Dealing With Uncertainty In Sales

Dealing With Uncertainty In Sales

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Video Overview

You can’t predict the future. No one can.

In times of upheaval, you need to learn how to deal with uncertainty and double down on those things that are working.

In this episode of the B2B Rebellion, Aaron Ross shares why the future is bright and outbound sales is working better than ever.


Andy Culligan

Andy Culligan
CMO of Leadfeeder

Aaron Ross

Aaron Ross
Co-CEO of Predictably Revenue

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Interview Transcript

Andy Culligan: So. Hey guys, welcome back to another episode of the B2B Rebellion. Really happy today to have somebody that we've been doing quite a bit of work with in the past couple of months, and somebody that I have known from my career for quite a while, is Aaron Ross from Predictable Revenue.

So you may know Aaron from a couple of the books he's written. He's also... You may have come across on LinkedIn. Couple of books he's written of note, Predictable Revenue, and also From Impossible to Inevitable, its more recent edition. He's also known as well for having a lot of children running around behind him.

So I always enjoy our conversations, Aaron, so I'll let you give yourself a little bit of an introduction, maybe what Predictable Revenue are up to, what you guys offer, and also your past a little bit. So over to you, mate.

Aaron Ross: Yeah. First, let me get my audio working again. I realise this is like... Everyone's dealing with this right now. You got kids, dogs... I don't know, maybe you showered, maybe not. And for a lot of people, they are already working at home, or doing remote sales, a lot of people who are used to field sales, and we're all friends here. So I know for me, 'cause I've been doing remote stuff for a long time and having kids break in on me for years and like for... I'm glad we're all on the same boat now. Yeah.

AC: Absolutely. So how's business been, mate? How's business been at Predictable Revenue over the past couple of months?

AR: Yeah, it's been picking up. So I know back in kind of... Maybe April when the world panicked, everything goes on lockdown. I know for a couple of months, we... So predictablerevenue dot com is a business and we do outbound sales services, right, either helping people build outbound teams, a lot of it's kind of different flavours of outsourcing, whether from really lightweight to actually hiring and managing your people, prospectors for you.

And we also do training consulting. It's all about creating results from outbound prospecting. So... And we got about 55 people. We were doing... Gonna plan on doing like 7 million this year, pre-COVID.

AC: Nice.

AR: Okay. Pre-COVID. So April-May, I don't think we sold... I don't think any one customer signed up in April-May. We had some churn. I don't wanna say 10%... It wasn't life-threatening. I mean, it's definitely alarming. Like a lot of... So there's some businesses that just hit the wall. Right? They're just... They're done. And some business got a tailwind.

And there's so many businesses, like most, they're kind of in this middle way of... Things are slow, but we're not... We gotta adjust and adapt, and that's kinda where we are, so for a couple months, I mean, just roughly... I don't think anything... Anyone signed up, and then now, we're signing up... Starting to sign up a lot more customers, but we're doing... We kind of re-jiggered our product offerings a bit, and this and that and the other.

So I haven't changed my stance from the beginning, which was in March. Just thinking and still feeling that this is the... We're all getting this chance to hit the reset button on how we work, and a lot of the world and the markets and businesses are being... You can use the word "disruptive", but really, it's just kind of... It's like that we had this puzzle, and the puzzle has been thrown up in the air, it's all coming down into new shapes. Like it's being... Everything's being recreated.

It doesn't feel good for most people, most businesses, but it doesn't mean... It's not the end of the world. It's kinda like when an old forest burns down so the new one can grow, and so ultimately this would be... For people and for businesses, it can be a great thing for you if you look ahead a year or two and realising there's always these big... I don't wanna say save recessions, just kinda like cataclysmic events that happen every few years, a few decades, and you get through them.

Or hopefully most people do, and if you embrace it, you can come out better on the other side. If you resist it and kinda hope things would go back to the way they were, you're stuck.

