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Free Guide:

The Beginners Guide to Inbound Sales
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The Beginners Guide to Inbound Sales
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[Playbook] Inbound Sales Guide Cover

Free Guide:

See faster close rates and happier customers by shifting to inbound sales.

In this guide, you'll learn:

  • Inbound Sales vs. Outbound Seals
  • 5 Steps in the Inbound Sales Process
  • Getting Started and Troubleshooting

The Art of Closing an Inbound Lead with HubSpot's Mark Roberge

By John Bonini

John Bonini also recommends this free guide, The Beginners Guide to Inbound Sales.

The Art of Closing an Inbound Lead with HubSpot's Mark Roberge


The Art of Closing an Inbound Lead with HubSpot's Mark RobergeI got schooled today.

And loved every second of it. Of course, this is to be expected when you spend 45 minutes of your morning talking with HubSpot's SVP of Sales and Services, Mark Roberge.

In preparation for our live webinar next week, How to Close Inbound Leads, I thought

Free Guide: The Beginners Guide to Inbound Sales
it'd be great to share a little insight of what our viewers can expect from just one of the experts featured.

So enjoy our brief little sit down, and if you haven't already, register for the live event next week featuring Mark, Rick, and Matt Roberge as they join Bob Ruffolo to discuss how to convert more inbound leads and customers.

Closing an Inbound Lead with Mark Roberge

JB: So does HubSpot ever have a slow month? 

Mark: Oh, sure. Definitely.

We set really high bars. It definitely goes up and down. Every year we go through one tough period, there's always a different driver behind  it.

We've had to make huge moves in the business, and I think that's the case with any business. You never just turn it on and it just goes. We always try to be very disciplined around the metrics. We diagnose everything, so when things are off we know precisely where they're off. That allows us to really customize the change.

So where are you guys located?

JB: In Wallingford, probably some place you've never even heard of.

Mark: I think I have.

JB: We're right in the middle of Boston and New York, about 30 minutes south of Hartford. 

Mark: I lived in Greenwich for 3 years, and I have family in Old Saybrook, so we go down there all the time.

JB: Nice. That's a beautiful area.

Mark: So are you northeast of New Haven?

JB: Exactly. About 10-15 minutes North. So we have access to a lot of great pizza. 

Mark: Nice.

JB: So first question, what's the biggest adjustment for sales reps switching from a cold style of selling to an inbound style?

Mark: About 2-3 times a month I'll get a call from one of our consultants where they'll say, "Mark, I need your help with one of our customers. They actually followed our advice for 3 months now and they're killing it. They used to do 20 leads through their website, and now they're doing 500. The problem is the reps are complaining about the leads, and they don't really want to call them anymore."

I always know exactly what's going on. What happens is they probably have 3 or 4 sales reps, and they're selling the way people have traditionally sold. They went out and bought a list of people who are in their target market, and called them. And when you do that, you call high and lead with your elevator pitch. You're starting with a list of good prospects, and you're shaking that tree as hard as you can with cold calls and emails until a few percent, if you're lucky, fall out and have the pain that you solve.

With Inbound, you're switching this paradigm on its head. Everyone that finds you – if you're getting 500 leads now – all 500 of those people that find you have the pain that you solve. Otherwise they wouldn't have come to you, read your blog, or downloaded the ebook. The problem is, some of them are 22 year-old students overseas.

You have to filter it down from all the people that have that pain, to the people you want to do business with. That's the first major adjustment.

The salespeople need to change too. It's not always the CEO that downloads your ebook. The CEO told the VP who told the manager who told the intern. So what happens is, when you give them the good leads, they're calling up an intern using a sales process built for the CEO. You need to recognize that who you call isn't always a buyer, but rather a spy for the potential buyer. You don't lead with your elevator pitch, you lead with their interests.

Once you have that, you can find out more about them.

Who told you to download this ebook? Who told you to do this research? What's your CMO or CEO thinking about these days? What are they saying is your strategy this year?

Now you're prepared to call the CEO after this and have a more effective approach.

JB: In your experience, what's the best advice you'd give companies for dealing with pushback? Whether it's pricing or commitment that's scaring them off? 

Mark: The most common ones we see is sense of urgency, price, and competitive pressure. The right answer will vary significantly depending on what the pushback is.

The one common pattern is usually by the time that objection comes up, if it hasn't already been addressed, it's too late. These things need to be handled many steps prior in the process, and it's more about the process you're taking them through, checking off all the boxes, before they even get to that decision.

