An Argument for Specialized Sales Teams — An Interview with Aaron Ross




hi res aaron headshot 300dpi for sales bookIn this article I interview Aaron Ross, co-author of a new book, Predictable Revenue. Aaron discusses his experience at starting a new group that used an innovative outbound prospecting approach (involving no cold calls) to create new leads. Aaron’s group came up with several important breakthroughs which enabled them add over $100m in incremental recurring revenues over a few short years. This article reviews some of those best practices which provide a recipe for others to make outbound prospecting a repeatable and predictable revenue generator.


As most of my readers know I am a huge fan of using marketing to develop the lead flow for sales people so they don’t have to do cold calling. The main reason for this is the high cost of salespeople, and as a result, the high cost per lead that is created using this technique. However in certain situations, it does make sense to augment marketing with outbound cold calling.

The right situation is likely to have the following characteristics:

  • Marketing is not producing the right kinds of leads, or enough leads.
  • You have a clear set of target customers that are likely to be the biggest, or best suited, customers for your particular product
  • Reasonably high lifetime value of customer that will justify the higher cost per lead. (If you can make $10k in the first year from a customer, this can be very profitable.)

Many companies expect their sales people to do their own prospecting, which can be thought of as doing their own lead generation. You are very clear that this is the wrong approach. Tell us why?

One of the biggest productivity killers is lumping together a mix of different responsibilities (such as raw web lead qualification, cold prospecting, closing, and account management) into one general “sales” role. This creates significant inefficiencies:

  • Lack of Motivation: Experienced sales people hate to prospect, and are usually terrible at it.
  • Lack of Focus: Even if a salesperson does do some prospecting successfully, as soon as they generate some pipeline, they become too busy to prospect. It’s not sustainable. Any individual that tries to juggle too many responsibilities, will have a much lower ability to get things done.
    Sales people have a reputation for being ADD – how does adding more responsibilities help that? For example, qualifying web leads is a much lower value distraction for sales people than managing current clients. And managing a large current client base is a distraction from closing new clients!
  • Lack of proper training and support: Their company doesn’t train them on how to prospect effectively, give them helpful tools or reasonable goals. Usually the guidance is along the lines of “make more calls!” Wow, that’s helpful.
  • Unclear Metrics: It’s harder to break out and keep track of key metrics (inbound leads, qualification and conversion rates, customer success rates…) if all the functions are lumped into single areas. Different roles makes it much easier to break out different steps in your processes, which means better metrics.
  • Less Visibility Into Problems: When things aren’t working, lumped responsibilities obscure what’s happening and make it more difficult to isolate and fix issues with accountable follow through.

What do you recommend as an alternative?

I believe in dividing up the roles into specialized functions. Here are the four basic functions or themes:

  1. “Inbound” Lead Qualification: Commonly called Market Response Reps, they qualify marketing leads coming inbound through the website or 800 number. The sources of these leads are either marketing programs, search engine marketing, or organic word-of-mouth.
  2. “Outbound” Prospecting/Cold Calling 2.0: Commonly called Sales Development Reps or New Business Development Reps, this function prospects into lists of target accounts to develop new sales opportunities from cold or inactive accounts. This is a team dedicated to proactive business development.Highly efficient Outbound reps and teams do NOT close deals, but create & qualify new sales opportunities and then pass them to Account Executives to close.
  3. “Account Executives” or “Sales”, are quota-carrying reps who close deals. They can be either inside or out in the field. As a best practice, even when a company has an Account Management/Customer Success function, Account Executives should stay in touch with new customers they close past the close until the new customer is deployed and launched.
  4. Account Management/Customer Success: Client deployment and success, ongoing client management, and renewals. In today’s world of “frictionless karma”, someone needs to be dedicated to making customers successful–and that is NOT the salesperson!

Chart 14 color four core functions specialize

As an organization gets larger, it is possible to get even more specialized. For example, it can often make sense to have different reps for different vertical industries that get to know and understand the customer problems, terminology, and specific vertical messaging. Another type of specialization that can make sense is based on customer size: one group for large accounts, and another for smaller, as their problems and required solutions and messaging are different.

When should companies consider specialization? Are startups too small for this?

