Predictable Revenue – Aaron Ross

Most people do not want to be sold. They want to ensure they make an informed decision. A bad sale can cost a brand a lot. Predictable Revenue, by Aaron Ross, is a good book for you to understand the sales process today. I have read this book earlier. However, we wanted to refine our sales process at DCKAP and decided to read it again. One thing I realized when you read a book, the second time, – it is faster and also you understand better.

In order for you to generate predictable revenue, you need to have predictable leads. Aaron recounts his days at Salesforce on how he built a strong opportunity generation team. The differences between the Sales Development Representative and Account Executive is clearly explained. Most companies have these roles combined into one. Aaron says it is not a good idea. In startups, it is hard and you will have to wear multiple hats. However, in order for you to scale, you need to have these processes in place.

Who is a Sales Development Representative (SDR)? SDR is someone who generates opportunities for the Account Executive to close. SDR’s are measured by the number of opportunities they create. One SDR can be responsible to generate opportunities for 2-3 Account Executives.  They need to generate at least 10 opportunities a month.

Who is an Account Executive (AE)? Account Executive (AE) is someone who is a quota carrying executive. They should not spend their time prospecting for new opportunities (net new cold leads). There will be overlaps between  SDR and AE role. Account Executives need to qualify the opportunity generated by SDR. If there are targetted accounts, it is ok for Account Executives to prospect.

Did I catch you at a bad time?  This is a great question, to begin with when someone is not expecting your call.

Never take No for an answer until it comes from a decision maker: As salespeople, we often make this mistake. You need to be talking to the decision maker and hear it from them. (They usually also tell you why they are not interested). Recently, we did an email campaign for a user group event. One prospect had looked at our email a few times. I contacted her and she said she was not interested in our products/services. A nice no and I moved the lead to recycled. However, at the user group meeting, I happened to sit next to one of the owners of that company. We had a simple marketing material at each table. He had looked at it and he initiated a conversation with me. This became a great opportunity. A very good learning and it reinforced what Aaron said in his book.

Go higher up, Ask for referrals: Going higher up in the organization chart, asking for referrals to the people reporting to them or even two layers down work well. When you use names genuinely, people respond. I met a CEO at a conference, called him post the event and he passed on a contact in his company who is responsible for evaluating e-commerce solutions and asked me to work with her. Since the request came from her boss, she responded well.  However, later she went cold when we wanted to set up a demo. It was very hard. I thought this could be a great opportunity. I sent her many emails, called multiple times, however she would not respond. I called the CEO again and explained about the situation and also articulated more on why our solution was better. He said they were still actively looking for a good e-commerce solution. He was glad I called and asked me to send all the notes to his subordinate again and copy him on it. I did exactly as he said. The CEO’s sub-ordinate responded right away and this opportunity got back on track.

Ideal Customer Profile, Ideal Partner Profile, Giving out proposals (If you are not winning 50% of the proposals you are sending, you are being too easy), decision-making process (come up with a template to set expectations), probing with good questions (do not be shy to probe) to identify if the lead is a good fit or not,market response representative (for every 400 leads/month, you need a market response representative), spending at least 25% of your time with the customer, CEO’s understanding the lead generation process are other things Aaron talks about in his book.

How Google Works – Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

How Google Works is another great book from Silicon Valley. Many Technology Business bestsellers tend to originate from Silicon Valley.  Thanks, Eric and Jonathan for offering insights on Google. I think the intent of writing this book is also to help people at Google. (A great orientation guide). You both have been very generous investing your time writing this book. At DCKAP, I have recommended everyone to read How Google Works. It helps in transparency and also to build on our skills. Here are notes I took from the book.

How Google Works

How Google Works

 

Technical Insights: When you work on a product, you need to know what the technical differentiator is. A new product should be driven by Technical Insights. Why are we building this product? What is the technical insight? Is it me too product or is the product direction driven by strong technical insights?

Technical Leaders: Product differentiation is the new way to sell. What product features aid selling? Is sales a seamless process? One thing which was fascinating was to understand technology selling. Technical people are the superstars. Products at Google are run by people with a strong technical background. Sundar Pichai ascending to be the CEO of Google is a great example of this. He is a technology leader. The ones running the company should be product people.  Scaling should be a key part of your strategy.

Hiring: Eric and Jonathan offer a hiring guide and they dedicate a chapter on this book. What is the most important thing you do at work? – ‘Hiring’.  I highly recommend every Human Resource professional to read this chapter on Hiring and also the entire book. Majority of your workforce should be engineers. Invest in technical talent. Post-reading this book, we created our own hiring guide for DCKAP. Hiring learning animals is the key. Hire people for what they don’t know and not for what they already know. Are they curious? Don’t hire just based on their ability to code on a particular language. What books are you reading right now? Can I see your phone (to know what apps one is using? Hiring is a group decision and not an individual call (as the person being hired can work on any team). ‘Pay outrageously smart people, outrageously well’ – quote from the book.

Smart Creatives: This word is used extensively across the book. A Smart creative has a deep technical knowledge and is also a learning animal. He/she is curious. The emphasis is also to Think Big. It will become hard to retain Smart Creatives if we do not provide them with challenging work or a big problem to solve. Credits for Google employees are provided throughout the book. It was good to read more on what the Smart Creatives at Google did (Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg and more). Bigger problems attract big talent. Thinking Big is a powerful recruiting and retention tool.

Office Design & Crowded offices: This was an interesting learning and something I learned. Offices should be crowded. Open spaces aids interaction. Do not work in silos. When no one has a private office, no one complains about it.  Be very generous with resources that are needed to do the work and stingy with stuff that is not critical (fancy furniture). Employees should have the option to retire to a quiet place when needed (more meeting rooms). Humans are at their best when they are surrounded by social controls and crowded offices help this. These are quotes from the book.

Transparency and Free Flow of Information: In a technology business free flow of information is vital. Open Communication and everyone being aware of what is happening in the company is the best way to run a business. Have company-wide weekly meetings where people discuss or ask anything. We started Weekly Voices at our workplace. Whenever possible, avoid secret organizational documents. Open up calendars of all staff so anyone can see what other people are working on. OKRs (Objective, Key Results) should be public. Snippets (keeping note of daily tasks for anyone to see) was also interesting.

Platforms/Community: Great companies are built on great communities (or) ecosystems and this is talked about in the book as well (Not extensively). Spend a vast majority of your time thinking about product, community, and platform.

Other interesting notes/quotes from the book: Praise is underappreciated and underused as a management tool. Focus on the user, money will follow. Products that get better and gather momentum should be rewarded with more resources. Products that stagnate should not. Encourage employees to ask hard questions. Could you make your products so great that customers want to stay even if they don’t want to? What percentage of your products are built on unique technical insights? Does a company aggressively reward and promote people who have a big impact on creating excellent products?

Thanks, Eric and Jonathan. Happy Reading.