100 never looked so good!
Aaron and Collin reflect on their favorite lessons from The Predictable Revenue Podcast’s first 100 episodes
Collin Stewart, CEO
17 April 2019
When we started The Predictable Revenue Podcast a couple years ago, we had a simple mission: to share the critical tips and tricks sales leaders from across the wide-ranging world of sales use to get the job done day in and day out. Leave no stone unturned, we thought.
Boy, are we blown away by how that simple idea has blossomed over the first 100 episodes of the podcast. From prospecting, to hiring, to forecasting, our fabulous guests have shared concepts, tactics, and processes that have propelled them to success (and, in some cases, challenging learning opportunities).
We are truly humbled by their candor, their time, and their interest in helping shape the profession we all love so much.
Now that we’ve turned 100, we figured what better time than now to take a trip down memory lane and reflect on some of the mind-blowing lessons we learned on the podcast thus far.
The importance of a revenue team
Let’s face it – there’s always been a sales and marketing divide. And it goes a little something like this: marketing thinks every lead they attract is awesome, and sales is, well, a little more picky.
In fairness, this historical difference of opinion has changed over the years, as marketing has become a more metric drive, and provable, discipline. But, the split perists.
To combat that unhelpful division, some companies, ours included, have established revenue teams comprised of both marketing and sales to improve alignment and highlight the ultimate goal of every growing business: revenue.
This holistic approach, highlighted on Jeff Davis’ interview this year, hinges on a few key pillars in order to work:
- Hire (or promote!) someone to the position of revenue leader. Often, that’s reflected in the title of Chief Revenue Officer, but what you call the role doesn’t matter much. You need a dedicated leader focused on revenue, and revenue alone, to keep your newly formed revenue team on task and focused.
- Have your marketing and salespeople experience one another’s jobs. For example, get your sales team to write website copy, and have your marketer’s chase a few leads. The more each member of revenue team understands what their colleagues do, the more empathy they have for one another. And the more empathy they have, the more cohesive and supporting your revenue team will be.
- Establish and support your SDR unit within the larger framework of the revenue team. The system works, what can we say: you need dedicated prospectors, whether it be for inbound or outbound, to move leads down the funnel.
- Have senior leadership involved in defining targets. There should be a leader at the table helping determine who the team is working – for example, senior leadership should be giving a strong list of top 100 customers, then top 1000, then the rest.
There’s forecasting…and then there’s forecasting
Jaimie Buss, VP of North American Sales at Zendesk, absolutely killed the podcast when she came on to discuss how she, and her team, were able to forecast revenue within 1%. That’s right 1%. At a $500 million company.
It was a total mic drop. I feel like I leveled up as a human after that pod.
So…how do they do it? It comes down to a couple of fundamental principles such as establishing defined sales stages and clear customer verifiable outcomes that allow a prospect to move from stage to stage.
This method brought so much clarity to the pipeline for us at Predictable Revenue; it removed any form of subjectivity.
Here’s a quick look at Zendesk’s stages(it’s so important, I thought I’d include an abridged version of them all below:
- Stage 1: Qualification (part 1) – This is general prospecting work, where no meaningful connection with a prospect has yet been made.
- Stage 1 cont’d: Qualification (part 2) – When a sales rep finds a potential deal, it lands firmly in Stage 1. The customer verifiable outcome to pass this stage is the customer attends the initial meeting and they agree to proceed to a discovery call.
- Stage 2: Discovery – A general discovery discussion (are we a fit?) forms the basis of the call, with special attention paid to the stakeholders that attend. After each call, an email summary is sent, consisting of what the agreed upon next steps will be, and a summary of what the Zendesk reps have learnt thus far. Finally, the customer verifiable outcome is that the prospect attended the call, and has agreed to get the right people on the demo coming up.
- Stage 3: Solution Review – The solution review is when the Zendesk rep performs the demo, and gathers any of the technical requirements the prospect needs. The customer verifiable outcome is that “doing nothing” is off the table (the customer has confirmed they will be moving forward with a software solution of some kind).
- Stage 4: Solution Validation – At this stage, Zendesk has confirmed they can meet the technical criteria, and they have gathered a full picture of the paper process involved in closing the deal. For instance, who needs to sign? Is there an order of operations that the signing process needs to follow? And, does the customer need to issue a PO? The customer verifiable outcome is that Zendesk understands everyone that needs to be involved the deal (the aforementioned paper process).
