I had my first Father’s Day two years ago. My wife and I had our first baby, a beautiful girl – Grace.
At that same time in 2016, DiscoverOrg was going through a growth spurt. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t terrified, thinking about how I could be a great new dad, husband, and CEO. Somehow, I got through countless nights with little to no sleep, then somehow dragged myself into work.
(Note: DiscoverOrg acquired ZoomInfo in 2019)
I was a zombie.
I worried about the success of our home life, and the success of the company during this time. Everywhere I looked, something was about to slip and fail. But the idea of NOT being really great at any one of those things – dad, husband, or CEO – didn’t feel like an option at all.
Luckily, we had friends at the time (Kang and Sidney) who had also just had a baby. Their little miracle was somehow sleeping 12 hours a night, every night, by the time she turned 3 months old. We asked our friends how this was possible, since all the other new parents we knew were up all night, rocking, feeding, changing. It turns out, Kang and Sydney had bought a book, (12 Hours by 12 Weeks, by Suzy Giordano) and lived by it.
Wait … babies are trainable? Could you train a baby to sleep 12 hours a night, by the time they were three months old?
I’ll never forget the first night my wife and I went all-in on this method. Grace had just turned four months old.
I came home from work, and my wife said, “Listen. We’re doing this tonight, and you have to support me, okay?”
“Oh yeah, totally, honey!” I agreed. “We gotta do it – it’s good for both of us.”
So there we were: Grace was in the crib, in her own room, for the first time. The monitor was on, and she was crying. The rules in the book say to let her cry for 15 minutes before you can go in, soothe her for 30 seconds, then leave.
After five minutes, I broke in: “Hey, maybe she’s too small. She just doesn’t weigh enough yet. Let’s try it again in a month or so when she’s bigger.”
At this point, I’d been dragging myself into work like a zombie for 120 days. I hadn’t watched a TV show in months. May and June of that year were probably the bumpiest of my career as a CEO. And there I was, trying to bail on the one thing that could turn it around for me. I was weak. I was pathetic.
And my wife – the one waking up in the middle of the night – just needed my support. “Seriously?” she said. “I said SUPPORT.”
Oh yeah! I snapped back into supporting-husband mode: “Okay. Right. The book is right. It worked for Kang and Sidney, and it’s going to work for us, too.” We just had to trust the process.
Fifteen minutes passed, and Grace cried the whole time.
It was about that time we realized we had left a large painting above her crib (remember, this is her first time in there) and we needed to take it down. So according to the book, we have 30 seconds to soothe her, and somehow get rid of this painting. We go in, my wife soothes, I remove the painting.
After three more minutes of crying, our girl was down for the count.
The next few days were more of the same. But since then, Grace has slept 12 hours a night. Every. Single. Night.
Babies are trainable! It was a revelation.
Yes, it’s hard. And you have to do it anyway
I think about this idea of “training” a lot when I talk to VPs of Sales and VPs of Marketing who tell me that they are just going to rely on their Rolodexes and their CEOs network because “cold calling is dead,” and people don’t answer their phones anymore.
All I hear is: “I’m too scared to try something hard.” “My company is special, it’s different – it’s relationship-based, so that won’t work.” “We’re not in San Francisco, so we can’t find the talent.” “We tried before, but people in Austin don’t want to make outbound calls.” “Our CEO is allergic to outbound cold calling.”
It’s all the same BS everyone told us while we sleep-trained Grace: “My baby wakes up in the middle of the night because he has to eat.” “I’m not going to torture my child and let her cry!” “All of our other babies didn’t sleep, and no one in my family slept through the night, either – it’s a family thing.”
Just stop. Seriously, just stop.
It’s hard. I get it. It’s different, and it takes work. I know. It’s harder than giving in each time. But enough with the excuses.
The process of getting Grace sleep-trained has a lot of similarities to spinning up an outbound program – it’s hard work, too. I know. I get it: Cold calling is nerve wracking, it puts you on the spot, and you’re guaranteed to get rejected – a lot.
Developing outbound sales takes time and training, too. It takes an investment in actual dollars and real resources. There are zig and zags. You’ll think you finally found your sweet spot, only to hit another rough patch. And maybe most frightening: You have to take a risk and put your neck out.
All of that makes us uncomfortable. And the easy way out is … so easy.
Here’s the thing: Outbound lead and demand generation strategies WORK.
Actually, they’ve worked forever. Yes, they are changing, but they are not going away.
Walk into any fast-growing company or recently IPO’d technology company: You can’t find ONE that doesn’t go outbound. In fact, you won’t be able to find a single company that is growing after it hit $20m in revenue, that doesn’t have an outbound engine. They all do.
Don’t believe me? Type in “outbound prospecting” into the jobs search on LinkedIn, and you’ll find VMWare, Amazon Web Services, Zendesk, Marketo, Riverbed, BugCrowd, The Financial Times – all posting jobs that require “outbound prospecting” (AKA “cold calling”).
Outbound selling is the way you scale your business, the way to grow your company in a scalable, strategic, proven way.
DiscoverOrg came to this fork in the road in 2014.
Until that point, our growth was driven by a series of well-written email campaigns … until they stopped working. We still needed to grow, and failure wasn’t an option: We had just got funding from one of the most respected private equity firms in the world – and they weren’t going to accept a strategy of: “Sorry that our email blasts stopped working. I guess it was the wrong time to invest in us.”
So we did the only thing we knew: We picked up the phone, and we called prospects.
Guess what? It was hard. There was a lot of rejection. There were days when we all wanted to hang up and quit.
You have to work hard to keep all those weak thoughts out of your mind: It doesn’t work. I’m better than this anyway. Who wants to cold call. I have a college degree, why do I need to put myself through this?
When those thoughts creeped in, I bottled them in deep, and kept my head down. If my staff saw that I was weak, or heard me question our game, the whole program was over.
There is something special about being able to pick your target prospects and market and then go after them: Here’s my list of 500 companies I want to sell to, and the buyer at each of those companies who makes the decision for my product – Let’s go get them!
That’s an empowering feeling. That’s something you can’t get with re-targeting, or SEO, or SEM, or conferences and events.
Cold-calling isn’t dead, but it IS hard, and it flies in the face of popular opinion. To make it work as a high-growth strategy, you have to train your team and train yourself.
Your business is your baby, and it’s hard to watch it struggle. Developing an outbound sales team with an active focus on cold-calling requires training and trust in the process.
As a CEO who has embraced outbound strategy for growth (and a father who’s finally getting enough sleep), I’m here to say it works. You have to do the hard things; success is on the other side.
You have to keep your eye on the prize – whether that’s a baby that sleeps through the night, or a successful business with sustainable growth.