I frequently hear “We’re too small to specialize yet.” It is always “sooner than you think,” even if you just have a handful of Account Executives. The second person you hire, after a salesperson who can close, should be a sales rep who is dedicated just to generating leads for your first closer.

A second rule of thumb is the 80/20 rule. When your reps, as a group, are spending more than 20% of their time on a secondary function, break out that function into a new role.

For example, if someone whose primary role is to generate outbound leads begins spending more than 20% of their time qualifying inbound leads, it’s time to look at specializing and creating a separate role just for responding to inbound leads.

Tell us how you uncovered your breakthroughs that led to success in cold calling

In early 2003 I was experimenting with cold calling, to see if it would work. It did – but far too slowly. I had been able to generate 2 qualified leads in a month. To meet my goals I needed to be able to generate 8 qualified opportunities. (This may sound low, but remember that a core principle is to generate fewer opportunities that are much higher quality.)

The First Breakthrough

The first breakthrough I had was realizing that the biggest bottleneck in prospecting into companies isn’t selling the decision maker/influencer/point person…it’s finding them in the first place!

Oftentimes the ultimate decision maker – such as the CEO or VP Sales in the case of, is not the best person for your initial conversations. I learned this through hard work – cold calling, cold emailing, plugging away. I realized I spent most of my time hunting for the right person – not trying to sell or qualify them.

If I could find the right person, I could usually have a productive business conversation with them. It was just a pain in the ass to find them, especially in the F5000 size companies!

In Desperation, I Tried An Experiment: I’d always assumed that mass emailing executives wouldn’t work. Don’t I need to carefully craft each email to them to make it personal?

  • I wrote one email that was a classic salesy cold calling letter: “Do you have these challenges? X, Y Z…”.
  • I also wrote a totally “short and sweet” different email simply asking for a referral to the right person at the company. (I won’t be sharing email templates in this book for two reasons, which I will describe in a section just on email).

I remember my experiment like it was yesterday. On a Friday afternoon, I sent two mass emails from

  • 100 of the “classic salesy” emails to F5000 executives, and
  • 100 of the “short and sweet” emails to the same kind of list.

Out of 200 emails I sent, I had 10 responses back! Again, these were from C-level and VP-level executives at large companies.

  • Response rate for the “salesy” email: 0%.
  • Response rate for the “short and sweet” email: 10%.

And at least five of the emails I received from the short and sweet campaign were positive, referring me to other people in the organization as the best person for a conversation about sales force automation.

The Second Breakthrough

I discovered that mass emailing C-level F5000 executives, with specific kinds of emails, can generate 9%+ response rates.  Those high response rates (8-10% or more) from high-level executives have held true year after year, even with my current clients in 2010, seven years later.

The Result: A 500% Increase

In the next month, April 2003, I increased my results by 500% and generated 11 qualified sales opportunities!

Hence the tipping point of the Cold Calling 2.0 process was born: sending mass emails to high level executives to ask for referrals to the best person in their organization for a first conversation.

What does the Cold Calling 2.0 Funnel look like?

This diagram from the book shows a sample funnel that breaks out the prospecting stages:

Chart 11 RGB

Here is another way to look at the Cold Calling 2.0 process that a sales development rep should be following:

Chart 1 color 5 steps cold calling 2 process

Give us your thoughts on the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)?

Getting clear on your Ideal Customer Profile, including how to describe them and what their core challenges are, is the most important exercise to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing and sales functions. It helps you:

  • Find great prospects more easily through smart targeting
  • Disqualifying poor prospects more quickly

…both of which lead us to faster sales cycles and higher win rates. If you are going to implement a cold calling 2.0 process, this is an critically important starting point.

Chart 6 RGB

The result of this should be a list of criteria that you want, with an explanation of the reasons why. For an example of one criterion:

Criteria We Want


25-250 Employees Our customers have to be large enough to need our service. However, if they are too large, they tend to hire someone in-house to do it full-time.

The book provides some great examples of how to work through this exercise, and what the output should look like.

What are some more of your guidelines for writing these referral emails?

  • It’s important to make it short and sweet
  • Don’t sell
  • You want to make sure you are asking for just  one thing, which is a referral
  • Give people enough information, but in a short way. The trick is to being specific enough about who you should talk to, or what you do, in a very short way.

