Episode 20: Aaron Ross on going From Impossible to Inevitable

Aaron RossFew authors have had the impact on sales that Aaron Ross has had over the past few years. His first book, Predictable Revenue, called “the sales bible of silicon valley”, he co-authored along with Marylou Tyler, who was on Sales for Nerds in Episode 14.

Now he’s back with From Impossible to Inevitable: How hyper growth companies create Predictable Revenue. This time, Jason Lemkin, former CEO of EchoSign, leader of SaaStr, and more, is his coauthor.

This book breaks done how companies can grow quickly and sustainably, with 7 steps:

From Impossible to Inevitable Cover

  1. You’re not ready to grow until you Nail a Niche.
  2. Overnight success is a fairy tale. You’re not going to be magically discovered. You need sustainable systems that Create Predictable Pipeline.
  3. Growth exposes your weaknesses and it will cause more problems than it solves—until you Make Sales Scalable.
  4. It’s hard to build a big business out of small deals. Figure out how to Double Your Dealsize.
  5. It’ll take years longer than you want, but don’t quit too soon. Make sure you can Do the Time.
  6. Your people are renting, not owning their jobs. Develop a culture of initiative, not adequacy by Embracing Employee Ownership.
  7. Employees, you are too accepting of “reality” and too eager to quit. You can Define Your Destiny to make a difference, for yourself and your company, no matter what you do or where you work.

Aaron does all this while he and his wife raise 12 kids (!!!) (mostly adopted, for those wondering how that’s even possible for such a young-looking guy).

You might think that Aaron’s some sort of superman, or at least a cyborg, but what’s great about his books is that he admits that this is hard. There’s no “X easy steps to winning.” In fact, the books include painful episodes in Aaron’s life, and the admission that things will be hard and tiring.

His whole career in sales started because he didn’t really know how to sell. He never thought about sales, and certainly never thought he’d end up the author of best-selling sales manuals.

But when his first company failed because he didn’t have the sales chops he wanted to have, he joined Salesforce.com. He was employee number 150, which gave him a bit of stock, but not enough to get rich, and he was “on step up from the interns.” He helped build the outbound engine that developed leads before handing them off to account managers. This helped salesforce grow rapidly and efficiently.

However, it wasn’t until he left salesforce and was consulting with another company that he realized how critical it is to specialize your prospecting (early funnel) and your account management (late funnel).

Even if you don’t have a huge sales team, even if you’re just one person doing everything, you still need a way to focus on your time and energies on these different activities. As they write in the book:

Specializing your roles is the #1 most important thing for creating predictable, scalable sales growth.
Even if it’s just marking different times in your calendar for different activities.
What else did Aaron learn?
First, the importance of “Nailing your Niche”.
This comes up again and again, but “you’re not ready to grow until you nail a niche.” This doesn’t mean you can only work in your niche, but you need to have one and nail it. It makes everything easier.
While consumers tend to buy what they want, business tend to buy what they need. If you’re talking to people and they say, “that’s cool”, but they don’t buy, that means it’s a nice-to-have.

Once you’ve got your niche nailed, you can use your:

  • Seeds (word-of-mouth)
  • Nets (marketing– including testimonials, which are a form of word-of-mouth)
  • Spears (outbound targeted marketing and business development)

Aaron also offers some tips on how to handle the overwhelming number of possible sales and marketing activities, with what he calls “cake vs icing.”

The cake is the core thing that helps your grow your business. For Aaron, it’s writing books. For Jason, it’s being active answering questions on Quora. (If you’re in the software world, you should follow him.) Do that one thing well, and then you can use that in other ways (the “icing”). Don’t try to do everything, or you’ll never get anywhere. Aaron blocked out Wednesdays for a year to write the the book. For Aaron, social media isn’t very interesting, so he hires someone to help him with that part of marketing.

As a pricing guy, I also appreciated Aaron’s view that you should spend as work trying to double your average deal size as you do finding and closing twice as many deals. As Marc Andressen says, “raise prices“.

