Five Fatal Sales Mistakes - Aaron Ross Sales Hacker Conference Talk

by Phil Freo

The Close team is attending today’s Sales Hacker Conference in San Francisco and we’ll be taking notes and sharing the best talks of the conference with you. List of all talks.

First, of the keynote speech of Aaron Ross.

Five Fatal Sales Mistakes - Aaron Ross Sales Hacker Conference Talk

What is this talk about?

Software companies are always trying to improve their sales by any means necessary. While there are hundreds of different things companies can do to optimize sales, there are five fatal mistakes that companies can avoid that will boost their sales.

Who is Aaron Ross?

At Salesforce from 2000-2006. He helped them add 100M in a few years. He set up a process that brought in about 500-700 million this year for Salesforce. Author of the bestselling sales book Predictable Revenue. He has 4 kids right now and will adopt a few more.

Five Fatal Sales Mistakes:

Software companies are always trying to improve their sales by any means necessary. While there are hundreds of different things companies can do to optimize sales, there are five fatal mistakes that companies can avoid that will boost their sales.

Fatal sales mistake #1 – afraid to pick a niche

When pitching your product, make sure you are speaking to a specific market. When you are speaking to everyone = No one can hear you

  • Pick a niche: get rich

  • You can grow organically to about a million, after that it gets hard and you hit a plateau. Picking a niche can help get you out of a plateau

If you are too general – during your pitch, people may interpret what you are saying differently than you intend it or they may not get what you are saying at all.

  • Many companies don’t pick a niche because they think it’s too limiting, too small, too boring and not sexy. They are wrong!

Example: LeadGeni.us. They were struggling at first because they were too broad (crowdsourcing) and the more narrow they got, the better they did.

Fatal sales mistake #2: treating all leads the same

Not all leads are the same and they should all be treated differently. it is important to segment your leads. Example of how to categorize:

Seeds: Word of mouth

These are the best leads you can have. You grow them through a customer success program. They are very profitable and conversion rates are high. But it’s hard to scale this and difficult to force it.

Nets: Inbound marketing

Very scalable, the more nets you put out there (articles, blog posts, social media, SEO, etc) the more leads you generate. However, conversion rates are low and it can take a long time until a sale happens. Quantity over quality.

Spears: Cold outbound

Very targeted and expensive to pursue. Only pays off for big deals. Quality over quantity.

The type of and frequency of outreach to all of these leads is not the same. It is important to learn how to put the right energy into the right leads.

Fatal sales mistake #3: Using Jargon and buzzwords

When pitching your software, be as clear and concise as possible. Potential clients want to know what you do and how you’re going to help them.

Your messaging is super important. Just because you know what it means and understand something, doesn’t mean your client will understand it. You should be able to explain what you do to a 10-year-old.

When thinking about your pitch, you should answer these three questions:

Five Fatal Sales Mistakes - Aaron Ross Sales Hacker Conference Talk

And finally, people aren’t interested in buying things and features.

People want to buy Ideas. Want to know what he means by that? Watch this 2-minute video where Aaron Ross talks about selling ideas, not stuff.

Structure your pitches like this when you are selling:

  1. Ideas

  2. Benefits

  3. Features

Features come last because people don’t purchase features, they buy ideas and benefits.

These questions will help you reframe your pitch and improve it.

Pro Tip From Aaron

When you are brainstorming, set up a feature and idea column. Then, figure out where you want to put every idea or thought that comes up during the brainstorm.

Five Fatal Sales Mistakes - Aaron Ross Sales Hacker Conference Talk

Fatal sales mistake #4: making salespeople prospect

When you are a small company it can be tempting to have one person prospect and sell. Unfortunately, sales people generally:

  • aren’t any good at it

  • don’t like to do it

And, perhaps more importantly, its not repeatable or scalable. People are bad at splitting their time appropriately between two tasks so one of two scenarios will happen:

Five Fatal Sales Mistakes - Aaron Ross Sales Hacker Conference Talk

So, the way to solve this is to specialize your four core sales roles

  • #1 and #2: Sales development (qualifiers) – inbound and outbound

  • #3 Account executives (closers) (the transition from 1/2 to 3 is after a ‘good call’)

  • #4 Customer success and account managers (farmers)

Pro Tip From Aaron

What if you have only one person to do all of these tasks? Then have this person segment their time and block of specific times or day where they focus on one of these sales roles. That way, they won’t have to switch back and forth between different attitudes and roles.

Fatal sales mistake #5: getting blinded by the resume

When you are hiring don’t let a good company on a resume trick you into hiring someone who is not qualified. As a small company, you need to think:

Do I need builders or growers?

Five Fatal Sales Mistakes - Aaron Ross Sales Hacker Conference Talk

Think twice before you hire someone from a big company:

  • Where they there building something from scratch?

  • Or did they join and help it grow once it worked?

It’s not just important for you, but its important for the person you hire.

  • A builder won’t be interested if what you need is growth.

  • A grower won’t be able to help you build.

Pro Tip From Aaron

A VP of sales at a startup should be willing to do sales themselves!

Next steps:

  1. Check out notes from other talks from Sales Hacker Conference

  2. Try out Close to track your sales communication automatically