I like Aaron Ross. I've learned a ton from him. Plus, he's adopted a couple of kids, which my wife and I have also done.
I recently re-read his book Predictable Revenue and learned something new again. While that book is a little outdated even though it was published just a few years ago, there's still a ton of great stuff in there that helps me better understand my demand generation and, in general, growth engines.
My purpose for re-reading Predictable Revenue again was to better understand his perspective on inbound versus outbound lead generation. This question isn't a trivial one. And, in light of the emergence of inbound lead generation as the primary strategic growth approach of most companies these days, I was curious about lead dispositioning within an organization that does both inbound and outbound.
I didn't find an answer to my questions from reading Predictable Revenue. So, I went ahead and tweeted Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin, his co-author for the upcoming updated version of Predictable Revenue.
Pete Abilla: Regarding lead velocity rate (LVR), we use MQL > SQL > SAL > Opportunity. Which one of these do you suggest we track as lead velocity rate?
Jason Lemkin: It really doesn't matter as long as you're consistent. But, I'd go as high in the marketing funnel as possible for lead velocity rate (LVR).
Aaron Ross: Well, MQL is only for inbound, not outbound. So, I'd use SQL or SAL. I think you have 1 too many stages in your marketing funnel.
This helps a ton. Not only does this clarify my thinking around inbound and outbound leads, but it also supports my hunch about having too many levels in our marketing funnel.
For those struggling through the same business questions, what are your thoughts?
Oh, below is a great transcript from a webinar that Aaron Ross did recently - it's a long read, but there's some good nuggets there for the experienced demandgen person as well as for demandgen newbies.
Aaron Ross Grow Predictable Revenue
Announcer: The next speaker is Aaron Ross. Aaron is the number one best selling author of "Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into A Sales Machine With The $100 Million Best Practices Of Salesforce.com". Called by ink.com the sales bible of Silicon Valley. Aaron worked at salesforce.com where he created a cold calling 2.0 system that helped increase salesforce.com's revenues by $100 million. Aaron graduated from Stanford University, is married and keeps his work to 25 hours a week, lucky man. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mr. Aaron Ross.
Aaron Ross: Hey it's Aaron Ross, and I'm here to talk to you today about how CEOs break revenue plateaus. Now if you haven't heard of me, I'm the author of this best selling book called "Predictable Revenue". It's been a national best seller for a few years now and called by many the sales bible of Silicon Valley. Now, a bunch of the book was based on my experience from salesforce.com when I worked there. I helped them create a $100 million outbound sales program. And after I left salesforce, I helped many other companies do similar things. I have six kids today and we're actually expecting another three, actually this time through adoption this year. So yeah, we could be at nine kids this year which is just a bit funny to say. And another fun fact is I've kept this sort of 25 to 30 hour work week for several years now even though I do need to work that $100 million wasn't mine, it's salesforce's. But I find if I work more than that I guess I just sort of lose some of the breakthrough ideas I feel I get when I work less. Anyway, we love kids, I love kids, and you'll see how that's related to this breaking through a plateau. Lots of kids. Lots of kids. And I like to bring them into my work when I can. I find it's fun for them and fun for me.
So everybody plateaus. So getting to the point of today, we all get into a rut in some way whether it's through body weight, love, or money. Now I broke though a big plateau because about five years ago I was single. I didn't make a lot of, well I mean I made say between 50 to 100 thousand dollars a year because that's all I really needed, didn't have many expenses, but then I got married and I had a lot of kids and I needed to make a lot more money so I focused and I grew my income 10 times. Although my expenses grew about that or maybe more, but the point is, I broke through a plateau and I've seen also with clients I've worked with, these B to B companies, is something similar. Sometimes they've got something, they want to grow, sometimes they do in a big way, 10 times, $100 million plus, sometimes they flounder. What's the difference?
Well I've got some painful truths to share with you. And this first one is it's not them, it's you, like for real. I know in romance novels or T.V. they'll say 'it's not you it's me' but it actually really is. So if you're at a company and you find that your sales churn or the number of sales people leaving per year, whether they're fired or whether they quit, is more than 10% of the team, so if you lose more than 10 out of 100 per year; or you're regularly missing your goals in some way, it's probably not them. It's probably not the sales people's fault, we like to blame them. It's the system that's the problem, not the people. So first we want to look at what's the system, what's wrong with that.
