Book Review: The Sales Acceleration Formula By Mark Roberge

Claude Harrington 01.04.2016

Over the holiday break, I had a chance to read an insightful business book called The Sales Acceleration Formula. It’s by Mark Roberge, the former SVP of Sales and Services for HubSpot, and focuses on how, in this new digital landscape, using undervalued and underutilized tools–specifically with regards to inbound marketing– can be used to significantly grow sales . In the case of HubSpot (whose marketing automation software we recently wrote about), this approach helped build the company from $0 to over $100 million in under seven years.

The lessons within the book oscillate between analytical and anecdotal, but can be applicable to just about any industry. So let’s start off the year with some insight and inspiration, and review a few of the highlights from The Sales Acceleration Formula.

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Before we talk about some of the universally applicable lessons from The Sales Acceleration Formula, let’s first talk about the author as I believe his personal journey is almost as important as the information itself…

Mark Roberge (@markroberge) joined HubSpot in June 2007. At the time, HubSpot was a year old and just scratching the surface of its unconventional mission: to help companies transform their marketing from outbound to inbound. As with many of the unlikely ingredients in HubSpot’s rise to prominence, Roberge himself was an unlikely hire. Prior to joining the company, he had spent the prior two years as the CEO of Pawspot (a social media community aimed at coordinating pet sitting). But perhaps even more unusual than his pet-sitting background was the fact that Roberge had never before worked in sales. At his core, and in line with his education,  he was an engineer; a graduate of MIT, where he had gone to school with HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. This background armed Roberge with both an outsider perspective and an analytic mentality that would prove invaluable to developing a methodology for the work ahead.

For example: Sales has traditionally been considered more of an art than a science. While that may have been true in the past, Roberge believes that our digital world has altered that classic paradigm in two important ways:

  • “The Internet has completely transformed the way buyers research products and services. Today’s buyers are empowered to find the products they want, when they want them, with near-perfect information on the competitive landscape.”  
  • “In today’s digital world, in which every action is logged and masses of data sit at our fingertips, building a sales team no longer needs to be an art form. There is a process. Sales can be predictable.” 

As a result of this tectonic shift, inbound marketing now reigns supreme and maximizing sales in this new world order becomes a matter of interpreting metrics and building a scalable process for your business. To accomplish this, Roberge engineered a formula for sales acceleration around four key components:

1. The Sales Hiring Formula: Leverage metrics to hire the same successful salesperson every time.

2. The Sales Training Formula: Bring scale to your sales training efforts by defining the three foundational elements (The Buyer Journey, the Sales Process, The Qualifying Matrix)

3. The Sales Management Formula: Hold all salespeople equally accountable by turning sales managers into “sales coaches.”

4. The Demand Generation Formula: Embrace the data that is available and leverage that to get buyers to find you.

Is it really that easy, you might be wondering? Is adopting Roberge’s outside-the-box perspective really all it takes?

No, of course not. And that’s where I really started to really appreciate Roberge’s book. Unlike so many business books, courses, and pieces of advice dispensed from so-called “gurus,” The Sales Acceleration Formula doesn’t pretend to offer some sort of all-encompassing, business-altering magic elixir. Instead, and invaluably, what it offers is something of a guide to help you craft a “magic elixir” that’ll work for your company. In that respect, the book functions similarly to Michael Lewis’ Moneyball; chronicling an unconventional, results-proven approach where “process” (over perception) becomes the true star of the story. And just like how Moneyball changed the way that many fans think of about baseball, The Sales Acceleration Formula will prompt readers to think differently about business. By outlining the importance of process and the type of data that informs it, the book serves as a anecdotally-inspired and analytically-driven guide that’ll help you construct your own methodology.

Meanwhile, as Roberge uses his journey to help you chart your own, he deploys a handful of great tips along the way. Tips that fit into his larger message but also stand impressively on their own. Below are a few of our favorites:

  • To help salespeople better understand the needs of potential customers, provide them with an in-depth understanding of the buyers’ day-to-day existence.
  • The ideal sales compensation plan is not only dependent on the type of business you are in, but should also strongly depend on the stage of your company’s growth.
  • Instead of relying on an outside agency to help you recruit talent, build a recruiting agency with your company.
  • LinkedIn searches and “forced referrals” are great sources for quality passive sales talent.
  • Passing along all leads is the most common mistake a sales team can make.
  • Social Media presents an opportunity for all salespeople to be perceived as trusted advisors by their buyers.
  • Involve the sales team in compensation plan design.
  • Lastly, and one that truly encapsulates the overall theme of this book: Success doesn’t happen overnight. You must commit to the process.

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