6 Sales Management Lessons

When you grow a sales team like Mark Roberge did – from 1 to 450 employees – you’re going to learn a lot. At a Forecast fireside chat in Boston, Roberge and Base CEO Uzi Shmilovici discussed scaling sales teams, the future of sales, and what Roberge learned in his role as SVP of Sales at Hubspot. We’ve broken it down to Roberge’s 6 most important sales management lessons.

1. Put Marketing On A Quota

It’s important for the marketing team to take accountability for the lead generation portion of the sales process. To eliminate as much subjectivity as possible between the sales and marketing teams, it’s crucial to have a very defined relationship.

“I’ll give you an example of what we did,” said Roberge. “We knew, for the first year or so, if I gave my mid-market reps a hundred leads, it will result in about $800 of monthly recurring revenue (MRR). It’s like clockwork.”

As you scale, you can start to see how many leads you need to hit your revenue goals each month.

Mike Volpe (VP of Marketing), my counterpart, stepped up and delivered those leads. I’d love all companies to get there. But still, there’s a hole in that, and the hole is that some of those leads we got were VP’s of marketing who downloaded a white paper and others requested demo’s.”

Roberge figured out that those who requested a product demo closed at five times the rate as a white paper download, but that demo requests were much harder to come by than a great ebook about Twitter marketing.

“So we rethought the process and what we did was – we segmented those leads. We knew that ebook and white paper leads closed at 1% and demo request close at 5%. So if you multiply the conversion rate of those leads times the average spend of those leads, you reverse engineered a lead value. So, the ebook leads were worth a dollar, and the demo requests leads were worth 5 dollars. Now instead of telling Volpe that I need 1,500 mid-market leads, I told him that I needed $25,000 dollars of lead value, and he can get there through whatever the math is, like 5,000 demo requests or 25,000 ebook downloads – either way I’m getting to my number.”

What he’s done is essentially put marketing on a quota. “How cool is that? Instead of just sales, marketing is on a quota too,” chuckled Roberge. 

2. Interview Strategically For Your Industry

When growing the team at Hubspot, Roberge developed criteria for the hiring process specific to the technology sales industry. It’s important to understand your context. Someone who may not be successful at technology sales, could excel in higher volume, lower value markets. Roberge called out 5 indicators of future success when hiring at Hubspot:

  • Coachability
  • Prior success
  • Work ethic
  • Curiosity
  • Intelligence

He added, “Prior success doesn’t have to be in sales. We’ve got an Olympic gold medalist on our team. We’ve got a guy who’s a professional comic who made it to Comedy Central. These are people who went after something and achieved it. That’s what you’re looking for.”

3. Coaching Is Key To Sales Productivity

According to Roberge, “The biggest lever that you’re going to get to drive sales productivity is the effectiveness of your managers in developing and coaching your frontline sales people.”

Hubspot uses a matrix-driven sales coaching model. On the second day of every month Roberge meets with the sales directors, who each oversee a few managers and have about 40 sales reps underneath them.

These meetings force a coaching culture to the whole organization. And good coaching is really about trying to find out the one thing that’s going to make the biggest difference.

4. Don’t Organize Your Sales Team By Territory

Roberge warns against organizing sales teams by territory. “If you think about territories, they grew out sales teams who knocked on doors. That’s the whole point. Put your people where the doors are. For whatever reason it is still around. Either way you should organize your sales team by the buyer persona.”

As you grow your team, it’s better to specialize your sales person in health care than say, New York, for example.

And Mike Gamson, SVP of Sales at LinkedIn agrees with him. Their sales team uses a social proximity index, where they look at the data provided by LinkedIn and assign the prospect to the sales person most likely to close the deal based on relationships – not territories. 

5. Specialize Your Sales Team Early

“The biggest mistake I made was not specializing the sales team early enough,” said Roberge.

“For example, I had some sales people who were like, “Man, I hate these Fortune 5000 guys, I can never get them on the phone, but I love those plumbers, they pick up. I know they don’t have a lot of money, but I can get them to make a decision in an hour and be done.” And other reps were like, “I hate these plumbers, they don’t have any money. I’m a strategic seller and I just want to deal with people who have better business acumen, and who will spend a little bit more.”

For Roberge, it eventually became logical to specialize, but he wishes he would have done it in the first year of scaling the team instead of the second.

6. Focus On Inbound Inside Sales

Sales as a profession is going inside. “20 years ago, you had to actually talk to a sales person. They had information that you needed, and the best reps were very skilled at withholding that information in exchange for the information they wanted from you, like – who’s the decision maker? How much budget do you have? What are your needs?”

But today, we can be in our slippers on Saturday night, and find the top vendors in any space. We can find out what they do, how they’re different from each other, and how much they are. We can often try the product for free. So why do we even need sales?

“In sales, we have to step up our game to add value to that whole new ecosystem. We need to be there as consultants and advisors to our buyers. We need to do a better job when we engage with someone, to engage with them in their context. We need to do a better job understanding their specific goals, the specific challenges they’re trying to solve and translate that generic marketing that’s on our website to their business. We need to tell the story from their perspective, that’s the best reps that we have, that’s the skill that they actually possess.”

You can watch the entire interview here.

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This post originally appeared on the Base blog.