Mark Roberge, who has served as CRO of Hubspot from its early days straight through the company's IPO, shares lessons learned in building and scaling a successful sales team. In order to create predictable, scalable revenue growth, Mark set out on a mission to standardize sales processes and provide each salesperson with the same sales training, quantity and quality of leads, process for working the leads, and coaching. Here is how he put that sales system together:
Define your ideal salesperson
The right answer to “who is your ideal sales hire?” is highly contextual to your specific business. When Mark snagged the top salesperson from a public company with an 800-person sales team, he was shocked to see that she did not become a top performer at Hubspot. Why was that the case? Because she came from an extremely popular brand that needed a 10-second value proposition - the exact opposite of Hubspot’s context at that time. Therefore, the ideal sales hiring formula is different for every company, but the process to engineer the formula is the same.
Engineer your own sales hiring formula
Mark wrote down the 10 criteria that he believed would correlate with a successful salesperson. He then ranked every one of their hires against those criteria and compared their scores against their successive performance. After running a regression analysis, he was able to bring science into his hiring process. He discovered that traditional salesperson traits (handling objections, closing) actually negatively correlated with success. On the other hand, coaching traits (preparation, domain experience, intelligence) positively correlated with success. Coach-ability, curiosity, intelligence, work ethic, and prior success all ranked among the most important traits to predict a successful sales hire.
Find the salesperson’s superpower
After discovering that individual top-performing salespeople had drastically different sales styles, Mark realized that a “ride-along” observation-based training strategy would be neither scalable nor predictable. Some team members formed intense personal connections with their clients while others were highly methodical and fiercely productive. Most top performing salespeople succeed in their own unique way and need the flexibility to lean into their strengths and apply their superpowers to ensure success.
Create a training formula
The sales training methodology at Hubspot included understanding the buyer journey, the sales process, and their sales qualifying matrix. Hubspot also incorporated exams and certifications into their sales training to measure the quality and consistency of the results.
Train sales to “live” in your prospect’s world
Customers can go online, read product descriptions, access reviews, see pricing information, and purchase directly online. Sales teams need to bring a consultative nature to the discussion and connect the client’s needs to the product. In order to do so, they have to understand the buyer’s world and live, in Hubspot’s case, as a marketer – their primary client. Therefore, the Hubspot sales team manages and closely monitors the analytics for a website, blog, multiple social media accounts, landing pages, and email campaigns. This enables them to sell more effectively and relate to the challenges faced by their target audience (marketers).
Set the sales team up to be thought leaders
Mark challenges his sales team to reallocate their time not just to cold-call prospects but also to connect with them on social media - in LinkedIn groups, on Twitter, etc. It’s a huge opportunity for sales people to fortify their own personal brand and connect with prospects in a more meaningful, productive way than ever before.
Find a writer to produce quality content
The keys to inbound marketing are: (1) to create quality content on a continual basis, and (2) to participate in social media where your buyers are participating. Rather than trying to produce this content yourself -- which most never get around to -- Mark suggests hiring a journalist or freelance writer to produce quality content that positions your brand as a thought leader in your industry. The writer doesn’t need to know the industry - they just need access to the experts within your team. Have them produce e-books, blog posts, social media posts and more. Journalists hold the keys to the future of demand generation and their content leads to a huge conversion of traffic to qualified leads.
Broker peace between marketing and sales
Because so many buying journeys start online today, marketing and sales need to get along. Quantify the relationship and make it bi-directional. Mark and his CMO counterpart studied tens of thousands of leads and calculated the conversion rate at each stage. By multiplying the conversion rate times the average customer spend, they were able to reverse engineer lead value and put the marketing team on a quota just like sales. Rather than establishing an SLA of 250 leads per month, he implemented a quota of $2.5 million. This ensured that marketing was supplying not just the low hanging fruit, but the leads that the sales team could translate into conversions.
Implement metrics-driven sales coaching
The most important thing a sales manager can focus on is coaching and development. The best managers see the dozens of improvements that an employee must make, but they focus on the 1-2 things that will make the biggest positive impact on their current development. Use salesperson-specific metrics to diagnose skill deficiencies and develop coaching plans along with accountability techniques. At Hubspot, sales managers report monthly on each direct report’s coaching plan and the skill(s) that they are currently developing.