30 Minutes of Ask Me Anything With Aaron Ross from Predictable Revenue.
Aaron Ross is considered the Godfather of Outbound Sales for SaaS Founders and Enterprise companies alike. He is the author of Predictable Revenue and From Impossible to Inevitable – both highly acclaimed books in SaaS, known for their practical wisdom and (so far), timeless application.
Every Tuesday, the Latka SaaS Hackers Community hosts the biggest names in SaaS for a private AMA session. Aaron recently joined us for an AMA where he answered everything from building teams, scaling revenues, his next book, and what to do (or not to do), in the early days of building SaaS.
If you like this AMA and want to ask the best of the best your own questions, you can join our private slack group too. It comes with over $50,000 worth of credits from companies like AWS, Airtable, DocSend and more.
Here is the full transcription starting from the first question.
Q: Who was the first SDR you hired? Just curious if there is a true, SDR #1 on this planet
Q: How do you think outbound has changed in the given times? Regarding Inbound we hear a lot of new things happening [at least I Do], what’s new in outbound?
More noise, more channels, more overwhelming. This is all created because of the growth of technology… makes it easier to build more apps…. Etc. So creating a stronger, clearer signal to send to prospects to cut through the noise is more important than ever. Hence the “Nail a Niche” chapter in the www.FromImpossible.com book is so important
Q: What advice can you give a very early stage startup (just founders) to win the first deals and hold up a pipeline? What strategies would you pursue that are high return?
Be involved in the sales cycle yourselves, with the founder’s magic. There’s no shortcut there, just hustle and persistence to get those first deals in, and build a pipeline. You can hire junior salespeople to help you in the beginning, but don’t ‘abdicate’ your selling to other people…. stay involved in selling those first 10-20 customers and be prepared for it to take longer than you expect or want (up to 2 years)
Q: What’s one key thing companies are overlooking when it comes to revenue?
Soooo many things. Most companies that are at $2m+ in revenue still have their people (and salespeople, and marketing people) juggle too many things. There’s too much opportunity, which makes it harder to focus. Who’s the ideal customer? ideal niche? so ‘fewer, bigger, better’ is a great rallying cry for revenue
Q: Is the analogy of seeds, spears and nets still valid or what has changed?
it’s still 1000% valid. It’s based more on psychology and the way people work, which is timeless. Not so much on tactics, which change. The main challenge is understanding that there can be a lot of ‘blending’ (spears + nets) etc… many gray areas and that’s ok. The main message is “different types of leads need to be tracked/etc differently…. don’t treat them all the same”
Q: What are you doing in terms of traction? What have you found to work and what are you testing?
In running our PredictableRevenue.com business (about 60 people), we are enjoying “EOS” (read the Traction book by Gino Wickman)
In day to day life, I’m training a new ExecAdmin
In lead gen, after so many webinars, I am doing a paid online workshop for the first time: ((link redacted now that it’s already over)).
Q: Where does paid advertising fit into today’s Predictable Revenue framework?
Paid advertising, broadcasted to new audiences (like Facebook ads) would be “nets”. Usually run by marketing, (usually) independently of outbound. I’ve heard of people who use paid marketing to help juice outbound, but I haven’t seen it work myself
Paid advertising in this way is a form of ‘outbound marketing’. (i differentiate that vs. paid advertising that might be targeted to current customers)
Q: How much does your SDR Pod cost?
$150k-$200k a year for 2 outbound SDRs
Q: What are the key ingredients to include in an email that makes it a successful sales? [ I usually write my first email asking about the problem, looking for a date to interview them, and then introduce the product in the second or third email.
Everyone’s so different! it’s like asking “what diet should I eat to be healthy”
Signature with a link to a case study is a great standard model.
Q: When building out a sales team, is hiring 1 SDR a waste? Do you apply to the school of thought that you should hire 2 SDRs to create some competition?
Hiring 1 isn’t a waste! Magic can happen when someone is 100% dedicated. But if you can have two people, and the buddy system…. YEAH. It’s not ‘competition’, it’s a collaboration that can include ‘friendly competition’ (such as egging each other on)
Q: Who should the founders’ first sales hire be? a. SDR, b. Head of Sales, c. Other?
SDR. There’s a section in FromImpossible.com titled “for startups, the four phases to building your first sales team” you should read!
Q: Being a teacher yourself, what do you think is the best way to do outbound sales to target academicians? Price is a huge factor for them, so have to be careful about CAC as well. Or to be more generic, how would you hunt low paying customers
Yeah… I don’t know that market as well, but they strike me picky – difficult customers.
so, if you’re early and can get some great names/case studies… that is gold if they’re low-paying / cheap, outbound is only useful for 1) getting the first batch of customers to get things going + proof, or 2) finding partners who have audiences of those customers, who are willing to market you to them
Q: Right now we get about 5 conversations per 30 calls and typically see 20-40% of those calls turn into discovery calls which then typically convert to demos at 100%. Thoughts?
Dood – those are great results so far! Double down on the calling!!!
plus read www.FromImpossible.com if you haven’t yet… might save your life
Q: @Aaron Ross – what’s your next book going to be?
Good question maybe “Unique Genius”… maybe a “Predictable Revenue Playbook” someday i’ll update CEOFlow too (probably 5-10 years from now)
Q: Enterprise Sales are horrible beasts with long sales cycles and ‘top-down/bottom-up’ strategies. Are the 12-18 month sales cycle extremely common? Or are there any key strategies to reduce the cycle? (outside of waiting for them to have their own burning platform – which usually takes a while… if at all)
12-18 months sounds like Federal Govt sales.
There’s not that much you can do to change sales cycles, but two ideas:
- High-level referrals into decisionmakers (this is why lobbyists work)
- Create smaller “proof of concepts” or “proof of value” projects to build early momentum
Q: What is your take on the ideal remuneration structure for sales rep / Business Development staff? Do you believe a fee structure based on success is a valid way to go? Or do you have a magic number in terms of fixed rem vs success fee %?
Hi Pierre – check out this article on Quora bout SDR comp:
Q: Personal brand: do we need it? is it important? How important? If no – what should we focus on?
Hey Darwin – YES! It’s important. But it doesn’t have to mean you have a big social presence. A personal brand can be something you build internally at a company as well! Who are you, what do you stand for, what are you interested in… and WHAT CAN YOU TEACH OTHERS?
Q: #ClosingOnABang – if you give #1 piece of advice or mandatory action to everyone who has a SaaS company (aka – this community) … what would it be?
in all seriousness Grant, go read www.FromImpossible.com. Jason and I put in all our best most commonly-given advice. If you can’t afford the $20, let me know and I’ll have my team send you a copy. it really is meant to save startups
Beyond that: get your hands dirty selling. do it yourself – it’s a life skill and necessary, whether you believe in PLG, content etc… don’t be afraid to learn the skill
That brings us to the end of this AMA with Aaron Ross. Again, if you’d like to ask the best-of-the-best in Saas your questions, you can join here.
Till next time!