Since its release in 2011, Aaron Ross Predictable Revenue’s book has become a sort of sales bible, especially for SaaS companies.
It is certain that 80% of the credit goes to the fact that the book is incredible and that the advice given gives a lot of clarity to organize the sales of a business.
The remaining 20% is based on the author’s authority, expertise and ideas.
During his four years at Salesforce, Aaron Ross organized and developed the sales team to reach $ 100 million in recurring revenue.
What is the main idea behind Predictable Revenue?
How to plan the next quarter of your business, set goals, or convince an investor to join you?
For Aaron Ross, the answer is very clear and he gives its name to his book: with predictable income.
Predictable income is a kind of grail that commercial services must pursue and which can only be achieved in one way:
By creating a well-oiled sales machine.
And it is around this concept, the construction of a well-oiled sales machine, that the whole book revolves.
What would this sales machine look like?
The traditional approach to increasing the sales of business was very simple:
You want to sell more > Hire more sellers.
There is a saying about it that I like very much and that the author of the book would not have rejected:
More is not better. Better is better.
And the best way to increase sales in a business is to create a selling machine that generates a constant and predictable flow of new prospects, which in turn generates a constant and predictable flow of sales.
And that’s the key to everything. To sell more, you need more leads, not more sellers. And the first step to getting more leads is to understand what types of leads exist.
Types of leads to feed your sales machine according to Predictable Revenue
For Aaron Ross, there are three:
The seeds are the leads that come to your door by themselves, through your brand, your content, your social networks or any other inbound approach.
In fact, Predictable Revenue says that two of the best methods to get these leads are the word of mouth and free samples/trials (of software if you are in SaaS, of a consulting session if you offer a service or product if you are an e-merchant, to give you 3 examples).
The advantage of these leads is that they are very profitable, very loyal and normally they buy more.
The downside is that it is difficult to generate these leads and the number to be reached is limited.
Nets are the leads generated through traditional marketing campaigns such as media advertising, cold email, or online advertising.
They get their name from the catch method because they remind us of net fishing.
The biggest advantage of these leads is that their number is very scalable and that they are easy to produce.
The downside is that the customers they produce are not as profitable as those of the “lead seeds”.
Finally, the last type of leads is the spears or harpoons, which are those generated directly by salespeople and manual prospecting as described in the book Fanatical Prospecting.
The advantage of these leads is that they are usually very large fish and they form very valuable accounts.
The downside is that there are not an unlimited number of these prospects and that it takes a lot of time and work to close deals with them.
Now that we understand the different types of leads that exist, we are ready to build a sales machine that will feed on them.
How to build a predictable sales machine?
To build a machine like the one Aaron Ross built for Salesforce, you need two pillars:
What is the specialization in predictable income?
For Aaron Ross, if all salespeople work at all levels of the sales funnel, major inefficiencies are created.
The best way to solve this problem is specialization. To understand specialization, he divides sales work into 4 main tasks:
- The qualification of seed leads to validate them.
- Prospect new sales opportunities with inactive CRM leads or very cold leads.
- Negotiate with prospects to close sales.
- Manage customer accounts to help them and offer them new services
Qualify seed leads to validate them
You do not want to bring leads to the next phase of the sales funnel when they cannot be converted to customers because they do not match the product/service you are selling for some other reasons.
Therefore, a seller must take the leads obtained by marketing (MQLs) and qualify them to move to the next phase of the funnel: interesting leads (SQLs) and discard the rest.
Prospect new sales opportunities with inactive CRM leads or very cold leads
The pure and hard commercial prospecting, the resuscitation of sales opportunities with which you have already been in contact are two precious activities that you wish to carry out. But generally, this action is not done with the oldest salespeople in your company.
Negotiate with prospects to close sales
This is what we generally call sales because it involves signing deals. The sellers who operate at this stage come into contact with the SQLs or qualified prospects of stages 1 and 2 to try to close the sale.
Manage customer accounts to help them and offer them new services
Finally, you want to support your customers and, if necessary, offer them new products or new services that could be useful to them.
To participate in these 4 phases, you must fulfill 3 different roles:
- Business developers: these are more junior profiles who can provide enough leads to several account managers.
- Account managers: these are more senior profiles who only focus on closing deals and, occasionally, prospecting very, very important customers or managing their personal customers.
- Support: They are responsible for taking care of customers and in many companies, they are supervised as a different department.
Explained in this way, this approach may seem valid for large companies only. But this is not the case.
If your business is small, your first salesperson should be both an account manager and a business developer. Then simply develop the organization according to the needs of your sales machine.
What is the sales methodology described in Predictable Revenue?
As you have seen, prospecting still occupies a very large part of the sales process that Aaron Ross defends, but far from the classical techniques of commercial prospecting, he offers an improved model which he calls “Cold Call 2.0”.
There are 4 steps to approach this process:
- Define the ideal client profile.
- Create lists of these potential customers.
- Cold prospecting by email.
- Phone contact.
Define the ideal client profile
The first step is to clearly define the benefits that the customer will derive from the solution we sell. The more precise the definition, the better.
Ideally, this profile describes who makes the final decision within the company we are going to contract.
Create lists of these prospects
With this profile in mind, we create lists of potential prospects.
The author talks about creating or buying his own databases, but we personally recommend the first approach using very powerful tools like Linkedin.
Cold prospecting by email campaigns
Once this list is created, the contact must be established cold, first by email, rather than by phone.
The idea is to write a concise email to the most appropriate person in the organization. If there is no answer, go on “forever”.
Those who reacted to the first contact in the previous phase are then contacted by phone to confirm the suitability of the product with their company.
If the call goes well, the “baton is passed” to the next phase of the sales machine, the account managers, who normally continue the sales process from this point.
And that’s all.
These are the main ideas of Aaron Ross in his successful book Predictable Revenue.
It is obvious that to be able to put together a machine of this type, you need a tool: A CRM.
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