Here at IMPACT, we are doing better than ever when it comes to bringing on new, good fit clients to work with, but if we’re to stay strong and actually turn our mostly impromptu sales moves into an actual process we can efficiently follow and improve on month over month, deal after deal, then we certainly have areas to improve on.
This was why when Tom DiScipio and I heard that our old friends from HubSpot, David Weinhaus and Dan Tyre were hosting a HubSpot Sales Bootcamp for HubSpot Agency Partners, we were eager to attend.
There was a lot to take away.
Far more than I could fit into any reasonable blog post, so, I decided to tell you about the section I found the most valuable. It was all about breaking the exploratory call down into 3 sales, but we’ll get into that in a moment….
Below is a description of the program and David and Dan facilitated:
Are you getting in front of prospects, but wish you were advancing and closing more of them? Could you be doing a better job digging for pain, exploring need, and obtaining higher fees?
If so, the Sales Skills Bootcamp PLUS could be a great fit for you. You’ll master agency inbound selling skills through an immersive and interactive course. You’ll learn from HubSpot sales instructors and work alongside other HubSpot Partners committed to sales improvement.
This class is designed specifically for partners looking for a hands-on, personalized training experience. By joining us for two days in Cambridge MA, you’ll dedicate time and attention to learning and application. The training also includes 6 weekly follow up training sessions so you can continue to learn and apply even after you head home.
David Weinhaus: David Weinhaus leads Partner Sales Enablement at HubSpot. He has trained thousands of agencies to sell better and to more retainable clients via the Agency Partner
Certification Sell series. Prior to his current role, David was in direct and partner sales with HubSpot for 5 years. David is a multiple time HubSpot Sales President's Club winner.
Dan Tyre: Dan Tyre joined HubSpot as a member of the original team in May of 2007 as the first salesperson for the company. Since then, he has held various positions in sales, sales management, recruiting, training, and expansion of the HubSpot sales team as it has grown from a 10 person startup to $200M+ annual revenue & more than 175 high-performing sales professionals.
Why is Training Important to Sales Reps?
Now, I know what you may be thinking, “Nick, you’re a handsome man and training is great, but I can’t afford to spend two days out of the office and away just for learning. I need be DOING, every day.”
Well, first of all, thank you for the compliment, I’ve been working on my figure.
It may actually turn out that you can’t afford NOT to train. Let me ask you this:
Are you getting in front of prospects, but wish you were advancing and closing more of them?
Could you be doing a better job digging for pain, exploring need, and obtaining higher fees?
If you’re doing fantastic on both these areas, then no need to train or read any further, but if you’re like me (and most reps I talk to), then I challenge you to have someone help you look at what you’re doing/not doing in your sales process and get some new perspective.
You also don’t have to take my word for it.Just listen to what David McNeil, a veteran sales leader (formerly of Salesforce.com who now leads up HubSpot’s Global Agency Partner Program).
This is what he told us at the opening of the Agency Sales Bootcamp:
“Often what a rep thinks is their bottleneck (‘my demo didn’t convert’) is, in fact, only happening because of something that happened much earlier in the sales process, like say, asking better questions in the exploratory process.”
He went on to share, “Good sales managers need to ensure we’re taking learnings from each lost deal and putting that learning at the front of the next deal.”
So, this is what I mean by training.
This takes an investment in getting training from veterans in the field. . It’s one of the most profitable things a company can invest in for their teams.
Note: Many of HubSpot’s founding fathers and marketing and sales leaders who help the company go public are sharing their stories at IMPACT Live on August 1-2 in Hartford. Get your ticket here.
To quote Ben Horowitz, from ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers:’
“People at McDonald’s get trained for their positions, but people with far more complicated jobs don’t. It makes no sense. Would you want to stand on the line of the untrained person at McDonald’s? Would you want to use the software written by the engineer who was never told how the rest of the code worked? A lot of companies think their employees are so smart that they require no training. That’s silly.”
Alright, so now that you’re hopefully convinced training with veterans on important aspects of the sales process is worth it, let’s talk about what HubSpot taught us at the Bootcamp about the Exploratory Call….