Let's pick a case right now, and we're just talk talking about how in the United States, a lot of states and locales and governors are like, "Hey, let's reopen. We gotta get... We gotta get open. We gotta get open, this pandemic thing is a bit of a fad. Or it's not as big a deal, I know." And obviously... And then of course, within weeks, could cases spike, 'cause they're still like, they're holding on to the past.

But I actually really don't know. I feel horrible for all the restaurants. Everyone's got challenges but for people like restaurants and small business owners and... I don't even know. So maybe they're doing that out of desperation for all the small businesses that are still shut down. I don't even know.

But, there's a lot of opportunity... It may not feel good to people right now. I think they're still all... So much stress and financial anxiety and uncertainty and life ain't... Life uncertainty. We have teenagers that do not know if they're gonna go back to boarding school in September or not. And kids... We have... So nine kids, a couple in college, a couple in boarding school, and they are like, they don't know.

So there's being okay with uncertainty, 'cause nothing's predictable. I mean, I'm being unpredictable. How are we gonna get through this? How are you going to... So I know for us, as a business, what's really worked is just take it little... It's like step by step, day by day, week by week, and in the beginning, one of our... Corner of our values was we didn't want to have to... We wanted to be able to get through this without laying anyone off, is a goal, and we haven't laid anyone off yet.

We've let go a couple of people go who weren't a fit, which is different. So I think we're fortunate in that place... Having a strong brand and a great team to have a great chance of that, and... But who knows? We'll see.

AC: For sure.

AR: And I know that as long as it's just... It's really easy to get caught up in so much anxiety and uncertainty about the next even months and much less years, so for us just being really present, like today, this week, this month, maybe two months, just a really short-term focus towards the day-to-day of iterating and adjusting and being okay with things being changeable, 'cause we haven't even seen the big recession yet.

AC: Yeah, sure. Sure, that's gonna be a couple of months down the line, for sure. I mean, you mentioned that a couple of minutes ago about you guys signing new clients, and...

AR: Yeah.

AC: And I like the analogy you gave there, just about... It's a bit like when a forest burns down and the soil is now fertile, then it's time to grow again. With those new customers. How are you advising them? I guess it's talk. Right? What advice do you give, Do you have a framework, do you have something that you give them?

AR: Yeah. So we focus on outbound prospecting, we do some teaching, we have a bunch of our own people who do it, and so I think a lot of the outbound prospecting results in terms of meetings and calls have come back in lots of ways. It's just a bit different. There's lots of people who are at home, not at the office, so this call, so I don't wanna get into details, but prospecting and outbound still works. For some companies better than before, some companies worse than before, but it still works.

And I can give you one example, one... We're focused more on LinkedIn and have been for the last year, but even double now, 'cause LinkedIn's been expanding so much COVID. So, one of our most popular services is... We used to have a $6,000 service. And we kind of dropped that to 2500 with some per meeting stuff, so it's kind of a lower base to start, it's focused on LinkedIn. It's an easier people to get started and so on, so it's adapting that for the times.

And the advice is kind of the same, it's like who's your ideal customer? There's gonna have to be some iteration, it's gonna take a few weeks or six weeks, a couple of months to kinda get the ball rolling. It might be faster it might be slower. Great things don't happen instantly. So the advice actually is the same, I think, a lot of times, again, just going back to... Things could change, there could be another black swan. The government's just still propping up economies right now and salaries. I don't know how many tens of millions of people have filed for unemployment in the States, but if the United States stops propping that up, or when they do, can they really prop things up for 18 months? I don't know, maybe. I supposed maybe down for six months, maybe they can do it for 18 months or however long this takes. What if COVID mutates?

So there's all these uncertainties, so I think it's just... People want predictability, but you just can't have... You may... You have to be ready to not have it right now. Do your best, do your campaigns, people might be slower deciding, and you gotta kind of do what you can to embrace the current reality and adapt and not try to take prior expectations from the past and overly color your expectations for right now.

AC: For sure. For sure. Yeah. It makes plenty of sense. It's a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people, but it's actually the truth to be fair. It's a good, mature way of looking at things because we don't know what's gonna happen next week, we don't know what's gonna happen in two months from now.

