Are Sales Reps Just Complaining, or Is Lead Quality Really Down?

One of the first complaints a sales leader will hear from an underperforming salesperson is that the leads from marketing are not up to par. “It’s not me — it’s the leads. They’re terrible.” The next thing you know, all your other salespeople are also convinced that the leads are terrible, and suddenly you’ve got an entire sales team demotivated to perform.

For a long time, there was no way for sales leaders to assess the accuracy of complaints about sales leads. Are the leads truly low quality? Or has the rep not been trained properly on how to deal with this particular kind of lead?

This is a sales leadership issue that has bothered me for years. But at HubSpot, we’ve been as proactive as possible in taking the subjectivity out of the issue of lead quality by using data and metrics.

One framework for lead intelligence data is demographic data (for example, company size and revenue) versus engagement data (for example, how many times the prospect visited your site and/or downloaded materials). We use this kind of information to develop our lead quality score. We can then have more quantitative discussions about lead quality. For example, as opposed to “the leads suck,” we can gather feedback such as: “The percentage of B2B companies with greater than $100 million in revenue has dropped by 24% in the past week. This trend is problematic, as these types of leads close to customers 37% more than the average sales qualified lead”.

The other aspect of lead quality we examine is salesperson performance on specific lead segments across a broader set of salespeople. When a segment of leads is under-performing, typically this result is either because the sales team is not adequately trained on how to handle these leads or the leads are in fact not a great fit for your offering. If you find that all your salespeople struggle with the lead segment, then the leads are probably not a great fit for your offering. But if, say, four salespeople performed well with the lead segment and 11 did not, then you have a sales training issue. Your next step would be to look at the four reps who are doing well, find out how they’re approaching those leads, and get the rest of the team trained on those techniques quickly.

A good example of this at HubSpot is our non-profit leads. Our reps used to avoid selling to this segment like the plague: “Don’t give me nonprofits – there’s too much red tape and they don’t spend a lot of money.” The data showed a different story. In fact, nonprofits did have a longer sales cycle, and it took a deeper qualification process to find out who the decision makers were. But when you got them to sign up, they became phenomenal customers, which made its way back into the salesperson commission plan.

It’s amazing how often the data differs from the gut feel of the salesperson. If you make that data known, reps stop complaining and instead start figuring out what they need to do to translate leads into deals.

Mark Roberge will share insights about lead quality and sales and marketing alignment on September 20, 2011 in a webinar sponsored by Selling Power. To register, click here.

Mark Roberge
Mark is responsible for the entire sales function at HubSpot, having grown the team from 1 to 80 employees in five years. Prior to HubSpot, Mark founded and/or held executive positions at start-ups in the social media and mobile sector. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter

Where Do Great Front-Line Sales Managers Come From?

Managing a sales team is one of the most important positions in a company. Great sales managers have a profound impact on the productivity of their sales teams and produce better sales results. Managing a sales team is also one of the most challenging positions in a company, and it requires a unique set of skills. Unfortunately, most front-line managers start their sales management careers ill-equipped to effectively manage a team of salespeople. So, where do great front-line sales managers come from?

Star-Athlete Syndrome
I hear about the “Star-Athlete Syndrome” frequently in sales organizations. A star sales person grows tired of the daily grind of being an individual contributor and aspires to something “greater,” such as sales management. Meanwhile, the vice president of sales is under time pressure to fill a vacant sales manager position. The vice president assumes that the star sales rep will know how to produce great sales results from a sales team.

The challenge is that salespeople are frequently unable to make the transition from being an individual contributor — achieving results through individual expertise, effort and determination — to being a manager, achieving results through the performance of others. This problem is not unique to sales. Think of all of the great athletes who never developed into great coaches.

Key Sales-Management Abilities
While a sales manager needs sales experience in order to have credibility with the sales team, the key driver of long-term success as a manager is mastery of specific sales-management skills. In order to produce exceptional sales results from the team, a sales manager must excel in the following critical sales-management abilities:

1) Managing sales performance by focusing on the underlying behaviors that drive sales results.

2) Sales coaching to help salespeople develop their full potential.

3) Building a team of great sales professionals with the requisite competencies to succeed.

4) Leading and motivating the team.

Return on Investment
Often some training is needed to develop these critical sales-management abilities. I find the return on investment training sales managers offers truly exciting. A sales manager can leverage improved management skills over the entire sales team. For example, if a sales manager manages 10 salespeople, improving that manager’s effectiveness represents a 10:1 return on investment opportunity.