The variables that make this successful:

  • Who you are sending it to ?
  • What is the subject line?
  • How are you asking for the referral?
    • How are you describing the person you want to talk to?
    • How are you describing what you do?

To get this right will likely require experimentation using A/B testing to optimize.

Don’t Sell

There is always some salesperson or executive who wants to throw in a bunch of salesy stuff (our value, bullet points, attached PDFs) – You have to prevent that. Just keep them away from the process. Trying to sell at this stage will wreck the conversion rate of these emails. It’s like going for coffee with someone on your first date, and you are leaning in for the kiss before you have said hello.  (Note from David Skok: I wrote on this topic here: When selling is the worst way to win customers.)

What is the profile of a person who would be good as an SDR?

If you don’t yet have someone doing this already, and you are looking for a person to set it up, you want to find someone who is a problem solver, and who is entrepreneurial. Ideally you want to have someone in your company who  would like the opportunity to do this. Best is if you can have two people starting this at the same time, so they leverage the buddy system.

After that, you really just want smart people who can figure things out, who know something about business. Some of my best people didn’t start as salespeople, they had other business experience. They were able to learn sales. They were good at having business conversations. They also need to be able to develop trust, and have high integrity.

They should have a good sense of process, because if you are disorganized, it is not going to be effective. And you’re going to have to like them.

Tell us about your ‘Layers of the Onion’ thinking


The Layers of the Onion idea is all about how to lead a prospect through to becoming a customer. You have to realize that customers want to get to know you in small steps. And they want to feel like they are in control of that process. Think of them as a squirrel. Your job is to lay out tempting morsels one after the other to get them to take another step forward. You can also think of that as being like peeling  back the layers of an onion.

The high level concept here is that people need to take multiple steps to get to know you.  Sales people need to relax, and stop trying to go for the close so fast. There is not enough patience in the world.  This is all about patience and baby steps.

layers of the onion_300dpi sales book color

The Internet has drastically shifted power from sellers to buyers. The old way of marketing and selling involved pushing information onto prospects and then working to control their steps along a sales process. Buyers had limited access to information, which they had to negotiate out of sellers. Now, buyers can do more research on their own before they ever talk to a human at a company (if they ever do talk to a human!)

Go with it – let prospects do the work!

Instead of resisting this trend and staying attached to how potential customers used to, or “should” get to know your company, go with it and give the prospects the control over how they want to get to know you.

Present them with a couple of logical next steps and let them decide how and when to move forward (of course, with some helpful reminders now and then if they’ve stalled).

Setting up progressive layers of the onion is key to “receiving sales” or “pulling sales” (much easier than pushing sales). Let the prospects do the work for you!

The layers are mutual – get to know your prospects as they get to know you

The layers enable prospects and vendors to test mutual compatibility with progressive steps of increasing trust and commitment, to minimize the risk and costs of a bad fit to both parties. With the layers of the onion, a prospect can engage right away at the level they feel comfortable with, and then can work their way up the trust & commitment layers as they and you see fit.

As a seller, now you can more easily test out how much of a fit the customer is for you, before you commit extra time or resources to them! Committing to a bad-fit customer is an enormous cost, and the right layers can help you avoid those landmines.

Let go

Give up trying to control how long someone takes to move forward. You’ll have to accept that most prospects that initially sign up for a blog, trial or demo just won’t be ready to do anything. That’s ok – don’t try to force them. But consider if there’s another onion layer you can create to offer to make it easier for them to take another step.

If you see prospects getting stuck somewhere in your “layers”, consider redesigning your next-step offers. What is the next “juicy morsel” they would want if you showed it to them, that would help them take another step forward? What new layers, content or products can you create that are compelling and relevant to who the prospect is and where they are in their evaluation & buying cycle?

Let go of trying to control prospects, and trust that if it’s a good mutual fit, and you keep nurturing them and your “layers” are relevant & useful, they will become a customer someday!

Can you summarize your thoughts?

