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Ask Me Anything! I'm Mark Roberge, MD @Stage2Capital, Prof @HarvardBusinessSchool, and former Former CRO @HubSpot

I'll be answering questions on 6/22 from 2 PM to 3 PM EST.

These days I have mostly been talking about "The Science of Re-establishing Growth: Where, When, and How".

I also get asked about my best-selling book "The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to Go from $0 to $100 Million" a lot.

But honestly, I'm open to any questions. Looking forward to chatting!

Comment Below to Ask Your Question ↓

Here are more of Mark's Accomplishments:

- Forbes' Top 30 Social Sellers in the World
- Salesperson of the Year award at the MIT Sales Conference in 2010
- Senior Lecturer in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at the Harvard Business School
- Patrick McGovern award for his contributions at MIT

Mark At HubSpot:

- Expanded annualized revenue from $0 to $100 million
- Grew customer base from 0 to 10,000+ customers
- Expanded Sales and Services organization from 1 to 450 employees across Boston, MA, USA and Dublin, Ireland
- Increased revenue over 6,000%
- HubSpot placed #33 on the INC 500 Fastest Growing Companies list in 2011.

And you can ask him anything, get your question posted below, those asked first are usually answered first.

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    • Profile picture of Joe Latchaw
      @jlatchaw85
      ( 1.1k POINTS )
      2 weeks, 6 days ago

      How did you get to become a professor? I often wonder about pursuing a teaching route and would love to hear your thoughts on becoming one and how that has impacted your career.

      Thanks!

      • Profile picture of Mark Roberge
        @markroberge
        ( 630 POINTS )
        2 weeks ago

        Sure @jlatchaw85. Every school is a bit different but first appreciate the two different tracks. There is a traditional tenure track where you do a Phd then post doc work then associate professor in a pursuit of tenure at a school. Many schools put more emphasis on research quality than teaching quality for these roles. Operators typically do not pursue this path.

        The other path is for operators that then move all or part of their career to teaching. Sometimes they are called adjunct professors or senior lecturers or practitioners. The two actions I would focus on are:
        (1) Building up your personal thought leadership brand on a subject that would be important for a school curriculum. Build the brand through a book, blog, podcast, speaking, or all of the above.
        (2) Start networking with professors that teach classes in the domain you are interested. Let them know you are interested and available to serve as a class visitor if they need a guest on a topic.

        Hope that helps!

        • Profile picture of Joe Latchaw
          @jlatchaw85
          ( 1.1k POINTS )
          2 weeks ago

          This is great, thanks again!

    • Profile picture of cary smith
      @carysmith
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 6 days ago

      Please address overcoming the plateau startups face when their initial launch-oriented sales strategy starts to dwindle, environment changes, and sales needs a re-boot—is it sales talent, process, messaging that drives the next phase?

      • Profile picture of Mark Roberge
        @markroberge
        ( 630 POINTS )
        2 weeks ago

        Sure. Plateaus usually occur because the market or channel through which you access the market has hit a ceiling and now is experiencing diminishing returns. Once organizations find product-market-fit, they usually find it in a single product-market-channel combination (i.e. selling Product A to mid-market US companies through a cold calling SDR channel). The organization should scale the product-market-channel segment. However, they should also kick off at least 2 or 3 experiments with new product(s), market(s), or channel(s). It can take a year or more to unlock these new segments so starting the learning process in parallel to the scaling process is important. Michael Tushman from HBS has done some of the best timeless work on this subject, titled the Ambidextrous Organization, found here: https://hbr.org/2004/04/the-ambidextrous-organization

    • Profile picture of nikki ratcliffe
      @nikkiratcliffe
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 5 days ago

      What would you consider to be the most critical element to generating sustainable growth from an outbound prospecting team?

      • Profile picture of Mark Roberge
        @markroberge
        ( 630 POINTS )
        2 weeks ago

        Two pop out as most critical for me. First, aligning the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) with highest LTV rather than lowest CAC. Most sales organizations and SDR programs in general target the prospect segments that are easiest to close. However, they are not always the easiest to make successful on your product and expand. It is better to focus on the latter segments, even if booking meetings and closing contracts is more difficult.

        Second, clearly defining buyer personas and personalizing the outreach to each persona type. These definitions include firmographic dimensions (i.e. vertical, geo, size of company) and personal level dimensions (i.e. role, preferences, etc.)

