By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
Late in 2015 we started producing a bi-weekly radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which runs live every other Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Pacific, moving soon to 11:30 a.m. Pacific. It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.
We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests into 2016. Our very first guest was Funnelholic author and Topo co-founder Craig Rosenberg. Next we had Mike Weinberg, incredible writer, speaker, author, followed by Conrad Bayer, CEO & Founder of Tellwise. Recently, Jim Keenan and Joanne Black.
We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes. You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and coming soon, subscribe on iTunes.
We were thrilled to be able to talk to Aaron Ross, author of Predictable Revenue and From Impossible to Inevitable. Listen here and read our conversation below.
Matt: Thank you everyone, again, for joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio. So excited to have you here. We’re having a ton of fun with this show. We’ve had some great guests. I’ll introduce our guest today very shortly, and there’s a great guest coming up here we’ll talk about in a little bit. I can’t believe it’s already February. It’s the first week of February. January is already over. Someone told me “Happy New Year” this morning, and I had to think about that for a second. It does feel like we were just watching the Rose Bowl parade just a couple days ago. Here we are already coming up on Valentine’s Day, which I am also woefully far behind on. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about.
I want to quickly talk about our guest today. We have some amazing guests, but this one for sure I am just not worthy. Those of you who know Aaron Ross, either you know him or you know of him. Many, if you’re in B2B sales or SAAS sales, I’m sure you’re familiar with his book Predictable Revenue. He wrote the book based on the work he did with Salesforce.com in its very early days, literally taking that company from 5 million dollars a year to a hundred million dollars a year, which, given how big it is now, sounds small. But anyone who’s worked at a small company knows how monumental a change that is from a five million to a hundred million dollar company. His system and the backbone of his system Predictable Revenue has helped sales organization nationwide, really worldwide, develop their own predictable, repeatable revenue streams.
Aaron, before we get into not only the work you’ve been doing and the book and your new book, From Impossible To Inevitable, which I want to talk about, there’s something that is on a lot of your bios that people probably don’t know the backstory on but always wondered. And that’s the idea that you’re a dad of nine going on twelve. So Aaron, first of all welcome to the show. Thank you for being here.
Aaron: Yeah, thanks, Matt. Happy to be here.
Matt: Before we get into the real work, for those of you that get emails from Aaron, you know that family is a big, big part of his life. He’s always talking about his kids. Talk a little more about what “nine going on twelve” means.
Aaron: Oh man. By the way, if you hear any background noise like screaming… We keep adding kids and so I don’t have anymore… I started with offices at home so then at some point I always get kicked out of them, so I have to work from closets, empty rooms, laundry rooms, cars have become my new home offices. I just get squeezed out. But actually any day now we’re waiting for a call to go to Florida because we’re adopting a new baby there who’s being born any hour or day now. And there’s two more boys, 11-year-olds from China we’re adopting in March, so then we’ll be at twelve.
I think ultimately, I never expected to have a big family. On one hand, I’ve learned… I only got married five years ago, so I’m going from zero to twelve kids in less than five years. There’s probably a different book on hyper-scaling families. But I feel like building a family for me has been my emotional wealth, and building a business has been financial wealth. They’re related. I think what’s different about me, from what I’ve learned and what I like people to understand is that they’re not in conflict. Having a family has been the number one motivator for me to have to grow my business, and there’s other benefits. But for me they’re more complimentary. It’s not like “Oh, my family takes away from my career,” because it doesn’t. it enhances it.
Matt: That’s amazing. Yeah, I have three young kids, and there’s days when I feel like I’m barely holding on, so nine, let alone twelve sounds impossible. To your point though, I think there is something about having a family, and not just a spouse but having kids that completely rely on you, that, for me at least, changed my perspective on what I’m doing at work but also changed my perspective on why I’m doing it.
Aaron: Yep, everything. By the way, it’s hardest to get to five kids, and then by that point I think we had more systems and going from five to twelve has been probably easier than from two to five.
Matt: I really, really hope my wife’s not listening to the show right now. We’ve talked about being done, and every once in a while, I think she would keep going forever honestly. Alright, let’s talk a little business. I want to quickly address listeners who have, for some reason, been living under a rock and are not familiar with you and your work. Talk a little about Predictable Revenue, maybe sort of highlight the work you did at Salesforce where Predictable Revenue came to be.
