Leave a comment
Get the GH Bookmarklet

AMAs

Aaron Ross is the author of Predictable Revenue, called “The Sales Bible of Silicon Valley”) and From Impossible To Inevitable (with Jason Lemkin). Aaron is married with 11 children (mostly through adoption), loves motorcycles, and keeps a 25-hour workweek.  He’s the co-founder of Predictable Revenue, Inc., an outbound sales acceleration company, and also the co-founder of PredictableUniversity.com, which delivers the world’s most effective, virtual outbound sales training.

You can follow him on Twitter @motoceo or see funny family moments on Instagram at @aaronross383

A long time ago, Aaron was also an EIR (Entrepreneur-in-Residence) at Alloy Ventures, a $1 billion venture capital firm. Aaron was CEO of LeaseExchange, an online equipment leasing marketplace - a company that tanked after the first dotcom bust.  He graduated from Stanford University, is an ex-Ironman triathlete and graduate of the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, activities that today he never has time for.

He will be live on July 13th starting at 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    6 months ago #

    Bonjour Aaron,

    Merci for doing this AMA.
    The opening ingredient in your framework towards hypergrowth is is about nailing a niche.
    Could you explain to us why this is so important and the consequences in later stages of growth?

    A bientot!

    • AR

      Aaron Ross

      4 months ago #

      Hi Arsene - yes, great question. This whole chapter in "From Impossible" came about from my and Jason's experience in seeing companies try to grow...and fail. Ones that said "we just need more leads, more funding, more marketing, more people - and we're going to grow!"... and they spent the money... and nothing happened. It's similar to product-market fit, but a little different...because "Nailing A Niche" applies to every product, every type of leadgen campaign, every new geography, every salesperson - "anytime someone is targeting a type of customer and writing messaging to appeal to that prospect" it applies.

      Because - whether you're the CEO, a VP Marketing or a salesperson - it's about that person knowing "do i know exactly who needs my stuff, what their pain is, and why should they care & believe me?"

      For example:
      - The obvious one: when a startup launches it's first product
      - When a company doing well with inbound, first starts doing outbound prospecting (this is where i've seen so many companies struggle - because it is different)
      - When a $20m company launches into a new country

      4 Share
    • AR

      Aaron Ross

      4 months ago #

      ps: if you haven't read the "Nail A Niche" chapter of 'From Impossible To Inevitable', you can get it free at www.FromImpossible.com

  • RN

    Rodrigo Noll

    4 months ago #

    Hey Aaron! Should I compensate differently "market response" and "outbound prospecting" SDRs? If so, how? Could you share some ideias on that topic?

    • AR

      Aaron Ross

      4 months ago #

      Hi Rodrigo, yes they are usually compensated differently.

      the three components usually are:
      1) base salary (enough for them to pay the bills)
      2) variable quota based on # of qualified opportunities generated per month / quarter
      3) variable quota based on how much revenue closes from the opportunities.

      how #2 and #3 are balanced can vary, but USUALLY it's 50% / 50%. \

      exceptions are when sales cycles are very short like 3-6 weeks (when 100% can be tied to revenue), or very long like 12+ months (when 100% is tied to qualified opptys).

      i have an article on quora that goes into more detail on outbound SDRs:
      https://www.quora.com/How-are-SDR-bonus-plans-typically-constructed

      re: inbound SDRS...
      there is much more variability to this role, because the number and quality of leads varies much more from company to company and even month to month than with outbound.

      but the structure is still usually the same.

      2 Share
      • RN

        Rodrigo Noll

        4 months ago #

        Thanks a lot Aaron! I´m gonna be in São Paulo for your HSM Master Class.

        I just got promoted to sales manager here at SBTUR Viagens and Predictable Revenue is definitely going to help me skyrocket our sales in the future.

        Also, I´m attending INBOUND, next september in Boston and RD Summit, in Florianópolis (where I live), next november. See you!

  • PM

    Pierre Martinow

    4 months ago #

    Thanks for taking the time to hold this AMA!
    I read all your books and I am a pretty fan of it!
    I know some of my questions are already answered in the content of your books, but I just wanna have your professional view on this particular case!

    I am working with a 35 years old, new york based, family business that is producing custom designed leather for the luxury furniture, fashion and interior design industry (they have a great customer portfolio). They want to increase sales since it dropped from $3,5mio (5 years ago) to $1mn yearly revenue now. - if you are interested, have a look at their website www.rainbowleather.com

    Large Scale orders (that's where the money is) come in from big architecture firms, big luxury furniture productions, shoe productions etc.

