Imagine that I’m a corporate spy, and I managed to hack into the networks of one of the most innovative and well known technology companies on the planet. And there, sitting on the server, was a document titled “$100 million in 3 years”. I open the document, and the first sentence I read is…
CONFIDENTIAL: This is the exact sales process we used in the last 3 years to grow our outbound sales process from $0 to over $100 million in annual revenue in less than 3 years.
Would you want a copy of that document? If you have anything to do with sales or growing a business, I’m guessing that the answer is “YES!”.
That company, by the way, is Salesforce.com. And luckily for us, that document wasn’t obtained through corporate espionage - it is a book written by Aaron Ross to show us exactly how he created and launched the outbound sales process at the company. And yes, he really did grow it from $0 to $100 million in a few short years.
In the beginning of the book he states that building a “sales machine” that creates ongoing, predictable revenue takes three things: (1) predictable lead generation, (2) a sales development team that connects marketing and sales, and (3) consistent sales systems.
However, as he points out, predictable lead generation is the most important thing for creating predictable revenue, so that’s where we are going to focus our time. That also comes with the added bonus that you can implement this portion of his system whether you are a large multi-billion dollar company, or a 1 person startup. How do we know that? Because this is the portion of the plan that Aaron first executed on his own at Salesforce.com.
So buckle up - your very own sales rocket is about to launch.
At the core of Ross’ predictable revenue strategy is what he calls Cold Calling 2.0.
Ross defines cold calling as “calling someone who doesn’t know you and who isn’t expecting your call.” Cold Calling 2.0, on the other hand, means prospecting into cold accounts without ever making any cold calls. With this method, you are expected to qualify accounts and contacts before calling, and research rather than sell.
There are 5 steps in the process, and we’ll go through them together one-by-one. Remember, this is a process that only works if you follow all of the steps. So with that in mind, let’s start with the most important step…
The first thing you need to do in order to create your own predictable revenue machine is to get clear on your ideal customer profile. This is going to help you maximize your productivity and your sales by finding great prospects more easily through smart targeting, and disqualifying poor prospects more quickly.
If you don’t yet know exactly who to be selling to, you should be thinking about where you have the highest likelihood of winning business, and where you have the highest potential for generating revenue.
You will need to be clear on which criteria matter most to your business, but here are some sample criteria to get your creative juices flowing:
Ross suggests that you can have more than one “ideal customer”, but you should limit yourself to 1-5 types of profiles. Your criteria will also be changing as you go through this process and learn more about what’s working for you and what isn’t, so remember to keep refreshing this list regularly.
Once you have figured out your ideal customer profile, it’s time to move on to step #2.
The second step in the process is to build your list of targets. As Ross points out, building marketing lists is beyond the scope of his book.
However, the general idea is that you should use one of the more popular list services, like Salesforce’s Data.com, OneSource, Hoovers, InsideView or ZoomInfo.
The good news is that most of you have probably already started to build an internal marketing list, and that can provide you with your start before you dive into paid services.
Just ensure that before you move to step #3 that you have a list of people that fit the criteria you figured out in step #1.
Once you have that covered, let’s move on.
So this is the point where some of you say “Wait a minute! You want me to email a list of people that I bought from a list service? Isn’t that spam? I read an article that said it was definitely spam. I’m not spamming people. No way.”
It’s important at this point to get clear on the ground rules. And by ground rules, I mean the law.
As of the date of this writing, you are allowed to send unsolicited email messages to companies in the United States that are not “opt-in” as long as you follow the rules set out by the FTC, which you can find here:
The most important ones are:
It is important to note that if any of your ideal customers are in Canada, you cannot use this strategy because of the recently enacted Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) which prohibits the sending of commercial messages to people who have not expressly provided their consent.
Assuming you have confirmed that you are legally allowed to send unsolicited email messages, you’ll want to come to grips with one fact and then determine whether or not you want to employ this strategy. That fact is…this strategy works, and it will grow your business. When you are crafting your email, there are a few guidelines to follow.