    • Profile picture of Robert sorast wenera Robert
      @wenera
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 5 days ago

      Oky ihave got you

      • Profile picture of marygreencny
        @marygreencny
        ( 2k POINTS )
        2 weeks, 4 days ago

        Did you have a question for Mark @wenera? Please post it now so he can leave you an answer on Monday.

    • Profile picture of Mark Manuel
      @industrialmark
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 5 days ago

      IMTS The International Manufacturing Technology Show was canceled this week. Manufacturing is the last industry to embrace digital marketing, though everyone is talking automation, robotics on the factory floor.

      I know there is no silver bullet to growth…

      Curious your insights and thought for industries that are stuck in baby boomer land and not reflecting the digital native’s behavior.

      • Profile picture of Mark Roberge
        @markroberge
        ( 630 POINTS )
        2 weeks ago

        It is a big opportunity for those companies that embrace the need for change, articulate a clear vision, and mobilize their organization. The decks in these laggard industries are being re-shuffled and those that move fastest toward an optimal end point will come out on top. At Stage 2 Capital, we have been investing in notoriously laggard verticals, like insurance, real estate, and manufacturing, with good success. In some ways, the opportunity is bigger for small disruptors than existing incumbents. Dig into Clayton Christensen Innovators Dilemma for inspiration and frameworks. In summary, disrupt yourself before someone else does.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Innovator%27s_Dilemma

    • Profile picture of RC Casey
      @rc_casey
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 4 days ago

      Hey Mark – congratulations on your success!

      Question for you: In your opinion what are the top three things a company should do to expand their ideal customer profile into new markets/verticals with a proven product/solution?

      Many thanks,

      RC

      • Profile picture of Mark Roberge
        @markroberge
        ( 630 POINTS )
        2 weeks ago

        Sure RC. As I mentioned earlier, I like Tushman’s work on the Ambidextrous Organization here. His points are:
        (1) Develop an over-arching strategy. Company vision that justifies both the company’s core business and an ambitious innovation program (i.e. Railroads may not have been disrupted if they defined themselves as transportation companies is the example he sites)
        (2) Hold Tension at the Top: Emerging and Core Units report directly to C-suite, regardless of P&L size
        C-suite balances trade-off: innovation versus profits / growth
        (3) Embrace Inconsistency: Core Units measured on profits and growth. Emerging Units measured on pace of experimentation and learning

        • Profile picture of RC Casey
          @rc_casey
          ( 0 POINTS )
          2 weeks ago

          Thank you, @markroberge. Appreciate the thoughtful response. The railroad analogy resonates well.

    • Profile picture of Cari Olson
      @cario
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 4 days ago

      Hi Mark,

      I am curious, when you were at HubSpot, how did you stay ahead of identifying which verticals to launch next? Were there any specific tools or services you used to stay ahead of current events or used to assist in choosing the next vertical to target vs throwing darts at a board?

      -Cari

      • Profile picture of Mark Roberge
        @markroberge
        ( 630 POINTS )
        2 weeks ago

        We formalized the innovation process. On at least a quarterly basis, the senior management team debated which verticals were the best options to pursue. At any given time, there were dozens of options but we narrowed experimentation down to usually between 3 to 5, depending on the size of the org at the time. We had clear measures on product-market-fit and go-to-market-fit as pre-requisites to scale. That experience, combined with hundreds of observations of other orgs since, lead to the frameworks in this eBook: https://blog.stage2.capital/science-of-scaling

    • Profile picture of Shay Forbes
      @shayforbes
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 4 days ago

      What were the first 6-9 months like at Hubspot as you were building out the initial process, strategy, and working those early deals? I am about to embark on a similar situation with a young startup as it’s first sales hire.

      • Profile picture of Mark Roberge
        @markroberge
        ( 630 POINTS )
        2 weeks ago

        The things we did well was we started blogging about the problem we intended to solve before we had a product. That move made us build a better product as we were closely collaborating with our target audience while building the product. It also provided a valuable launch asset once we had an MVP.

        The thing we did not do well is we did not prioritize customer success above revenue retention for the first 50 or so companies. I think we have evolved as an entrepreneur ecosystem to do a better job here but have more work to do. The most important task your founder/CEO has to do at this point is define the organization’s leading indicator to customer retention and align the entire org (product, marketing, sales, custine success) around the metric. See the first section of the Science of Scaling eBook for guidance. https://blog.stage2.capital/science-of-scaling

    • Profile picture of Jagannath Das
      @jagdas
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 4 days ago

      Hi Mark – I am a big fan. Loved reading “The Sales Acceleration Formula” and your posts re: data-driven insights on scaling sales growth. Thanks for taking the time to do this for the community.
      What are your favorite SaaS companies private and public and why?

