"I ended up creating an entirely new sales process and inside sales team that helped Salesforce.com add $100 million in incremental recurring revenue over just a few short years. The team and process were sustainable, and is still going strong all these years later."
Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler is a great book for anyone looking to build out a sales team. The authors come from extensive experience in the high tech selling world but their advice can be useful for any industry. The book is based on the authors’ experience of having to create an outbound sales team from scratch. They take you through the challenges of initially starting the team to the breakthrough moments to the best practices that have helped Salesforce.com create a $100 million outbound sales machine.
For anyone involved in sales and interested in starting or redesigning your sales team, this is a book you need to pick up. It will change the way you think about sales and give your team the tools to be able to prospect into new accounts with confidence and consistency.
The Big Idea
Create an outbound sales team for predictable revenue
"The [outbound sales team] has a single mission: to generate…new qualified sales opportunities from cold companies (ones that have no activity or interest) and passing these qualified opportunities to quota-carrying salespeople to close."
Do you actually need an outbound sales team? That might be the first question that you ask yourself if you’re an entrepreneur or an established leader in a business. If you need some direction, ask yourself these two questions:
- Are people involved in the process of finding new clients?
- Are your customers worth more than $5,000 to you? (It can work for smaller amounts but it will be harder for you to make it profitable.)
According to the authors, if you fit within the above criteria, you should be at least looking into creating an outbound sales team. Typical sales teams are structured with a team of sales people who often do a mix of prospecting, qualifying, closing, and relationship management. Account Executives (or quota-carrying salespeople) are often the most high-priced salespeople on the team. They’re responsible for a wide variety of tasks and must be excellent at building relationships and continuously closing new deals. However, where there is a shortfall in Account Executive’s time or ability is in prospecting. Account Executives don’t like to do it, they usually aren’t good at it, and it’s a poor use of company resources to have the most high-priced asset doing lower-value work.
Specialize your teams
"The point is to focus your highest value people on the low-volume but high-value activities (building relationships at key accounts), and specialize other roles and sales reps to take over low-value yet high-volume activities (prospecting into untargeted cold accounts.)"
Specializing your sales team is the first step in improving the productivity of your sales team. Sales people are typically responsible for three main things: prospecting, qualifying, and closing. These are three distinct responsibilities and require different mindsets and skill sets to be successful. The challenge with many sales teams is that their sales people are doing two or often three of the tasks on their own. They switch in and out of these responsibilities throughout the day, which slows their productivity and usually leads to underachievement.
The premise of Predictable Revenue is based on specialization. By creating a team dedicated to prospecting, another to qualifying, and another to closing, you can dramatically increase the impact of your sales team’s productivity and revenue generation. Not only that, you’re able to create a type of “farm system” where employees can develop their skill sets first by learning how to qualify warm inbound leads then to prospect into cold accounts and then move into “closing” their own deals over years of skill and professional development.
Developing a team focused specifically on outbound prospecting helps lift the load from Account Managers/Executives who often don’t have the time to research into accounts or experience making cold calls effectively. With a high performing outbound sales team, you are able to ensure that new leads continue to flow into your sales funnel and word about your product or service is being spread through your team. Let’s take a look at insight #2 for a quick overview of how you can setup your own outbound team.
Cold Calling 2.0
"To begin implementing the Cold Calling 2.0 system, you should have: At least one person 100% dedicated to prospecting...Yes, you can start part-time but it will be hard to get significant results until you have someone totally committed to it."
One of the refreshing comments that the authors make in this book is about cold calling. When Ross initially tried cold calling companies, he had little success. He would either be blocked by gatekeepers or the executives he did get on the phone did not like being sold to. It’s a common problem with prospecting.
So instead of continuing to try something that didn’t work, Ross tried getting referrals to the right person in the company. With a referral, the conversation feels a little bit more authentic and you have a legitimate reason to contact the prospect. This is part of what Cold Calling 2.0 is about.
First you build out a list of ideal targets that you want to approach. Then you craft an email that you can send to any individual contact you might have within that target company. Then you work the responses that come back (usually about a 9% response rate) and try to connect with the right person within the company. From there you try to schedule a “qualification conversation” to better understand their needs and whether your solution would be a fit. Once qualified, that qualified opportunity can be introduced to your quota-carrying account executive for a deeper conversation into how your solution can make a difference.
This process above is repeated and refined every time. You might find that some industries are more open to your product than others or certain departments within a company (e.g. Human Resources, Sales, etc.) could be more interested. Ross provides tactical questions to ask to open up conversations at the start: basic voicemail scripts, and much more to get an outbound sales rep to get started. One tip that I really liked was starting the phone call with “Did I catch you at a bad time?” It’s a great way to ease the initial tension of a cold call but also see if you can schedule a better time to connect if the prospect is unavailable.
The old methods of cold prospecting have changed. The focus now is to build out a team specifically focused on the prospecting (rather than having their attention divided on a multitude of tasks) and having them use a consistent process to improve with each call they make. Specialization in the prospecting process allows sales reps to improve their craft and build out a skill essential to their future success.
How do you structure your sales team? How might you be able to incorporate some of the Predictable Revenue strategies to your team?