    They have one guy who is production manager and also handles the incoming sales requests and closing the deals.

    They engaged with me to help them with Sales.

    I started with gathering the historical data of all their system, linkedin contacts, messages to prepare for CRM import and build out their first CRM at all. But that will take a while.

    I also started with an outbound campaign to approach the top 100 Architecture firms and conversations are generally good, but to get orders in from that campaign it will take a while as well.
    Some other campaigns in the pipeline are cold customers, that didn't buy anymore since a while, but the team need to prepare the historical interaction history with that client.

    My question to you is, what would you recommend doing to gain some quick wins?

    And second question, how would you approach this project from the start on?
    Which questions would you ask, what would you look at, etc.?

    • AR

      Aaron Ross

      4 months ago #

      hi pierre - from looking at the site, here is the most probably problem is what's outlined in the "Part 1: Nail A Niche" in the From Impossible book, but let me summarize:

      - this business did 'well enough' for years through word of mouth. they did great work, and were lazy (i'm not saying this to be mean, don't have a better word) about learning how to market and sell it.

      - they were comfortable with what worked..and comfort is the enemy of growth

      - something changed in the market. you need to find out first why sales dropped. did a new competitor underprice them? did the material needs or fashion trends change? did their quality go down so no one wanted them again? was there a management change that screwed things up?

      - you won't know the best sales solution until you know what the problem is that caused this.

      - in the short term: talk to customers, talk to anyone in sales or who touched sales/marketing to get this information.

      - for quick wins: prior leads & current customers is the only thing i can think of for you...people who already know the brand, and so are much more likely to be able to say "yes we have something".

      - as for how long something takes: shit man, it usually takes months or years longer than they will want. all i do is take experience in helping past companies, and from that experience i know how to set expectations. that's where the "Part 5: Do The Time" came from in the www.FromImpossible.com book, on things taking 'years longer than you want'

    • PM

      Pierre Martinow

      4 months ago #

      also, what do you usually tell people to make them understand how long things will take until they show results?

      • PM

        Pierre Martinow

        4 months ago #

        as you know, some people who have no background in sales are very impatient. The second day, the production coordinator goes like: "Well, that sounds all very nice what you are saying, but we don't see any activity here, we need at least 5 - 6 new customers a day"
        How do you deal with these kind of situations?

  • CK

    Chul Kwon

    4 months ago #

    Hi Aaron,

    It would be my utmost honor to speak with you. I have begun applying your revenue lessons and strategies at my current company, with a great initial progress.

    I'm planning to start my own company soon, and I was wondering about the following:

    1.) How do you estimate the demand for a yet-to-be launched B2C products? I've thought about signing people up through landing pages, but I'm worried whether that's a good way to comprehensively measure my target audience's opinions. I wonder if that would introduce any biases.

    2.) If my product is B2B (such as universities), how should I gauge their interests (or sign them up) without having to go on demo with every single one of them?

    Thank you,

    Chul

    • AR

      Aaron Ross

      4 months ago #

      Hi Chul,

      Response 1:
      "How do you estimate the demand for a yet-to-be launched B2C products?" - I don't know any real ways besides finding some people who you think would be ideal customers/users, and asking them.

      The problem: if you're improving something that already exists, their feedback is useful.

      If you're creating something innovative, that they have to see before they 'get it', then they can't help you until after it's been built.

      Customers can tell you their pains and needs, but they almost never have useful ideas on what a real product or solution to fix them would be.

      This is where your own innovation, grit and persistence is required to go through the 1-3 years (or more) it can take to get an idea to the point of knowing whether or not it can work.

      Part 5 in "From Impossible" is about this journey... and the painful truth is, it takes years longer than you want.

    • AR

      Aaron Ross

      4 months ago #

      Response 2:

      "2.) If my product is B2B (such as universities), how should I gauge their interests (or sign them up) without having to go on demo with every single one of them?"

      Go interview 10-20 people who you think would be decision-makers or users at Universities. Start with 3 interviews, and learn from those to adjust who you interview next.

      You will be able to gauge interest this way, and learn what they need and are willing to pay for (or not).

      Part 1 of "From Impossible To Inevitable" goes into more detail, but these interviews are ignored by far too many companies.

  • CK

    Chul Kwon

    4 months ago #

    Some more questions if you don't mind :) These questions are related to my current company.

