Just finished reading/ listening to Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross. It’s been referred to as the sales Bible by several sales pros. Just so happened I never read it till now.
The book is written by former sales leader Aaron Ross as he helped implement the structure and strategies to scale Salesforce.com’s sales model.
My take-aways:
  • The importance of structure. This is probably the most highlighted point of the book spanning everything from organization to cadence to sales cycle and reporting. Ross frequently harps on using a sales force automation platform – not a surprise.
  • Value/ Customer first, and pretty much always. Ross highlights the importance of enabling the customer to talk about their business first… just about never talk about your product. Instead, integrate your product/ service in how it can resolve specific challenges of the customer.
  • Customer Success is perhaps the most important facet of the sales process.Executives and boards almost always focus on new customers at the peril of ignoring existing. Hold the hands of your first 10, 20, 50 customers.
  • 80% of the defects and problems in the sales process happens during hand-offs.Ross calls handing off between teams as “passing the baton”. I read this as the issues that arise when discussions and knowledge of the customer is lost from team to team. It’s like the game “telephone”.
  • A successful sale is about both companies. As much as sales is focused on earning the business with a prospect, effort should also be spent on evaluating if the customer is even a good fit for the seller. Too often, sales reps spend time on customers that do not fit the ideal customer profile, and thus, productivity (and indeed sales efforts) slows.

This book was recommended to me by several people, but I read it after the Challenger Sale (review here) after the recommendation of a colleague. As you can surmise from this review, Predictable Revenue is much more high-level than the Challenger Sale – Challenger being the more tactical sales approach.
There’s a lot of good take-aways, and finer details buried throughout the book, that this will be a reference tool for me in the future.
Executives are getting harder to reach from all the pitches and cold calls. (Image source: http://www.channelweb.co.uk/IMG/475/87475/hiding-under-table.jpg)
I first heard about John Greathouse from one of David Cummings’ posts of the top startup blogs he follows. I admit that I don’t often read his blog, but his recent post “How To Network With Really Busy People” is resonating with me well.
Currently, I’m working with a startup to get leads and sales. I’m not full-time with them, or officially employed in anyway, but I’m helping out because it’s one of the slickest marketing tools I’ve ever seen. That, and the chance to continually learn and hone my business development skills is very much welcome. I haven’t quite figured out my Next Move (with this company or otherwise), so taking this approach gives me some latitude to do so – figure things out.
Anyways, John’s article is titled Networking, but let’s call it what it’s really about – sales. Or at least, what he’s really writing about. I’ve been working with this new startup, and it’s been a bit of a challenge, to be honest. These days, cold calls can definitely lead to opportunities, but they’re also becoming more difficult per John’s post.

“[High-profile] people deployed brute force to screen out unsolicited, inbound communications.” – John Greathouse

Indeed, in my recent efforts, it’s fascinating the routes many people take to deflect calls. Cold calls are hard for a reason. The CEO of a sales organization I recently talked to isn’t so bullish on cold calling – “that’s so 90s”. What I’ve found, and what John writes about is the need to really pay attention to your messaging. That’s stupid advice, right? Good. Then you’re onto something, too. No, seriously, here are some methods I’ve been using that has been finding some more success mixed in with John’s advice:
  • Get the appointment. The goal of the first communication is not to sell a product (though if you do, awesome). Instead, it’s about getting an appointment/ introduction.
  • Respect and Flatter the Gatekeeper. I read in “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi, Founderand Chairman of Ferrazzi Greenlight and networker-extraordinaire, the need to respect the admins, secretaries, and assistants of execs. These pros have the holy grail of the execs you’re trying to reach – their schedules. If you’re nice to them, not only can they find time to fit you in, but they also overhear a lot of the strategies potentially giving you a leg up.
  • Subjects Lines Are Key Lines. When you’re going to email someone, think about that subject line intently. That can either inspire someone to open your email, or immediately put you on the back foot if you’re too “salesy”.
  • Track what you say. If you’re going to do some cold communications like calls or emails, it’d be smart to have a script ready. You don’t have to necessarily memorize it word for word, but know the gist to be able to speak naturally, not like a robot. Test the script with different audiences and fine tune as you go along to develop a message that truly resonates.
  • Use every tool at your disposal… timely. With the ascendency of social media in business, it’s not a surprise to find execs of large companies using things like Twitter to communicate and have a presence. Depending on their position, industry, etc., Twitter can be a very easy way to interact with an exec vs. the “not cool” phone or email. At least, not at first.
  • Quality is to warm as quantity is to cold. Cold communication can be a simple way to quickly advertise/ outbound market to people you don’t know. However, you’ll need to reach out to many in order to get a response, let alone an enthusiastic appointment. At the end of the day, warm leads are obviously better, but you definitely need to put in a little thought so that you’re not burning a personal connection or wasting a potentially great connection. In the end, a mix of the two can do wonders till you create that inbound marketing machine.
  • Be creative. This is more of a hypothesis because I’m still fiddling with what is creative and what can be creepy weird. However, sometimes you need a little interesting way of getting your product/ service out there, especially if it’s truly innovative (startups!). Whenever people see a demo of the product I’m selling now, people get excited and their imaginations run wild with what they can do with it. However, it takes them to SEE it. Pictures don’t do it justice for obvious reasons. Instead, I’m going to try including a GIF where I can record a demo, and insert it as a picture into emails. I’m unsure if it’ll work, but it should be a quick and easy way to demo, while being educational.

I’m in the midst of testing out many different strategies for sales. It’s not a clear process all the time, and in fact, it’s a living and breathing process of meeting a prospect on the other side of the table. Some of the above are learned and experienced by myself and borrowed from John, but things like the last one are so open that they’re hypotheses in flight. I’ll have to follow up with what works and what doesn’t work later.

What are some tips for selling your product or service via cold communications/ networking? How would you sell a new product or idea that many entrepreneurs or startups often do?