The goal of your email should be one of the following: (a) to get a referral to the person you should be talking to in that organization, or (b) to figure out the best day/time to have a conversation.
The emails should look as if they are a single email that came from a salesperson - which means they should be text based.
They should be easy to read and respond to on a mobile device.
They should be short. This is not the time or place for your elevator pitch.
Here is a sample outreach email crafted by Marylou Tyler, the CEO of Predictable Revenue (the consultancy created to implement the strategies outlined in the book):
Subject: Can you point me in the right direction?
[firstname], I'm sorry to trouble you. Would you be so kind as to tell me who is responsible for [insert your biggest pain point here that resonates with your ideal customer; OR insert function like “sales” or “recruiting”] and how I might get in touch with them?
Chief Conversation Starter
1234 Main Street
Des Moines, IA 50309
Our advice? Start with that template and tweak as you learn more about who responds, and who doesn’t. If you need some motivation, this is the exact template that Marylou used to triple her lead generation numbers in 90 days.
You should be sending out between 50-100 of these targeted emails per day, with a goal of having 5-10 responses per day, including negative responses.
In the book, Ross suggests that you use a mass email tool like that found found in Salesforce.com (or Mailchimp, or Infusionsoft, etc). However, one of the Predictable Revenue case studies was from a company called Crunched, who found better results by outsourcing the sending of these emails to a remote assistant in the Philippines who sent the emails one at a time.
Two more things before we send you on to step #4. First, you are most likely to get a hold of the people you want to reach if you send your emails before 9am or after 5pm. This makes sense, because those people are most likely in meetings most of the day, and most likely won’t respond to your email then, and might be inclined to just delete it. Second, you should also avoid sending the emails on Monday and Friday.
So you got through to the person you wanted to reach, and they’ve agreed to a quick call to see if there’s a fit between what you provide and what they need. Congratulations!
When you are having the discovery call, the goal is not to sell. The goal is to get them talking about their business and to listen. Ross suggests that if you are talking more than 30% of the time, you are not asking the right questions.
Remember, this call is to determine whether or not there is a fit, so you are really just on a fact-finding mission to understand your prospect’s business at this point.
Here are some of the questions you should be asking:
The first thing you are doing is qualifying whether or not the prospect has any real pain, and whether or not they are likely to act on it relatively soon. If they don’t have any pain, or aren’t likely to act on it soon, it’s better to know now so you can move on to accounts that are a better fit.
The second thing you are doing is getting the prospect to build the case for your product/service himself. Understanding the exact words your prospect is using to describe their challenges is like gold when it comes to closing the deal.
Finally, Ross suggests that if your prospect is interested, but they need to convince more people on the team, then you should turn your attention to making this person a Champion who can do the selling for you.
If you give them what they need in order to be successful (including time) and are persistent (but respectful), you’ll be building up the trust you need to close the sale. I’ve seen this type of scenario in action personally, and it’s always best to have somebody “on the inside” to be doing the selling.
The last step in the prospecting portion of the Predictable Revenue method of selling is to pass the baton over to the account executive to close. Like we mentioned earlier, if you are in a smaller company, this person is still likely to be you, so there is no real hand-off.
But the principles are important to consider, even if you are running the entire process by yourself.
There is one thing that account executives hate - unqualified leads. There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve got a live one on the line, only to realize after putting in some work that it’s actually an old tire that fell of the side of a boat.
Ross suggests that the compensation plan be set up for the prospecting rep so that very specific criteria need to be met before it can be counted as a lead.
This same rigorous process should be applied even if you are a one-man-show. Only continue to pursue leads that meet the pre-selected criteria you have set. It always hurts a little letting one off the line, but you are better off focussing your energies where you are more likely to be successful.
If you follow the process laid out in the book, it could be a game changer for you. There are plenty of case studies you can read on Ross’ website - www.predictablerevenue.com, and I urge you to consider buying and reading the entire book if you plan on implementing the full system in your business.
Thanks for tuning in, and happy hunting!