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Predictable Revenue's Aaron Ross, on a better way to sell

Patrick Campbell Jul 27 2021

Mistakes are tough. No matter what someone tells you about learning from your mistakes, and loving your mistakes, and daring to feel gloriously. It doesn’t change that mistakes suck.

And what do you do when you realize that you’ve made a mistake? Depending on the severity, sometimes you can just brush it off. But the bigger ones, they tend to just stick with you and that’s and that’s part of maturity. 

Like, for example, when you use three tablespoons of pepper when it’s supposed to be three teaspoons in a recipe, you probably can just kind of shove that off and be like “Eh, well ’ll do better next time and I’ll pay more attention next time.” But what happens when you make a really painful mistake, like accidentally lying to a friend, or even intentionally, and realizing that you made that mistake later. It hurts.

It’s painful to realize a mistake especially when operating your subscription business. Putting time and resources into a project only to realize you didn’t get the results you hoped for is occasionally those small potatoes, but when it’s for a big company-wide swing and a miss, it can be a deathblow. If your goal is hyper growth and you only marginally increase the bottom line, heads will roll (metaphorically speaking).

But what if there was a way to avoid these kinds of mistakes and get on the right track to growth? Well it would help if you had advice from the guy who wrote the book about predictable revenue. And that’s Aaron Ross, Co-CEO of, writer of Predictable Revenue, as well as many other SaaS and subscription literature that goes like a wildfire throughout the SaaS and subscription community. There are some mistakes you can’t avoid, but hopefully with what Aaron is about to share, you’ll have what it takes to reduce those blunders significantly.


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Here we summarize the main takeaways for you to implement or hand off to your team for implementation.


Key term

What is an ideal customer profile?

The ideal customer profile is essentially the things that make up your company’s perfect customer. It includes characteristics and attributes that would make them the perfect fit for your solution.

Why are they important?

ICPs are important because they help your marketing and sales teams be more effective. Not only will developing an ICP help you find great prospects, but it’ll also help you disqualify and eliminate poor prospects faster, saving you time and resources. Additionally, developing your ICP can also help your company further clarify and define the problem/s you are solving for.


Action plan:

What to do today: 
  • Follow Aaron Ross.
  • Schedule a time to meet with your CEO and sales execs to discuss your current roles, strategies, and their effectiveness in reaching your growth goals.

What to do next quarter:

Start building your own sales machine. Develop and solidify your sales strategies, ICPs, and sales roles to work in harmony. 

It’s obvious that in order for a business to succeed, you need to actually sell your product or service. Sales are crucial. A lot of time and resources are spent on sales teams and strategies, and it’s typically one of the first departments formed when starting a new business. 

But there is a right and wrong way to sell. And the key, Aaron says, is not to sell, but to educate. We’ve talked a lot about how costly and timely it is to acquire new customers, therefore it’s fundamental to develop a smart and solid sales strategy, and to organize your sales roles effectively to execute on that strategy.

In an effort to save you some mistakes, time, and money, here we share a sneak peak of some core concepts and tactics from expert Aaron Ross’, Predictable Revenue, so you can get started on selling, or not selling, the right way.

Sales Development Reps: Prospect into cold or inactive companies. Organized by territories that match the field and telesales reps, as it’s vital for them to build relationships with their sales teammates. One SDR can support up to 2­5 account executives. Very large deals may be 1­ to ­1 or 2 ­to­1.

Market Response Reps: Qualify incoming leads who reach out by phone or website. For every 400 leads per month, a company needs one MRR. They remove unqualified opportunities, determine accounts to be followed up, and help to increase close rates. 

Account Executives: Shouldn’t make cold calls: they don’t like it; usually aren’t good at it; and it’s a poor use of company resources. Should prospect short, targeted “top 5/10” lists, their current customer base, and develop referral or channel partners. 

Focus high value people on low­ volume, high­ value activities and specialize other roles to take low ­value, high­ volume activities.

The 80/20 rule: When your reps, as a group, are spending more than 20% of their time on a secondary function, break out that function into a new role.

The Cold Call 2.0 Process:

Step 1: Ideal Customer Profile 

Who is your ideal customer (accounts and contacts)? Find great prospects and disqualify poor prospects quickly. Ideally, fit your ICP to one page with the idea that a new employee can be educated as quickly as possible about what kinds of companies they should strive to work with, or avoid. Create 1­5 total.

Step 2: Build Your List 

Do you have decision­ makers (or their bosses) and lower level people? How targeted is the list? Consider the opportunity cost, to marketing, to poor­ fit prospects. 

