Roberge, Mark. The Sales Acceleration Formula, using data, technology, and inbound selling to go from $0 to $100 million

Part I the sales hiring formula


Chapter 1 uncovering the characteristics of a successful salesperson

  1. How to find suitable salesmen for your specific niche is the objective. Roberge says: step 1 is establish a theory of the ideal sales characteristics. Define each element of your attack plan. Define “intelligence”, “aggression” and other characteristics for your employees and measure potential employees against those characteristics. Step 2 define an evaluation strategy for each characteristic. Know what to look for in each candidate. Ask scenarios specific to your niche. Step 3: score candidates against the ideal sales characteristics. When starting out record data scores on excel and improve as you go. Step 4: learn and iterate on the model while engineering the sales hiring formula. After hiring a team, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and solidify the weaknesses for the underperformers. ID the success characteristics and emphasize them. Similarly, ID the weaknesses and eliminate them. ID the missing links. Think critically on the “what should be implemented.” Foresight is important here. Roberge concluded that his sales team members should have these characteristics (from most important to not): preparation, adaptability, domain experience, intelligence, passion, prior success, brevity, rapport building, voice quality, technical aptitude (the last positive corollary), etc. In sum, sales people had to be helpful, informative, and intelligent. Provide value, not rhetoric.

Chapter 2 five traits great salespeople have and how to interview for them

  1. Coachability: the ability to absorb and apply coaching.
    1. Three step eval: step 1: role play buyer-seller interaction. Interviewer instructing interviewee: “tell customer I noticed you visited our website last night and downloaded our ebook. Your goal is to discover info and set up follow up appointment.” Step 2: eval candidates ability to self-diagnose and adapt and adjust. After role play, ask candidate to self-assess out loud. Gauging reflection and analytic skills. Have her be specific about what she did well and what her weaknesses were. It is important to see candidates ability to reflect, self-diagnose, and improve weak points. Step 3: eval candidates ability to absorb and apply coaching. They should be able to adjust by absorbing and applying coaching. After demonstrating what she could do better see if they are glassy eyed or taking notes and asking follow up questions, then ask them to re-create what you just demonstrated. Effort over perfection prevails. If a candidate nails the second portion of this interview, hire that person ASAP b/c if they are able to demonstrate perfection just imagine what they can do in months and years.
  2. Curiosity: the ability to understand a potential customer’s context through effective questioning and listening.
    1. First, lets define what curiosity is not. It is not you regurgitating your elevator pitch to the prospect. Experts refer to this as “show up and throw up.” Now lets define what curiosity is. It is engaging the person before you in calculated Q and A dialogue. You ask very specific pointed questions that get the people to open up about themselves while you guide the conversation from one informative point to another. For example, if you notice a customer visited your website last night and downloaded your eBook on entrepreneurship, you call her the next day and tell her you noticed she downloaded it. “Do you have any questions regarding entrepreneurship. Yes. Great! “I have some really awesome success stories I can share with you. Do you have a minute?” yes. Great! You have to be quick on your feet and be genuinely interested in what the other person has to say, and you have to pick up on the nonverbal as well as verbal cues. But you get the gist. In sum, curiosity is the ability to understand a potential customer’s context through effective questioning and listening.
  3. Prior success: easy to evaluate prior success. Look at track record.
    1. This trait most objectively measurable trait of the big five. Here, the author mentions that prior success is easy to measure at big firms because of the records. It is a little harder when the candidate’s prior employer is small or in a different job sector. And if the candidate is transitioning from a different sector and has little objectifiable past accomplishments, then we look to the candidate’s extracurricular accomplishments. We try to see where the candidate has carved out their niche and passionately attacked it. The author wants people within top ten percentiles, but I disagree here because passion, drive, curiosity are intangibles and if the person is willing to learn and eager to succeed, then that says more than measurable metrics. That is my opinion, not the authors.
  4. Intelligence: the ability to learn complex concepts quickly and communicate those concepts in an easy to understand manner.
    1. Information retention and explanation. Tell the candidate what you want her to learn and later on in the interview process ask them to explain it to you. You are looking for how well the person can remember the info and how well they do at explaining things in simple terms. Ask follow up questions until they get stumped. The deeper the questions get the better they did at understanding the material. Intelligence: the ability to learn complex concepts quickly and communicate those concepts in an easy to understand manner.
  5. Work ethic: proactively pursuing the company mission with a high degree of energy and daily activity
    1. Very difficult to evaluate. Use three methods to screen: 1. Observe during interview process: observe mannerisms. Note promptness of returning emails and phone calls. Who pushed the pace of the interview? You or her? Discerning the character of a person can be easy if you know how to distinguish performance versus reality. You can rush the person into talking fast to bypass their word filters; 2. Reference checks: ask prior bosses and people who know their work ethic. Don’t ask did the person work hard. Instead, ask: based on these four characteristics: intelligence, curiosity, work ethic, and coachability how do you rank the candidate and why in that order?; 3. Behavioral questions: ask “please tell me about your work week. What are some of your must do activities? Work ethic: proactively pursuing the company mission with a high degree of energy and daily activity.
  6. In sum, five characteristics for hiring salesman in rapidly evolving market:
    1. Coachability: the ability to absorb and apply coaching.
    2. Curiosity: the ability to understand a potential customer’s context through effective questioning and listening.
    3. Prior success: a history of top performance or remarkable achievement.
    4. Intelligence: the ability to learn complex concepts quickly and communicate those concepts in an easy to understand manner.
    5. Work ethic: proactively pursuing the company mission with a high degree of energy and daily activity.

