Predictable Revenue — How to Create a Successful Sales System

No matter what your reason for reading this Predictable Revenue summary, you’re bound to walk away with a fresh perspective on sales and sales strategy. The book by Aaron Ross isn’t long, and it’s packed with information – if you haven’t already, we highly recommend reading it in full.

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Need a Quick Overview of Predictable Revenue?

In the outline below, you’ll find highlights on:

  • The difference between different types of leads (and why it matters)
  • What to do instead of cold calling
  • Prospecting best practices
  • Sales best practices
  • The Predictable Revenue 3 Hour and 15 Minute Sales Process
  • How to increase call effectiveness without call scripts
  • How to create your own sales machine
  • Why specialization always wins
  • How to cultivate team talent
  • How to create alignment within your sales and leadership teams

Whether you don’t have time to read the book, or just need a quick refresher, this predictable revenue summary covers the key concepts you need to know to create your own successful sales system.

Know the Difference Between Seeds, Nets, and Spears

Before attempting to build your own sales machine capable of generating predictable revenue, it’s important to understand the different types of leads coming into your business. Leads fall into three categories: Seeds, Nets, and Spears.

Seeds are the most profitable type of lead, but they require a long-term approach and commitment. Seeds are created by developing happy customers and user groups, publishing helpful content online and on social media, boosting organic internet searches, and optimizing for SEO. All of these elements take time to cultivate, but once they’re in place you’ll enjoy a steady stream of word-of-mouth referrals and positive PR.

Nets generate leads through a one-size-fits-all, cast-it-out-and-see-what-you-catch approach. This style of lead generation is typically used by traditional marketing, including email campaigns, pay-per-click advertising, traditional advertising, and conferences. Nets can generate leads faster, but they still take time and don’t always generate predictable results.

Spears involve highly targeted outbound efforts, and a dedicated amount of human effort and interaction. Because of their time-intensive approach, it’s important to clearly define exactly what makes a lead a good fit. Otherwise, you may waste significant time “hunting” leads that won’t benefit from your offering after all.

The Better Alternative to Traditional Cold Calling

Traditional cold calling techniques involved dialing your way through poorly targeted lists, essentially rolling the dice over and over hoping to increase your odds of finding a good fit. Cold Calling 2.0 improves this process by leveraging technology to create highly targeted lists, using multichannel outreach to create a connection, and cultivating warm leads before you ever pick up the phone.

HOW TO IMPLEMENT COLD CALLING 2.0

Create Highly Targeted Prospect Lists. Using Ideal Customer Profiles, define the qualities and characteristics that make up the top 5-10% of your customer base, meaning the ones who are most likely to purchase at the highest revenue. Then create highly targeted lists of prospects whose companies match the qualities in your Ideal Customer Profile.

Overcome the Biggest Obstacle to Prospecting

The biggest obstacle in prospecting isn’t getting to the decision maker, it’s figuring out who they are in the first place. To overcome this, call low in the company to get information, and email high in the company to ask for a referral to the best person to contact. A referral from above will open the doors to the right person, who is often already expecting your call.

Run Highly Effective Outbound Email Campaigns

Instead of sending mass emails hundreds at a time, have each rep send 50-100 emails per day, a few days each week, to the prospects on your highly targeted list. The goal of these rolling campaigns is to generate 5-10 new responses per day, enough for a rep to handle without dropping the ball.

Emails should be:

  • Text based (not fancy HTML)
  • Brief and easily readable on a mobile device
  • Simple, friendly, and to the point
  • Ask just one easy to answer question

In short, create an email that looks like a quick note from a friend, not a lengthy sales pitch.

Sell the Dream, Not the Solution

Selling the dream, in this case, means to help the prospect create a vision of a dream solution for whatever problem or challenge they are facing, and then to connect your product or service to their key business issues as part of their dream solution.