Second painful truth is that without drowning, you're probably not gonna hit escape velocity. Now we're creatures of habit as humans, which also means that companies are creatures of habit because, you know, we're groups of humans. And comfort is the enemy of growth because growth requires change. If you need more growth it means you need to do something different but change is work. Change requires motivation. And drastic change requires drastic motivation. So again, I had a drastic change when I got married and had lots of kids, it was a big motivator. So yeah, at the point when you want something, whether it's that extra money or maybe it is to get married or whatever it is that you want as badly as a drowning person wants air, that's when you might have the level of motivation you need to have that, let's call it success. It's a little bit of a joke there cause my nickname is Air. But so what's really gonna drive you? What's going to motivate you? Because again, if you want big growth, it requires big challenges and if you don't have that kind of escape velocity motivation to power you through the challenges, you're going to fall back into your old habits. You're going to go back into that rut. There's some of these, a lot of bloggers who believe that you need to be passionate and find your passion and, which I agree with. But in reality I don't think it really matters whether you found a passion to pull you forward, or you're just ambitious, you find some sort of pain to push you forward. Either way, as long as that total energy is there to drive the change, it should work. As part of this, you need to learn how to embrace uncertainty because you don't know what's going to happen, you don't know what's going to affect that, break you our of the rut but you just need to go for it. And use this challenge to motivate you, not to avoid change. It's okay just to leap into the uncertain, but you've got to do something that's different.
Here's the third painful truth. Build it and they'll come is a fairy tale. Now lead generation is your big lever. Even with a perfect product or sales process, you'll struggle without leads. But if you have great leads, or a great way to generate them, you can get pretty much everything else wrong and you'll still do well. And the important thing is there's three types of leads. Now I said build it and they'll come is a fairy tale, so of course in a fairy tale we need a princess, or three. And like the three types of leads at our house we've got three types of princesses. They all have their pros and cons, which I won't get into here but they're all different. All great, but for different reasons. We've got the young girl princess, Cinderella. We've got the grandpa princess, and we've got the little brother princess. Now I will say be very careful when your 12 year-old has too much free time, access to makeup and to princess clothes because you never know what's going to happen to your other, your little kids around the house. Similarly, the three types of leads are all great but just for different reasons. There's word of mouth or seeds, so many-to-many, always the best kind but they're hard to grow. Then there's nets, marketing, so one-to-many. Incredible way to get more coverage but you should get lots of leads but of less quality. And then spears, outbound prospecting, which are one-to-one. When you've got a person and they've got a list and they're going after that list with usually through e-mailing or calling. So they're all great ways to generate leads, but they're all different. And the important thing is knowing which one is the best fit for your business, or what's the right mix for your particular business.
So a little bit about seeds. It's about turning your funnel into an hour glass. Investing in, I would say customer success is the main way to proactively grow word of mouth. And treating that as an expense but as a revenue investment, as a growth investment.
With nets, this is a classic marketing funnel, the difference between these three types of leads is they each have different funnels, different conversion rates, different deal sizes often, and different kinds of expectations. So again, pros and cons for each.
And then there's outbound prospecting, which is sort of our specialty at Predictable Revenue Inc. And this is I would say a classic outbound prospecting funnel where you're building a targeted list, and you're sending a certain number of e-mails, and making a certain number of calls per month, expecting a certain number of appointments and then deals to come from this. Which can be a very predictable way to generate qualified leads, which thus means a very predictable way to generate revenue. And in fact, if you want details, there's a lot of details on these three types of leads which I can't get into now in this free, it's a free e-book at predictablerevenue.com/triple. If you already have an outbound team, and you want some of the best apps, or you want to look at some of the best apps out there, there's something called a predictable revenue bundle which you've got including our own internal software at Predictable Revenue called CARB.IO, and that's at predictablerevenuebundle.com.