- Stage 5: Verbal Contracting – This is the contract negotiation phase.Typically, there is an agreement on price, but there may be concessions that need to be dealt with as well. The customer verifiable outcome is a signed service order, and a signed services agreement, if they’ve negotiated one. If there is a statement of work, then that needs to be signed as well.
- Stage 6: Finance Review – Finance takes over at this point, and reviews everything to make sure there are no omissions. If something needs to be reworked, finance will send it back to sales at this point.
- Stage 7: Finance Final Round – This stage isn’t done with sales at all; finance just checks all the boxes, ensuring the documentation is accurate.
In case you thought those funnel stages weren’t quite thorough enough, Buss also uses an in-depth qualification method to score Zendesk’s opportunities and highlight the health of each pending deal. Every opportunity is different, and a company needs a way of showing that nuance.
To do so, Buss uses the MEDPICC qualification system, which stands for:
- Metrics – what numbers is the prospect looking to change?
- Identified pain – has Zendesk uncovered the pain their prospect is experiencing?
- Economic buyer – does Zendesk know who the person is that makes buying decisions?
- Decision criteria – does Zendesk know the technical specs needed to win the deal?
- Decision process – does Zendesk know who all the stakeholders involved are?
- Paper process – does Zendesk know who everyone is that needs to sign the contract?
- Champion – does Zendesk know who has power and influence, as well as something to be gained from the deal?
- Competition – does Zendesk know who they are up against?
Nailing your nice: still important
I know, I know…we talk about it all the time. But, nailing your niche remains a pillar of effective outbound sales.
“When companies start to finally reach out to cold customers, they don’t realize how hard it is. That difficulty focuses you to hone in on where you have the best chances of winning,” says Aaron.
“This is the most common problem for people trying to grow.”
Personally, I like to get entrepreneurs to think about sales efficiency. You want to convert at the most efficient clip – closing 20 customers out of 100, not 1 customer of 100. And that’s why we do this work. We do our research and we hone our messaging to get at the right niche, and close at an efficient clip.
When we had Kim Brown, sales manager at Catavolt, on the podcast’s early days, she displayed just how granular a company can get in their pursuit of nailing their niche.
For example, Brown had developed sequences, cadences, drips, and responses for every use case, scenario, and persona their company encounters. She had truly taken care of everything – hers SDRs just pick from her playbooks, and spend all of their time personalizing and customizing that particular interaction.
That is where SDRs need to spend their time – not deciding whether to follow up on a Monday afternoon or Wednesday morning. And I love how Kim made it so easy for them.
A new discovery
Like the always-important topic of nailing your niche, executing effective discovery of your prospects is a fundamental element of sales development. But, it’s one that, at least in my experience, hasn’t evolved a lot over time.
Then I met Outreach’s Mark Kosoglow, who has flipped the traditional practice of discovery on its head. He calls it his diagnose and confirm method.
For example, I come from the school of discovery where we, as salespeople, routinely confirm with a prospect that what we heard from them was correct. You’ve heard it (and said it) before: “you just said this…did I get it right?”
But Kosoglow phrases that sentiment like this: “I said this, what did you hear from me?”
That seems like a nuanced change, but it really is a repositioning of the traditional sales dialogue. So much of sales is expectation setting. And, those expectations are huge thing – getting that wrong can be the difference between a happy customer and a not so happy customer.
By phrasing his questions during discovery like this, he shows the prospect that he truly cares about how he is coming across, and whether or not they are understanding him correctly. Of course, if they’re not, this type of questioning gives him the opportunity to correct any misinterpretations that may pop up.
Sales is won and lost in discovery – not the pitch or the hard sell. The more I learn, the more I work, I realize the pitch has very little to do with sales.
It’s in the discovery stage, where you are communicating to the prospect that you care, you can help them, and that you understand their company, where the real work is done. And Kosoglow has developed a really exceptional way of navigating that.
For more on myself and Aaron’s reflections on our first 100 episodes – including Bill Binch’s hiring process and Aaron’s thoughts on how to prioritize your tasks – check out this special edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.
And be sure to check out our new Q&A Slack channel where we answer all your BURNING questions about sales success 🔥. Join us and other sales experts and get your questions answered here.