SalesTechStar Interview with Aaron Ross, Advisory Board Member at Cognism
Aaron Ross, an Advisory Board Member at Cognism chats about a few sales standards and practices that can enable better B2B sales processes:
Welcome to this SalesTechStar chat Aaron- you’ve had a lot of time in advisory roles in the B2B tech industry, tell us about the key highlights…!
I’ve spent a lot of time, almost 20 years in the B2B sales environment as a sales advisor in the b2b tech space. I’ve seen the market go through a lot of changes.
I think I’m most well known for having created the Outbound Sales Team motion at salesforce.com, when they were under 150 People and $25 million. I wrote my first book based on it; ‘Predictable Revenue’ Turn Your Business Into A Sales Machine With The $100 Million Best Practices Of Salesforce.com It is often cited as “The Sales Bible of Silicon Valley.”
I went on to co-author of “From Impossible to Inevitable” alongside Jason Lemkin which is the number1 SaaS book according to Book Authority.
It’s an amazing book for startups founders and leaders. It helped create more of a template or system to show companies how to grow, tell them what gets in their way, what to do and the most common mistakes.
How have you been seeing the B2B / SaaS and tech market on the whole shift through the last few years and what are some of the key innovations and trends that you feel will dominate the market in the next few years?
I see one, the major Uber trend, fundamental trend, unstoppable trend and its really just ongoing technology and information overwhelm. This is already happening. It’s been going on for decades and it’s set to continue. It’s not going to stop, that’s the way it is. The pandemic has in fact speeded it up by maybe five to ten years.
You could say Software is a victim of its own success or we are a victim of software. The amount of noise is always increasing, with more channels, more messages, more video, more text, more audit more everything. More alerts, and this is also in our work lives. People are being judged over tactics and metrics.
Continual noise and ‘always on’ has led to exhaustion and overwhelmed many. Remote work has contributed to it. We’re all still adapting to remote working and how to manage it, as at the moment it’s kind of got this world of unlimited opportunity, which is also in a world of unlimited overwhelming and choice paralysis.
For me, the fundamental challenge that teams and companies are going to face, is the noise in the world and how to stand out from that. Companies also need to develop the emotional aspects of work places, be it remote or hybrid, for people to continue to be successful and perform. The old 40/50 Hour Workweek should be a thing of the past.
So the trend is really how do we develop more emotional smarts to sort through the noise and create better relationships within teams and better, stronger relationships between companies and their customers,
One of the consequences of all this noise alongside remote working means that loyalty and brand building is thinner than ever. With so many good channels and content, it’s easier than ever to just switch. There’s less loyalty.
As an advisory member at Cognism, what is your core focus, when it comes to platforms like Cognism in the salestech market, what are some of the ways in which you feel technologies such as this will change the game for sales teams?
It goes back to – too much noise. The ever increasing noise in the market and companies trying to be everything to everyone. They need to double down on their unique genius. With Cognism, its genius lies in its compliant data that includes has high quality mobile contact data.
Cognism’s high quality compliant data proves itself to be invaluable to companies, enabling them to create more clarity in their market, reduce the noise and make it easier for the right customers to find them and start the sales process.
Every business is racing to get the next technology, one that will help to increase sales and customer communication. The more technology out there, the more businesses will use to try and gain competitive advantage. A technology solution such as Cognism gives sales teams more power and information, that should lead to targeted success.
I believe companies should also provide the mental and emotional smarts alongside the technology to ensure their teams can use the technology wisely, to meet targets and feel empowered at work.
If you could change four things about B2B sales, what would they be?
- I would love sales people, marketing people to have more confidence and less neediness. There’s just so much spray and pray and people who sell just to sell whether or not there’s a good fit. They just waste time – the sales people’s time the executives and the customers time.
- Seamless, clear targeting. More diligence on who really is a good fit for this product or service and why? How do we find them how to identify them? This makes it easier for the right buyers to see who’s a good fit for them – less noise. It makes it easier for you to stand out from the crowd.
- Simpler writing and content – not making content for the sake of content. Currently it feels like there is a tsunami of content out there. As someone who has made my name through content, the value lies in simple direct clear content, which can be writing, it can be video, and with personality.
- Work less hours – stop the 50 /60 hour week culture and look at how effective you are in the hours you put in. Some weeks you will have to do more, for travel, pitch deadlines that’s a given, but on average we should be reducing. Especially leaders, the emotional strain that comes with decision making is tough. Teams should work at a level where everyone is happy and productive.
Can you share a few highlights on the type of salestech that you feel should be core to any B2B sales process and why? What should sales teams do before optimizing their salestech in your view?
I think there’s a standard set of sales tech that most companies should have or start with…
Anything that helps you identify your ideal customer profile is key to start with. This may be AI, ML or FBI tools. Then it’s what do you use to create a list of the companies that fit the ideal profile? This could be Cognism – a tool that gives you good quality, compliant data.
Then you need a CRM system to keep all this information in, then a sales engagement tool, which is anything that helps you make your ACT make sales, actions easier to take, or better.
There’s a lot out there to help you to send emails and follow ups maybes make calls, coaching calls.
The most effective for me are those sales engagement tools that can help to create clarity for salespeople in terms of what should I do when and how? Helping them to automate or simplify that is a very valuable tool. Helping sales/marketing people to get things in and out of the CRM or database ease more easily.
Then there is the more informal technologies including wats app and texts that are increasingly used and accepted.
Aside from technology, I also believe it pays to have some mentors or coaches, whether internal or external. Having peer mentor systems for your salespeople, especially the new ones. A good support system for your people is key, especially with the increase in remote working.
Finally – you can’t use all the tools out there. Take time in choosing what’s right for your sales teams. Take time to coach people to use them in order to gain the most value from them. Resist adding more tools to your armor for the sake of it.
Some last thoughts, takeaways, digital sales/customer communication tips and best practices before we wrap up!
Emotional smarts to me is the big thing –It’s early days. How are people going to work together especially with hybrid working within this world full of noise.
How do we as individuals become more aligned with what we do and how we do it best?
We could be morning or evening workers. It may be that three days a week or shorter six days a week suit different people best. We’ve all go to find our own rhythm in order to deliver our best.
And it’s so boring but true, but are you taking care of your basics within this crazy world? With so much uncertainty, doubt overwhelm, it’s the simple things, like eating vegetables, sleep, laughter movement and reflection; those kind of basic body and personal care routines that are a part of a foundation.
And I laugh because as a parent of 10 children, keeping up with these can be a challenge. But yes, those are the things that keep us grounded. If you don’t get them you can feel out of sorts. For me sleep is number one. It’s just so fundamental and I feel it when I get interrupted, which I can on many nights.
With all the technology in the world, we need an extra emphasis on the human side and our relationships with ourselves and others or with customers in order to balance it out. To continue to be able to use this technology and have that success that we want.
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