Based in Cambridge, MA HubSpot is a high growth company providing inbound marketing software and content management tools to small and midsize business. Their growth has been impressive. Hubspot launched in 2006 with just three customers and $255,000 in revenue. They ended last year with $181M in revenue! In that time they also grew their sales team from a team of 1 to a team of 400+ strong. In order to maintain their growth engine Hubspot must maintain a fast hire rate but also balance a fine line between group training sessions and one-on-one coaching while empowering new hires to execute what they have learned.
In short, Hubspot’s sales onboarding program must equip all of their newly minted sales reps to get to a certain baseline of activity, proficiency and knowledge. Fast. REALLY FAST. Sound familiar right?
How do they do it? Jeetu Mahtani, Hubspots’s Managing Director of International Sales shares with us how they do it.
Make Sales Onboarding, Sales Training Goals Transparent
Transparency drives accountability. On day one new hires are informed of exactly what is expected of them and what they will be responsible for learning over the course of their first few months of employment.
Hubspot has designed certification exams to drive adoption of their sales process. They do this by teaching sales process within their sales onboarding. In fact, this accelerates new hire ramp up. New reps are asked to complete one certification per month during their first three months. By month four new sales reps are expected to be able to execute the sales process from start to finish on their own, without any sales coaching.
Being the MIT engineers that they are, Hubspot has also created a quantitative formula for salespeople which outlines their sales process and the corresponding skills they need to master. For example, in the initial discovery phase of their sales process sales reps must learn how to establish themselves as trusted advisers. Because the new reps understand exactly what they are being measured against, holding oneself accountable comes naturally. Again, transparency drives accountability.
Empower Salespeople to Take Ownership
We all know the expression, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.” This saying holds true for sales coaching as well. When managers and leaders lead out of authority by telling or directing their reps they rob their people of self-accountability, they very behavior all managers want their people to own and embrace.
To avoid this, Hubspot leaders conduct role plays with their salespeople and discuss difficult sales calls rather then simply telling the rep what they did wrong and what they should do next time. Instead, ask questions. Ask your reps what they feel went well. Ask them what they felt could have gone better and why. The key here is for managers to start by allowing the rep to first offer their observations and perceptions of how things went instead of the manager just diving in and controlling the conversation with all of their ideas and opinions.
Leading with questions pushes your sales reps to come up with the answers on their own and forces them to think and internalize the lessons they’ll need in the long run. Hubspot prides itself on having created a coaching culture.
Empower Your Sales Reps with Data
In case you didn’t know, Hubspot was founded by MIT graduates. Not surprisingly, they’re maniacal about sales metrics and they apply this mindset to sales coaching as well. Here is a perfect example of how they apply data to their sales coaching.
When coaching reps on how to convert a lead through a product demonstration the sales manager will show the rep how their demo-to-customer-conversion rates have changed over time. This clearly establishes a baseline of performance for the rep and works as a milestone for the rep to work on for improving this metric.
As a leader managing a team of sales reps or recruiters in the IT staffing industry you could (should) be coaching your reps on converting leads to qualified prospects. If it takes a rep six separate conversations with the same lead before they can convert that lead to qualified (or disqualified) then you have your baseline of performance. The leaders job is to now work with the rep and improve their effectiveness to the point where it only takes the rep one or two conversations to convert a lead.
If qualifying and converting leads is not part of your sales process you can still apply the same coaching methodology. Perhaps you expect your reps to get face to face meetings off of cold calls. Here you can work on conversion rates, number of connects to number of meetings. The point is, coach to the behavior that drive conversions (from one stage to the next) in your sales process.
Jeetu suggests that you need to be sure you have the whole picture. In Hubspot's case, a demo-to-customer conversion rate isn’t the only metric you should be looking at. Also check out their prospect-to-demo conversion rate. If that number is off the charts, it’s possible the sales rep is allowing too many unqualified leads through to the demo phase, driving down their close rate. In addition to these examples, track any and all metrics that are crucial in your sales process.
Finally, make sure that your sales reps and recruiters are fully aware of how effective they’re performing in each of the key areas. Below are some sample ratios. All sales reps and recruiters should know their personal performance ratios by heart, just like a pro baseball player knows his batting average.
Reinforcement coaching requires a feedback loop throughout a rep’s tenure with your organization. Communicate with your sales reps as early in the process as possible that once formal training is complete you will be meeting regularly for reinforcement coaching to ensure everything taught in formal training sticks and to check on progress.
In your coaching sessions managers again should focus leading by asking questions and not dominating the conversation with their feedback and opinions. You want your reps to share with you where they have applied the coaching and training (what specific situations) and what the results were. The goal is to get your reps to take ownership of their performance and activity.
Jeetu also points out that one way to keep your reps on their toes is by asking them to explain an improvement in their numbers or a situation where they applied specific points of your feedback. This a good way to test whether they’ve internalized your coaching, and it will reinforce to your reps that they should be self-aware and intentional in their actions.
Molding salespeople into the types of employees who are hyper-aware of their own progress and how they can improve is one of the most valuable things a sales manager can do for their company.
How do you coach your reps? What strategies are you using to ensure your training sticks with your new hires? Download our ebook and learn how you can create a coaching culture within your organization.