As we have written here before, books are a must for everybody that’s serious about self-improvement in their particular areas. Ever since I became a salesperson and business developer at Bee Talents, I keep reading more and more to become better. Recently, I stumbled upon Predictable Revenue, which aims to uproot a lot of common knowledge on building sales teams. The book shows that there are a lot of factors that we can control, that ultimately bring consistency and stability to our sales efforts.
Ross on sales teams
The book was a mixed bag for me – and I want to share those insights and doubts with you. Parts of the books are excellent – I have even incorporated its elements into my 2019 Pipeline Summit presentation this January. What I really appreciated coming from the author, is his insistence on splitting sales teams according to the expertise of its members. After all – closers will rarely feel satisfied generating leads a lot. As the saying goes, “experienced salespeople hate to prospect” (plus they can be terrible at it).
To quote the book, “the biggest impact on predictable revenue is to create an outbound sales development team that focuses 100% on prospecting, not closing and not working on inbound leads”. Although I agree wholeheartedly, there are situations where this may not be necessary. For the entire history of Bee Talents, for example, we have worked solely based on recommendations and all our clients were coming to us. Therefore we did not include a lead generation element into our sales processes yet (we are starting to do so right now in order to scale).
The author, Aaron Ross, is a former sales executive at Salesforce, is a father of nine and owns three dogs. Despite that, he knows that real strength is not necessarily in numbers. He goes on to say that the biggest misconception in sales is that adding salespeople is what grows revenue. There is hardly any statement that I agree more with! We often talk about precisely this fallacy with many executives as consultants and this lesson is rarely picked up quickly.
On the pages of “Predictable Revenue” the reader can also find a harsh takedown of sales teams that put overblown weight on cold calling prospects. Those are probably clinging to flawed response statistics and aesthetic preference of direct human-to-human contact. That problem can be exacerbated by terrible cold calling techniques, which are commonplace. A good example – telemarketers that ramble along without first establishing what my actual needs are. Don’t just assume I have them before starting presentation of a product I have less than zero interest in!
The final key insight that I love coming from Ross is that “without consistency, there is no predictability”. I made this into one of my personal aspirations – to try hard to be as consistent with a force in our sales team as I can possibly be.
Grain of salt
However, some takeaways from Mr. Ross book are not easily applicable everywhere. For example, just because of the EU’s GDPR the sales process needs to look quite different in Europe than in the US. Multiple job names are also quite distinct from those used in Europe. US businesses usually use some form of farmer-closer-happiness manager division. In Poland, you can often find Account Execs or Account Managers who are also responsible for lead generation.
The second drawback of the book is that most of the advice focuses on larger companies. In the examples given, assets are aplenty and the roles are clearly defined. Achieving the desired consistency is hard when many workers of smaller companies and startups essentially have to be a jack-of-all-trades.
All in all, Predictable Revenue is a useful book, which needs to be read with a grain of salt. It definitely influenced how I think about building sales teams for the long run. We are currently in a very important stretch in Bee Talents history, where we start to try to scale up and reach foreign customers more. What is your experience in creating a stable, diversified revenue stream and what techniques did you use? Has Predictable Revenue changed your thinking in any fashion? Let me know!