Aaron: It’s funny because that book came out four years ago, and we’re actually here today because the new book’s coming out next week. But Predictable Revenue, now it’s being called the Sales Bible for Silicon Valley, but I think there were three big ideas that really shook people up in the way they thought about sales. The first is that, the book is all about how Salesforce.com, like I said, I was there. Salesforce wasn’t growing in the way it wanted to be in the enterprise segment, in market enterprise. They had tons of inbound leads, but they were mostly small business leads, and I helped create a prospecting system called Cold Calling 2.0 because I couldn’t think of a better name as much as I never liked that name. But basically it was prospecting without making cold calls that was very systematic and could generate quality appointments. And we were able to basically generate all the appointments we needed for our sales team that helped us double how fast we were growing. And I wrote the book about that.
For a lot of companies, outbound has become hot again. I think for a lot of years it was this ugly thing that people hated because content marketing was so hot. But now outbound is hot. To me, you know I love inbound, I love outbound. Two great tastes taste great together. But Predictable Revenue has three big ideas.
First, you have to specialize your sales teams. If you think about sales teams or people who sell, and you want them to be effective, you have to specialize them. Instead of generalists, where everyone is doing their own prospecting, responding to inbound leads, closing and managing accounts, we have specialized roles where prospectors are prospecting, closers close, and then you’ve got post-sales roles like account management or customer success, and if you have inbound leads you have inbound lead qualifiers. You have to do that in some way, shape, or form. That’s one.
Two is that you grow your business, double your revenue not by doubling your sales team but by doubling your pipeline through predictable lead generation. Predictable lead generation is required in order to create predictable revenue (and you can’t do that unless you specialize your sales team).
The third point is, there are different types of leads. A lead is not a lead is not a lead. In the book I laid out seeds, nets, and spears for these three types: word of mouth, marketing, and prospecting. They’re all great, but they’re all different. They’ve got their pros and cons. Depending on your business and the stage, you may need to focus on one versus another. The example in that book that resonated is, if you had 10,000 leads last year and you did $10 million in revenue, usually to double your revenue you can’t double your leads. So next year, you don’t need 20,000 leads to get to $20 million. You probably need like five times as many leads because you’re going to need a different mix of leads, and they’re of different qualities. What I’ve heard from people- I’ve gotten so many emails from people who say, “My business has been transformed mainly because I specialized my sales team. We doubled our results just because I specialized.” That’s the number one thing I tell people they have to do if they’re not doing it yet.
Matt: It’s not overestimating or over qualifying to say that this book Predictable Revenue has been maybe the most influential book for B2B sales people in the last four to five years. Maybe Predictable Revenue and The Challenger Sale tend to be quoted and used most often. And I think the idea clearly of specialization but also of lead segmentation and the idea of nets and spear continues to work today. You know we’ve got this enormous focus on account-based marketing from B2B marketers that is based on the premise that “hey, we can’t just wait for leads to come in the door”. Our inbound marketing doesn’t really give us control over quantity and quality. We need to be a lot more focused on what we need and be precise. And what I love about that now too is you’ve got sales and marketing teams working together on that.
So if anyone wants to learn more about the book Predictable Revenue if you haven’t read it, definitely check out www.predictablerevenue.com. Great content, great articles there. But we’re mostly here to talk about the new book I’m very excited about From Impossible To Inevitable. I feel like it’s a coup that we have Aaron here today, and we have a scoop because this is a book that’s launching next week on Tuesday. So I’m very excited to talk about the book. Maybe just before we head to break here, give us the backstory of how this book came to be. Why and how did you decide that it was time to write the next book?
Aaron: Well, this is the book you start with. It actually updates Predictable Revenue in some ways. The reason this book is written is partly because I went from five to twelve kids, so I had the motivation to grow, and probably because I have the same conversations (and so does my co-author, Jason Lemkin)—the same conversations over and over again with companies who are struggling to grow. It’s the same conversations, and so we wrote this book together and there’s these seven parts. The different parts are really the template for growth that a lot of the fastest growing companies in the world follow.
Zenefits went from one to one hundred million in two years, or even Salesforce or others. It’s not rocket science. Why repeat all the mistakes that we and others have made? If we could put this all into a book, here’s all this wisdom. You don’t need to do a call, just read the book first. Just read the book, and it will answer—your life will be changed by at least one of these seven things. I guarantee it. We guarantee it. How to grow faster—it’s a growth book, not a sales book. It’ll answer why you’re not growing first. You will know why you’re not growing or why you’re struggling if you read this book to start.