  • You MUST specialize your salespeople, and have, at a minimum, at least one (better is two) outbound reps focused 100% on prospecting – and that means NO CLOSING or inbound lead qualification. If you can’t specialize today, make a plan on how and when you can. You don’t need to be big to begin to specialize; all you need is two people in sales.
  • Use a referral/researching approach rather than cold calling people directly. You can generate quality referrals from cold contacts who have never heard of you via short and sweet email templates.
  • Focus on QUALITY, not quantity, of actions, calls and leads (fewer, bigger, better). Measure results-based activities (“# Scoping Calls Completed”) as opposed to metrics like dials.
  • Train your outbound salespeople to be “businesspeople who can sell”, rather than salespeople. Not only do they need to have a multi-step outbound sales process that works, they also must be able to have an intelligent conversation with high-level executives, whether via email or phone. You can train young people (even out of college) to do this.
  • SIMPLIFY what you track in your CRM/SFA system (such as a, focusing on your few, best metrics (like new $ pipeline created per month, qualified leads per month, etc.) You have to get rid of all your extra junk tracking fields that clutter everything, and simplify your dashboards.

Unfortunately, too many companies won’t take the single most important step to make prospecting work – dedicating an inside sales team or role 100% to prospecting and generating opportunities to pass on to the Account Executives/closers. This is always priority #1!

Sell Ideas, Not Stuff

Aaron says that, in their marketing and prospecting, companies and people do way too much selling. Clients don’t want to buy products, they want help. The best way to help them is with both your product & your expertise So, you must educate rather than sell…as he talks about in this short video:

Selling Your Idea, Not Just Your Product


I have recently posted a slide deck that talks more about this topic here: Using Outbound Prospecting to reach highly targeted prospects.

If you found Aaron’s ideas above interesting, I recommend that you purchase the book. It has a great deal more detail than is covered in this short interview. Aaron was kind enough to share a sizeable sample of the book (the first three chapters) for our readers, which you can download by clicking here. Aaron and his co-author Mary Lou Tyler also run a consulting company Predictable Revenue, Inc. that is willing to help startups work through getting a program like this off the ground.

About the Author

David Skok

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  • Kraftsmann

    Very Good Question kamil.
    In fact I too Have Same Type Of Query,So For Me Its too Important.
    Edge Banding Machine

  • Hi. Great article and lots of new insights. I believe in inbound marketing that is why quality should be our first priority. Though we still need to consider quantity to make our business grow. With inbound marketing or magnet marketing, we are primarily prospecting the satisfaction of our customers rather than the figures in our sales.

  • Aaron Ross

    Hi Kamil,

    Because the financials can vary so much from company to company and quotas, there’s no set answer. But I’d start by backing into what the prospectors should get.

    For example:

    a) Pay them a low base salary that’s fair and means they don’t have to struggle to pay the rent (you don’t want desperate salespeople, because it increases the chances they won’t treat prospects they way you want). This will depend on where they live, since living in San Francisco or NYC is 2x (or 3x?) the cost of a Kansas or Nevada!

    b) Take the total compensation target you came up with for them, and divide it in half. Half gets paid to them monthly based on their quota of highly qualified sales opportunities generated (which can range from 5-15, depending on your specific situation; 8-10 is usually a good starting point until you have your own data.)

    c) The other half of their variable commission is paid out as a % of revenue from the deals they found. If you think they should help source $1M in extra revenue per year, and the portion of their compensation tied to it is $10,000 per year, then their % is 1%.

  • Aaron Ross

    See my reply to Kamil’s question above –

  • Aaron Ross

    You’ll find inbound marketing should be very complementary to outbound prospecting. Inbound helps brings in the mass of (usually) small and medium companies; outbound lets you be more focused and targeted in going after everyone who’s not calling you.

  • Ty Lim

    Great stuff. Innovative and intelligent. Thank you!

  • Jared

    Agree 100% with this article and have used the practices listed, including Salesforce… to make this work. Sadly, many of our top line manufacturing companies are headed a different direction, including the company I work for…. (F500 Industrial Segment)

    The flavor of late has been one of consolidation and generalization, with a “feet on the street” or “Back to Basics” view, rather than the specialization and augmentation.

    Sales processes are becoming longer and more complex rather than being simplified. The customer is pushed harder, and there are more people standing on his/her doorstep, for a smaller share of wallet. This becomes a sort of negative feedback loop, which drives the buyer deeper into his office and pushes him into low pressure supply channels like Web-Ordering.

