HubSpot’s Entire Online Sales Funnel Uncovered. How They Convert Cold Prospects Into Customers. This step-by-step sales system (you can easily steal) built a $375.6 Million a Year Online business.
Have you ever struggled or thought about any of these questions?
- How do we sell?
- Who do we sell to?
- How many markets do we go after?
- How do we cross-sell vs selling to new prospects?
- How many sales reps do we need?
- Can we create a more efficient sales process with automation?
If you’ve had any of these problems, this may be the most important article you will ever read.
We’re going to uncover exactly how HubSpot sells …
All the way from A to Z.
This is everything from taking an anonymous visitor all the way to the close. How to get convert cold leads into paying customers. The entire process Hubspot uses to continue this insane growth.
If you even implement 1% of what we talk about, you could build a $300,000 a year business with the right product / service.
This is the “best example” you can follow for establishing a profitable relationship with customers. Using inbound marketing and your existing sales funnel.
Note: this doesn’t mean you have to have a corporate structure to learn from this article.
In fact, a lot of what we will talk about will be even easier to install if you don’t. As long as you have SOME sort of online sales funnel, you’re in the right place.
At the end of this article, you’re going to understand how to:
- Have a more personalized sales experience.
- Have a more automated sales process.
- Increase your sales call close rates.
You’ll get the most out of this article by outlining your own sales process beforehand. Then looking for ways you can “plug in” what Hubspot is doing into your own business. Not everything will fit, but there are a bunch of cool techniques we’ll talk about that you can start implementing right now.
Almost everything we’re going to talk about came out of an amazing conversation I had with Hubspot’s VP of Sales Strategy and Operations. Channing Ferrer.
You can check that out below 🙂
Listen to the Podcast
Let’s dive into the steps ..
What we’ll be covering:
- How to turn prospects into leads.
- How to use Key Engagement Indicators to help movement through a sales process.
- Using specialized sales reps and pathways to match leads to sales reps.
- How to handle a discovery meeting.
- How to run a perfect demo/sales meeting and how to use that momentum to close the sale.
- Using proper evaluation and incentives. To build a sales machine that is efficient without sacrificing humanity.
Are you ready? Let’s do this 🙂
In order to have a functioning sales machine, there is one thing you need above all else: prospects.
Also known as visitors.
Also known as traffic.
If you don’t have your primary traffic generator, you should.
If you don’t know the conversion rates for that traffic source, you should.
(more on how to calculate this later ..)
There are many common sources: social media, ads, organic traffic, etc.
For HubSpot, their main traffic generator is content.
More specifically, their blogs.
Their content machine is almost too big to believe 🙂
They are currently fifth in the online marketing space for overall traffic rank and attract over 25 million visitors per month.
Yeah. Pretty cool huh?
This was accomplished through:
- Writing new content
- Hosting guest posts
- Rehashing old blogs
- Releasing free tools (e.g. their Website Grader) that are useful to their target market.
- Webinars (both educational and demonstrative)
- Events and Conferences
Hubspot’s blog machine is impressive. They create hundreds of articles every month and are constantly switching and matching lead magnets with the best blog posts. They keep a consistent eye on which blog post / lead magnet combos are converting the best. All the way from first-touch to sale.
This style of mix-and-match experimentation is super important for increasing your conversion rates.
You need to evaluate everything.
Your best traffic sources. Your best blog posts.
Weight them accordingly ..
.. And measure them regularly.
Don’t stop at evaluating conversion rates based on sources. Sure, you should know your conversion rates on social, organic traffic, and advertising, but your analysis shouldn’t end there.
HubSpot weights different blogs and white papers as varying levels of ENGAGEMENT. Using lead scoring, HubSpot puts more weight on prospects reading a research article over a short blog post. E.g. a 2,000 word, long-form blog on the effectiveness of blogging in 2018 over a lighter 600 word blog post like 10 Funny Blogging Headlines.
They give the 2,000 word long form blog post more weight.
While both blogs are on the same topic, one is clearly for those digging a bit deeper. Take a close look at your content, and see which pieces demonstrate more depth and weight them accordingly.
When it comes to blogging in your business, it’s all about consistency and quality.