Aaron also provides some tips on how he manages the family schedule (“one day at a time”). If you’v got less than 12 kids, no complaining. 😉

The wine…

8796499443742Aaron couldn’t partake, because he was in the middle of the morning California time, plus, while he really wanted a glass of wine, he knew it would put him to sleep which is not good when you have a short workday and a huge household logistical puzzle to solve each day.

However, I enjoyed a glass of 2013 Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. A nice, up the middle of the road cab. (It’s pretty expensive on the Franciscan.com site, but you can get it for $15-18.)

Where to find Aaron:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

Get the episode on iTunes (check out the new Apple Podcasts– nice!)

listen-on-apple-podcasts-sales-for-nerds

You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on AndroidPlayer.fm.


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Episode 15: Jill Konrath on more sales in less time and eliminating distractions

Jill KonrathJill Konrath has written 3 best-selling books on sales, and now she’s out with a new book on personal productivity called More Sales in Less Time, Surprisingly simple strategies for today’s crazy-busy sellers.

As Jill mentions, she didn’t write this book because she started as an expert in this, but “to save my life”, because even Jill Konrath has challenges with getting things done and handling the constant interruptions of modern life.

Here’s a short clip:

 In this episode, Jill talks about:
  • The completely accidental way she got into sales (this is becoming a pattern, right?).
  • Why sales was a great fit for her, against all her preconceived notions.
  • Why she started her own company.
  • How she got overwhelmed with the very technology that was supposed to help her.
  • Why our brain is not optimized for modern life and how it leads us down the wrong path in the modern world. (And what happens to your IQ when you multitask.)
  • The real reason she wrote this book (to save my life)
  • How family emergencies forced Jill to prioritize even more ruthlessly (crossing of the “nice to do’s”, and “like to do’s” and focus on the “have to do’s”. (And why having a “don’t do” list is as important as having a “to do” list.
  •  How Jill used to use her calendar, and how she changed to be more effective with her time.
  • The practical suggestion from Jill’s book that Reuben put into place the next week.
  • The surprising amount of time top sellers spend selling
  • How to use the Pomodoro Technique to get started on tough tasks (Jill says she gets more done this way than with any other technique)

Plus, hear how this interview caused me to violate my own productivity rules. 😉

Get the episode now on iTuneslisten on Overcast, or Subscribe on Android.

Books by Jill:

More Sales Less Time

Other books mentioned in this episode:

  • The One Thing, by Gary Keller (who here in Austin created the biggest real estate company in the world)

Apps mentioned:

  • RescueTime— gives you analytics on how you’re spending your time on your computer.
  • Freedom.to— block websites that can drain your time.
  • Unroll.me— easier management of email subscriptions
  • SaneBox— automatically filters your email for you to show you the most important stuff (personally, I’m generally pretty happy with the way Google prioritizes email)

The wine…

FRAN_2014_CabernetSauvignon_NapaValley_lowRes1
I switched to cab for this one– a very nice 2013 Franciscan Estate Napa Valley cab which was quite good and made me think I need to get back to cabernet sauvignon more often.

Jill enjoyed “something white from the fridge.” 😉 She said she’s not used to having wine while being interviewed.

 


Where you can find Jill: JillKonrath.com, @jillkonrath, LinkedIn, YouTube

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

 


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Episode 6: John Livesay on How to Pitch

John Livesay (aka “The Pitch Whisperer”) helps entrepreneurs craft compelling pitches. He’s the author of The Successful Pitch: Conversations On Going From Invisible To Investable (pretty good pitch, right there in the title), host of The Successful Pitch Podcast, and has been featured in Inc., Forbes, Fast Company, CBS, Fox, and more.

….

John Livesay
In this episode, John discusses how he got into this niche, how hard he worked on his own pitch, plus:

Plus,

  • The two simple, critical elements of a pitch
  • Why people are so bad at pitching
  • Why stories are so important
  • The importance of establishing your niche (it’s not just about your pitch)
  • What happens when you confuse prospects with your pitch
  • How surviving in the Amazon is like surviving in the business world
  • And much more…

Books mentioned in the episode:


The Wine

Stags Leap ChardonnayWe did this via Skype, so we each had to bring our own wine.ron-rubin-russian-river-valley-pinot-noir-2013

John had some Stag’s Leap chardonnay (@StagsLeapWines).
Reuben had Ron Rubin (no relation) Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (2013). Quite yummy for folks who like Russian River Valley pinots.