Matt: I can’t recommend this book enough. I was lucky enough to get an early copy of the book. It’s coming out next Tuesday: From Impossible To Inevitable. You can learn more about the book right now at the website www.fromimpossible.com. You can preorder a copy. There’s a great set of gifts available to those that download the book in advance. There’s a chance to get some free tickets to the SaaStr conference, there are some other awesome resources available online. So go to www.fromimpossible.com to check that out. We’re going to take a quick commercial break. We’ll be right back. You’re listening to Sales Pipeline Radio.
Matt: We’ve got a great guest today talking about his new book. It’s Aaron Ross, the author of Predictable Revenue, his new book From Impossible To Inevitable. We’ve got a great lineup of guests coming up in the next few weeks as well. Our next guest is going to be Josiane Feigon, who is an inside selling expert and has written a number of books and has published her predictions for inside sales in 2016. So we’ll be talking a little about that. We’ve got Meagan Eisenberg, the CEO of MongoDB in a couple weeks. She’s going to be talking more about modern marketing and the role of marketing technology. And just booked, hot off the presses, in March we are going to have Trish Bertuzzi, CEO of The Bridge Group and the author of the new book Sales Development Playbook. If you are in sales development, if you’re doing inside sales, this is a must-read. If you know Trish, it has her trademark wit and it’s just a fun read.
So excited for those upcoming guests, but let’s talk a little more about this new book, Aaron. Speaking of people who have a great voice and are fun to read, the stuff that you publish, not only Predictable Revenue but your content online, the emails you send out, have just got such a great voice. And this book is no different. Talk a little about the highlights of things you highlight in this book. What are some of the most common challenges or mistakes that you referenced earlier before the break that companies are making that are in this book.
Aaron: Okay. Yeah, there’s three I’d like to share to start. I mentioned, the first chapter of the new book is called “Nail a Niche.” So the seven parts each have a painful truth. And number one is: “You’re not ready to grow until you nail a niche.” And this comes from Jason and myself. People come to us and say, “Hey, we’re ready to grow. We’ve hit product market bid or we just need leads.” And sometimes they do, but a lot of the time they don’t grow. All the money they spend of marketing or sales is wasted because they weren’t ready to grow in the first place. If you’re struggling to grow, if you feel like you’re not getting the results from marketing or prospecting, this will tell you why.
One of the ideas from this chapter (and there’s a bunch of them in there) is that there’s this huge gap between growing organically if people have heard of you through word of mouth, to being able to grow with outbound marketing or outbound prospecting. And it’s not like the gap of moving from ‘Cisco to San Diego; it’s more like the gap of moving from San Francisco to China. People vastly underestimate how much harder it is to grow through outbound marketing to people who don’t know you (however that is—marketing or prospecting) compared to some sort of prior relationships or network through word of mouth. It’s way harder. We explain why that is and what to do about it. But that’s the first one. You’re not going to be able to grow until you get ready or until you put yourself in the place to be able to grow in the first place.
There’s another one in part 5 that I think is really important for people; it’s really about the journey, but the painful truth for people in part five is: “It’s going to take years longer than you want.” That’s important because you have to be able to do the time. We touch on things like why people feel so impatient. There’s this reality distortion field we live in where we’re surrounded by success. Because everyone posts their successes on social media or maybe 95%: got a new job, raises, sold a company, lost 20 pounds, got married, blah, blah, blah. So we’re surrounded by other people succeeding (or at least that’s our perception) while we, you, I struggle. 95% of our day is dealing with the problems we’re fixing because that’s what entrepreneurs do, whether you’re an individual entrepreneur with your career or a CEO. And so this feeling of, “Hmm, everyone else is succeeding. I’m struggling. Why is it so hard for me?” Well it’s not. You’re exactly where you need to be. You’re not doing anything wrong; you’ve just got to be able to do the time. It takes 7-10 to accomplish that really big goal you had. It’s a really important point because if you give up too soon, or if you don’t keep taking the steps, that’s the problem people face—or basically unfair self-criticism. You need to struggle. You can’t create something great without the struggle. It’s okay. Everyone goes through that.
Matt: Those sometimes are the easy to hear, easy to say pieces of advice that are really hard to do in practice. I want to talk in a second about one of the other points that’s made in the book about employee ownership. But I just want to highlight that on your website, www.fromimpossible.com, you can learn more about Aaron, learn more about Jason, learn more about the book, but there’s some great packages up here. If you’re just going to buy one copy of the book, it’s pretty impressive. You’re getting a PDF of Predictable Revenue, you’re getting a Cold Calling 2.0 guide, you’re getting a ton of great freebies just by buying one book. I know a lot of sales teams and even just management teams are buying a book for everybody, and so there’s great packages up here where if you buy five to ten books there’s even more freebies available. You want to talk about some of those bundle deals you’ve got?