Ask open-ended questions about your prospect’s business and challenges. Avoid becoming too eager until you’re certain there’s a mutual fit. Until then, your biggest challenge is to stay focused on the prospect’s business and not your own product or service.

Cold Calling 2.0 is best for:
  • Companies who can have at least one person fully dedicated to prospecting, and:
  • A sales automation system/CRM
  • Prospects who use email
  • A proven product or service that has generated revenue
  • Customer lifetime values of $10,000 or more

Will Cold Calling 2.0 work for companies with lower customer lifetime values or those without a dedicated prospecting team? It will, but it may not be as profitable as it will be for companies who are a better fit.

COLD CALLING 2.0 STEPS

Clarify Your Ideal Customer Profile

Define three to five key criteria that define your ideal customer, any red flags to watch out for, the type of ideal contact within that organization, and their core challenges.

Build Your Prospect List

You can DIY lead generation, but it’s better to use a hyper-targeted list creator like LeadFuze and other lead gen platforms to quickly generate lists that match your ideal customer profile.

Run Outbound Email Campaigns

Send 50-100 targeted mass emails a day. Use these emails to generate referrals to the right person in the company, then follow up on the referrals and responses with phone calls. Emails should be plain text, to the point, and ask just one simple question (for a referral).

Sell the Dream

The goal of selling the dream is not to “sell” them on your product or service. Instead, you want to help your prospect visualize a dream solution that will solve their problem, and then help them to connect your product to their issue as part of the solution.

Pass the Baton

Establish what exactly makes a lead qualified, then create and use a clearly defined process to hand off to the Account Executive who will then re-qualify and (ideally) close the prospect.

Ultimately, Cold Calling 2.0 is successful when sales reps use these systems consistently and focus their attention on actions that generate results.

Prospecting Best Practices

Intentionally design your day for success. To maintain enthusiasm, make sure to take a break every 90 minutes, take a full lunch break, and commit to stopping work at a set time every day.

Use these tactics to avoid common prospecting mistakes:

  • Make sure your expectations are realistic. Even short sales cycles can take upwards of two to four weeks.
  • Keep your emails bite-sized and honest, and only ask one question per message. Writing long, overly detailed emails, and/or using gimmicky sales tactics will only hurt you in the long run.
  • Send emails before 9am and after 5pm, and avoid sending on Fridays and Mondays.
  • Go deep instead of wide. Consistent effort with targeted accounts is going to be the best use of your time.
  • Don’t give up too quickly on targets that are a good fit.
  • Don’t linger too long with non-ideal targets that aren’t a good fit.
  • Make sure you’re tracking the right metrics. Don’t just throw activity at a goal; measure actions that are proven to get results.
  • Call low to learn about the company.
  • Email high to get referred down to the right person.
  • Remember you’re a non-threatening researcher, not an insensitive, pushy salesperson.

Carve out time each week for activities that are important but not urgent. Like eating right and exercising, if you don’t make time for something it won’t happen. Don’t fall into the trap of being so busy that you don’t get anything done.

Sales Best Practices

Sales used to be all about promotion, and involved controlling and manipulating prospects just to get a sale. The actual product didn’t matter. But the advent of the internet changed sales forever, putting power in the hands of the buyers.

Great companies and salespeople have recognized this change and switched to using attraction instead. Instead of pushing people toward a sale, attraction is a much gentler and respectful process that is focused on adding real value to the prospect before, during, and long after the sale. This creates long-term relationships, referrals, and goodwill and trust toward you and your company as a whole.

Instead of obsessing about closing, become passionate about helping your customers succeed. Selling with your prospects’ success in mind will help you pull them through a buying journey rather than push them through a sales cycle.

You’ll also want to focus on the decision-making process, rather than putting too much emphasis on the decision maker.

You can do this by asking questions like:

  • How have you evaluated similar products or services?
  • Who is involved in making this decision?
  • What are the most important factors in the purchase decision?

Don’t hold back on building a relationship with the decision maker, just keep your questions focused on learning the process and gathering information rather than instantly closing the deal.

