In the last five years, things have really started moving fast in the sales space. Gone are the days when only a few basic CRM platforms and schools of thought dominated the space—today there are thousands of tools, resources, and ideas available at the click of a mouse or the tap of a screen. Everyone you talk to in sales has their own customized sales stack that they rely on for scaling and automating lead velocity. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be in this line of work.
This is especially true if you’re like me and you’re working for a startup where you have the opportunity to literally build a sales process from the ground up. If you’re also like me though, you’ve probably found it challenging at times to cut through the noise and zero in on the very best resources, tools, and information that can help you really move the needle.
When you’re deep in the trenches trying to build a winning sales process, it’s not always easy to know which information to use or even where to find it. That’s why I put together a quick list of resources that have been and continue to be helpful to me during the building of our sales process at import.io.
The first area really worth diving into is outbound 2.0. The godfather of this sales strategy is Aaron Ross, who describes his ideas in detail in this interview.
For many SaaS startups, Outbound 2.0 really comes down to hiring people to fill the role of the Sales Development Rep (or SDR) in the sales team. Here’s how Ross describes the role in the interview mentioned above:
“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.” — Why Salespeople shouldn’t Prospect – An interview with Aaron Ross
There are a lot of great companies that have started to empower the SDR. Many produce some really thoughtful content. A few recommendations:
Content to read:
- The SalesLoft blog – This blog has a number of great posts that illustrate the value, purpose, and benefit of establishing a sales development team.
- The Sales Development Rep Playbook by Datanyze – This book compiles the thoughts and advice from sales development reps all across the country on how to be successful in the role.
- The Definitive Guide To Building an SDR Team presented by ToutApp – This 101-style guide walks readers through the why’s, what’s, and how’s needed in order to build an effective SDR team.
- The Pipetop Blog – great source of startup sales and growth content. I really like this post on bottom-up market sizing by Jakob Marovt.
People to follow:
- Aaron Ross, Author of Predictable Revenue
- @MaxAlts, Author of http://HackingSales.com and CEO of SalesHacker.com
- @Daniel Barber, Director, Sales Development & Operations at ToutApp
- Jason Vargas, Co-Founder and Educator at Sales4Startups / Director Outbound Sales at Datanyze
- Jorge Soto, Founder of Dashtab, Founder of Sales4StartUps
- Kyle Porter, CEO of SalesLoft
Putting it all together
There are two main books that are also worth reading.
Book #1: The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge. Put simply, this book provides a scalable, predictable approach to growing revenue and building a winning sales team. In the book, author Mark Rouberg offers a formula, based on his own personal experience and success, for going from $0 to $100 Million.
Book #2: Blueprints for a SaaS Sales Organization by Jacco van der Kooij. In this book, the author provides detailed instructions on how sales leaders should design, implement and execute all around sales plans in order to scale and succeed.
Bonus Book: Founding Sales by Peter Kazanjy. This book launches soon! Follow progress by keeping an eye on the Twitter account here. You can get a sneak peek by reading this excerpt on Startup Sales Hiring Process featured on First Round Review.
There are plenty of other books out there on the subject worth reading, these just happen to be two that have helped me personally. If you have other titles you’d like to recommend, please list them in the comments section! I’d love to read about what’s helping you succeed.
The ‘Sales Stack’ (operations and technology)
If you’re familiar with startups or tech, you might recognize that most developers have a ‘Dev Stack’—all the tools, processes, and ideas that help them work efficiently toward success. As I’ve hinted at above, the idea of a ‘Sales Stack’ now exists and has been quickly growing in popularity among sales and SaaS pros. Max Altschuler has become one of major thought leaders in this space, thanks largely to his Sales Stack conference. This San Francisco-based conference definitely worth attending, but if you can’t make it, be sure to at least check out these resources:
- Hacking Sales by Max Altschuler—This book covers just about every piece of sales tech you can imagine.
- The SalesHacker blog
- This LinkedIn community which I’ve found super useful over the past 12 months.
- The SalesStack Slack group.
A Few Final Areas To Touch On
Sales complexity and pricing
Once you have been through a few sales cycles, you will start to get feel for sales complexity — which drives up your customer acquisition cost (CAC). For example, if you need to send out a salesperson and a sales engineer to close a deal for an on-premise enterprise software solution, you have a very high cost of sale — so you need to ensure you charge enough to make it profitable. Once you get feel for sales complexity, I recommend you read this blog post—it’s super useful for getting your pricing in the right ballpark. From there, set up your v1.0 pricing so the minimum value of a paying customer is 3–5 times your CAC (base it on a 12 month contract).
Commission and compensation
If you’re looking to develop your first commission plan, I found this post by Jason Lemkin really handy. The tl;dr summary is this:
- Offer a Competitive Base Salary
- Pay 2x as Much in Commission
- Use Cash As An Accelerator (i.e pay more for cash-up front deals)
- Pay Upon Receipt of Cash, Not Contract E-Signing
Sound intriguing? Take a look at the post!
I hope some of these resources help you build out your sales process. What other resources need to be on this list? If you have recommendations, I’d love to read about them. Post them in the comments section below.
by Dan Murphy @dantmurphy
Dan heads up Business Development at import.io and blogs about SaaS, Sales and Startups.