    1.) My company, where I manage our software products, has a sales team. Based on your advice, we have decided to focus on nets (our ARPA is ~$15k) and have begun inbound marketing initiatives. The question is ... what do we do with the sales team? Should the sales team focus on some spears? Or account management?

    2.) Do you have any book recommendations? My CEO and I would like our team to have a growth mindset and come up with ideas to help us grow.

    • AR

      Aaron Ross

      4 months ago #

      Hi Chul, until you have more inbound leads coming in, whoever in sales isn't busy closing should be busy prospecting!

      you need to divide the team into different roles:
      1) Outbound prospectors who ONLY prospect
      2) Salespeople closing new customers
      3) Salespeople / Customer Success / Account Management who work with customers who are signed up.

      have you read www.PredictableRevenue.com or www.FromImpossible.com? i would start there (start first with 'From Impossible', and they will also help you understand what to do with your sales team.

      other books: The Sales Acceleration Formula and Growth Hacker Marketing.

  • LP

    Laxman Papineni

    4 months ago #

    Whats the best incentive to keep your SDR's and Account executives motivated? If sales commission how to split between different people/teams worked on closing that particular deal?

    • AR

      Aaron Ross

      4 months ago #

      hi laxman - it's a never-ending challenge. the 'how to split' question is far too complicated to answer here, without details.

      better to over-compensate people than be cheap, to make sure they feel like they win when they help each other.

      try to keep it simple.

      you want to avoid it feeling like you are taking money from one salesperson to pay the other...that leads to a toxic culture.

      have written rules ahead of time you can use... but know that you will ALWAYS end up with special situations / exceptions to the rule you need to spend time on figure out.

      remember too it's much more than just money...

      1) the should see the value in their job both in making money, but are they still learning? people get bored when they aren't learning.

      2) they should like each other as a team, and want to help each other.

      3) you can shake things up week by week, month by month with new contests, new topics to learn about (such as an industry, customer, or product)

      4) you can move where people are sitting.

      5) keeping them motivated is also 50% their job...it's not all your responsibility. read "Part 7: Define Your Destiny" in www.FromImpossible.com...and have them read it too! (you can get it free on that site)

      3 Share
  • RN

    Rodrigo Noll

    4 months ago #

    What is THE most important skill a sales leader must have to "convert" a sales team from the old call center model to the intelligent Predictable Revenue model? My team is based in Florianópolis and 8 people take part in it.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    4 months ago #

    Hey Aaron - so cool to finally have you on!
    When growing a startup's sales team, what's the right time to hire someone with experience in the industry to manage sales? What triggers or metrics should we look at when making this decision?

    • AR

      Aaron Ross

      4 months ago #

      hi anuj, if your question was "when do we hire a VP Sales?", then jason lemkin would say 'after you have two salespeople hitting quota.' their job is to grow something that's already working - not make it work in the first lpace.

      otherwise, the sooner you can hire someone to be part of the founding team who knows sales in that space (and is entrepreneurial!), the better...from Day 1.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    4 months ago #

    Hey Aaron, really excited that you're doing this AMA with us. I'm curious about your thoughts on how to refine the pitch and demo for a new B2B product. Is it better for a salesperson to go in and give it their best shot and refine on the fly or better for a broader team to be more deliberate about it? I assume over time that teams begin to understand what works, but while you are trying to figure it out how much time should the CEO, sales and marketing execs spend processing information and planning out the pitch and demo together (if any time at all)? Thanks!

    • AR

      Aaron Ross

      4 months ago #

      hi sean, well "both"

      a capable (entrepreneurial) salesperson can refine on the fly... but then you need to have the conversation with the few other key people (ceo, head sales) on how to refine it and what's been working / not working.

      ex:
      - saleswoman pitches 3 prospects, and is refining on the fly in each one
      - then on a revenue/sales call, reviews what happened: assuming they were all "viable situations / good fits"... what 'clicked' to get someone excited? (sales is emotional) did anyone move forward - and why or why not? what objections came up? why is the other stuck? what else does the rep need to go and discover around objections/resistance/fit etc?

      - so the team refines the pitch and decides if other supporting materials (case studies, etc) need to be created

      - and this is iterative....you need to keep pitching and redoing this over and over.

      - the ceo should be involved until they don't feel like they need to be - it gets "good enough" and the team can take it from there

      - it takes as much time as it needs. ex: if this was a critical path issue for bringing revenue into the company, the ceo/team might spend several hours a week (each) on it...including attending sales meetings and conducting interviews himself/herself

      6 Share
  • JP

    John Phamvan

    4 months ago #

    1. What are the most important things to hire for with your first sales hires?

    2. How do you think about the initial structure of a SaaS demand gen/sales team? What does that atomic unit look like for building that group up?

