The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge

Summary

  1. HubSpots head of sales, Mark Roberge, walks us through the early days, pitfalls, and successes of HubSpot’s monstrous growth and how his sales acceleration formula helped achieve it. “The Sales Acceleration Formula completely alters this paradigm. In today’s digital world, in which every action is logged and masses of data sit at our fingertips, building a sales team no longer needs to be an art form. There is a process. Sales can be predictable. A formula does exist.”

Key Takeaways

  1. Overview
    1. The goal: “Scalable, predictable revenue growth.”
    2. “Hire the same successful salesperson every time.” (The Sales Hiring Formula)
    3. “Train every salesperson in the same way.” (The Sales Training Formula)
    4. “Hold our salespeople accountable to the same sales process.” (The Sales Management Formula)
    5. “Provide our salespeople with the same quality and quantity of leads every month.” (The Demand Generation Formula)
    6. These four components represented my formula for sales acceleration. If I could execute on these four elements, I believed I would achieve my mission of “scalable, predictable revenue growth.” For each of these components, I devised a repeatable process, leaned into metrics, and ran calculations, making each of these tactics formulaic in nature.
  2. When the unique strengths of the salesperson align with the company’s sales context, it is a beautiful thing.
  3. The ideal sales hiring formula is different for every company…but the process to engineer the formula is the same.
    1. Step 1: Establish a Theory of the Ideal Sales Characteristics
    2. Step 2: Define an Evaluation Strategy for Each Characteristic
    3. Step 3: Score Candidates against the Ideal Sales Characteristics
    4. Step 4: Learn and Iterate on the Model while Engineering the Sales Hiring Formula
  4. There were five traits that correlated most significantly with sales success. Coachability Curiosity Prior success Intelligence Work ethic
    1. Intelligence: the ability to learn complex concepts quickly and communicate those concepts in an easy-to-understand manner.
  5. Don’t hire a recruiting agency. Don’t build a corporate recruiting team. Build a recruiting agency within your corporation.
  6. “The most critical value from your first sales hire comes not from the first customers or revenue she generates, but from her ability to accelerate the company toward product/market fit.”
  7. Defining the Three Elements of the Sales Methodology: The Buyer Journey, Sales Process, and Qualifying Matrix
    1. The buyer journey represents the general steps through which a company progresses as it purchases a product. Once the buyer journey is defined, the sales process can be created. The sales process supports the customer along his buying journey.
  8. A very common qualifying matrix that has been used for many decades is BANT. BANT stands for “Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing.”
  9. “Exams and certifications add predictability to the sales training formula. They also provide the platform to learn from and iterate on the formula.”
    1. The other advantage of having this structure in place was the establishment of a baseline foundation from which to measure and iterate. The sales training formula needs to be constantly evolving, reacting to changes in the business, just like the sales hiring formula.
  10. In this new buyer/seller paradigm, salespeople must prove their worth by adding more value to the process. Sales is no longer about memorizing the call script, the price book, and the top 10 objections. It’s about being a genuine consultant and trusted advisor to potential customers. Modern selling feels less like a seller/buyer relationship and more like a doctor/patient relationship.
  11. The best-trained salespeople have experienced the day-to-day job of their potential customers. In the first few years of HubSpot, we targeted marketing professionals. Therefore, my sales training goal was to teach our new sales hires what it was like to be a marketer. New sales hires did not spend their first few weeks in sales training, memorizing scripts and discussing objections. Instead, our new sales hires spent their first few weeks at HubSpot developing their own website, writing their own blog, and creating their own social media presence.
    1. Touching the Medium
  12. “A common sales management mistake is to overwhelm the salesperson with coaching too many skills simultaneously. Pick one skill and focus.”
  13. As we’d walk through their plans for each salesperson, I’d ask them three questions: What skill will you work on this month with this salesperson? How did you decide on that skill? What is the customized coaching plan you will use to develop the skill?
  14. I needed to keep customer churn in check. I also needed the salespeople to be able to control their own destiny. I asked myself, “What criterion is 100 percent in the control of the salesperson and highly correlated with customer success?” For the HubSpot business at the time, the answer was advanced payment terms for new customers. Our customers who paid month-to-month were less committed to the overall HubSpot service and were far more likely to churn. Those who prepaid annually were more committed to the service and were ultimately more successful. As a result, Plan 3 was designed as follows: Salespeople would earn $2 per $1 of monthly recurring revenue The commission would be paid out as follows: 50 percent on the first month’s payment 25 percent on the sixth month’s payment 25 percent on the twelfth month’s payment Under this plan, if a customer signed up paying month-to-month, the salesperson would need to wait an entire year to earn the full commission from that customer. If the customer signed up paying a year in advance, the salesperson would earn the entire commission immediately. The plan was well aligned with how far in advance the customer paid. How far in advance a customer paid was correlated with high customer success and completely in control of the salesperson. Evaluate a sales compensation design through the lens of three factors: Simple. Aligned. Immediate.
    1. Incentives
  15. “Sales contests are an effective tool to drive short-term behaviors and build team culture within the sales organization.”
  16. The statement certainly has merit. Of all the professional functions within an organization (e.g., marketing, product, finance, HR, and so forth), sales has the largest variance between the general characteristics that are conducive to success on the front line and the general characteristics that are conducive to success in the management ranks. Sometimes really good salespeople are selfish, egotistical, and competitive by nature. Those traits do not translate well into management.
  17. Flip the Demand Generation Formula—Get Buyers to Find You. “How much are you spending on inbound marketing, such as SEO, social media participation, and blogging?” Here are the two simple actions you need to take in order to drive inbound links and social media following: Create quality content (e.g., blogs, ebooks, webinars) on a frequent basis. Participate in the social media discussions in which your target prospects are already conversing.
  18. So how does long-tail theory apply to your business? As you embark on a content product process, focus on the “long tail,” not on the “head,” especially when selecting target topics. If you sell IT services, don’t focus on phrases like “IT consultant” or “information technology.” These words sit at the head of the curve. Yes, there are millions of searches per month. However, it is extraordinarily competitive to rank for these terms. Furthermore, a small portion of the visitors are actually qualified buyers for your business. Instead, focus on “Sharepoint implementations” or “IT for pharmaceutical companies” or “hosted VOIP implementations.” There are not millions of searches for these terms every month. However, there are still hundreds of them, and the people searching for these terms are much more qualified for your business than those folks searching for the generic, far more competitive phrases. Each piece of content you produce targets a different slice of the long tail. Each piece of content attracts hundreds of highly qualified buyers to your business. The more you publish content along this strategy, the larger the portion of the long tail you can own. As we stated earlier, the long tail can often be more valuable than the head.
  19. Here are the most common mistakes and the most important best practices marketing needs to adopt as they work with sales to convert interest into revenue. The Most Common Mistake: Don’t Pass All the Leads to Sales. The first step in establishing the Marketing SLA was to define when a lead would be qualified to be passed to the Sales team. The decision to pass a lead to Sales is best derived from the Buyer Matrix.
  20. Which type of lead do you think closed at a higher rate—the product collateral download or the active free trial? The active free trial closed at a higher rate, of course! This type of lead was further along in the buyer journey. It was at the “Solution Selection” stage of the buyer journey, rather than the “Solution Research” stage. In our case, active free trials closed at many times the rate of product collateral downloads.
  21. Sales technology creates better buying experiences for customers by capturing customer context and making that context readily available to salespeople.

What I got out of it

  1. Helpful perspective, advice, experiences for anybody trying to better understand how to create an efficient system around sales rather than a manual, grueling process