Five Sales Lessons from HubSpot

On a recent work trip to San Francisco I re-read The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to Go from $0 to $100 Million by Mark Roberge, HubSpot’s Chief Revenue Officer.

Drawing upon his education as an MIT trained engineer Roberge shares how he built repeatable systems that generated scalable, predictable revenue growth at HubSpot. By focussing on the science (rather than art) of selling he helped HubSpot acquire its first 10,000 customers and in the process created a brand new sales playbook for the emerging software as a service (SaaS) industry. It’s an inspiring story that I’m pleased Roberge decided to tell.

The book is part blueprint, playbook and manifesto, and lists Roberge’s formula for sales hiring, training and management, as well as SaaS demand generation. The formulae are insightful and actionable, and contain Roberge’s learnings as HubSpot’s first sales leader. He expertly maps out how sales teams should be managed and structured, and how sales reps should seek to help and educate customers, rather than pressurise or bombard.

The book is a fascinating read and five lessons stood out:

1. Sales is evolving from outbound to inbound
With the traditional sales process being disrupted by the internet, Roberge knew that a fresh approach to selling, based on inbound techniques was required. The successful sales teams of the future will be helpful and curious, and lead with context, rather than an elevator pitch. By following this approach sales reps can earn credibility and elevate their client relationship to that of a trusted advisor.

2. Ensure sales reps strengths align with the sales context
Every company’s sales context is different, so it’s important to ensure sales reps’ strengths are closely aligned with how the business sells. Sales reps working at a SaaS business often deal with large volumes of deals and have to educate clients about the challenge they have, what the solution is and how their products can help. Organisations need to understand the characteristics of its best sales reps and hire others whose strengths play to that particular sales context.

3. Design a sales compensation plan that's appropriate for the business and its stage of growth
An organisation’s sales compensation plan is one of the strongest drivers of results for the business. If the business needs to move the needle on a particular SaaS business metric, such as lifetime value (LTV), monthly recurring revenue (MRR) or churn rate, it should incentivise that behavioural change using its sales compensation plan. Such plans need to remain simple, aligned and immediate, but also flexible enough to change and reflect the business’ stage of growth.

4. Use technology so sales reps can focus on selling
Over the last 10 years there’s been some big advances in technology, but in many respects sales has been left behind. Sales reps are often still required to do manual, low value activities that make reporting easy for managers, but fail to generate sales. Where possible organisations must use technology to automate or eliminate manual tasks, so sales reps can focus on the most high value activities.

5. Focus on the sales data, not the discussion
It’s now possible to track and analyse every single action that a sales rep takes. Using this data company’s should test, analyse and optimise sales reps activity to ensure they’re following the plays that generate sales. The best sales teams already understand their role is becoming more scientific and they will continue to care more about the numbers and less about gut feeling and opinion within the sales process.

If you want to learn more about the future of sales, then read The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to Go from $0 to $100 Million. Roberge has distilled his approach to sales into a formula that helped HubSpot grow into the business it is today. The book is packed full of great thinking, industry-leading best practice and approaches to engineer sales. It’s recommended reading for anyone working at or interested in SaaS businesses.