Chapter 3 finding top performing salespeople

  1. The issue here is that great salespeople are not in the market for jobs. You have to actively engage them and poach them from other companies.
  2. Building a recruiting agency within your company
    1. Working with outside recruiting agencies is ok but not ideal. Even though they will ask for 15-20 percent of the base of the salary of candidates that is not the problem. The problem is having a line of great candidates. Most recruiting firms will ask you to exclusively work with them so candidates aren’t contact by multiple agencies. However, do work with multiple agencies to increase your chances of finding top talent. If one agency is not producing successful candidates stop working with them and move on. There are a lot of competitors in this field. Roberge best advice is don’t work with outside recruiting agencies. Create your own recruiting agency within your company. Fact: recruiting agencies are “currency seeking machines” so they will offer their candidates the best salary package to your detriment (maybe). If the recruiter is a rational, currency seeking machine, he will prioritize the company that will generate the highest commission for them.
    2. Dissimilarly, internal corporate recruiters value quality of life, work nine to five, and aren’t interested in cold calling candidates. They make less than agency recruiters and are paid salary with no performance based commission. Internal recruiters are good at launching job ads, directing inbound resumes to hiring managers, and ushering candidates through the hiring process.
    3. Advice that Roberge used: find a “talented agency recruiter” who is thinking of starting their own firm and say to her, “why not start the firm within Hubspot?” pay her and her team as if they are agency recruiters. Instead of a flat base salary, opt for lower salary with meaningful performance bonuses that amounted to a higher overall earning potential. Incentivize them to hire. Prohibit them from using outside agencies. They will passively source their candidates. They will measure success by how many outbound candidates they reached in a week, by how many of those led to connections, how many of those connections led to phone screen, how many phone screens led to interviews with Hubspot’s hiring managers. And how many interviews led to hire. Thus, you will have a predictable, scalable process to find great sales talent, complete with internal metrics and ability to iterate on them quickly.
  3. Find quality passive sales candidates on LinkedIn
    1. First ten on your shoulders. No agency. Here are techniques to strengthen your position. Four steps using LinkedIn: Step1: Search well to find talent: use filters and advanced search function. Filters: zip codes (good for focusing geographic location), job title (active salesman, “sales”, “account executive”), school (good for “intelligence” factor b/c prestigious schools relate to intelligent candidates), company (good for IDing local companies with large sales teams with quality training programs); Step2: screen results using candidates details from profile (look at candidates profile with these elements in mind: indicators of sales excellence ex: team rankings, consistent quota attainment, president’s club attendance, longevity at their current/ former employers ex: high value candidates have 4-5 years of consistency in high performing environments, alignment between the prospect’s current buyer context and our buyer context ex: are they selling to large or SMBs? Selling a commodity or a complex product? Is sales process more relationship or transactional oriented? These factors good for assessing learning curve. If prospects don’t have this, it is ok. We are just looking for “low hanging fruit.”, school and major ex: “intelligence and prior success” matter. Quality of school. Difficulty of major. Academic performance. Roberge’s experience led him to find that second-tier schools produce the best candidates because top tier candidates grow too fast and look for other growth opportunities; quality of LinkedIn profiles ex: limiting impact on screening process. But a weak photo-less profile is a huge red flag. Social media selling nowadays is a must. Conversely, a great profile consists of professional photo, 500 plus connections, and loads of recommendations from high level executives make a really positive impression. Step 3: Engage prescreened candidates (meaning, use mutual friends in common for introduction. If that is not available guess at their companies email and send them a quick email like this: “EMAIL SUBJECT: Yahoo!/ Boston College… EMAIL BODY: [blank on purpose]…____, congrats on all your success! I run the sales team over here at _____. Our current team can’t keep up with the inbound lead flow so we are expanding the team. Your background is similar to those of our current top performers. Are there any folks in your network who are in the job market and have a background similar to yours? … Best, [name]… [position and company]… [mobile number]. This email works well because subject line has right content. Goal is to have him open email. Here subject is simple: [current employer/ undergrad school]. Wouldn’t you open an email with that subject? [SERIOUSLY, THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU WOULD OPEN UP AND USE THAT]. Second, email is appropriately brief. Objective here is to make candidate question himself as to whether they are “missing out on life changing opportunities”. Third, the “ask” is not guild inducing. I am not going in for the kill. I am asking for a referral. After sending email and not hearing back, follow up with a phone call the next day. Two nice things about cold-sourcing salespeople: they all have phones (unlike engineers) and they usually pick up inbound calls. It’s not hard to get a connection.
  4. Find quality passive sales candidates through your team: the “forced referral”
    1. Forced referral: having existing hiring manager use his existing teams network. This is the best technique to find talent. It is hard to do with one or two people but once you grow and scale up it works beautifully.
    2. This is how forced referral works: connect via LinkedIn with all salespeople. After one or two months in and they are comfortable, ask them for referrals. Say: “I am going to set a 20 minute meeting with you tomorrow. Tonight, I will go through your 275 connections on LinkedIn and look for salespeople in Boston to whom you are connected to and may be a good fit with the team. Find 18 people they are connected to that may be a good fit to the team and bring them into the meeting tomorrow (on paper of course). Have them tell you which prospective candidates are top performers and whether they are comfortable introducing me. This tactic is more work up front but is very effective.
  5. Understand the sales talent pool in your area
    1. Here, you are doing recon work on the competing companies. Meaning, you want to know: how much do they pay their salespeople. What is the buyer context like? Transactional or complex? Enterprise or SMB? Outbound leads or inbound leads? How many reps are at the company? What are the sales roles? How is sales team structured? What is the company’s sales training like? Use formal sales methodology? Do they invest in outside training or have a full time staff? Any major changes in that company cause sales people to leave? Did commission plan change? Did leadership change? Who are top salespeople of company? Find top person and narrow by territory. Network to her. Be creative in your approach to getting valuable info on top talent. Overall, world class sales hiring is the biggest lever of sales success. Finding great salespeople is the most difficult part of the hiring process.
    2. Takeaway: great salespeople never have to apply for a job. Finding great salespeople requires a passive recruiting strategy. Don’t hire a recruiting agency. Don’t build a corporate recruiting team. Build a recruiting agency within your corporation. Searches on LinkedIn and the forced referral are great sources for quality passive sales talent.