You need to quantify and implicate the prospects need. If they say they need to generate more leads through social media, well, how many leads are you getting today? How many do you need? How did you come up with that number? What are the implications if you don't achieve that number? How did you choose social media relative to everything else?

When I get the answers to those questions, I've done a better job of really discovering the true pain and opportunity they're trying to go after.

But if I get to the end of the sales process and they say, "You know what I thought about it, and I've got this huge trade show I'm preparing for in the middle of June, why don't you call me in the third week of June?"

I'll say that's fine, I've got three demos this afternoon. I'm already at 110% of my goal. I'm just really worried about you. You've come to the conclusion that Inbound Marketing can solve your need, but you're only blogging once a week,  we have to get XYZ set up, and we know on average it takes our customers 60 days to uncover this value...we should've been talking in March!

You've now quantified and implicated their needs and goal.

JB: How much does remarkable content assist in actually closing a sale?

Mark: The biggest value that remarkable content contributes to the sales process outside of the obvious, which is an influx of great leads, is the trust that it enables sales to have going into an opportunity. It's just so hard to build trust, and trust is so correlated to success throughout the different stages of the process when they're deciding between you and a competitor.

A lot of people would say they buy from the people they trusted most. And that remarkable content builds that trust. That's the biggest contribution later in the process.

JB: How would you handle a lead who is still too uneducated to be considered sales ready?  

Mark: It depends on the quality of the lead.

If I were talking to the CEO of Genzyme, and they had no clue, I'm going to spend the next month and have dinners with him, educating them.

But if I was talking to my landscaper, I'm going to send him a bunch of collateral to read and place him in a marketing nurturing program.

JB: The old adage in sales says you should "always be closing." Even on the first call. How does the Inbound sales process differ from this mantra?

Mark: It's a little different. I always say "always be helping, not always be closing."

I think if you're going into it like that, it's like hey, "get the appointment! get the appointment!"

I'm not obsessed with talking about my software, or giving you the opportunity to show you my software. When I first meet you, what I'm obsessed with is what are you losing sleep on?

Every professional business owner out there has one thing they're losing sleep over right now. How do I figure that out? I have to build trust with you to get it.

I can't lead with that. But if I build trust with you, you'll tell me.

And if I can solve that, I'm going to win 90% of my deals.

JB: How do go about building that level of trust?

Mark: Your content should be about educating your prospects rather than talking all about your product. That builds trust.

Coming to your website and seeing a great survey that helps them think about their business differently builds trust.

When you called up and didn't try to push a product demo down their throat, and asked smart questions about their business instead, that builds trust.

If you talk about how you used to spend summers in Alabama where they live, that certainly builds trust.

If you went to school with their cousin, that builds trust.

Through this process, you're running a give/get, where if I'm spending 20 minutes on the phone with them giving them great advice, I've now earned the right to ask tougher questions that are a little more selfish that help me determine if I'm going to spend more time with them.

JB: Your father (Rick Roberge) talks a lot about "rainmakers" in sales. What's the definition of a rainmaker when it comes to selling?

Mark: It's two skills.

One is just having a really natural curiosity. This can be developed.

But you know someone has a natural curiosity when you go to a wedding reception for example, and you meet someone, these people with natural curiosities can quickly develop relationships. I can actually meet someone like you, John, and have no clue who you are and just ask questions and find out all about you for about 20 minutes. And you wouldn't know anything about me except my name. And yet you didn't feel like you were interrogated, you felt I was sincere and introspective  And despite the fact you knew nothing but my name from our conversation, you'd go over to your wife and say, "man that Mark guy is a really amazing guy."

That ability combined with a discipline around qualification and not wasting time in getting to the meat of things is what it means.

JB: Great. So when I meet you up at INBOUND this August I won't feel interrogated? 

Mark: No! It's going to be great. Didn't you notice in this call I asked a lot about you at the beginning? (laughs)

JB: (Laughs) Definitely. Well, thanks a lot for taking the time out of your day, Mark. I really appreciate it.

Mark: No problem, I'm looking forward to the webinar. I'm psyched to do it.

[Playbook] Inbound Sales Guide Cover

Free Guide:

The Beginners Guide to Inbound Sales
Read the Guide
[Playbook] Inbound Sales Guide Cover

Free Guide:

The Beginners Guide to Inbound Sales

See faster close rates and happier customers by shifting to inbound sales.

In this guide, you'll learn:

  • Inbound Sales vs. Outbound Seals
  • 5 Steps in the Inbound Sales Process
  • Getting Started and Troubleshooting


Inbound Sales
Published on May 31, 2013

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