HubSpot recommends a minimum of 1 quality, well-written, 600+ word article per week. These should offer better information than your competitor’s, for the same keywords. Your traffic numbers will only continue to go up as you increase frequency.
These constraints are due to Google’s algorithm placing more value than ever on relevant, informative content. Gone are the days of just keyword stuffing and rehashing other articles without adding any value.
Once you have consistency and quality, you can get a bit more granular with your approach while beginning to scale.
HubSpot’s go-to habits for converting prospects into leads:
- Match your blogs with the most relevant lead magnets or next step CTAs. Mix and match these to see which ones work best with which blog posts. An ideal lead magnet conversion rate is between 4 and 10%. If your numbers are lower than this, it’s time to change something!
- Use emails to warm up prospects and identify their interests while installing beliefs. This is our favorite thing to do at Wild Audience 🙂
Learn how to use install beliefs to dramatically increase your prospect -> customer rate with our VideoFruit case study.
- Use a lead scoring system based on user behavior to rank your prospects. You shouldn’t treat someone who has read 5 blogs and 1 blogs as if they’re the same quality. And again, different blogs can indicate different levels of engagement.
- Take your unicorns and amplify them with social advertising. Are user retention, conversion rates, and organic traffic super promising on a new piece? Don’t let that momentum go to waste! Spread that blog around using strategies like GaryVee’s content distribution methods and complement it with Facebook advertising to capitalize. This might be your chance to go viral 🙂
- Create a community for your prospects and customers to interact in. Allow your customers to learn from each other.
- Don’t hesitate to reach for keywords that aren’t directly related to your product. As long as they are relevant to your audience, then it can be used. For example, HubSpot has a released a bunch of Excel guides. Is this relevant to their product? Not really, but they know that marketers and the people using their product live in that world.
- Never cold call! Make absolutely sure a prospect has raised their hand either by responding to an email or requesting more information. Before you reach out.
Apart from the internal data and analysis behind the scenes, there’s a lot to be said about the blog and page design. Considering the sheer amount of time HubSpot spends working on conversion rates, keeping an eye on what they do is a smart move.
Let’s look at how they convert prospects on their site:
What Your Business Can Learn From HubSpot’s Prospect-Converting Website
Tip #1: Use short sidebar forms to get readers into your system.
HubSpot has one initial goal: to get people into their online sales funnel. They worry about collecting information later.
The first step is just getting people involved, and that means keeping forms as short as possible — just an email address will do.
Note: This can be adjusted based on the amount of “noise” in your online sales funnel. If you’re swamped with low-quality leads and don’t have the ability to automate that selection process with software like HubSpot, it may be smart to increase the barrier of entry by including more form fields.
Tip #2: Offer a lead magnet after someone signs up for your blog
Always provide a simple and relevant next step. Someone signs up for your blog? Offer a relevant eBook or lead magnet immediately. Someone signs up for your lead magnet? See if they want to see a case study. Someone views a case study? Send them a demo or free trial. You get the idea.
Tip #3: Put your key offer on the top of your page
Whatever your best offer is (free trial, schedule a demo, free tool), etc., offer it above the fold. HubSpot knows that getting people to try the software is their main priority because it’s a key engagement indicator (more on this later).
Tip #4: Give people options to take the next step immediately if they want.
If someone signs up for your free trial, don’t hide the fact that they can go directly to a demo or purchase.
Don’t force it on them, but make it obvious. You’ll lose revenue if you prevent people from moving at their own pace.
Tip #5: Ask bucketing questions after users agree to try your initial offer.
At Wild Audience, we’re super fans of bucketing and segmentation 🙂
Bucketing questions help your marketing team send the right materials via automations and help your sales reps better understand your leads in order to figure out which services are best for them / which pain points are most important to them.
You can also use these to qualify your leads. For example, if you don’t work with anyone under $10k/month in revenue, then you should have budget as a bucketing question! If they don’t meet that standard, then you know to keep them in your marketing funnel until they’re ready so you don’t waste your sales reps’ resources.
But how does HubSpot decide which offers and upsells are most important to them?