      Thanks, Jag

      • Profile picture of Mark Roberge
        @markroberge
        ( 630 POINTS )
        2 weeks ago

        I am a big fan of PLG as a starting point and scaling model. Therefore, companies like Atlassian, Slack, and Dropbox on the public side and Asana and Drift on the private side. The only thing I worry about is many of these companies fall into the “consumerization of software” umbrella and are susceptible to fickle consumer behaviors as they jump to the next shiny object. We saw this in social media as consumers went from MySpace to Facebook to Snap to TikTok. We also seeing it in the gaming industry. I worry we see early indications that the same will happen in these B2C2B categories and feel that many entrepreneurs confuse temporary moats with sustainable moats. The latter are critical. See Michael Porter’s work on Barriers to Entry in his 5 Forces as the most rigorous and timeless frameworks to evaluate temporary versus sustainable moats. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porter%27s_five_forces_analysis

        • Profile picture of Jagannath Das
          @jagdas
          ( 0 POINTS )
          2 weeks ago

          VVery true re: PLG concept as the holy grail. Also as you note, chasing the next shiny star perhaps to do with everchanging behavior/trends (led by millennials) and to focus on LT moats. Thanks for the reminder on the classic Porter’s model. Always looking to apply the f/w to business contexts to prioritize on the highest (customer value/ effort) levers to stay relevant to the customer. Thanks Mark

    • Profile picture of Casey Hill
      @caseyhill
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 4 days ago

      Hey Mark!

      I work as the Head of Growth at Bonjoro and historically we have been focused around SMBs. We have worked with a few larger teams, particularly in SaaS and noticed the retention rates and CLTV is incredible. We want to do more enterprise or larger organizations but our team is less experienced on how to find them. Do you have any advice you could give me on how to find and close these bigger deals?

      • Profile picture of Mark Roberge
        @markroberge
        ( 630 POINTS )
        2 weeks ago

        Run an Account Based Marketing (ABM) and Account Based Selling (ABM) cadence side-by-side with your SMB PLG cadence. I’d start by hiring 2 outbound SDRs that can call into many roles at these organizations, both inbound inquiries and cold outreaches, and team them up with 2 Enterprise-grade AEs that also prospect into these account at the exec level and run any meeting set by the SDRs. Penetrate organizations both top down (by understanding executive priorities and aligning messaging with them) and bottoms up (through a Trojan Horse approach of leading with free usage by end users that puts pressure on the exec team to move forward).

    • Profile picture of Jagannath Das
      @jagdas
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 4 days ago

      Hi Mark, What are some key learnings about building successful teams from your time at Hubspot? Best, Jag

    • Profile picture of Maria Osipova
      @marketmo
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 4 days ago

      In your role as a CRO did you manage marketing as part of the revenue operations? If yes, what roles you thought were critical for the marketing team at 10M-30M revenue stage

      • Profile picture of Mark Roberge
        @markroberge
        ( 630 POINTS )
        2 weeks ago

        I did not @Marketmo. My good friend Mike Volpe did. If I had to channel his thought leadership, I would say someone to run the demand generation piece of the business, not the campaigns but the people. You may start to think about PR and branding for the first time on the latter half of that revenue journey. A lot of this depends on business context (i.e. transactional versus enterprise, inbound vs outbound, etc.)

    • Profile picture of Maria Osipova
      @marketmo
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 4 days ago

      What’s your take on a relationship between product roadmap/company direction and a growth strategy? How do you see a CRO/CMO impact on the short and long term roadmap and product go-to-market?

      • Profile picture of Mark Roberge
        @markroberge
        ( 630 POINTS )
        2 weeks ago

        I think the head of product needs to own this. The CRO and CMO needs to ensure the communication channels from the front line conversations to the head of product or various product managers are open while at the same time setting expectations with the sales team that not everything they want will be built and to sell what they have. Most companies have at least a few successful customers with their existing product stack. Sales’ and marketing’s job is to find more customers like that.

    • Profile picture of Conor O Neill
      @conorison
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 4 days ago

      We are moving to a more PPC-oriented strategy than an organic SEO strategy, because there are usually 5-7 paid ads on google page 1 for our industry, and the ads look very similar to organic results now. What are your thoughts about this and is it something you are seeing in other companies?