But let's move on to this last painful truth, that you're fooling yourself. Now hope belongs in movies, not business. Optimism is essential, you can't live without it. But, hope kills. To me, hope implies that you're releasing responsibility to the universe, that I hope something happens. And what we want is no surprises. We don't want to rely on hope. This is why I say hope can kill. Now what's great about a lot of opportunities? Like you have this list and it could be sales opportunities, fundraising opportunities, like it's great because you feel like well I got a lot of opportunity and I feel momentum, I'm adding to it and it might actually help me beat my goals because I've got a lot going on. But, there's a downside. This is usually what happens to people's opportunity list which is just total disorganized clutter. And the downside of what's wrong with lots of opportunities is the fact that you can be busy, and it feels productive, but it may not be. And it makes it easier to avoid reality, the fact that it's not working. And again if you're working with different people, if you're spreading yourself too thin, people are going to get worse service from you. All right, so there is a downside to that. So this is another reason to specialize or focus your people, all right so prospectors prospect, closers close, and so on. Which is still the number one thing to do because when people have fewer things to be responsible for, it's easier to keep their opportunity list clean and to stay focused on it. And if you're not sure how to specialize your team, and if you Google sales people shouldn't prospect, there will be an article or articles that come up that kind of walk you through these different roles. But this is the number one thing to do that will make your sales team more effective.
Because it's tough. The challenge is brutal honesty can be hard to do. Because when you're talking to a prospect, how often do you actually hear a clear no? You'll hear yes, or later, or maybe, let me get back to you, or send me some information, but rarely do they say no. And it's hard for them because, as people, we want approval. And we don't like to be rejected and we don't like to reject others. It's also sometimes we just don't want to admit that we don't know. And lastly, if we are honest, maybe we'll experience rejection. So practice getting to the difficult truths. That is the core here, that means that when you know exactly what's not working, gives you the ability to know exactly what to do to break that rut. So your job is to find out the truth or why something's not working and then help them move on or out. I guess it could apply again to romance, but if they're not interested, and this could apply to fundraising, prospects, anything, then why aren't they interested now? If you can find out why, because maybe it's not a fit, maybe they don't see the value, maybe it's not the right time, there could be a lot of reasons. Then you can find out what you need to do next. And in order to get to this truth, we want to make it easier for people, for us and for them. So we want to try to remove any kind of guilt in the process, we want to make honesty easier by giving people easy outs. In terms of asking hard questions, we want to do it in friendly ways. We don't want to avoid hard questions but we don't need to be, ask them in challenging ways that make people defensive. We want to be cooperative and curious with them so we can sort of get to the truth together.
Let me give you some examples. Here's challenging versus cooperative. Challenging would be "Hey, do you have your CEO's buy-in yet?" A little more cooperative would be, "What has to happen to wrap things up by month-end?" Challenging again, "Hey, is this a priority?" Try a little more curious, "What else is more important now?" Or "Hey, on a scale of one to 10, how important is it to get it done by a certain date?" Now you can actually use this with a spouse as well. For example, "Why aren't we having kids or adopting?" That's a little more challenging than "Hey, what concerns you have about adopting or having kids?" Or maybe, "On a scale of one to 10, how important is it to have kids or adopt?" All right, we're working together, we're not at odds. And our last example, you know challenging, "Who's the decision maker?" A little more investigative would be, "Who else is typically involved in deciding something like this?"
So I mentioned easy outs. All right you want to give them a friendly challenge to make it easier for them to say that they're not interested, we also call them break up e-mails if it's over e-mail. But you could say something like, "Hey I'll assume it's not a good time or it's not a good fit or of interest, etc. unless I hear otherwise." And you get a high response rate with this because you'll see people say, "Oh yeah, it's not a fit" because we make it easy for them to be honest about the no. Now I would not use these with your spouse, not a good idea over e-mail. So the point is, when you can start to see the truth, especially the painful truth that we're uncomfortable talking about as delicious, as tasty, it makes it easier because when we can get to it, whether this is in love or business, it means we know one way or the other are they in or out. We move out of denial and find out and see clearly what's next in order to get to the next level to move on versus being unsure, unclear.
So, to wrap up use your challenge to power the change, not avoid it, embrace it, embrace the uncertainty. Number two, with seeds, nets and spears, which one's best for you, or what's the right mix. Some work for some companies better than others. Specialize your people or time. Prospectors prospect, closers close. And the last one, practice getting to the painfully important truth. Don't dodge the hard questions, whether that's with yourself, with your team, with prospects. So if you have questions, here's how you get a hold of us. That free e-book on seeds, nets, and spears is at predictablerevenue.com/triple. And the outbound apps and some training course and so on, predictablerevenuebundle.com. And I'm Aaron Ross and I just want to thank you very much, and have a great. . .