Chapter 4 the ideal first sales hire

  1. The issue is who should be your first sales hire? This is the most common question by start-up CEOs. These are the four candidates in your late stage pipeline: candidate 1. The SVP of Sales, candidate 2. The #1 Salesperson. Candidate 3. The Entrepreneur. Candidate 4. The Sales Manager
  2. People often go for candidate 1. Because they believe his connections will translate to their company being successful. Not true, and overrated because he is not willing to roll up his sleeves and do trench work; he lacks recent front line experience, and operates at a low pace.
  3. Candidate 2. The #1 salesperson is not the right person either because he lacks ability to succeed in an unstructured environment; he lacks leadership experience.
  4. Candidate 4. The Sales Manager is not the ideal fit either because lacks industry knowledge since he hasn’t sold to your buyer. He lacks entrepreneurial instinct which normally guides the entrepreneur to the right target market
  5. Finally, Candidate 3. The Entrepreneur is the most ideal for the position because she is hungry and passionate; she has formal sales training and gained experience at a large corporation, and she has huge leadership potential. However, she lacks sales management fundamentals and industry knowledge.
  6. To recap the perspectives: when faced with the first sales hire decision, many founders put the most weight on senior leadership experience and industry domain knowledge. Don’t fall into this trap. The most critical value from your first sales hire comes not from the first customers or revenues she generates, but from her ability to accelerate the company toward product/ market fit.

