RobergeThe Sales Acceleration Formula

Mark Roberge was SVP at Hubspot from day one and built a sales team that went from $0 – $100m in six years. His starting point, as an engineer who had never sold anything previously, was to ignore any idea that sales people are born; instead he believes that sales is a process just as engineering can be defined as a process. His book, ‘The Sales Acceleration Formula’ describes this process.

  1. The most important thing about sales is the people you hire. To hire the best people you must know what “world-class” sales people look like, and define their characteristics.
  2. It might be that the characteristics will vary from one company to another, from one sector to another but there are several that are likely to be relevant across industries.
  3. The top 5 at Hubspot, and I suspect for most companies, are: Coachability, Curiosity, Prior Success, Intelligence and Work Ethic. Coachability is important as people need to be able to adapt to the speed of change and consumer demand. Curiosity is a trait that gives someone the ability to diagnose customers’ wants and needs. Prior success, particularly sustained performance against peers, is often a predictor of future success. Intelligence is needed more than ever before as the consumer is better informed and expects to deal with experts and people of authority. Work ethic is the desired combination of high energy and activity.
  4. Having identified the key characteristics, the next step is to have a process to truly establish whether a candidate has them or not. The recruitment process needs to be much more comprehensive than is the case in many companies and include a series of interviews, role-plays and presentations.
  5. Finding great sales people isn’t easy, not least as they don’t need to apply for a job. But “birds of a feather flock together” so cause your existing superstars to become your recruitment team.
  6. LinkedIn is currently the best tool to build a “passive” recruiting process. Identify the best sales companies in your location, find one person in each company to connect with and then build out from there to reach all their top talent. Encourage your team to build their own social networks with the desired result of attracting top talent.
  7. To have predictable sales success you need to have a predictable sales training process. Whilst top sales people share the same characteristics their application of these will vary and hence to truly shine they must be able to do what they are best at everyday. Roberge says that the three key elements of the sales training process are the buyer journey, the sales process and the qualifying matrix – you need to have these exhaustively documented and fully understood by every member of the team.
  8. The sales process requires clearly defined metrics for each stage. These need to be accurately recorded, measured and published. Each sales person should be coached to improve in every core area but only one at a time.
  9. Selling isn’t explaining your product and service to help the buyer understand how it might assist them, instead it’s about understanding what the buyer’s goals are – more akin to a doctor/patient relationship than a seller/buyer one.
  10. Effective sales coaching by sales managers is the most effective way to drive sales productivity.
  11. Effective sales coaching should be metrics-driven and customised for each salesperson.
  12. The way you remunerate salespeople has a significant impact on their performance. There is no such thing as the perfect commission structure but the best are simple, aligned and immediate. I would add to this list: make it personal too.
  13. When developing future managers, focus on leadership skills rather than just sales management.
  14. Before promoting someone to Manager let a qualified candidate hire, train and manage one new sales person whilst still having their own sales targets.
  15. Inbound marketing is the most effective method so long as you have great content and can engage via social media. Invest in someone capable of generating superb content and let this be distributed by your sales team.
  16. Focus your content on “long-tail” topics as whilst these may be more niche they will have less competition from a thought leadership perspective.
  17. Avoid passing all inbound leads to Sales – Marketing should filter them first using a buyer journey matrix.
  18. Sales need to prioritise prospecting by levels of engagement and most likely should be split between inbound and outbound.
  19. Sales and Marketing should have an SLA (Service Level Agreement) between them that has clear measurement and reporting. Each should be accountable to the other, ideally with daily reports.
  20. Sales technology should be designed for the frontline and not for the leadership. It should primarily enable the frontline to make more meaningful contacts and to record information as simply as possible that in turn can be easily retrieved.
  21. Leaders need to create a culture of continuous improvement and this requires regular experimentation and encouragement for innovation.

In essence Mark Roberge suggests that many companies have a informal, seat of the pants, reactive approach to sales when instead he believes it can be a totally engineered process that will deliver much greater consistency and predictable success. Above all else it’s the people you hire that will make the biggest difference and this hiring process needs to be properly structured with key essential traits identified and recruited against.



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