      • Profile picture of Mark Roberge
        @markroberge
        ( 630 POINTS )
        2 weeks ago

        Test it @conorison but it usually does not work. It all depends on your buyer, value prop. the competitiveness in your space in paid media, and your companies ability to rapidly test/learn/iterate to find pockets of profitable keywords. I haven’t seen research in a while but past research shows that 80%+ of searches click on organic listings and 20% or less click on paid. I do find the best value of PPC is to quickly experiment with keywords and landing pages and then cycle those learnings into a more scalable content marketing strategy.

    • Profile picture of Daniel Graff-Radford
      @dgraff2
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 4 days ago

      Mark, we do a company book club and loved The Sales Acceleration Formula. We take sales coaching and training seriously. What are some of the changes in coaching you have seen from companies now that people are at home and many companies are planning to be more remote in the future?

      • Profile picture of Mark Roberge
        @markroberge
        ( 630 POINTS )
        2 weeks ago

        The biggest one is more frequent check ins @dgraff2. All the other best practices of letting the data guide the initial diagnosis, digging in deeper with qualitative observation to more precisely diagnose, and tailoring coaching plans to the unique needs to the coachee are still the same in remote contexts. The big difference is you cannot just walk the floor and quickly observe salespeople’s presence or emotional state. Therefore, more frequent check ins, even if in small groups, are needed.

    • Profile picture of JOHN KING
      @jk
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 2 days ago

      Hi Mark, great actionable book. Best or a couple of options of tools to track emails so you know when they are opened.

      Thanks sir

    • Profile picture of Ravi Kompella
      @ravi
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 1 day ago

      Mark –
      What is the best time to add sales member in the current team? What factors should be considered for the same? This is for a global organization setup in a new country and growing in that region.

      Thanks
      Ravi

    • Profile picture of Jagannath Das
      @jagdas
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 1 day ago

      Hi Mark – This one is about the new trend in terms of the rise of audio-visual channels and everyone is now saying marketing is moving to video format and if you don’t create video content, you’re dead. I wanted to get your take on this and what you may have observed from your own portfolio and from your experience so far. Also LinkedIn has now come up as a fertile platform for the modern outbound sales

      Thanks, Jag

    • Profile picture of Jagannath Das
      @jagdas
      ( 0 POINTS )
      2 weeks, 1 day ago

      Hi Mark – How should one approach in a data-driven decision framework re: churn wrt ACV say by customer segments (SMB vs midmarket vs enterprise) ? E.g. We may expect less churn with enterprise but may not have the wherewithal to secure a large deal in a certain time vs a mid-market customer with relatively higher churn but lower $ contract vs SMB with the highest churn and least $ACV. I may need to peel the layers of the onion here i.e. segment further sort of a heat map to grade customers within a segment say by size and industry vertical and track wins/losses to get to some actionable intelligence? What are your thoughts ?

      Thanks
      Jag

    • Profile picture of Colin Campbell
      @colin-campbell
      ( 2.1k POINTS )
      2 weeks ago

      Hey @markroberge!

      Thanks so much for doing this.

      I’ve noticed lots of talk in SaaS about the “formula” or “the playbook”. It reminds me a little of what I’ve read about management and leadership from the days when our economy was more heavily driven by manufacturing.

      Back then, we saw a revolution from the likes of Deming and Drucker against things like quotas, rule-based management, and for things like managing for joy, learning and intrinsic reward.

      Do you think the SaaS industry is in danger of over-systematizing, making the same mistakes those two famed management consultants worked to correct?

      • Profile picture of Colin Campbell
        @colin-campbell
        ( 2.1k POINTS )
        2 weeks ago

        Oh, and also:

        Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses, or one horse-sized duck?

    • Profile picture of Scott Barker
      @scott-barker
      ( 1.2k POINTS )
      2 weeks ago

      Thank for doing this Mark!

      If you could go back and add one chapter to The Sales Acceleration Formula to update it – what would that chapter be called and why?

      Appreciate you.

      Scott Barker

    • Profile picture of Lisa Bauer
      @lisamarie
      ( 250 POINTS )
      1 week, 3 days ago

      how do you figure out how many leads/deals/pipeline a salesperson can manage and know when to bring in an SDR/or hire additional sales reps to scale?

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