July 30, 2015

A Brilliant Sales Leadership Book from the Brilliant Mark Roberge of HubSpot

I met Mark Roberge two years ago and immediately liked him. He’s smart, fun, engaging and passionate and opinionated about how to drive sales. And as the person (SVP of Worldwide Sales) who helped increase HubSpot’s sales by 6000% to $100 million and the company to 450 employees, I’d say he knows a thing or two about growing a business and leading a thriving sales organization.

I interviewed Mark back in February just as his outstanding new book, The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to go from $0 to $100 Million, was hitting the market. It’s become a highly-acclaimed bestseller and garnered a bevy of strong reviews on Amazon. I intended to get this post up for the release, but life got in the way. And as I watched The Sales Acceleration Formula rocket up the Amazon rankings (for good reason), it gave me a great excuse to put off this post as the book and Mark clearly didn’t need any extra help 🙂

Mark’s undergraduate degree is in engineering and he earned an MBA from the Sloan School of Management at MIT. His bent and brains come through loud and clear when talking to him or reading the book. The fact the he and I are so different in our approach and perspectives is part of the reason I find his writing so valuable and strongly recommend that you read this book.

I won’t tell you Mark’s and HubSpot’s story; it’s worth reading for yourself. But let me share just a few of his responses from our conversation about the book:

Sales_Acceleration bookWhy this book? Mark was thrown into a sales leadership role and saw the opportunity to bring an engineer’s mindset to sales and sales management. He’s convinced that sales is much more science than it is art. The internet has changed everything — empowering customers in ways unimaginable just a decade ago — requiring a completely new way of thinking. Buyers expect sellers to deploy a low/limited-friction sales approach. And younger salespeople and inside sales teams require a very different type of sales leadership.

Sales Talent/Hiring: Mark makes the case that the #1 job of the sales leader is deciding who to bring on your team. He shared the frustrating experience of hiring sales rock stars from other companies that did not excel at HubSpot. He stresses the importance of “context” when defining talent requirements. What works in other organizations may not work in yours. He found (surprisingly) that certain characteristics/”strengths” they initially sought (aggressiveness and objection handling) actually turned out to be negatives.

Heart Engagement: I pushed Mark hard about heart engagement because I was concerned how his highly analytical, engineering and process-driven approach to sales leadership would affect the morale and passion of the sales team. He understood where I was coming from and quickly allayed my fears. Mark is very conscious of sales leaders not feeling like heavy-handed “Big Brother” micromanaging every move. In fact, I was highly encouraged that he was so strong about leading with goals and results to avoid making reps feel micromanaged. It warmed my heart to hear him reiterate that the key is managing to results! He’s also a big proponent of sales managers getting to know their people on a more intimate level so they can make a better connection between reps’ personal and business goals.

Advice for CEOs/Entrepreneurs: I loved Mark’s response when I asked what advice he had for CEOs and entrepreneurs. Without even pausing he shared his wish that they’d come to appreciate that sales excellence is just as important and product excellence. Hear me shout a hearty “Amen” to that exhortation.

Listen, if you scan my posts, you’ll notice I don’t recommend too many books to you. But when a brilliant guy shares the story of how he and his company drove ridiculous sales increases, and as a bonus he provides a very different, fresh perspective on sales leadership, it’s worth grabbing a copy.