Sometimes, great business and life lessons come from places you do not expect. Once in a while, you get little nuggets of wisdom that stick with you for as long as you live. Sometimes, we get to learn from amazing people who are experts in their field, and one such source of wisdom is Aaron Ross.
Aaron Ross is the Director of Corporate Sales of Salesforce.com. He is also the CRO of Predictable Revenue Inc. and author of Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into A Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com.
Ross was also one of those responsible for creating the revolutionary Cold Calling 2.0 inside sales process at Salesforce.com. It helped the company raise its revenues by a whopping $100 million.
He recently shared his story with Insight Square, including what he had learned at Salesforce.com, how to properly form and raise sales teams, and more.
Key learnings at Salesforce; predictable revenue
Ross said he found out at Salesforce that people want predictable revenue all the time. Consistency every single year is what they want.
People look for business growth that is not derived from merely guessing and reacting as well as crunch-time hustling towards the end of each quarter. As boring as it may sound, they prefer a formulaic and consistent process.
Ross presents three main ideas on how to build this type of sales machine, one that creates predictable income. These are:
- Repeatable lead generation systems
- Dependable sales processes
- Your product must be a success with customers
He also presents three kinds of leads with different sales cycles and conversion rates. Lead generation, he says, is not all created the same.
- Seeds – This is the most powerful of all types of leads because they come from satisfied customers who are happy to share their experience. Potential customers trust their fellow consumers. However, these are the most challenging leads to get.
- Nets – Nets are marketing leads coming from the internet or traditional methods of marketing.
- Spears – Spears are captured in a more focused approach led by sales development representatives, also known as your prospecting teams.
Each type has its own best method to grow. To grow Seeds is to establish a dedicated customer success program. For the Nets, the best way is through inbound marketing. To grow Spears, you need to employ Cold Calling 2.0 plus a team of prospectors dedicated to the program.
What is the key to good sales management?
Managing sales teams, according to Ross, is about being a good coach. Doing things yourself does not help. Instead, teach the team how to do things. Learn to let go if you want to build something big. Like a good father to his children, allow them to fail and learn from those failures. And do not take credit for every success.
Building a sales team should not be rushed
Ross observed that one of the biggest mistakes of Sales VPs and Board members is that they tend to add salespeople and make them work harder with the firm belief that this will increase revenue. They believe that they need to double their manpower and push them to work harder by generating more outbound calls to double their sales. They could not be more wrong!
Doubling your manpower, making them work harder, and making more calls, will not help you scale. Ineffective sales organizations do not realize that working harder only means that they are doing things wrong as it is. Even the CEOs make the problem worse by setting unrealistic sales targets.
Salespeople in an effective sales organization do not try to grow customer acquisition – they fulfill it. They put the task of acquiring customers into the hands of marketing. This is a huge shift away from traditional sales.
How to build high-growth companies with inbound and prospecting teams
Ross shares that he spends a lot of energy building a successful system that his hires can sink their teeth into. He realized early on that many companies have incompetent sales systems, which led to high failure rates. Ross also believes that if at least 20% of your people are not meeting the quota, then your system is bad, not your people.
He also does not believe in being a jack-of-all-trades. To him, specializing is more crucial as it helps people focus more on given tasks. For instance, Marketing Response Representatives should specialize in qualifying marketing leads instead of doing Cold Calling 2.0. Prospectors should concentrate only on prospecting. A repeatable and reliable system with each team member functioning in a specific role is the key to success.
Lead generation best practices
He advises companies to identify their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) first. ICPs are the presumed profiles of the kinds of clients that will give you the most value for your product.
Angle your ICP to your top 20% of customers. Train and support your team, keeping in mind that they need specialized skills and specific job descriptions.
Follow up phone calls after emails
Emails and phone calls may seem ancient, but they are still the most effective means of communication. A recent survey has shown that people still use them for high impact.
Nevertheless, a lot of people do not respond to them, sometimes deliberately, and sometimes they put off their response until they forget about it. That is why it is advisable to make phone calls to follow up on emails in order to get responses.
Ross sticks to a 20 to 30-hour workweek, which is something most people can only wish for. What is his secret? Specializing. It seems like Ross could not gush enough about the word, but it works, and you cannot argue with success.
Ross hires talented people for quite a lot of projects, so he does have to do everything himself. He is not afraid of relying on the talent of others.
The key to success is learning from people before you who have seen and done it. Learn not only from what they did well but from where they failed.