That’s based on something they like to call KEIs. We go into detail on this in the next section 🙂
So what do you do with your prospects once they’re coming in? How do you sift through them, and when do you know when they’re ready to talk to someone?
One of the coolest things we uncovered in our interview with Channing is the idea of key engagement indicators 🙂
Sales is a science. Not an art.
If you know what key actions end up converting your customers at the best rate, then you have the opportunity to increase your close rate. Plain and simple.
To do this you need to know your numbers and what HubSpot calls your key engagement indicators (KEIs).
Key engagement indicators are the most important engagement steps that your prospects take to prove they are ready for your product.
The kinds of questions you need to ask are:
- What one engagement step do all or most of our buyers take?
- What happens to the sales cycle when they perform this engagement piece? Does it speed up but decrease close rate? Or does it slow down but increase our close rate or vice versa
- Does prospect source affect the effectiveness of the key engagement indicator we’re discussing?
And more 🙂
KEIs ultimately vary business to business, and it’s up to you to determine what is most important (by experimenting and evaluating with data), but here are some common online sales funnel metrics to keep an eye on.
- Attending an educational webinar
- Signing up for a free trial
- Using a free tool for X amount of time.
- Agreeing to a free strategy call.
- Completing a quiz.
HubSpot’s Most Important KEI
Channing said that they have a 25% close rate when someone invites a team member to collaborate within their software.
You best believe they are paying attention to that 🙂
Especially when you think about how expensive HubSpot’s products can be (they charge on a monthly retainer basis) and usually sign contracts for 6 months to a year.
That’s an amazing KEI, and one that they should (and have) immediately prioritized.
Check out what’s on the homepage of a free trial user:
It’s starting to make a bit more sense why they put that there 🙂
Of course, they’re going to pitch this to their prospects!
Once you have …
Your key engagement indicators identified …
You are experimenting with different prospect lead magnets and upsells …
And getting leads …
It’s time to think about who should reach out and when.
Now that we’ve identified a prospect as a lead (using a lead magnet or KEI), it’s time to reach out with an appropriate next step. At the right time. This next step varies depending on what you know about your prospect and the size of your team.
Here’s an overview of common sales positions as outlined by HubSpot themselves:
Take a second and think through your current sales team. Are any of these responsibilities not covered? Even by one person? Even if you think someone is covering them, it’d be smart to take a look — it could be affecting your close rate.
Back to assigning leads to reps and reaching out.
How you reach out and who gets the lead depends on the source and quality of the lead. So let’s start with how your team should evaluate their leads.
How to Evaluate Your Leads and Determine When They’re Ready for Outreach
For HubSpot, someone signing up to their blog is not a lead. They are still a prospect.
Their content machine is just too massive to waste the human capital contacting every single email subscriber. Instead, they let their content and upsells continue to separate prospects based on engagement and pull them toward their KEIs.
If your business is super niche, then this may be different for you. If you know that your blog to close rate is 5%, then your blog subscribers are worth much more to you.
What you need to do is to set a baseline for your sales reps to determine what qualifies someone as Lead, MQL, and SQL.
MQL stands for marketing qualified lead and SQL stands for sales qualified lead. These definitions are unique to each company.
Here’s a graphic that covers this:
For HubSpot, unless the lead is inbound (more on this later), then it’s not smart to reach out directly until someone is at least an MQL or SQL.
Let’s think through how your online business could outline your funnel stages 🙂
- Prospect/Visitor – Visit to the website
- Lead – Downloads a lead magnet OR reads >5 blogs OR views the sales page after reading a blog.
- MQL – Downloads >3 lead magnets, attends a webinar, attends a conference, has opened and clicked the last 5 marketing emails.
- SQL – Has downloaded a free trial called OR qualified themselves as an MQL by filling out the appropriate budget amount for your service (via bucketing & segmentation).
- Opportunity – Has met with a rep and is attending a strategy or demo call next week OR has finished a demo and is in the closing stage.
- Customer – Sweet, sweet victory.
Make sense? Take the time to establish these for your company if you haven’t already. Remember they are fluid. After you run with these definitions for a bit, you should tweak them according to the quality of leads that your sales reps are seeing.
