key takeaways: 

  • In a down market, measurable ROI trumps the "cool technology" factor.
  • Synchronous deal reviews (when done right) boost sales results.
  • Not every deal is worth chasing; disqualification can be as vital as qualification.

Looking forward

History is a great teacher. The software industry faced similar challenges during the economic downturns of 2000 and 2010. Yet, adversity birthed resilience and innovation. Companies that survived during those times emerged stronger, more agile, and better poised for future success as a result. I have no doubt it will be the same for the companies that effectively navigate 2023.

The path ahead won’t always be easy, but with the right strategies you can maximize your chances of surviving in the near-term and thriving in the long term. Remember - the list of unicorns (and decacorns!) founded during the last economic downturns includes Slack, Square, Airbnb, and Uber (to name a few). In ten years, I hope you look back to this time and what you learned about your customers and strategy as a key inflection point in your journey to becoming the next category-defining success story.

Pete Prowitt
VP Revenue, Stytch
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