We’ve been through a quiet revolution in sales processes now, where a combination of specialization, technology, and segmentation is making the next generation of SaaS founders far better at figuring out and scaling sales than I or my peers ever were a generation ago in SaaS.
One of the things the best founders are figuring out earlier than ever is how to invest in both outbound and inbound sales early. In many ways, this was the core message of Aaron Ross’ classic Predictable Revenue. When I first met Aaron, probably way back in ’07, his main point was simply: Add Outbound. Best case, it can be epic. Worst case, it will at least add a layer, a new revenue stream (more on that here). Worst case, if you have happy customers and any reasonably sized ACV, outbound should at least be a way to squeeze another 10-20% of revenue out per year. And in a recurring revenue business, with second-order revenue and referrals being critical — that extra 10-20% can compound to something amazing 3-4 years out. Aaron learned this building the first outbound sales team at Salesforce. Now, we’ve all kind of sort of learned it, too.
So let me add one simple nuance to Aaron’s core message. If you aren’t doing outbound today, or doing much of it, or are scared of it (and many founders much prefer to answer inbound contacts) … take a look at your Qualified Connect Rate.
This is my blend of several metrics, which is — What % of Targeted Potential Customers Can You Get to Take a Phone Call and Do a Demo?
If you can get even 5% of any cohort, of any sub-segment, of your targeted buyers to agree to do a demo out of a LinkedIn connect, a targeted email, or even a phone call … you have something. Outbound will definitely work.
You have something that either breaks through a crowded market or that you can convince someone to take a look at in a market that is even a bit of a new category or at least a new process to automate.
If you spam 10,000 accounts with a non-personalized generic message, you’ll never hit 5%, of course. But instead, if you haven’t done this, pick the exact Buyer Title, Stage, and Type of Company that’s already bought before. And see if you can get 5% of them to not just respond, “Thanks!”, but to actually take a meeting. Call this Account Based Marketing, if you want. It’s highly personalized, careful outreach that shows an understanding of a problem, and a real solution.
If you do, it’s OK if you can’t even close a ton of those yet. You’ll get better. Just try to close 1 or 2.
And if you can close just 1 or 2 out of that 5% — you are probably ready to hire an outbound team, today. Right now. Like, a full team. 8 outbound SDRs. Even if you don’t quite know what you are doing.
And note if your sales team today hasn’t done this before — they are probably just not experienced at it, or don’t want to do it. 100% inbound folks are usually weak at outbound unless they did it before. You may need to remix the team to add a passion for outbound to the team.
(note: an updated SaaStr Classic post)