In his book, The Sales Acceleration Formula, HubSpot’s first sales leader Mark Roberge comes pretty close to delivering the promise of the book–a scientific formula for building a successful sales team. He doesn’t actually present a formula that will work for every company or business, but he does explain how any company can create their own formulaic sales development program.
Roberge is an engineer, and it shows in his approach to building HubSpot’s sales organization. He didn’t rely on motivational speeches, but on “data, technology, and inbound selling” in four key areas:
- Sales Hiring
- Sales Training Formula
- Sales Management
Here are a few of the book’s most innovative ideas.
In the hiring process, Mark applied inbound marketing principles to the hiring process. He created a buyer persona of the ideal salesperson–the traits that were required for success. He then created a scorecard to use in the application and interviewing process to measure candidates against the required traits. The scorecard evolved as the team grew and he learned better what creates success. The key characteristics that emerged for success at HubSpot were coachability, curiosity, prior success, intelligence and work ethic.
To train his salespeople, Roberge had them become customers of HubSpot. Every new salesperson created a blog that offered some kind of value proposition and builds a following for the blog using SEO and social networking campaign. They had to create buyer personas, map out the buyer’s journey, find the best channels to reach a target audience, create landing pages and offers–basically use HubSpot’s tools and strategies. This enabled them to understand what they were selling and how to help customers understand how HubSpot could help their businesses.
Roberge also eschewed the “Swiss Army Knife” model of sales training. Not every salesperson would be equally competent in every trait. Some would be great on the phone and build strong relationships, while others may use technical expertise to demonstrate value. Team members will have different strengths and weakness. Over time, the same scorecard used in hiring could be used in performance evaluations and taught Mark how to identify top performers and improve the chances of hiring them in the first place.
Roberge prefers coaching to managing. Coaches methodically work through skill development to help athletes compete at the highest level. Management systems tend to try to improve everything at once. You can’t work on blocking and tackling at the same time. Mark developed a system that enabled sales leaders to identify areas of improvement for team members, one skill at a time–with the team member’s input on where he or she feels the need for improvement.
Just as he developed a matrix that would help identify great employees, Mark also developed a matrix to identify great customers. Constantly learning, constantly measuring results, constantly using data to improve the sales process, the team got better and better a creating predictive sales campaigns that went after the right companies at the right times. He measured company size, revenue, industry, budgets, decision-making time frames and converted all of this data into a dollar value of the leads that were coming into the sales team.
Roberge approached sales as an engineering project. He wanted to build standardized, repeatable processes with predictable outcomes. Getting HubSpot to $100 million in sales in seven years suggests that he succeeded, and while his book is not a formula in and of itself, it is a formula to create a formula that any business can use.