We had a special guest on the Playmakers Podcast to talk to us about outbound prospecting. We spoke to Aaron Ross, co-founder of Predictable Revenue Inc. and author of “Predictable Revenue.” He has been consulting large companies for ten years on how to build winning prospecting teams, and had a few tips to share with us.
Build vs Buy Your Outbound Prospecting Team
Outbound is a great way to create predictable growth for your company. However, depending on the resources you have, it might be too expensive to have a full-blown outbound sales team.
“Usually, the way I think about it is: there’s simple companies and there’s growth companies. A simple company might be a small business that doesn’t want to hire anyone, or they may not have a sales manager(…) Outsourcing can be a great way to start for them. And it might also be a great long-term solution. For the growth companies, the right long-term solution is always an internal team,” said Aaron, on our podcast.
Some companies might start with outsourcing help, or a part-time collaborator for prospecting and only move to create an internal team as they grow.
“You won’t see dramatic results until you have at least one person, or one resource dedicated to outbound. Which, I think is probably true of most anything,” added Aaron.
How Outbound Sales Fuel Predictable Growth
While many companies will have a sales organization, not all have split their resources to work as outbound and inbound sales. Our State of Sales report clearly shows, however, that they are moving in this direction.
“What makes a sales team successful, is what I call ‘sales role specialization.’ What does that mean? Well, basically prospectors who prospect, closers who close. Account managers or customer success managers who manage customers. And if you have any in-bound lead you have a separate job of junior salespeople just responding to them. This is becoming more standard in, Silicon Valley, tech companies. It’s still not The Standard; it’s still the exception, funny enough,” says Aaron.
Most companies will have sales representatives do both prospecting, closing and customer support. However, research has shown that when sales roles are specialized within an organization, results improve.
“Ultimately when a salesperson is juggling a bunch of things, they do lots of things poorly. Or maybe they try to close well, but their prospecting is poor, in-bound response is slow, and they may not be responsive to customers,” added Aaron.
Take the Time for Training
Sometimes in small companies, there is seldom the time and resource found for sales training. However, it’s an important piece of the puzzle, explains Aaron.
“In startups it’s pretty common that the first person selling and closing is the founder, and the first person they hire in, like, sales, is a junior salesperson who’s either responding to in-bound leads, if you have them, or if not they’re prospecting. And then after that would be someone who’s helping to close. You start it earlier, from day one, as soon as you’re even one person,” advises Aaron Ross.
Sales roles specialization doesn’t require a large team, he adds. Companies need to start coaching early on, to adjust for the ramp times for each role.
Finding a Niche For Your Business
Aaron also spoke to us about what he considers ‘best practices’ in the sales industry, and he added that it all starts with finding a niche for your business.
“It’s incredibly important to really focus the few best market segments or niches, however you define it, the places where you can be successful, in a very narrow way. So if you service 20 industries, you might pick one or two,” said Aaron.
For small businesses (with less than 10-15 paying customers), it might be hard to get the data you need to make this decision, he adds. However, it’s the second step towards success, after building your outbound sales engine.
“The painful truth is, you’re not ready to grow until you nail a niche,” he adds.
Execution in an Outstanding Outbound Team
While a lot of sales managers have an idea of how to build a successful sales team, execution is where sometimes companies fail. Picking a target segment, creating the messaging for the audience and teaching your salespeople to think like that audience is an art that requires a lot of exercise. And that might all change in a few months, as the market shifts, adds Aaron.
“I think it’s hard, it’s not obvious really. It also sometimes never stops, and everyone’s different. Let’s say that you start out as a company, and you pick a target segment, and you do your messaging and so on today. And six months later, the market can change, a product can change or people can change. It’s something you keep doing,” he adds.
What he does advise small business leaders is to have the patience needed for crafting their sales messages, and making sure they grasp the differences between selling via referrals and selling to a wider audience.
“By definition, outbound is targeting people who don’t know you; they don’t care. (…) And it’s a lot harder than people realize, usually. I mean, sometimes people have a unique product, and it’s just easy, but that’s the exception. Usually it’s a lot more of a struggle,” told us Aaron.
Listen to the entire podcast with Aaron Ross to learn:
- How Marketing and Sales need to work together for an account-based approach
- Why Outbound sales forces companies to rethink their marketing and messages
- How long does it take to build a winning outbound team
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