Aaron: You can go up to 10,000 books. Well, we’ve heard people say on Twitter or elsewhere, “I’m buying it for my whole team,” or, “This should be a high school text.” I don’t think anyone has seen a book like this. I really don’t. It’s just different. It’s totally different than Predictable Revenue. It does update and refresh what’s in Predictable Revenue, but if you have to choose, choose From Impossible first because if you preorder it, you get Predictable Revenue PDF included. It’s such an important book. There’s things in here people need to hear. Again, “You’re not ready to grow until you do these things, “It takes a lot longer than you think.”
The last chapter is called “Define Your Destiny.” It’s really written for the owner of a business or a leader. It’s all the things you want your employees to hear that you either don’t want to tell them or that you’re sick of repeating. Things like, what I hear and maybe what I’ve seen is that a lot of younger people, especially 20-somethings get bored really fast. “There’s not enough advancement.” “I don’t have enough responsibility.” Okay, there’s a piece of this last section, which is called: “Your company is not your mommy or daddy.” These kinds of messages, that it’s not your company’s job to keep you entertained all the time. The company’s job is not to keep you happy all the time. Their job, 50% is to provide an environment that’s helpful or constructive, but the employees need to take responsibility too where, if they get bored fast, they need to figure out how to keep themselves entertained and keep themselves learning or else every time they quit a job, they’re just going to spend their entire career job hopping. Wherever they are, that’s where they’re going to be. The company doesn’t need to take responsibility, the employee needs to take more for how they’re going to advance their career, how they’re going to keep themselves interested. I’ve had a lot of millennials say, “You nailed it for me. Now I know how to advance my career.” “I was being too entitled. Now I have a sense for how to contribute to the company rather than complain or just do the minimum.” “Why should I go above and beyond my job description? Now I get it.”
Matt: Yeah, and I would agree that it’s really up to individuals to define their own destiny. But you also talk in the book about the role and onus on the companies and executives to create a culture that drives people wanting to take an initiative. Really quick, talk about that and the idea of embracing employee ownership. And if you could, give maybe one or two best practices that companies can do to embrace and do that.
Aaron: I will say, this book is not a culture book. This book is not a management book. It’s not even a sales book. It’s a growth book. And so what creates faster growth are things like nailing a niche. There’s parts on lead generation. There’s parts on making your sales scalable, increasing deal sizes, and so on but, as you said, if you’re a leader, it doesn’t matter, you could have the best idea in the world, but if your employees aren’t bought in, you can’t do it alone. They’re not going to really put their all into it or anything into it unless they’re buying in in some way. And what’s missing, I think, from a lot of cultures (I’m not saying this is easy) is employee ownership, employee emotional ownership, where they feel like, “Yes, I want to do my best. I’m not just doing the minimum because that’s what my job says. I actually want to do my best, and I want to do more. I want to take the initiative.”
What would it be like if your employees didn’t have to wait around and be told what to do all the time? Because, frankly, most of them do. What owner says, “My employees are contributing too much. I can’t keep up?” No, owners or leaders, any managers, say, “Why don’t my employees think like me or take the initiative? Why don’t they just find a problem and solve it without having their hands held all the time?” So one of the ideas here in that part… And by the way, painful truth in part six is: “You’re employees are renting, not owning their jobs.” It’s called employee ownership. It’s about how a person, an employee, doesn’t have full emotional ownership unless they’re the single public owner of that role.
And plus they have the decision making authority over whatever they’re doing. There’s more details on how to do it and what that means. But, again, it’s things like letting, even when you so desperately want to help someone with a decision, you have to let them make their decisions even if they’re wrong. Any time you’re making that decision for them, you’re stealing that opportunity to practice those decision making skills, which can be very hard for people especially if they’ve been growing up where all their decisions were made by their parents.
Matt: Awesome. Hey, Aaron, I really appreciate your time. I know you’re crazy busy and in very high demand, but I appreciate you jumping on the show today. Really excited about the new book. For those of you who want to check it out, go to www.fromimpossible.com. The name of the book is From Impossible To Inevitable. You can preorder a copy of the book. You can get a free excerpt from the book at the website, so definitely check that out. If you want to check out this episode again or if you want to check out past episodes of Sales Pipeline Radio just go to www.salespipelineradio.com. You’ll get every past episode up there at any time. Join us again next Thursday, same time, same place. New guests, more sales pipeline. Thanks again to Aaron Ross, our guest today. Thanks everyone for joining. This has been Sales Pipeline Radio.