What do you do when you are TOO successful at generating leads? This is what Mark Roberge, VP Sales, at HubSpot discussed with us at our first SalesSchool event. Hear how HubSpot uses thought leadership and extensive analytics to pull out the 20% of leads that matter to them.
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SEAN: So, you have this team of 70 sales people. There’s no way you can respond to that many people. How do you figure out, within an automated way who’s worth calling back?
MARK: So somewhat of a unique situation, when I went out and interviewed a bunch of other VP Sales to try to figure out how to do this job. No one had the answer to how to figure out which leads to call, right? So it was something we had to kind of come up with on our own. In the beginning, honestly when it was just like 2 or 3 of us, we just kind of fished in there and tried to figure out what was a good fit. We have 70 sales people today so it has become quite an algorithm for us. And quickly we discovered, as Andrew mentioned, one of the unique problems we have is not necessarily getting people on the phone – everyone loves to call us. You’d be so… everyone loves to talk to us. You’d be so surprised how many prospecting calls I made when I’ve said, “Hi, this is Mark from HubSpot,” and that was it. They were off and running – “Hey guys it’s HubSpot! They’re on the phone!” They’ve been following our stuff for so long they felt this amazing connection with us that we actually reached out. Everybody wanted to talk to us. The biggest trap that our sales reps fall into is, everybody leaves the demo saying, “This is awesome! I can’t wait to do this.” And for one reason or another only about a third of those people actually buy after the demo. So the folks that are really killing it and making the money are the folks who understand who the true buyers are, walk through a proper qualification process and know where to invest their time. Now when Sean said today, as we’re able to start to automate some of those processes, if any one has followed our company, you know a lot of us are MIT guys, we live and die by the data. And what we did in our, one of the things we did in our first year was we had collected about 40-50,000 data points relatively quickly on the leads that were coming in and how our sales team did with them. Did they connect with them? Did they convert them into a sales opportunity? Did they convert them into a customer? Did they end up being a good customer? And we literally read regression analyses against all the data we’ve collected on that lead automatically at the point of conversion to predict whether or not they’d be successful. And that’s how we wrote one of our first lead grade exercises. So to this day as Andrew hinted, we only pass about 20-25% of the leads we generate directly to the sales team. Some of them go into a lead nurturing bucket, and we’re going to force them to get more engaged with us, get into a trial, request a demo so that they will really really raise their hand. And some of them go into a bucket that we’re not going to sell to because they’re not going to end up being a successful customer. But that whole mechanism of automatically figuring out at the point of conversion – how big is this company? Where are they located? For us, a surprising one was they mention the word “leads” in an open-ended question that we have that we call the “What’s your biggest marketing challenge?” If they use the word “leads” in that response the conversion rate goes through the roof. And there’s a little bit of a honey pot in there where there’s a little checkbox at the end that says “If you are interested in partnering with HubSpot, please check here.” That’s kind of a bad thing from our lead gen perspective. You end up in a different bucket and there’s a much smaller team that goes after you. And then so I think the point is we constantly refine that model every quarter because it does change. And we have a system that allows us to get those leads right down – the right leads to the right sales people at the right time.
SEAN: Going back to the leads for a minute. So once you figure out which 25% of those 27,000 leads talk about – you guys have an 8-step process by which you try to follow someone who’s raised their hand, at which point you then give up. So talk about that, because I don’t think anybody really understands how much, how many times to call someone before you give up? How many is too many and how many is not enough?
MARK: Yeah, there’s a lot of good data out there. Check out a site called Insidesales.com, I don’t know if any of you guys follow it. I think they’re out in Utah. They’ve done some really amazing research about how many pings does it take to get to a connect, etc. I think the average is something like 8. We haven’t pushed it to that degree yet. I believe a lot of that data is collected around cold calling. If you’re given a cold calling list, they’re going to try you about 8 times – the optimal time. One of the best cold calls I’ve ever received was, “Hey Mark, this is so and so recruiter. It’s my second call out, and I’m going to try about 8 times over the next two months, do me a favor and feel free to call me back.” I actually did call him back, and just told him to buzz off. We’ve actually used that occasionally, and there’s a lot of fun tricks that work out to get these people on the phone. But I think that it really does take a lot of touches, that’s another algorithmic approach we took, because we have a whole lot of reps out there that are taking all a different types of approaches to their leads. Some of them are really taking a surface approach calling the lead right away just once or twice and then cycling through new leads. Others were really good about doing a little research, finding the ones that were the best prospects for us, and really drilling into them for two months. I honestly think that IS the better approach. It doesn’t mean you’re leaving the same voicemail over and over again. I see that out there a lot in sales organizations. And I also see a very bland elevator pitch: “Here’s what we do. Give me a call back.” Once you have inbound marketing cooking for you, once you have these people coming to you, there’s a relationship and a conversation happening even if you’re not really getting on the phone with them. I mean all 8 of those touches are relatively unique. We’re not going out there saying “Hey Rafael, this is Mark from HubSpot. We help people generate more leads from the web, bla bla bla.” Instead we say “Hey Rafael, this is Mark from HubSpot. You had attended our Facebook webinar on generating more leads from Facebook and I noticed you asked so and so question. I happen to have helped 3 customers with that question, let me know if you want to talk more.” It’s very consultative from the start. As Andrew’s done an awesome job in our sales training program, the reason why we put these guys through 3 weeks of non-sales training to start, we have them just do inbound marketing, write their own blog, because I want every single one of our sales people to have offers from our prospects to run their internet marketing department. They need to be Consultants, that’s really what’s happened here on Sales 2.0 is the buyer has control. Right, 20 years ago they had to talk to you as a salesperson to buy a product and figure out what you are about. Today people can research your product, they can try your product for free and they can often buy your product without talking to you. So what the hell does a sales person do? Right, as a sales person we have to step up our game, we have to be consultants. We have to be out there, winning their trust, understanding their pain and coaching them on their pain right from the start. And that starts with this 8-touch process. The process itself has been pretty scientifically developed. We ran a bunch of algorithms like is it good to keep call these guys everyday, every other day, etc, etc. And what we’ve learned was it depends on the lead. So some of our best leads, we’ll call everyday for 2 or 3 weeks, other leads which have a slightly higher yield rate, we’re might call them once today, once in a week and then we’ll give up. So the answer to that is we’ve really kind of systematized and customized that process in terms of what we say, how frequent we call them and when we give up based on historical data and how those leads will perform.
Over 330 people attended our first SalesSchool event to hear Greg Coleman, President & CRO of The Huffington Post, Mark Roberge, VP Sales at HubSpot and Andrew Quinn, Head of Sales Training at HubSpot discuss how to apply process and science to sales to build sales machines that drive consistent and predictable revenue. See more from that event here.