There are a handful of books, articles and videos that have really helped me on my journey to grow and run the best possible business.
I’m now adding Mark Roberge’s The Sales Acceleration Formula to that list.
This is a book that’s not at all about hammering the phones or aggressive closing. It’s written by an MIT engineer who found himself as employee #3 at Hubspot, faced with the task of creating a sales operation from nothing. He went about it in a very engineering-minded way and grew sales from $0 to $100m in 7 years.
This book has come to me at exactly the right time in Customer Thermometer’s growth story. We’ve grown around 100% year on year since 2012, and are now in the position that we need help beyond the founders and support team to build a sales operation for our next level.
We want to create a sales function that marries with our philosophy of customer delight. A function that accelerates the virtuous circle we already have, rather than damages it.
That’s what I love about the Sales Acceleration Formula. It provides for your particular strengths as a business. It is a blueprint but it’s not overly prescriptive. It is also the most referral-centric, help-people-to-buy sales book I’ve read to date. This is how we like to do business at Customer Thermometer.
So here are our top 5 takeaways and top 5 quotes, enjoy!
The Sales Acceleration Formula: Top 5 takeaways
- The 5 key traits that can help predict sales success: Coachability, Curiosity, Prior success, Intelligence, Work ethic. Roberge took great care to assess candidates and hires against a matrix of criteria. These five traits came out top as correlating with sales success. Of the five, Roberge found that coachability was the most significant influencer. These are people who ask for, and are able to act upon, feedback. People who self-reflect and self-diagnose.
- Process, process, process. What I loved about this book is that everything Roberge does is driven by process… but that process actually frees the salespeople he hires to go out and be themselves. The process is there to cut down on admin, reduce time spent looking for data, remove the need to enter details into forms. This ties in closely with my final takeaway – maximising selling time. But it’s important in its own right too. Roberge’s processes were around role-play, screening, criteria, systems set up. They were not formulas for how to talk to customers or how to sell. That’s where the salesperson’s individual talents were brought to bear. The processes simply gave them more time to do it.
- Goal discovery and helpfulness. Roberge gives some cracking examples of differing voicemails left by salespeople. One where the salesperson “vomits” product information and one where they have done a ton of research on the buyer and have something valuable to discuss. In today’s buyer-driven market, Roberge is at pains to point out that successful salespeople care deeply about what the customer is trying to achieve and help them get there.
- Build an inbound machine. It’s a waste of time hammering the phones with no focus. Roberge clearly took as much responsibility for driving demand generation as he did for hiring and organising a great sales function. He says that your buyers are out there right now researching problems. Your job is to get your company in front of those people, and direct that flow of leads into the business. He strongly suggests that the Marketing department carries an SLA for lead flow into sales, and vice versa. He has great methods for splitting leads into those that require sales follow up, and those that don’t – again to maximise salespeople’ time working on the right stuff.
- Maximise selling time. Technology, Roberge argues, should empower your sales guys rather than enslaving them with admin. He points up ways of getting data, information, contacts and best next actions in front of your salespeople quickly and efficiently. While this sounds obvious, if I cast my mind to various sales teams I know, so many of them do not have enough time to focus completely on prospect and customer needs. Many sales teams I’m aware of have targets on calls or appointments but the process of getting onto those can be fairly tortuous. Consider whether your process and systems help the sales manager rather than the salespeople. What can be streamlined or automated?
The Sales Acceleration Formula: Top 5 quotes
- “In my opinion, the Internet’s rise in prominence has caused a shift in power from the salesperson to the buyer. My findings were a statistical representation of that phenomenon. With this shift in power, buyers will no longer tolerate being strong-armed into a purchase. They will respond to salespeople who are helpful, smart and respectful of their needs.”
- “My best salespeople are individually great for very different reasons. They each have what I refer to as “superpowers” in a particular aspect of the selling process. These superpowers often differ across top performers. Having a new hire learn exclusively from one of our top performing salespeople would provide a limited view of the ideal sales process.”
- “I had an important revelation about hiring salespeople. Great salespeople never have to apply for a job… Truly great salespeople have multiple job offers at all times, even if they are not in the job market, Their old bosses are calling them, probably quarterly… Shaping a passive recruiting strategy that caters to this demographic is a necessity.”
- “Buyers should not be asked to understand the salesperson’s solution and how it can help with their own goals. Instead the salesperson should understand the buyers’ goals and how his own solutions can help achieve those goals.”
- “Social media presents an opportunity for all salespeople to be perceived as trusted advisors bt their buyers. Salespeople should take some time normally spent prospecting and reallocate it it to social media participation. The rewards are greater.”
There’s a ton of other helpful information in this book. Roberge the kinds of bonus structures that work (and those that drive the wrong behavior) especially in a recurring revenue environment. He suggests interview scoring cards. He details their most successful sales experiments, and much more. If you’re challenged with building a sales function, or simply want to get better at selling, I’d really recommend it. Happy reading! – Lindsay
Our founder, Lindsay, regularly writes reviews of business-focused stories and biographies. Check out some more here: