You've heard that making sales is “an art, not a science.” It's a popular cliché, especially when someone's trying to explain a failed decision in retrospect. When someone trots out that line, what they're usually saying is that “it's probably a science, but I haven't figured it out yet.”
Enter Mark Roberge, MIT grad, current Chief Revenue Officer at Hubspot, and the man who's here to tell us that building a winning sales team really is a science. Before he took over as CRO, Roberge was Hubspot's SVP of Worldwide Sales and Services, presiding over the company's rise from startup to $100 million revenue-generating giant and challenging conventional wisdom at every turn.
In his new book, The Sales Acceleration Formula, Roberge lays out his thoughtful, data-driven approach for developing a sales team that delivers exceptional results. Here's a hint: It all starts with hiring the same successful person, again and again.
Read part 1 of our series on Mark Roberge's new book below. Come back or subscribe to our blog to get notified when part 2 is published!
A Hiring Process Fit for Modern Sales
"World-class sales hiring is the most important driver of sales success." Click to Tweet
When Mark Roberge was hired by Hubspot in 2007, the company had only three other employees. That's not an exaggeration. As the fourth member of the team, he truly got in on the ground floor.
When you're part of a small team trying to accomplish something great, you naturally have many competing priorities. The quote above tells you exactly which priority Roberge put at the top of the list.
But it's one thing to prioritize “world-class sales hiring,” and quite another to actually pull it off. To do so, Roberge put his MIT education to work, combining analytics, context, and common sense to build a hiring process that consistently identifies top performers.
How to Hire Your Perfect Salesperson
The first key is context. What do you sell, and who do you sell it to? A salesperson who's great at high activity transactional selling might struggle selling a more complex product in a consultative setting. If you want to consistently hire reps that will turn out to become top performers, you've got to understand your own business and tailor your hiring process to match.
With the basics out of the way, you can move on to identifying the ideal characteristics of a salesperson in the context of your unique sales environment. Learn all you can about your top performers. Are your best people consultative, aggressive, or a mix of both? What tactics do your key buyers respond to?
For example, Mark Roberge identified these 5 traits of highly successful Hubspot sales reps:
- Coachability - ability to understand feedback and change behavior based on it
- Curiosity - ability and desire to ask probing questions from prospects
- Prior success - either sales results or ambition / drive at one's endeavors
- Intelligence - ability to become a subject matter expert
- Work ethic - willingness to put in the effort to succeed
From hiring hypothesis to candidate scoring
Once you have your hypothesis of the perfect hire, it's time to turn that data into an evaluation strategy. For each trait that you want to assess you will need to figure out a way to get the information out of the candidate.
Develop questions and interview techniques that encourage potential hires to share the information you need. Of all interview techniques, role-playing is one of the most powerful mechanisms to ellicit behavior.
Making the Right Hire and Improving the Process
With your evaluation process and rating parameters in place, it's time to put your new hiring process to work. You've put in the legwork, so trust the process as you put your evaluation tools into action.
As you iterate over your hiring, Remember that the process should never be considered a finished product. The litmus test of whether it is working is the sales results of your hires. To close the loop it is essential that you correlate their intervew scores with their sales attainment.
As you do these regressions, you'll find out that some of the characteristics you established aren't so important, and that you overlooked some characteristics that were important. That's okay. You always reserve the right to change your opinion based on new data.
Commit to constantly improving your process by asking questions, doing research, and analyzing the results with your key metrics. The more work you put in, the better your system will be at identifying the right person for the job.
"Statistics suggest salespeople who are intelligent and helpful, rather than aggressive and high-pressure are most successful with today's empowered buyer.” --Mark Roberge
Finding the top candidates
One other seminal insight from Mark relates to sourcing candidates. In his experience at Hubspot, great salespeople never applied for a job at Hubspot. They were passive, with multiple job offers at all times. He had to hunt them down. To the point where he found it most effective to build a headhunting agency inside of the company, scouring the LinkedIn connections of his team, and gathering compintel on Boston's other inside sales forces.
When you think about it, scaling sales results starts with scaling the process of predictably making great hires. Salespeople who make happy customers are the foundation to make everything else work in a sales organization.
Understand your sales context, define winning sales rep traits, evaluate based on the traits, iterate by correlating to sales results, hunt the top passive talent, and you're well on your way to developing a strong foundation for all your sales efforts. Or as Roberge puts it in The Sales Acceleration Formula, you're ready to “hire the same successful salesperson every time.”
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