    What’s written in this article is very real, but not yet realized, by everyone.

    Get on the bus or get out of the way…. otherwise you may get run-over! 😉

  • Great article and a nice introduction “morsel” to Arron’s book. I am currently working with a client that is struggling to fill their pipeline in a very red ocean marketplace. This is something they definitely need to put into place. I look forward to reading the book.

  • Richard_Anthony

    How wonderfully self-reflexive… an advertisement doubling as educational material talking about the advantages of advertisement doubling as educational material 🙂

  • Tim Bertrand

    We very successfully implemented this methodology after reading David’s post –

  • John

    Interesting article, thanks.

    I understood everything but the prologue:
    “The right situation is likely to have the following characteristics”
    I guess you complicated this over a bit. How could you say it in simpler terms, so it relates to more what’s before and after this sentence? I am not a native speaker, I usually understand normal English.

  • Hi John, sorry for the confusion. What I mean by that sentence is: If you have all three of the following characteristics, then you are well suited to using Business Development Reps to do outbound calling to create leads: · Marketing is not producing the right kinds of leads, or enough leads. · You have a clear set of target customers that are likely to be the biggest, or best suited, customers for your particular product · Reasonably high lifetime value of customer that will justify the higher cost per lead. (If you can make $10k in the first year from a customer, this can be very profitable.)

  • John

    Clear now, thanks.

  • yusufhgmail

    Aaron, great article and we are implementing some of your ideas. One thing I am wondering is, what defines a “qualified” opportunity? We have inbound sales development staff who qualifies leads and takes them through the following steps: 1) Initial call, 2) ROI analysis with the customer, 3) Online presentations. After that, if the lead wants to move forward with a trial, we hand them over. Is this taking it too far in your opinion or should we perhaps even start the trial and take them through that process?

  • Aaron Ross

    Well it depends 🙂 If you can offer a free trial that they sign up for themselves, that’s usually the best way to get them started. If it takes a lot of work for you to set a trial up, then I would – as you’re doing now – do a lot of work upfront to qualify (and encourage) them before starting a trial.

  • Eddie Davidson

    Aaron… Words are funny. “Cold Emailing” is in fact spamming, the sending of Unsolicited Commercial/Bulk Email. Simply because you conform to pointless legislation, doesn’t make your methodology right, moral, or a contribution to society. You’re spamming people who didn’t ask for your emails. You’re a spammer at that point. Sure it’s not technically illegal, but it’s highly obnoxious and abusive. Plus you’re choking the life out of an already abused communication channel. Good luck on making more money. Cheers.

  • Stella Kosma

    Iam working as a sales manager for the Italian Market..the crisis is everywhere,so what would be your best advice speaking about problematic economies and obviously problematic bussines?

  • Hi Stella, I believe that the key to this is finding customers who have very serious pain. In the US, we refer to them as people that have their hair on fire, and really need to find a solution. This requires careful identification of the specific vertical industries and applications where this is true, and then creating a targeted marketing and outbound prospecting program to reach those people.

  • Eddie, it’s unfortunate that you don’t think educating prospects on how to improve their businesses (save money, save time, increase revenue) as “a contribution to society”. SPAM is something like what I just got in my Gmail – fake Raybans masquerading as the real thing. The difference here is that you start with creating a target profile – e.g. companies and executives who almost certainly want/need what you’re selling. The terrible con-artist who blasted millions of email addresses trying to sell fake sunglasses hasn’t targeted me, they’re SPAMing me.

  • Prashant

    Did u get your answer? I have the same question.

  • Aaron Ross

    Hi Guk & Prashant, great question and sorry it took me awhile to answer it 🙂

    SMBs come in all different stripes: restaurants are different than coffee shops are different than fast-food shops from yoga studios, and so on.

    Now, here are some tips that are useful whether you’re using email, phone or in-person visits with prospects:

    Step #1 is being as clear as possible about your Ideal Customer Profile & “Narrow Niche”, so that you can avoid wasting time visiting the wrong people. I find that’s the main source of wasted time – companies or salespeople who are too ‘needy’ and try selling stuff to people who don’t NEED it or just aren’t interested.

