The End of Self-Centered Selling

by Mark Roberge

MeIn 2007, I was tasked with building a sales team from the ground up at HubSpot. One of the first things I did was set up coffee meetings with dozens of VPs of sales at software companies, to network and find out how they were running their teams.

What did I discover? They mostly followed a basic, three-step process that probably everyone in sales or marketing will find familiar:

Step 1: The company purchases lists of prospects that look like a good fit for them.

Step 2: Sales reps call high into those prospects and deliver their elevator pitch.

Step 3: Sales reps jam whoever picks up the phone through their company’s sales process.

In short, the sales process was all about the seller, not the buyer.

To me, this suggested a fundamental misalignment with the way prospects wanted to buy. The Internet had empowered the B2B buyer to conduct research online before making a purchase, so the buyer no longer needed to talk with salespeople to learn about features and benefits, and buyers had less patience for cold calls and conversations that were centered around the salesperson’s agenda. I regarded the task of building from scratch a sales team for HubSpot as an opportunity to put this knowledge into practice.

We leaned heavily on technology to empower salespeople to follow a new kind of sales process centered around the buyer’s journey. Here are the three steps we developed and still follow today.

Step 1: We listen to buying signals.

Instead of finding prospects by purchasing lists, we leverage technology to listen to the market and monitor buying signals. A buying signal could be a click on one of our marketing emails, a visit to our Website, or a download of one of our content assets. It could also be a mention on social media about phrases or keywords that are relevant to the problems we solve. (This is one of the most valuable aspects of social selling and something I’ll be talking about at the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston.) These buying signals are happening hundreds and sometimes thousands of times a day, and salespeople at most companies have no idea.

Step 2: We lead with the right information, not the generic elevator pitch.

Using technology, our salespeople understand what information the prospective buyers have already consumed and engage with the best next piece of information applicable to the buyer’s context.

Step 3: We assist the prospect through his or her buying journey.

Rather than obsess over our sales process and force prospects through a set of qualification questions to help us understand if the prospect is worth our time, our salespeople obsess over prospects’ buying processes and how we can support them.

In summary, we avoid the “me-focused” sales process. Today’s empowered buyer just does not have the patience for self-centered sales teams. Instead, we leverage technology and buyer context to create a better buying experience for customers and a faster sales process for our salespeople. Everybody wins!

All of these practices and the supporting technological tools we’ve created have helped the HubSpot sales team achieve rapid growth in just six years. [Editor’s note: According to the Wall Street Journal, HubSpot has achieved a $100 million revenue run rate.] I’ll be sharing more about HubSpot’s rapid growth strategy and how sales leaders can leverage these tactics at the Boston Sales 2.0 Conference, including role plays and scripts from the HubSpot playbook. Register now to join me.

How well is your sales process aligned with the buyer’s journey? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

MarkRoberge_75x100Mark Roberge is chief revenue officer at HubSpot.



[Image: Flickr / Kat]

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