 

 


Where you can find John: Web site, Twitter, The Successful Pitch Podcast

Update: Check out John’s TEDx talk on being your own lifeguard.

 

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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Episode 5: June Rodil on wine, customer experience, delegation, and more

June RodilJune started her career in restaurants as a waitress, paying her way through college on the way to a law career that never ended up happening. Instead, she learned a ton about wine, became beverage director for some of the top restaurants in Austin, became one of 147 Master Sommeliers in the world, and opened her own restaurant.

In this episode, June discusses how to pick wine as a beginner, how she became as Master Sommelier, and how she opened her own restaurant.

Plus,

  • Secrets for great customer service
  • How to delegate as a control freak
  • Why spreadsheets are still important
  • How to set up your product offerings to maximize customer happiness and minimize your stress.

 


The wine: 2012 Rosie Shuster Sankt Laurent (the ‘k’ is silent). $24. I didn’t know Austrian wine could taste this good. A little sweet, but not overly so. Lots of flavors. (Listen to June give the real description.)

 


Where you can find June: June’s Restaurant, Twitter (here’s one of those pictures with an interesting mixture of drinks)

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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Episode 4: Joe Williamson

joe-williamsonGuest: Joe Williamson, Partner at Alloy Partners, talks about:

  • how to price new products (brilliant stuff), including how pricing too low makes your prospects look bad
  • having an internal locus of control vs an external locus of control
  • what he learned from teaching at The Princeton Review
  • why he wouldn’t turn to sales books for sales advice (and the surprising persona of the best sales person)

Here’s the link to Episode 4 with Joe Williamson.


The wine: Joe doesn’t drink, but he helps me run an experiment on aerating the wine. Listen to get the results. (Hint, you may want to pick up one of the items in the show notes.)

Chateau Recougne 2012 Bordeaux. Pretty rich, definitely benefits from aeration, then mellows out nicely. Yum.

Chateau Recougne 2012


Venturi Essential Wine Aerator

How to Talk to Practically Anybody about Practically Anything, by Barbara Walters


Where you can find Joe: Alloy Partners, LinkedIn.

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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What Not to Say in a Sales Call (Courtesy of Apple)

If you’re doing something that upsets your customers and prospects, whether it’s changing prices, revising a service plan, or removing the universal audio port in favor of a proprietary standard, don’t insist on giving yourselves credit for “courage” in front of your customers. Certainly, explain your reason(s), and don’t feel obliged to share everything, but even Apple can’t pull this off properly. (In fairness to Schiller, he was trying to paraphrase Steve Jobs, who put it more eloquently– not just “having courage”, but having “the courage of our convictions” and “being willing to take the heat”.)

K.I.S.S.

Here’s a great drawing from Eric Burke (who’s site seems to be down, or I’d link there.):

Apple Product, Google Product, Your Product

Aside from being funny, this says a lot about not just products, but sales. “Your Company’s App” is complicated not because someone wants to make it complicated, but because the requirements are complicated. Sometimes, this is just because some things are complex. Often, it’s because people didn’t have clarity about the mission. Usually, it’s a combination of these factors.

When you’re an engineer doing sales and marketing, it’s easy to get sucked into the technical details. After all, you’re better at this stuff than most of the other folks in sales and marketing. Before you realize it, your sales cycle looks like the “Your Company’s App.” Too many details without clarity. The details are great, but they should come from a clear view of the overall mission.

I see too many proposals that have 10 pages of techno-jargon and no sense of what the prospect wants to accomplish, how they will measure success, or whether the vendor will be able to claim success.

Think of your sales efforts like the Google and Apple products– very simple to understand and achieve the goal, with a lot of hard work behind the scenes.

As they say, Keep It Simple, Stupid. 😉

Networking for Nerds

Of all the uncomfortable sales and marketing activities you suddenly have to handle, networking is probably the least favorite for introverts. Trying to make small talk is painful. You know some people can “work a room” without apparent effort, but that’s not you.

