The Engineer’s Approach to Sales Management

by | Mar 6, 2015

Sales has moved into the spotlight within organizations and boardrooms everywhere. Why? Because companies simply have more competition now than they have in the past. There is someone else out there claiming to provide the same product/service that you do, so it’s time to tighten up ship with current customers and start finding new ones, before your competitors do.

Mark Roberge, employee number 3 and now CRO at HubSpot does not shy away from this reality, he instead attacks it head on with his unique background. His new book, The Sales Acceleration Formula explains how he built this process at HubSpot and how it can be replicated at other companies.

Roberge is an engineer and started his career writing code. Do not be fooled though, I heard his father (long time sales professional and now sales coach, Rick Roberge) speak just last month and by the volume of his voice and the strength of his opinions, I am willing to bet that Roberge has long understood the importance of sales to growth of any organization.

That aside, his experience was not tainted. The sales team he has built at HubSpot is not guilty of any sleazy sales techniques that we worry other engineers are muttering about. His mission was to create “scalable, predictable revenue” and in his mathematical brain, to achieve this he simply needed to find the right formula. He created a “predictable framework” made up of processes, metrics and calculations for sales hiring, sales training, sales management, and demand generation.

Sales training is something we do quite a lot of and Roberge offers some insight that reinforces our approach to training entry level sales people. Our training involves a pretty strict curriculum with quizzes and check points along the way. Our trainees run a mock outbound sales campaign, building a list, researching companies, developing an email template and a talk guide. They work pretty independently; we are simply there to give feedback, coach them through their role play, and assist in the areas that need some work. Some of them write great emails, others are great at research and can earn respect on the phone with their knowledge, and other lucky souls have the god given gift of rapport building.

Roberge refers to these personal strengths in salespeople as their “superpowers,” and he realizes that what works for one person may not work for another. He is therefore an advocate of throwing out the old “ride along” training methodology of observing a top performer in hopes of emulating everything they do to become a top performer yourself. He tells a great story of how that simply doesn’t work and can facilitate a new hire picking up bad habits and undervaluing his own “superpower.”

Hiring the right person is a huge challenge for organizations of all sizes, especially in sales. Roberge’s answer: “hire the same successful salesperson every time.” No, he’s not talking about cloning people, but he is talking about hiring systematically and not with your gut. He has realized that what makes a top performer in one company is different from what makes a top performer in another. He discovered what it takes to be successful in sales at HubSpot early on and evaluates candidates based on the traits of those who have been successful within his organization.

Roberge’s approach to sales management is not so much management, but rather what he calls “metrics-driven sales coaching.” I heard him speak a few months back and he used the analogy of his golf coach to explain the perfect sales manager. The coach watches your swing a few times and instead of bombarding you with sixteen things to change before your next swing, he picks one that is feasible and will set you up for the next tweak. He then lets you hit 10 more balls and once you’ve made that adjustment, he offers another, and repeats this until you’re on the PGA tour.

The rest of the book explores HubSpot’s approach to demand generation and tons of techniques that every company should follow to align sales and marketing, and to reach their customers in new ways. It’s a great read for any professional with big dreams about big growth for their company.

By Domenic Fichera

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