For years, Dharmesh and I have talked about what it means to be “inbound” in the context of marketing. The buyer has changed, and this demands businesses change the way they market and approach those buyers. We need to attract people instead of resorting to old, cold tactics that are less and less effective over time.

Today on stage at INBOUND, Dharmesh and I talked about the concept of spreading the idea of inbound to everyone. Being a sales guy at heart, I’m personally most passionate about spreading the ideals we’ve pioneered in Marketing to Sales.

The Old Sales Playbook Is Broken

I came up through the sales ranks; it’s where I spent the first 15 years of my career. What I learned is that the sales playbook I grew up with and that is still in widespread use today is fundamentally broken. Why?

Well, it’s simple. The buyer has changed in important ways. Dharmesh and I have talked for years about the implications these changes have for marketers, and it turns out that the implications for sales folks are similar.

When I was a sales rep, I hated Tuesdays, because Tuesday was cold call day. Even 15 years ago, it was a slog. Today, it’s nearly impossible. When I get a call from a number I don’t recognize, I don’t answer. The phone is my least favorite app on my phone, and I don’t have one on my desk at HubSpot. The days when making a context-less cold call could result in a sale are quickly coming to an end.

The same thing is true of emails. We’re already neck deep in email from people we know, and we’ve got spam protection keeping cold emails from consuming our attention. The number of emails that end up in my spam folder every week from people trying to sell me something speaks to that.

The long and the short of it is that buyers are becoming increasingly immune to traditional “cold” sales methods.

The Power Has Shifted Toward the Buyer

While buyers have become more immune to old sales tactics, they’ve also wrestled almost all of the power in the sales process away from the rep. With information so readily available online, buyers can go through most of the purchasing process without needing to lean on a sales rep.

A few examples:

  • Today’s buyers know your product and your competitors’ products well. They’ve been doing their research and digging into the details on their own, long before they ever engage a salesperson.
  • Instead of relying on a sales rep for references, they can find their own unbiased opinions on review sites or amongst their network.
  • Today’s buyers don’t need to ask for a quote or guess at your discounting policy. If your pricing isn’t already on your website, it usually isn’t hard to figure out what others are paying.

The New Role of the Sales Rep

So if the role of the rep isn’t what it used to be, what should it look like? I think that salespeople need to change in many of the same ways that marketers have needed to change. Sales needs to become less outbound, and more inbound.

  • Today, selling is about partnerships, not power struggles. Buyers need to see value from the sales process -- if they don’t, it doesn’t continue. Buyers appreciate salespeople who act as trusted advocates with domain experience they don’t yet have.
  • Today, selling is about building trust, not being tenacious. Finding a prospect and completing a sale once meant doggedly pursuing every lead. Today, the buyer decides when to engage and the timeline the sale will take. As a sales rep, if I want to be a part of their buying process, building trust is the only route I can take.
  • Today’s sellers are helpful hosts, not aggressive agitators. My boss at my first sales job once took me aside and said, “You know, we never get hurt by being too aggressive.” In retrospect, that may have been the worst advice ever given.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the shifting role of the salesperson and what this means for the way they do what they do. The most concise way I’ve found to sum it all up is that sales folks should “sell unto others as you would have them sell unto you.”

The Road Not Taken in Building Marketing Software

When we started building our marketing product, we used a counterintuitive approach to decide who we should optimize our tools for -- an approach that’s paid dividends. We could have gone the traditional route and obsessed over the marketer’s every move. Followed the marketer home from work. Studied the marketer in the wild. Obsessed over the marketer’s every click.

We did all that, but that isn’t all we did. If it was, I’d be willing to guess that HubSpot would be indistinguishable from a dozen other vendors. We’d be helping marketers buy cold lists and email them in the most efficient way possible -- another dying approach that no longer serves the needs of the buyer or the marketer.

So what did we do differently? We started following the buyer home from work, studying the buyer in the wild, and obsessing over the buyer’s every click -- and we noticed some fundamental shifts afoot. Only in observing the buyer did we see where things were ultimately heading for marketing. And using those insights, as the saying goes, we skated to where the puck was going in building our product.