AR: Yeah. It's ridiculous. So you can do... Forecasting is pointless. You can do scenario planning. And I understand, especially if you have... If you're a public company or you've got investors, there's a lot of pressure, and responsibility and obligation, and employees and families, there's so much weight towards hitting certain... Having goals, hitting goals and responsibility. And yeah, that can be useful pressure to kinda drive you to change and adapt and again, we gotta... Having a family having to pay rent... We gotta change, it can't just hold on, to embrace new reality.

But no one knows. And everyone's trying to make predictions. No one's ever known the future. Some people get lucky in guessing. Well, you can't predict... I think you can probably predict the future, but not when it happens. If you're good at predicting the future, you can't say when it's gonna happen, right? I mean, we'll see, I have no idea.

AC: Yeah. For sure. That does make sense. You did mention one thing there about outbound being quite successful at the moment, or for some industries, it's working quite well and...

AR: Yeah, and it's working for us better than ever. For our clients, yeah.

AC: That's really good. I mean...

AR: At least getting appointments now, sales cycles might be bit different in terms of win rates in length so...

AC: For sure. I'm hearing some waves that if you can show real value, once you get in front of people, people are still looking to buy you. That like if you can be more valuable than you have been in the past. If you're really solving a problem right now, or you're scratching that itch properly, whereas in the past it might have been a nice to have... Now, it's sort of... If you're able to really prove the value. Which was always the case, but it sort of goes to the point...

And I was gonna ask you this, do you think that people, or sales people sort of got a little bit complacent over the past years, it's been somewhat... They didn't maybe need to sell as hard? I've been hearing that as well. Now, it's really... It's more about... You need to go in with a... Not a hard sell, but you need to really master your craft almost. More so than ever right now.

AR: Yeah. I mean, yes. But I think it's not even so much the salespeople. It can be. Most of the time it's like the product... The thing is the last bunch of years, the economy's been great, and so there's all kinds of companies and products that were created for all kinds of needs. It's not even that they were nice to have. It's just when COVID hit all the needs changed. Right?

So all the nice-to-haves and needs kinda changed around. And people's decision making changed. So it's like you're rolling the dice cup, right? You roll the new... It's a new set of dice and it's coming up all fives... Before it was all sixes now it's all twos... So everyone's gotta do the musical chairs to re-scramble. So I don't think people got complacent. I don't think it's that, I think it's a scramble. And now you gotta re-scramble.

AC: As a scramble for everyone. That's one thing you just put there. It's everybody in the organization, right?

AR: Yeah. And again, we've never seen a world with this much challenge in its own way, 'cause it's 4 billion... Some billions of people are affected and the economy, it's just unimaginable. Which means too, this... They bring more opportunity.

In five or 10 to 20 years, we'll look back and say it could be the greatest opportunity... Entrepreneurial creation... Period of creation that we've ever seen. It may not feel like that right now, but that's... Again, if you have that mindset, I don't even know what's going to happen with schools, 'cause what if kids can't go back to school this year? Online learning doesn't work. It's possible... And there could be a whole ton of disruption in schools. I have lots of kids, ages, and, to me, schools, we need the structure. The online learning, the remote learning thing is just kind of a waste of time, honestly. The kids are just going through the motions. A lot of, people would say a lot of structured education is going trough the motions, but I have a lot of kids, where if they don't have a structure like that, they don't do anything. I mean, they just distract themselves from learning.

So... To me, for a lot of kids, it would be perfect, maybe do this over the next year, a few years, there's a newer model which would blend some structure in like a school setting with some off... Like two days at school a week. In Scotland, they're talking about two days in school and then people switch, like it's part-time. That actually could be better. I don't know.

All kinds of businesses and economies and sales models and everything just restructured in the coming year. So, one example is like, if you've been used to field sales, you've never really done much remote and you're uncomfortable with it 'cause it's kind of weird, and you don't get to know people, it's kinda flat walled, you have to have that skill now. So, how can you just simply get better at it? If you are writing, if you're doing content, you have to... How do you get better at it? Because everyone's doing content. There's just so much unlimited great content from great people. Unlimited great products. Every niche is crowded. So, different... So how do you stand out? So, I would say one of the ways is by being more of yourself.