    Step #2 is coming up with simple / human / friendly ways to talk about what you can do for your prospects, so they can ‘get it’ very easily. Confusion = “No.”

    And remember that your prospects don’t care about what you do – they care about what you do for them. So talk to them in terms of the results/difference you can make for them.

    Step #3 is measure, track and improve. Keep learning as much as possible and refining who your best targets are, what they care about, and how to talk with them in simple ways.

    Sales Tip: I find that for most people in sales / prospecting, it helps when they think about selling not as “pitching stuff”, but as being curious to find out more about prospects and how they can help. It feels friendlier & more authentic, which increases their enthusiasm… and also makes for better conversations with clients who don’t feel like they’re talking to used car salespeople 🙂 It takes training & practice to do this so that your salespeople don’t give up too easy either – they should, in friendly/helpful ways, be challenging customers to think differently & try out new ideas.

    For some more tactical tips, check out the “Niche” and messaging sections in this video course:

    And more tips are also in a free “Triple” ebook that’s underway,

  • Aaron Ross

    Guk – see below, making sure you saw the answer.

  • Vishal

    why sales personnel people called as revenue generating machine

  • Rick Foster

    Hi Aaron,

    I have read and studied your book and trying to implement what you have mentioned. The only confusion that has made me contact you is the list building process. In short, my question is ” Should or should not an SDR build in-house lists of prospects by searching? I am certainly not clear on that. Obviously it is time consuming and as per your book, SDR, what I understood is trying to convert the prospects given to him already. is it so ? Thanks

  • Laurens

    Hi Aaron,

    I am doing research for a company that currently sells through external wholesellers/resellers(50%) and direct sales(50%). What is the best approach to transition to direct sales 80% (for the high$ products)and resellers/wholesellers(20%) (low $ products) ?

  • Jeremy Charles

    I’ve recently bought and read this book and it’s reshaped the way that we grow and manage our sales team as well as how we’ve implemented tools that are reflective of delivering a sustainable and predictable revenue.

    We’ve recently introduced four new sales reps in the team and provide them with a very simple yet powerful solution in terms of SaaS products to work with:

    1. – each sales rep has their own account to find and build their on targeted list of leads. The tool also searches for the email addresses and social records so that our team can prospect out.

    2. Streak CRM. each sales rep has their own professional gmail account with Streak CRM built in (it’s really smart as the CRM is built into your inbox).

    3. Rapportive. another incredible tool that provides insights into the prospect to improve engagement rates.

    We’ve trialled various combinations of tools and this is delivering significant and predictable growth for our outbound activity.

  • Jeremy, many thanks for providing this feedback and also the listing of what tools you have found to be useful. I am sure other readers will appreciate this. Best, David

  • Jeremy Charles

    Thanks for taking the time to review David and feedback.

  • Chi

    I’d like to tune back to the first question…

    You’ve answered the commission for prospectors…
    But what about other roles…

    Based on the theory, I think their roles are equally important.
    But it seems that the feedback system focuses on developers…

  • Aaron Ross

    Everyone’s roles are important. Comp plans for the other roles can vary so widely, there’s really no system for them. is a great resource to find suggestions.

  • Sophia Rose

    Buying leads was a waste of money for me because I was not able to get to them quick enough. Found a cool company though that works some computer magic that fixed that issue and my return on investment is huge now. Zuumlead is the company, one point of note is that they only allow one person per area to use their service.

  • “We’re too small to specialize yet.” There is definitely such a thing as too small to specialize. Doubling the size of your sales team is not always an option. (we’re <10 people at ). Imagine the cost of adding one person dedicated to doing prospecting

  • VAS

    Hi Aaron ,
    Firstly , i have been an SFDC partner sales rep and mighty impressed with your work at SFDC;
    1. how do we avoid inbound sales vs outbound sales conflict ? ( a contact pursued by SDR could fill up a form online and go into inbound sales (mrr) rep’s bucket ) , so who gets to work on it and how do we avoid it ?