The Predictable Revenue 3 Hour and 15 Minute Sales Process

The Predictable Revenue 3 Hour and 15 Minute Sales Process is based on answering three simple questions to determine fit and the prospect’s willingness and ability to move forward.

In a nutshell, the process looks like this:

STEP ONE: (15 MINUTES)

Connect with the prospect in a quick, 15 minute call. This is the time to ask targeted questions that will answer the question “Is this a waste of time?” If the answer is no, move on to Step Two.

STEP TWO: (ONE HOUR)

Schedule a one hour discovery call with one or two of the prospect’s point people. The purpose of this call is to determine “Is there a fit?” If the answer is no, the process stops here. If the answer is yes, move on.

STEP THREE: (TWO HOURS)

Set up an in-depth, two hour working session to answer the question “Should we work together?” Work together with the client to create a clearly defined and compelling vision that will pull them forward through the buying journey.

The 3 Hour and 15 Minute Sales Process is effective, because by eliminating poor fit prospects at the beginning of the sales process, you’ll be saving time for the prospects most likely to buy overall.

How to Increase Call Effectiveness Without Scripts

Call Scripts have been the gold standard for cold calling, and they have their place, but people are becoming increasingly attuned to canned questions. To address this, use call planning and call flows to increase the effectiveness of your calls without using call scripts.

CALL PLANNING

Consider using the AAA Call Planning technique. This involves making a quick list prior to a call that defines the answers you want to learn, the attitudes you want your prospects to feel, and the desired actions that should occur after the call.

CALL FLOWS

Ideally, you should take a research based approach with prospects, using the first half of the call to learn about their business and needs, and the second half of the call to position your service and value specifically as it relates to their business challenges and needs.

HOW TO LEAVE VOICEMAILS THAT GET RESULTS

Avoid being overly businesslike when leaving voicemail messages. Be warm and sincere, like you would talk to a family member or friend. Speak slowly and clearly, state your full name and phone number at the beginning and end of the message, and give them a clear and compelling reason to return your call. Voicemail is particularly effective when used in combination with email.

How to Create Your Own Sales Machine

A sales machine that generates consistent, predictable revenue involves three key parts: predictable lead generation, a specialized sales development team, and consistent sales systems (because without consistency, predictability is impossible).

9 BUILDING BLOCKS FOR CREATING YOUR OWN SALES MACHINE

  1. Patience. Creating predictable revenue can take a year or more. Keeping this in mind will help you avoid the temptation to throw in the towel before you experience measurable results.
  2. Experimentation. While there are many solid principles you can use to improve your sales results, the reality is that your business is unique. The best way to overcome this is to experiment, use A/B testing, and try different methods evenly across your prospect list and then measure the results.
  3. Prioritize repeatable projects. One-off projects can be tempting, but repeatable processes are where you’ll find predictable results.
  4. Use a CRM. Create a company-wide standard that if it’s not in the CRM, it doesn’t count. Spreadsheets just don’t cut it when it comes to the automation and reporting capabilities of even the most basic full-featured CRM.
  5. Visualize your process. If your sales process has too many steps to be sketched out on a piece of paper or whiteboard, it’s just too complicated. Simplify your process to three to seven high-level steps that answer the following questions: What is the desired outcome? What does the process have to look like to lead to this outcome? How are we already using the process today?
  6. Focus on results. Tracking activity feels good, but activity alone won’t get you where you need to go. Instead, focus on tracking the right activities that directly lead to your desired results.
  7. Track the right metrics. Avoid the temptation to over-build results and dashboards, as this makes it difficult to focus on what really matters. Work with your team to prioritize the metrics that will lead to measurable results.
  8. Pay attention to the handoffs. Problems or issues in the sales process pop up most often in the transitions between teams, so pay attention to the passing of batons within your sales process. Evaluate and redesign how these handoffs occur to minimize friction and reduce the chance of issues and balls being dropped.
  9. Prioritize small improvements. While it’s tempting to make sweeping changes, it’s baby steps taken over time that add up to the biggest results.