Running an Exploratory Call Like HubSpot
The trainers for this sales bootcamp, was taught by my friend and former colleague from my days at HubSpot Academy, the legendary David Weinhaus and HubSpot employee #4, Dan Tyre.
Both of these guys have successfully been selling for HubSpot (and other organizations prior to that) for years.
As we began the bootcamp, Dan Tyre challenged us to think differently about our roles as sales people in this industry: “Remember, you’re no longer in the sales department or even the marketing department. You’re the company growth department. The people who can own the ‘growth’ platform and playbook for companies are the people who are going to win.”
The pros at HubSpot made it clear that it all begins with the exploratory call fundamentals.
Mastering these fundamental formulas and frameworks help you steer and manage the call. These fundamentals include formulas for opening the call, using a 3-sale mindset, and ensuring proper closing and follow up to the call.As you read through what we learned, ask yourself - Where are you currently strong? Where do you need to improve?
Opening the Exploratory Call:
HubSpot opens its exploratory call with a formula” of key terms that help set the agenda for everybody involved: Learn + Share + Mutually Agree + Check-In.
This can sound like, “I’d like to learn more about your goals, share some ideas and/or background about how each of our organizations operate and then see if it’s a mutualfit to continue talking, does that sound good for you?”
What you’re doing by following this formula to open is setting expectations with the prospect this is a 2-way process. We’re here to discover more about each other.
Once you have laid this foundation, you can move onto the 3 Sales.
Using the 3-Sale Mindset
David Weinhaus shared with us the concept of the 3-Sale Mindset. In any complex sale, you’re really making 3 sales:
Sale #1: WHY- why change from the status quo?
Sale #2: HOW - how to best go about solving for their goals / their pain? This sale usually involves introducing them to a strategy that must be persuaded to see as their best choice vs. the alternatives available.
Sale #3: WHAT and/or WITH WHOM to do it with?- Selling them on working with you specifically (vs. competitors) and also on whom they need to get involved in order to make the deal happen competitor.
I had not thought about this one call being 3 sales in one, but if you can think of it that way, and at least lay the groundwork for making each sale successfully during your exploratory call, you are well on your way to closing a good fit deal.
This is why Jill Frattianne, another veteran HubSpot sales rep, said during a panel that David facilitated, “The exploratory call is the new close.”
Let’s dive a bit deeper into what HubSpot taught us about making each sale successfully during the exploratory call:
Sale #1 - Why Change the Status Quo? (a.k.a. Identifying the Need)
No matter what product/service you want your prospect ultimately to buy, they’re going to probably need to change from the status quo to access the full value/potential of what we’re offering. We’re selling CHANGE in the exploratory call.
You need to focus on this first, even if the prospect wants you to jump ahead to Sale #2.
A Soundbyte that David taught us to use when in this mode was, “Let’s make sure there is a business case for what we might propose before we move ahead with a planning the specifics of what we might propose…”
In other words, we need to identify and confirm that there is a need.
Nobody changes from the status quo until they have identified a pain, a potential solution, and a case for crossing the gap from pain to solution.
Part of that business case formation begins before the call even starts. David said, “Try to form a hypothesis on what you think their ‘gap’ will be when you discuss it with them on the call.”
Dan Tyre asked us, “How do you know if something is a true business pain for the organization you’re talking to? You know because it’s impacting most everybody and they think about it most of the time. You know it’s pain when people talk about it all the time. Your boss goes, ‘we gotta fix this.’
These are things like impacting productivity and ability to hit revenue targets. Lead generation and customer acquisition are a problem for everybody.”
Reps can uncover their commitment to change by asking a couple key questions like, “Why not not do anything different from last year?” (challenge the status quo) and “How do you feel that will do revenue-wise with no change?” (expose the cost of inaction).
Bottom line, you need to make the first sale on the fact that there actually IS a need to change and be sure your prospect is bought in on at least making a significant change. Significant enough that they’d be open to considering HOW to go about changing. You have to sell them on the WHY first.
Sale #2: HOW to Solve for the Pain/Goal?
David reminded us that this is where our goals, plans, challenges, timeline conversation comes in.
We need to know their growth goals, their plans/budget to achieve it, the challenges and/or alternative strategies they are considering (perhaps you introduce them to those), and then finally the timing or the urgency around taking action.