HubSpot’s Sales Platform: Where We’re Heading

As we entered the sales space, we faced the same set of choices we did nine years ago on the marketing side. While we’re studying salespeople and working hard to make their lives easier, we’re also hyper-focused on the changes that are happening with the buyer.

Rather than automating the old sales playbook that just irritates buyers, we’ve aimed to build a new type of system that helps sales folks act on interest and sell in a way that is better for the buyer and the seller.

We started down that road in 2013 when we announced Sidekick, continued in 2014 when we launched HubSpot CRM, and we’re taking another huge leap in that direction in 2015. Here’s what we’ve been working on.

Introducing Prospects in Sidekick for Business

Finding new prospects is hard work. For years, we’ve been all about inbound -- marketers generating inbound leads for sales teams -- but we know that for a lot of sales teams, prospecting is still a big part of their process. The problem with prospecting is that it’s a ton of work, and usually only results in a list of ice-cold prospects to cold call or email.

Prospects, a feature of Sidekick for Business, helps sales teams uncover useful details on companies expressing early interest by visiting your website. Set hyper-specific filters and get alerts when exactly the type of company you usually sell to appears on your website.

Announcing Sidekick Connections

You’ve identified a company that is a good fit for you to sell to and seems to be interested. The next logical question: Who do you reach out to? It isn’t hard to dredge up an email address from the web, but more often than not, contacting a prospect out of the blue ends up being a dead end for the seller, and an annoyance for the buyer.

Sidekick Connections, a new feature of our Sidekick toolset, aims to change this. Sidekick Connections helps you identify warm pathways through the engagement graph that lives in your inbox. Authorize Sidekick Connections, and Sidekick will surface the hidden network of connections you have to your target companies. If someone on your team is connected to someone you’d like to get in touch with, requesting an introduction is as easy as a single click.

Announcing Sequences, a feature of Sidekick for Business

Anyone who works in sales knows that following up with a lead over time is a time-consuming, monotonous task … and doing it in a relevant, personal way is even harder.

Instead of creating a task or setting a reminder for yourself to follow up with a prospect in a week or a month (when you’ve long since forgotten the context of your initial conversation), Sequences allows you to schedule tailored, personal follow-ups that get sent automatically in the future. No more reminders, and no more inept “just checking in” emails.

Big Improvements to Sidekick for Business for Salesforce Users

Back in May, we announced Sidekick for Business, a premium set of tools for professional sales teams looking to sell better and faster with features like Calling, Templates, Documents, and a layer of analytics to help you figure out what actually works. And now, we’ve made huge strides toward making Sidekick for Business better than ever for Salesforce users.

Place calls, get useful context around your sales process, and see the full Sidekick information sidebar right on any lead or contact record in Salesforce. Full activity syncing means that every engagement tracked through Sidekick for Business (email opens and clicks, document views, phone calls, and more) is seamlessly logged to Salesforce.

Big Improvements to HubSpot CRM

HubSpot CRM gets better every day. Recent improvements include mentions, which allow you to collaborate with the rest of your team right inside HubSpot CRM; multiple deal pipelines (currently in Beta) which make it possible for different teams to work side-by-side; and improved syncing with Gmail (currently in Beta) which enable replies to your sales emails to be seamlessly synced to the contact record.

Reporting Add-On for HubSpot CRM

You’ve asked, we’ve listened: Advanced reporting is now available for HubSpot CRM through HubSpot’s Reporting Add-On. The same paid add-on that works with HubSpot’s marketing platform also includes more than a dozen out-of-the-box sales reports, and makes custom reporting easy.

Making Sales Better for Everyone

These are just a few of the features we’ve announced at INBOUND and the strides we’ve made toward changing the way salespeople go about their day. Our end goal is to help our users and customers adopt a sales process that is better for the buyer and better for the seller -- and we’re just getting started.

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Originally published Sep 9, 2015 4:10:00 PM, updated February 25 2019


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