Here are some tips to make the experience more fun and more productive.

  1. Know why you’re there. It’s not just to eat lunch or make sales. (More on that in a moment.) Are you there to find contacts for your pipeline? To hire employees? Meet experts who can help you with key business tasks? Meet people who have expertise you want to gain? Knowing the purpose lets you target the right events. If you’re targeting prospects, visiting with your peers may not be helpful. But if you need expertise and a sounding board, your peers will be more useful than your customers.
  2. Don’t try to sell. The power of the network grows exponentially with its members. If you try to sell everyone you meet, you’ll not only not make (m)any sales, you’ll shut down sales to those peoples’ networks, which is where the real opportunity is.
  3. Meet people, not opportunities. Don’t treat people just as dollar signs. If there was no business involved– say you’re at your kid’s soccer game, talking to other parents– you’ll establish a human connection, not an economic connection. Do the same thing at business networking events. Of course, the central topic of conversation may be business, instead of excessive homework, but talk to people like people. Ask people about themselves. Be interested. Not just “what do you do?”, but “this may be a silly question, but is that like X?” or “Why does someone hire you instead of doing it themselves/using popular alternative/etc?” Ask questions to get a real understand of who they are and how their business works. People love to talk about this stuff, and I always learn more by listening than by talking.
  4. Offer to help. When you make a connection with someone you like, ask who is their ideal customer? If you know someone who is struggling with the problem they solve, offer to introduce them. (Depending on how comfortable you are, you can always ask the person already in your network if they want the introduction. If they do, obviously make the introduction. If not, just explain that the timing or the fit isn’t as good as you thought. The new contact will still appreciate that you tried.) Often, people are not good at describing their ideal customer. I have met people who say “any business” or “anyone with a website”, and stubbornly resist my attempts to get more specific. Unfortunately, these people don’t get introductions, because I am not confident in their ability to help people more than anyone else in the market. But if they say, “we help dentists get more patients from their websites”, then I know who might be a good fit, and I have a good reason to make an introduction to dentists. (The flip side of this is that people will often ask you the same question, and you should be ready with a very crisp answer.) Beyond introductions, if there’s something simple that you can do without cost, offer to do that. (Maybe you can’t optimize the dentist’s website, but you can offer to take a look at it and make some suggestions.) Keep in mind that the people who will be most eager to get your free help may be the least likely to pay you to actually solve their problems. It’s up to you have a way to be helpful that doesn’t take too much time.
  5. Follow up. So many good opportunities die because people get busy. If you’re organized and disciplined about following up, you can get much more out of networking than the people who work the room and collect all the cards and never follow up. I’ve had opportunities materialize years after meeting people, because I stayed in touch with people, because I introduced people, because I tried to be helpful. Don’t think of the goal as “get X business cards at this event”, but instead, “make X introductions over the next 3 months based on people I meet at this event.”

Networking is a long game. Don’t be one of those people who thrusts business cards at everyone they meet and doesn’t make a single actual connection. Be helpful to the network, and let the network work for you. You’ll take a lot of pressure off yourself and a lot of awkwardness out of the events. You’ll have more fun, and, before you know it, get more business.

What traits does it really take to sell?

Picture a sales rep in your mind. What traits do you see? Someone confident, maybe even brash, maybe even with questionable honesty. Whether this is a fair stereotype, we all know it.

For a lot of people coming from technical backgrounds into sales, this is a problem. We may not think we fit the mold for sales success.

So, how well does the stereotype correlate with sales results?

Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer at Hubspot came to Austin recently and talked about how they built a scalable, predictable revenue engine. They used metrics to figure out what worked for and what attributes they should look for in sales reps. What did they find?

The “traditional” sales skills– closing, objection handling, and pushiness, correlated negatively with results. What did correlate with success? The number one factor was coach-ability. Curiosity and conscientiousness also helped a lot. This doesn’t sound like such a personality mismatch now, does it?

(Roberge notes that different situations may call for different characteristics. His point is that you want a process for figuring out what those characteristics are for your organization. My point is that in many cases, what leads to success is actually what you have, and not what you think of as the stereotypical sales profile.