Anchoring the investment number based on their revenue growth goals:
On the call this could sound like, “Based on your revenue goal of XYZ, industry benchmarks indicate that investing 10% of that in marketing is more or less reasonable. I have stats that justify a range of investment - Gartner Group is well respected industry groups, Small Biz Association etc.”
Discussing likely alternatives to your solution openly:
Reps can uncover this by asking questions like, “What else are you looking at? How confident are you feeling about those alternatives? Why not not do anything different from last year? How do you feel that will do revenue-wise with no change? Why not hire another marketer? Do you have the bandwidth to hire/lead/project manage a marketer or 2 who has all the requisite skills to do this?”
If the prospect is not giving you at least a rough growth target and budget, but pushes for you to share what you could do for them, you need to remind them this is just about the HOW before we talk about the WHAT.
David says to prospects in this situation:
“I don’t know if I have a recommendation for you yet, we’re just talking about what’s the right budget. For instance, if you’re looking for grow $250k this year, we’re too expensive and you don’t need our services. If you’re looking to grow $2.5 million, then I might counsel you to look at our prices in a new light.”
“If we don’t have a growth number to work with, then neither of us can succeed. I don’t want you to be stuck with too small a budget too small to do what your boss is going to ask you to do, that’s not a great situation to be in, is it?”
Now, sometimes prospects just don’t have these numbers;They’re looking for guidance on what those numbers should be.
In this case, you need to have a tool like a spreadsheet or online calculator to help them come up with goals. You could say, “Why don’t we use our goal setting worksheet which has some industry benchmarks and see if we can come up with a SMART revenue growth goal to shoot for?”
Sale #3: With WHOM to Do it With?
You’ve got their goals, plans, challenges, and timeline (the good ol’ GPCT) and you’ve uncovered a gap. You’ve broke through. Now you’re ready for Sale #3, which is where you want to understand the buying process so you can best advise on next steps for whom has the authority to sign and needs to be bought in for making a decision to do business with you.
David roleplayed with us, where he was the rep.
Soundbytes he used to uncover authority included phrases like, “What does your BOSS think of this? Do you think they’ve given you enough budget and resources to do what you need to do, as far as what it takes to be successful with inbound?”
We did a whole module on working with an influencer aka a “champion” on your solution.
This was called “When selling to Marketing Mary.”
Marketing Mary is the name for HubSpot’s persona for an influencer in a larger organization that has their own marketing department versus“Owner Ollie” who is the decision maker in a small business.
The person who lead this training module was Katheryn Ann Derum, one of HubSpot’s most tenured sales reps who focuses on HubSpot’s “Enterprise” opportunities, and therefore deals almost exclusively with Marketing Mary.
Katheryn taught us that HubSpot has been so successful working with Marketing Mary to get to the C-Suite because they understand this buyer persona so well. They know that this persona typically is overworked and underpaid, is part of a department that’s often given the blame if revenue targets aren’t hit or biz dev costs running too high and basically doesn’t get enough recognition for the work they do.
To help make this important “third sale” of the call to Mary, HubSpot trains its reps to gain trusted advisor status by providing contacts with some free tips/smoking guns the he/she could take away and make improvements whether they decided to work with HubSpot or not.
Are their page title tags optimized? What would you recommend as a suitable keyword if they are not?
Are CTAs present on key parts of their site pages? If so, are they strong? Do you have a better offer idea? For most inbound marketers, a content offer topic that has universal appeal for shoppers is: “10 things you must know when evaluating…[your industry’s solution]”
Fill out one of their contact forms - what happens? Any particular messaging that appears could be improved? Any automated emails get triggered that could be enhanced?
If all else fails, appeal to their persona and make a little fun of yourself or other sales people. That usually goes over well with most people not in sales ;)
With Marketing Mary, as you often see with most influencers you need to work with to make the sale, this person does not have a lot of sales experience. So they don’t like being sold to and they likely can’t be counted on to do the selling for you to the ultimate decision maker without some coaching.
There are two ways to work with your influencer productively:
1 - Your influencer makes the intro directly to the decision maker/signer (in most cases it’s the owner/CEO) and coaches you before and after those meetings.