How are you as a person in your own unique genius and your own style and your personality? So, this is gonna be a forcing function for businesses and people to get clear on who they are, what they stand for, their value to others. It's just an evolution of the past. It's kind of like speeding things up. It's not... And it doesn't feel good. That's why it's gonna force people to do stuff, 'cause inherently we get stuck in our habits.

AC: For sure, it's breaking the habit. And it's... In the business sense, I agree with you. I think there's a lot of opportunity to come from it. I'm already starting to see people seize the opportunity.

AR: Yeah.

AC: People are starting to grow, which is good. And it tells that really do something to differentiate, I think, and we've spoken about this so many times already, Aaron and like, you sit on your hands, nothing's gonna happen. So, do something, tailor your message a bit better to suit your audience. Now is the time to do it.

I spoke with somebody today that is in a fairly aging industry, and she was saying that it's been a real terror trying to get the rest of the leadership team to digitalize, in the past. But now, since COVID's come, they have no choice, but they were really, really pushing against it. Even when COVID first came, they were like, "Oh, this isn't gonna last," and then they're like, "Okay, we really need to look at this" So this is... If you don't do that, you won't survive. The company won't survive.

AR: Welcome to the digital age. Yeah.

AC: Exactly, exactly. I think it's put a bit of a kick up the ass of companies and people that haven't been, the retail sector being one in particular. That's been...

AR: Well I know for us, for me, one of my... I would have resisted. I resisted going virtual. We had two offices, each one had about 20-ish people, one in Vancouver, one in Cancun, Mexico. I've been remote. And I would have been the first, I was the first to say we don't want our people to go remote because onboarding salespeople, it's just hard remote. But we're going... And we're remote, and we decided to stay remote, and I've actually been a fan so far because of a lot of other benefits. And so that was kicking the ass for me is the benefits of having a remotely run virtual company.

AC: There you go.

AR: It's very embracing. So that's one. I'm sure I had other kicks in the ass too.

AC: But it's funny what you can achieve when your hands are tied behind your back. When you're...

AR: You're talking to a person with nine kids and the bills to match.

AC: Your hands and feet tied behind your back.

AR: Have you read this book?

AC: I have, I have.

AR: When you're basically... You're constrained with time, money, sanity. Yes. Part six, Impossible to Inevitable, read it.

AC: Absolutely. I actually have it on, the book... Hold on a second. Wait, wait.

AR: Alright, let's prove it. Okay. First edition or second? Oh yeah, the first edition. That's a good one.

AC: First edition. So, I've got the first edition. You'll have to send me the second one, Aaron. But...

AR: I will. I'll get your address.

AC: Absolutely, absolutely. But listen, look, we're coming to the end of it now, but it's been really, really nice to speak. Is there anything that you'd like to leave with? Like where can people find you, how can they get working with Predictable Revenue?

AR: Simple place to start is In fact, by the way, reminds me, one of our new things I'm trying out is online workshops. They're different from webinars, actually I'll reach out to you about that. But, main business. And then actually, I would recommend, is the site for the book from Impossible to Inevitable. It was rated the eighth best start-up book.

And I'm on LinkedIn, probably not that hard to find. If you made it this far, and you actually listened for my email address, 'cause I think you need it to connect with me, if all, it's A-I-R, air at predictablerevenue dot com. I'm just curious, send me an email and see how many people got this far and actually listened to that, caught that. I'm gonna write it down. I bet I'll get five emails. That'd be fantastic.

AC: If you get more...

AR: Or LinkedIn messages.

AC: Or LinkedIn... If you get more than that, if you get overloaded you know who to be blaming, this guy. But Eric, or Aaron, it's been a real pleasure, mate. And thank you so much.

AR: Yep. Thanks. And good luck to everybody.

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