Part II The Sales Training Formula

Chapter 5 setting up a predictable sales training program

  1. Defining the three elements of the sales methodology: the buyer journey, sales process, and qualifying matrix
    1. The issue is here is the traditional “ride along” method of pairing new hires with one mentor and having the mentor show the mentee the ropes. However, this is not an ideal practice because each individual has a “superpower” that the other lacks. For example, if you excel in “rapport building” but are paired with a person who excels in “high activity volume” problems arise. Conversely, if a person is great with numbers and has multiple tabs open on his computer, taking phone calls and seamlessly sending out emails, the people person would be put off. Not only this but bad habits would eventually rub off on the mentees from watching and mimicking the mentor. So the best method to train new hires is to expose them to the best practices of the entire sales cycle. This “best practices blueprint” is referred to as the “sales methodology” here. Meaning, exposing new hires to critical learning opportunities and providing them with the flexibility to apply their “superpowers” to the process.
    2. Defining the three elements of the sales methodology are: the buyer journey, sales process, and qualifying matrix.
      1. The buyer journey is what businesses do when solving a problem. Meaning, as a buyer you identify an issue. You research competing models to solve that issue. Then you make your product. Then you present your product to your market for feedback. Then you negotiate terms to buy product. Knowing this thought process is needed for the salesmen so they can anticipate the needs of their prospects and accelerate the sales process. At this point the salesman is able to prospect with the client (exchange calls and emails where the salesmen educates his prospect through Q&A). When the salesmen “connects” with a prospect now he can follow up with a “discovery call” where the salesmen “presents” or gives a “demo”. These are stages to the sales process. You have to wrap up the presentation experience by summarizing the dialogue in an email and sending useful info to the prospect. When the prospect is armed with all this helpful info they will likely buy. This is the alignment stage where salesman and prospect see eye to eye and understand one another’s visions.
      2. Finally the “qualifying matrix” can now be established. Now that we know what the prospect wants we have a clear understanding of their needs. This is summed up as BANT (“Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing”). Budget: the value generated by the solution is greater than the cost and that the budget to cover the cost is accessible. Qualification of authority means the salesman validated the budget of the person in charge of buying. Qualification of “need” means salesperson understands the goal of potential buyer trying to solve. Finally, qualification of “timing” means establishment of a specific calendar time the potential customer wants to address the need.
      3. BANT is old school. Iterate as needed and as you see fit.
  2. Create a training curriculum around the sales methodology
    1. Once sales methodology defined, structuring a training program is easy. Introduce elements of sales methodology the way you created them: training session on buying journeyà give examples of questions buyers are exploring at each stage of buying journeyà help new hires get into the head of buyers at each stage; sales process: introduce sales processà qualifying matrixà session for prospectingà connect callà discovery callà as team grows use your salespeople with “superpowers” to lead. Here, you are delegating preapproved content and they will appreciate professional development opportunities offered.
  3. Adding predictability to the sales training formula constant iteration on the sales process
    1. When you have to scale up and grow and accelerate sales hiring add exams and certifications so qualified people teach newbies and those who don’t pass certs and exams get filtered out.
    2. Constant iteration of the sales process: the sales training formula needs to constantly evolve. Use a six-month feedback form. What they like, dislike, wish was in place. Use correlations to see if hires successes on tests correlated to success in product selling. If there is no correlation then change formula. Also, when the company switches gears and starts heading in a different direction having a sales tr­­­aining formula in place makes it easy to adjust and adapt in certain phases.
    3. Summation: ride along training is no good. Define a sales training strategy with three elements: sales methodology, sales process, and qualifying matrix. Finally, exams and certs add predictability to the sales training formula.

Chapter 6 manufacturing helpful salespeople your buyers trust

  1. Train your salespeople to experience the day-to-day job of potential customers
  2. Enable your salespeople to build their personal brand with potential customers using social media

Part III the sales management formula

Chapter 7 metrics-driven sales coaching

  1. Implementing a coaching culture throughout the organization
  2. Creating the coaching plan together with the salesperson
  3. Examples of metrics-driven skill diagnosis and coaching plans
  4. Peeling back the onion
  5. Measure the coaching success

Chapter 8 motivation through sales compensation plans and contests

  1. Criteria to evaluate a new commission plan
  2. Involve the sales team in compensation plan design promotion tiers: removing the subjectivity from promotions and compensation adjustments
  3. Using sales contests to motivate the team
  4. The best contest I ever ran

Chapter 9 developing sales leaders–advantages of a “promote from within” culture

  1. Prerequisites for leadership consideration
  2. From the classroom to the real world
  3. Common potholes from new sales managers

Part IV the demand generation formula

Chapter 10 flip the demand generation formula–get buyers to find you

  1. How can your business rank at the top of google?
  2. This does not happen overnight
  3. Create a content production process
  4. Complement content production with social meida participation
  5. Long-tail theory

Chapter 11 converting inbound interest into revenue

  1. Marketing’s role in converting interest into revenue
  2. Sales’ role in converting interest into revenue

Chapter 12 aligning sales and marketing–the SMarketing SLA

  1. The marketing service level agreement (SLA)
  2. The sales service level agreement (SLA)

Part V technology and experimentation

Chapter 13 technology to sell better, faster

  1. Accelerate lead sourcing with technology
  2. Accelerate sales prospecting with technology
  3. Accelerate lead engagement with technology automated reporting with technology

Chapter 14 running successful sales experiments

  1. The Hubspot value added reseller (VAR) program GPCT

Chapter 16 conclusion: where do we go from here?