2 - You coach your influencer (only take this option if you have no choice - meaning you cannot get an intro to the decision maker). You need to coach them heavily as you’ll need some control in what’s going on in that internal meeting without you. Provide things like industry trends/statistics, a simple PowerPoint deck, and/or detailed case studies of your solution at work can be critical.
If you do made this third sale successfully, you’ll have your influencer booking an appointment.
This appointment is for either yourself or themselves to present to the decision maker the cases for the 3 sales you made in the exploratory call: The case for changing from the status quo, the case for the solution you recommend over the alternatives, and finally the case for choosing you/your organization as the provider of that solution.
A tip that David offered on this subject was, regardless of who is presenting, to also schedule an appointment with the influencer ahead of that meeting to ensure you’re completely aligned on the strategy.
At HubSpot this is called “The Pre-demo check-in” David said, “I’d rather have a 15-minute check-in with my champion before the demo and, if need be, reschedule that demo than just going ahead assuming we’re all on the same page, we’ve got all the right people with the right expectations, only have it go bad. That 15 minute call could save you an hour in a wasted demo if you find out you’re actually not ready.”
Closing the Call:
When you feel like you’ve made your three sales (or at least laid the groundwork for each), let them lead by asking questions like, “What do YOU think the next best step is?”
Using Homework Effectively
Set expectations on what the NEXT meeting’s goal will be by giving them an assignment to complete before you speak again. On the call, assigning this homework can sound like, “If you can complete this prior to our next meeting, it will allow us to spend our time even more productively.”
What do you assign?
Assignments can fall into three categories:
1 - Information you need to map their funnel (for organizations like HubSpot and their agency partners who are selling inbound marketing/sales software and/or services this includes getting access to google analytics + other web analytics data). This can also include a request for the prospect fill out a questionnaire so we have full discovery.
A screenshot of a goal setting and strategy questionnaire that IMPACT often sends to prospects to help us fill out after a successful exploratory call in order to get more detail
2 - Content to help them advance a step in belief / understanding while I’m not there (i.e. “Take a look at this video case study/success stories, and think of questions around this, Any further articles that make the case for inbound/investment in site (Luke S, Marcus S, IMPACT post) to help put our tactics into context)
3 - Details for booking the next call: determining attendees, roles, and goals of the call. For example, a goal for next call could be to develop a plan WITH them based on their goals so that, if both parties have all they need and there’s a good fit, as a 3rd step, you can present a recommendation for working together to the decision maker(s).
All of these items should be included in your recap email, as well as
This is what you heard from the prospect on the call
Why the change is important
A simple outline of a recap email - from HubSpot’s Agency Sales Training
Assigning homework is important because you need to really test if they’re as serious about this opportunity as you are. If they do not complete the homework before the next call, what does that tell you?
Now, everybody is busy, so give your prospect a chance and set a note to give them a gentle reminder about the homework prior to your next meeting as a courtesy.
Final tips on sales process from the pros:
Phew! That was a lot - and that wasn’t even 1/5th of what we learned from the sales pros at The HubSpot Agency Sales Skills Bootcamp. But here’s the thing, to learn new skills is great, but to learn and not to do, is really not to have learned at all. So I’m going to tell you some of my top notes over all on what was taught. Maybe these final items will inspire you to add to your own to-do list to try implementing as well….
David Weinhaus encouraged us to Memorize sound bytes and use them consistently. The reason why sound bytes are good is that your brain can “chunk” those away and free up prefrontal cortex for feeling the prospect out.
David McNeal said it best, “When it comes to opportunity conversion, It’s not about sales, it’s about helping someone make the right decision and feel like they made the most valuable one for their company, career etc. Help them succeed, not get them to buy.”
Dan Tyre said again and again throughout the workshop, that all of this is situational. Not all of it will apply every time and not every line or approach is appropriate for every situation. That’s what makes the whole process a creative and yet also a challenging one.
One other thing we learned from Dan Tyre on how to end a presentation, always offer a free gift or advice. That being said,
IMPACT Live is a great place to learn from other inbound sales legends from HubSpot and beyond!
So...if you read this and got all the way to the end, and you’d like to come to IMPACT Live and put some of this into practice, contact me…