Aaron Ross, former Salesforce exec and co-author of Predictable Revenue, talks about sales, tech companies, and work-life balance
São Paulo – Aaron Ross, author of the best seller “Predictable Revenue”, has a success story at Salesforce , where he worked to help the company increase sales by 100 million dollars. A graduate of Stanford University, Ross is now at Predictable University, a company he runs from home while taking care of his nine children. Ross will be in Brazil in March to participate in an event held by Brazilian startup Sky.One , specialized in creating cloud computing .
Read the exclusive interview with Ross below.
What are the sales practices that no tech company today can afford to ignore?
For leaders of corporate sales teams, the indispensable practice is to rethink and redesign the salespeople's work and analyze the team's profile. Today, many salespeople are generalists, expected to do everything: fill their own schedule prospecting new customers, respond to potential customers, close contracts, and keep them or even sell them additional products. They end up juggling to deal with everything. It's too much work. Imagine if a football coach instructed all players to do everything: a player must attack, defend and play in the midfield and act as a goalkeeper. That team would never win. But that's what we expect sellers to do. The solution to this is the specialization of sales functions: prospectors who prospect customers; closers who close deals; sales representatives who handle marketing leads; and account managers who retain customers and seek to sell more products to them. These are the “Four Key Roles” in enterprise sales teams. There are many variations, but the fundamental principle is focus. By creating more types of sales jobs, people can do fewer tasks with more quality.
How can cloud computing solutions help companies become more profitable?
Cloud computing solutions have completely changed the economics of software businesses and businesses that get into software as well. This technology brought transaction costs (testing and delivery) to almost zero. So, as long as the company can create a solution that customers need – which isn't easy – there's almost no way it can fail to make money. However, it also made it easier for competitors and “clones” to launch, making markets more competitive and noisy. So while cloud computing is good for the market, it causes an overage problem that confuses customers' minds.
How important is a strong data science area in a large company to increase sales?
Data science is becoming more popular every year as technology improves and talent develops. We work with a company called Dataiku, which just raised money at a valuation of over $1 billion, which sells artificial intelligence to companies. It is evidence that the need for data analysis exists and the tools exist to fulfill it. However, most companies are not in a place to benefit because most companies' internal systems are full of data that could potentially go to waste. It takes huge budgets and a lot of time to maintain data quality in an enterprise. So the data can be useful.
What are the signs that companies can identify to know the right time to increase sales?
Companies know it's time to invest in growing faster when they "conquer a niche", seeing some signs. If you have a small core team of salespeople (up to two or three, plus the founders) that regularly hit quotas, it's time to grow. The same is true if the company has automated the capture of customer data with marketing actions or referrals. It's also a good time to increase the number of sellers when people find your business on their own and buy products and services or when customers spontaneously speak highly of what you sell.
How can entrepreneurs organize their personal and corporate lives to find balance?
As someone who has grown a business from nothing to $5 million and also gone from zero children to ten, I've learned a lot over the years about juggling, which is the term I prefer over balance. I have a very unbalanced life because I spend so much time as a father to my children, but I still have to earn a lot of money to support such a large family (which is highly motivating). Here are three essentials. First, you need to focus on learning how to make more money, either as a person or a business. Making money is like learning to play the guitar...you can do it with practice, but getting good can take years. Set goals, find teachers and sources for learning and practice. Second, schedule the most important things into the calendar, including blocks of time. I mainly scheduled four types: family time, personal time (to exercise or hang out with my wife), and work. It's not perfect, but if I don't schedule time to work out at the gym, it won't happen. Finally, whatever you do, focus on what you are doing.
In your opinion, what are the trends for the Brazilian market in 2020?
Brazil is the international market with the greatest enthusiasm for leveraging a company. It's amazing to see thousands and thousands of people attending conferences on growth and sales, online learning activities and entrepreneurship. People in Brazil are very passionate about it. In 2020, this trend will continue. I will be in Brazil in March for the Sky.One Connect event and I hope to meet many Brazilian entrepreneurs and leaders. While there are many ways to learn online, nothing beats meeting people and sharing ideas.