Jami Kelly
How HubSpot Scaled from $0 to $100M: Secrets from CRO Mark Roberge

Hubspot’s Success At Scaling A Business


Mark Roberge offers more startup wisdom in our first Upshift eBook, “59 Secrets for Startup Sales Success.” Download your free copy now!

If you’ve been following the Upshift Dispatch, by now you know we’re all about scaling startup sales. We believe the process can be quantified and measured and then repeated. So to help us hone our curriculum and optimize results for the companies that come through our coaching program each quarter, we’ve sought out the advice from people who have built awesome sales machines that have been successful scaling a business. For this installment of “advice from the field,” I talked to Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer of the HubSpot Sales Division.

At HubSpot, Mark increased revenue over 6,000% (six-thousand percent!) and expanded the worldwide sales and services team to hundreds of employees. These results placed HubSpot at #33 on the 2011 Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Companies list and Mark was also ranked #19 in Forbes’ Top 30 Social Sellers in the World. He was also awarded the 2010 Salesperson of the Year at the MIT Sales Conference. Mark has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, Inc Magazine, Boston Globe, TechCrunch, Harvard Business Review, and other major publications for his entrepreneurial ventures.

So how does he do it?

Mark shared his process with me, which he boils down to a few simple steps. Okay, they’re not so simple in practice, otherwise everyone would be Salesperson of the Year, but they’re simple enough for me to outline for you here. Hey, it’s a start.

8 tips from Mark Roberge for scaling an early stage sales team:

1. Hire the same successful person every time.

To do this, you need to figure out what personality traits define success for your particular company, and it’s not the same for everyone.  Then you need to score each of your potential hires against each of the traits to figure out who’s going to be successful.

According to Mark, “In the early days at HubSpot, I found coachability, intelligence, curiosity, work ethic and prior success to be highly correlated with what we needed, even if they had never worked in sales or marketing solutions before.”

Once you’ve identified the characteristics by observing your most successful sales people and what makes them effective, he says, you have to figure out how to test for these skills during the interview process.” For example, test for coachability by doing a role play and evaluate the person not so much on how they presented, but how they took the feedback you gave them.” Something like work ethic, he advises, is a lot harder to gauge, you may have to rely on reference checks for this, as everyone will tell you they have a strong work ethic.

“Startups are pioneering new ground – those who possess the traits you identify as unique to your enterprise will end up being the better sales people,” he believes. “You have to work to find out what that blueprint is and then hire more of those same people every time.”

2. Train your people in a predictable way.

Keep in mind not everyone is good at everything; you have to determine what each person’s superpower is and then work to hone it, while at the same time developing the skills they are only mediocre at.

“Don’t have new hires learn by shadowing your top performers,” Mark says, “as their superpowers might not be the same and they will be miserable if you try to make them conform to someone else’s strengths.” Some people are natural rapport builders, others are maniacally process driven – the way you train each of them in the buyers journey should be the same; just be sure to build in the autonomy to hone their own superpowers as you assist them along.

3. Give everyone the same opportunity for success.

“Seed new hires with the same quality and quantity of leads every month,” Mark advises, so you can see who rises to the top. Then, once you’ve seen what makes them tick, specialize early to grow sales.

“Don’t treat all your sales people the same,” he cautions. Group them by their preferences and strengths – do they prefer to go after large pieces of business or are they better rapport builders with small businesses? Do they understand certain sectors better than others? Segment your prospects and segment your sales team to address them, especially as you grow.

4. Manage according to the same sales process.

“Your job is to lend specific guidance on how to lead customers through the buyer’s journey,” Mark says. Define what your sales process is based on analyzing your buyer’s journey, but recognize that the buying journey might be different depending on the type of company you are going after.

Mark, who holds an engineering degree, says, “Think like a ‘quant.’” You are on a scientific mission to create predictable growth. Talk to smart people to uncover tactics, iterate, update based on contextual changes, buyer personas, new features, etc., but first you need a scientific foundation.

5.  Feedback is key.

You have to make sure your hires are good at taking feedback, according to Mark. Gauge this by doing a role play in which they actually conduct a demo for your product. Then ask them how they think they did. Then give them feedback.

“Grade them not just on how smoothly the demo went, but how open they were to self-assessment, taking feedback and applying it,” Mark says.

6. Create your own space and own it.

As competition grows, your original vision may be copied or done better by another company. “Don’t duke it out in a bloody battle,” Mark says. Figure out where you excel and focus on that, and market yourself that way. Be prepared to pivot based on market conditions. “What works now may not work three months from now.”

7. Sales is about building trust first and foremost.

Mark suggests you build trust by asking great questions to understand what’s important to your prospect and deciphering what you can do to help them. “The answer might be nothing,” he says, “in which case, introduce them to a great person you know that can do it.” If you’ve built trust, you’ve succeeded, even if you didn’t close the deal.

8. Don’t underestimate sales.

Product is important but Mark says, “You should never skimp on sales in favor of product. Put your money, time, and energy into finding the right sales people, creating a culture in which they can thrive, and building a process – it’s just as important, or more, than what you put in toward refining your product.”

We couldn’t agree more. That’s why we’ve built a program that focuses solely on the sales process to help startups thrive. Of course, it all starts with a great product or idea. But without putting your sales house in order, no one will know about it.

Think of HubSpot as a case in point. More than 11,500 companies in 70 countries use HubSpot’s marketing and sales software to grow. But that wasn’t always the case. It took a well-defined sales process to create leads (and no one does this better than HubSpot!) and then turn those leads into customers.

Thanks Mark, for giving us a glimpse into your thinking about the importance of sales and the people who sell, to the overall success of any startup business.

Read more of my “Advice From the Field posts,” featuring insights from some of Silicon Valley’s leading sales gurus.

To read more of Mark’s tips for startup success, along with advice and tips from other accomplished sales leaders, download our free eBook, “59 Tips for Scaling Startup Sales.”