Remember, creating a predictable revenue sales machine takes time. Keep your expectations realistic, and give your company the room it needs to grow.

THE MOST IMPORTANT METRICS TO TRACK EACH MONTH FOR EFFECTIVE LEAD GENERATION AND SALES DEVELOPMENT

  • Number of new leads created
  • Number of qualified sales opportunities created
  • Total dollar amount of new qualified pipeline generated
  • Conversion rate percentage of leads to qualified opportunities
  • Total business or revenue, split into new business, add-on business, and renewals
  • Win rates

Tracking the right metrics will give you the data you need to adjust systems and processes over time, fine-tuning them for long-term success.

Specialization Always Wins

Specialization is key to creating predictable revenue within your company. While it might be tempting to lump lead generation, qualification, prospecting, closing, and account management into one general “sales” role, this blending of responsibilities is a huge productivity killer.

When you generalize sales responsibilities, you also run the risk of:

  • Distracted and disorganized sales reps who are spending their time on low-value tasks
  • Less opportunity to grow and develop talent
  • Unclear reporting and messy metrics
  • Lowered visibility into problems and their solutions

Specialization allows each member of the team to do their job with laser sharp focus and less task switching, improving their efficiency and effectiveness.

FOUR CORE SALES FUNCTIONS

There are four core sales functions in any sales team:

  1. Inbound lead qualifications: Qualifying leads from inbound web and phone leads.
  2. Outbound prospecting: Dedicated to proactive business development through developing lists of prospects into highly targeted leads.
  3. Account executives: Quota-carrying reps who close deals.
  4. Account management/Customer success: Dedicated to making sure customers stay successful after the sale.

In many companies, this division of responsibilities includes a Market Response Representative who qualifies inbound leads, a Sales Development Representative (or Business Development Representative) who is responsible for prospecting and qualifying targeted leads, an Account Executive who works the active sales cycle and closes leads, and a Customer Services Representative or Account Manager who nurtures customer relationships after the sale.

As your company grows, these core functions will likely become even more specialized, but they shouldn’t ever become less specialized. If you need to have one person take on more than one sales function, ensure that they’re batching responsibilities and setting aside dedicated time to work each “role.”

WHEN AND WHERE AN ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE SHOULD PROSPECT

It’s important to focus your highest value people on the highest value work. That’s why Account Executives should focus primarily on closing. When they do prospect, it’s best to focus on existing customers and a short, targeted list of vital accounts and channel partners.

When accepting leads from the qualifying team, the Account Executive should re-qualify the lead through a demo or discovery call before accepting it into their own pipeline.

THREE TYPES OF SALES PROFESSIONALS: QUALIFIERS, CLOSERS, AND FARMERS

The four core sales functions can be further divided into three types of sales professionals: Qualifiers, Closers, and Farmers.

As the name suggests, Qualifiers (like the Market Response and Sales Development Representatives listed above) are responsible for qualifying leads early in the sales process.

Closers (Account Executives) take these qualified leads through the active sales cycle, focusing their efforts on nurturing and closing deals. In general, a Sales Development Representative can support two to five quota-carrying Account Executives. In higher-value sales, a 2:1 or even 1:1 ratio of Sales Development Reps to Account Executives can still be VERY profitable.

While often overlooked, Farmers (Account Managers and Customer Service Reps) are also an essential part of the sales process. Ensuring customer success and satisfaction is crucial to creating happy customers who then generate referrals, renewals, and repeat business.

Cultivating Sales Team Talent

Great sales teams don’t happen automatically. Finding great salespeople is one thing, but keeping them engaged and productive is even more challenging. Focus on creating a great company culture that empowers your employees to learn and grow step by step.