Just think about all that untapped potential.

Norm Behar talks about developing highly effective sales managers with Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO of Selling Power.

Norm Behar, sales management
Norm Behar is CEO of Sales Readiness Group. This post originally appeared here on his blog. Follow Sales Readiness Group on Twitter @SalesReadiness, or email Norm at

How We Use ‘The Pitch’ to Achieve Sales Success

elevator pitchI recently read a blog post by Gerhard Gschwandtner which posed the question: Is ‘the pitch’ dead?” Ya know, the good old-fashioned elevator sales pitch — is it still relevant?

It got me thinking about when I first came to Dyn two and a half years ago from WhippleHill (a software company for private schools) because Dyn had no ‘pitch.’ We had no singular message or way of talking about our brand identity in a way that people could relate to. We needed to craft a genuine story that people could get behind, believe in and yearn to be a part of.  I didn’t know a ton about the technology at Dyn (DNS – Domain Name System), so it was also a great way to get up to speed.

Before phones, radio and television, people looking to make a transaction and achieve sales success actually met in person to do a business deal. (Imagine that!) There was a straight-in-the-eye look, trust-building conversations, and a firm handshake that led to contracts getting signed.

Today, the same thing happens but the look, trust building and handshake doesn’t simply occur between two parties. It happens between employees, fans, prospects, customers, followers and friends. There is an abundant supply of online reviews, magic quadrants, hungry competition, analyst briefings, crazy analytics, community sites, Twitter, Facebook, customer references and more to sift through. You simply can’t slack off, because competition can pounce at a moments notice.

The function and business of sales itself always seems to carry a negative connotation. I know it did for me growing up. It’s no secret that there are plenty of sleazy sales jobs out there or overly corporate slick practices to convince people to buy whatever wares are being served up.  The amount of spin and BS being spit out has given sales — and more specifically ‘the pitch’ — a bad name. It’s up to sales leaders like us to reinvent ‘the pitch’ and ensure that its genuineness shines and that dialogue (not monologue) flourishes.

When we bring sales people aboard at Dyn, they must learn four key things before they’re truly unleashed to rep us. All four things are what end up making up our unique pitch one that continues to evolve with every customer win, technology advancement, industry shift or overall achievement of company milestones.

Here are the four key aspects of the Dyn Pitch:

1. The Dyn Story
Our roots: how we were founded, how we grew, how we were our very own first customer, how everything we’ve ever done has been because of customer demand and how we’re really just like those we want to do business with: dedicated.

2. The Dyn Difference
Our straightforward, transparent (we overshare), high road, direct, and impassioned approach. We love to talk about and show our commitment and loyalty to our customers, our strong relationships that go beyond the dollar value of an account, our obsessive account management and support, and our flexibility in contracting, pricing, and product enhancements. We keep it real in an industry that tends to be old school, slow and very corporate.

3. The Dyn Customer, Case Studies & Vertical Markets
We are just like our customers. We’re fighting tooth-and-nail to grow and experience great success in a unique way that we can be proud of. We focus on everyone who values his or her presence online. We’ve redefined what it means to be enterprise, how to practice a customer-centric and solution-selling approach, and drive ahead with our customers and vertical market focus in the spotlight.

4. The Dyn Technology
We are Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for managed DNS and email delivery, but what is DNS? What is email delivery? Why outsource? How does our technology work? What problems does it solve? Smart customers want the keys to the car and want to test drive the services themselves. We let them, and expose them to experts from the word go. When technology stands on its own two feet, it’s easy to sell. The technology is the last thing we have people learn. (Again, imagine that!)

The two most important things I tell anyone coming into our sales organization are: 1) people buy from people they like, and 2) you know what you don’t know.

We explain that even if you don’t win a deal at the end of the day, do everything in your power to ensure that the prospect likes you so much that he or she feels terrible about letting you down. Sales success is about using all your resources to deliver for your prospect or customer.

Recently, the VP of Sales at a large public competitor, whom I respect very much, asked me how we were finding DNS sales reps in New Hampshire. I told him very pointedly that we’re not selling just DNS and we’re not just hiring sales reps. We are hiring honest, passionate and persistent people to round out our sales team and that they must possess two key characteristics: fit and hustle.

Once they learn ‘the pitch’ and how to share it, the sky is the limit for them and for Dyn.

Kyle York is the VP of Sales and Marketing of Dyn, an IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) leader that features a full suite of DNS and email delivery services for enterprise, SMB and personal users. Follow on Twitter: @kyork20 and @DynInc.