Hubspot’s Mark Roberge Talks Inbound vs. Outbound Sales, Transparency and Big Data

Interview_Part_2_Roberge

This is the second part of a three-part interview series with Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer and SVP of Inbound Sales at Hubspot.

For those of you who missed part 1 of this interview, Mark recently sat down with Base CEO, Uzi Shmilovici during an event by The Forecast Club in Boston. Roberge shares his story about how he and his team took Hubspot from a class project at MIT in 2005 to 80 million dollars in revenue in 2013. In part two of the interview, they talk inbound vs. outbound sales, transparency and big data. Let’s dive in.


Uzi: You mentioned something, I think I captured between the lines, about inbound vs. outbound, inside vs. outside, so let’s talk about those two themes. Inbound marketing is sticking and we leverage the web to know much more about every lead that comes into our door. How does this change the sales process and how does this relate to inside vs. outside sales? How do you think about that? How do you think about this transition in relation to inbound and outbound sales?

Mark: Sure, we think about that a lot. I think when folks say, “What’s changing in sales, how is it different?” the common theme is that it’s going more and more inside. 20 years ago, you had to actually talk to a sales person just to do your buying process. 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, I can be in my slippers on Saturday night, after I put the kids to bed, and I can find the top 5 vendors in a space. I can find out what they do, how are they different from each other, and how much they are. I can often try the product for free, and I can buy it sometimes, right on the site. I go like, “Why do we need sales?” It’s a huge question, right?

And 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.

So there’s something that we do at HubSpot around that.

All of our sales people, in their first month, do very little selling. Very little sales training, actually. They all start a blog or website using HubSpot software, and they go through the whole methodology.

They start blogging, they build a following on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. They start optimizing their site with SEO, they create many pages and run A/B tests to convert them, they run email campaigns, they segment, they use the whole HubSpot software package. By the time they’re on the phone and the second month rolls around, they’ve actually started to understand SEO and blogging more than some of the marketers they’re talking to who have been in the space for 20 years.

So that’s one area that I push people on– the more you can replicate the people that you sell to, walk in their shoes, help them feel that pain, they’ll be able to be better consultative sellers, and really succeed in this new climate.

The other opportunity is being thought leaders themselves. For example, last year I closed a deal with a Fortune 500 company here locally. The VP of Sales sent me an e-mail and said, “Mark, I need to go to lunch you and my VP of Marketing. We need some help.”  And I said, “Great, I’ll be in your office tomorrow.” He says, “Nope, we’ll come to you, don’t worry.” So I said, “Great, pick my favorite lunch place.” I headed over and they spilled to me their whole problem set. Their visitors, leads, trials, conversion rates, where they thought they were off from the industry benchmark, etc. We spent 90 minutes and I shared everything I knew about it –and how we could help solve their problems. We just scribbled it out, worked through the whole process. When the check came, I reached for my wallet and they said: “Thank you very much, this was fantastic, we’ve got this.”

It took me 60 days to get the deal through procurement. It was a huge deal. And they reached out to me because I’m a thought leader in that space, they trusted me right from the get go. They wanted my input and they wanted to do business as a result. So that’s a huge opportunity for reps out there.

I challenge salespeople to take 2 hours per week for the next 2 months that you would have been prospecting, and blog. Or go to Twitter and Retweet some stuff, or go in a LinkedIn group and participate in conversation, or go find a blog where your prospects are hanging out and put a smart comment in there.

You know a lot. You are a thought leader in your space because you’re answering the objections and helping prospects every day with your value proposition. After those couple months, reflect back and ask yourself, “Were those 2 hours you spent blogging and interacting on social media been better spent prospecting or did you get enough value from that effort?”

So that’s another area that salespeople can really take advantage of, diversifying the way they’re investing time from the typical prospecting, qualifying and closing, to investing in themselves and their brand as a thought leader in the space.

Uzi: Yes, and it is fascinating because we’re talking a lot also about transparency. It is something that, again, going back to software, 15 years ago when somebody wanted to buy software, pretty much the only option was to go and buy a Gartner report and just pay whatever amount of money they had to buy the report and pick the number one option, because why would you choose any other option?

But today for example, we have ratings in the mobile app stores, and we have real people using the applications that are saying, “I like it,” or “I hate it.” Suddenly, you’re not relying on paid reports, you’re relying on the users of the application who are using it on a daily basis.

Jeff Bezos said something like, “You shouldn’t bet against transparency, because you’re just bound to lose.”

We always fantasize about the world in which the best product wins, that makes our lives so much easier. That’s a really interesting point. Tell me about another big thing that’s happening on the market that everybody’s talking about – the idea of big data. It’s a huge buzzword, and the question is: what’s in it for sales?

Mark: It’s critical, especially with a company like HubSpot where we’re making a thousand calls a day plus. Any small optimization you can make in that process has a huge impact on the business, and we thought about this stuff from day one. I’m hoping that in the next few years we see a lot of commercialization in this stuff that was really hard for us to do. I wrote a blog post on this particular study that we did years ago. We were always curious, like: if I got a lead today, I know I should call right away, but when should I call  again? Like do I try it tomorrow, or a week from now, or two weeks, and then – how many times should I try it before I give up? And as a sales leader, should I give salesperson one lead a month and have them call that lead a thousand times, or should I give a salesperson a thousand leads a month and have them call once? Obviously, neither of those are right, where in between is the right answer? And these are really important questions, even when there are 4 or 5 people that we wanted to nail.

So you can study that stuff and really start to understand the signs and the optimal signs around your particular prospect and sequences. I’ve seen some companies start to commercialize. We started to commercialize. Has anyone used Signals before? At getsignals.com, you can grab our free app of something we’ve used internally to know when people open up our emails. We started to commercialize that and I’m excited to see a lot of companies out there making it a lot easier than having to hire (MTPH) (aggression analysis) to figure this stuff out.

I’m about to call a company, I bet you if I ran a survey to sales people about what they know about that company, they’d have 1% of it covered of what they should know. They might have gone to the website and know the role of the person, they don’t know if the person’s ever been to their company’s website before, they don’t know which pages they’ve viewed, they don’t know if the marketing team’s even sent them automated emails before, they don’t know which ones were clicked on and which ones were opened, they don’t know if this person’s following them on social media, they don’t know if they’ve ever come on their blog enough to comment. These are all enormous signs for that person is to be like: “What are they interested and what’s their context?” It’s not that hard to get this stuff. So, a lot of improvement areas for sales.

You can watch the interview in its entirety here:

In part 3 of the interview, we open up questioning for Mark to the audience. Stay tuned!

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