  • GH

    Glen Harper

    4 months ago #

    Thank you for spending time with us today, Aaron.
    What Sales tools have you successfully relied upon/would recommend and have you found limitations to them as sales infrastructure increased? (E.g. are some better for SME's)

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    4 months ago #

    Hi Aaron
    Can you talk about tests you've run and/or strategies you've implemented that have led to increased enrollment in your courses over time?
    On a related note, are there any insights you can share from any pricing tests you've run?

  • TN

    Tri Nguyen

    4 months ago #

    1. How do you think about the value of sales beyond just selling products or services?
    2. How do you think about the relationship between marketing, product and sales in contributing to overall business growth?

  • MD

    Mark Anthony de Jesus

    4 months ago #

    I realize this is a general question, but in your opinion, what is the biggest roadblock you see for SaaS sales teams?

  • JF

    Javier Feldman

    4 months ago #

    What are your thoughts on using customer support as a channel for both sales and product feedbac?. Do you have any experience with workflows that work well for either turning customer support conversations into sales leads or using tickets as feedback loops to enhance products? Any success stories you think are worth sharing?

    • AR

      Aaron Ross

      4 months ago #

      hi javier - i don't have any specifics on worksflows, questions or ticket processes, but:

      1) yes it's a great idea and SHOULD be done if it makes sense for your business

      2) whether support people can 'sell' too depends on the people you have, your culture, tools and how complex a sale is. for b2b, usually support people fix problems, and sales are handled by specialists in that team or in customer success.

  • AR

    Aaron Ross

    4 months ago #

    Hi everyone - i'm live on the GrowthHackers AMA with me now... starting it up!

  • DO

    Danielle Olivas

    4 months ago #

    Hi Aaron,
    How do you recognize the difference between false opportunities and real leads?

    • AR

      Aaron Ross

      4 months ago #

      hi danielle: one word... "experience"

      there's no other way to do it other than talking with and seeing multiple 'real leads' and just as many 'false ones'... and learning how to best discern them as a person and team.

  • NS

    Nicole Schaller

    4 months ago #

    How to scale the organization and leadership in a high-growth company? Do you have approaches and experiences to share?

    • AR

      Aaron Ross

      4 months ago #

      hi nicole, and nice to meet you. well, there are a lot of great books out there on leadership/etc!

      the people and culture they create determine the future success of the company. here are three things i'd think about:

      0) you need some kind of joint vision that the company and team can rally behind. when things are moving and changing a lot, it helps people stay on track.

      1) a culture of 'dealing with hard issues headon'.... open communication, including and especially on uncomfortable topics. i know how easy it is to have a serious issue with a key partner, and avoid tackling it.

      2) keep hiring the best people you can... even if it means a current person needs to step aside or change titles.

      3) the faster you grow, the more problems you will have to solve. so growth is not 'an absence of issues' it's about 'accepting we have lots of things broken and working through them faster' - and having leaders who know how to delegate and empower their people. so: rethink ownership and decision-making: get "Part 6: Embrace Employee Ownership" free at www.FromImpossible.com (and read Part 7 too)

      ps: feel free to connect with me on www.linkedin.com/in/aaronross

      2 Share
  • AR

    Aaron Ross

    4 months ago #

    Hi everyone - thank you very much, and I enjoyed your questions! I won't be answering further questions here. Best of luck and happy growing!

    • AA

      Anuj Adhiya

      4 months ago #

      We really appreciate you spending this time with us Aaron - you left a lot for the community to chew on here. 🙌

  • AA

    Andrew Allsop

    4 months ago #

    Hello Aaron,

    Not a question but just saying: I implemented your predictable revenue methodology at a client recently and growth doubled. Not only has it given them complete clarity about where their leads are coming from, allowing us to make models that set our growth targets, but with some clever segmentation via CRM tagging we've been able to highlight close rates by different campaigns & initiatives and really focus on those that deliver quality leads. This means that whilst customer numbers doubled, and trebled in recent months, sales & marketing spend has remained relatively stable.

    So not a question - just a huge THANK YOU!

Join over 70,000 growth pros from companies like Uber, Pinterest & Twitter

Get Weekly Top Posts
High five! You’re in.
SHARE
82
82