    2.SDRs (aka outbound sales) are primarily prospectors through telephone & email , how do we AUGMENT them through more marketing ? & assuming we do this , answer to question 1 becomes very important to avoid org conflicts

    3. while setting up an outbound sales team for 1st time , its obvious we need to provide them lists for faster time to market , so will lists and SFDC work ? what are the other factors to consider in setting up outbound sales team from scratch ?

    we are a SAAS startup focussing on GLOBAL markets , heavy focus on USA

    thanks for your answers and advice


  • Aaron Ross

    if you can’t add a person, “specialize” by blocking out time on your calendar. so you can ‘specialize’ with just one person. the principle is FOCUS, so your people can do fewer things better.

    ps i get this question/objection so often it’s in my new book with jason lemkin:

  • Aaron Ross

    hi vas, thank you very much. you’re asking some complex questions but here are some answers:

    1) “attribution” is tricky, and you end up setting up rules for who gets what credit: the outbound SDR vs. anything else. ultimately the BEST and only true way to track lead source is for someone to ask the lead how they found out about you. in the coming years i expect my software startup/platform to create more tech solutions for this issue (

    2) marketing usually runs campaigns separately from outbound, think “communication (about what’s going on) not collaboration”. it’s too hard to coordinate campaigns, but outbound and inbound should communicate. marketing should listen to SDRs and use them for direct market feedback. marketing should help create useful content for them – especially short case studies.

    3) the better the people, the faster the results at the beginning, before you have a system. you want “Builders” not “Growers.” (more details in the new book on this, at

    good luck!



    Aaron Ross / @motoceo
    Author, From Impossible To Inevitable
    Author, Predictable Revenue

  • Henry Marsden

    I think Aaron made a very important point about sales and it is incredible how much of what he says is still a problem for businesses. Teaching your staff to be business people that sell, not sales personnel per se, means they think in a manner that solves customers problems. It’s a shame so many businesses aren’t getting this right and are under performing as a consequence.

    I read a blog post that made a very similar point.

  • Randy Hope

    From what I’ve experienced with buying sales leads, if you arent the first person to call then your chances of getting the business are much lower. It took a while but I found a company called Zuumlead that I use now to basically get the lead on the phone for me right away. I dont watch for the leads coming in anymore. They send the lead directly to me, live on my phone so no one else gets to them first.

  • sunny thomas

    Thanks for sharing your insights David. Great learning! Sales is measured in a time-bound fashion in most businesses as that’s the most common measure to gauge the performance of a business. Everything else in the business is thus a slave to that ‘time period’.

    So the bigger question is should businesses use a different metric which will reflect their business/financial health. Or

    should they devise a short-term, mid-term and long-term pipeline and sales closure strategy? If yes, how!

  • Phil Hill

    Take the guesswork out of searching for your next prospect! Search over millions of b2b contacts with emails and links to social media profiles.

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  • Alexander

    Dear Aaron, your 5 years old article is still QUITE relevant. Could you suggest a similar practical principle for compensation of account management people?

  • Timothy Allen

    That article is heading in the right track…proper marketing makes cold calls into warm calls for the salesperson giving them a much better success rate.

    Even more…it’s never too early to identify your workforce’s talents and position them for success. If you have a great closer on your team don’t make them do cold calling or lead generation rather outsource that task to supply more opportunities for your great closer to be more successful.

    These are very common mistakes I’ve seen over the years by management. They think a sales person is one sized fits all and when there’s lulls in success or activity, they should make them cold call or prospect to justify their time and create new opportunities. But what generally happens is you get an unfocused closer who is now focused on something they are neither excited about nor challenged to do. This often creates resentment between the manager and the salesforce and generally sales folks feed off of positive work environments and public successes.

    Acknowledging the 80/20 rule, the sales closer would much rather nurture existing relationships with proven customers and get involved in future projects at the ground level than to use these lull times to lead generate. This seems to have always been a measurable that I could never effectively present to management- continuing relationship building and future planning with the 20% is always time well spent even if it doesn’t appear in the funnel review that month.

    Salesforce management must think in similar terms as our customers do. Our customers have annual budgets, three year plans and ten year sustainability plans. Ignoring that thought process by just keeping your closer “busy” has accounted for many lost projects and revenue in my sales career.

    Tim Allen
    Technical Solutions Advisor
    CyTech LLC

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