Cold calling is dead and you can thank Aaron Ross for that. As one of the key architects of the sales organization at Salesforce, Ross wrote Predictable Revenue, a guide that has become the default model for growing startups and companies optimizing sales. Recently I sat down with Ross to discuss why his approach has been so successful. While I strongly recommend the book, here are some of his key takeaways.
Founders and CEOs own the sales.
"Sales is a life skill," says Ross. "Everyone needs to know how to sell, whether you are a teenager trying to get a job, starting a nonprofit, or building the next $100 million tech company." This is why Predictable Revenue has become a cult favorite in the Silicon Valley 'sales hacker' circle: They love the logical, paint-by-numbers approach to building a sales team. This approach, however, is only successful when you delegate sales to a VP or team leader.
Salespeople don't prospect, and prospectors don't sell.
"Most salespeople don't like to prospect," says Ross. "They're not very good at it, and it's not repeatable. If they are good at prospecting, they fill their pipeline with prospects, spend time managing those opportunities, and then get so busy that they can't prospect. The traditional sales model puts your people on a feast-or-famine rollercoaster. If your company is losing more than 10 percent of your sales team a year, don't blame the sales people. Blame your systems."
Ross recommends three distinct roles to counter this: outbound prospectors, inbound lead qualifiers, and quota-carrying salespeople. The prospector's sole purpose is to create qualified new opportunities--not set appointments--for the salespeople. The qualifiers do nothing but qualify inbound leads and pass them on to the sales team. The sales people only deal with qualified leads and manage them through the close.
Cold calling is dead.
"I believe in the referral approach, in which you email or call known contacts to generate referrals," says Ross. "By using email to generate interest and then only calling those who respond, you have a constant stream of warm and friendly leads."
Prospects come to you looking for your credibility, expertise, and differentiators. That's why your website, a big part of outbound lead generation, should be full of rich content that educates them. When they are ready to buy, you will get the call. Outbound lead generation should be focused on informing the prospects and staying in front of them by adding value while expecting nothing in return.
Shrink the pond so you're the big fish.
"Many companies are not specific enough in their customer targeting," says Ross. "You want to be a big fish in a small pond. If you are a small fish in the market you are addressing, you need to shrink the pond so you can appear bigger. You need to be very specific about the companies you are targeting and the contacts within those companies."
Take the time to hone in on the one or two things that your product or service beats the competition on, every time. By limiting your focus, you'll effectively shrink the pond, enabling you to target your sales and become a market leader.
Streamline your pitch.
"Companies make their pitches too complex," says Ross. "At conferences I ask a few attendees to pitch their company to my daughter onstage. She then picks the one she understands and they win a book. It has to be that simple."
Jargon and acronyms are the downfall of many an elevator pitch. I remember telling my wife's college-aged niece that "oDesk is a platform that allows companies ..." She heard the word 'platform,' pursed her lips and walked off. You should be able to describe your business in a sentence or two using language that normal people, including kids, can understand.
What sales advice do you swear by? Let us know in the comments.