Different sources of leads match different businesses. Fortune 5000 = OneSource; Small Business = InfoUSA; General­Purpose = Jigsaw.; also try Hoovers, InsideView, ZoomInfo, and DataSalad. 

Step 3: Run Outbound Email Campaigns 

Begin with email, then use phone to follow up with people who respond. Send 50­100 outbound mass emails a few days a week as a rolling campaign. Goal = 5­10 new responses per day. More is difficult to manage. 

Filter your lists based on: Vertical, Revenue, Geography, Employees, B2B/B2C, Last Contact Activity, Last Account Activity, Contact Title, etc. 

Writing the Email: Personalize, no HTML, be simple and clear why you are reaching out, make it easy to read and respond to on a smartphone, offer credibility (examples of customers), ask one simple-­to-answer question (like for a referral) and be honest. 

Send 150­-250 outbound emails per week over 3­4 days before 9am or after 5pm, skipping Monday and Friday. Always include a purpose (who’s the best contact, when’s the best day/time for a quick discussion around…). If someone opens your email more than once, call. Talk less than 30% on your scoping calls. 

Step 4: Sell the Dream 

Help the prospect paint a vision of what kinds of solutions will solve their problems, then connect your solution to their key business issue(s) and dream. Sales reps aren’t just appointment setters; they create dreams and start to build trust, credibility and rapport. 

Determine fit by seeing if they are ready to take action, being connected with the decision maker(s), and looking for real interest in a next step. 

Initial Questions on a Discovery Call (choose 3­4): 

  • How are your marketing teams/functions organized? 
  • How does your marketing process work today? 
  • What systems do these teams use for marketing and lead generation?
    • How long has the system been in place?
    • Why did you buy the old system? Who made the decision to purchase it? 
  • What are your challenges now? (Keep asking “what else” after each answer) ● Have you been looking at alternatives yet? 
  • Have you tried and failed with other solutions? Why? 
  • Where does online marketing fall on your priority list? What is higher? 
  • What would an ideal solution look like to you? 
  • How will your decision making process work? 
    • What is the probability an online marketing project will occur in the next six months? 
    • Why do it now? (Or, why wait until later? 

First Call Objectives: 

  • Get them talking about their business and listen 
  • Call low before a C­-level conversation to find how their business works and current challenges 
  • Be respectfully blunt: Ask straight out if there is a pain if it isn’t obvious after your conversation 
  • Ask for referrals: Who else should you talk to at the other divisions/teams? 
  • Schedule your next step while on the phone; don’t leave it for email 
  • If the prospect needs to convince others on the team, make them a champion: focus on what will make that person successful and ask them how you can support them. Give them information, time, and check in periodically. 

Step 5: Pass the Baton

For an SDR to be compensated, an opportunity must:  

  • Have at least a potential of 20+ users (ensures large enough opportunity) 
  • Have no fundamental “red flags” or deal breakers 
  • Be clearly generated by the SDR (no inbounds or from other SDRs) 
  • Be re­-qualified by the account executive (AE) 

When to hand off? 

  • Does the company fit our ideal client profile? 
  • Are we speaking with someone with influence or power? 
  • Is there a clear interest in a next step? (e.g., scoping/discover call with account executive) 

How to handoff? 

  • Best: Hot­ transfer to the AE 
  • Good: Schedule a time on the calendars for a discovery call. 
  • Last Option: Email introduction between client and AE. 

Audit Process – Confirm after AE re­-qualifies 

  • Contact was outbound, not inbound? 
  • AE qualified by phone? 
  • SDR and AE entered notes into SFA? 
    • This confirms solid ROI of the team, integrity of the data, quality of work, and reduces temptations to push boundaries

For the complete guide, and even more detailed and actionable tactics to drive your sales pipeline to new heights, read Predictable Revenue now.

What to do within the next year:

Implement your new sales strategy and closely monitor and measure the output. As mentioned, the sales process requires a lot of time and resources, so it’s important to constantly evaluate your strategies to ensure it’s effective and getting you results.


Who should own this? 

Your CEO, sales execs/leaders, and anyone else involved in your sales process.


Who's up next week?

Next week, Byron Deeter talks to us about the fundamentals of growing a business.

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By Patrick Campbell

Founder & CEO of ProfitWell, the software for helping subscription companies with their monetization and retention strategies, as well as providing free turnkey subscription financial metrics for over 20,000 companies. Prior to ProfitWell Patrick led Strategic Initiatives for Boston-based Gemvara and was an Economist at Google and the US Intelligence community.

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