Do a Google image search for “salesperson” and you’ll find this fine specimen up near the top:

“How did we create a field, 100 years ago, that’s going to go out and represent our companies to our customers, yet when I do a Google search for salesperson, I get images like this?” asks Mark Roberge, chief revenue officer in the sales division at Hubspot.

Twenty years ago people had to talk to sales people to make a purchase, he says, but that’s not true today. Consumers do their own research online and know what they want to buy by the time they get in touch with the vendor.

“In my opinion, sales either dies or it transforms to this new dimension,” Roberge says, speaking at Communitech’s Tech Leadership Conference hosted in Waterloo, Ont. on May 12. “Working with sales should be more like a consultation with your doctor – you don’t lie to them or ask for a discount on your prescription.”

The author of Sales Acceleration Formula and a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, Roberge has a professional education in engineering, and applies that skill set to look at the field of marketing in a unique way. He shared a few tactics to sales and scaling in the modern age.

Hire successful sales people every time

Hiring has everything to do with understanding context, Roberge says. Earlier in his career, Roberge thought he’d struck gold when he convinced a number one salesperson from a publicly-traded Boston firm to come and work for his startup. But the salesperson didn’t continue their exceptional performance after the change and left the company after 18 months of mediocre performance.

“The context from which they came couldn’t have been more different than Hubspot,” he says. “They came from a company that was running Superbowl ads and could explain their offering in two minutes.”

At Hubspot, which sells a solution for inbound marketing optimization, most sales people have to start with an explanation of the concept of inbound marketing before they can start selling the solution.

Over the years, Roberge has honed his hiring ability and now looks for a few key characteristics that he knows match the Hubspot culture: coachability, curiosity, and intelligence.

Provide salespeople with the same quantity and quality of leads

Ads don’t work anymore. If your target audience isn’t already using actual ad-blocking technology, their brain is now wired to ignore any messaging that reaches them in the form of an ad, Roberge says.

To combat this, companies must build a content production process and create useful and entertaining content that people actually want to read. Hire a journalist and surround them with your company’s thought leaders, Roberge suggests. Good content will set your company up with an inbound marketing pipeline.

Also, the marketing department and sales department at your organization have to actually get along. That can be tough, he acknowledges.

“Marketers think that salespeople are egotistical brutes and sales people think that marketers are doing arts and crafts all day,” he says.

To help improve the relationship, require that both marketers and salespeople meet a service level agreement that’s made clear by the organization. Revenue can be tracked and attributed to marketers just as it is with sales.

Have the sales people work the leads

Salespeople have to start working leads from marketing as soon as they’re hired at your organization, Roberge says. That means that training often happens while they’re on the job and a good sales manager knows how to offer coaching in a constructive way.

“It frustrates me when I see management teams pushing paper around,” Roberge says. “The best use of time is spent with reps is developing them.”

Even if a manager sees 100 things that a new recruit is doing wrong, they won’t try to fix them all at once, Roberge says. They’ll identify a couple of key points to give feedback on to help get that salesperson to the next level, and they’ll use metrics to do it.

Given these sales tactics, Roberge is hoping that the profession itself will eventually transform. Then instead of slimy, cigar-chomping used car salespeople coming to mind, we’ll find images more akin to this on Google:

 

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