HOW TO FIND AND HIRE GREAT SALES TALENT

It can be really challenging to find great sales talent, so often the best course of action is to grow them yourself. Your team should be made up of one part experienced veterans, and three parts young, smart, and adaptable new hires. The best salespeople are the ones who have grown up in your company culture and know your product, prospects, and priorities from the inside out.

Hire people who:

  • Are problem-solvers
  • Listen more than they talk
  • Know how to get things done
  • Understand the challenges and needs of customers in your industry
  • Believe in your product and company
  • Demonstrate personal and professional integrity

As you build your sales teams, be intentional about creating a defined career path so that each member of your team has space and incentive to develop personally and professionally. This will create happy employees, which will result in happy customers and more predictable revenue.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR SALES TEAM IN TOP SHAPE

Invest in your people, especially new hires, with consistent and cohesive training and coaching. For any program to work, your management team needs to be fully committed to consistency and follow through. If your management isn’t committed, your sales team won’t be committed either.

Effective sales training should include:

  • New hire training, including a sales boot camp
  • Internal training embedded into the career path
  • Regular role-playing
  • Self-managed internal training with leadership rotating through each member of your sales team

Implementing regular, consistent training with your sales team is one of the best ways to guarantee long-term success.

Create Sales Team Alignment with Leadership & Management

One of the most common issues for sales teams is misalignment. This can be corrected by careful hiring, training, and ongoing coaching and review.

BECOME A GREAT MANAGER

  1. Hire carefully. Hire for talent and adaptability rather than experience.
  2. Set expectations. Define roles based on desired results, not activities.
  3. Remove obstacles. Prioritize simplicity and clarity to improve productivity.
  4. Inspire your team. Understand what helps each member of your team find their own reasons to excel and achieve their full potential.
  5. Create room for growth. Work for your team by treating mistakes as learning and coaching opportunities, and by being intentional in creating room for career growth.
  6. Review and improve. Make a point to regularly review the previous five steps to look for ways you can improve and change as your company grows.

Being intentional about creating alignment within your sales teams will lead to improved productivity and predictable results.

UNDERSTAND WHAT IT TAKES TO SHIFT FROM ORGANIC TO PROACTIVE GROWTH

While organic growth is based on existing relationships and organic internet marketing, proactive growth involves investing time and resources into new systems, programs, and practices. It takes time, both from trial and error and from the delays and frustrations caused by learning and doing new things.

Understand that shifting from organic to proactive growth is an essential part of creating predictable revenue, but it’s also a process – it’s going to take time, energy, and discomfort. In order to be successful, you need to stay committed, persistent, and patient as you go through the hot coals of transition, whether it takes months or even years.

Predictable Revenue Summary

Creating your own predictable revenue sales machine starts with defining specialized roles and responsibilities within your sales team. Using prospecting and sales best practices, you’ll determine your ideal customer profile and use this to create highly targeted prospect lists. Your dedicated prospecting team of Sales Development Reps will reach out to these prospects using a combination of mass email campaigns using short, friendly emails, and phone outreach using call plans, call flows, and voicemails that get results.

Once leads have been qualified by the prospecting team, they’ll be transferred to an Account Executive whose time is dedicated to nurturing and closing high-value accounts. Eventually, your Account Manager/Customer Service Team will continue to farm these accounts, cultivating happy customers who then generate return and renewal business, along with referrals, reviews, and positive PR.

To ensure your employees are engaged and equipped, you’ll prioritize frequent and consistent training, with clearly defined career paths and room for growth. As you add new members to your sales team, you’ll look for talented and adaptable individuals who are hungry to learn and tackle new challenges. As your sales team grows, you’ll always look for ways to specialize to reduce distractions and optimize your reps’ productivity and performance.

Conclusion

While we’ve packed as much information as possible into this overview of predictable revenue, we’ve only scratched the surface of the book as a whole. As mentioned before, we highly recommend reading Predictable Revenue for yourself – in fact, we frequently recommend Predictable Revenue to our clients.

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