Sales Tips For SaaS Businesses: 5 Lessons You Can Steal From Mark Roberge


Mark Roberge knows a thing or two about sales.

As the SVP of Sales, and then Chief Revenue Officer, he helped HubSpot grow from $0 to $100M+ in revenue.

He’s also the author of The Sales Acceleration Formula which breaks down the sales strategies he used to do it.

But here’s the interesting thing about Mark.

He’s one of the few sales leaders that has seen the shift from the Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) model to the Product Qualified Lead (PQL) model that many of the fastest growing businesses are using today — from Slack to Atlassian to the mode that we’ve now adopted here at Drift.

So since Mark is one of our advisors (thanks Mark!) we thought we’d have him over for lunch and a chat for Seeking Wisdom with Drift CEO David Cancel and our Director of Marketing Dave Gerhardt.

Mark Roberge Seeking Wisdom

Here’s a link to the podcast so you can listen right here (but you can subscribe from any of your favorite podcast apps — just search for Seeking Wisdom):

PS. Two of the best parts of this interview with Mark: his thoughts on how sales has changed (22 minutes) and the interview techniques he uses (39 minutes).

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Here are a few quick highlights from lunch with Mark.

1. When it comes to hirings sales reps, look for the curious ones.

Most people try to hire aggressive sales people, but just think about it. Is that really who you want to buy from? Nowadays, selling is all about helping. You can find any product you may need online, so once you make it to a site, the last thing you want is a salesperson to recount every detail about the product — which you just read on the homepage. And if a salesperson is pushy online, chances are you’re just going to leave the site. On the other hand, if someone is willing to help you when you’re stuck. That’s a win. They’ve proven themselves to be understanding and trustworthy. That’s the kind of person people want to buy from and that’s who you want to hire.

2. Focus on winning engagement, not winning deals.

Yep. This one sounds a little counterintuitive. But it’s a key part of the shift from MQLs to PQLs. See, in this model you want to engage people. You want people to love your product and to feel good about spending their money with you. From Slack to Atlassian to MailChimp, that’s what the best companies are doing today. Heck — that’s even what happens when you walk into the Apple Store. You can try any product you want before ever having to put down your credit card (or even talk to anyone). In this model, selling is just the beginning of your relationship with a customer — not the end — so sales needs to treat it that way

3. Sales compensation plans need to change.  

Since the way that sales reps sell has changed — the way that they get compensated needs to change too. Just think about it: in the PQL model, you can’t just push to close a deal with a customer who isn’t a great fit. They won’t end up using your product — and in 90 days they will most likely have left you. So sales compenstation plans need to change too. Here’s more on this topic and how sales reps can make money selling a product that is free.

4. Sales experimentation is key.

Sales is one of the few areas that is perfectly quantifiable — so use that to your advantage. You should always have a list and a backlog of experiments — from outreach techniques, to segments, to demos, to automation and more. Experimentation is the key to learning, growing and evolving your strategy. That said, be smart about it. Only run one experiment at a time (you don’t want too many variables, or to contaminate your data). Collect all the information you can, and take the time to properly analyze it.  Be sure that you have defined what both success and failure look like for each experiment. This ensures that you will walk away from each trial with a result and an increased understanding of what you were testing.

5. Growing too fast might be the thing that slows you down the most.

I know: it sounds contrary to what most businesses want. But. Here’s the truth — this is the biggest mistake the sales teams make. They reach a certain level of success with their product, so they hire quick, close a lot of deals, and then, a few months down the road, churn sky rockets because your growing sales team has sold to companies that don’t love (or maybe even need) your product. You focused on selling and not engagement, so your customers aren’t educated on how your product can solve their problem. They don’t see it as invaluable — so, they leave. It may suck to hear that you shouldn’t grow fast, but it’s a lot better than firing 20 newly hired sales reps a year from now — and searching for hundreds of customers to replaces the ones that churned.

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