Why You Might Need to Ditch Your Predictable Revenue Playbook

If you’re in the startup world or part of a SaaS (software as a service) company you’ve likely heard of the book Predictable Revenue at some point. It’s a fantastic playbook to building an outbound sales team with what Aaron Ross calls Cold Calling 2.0 as it’s core methodology.

In fact, the book has become so popular that the theories presented in the book have no become conventional wisdom in the sales ecosystem. You’ll even find job postings for SDR’s (sales development reps) or other sales roles touting bonus points for having read the book.

Keep in mind this book was published in 2011 about a method that was implemented in Salesforce in 2003!

I’ll admit that in many scenarios the same process still works. If you haven’t read the book the method is to aim high in an org. with very brief cold emails and ask for an intro down to the correct person that would be a buyer for your solution.

Based on what has changed in the B2B sales landscape in the last 15 years I find there are two main problems with the theories presented in the book. I would highly encourage you to consider others as well before blindly following the Predictable Revenue tribe.

The primary reason for originally developing this method, as Aaron Ross explains in the book, was because his challenge was finding out WHO the correct people were to talk to. Now, the role of the decision maker for your solution might be different in certain organizations but the way I interpret that is his issue was simply navigating the org chart because there was zero visibility. Now we have companies like Clearbit, Full Contact or a myriad of other tools that will help you get the name and contact information of almost anyone.

Consequently, the people in C-level or VP roles are not getting inundated with cold emails every day (or so I’m told). To me, just from a pure logic standpoint, means you’re going to see diminishing returns from this method. I know I have personally run campaigns into C-level personas of small companies and the response rates have drastically gone down, even with hyper-personalization (something that is not deemed to have a high ROI in the PR model).


So, what’s the alternative?


In my opinion, the whitespace in the cold outreach world right now is targeting lower down the totem pole at Directors or Managers and speaking to their problems directly rather than looking for an intro to someone else.

The advancements in sales and marketing technology since the book was published now allow you virtually target people on a 1-1 basis. This idea spawned the current sales hacker buzzword “account based sales development” which essentially means rather than spray and pray, use the spears (mentioned in the book as an analogy for the outbound method) more literally and target exactly those companies and individuals you know would be a good fit for your product.

I’m a huge proponent of this method because not only do I think it’s more effective but I feel like it’s a much better experience for the customer. Since you’re targeting fewer companies, by nature you’re able to be more personal with your messaging.

Ultimately what is going to be most effective is the method that no one is willing to do. At one point cold emailing was hard because you had to guess people’s email addresses and manually send follow-ups. Currently, what’s hard is actually investing time and personalizing your messaging or reaching buyers on different channels. Ironically, even phone calls are becoming more and more effective again. It turns out navigating objections and booking meetings via the phone actually takes some skills that not everyone has. As opposed to the ability for literally anyone to setup a lengthy canned email sequence and blast it out to thousands of prospects.

I should mention that In my opinion there are many parts of Predictable Revenue that are still very applicable. For example, the are-we-a-fit calls and selling ideas/solutions rather than “stuff” are both great points. Also, the importance of understanding your ICP. I don’t think that will ever go away and is also heavily emphasized in Aaron’s latest book From Impossible to Inevitable.

Lastly, it’s important to step back and remember that these are just tactics. Some may work, some may not but if you don’t have a strategy behind your efforts you will at best see short term success.