For example, if your pipeline is full of people who aren’t ready, then you need to make it more difficult to qualify as an SQL. And if all of a sudden you see a steep decrease in sales rep communication, then you need to relax the definitions a bit.
You should also see if there’s a way for you to be smarter about who you assign leads to. If you work in a consultancy that services a wide variety of industries, it would be smart to send the lead that works in aviation to someone who has spoken or worked with aviation in the past.
Once you get people in your online sales funnel and they qualify themselves as an SQL, all you need to do is assign them to a rep and get ready to reach out 🙂
The next step is to connect.
This step is for your SQLs, and this responsibility depends on the size of your business.
For HubSpot, they have employees whose only job is to get a meeting booked and hand them off to a sales rep.
Their quota is for meetings booked — not actual sales.
For smaller companies, you may start with having the reps handle the entire process from start to finish.
HubSpot hates cold calling, so once a prospect identifies themselves as an SQL, it’s time to send out an email.
Speed and timing is everything in sales. So the sooner after they perform a KEI, the better.
Here’s how HubSpot approaches it:
Your one goal is to get a meeting.
The day after I performed the KEI of signing up for a free trial and exploring the tool, I got this email.
It’s short, it’s sweet, it has blanket bucketing, and it’s entire purpose is to get on the phone and start a conversation — to get to that connect meeting 🙂
If someone doesn’t respond, then you can follow up a week later. If they don’t respond after that, then you should downgrade them to a MQL until that person performs another KEI or reaches out to you.
Speaking of which…
How Your Plan Changes for Inbound vs. Outbound Leads
As mentioned, you want your website to not block people from moving quickly. So if someone reaches out directly via chat, email, or phone, you need to have a system in place for that as well.
This obviously has a lot more variables for what the next step should be, but you want to give certain sales reps on your team the space to field inbound leads. After all, an inbound lead is almost always further along the sales cycle than an outbound lead — they are performing the ultimate KEI! Initiating a conversation 🙂
Your sales rep should first try to understand and answer all of the bucketing and pain questions that usually happen on a connect call. Listen to the customer, establish authority, identify the key decision maker, and demonstrate value. After that, you try to get them into your complimentary strategy call or demo according to their qualification and needs.
Bonus Tip: Develop a Sales Hook for Your Best Prospects
Another really cool thing that HubSpot does is personalize a sales hook for their best leads. For HubSpot, these are the corporate clients, the multi-million dollar companies who have the potential to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars to the company.
What they do is actually take 5-10 minutes evaluating a lead’s website, shoot a quick screencast (using Zoom or something similar) of what they could do better (SEO is lacking here, design is faulty, no lead magnet there, etc.) and use that delivery of value as the basis point for a conversation.
It wouldn’t be smart to do this for all of your leads, but take a second and think about a scalable sales hook that you can develop for those big fish 🙂
Other misc tips for reaching out:
- Use your bucketing questions to get an idea of what your lead is interested in, but don’t prevent the prospect from going in a different direction.
- Use templates to cut down on the ad hoc writing, but always personalize when you can.
- Don’t be afraid to point prospects toward other pieces of relevant content.
At this point you should have meetings on the books, but what needs to happen in that first meeting? How can your sales team make the most of that first real conversation?
Let’s find out 🙂
Alright! So you or your rep finally has a lead on the phone for the first time. What’s the game plan? Do you even have one?
Well, you should.
HubSpot has this down to a science, and I was curious what actually hopping on the phone with them would be like ..
So I did 🙂
And here’s what happened..
Let the Customer Lead by Asking Why
The initial meeting is all about the why. Why was the person compelled to sign up or display interest in your service? Why are they here? What made them curious? What are their goals for their business, and most importantly, what is making it difficult for them?
Here’s how the HubSpot rep approached this with me. This was her second line:
“Listen. Thanks for booking your call. I’m interested to know what’s driving your interest in HubSpot. What can I help you with today?”
She never pushed or went into some long spiel about the product. It was just establishing a connection, being personable, and listening to what I needed as a business owner. That’s respect-based sales 🙂 If your product isn’t a good fit for someone’s problems, they deserve to know!
Frame your product as the solution
After I responded, she knew I had a basic awareness of the software and its abilities, so she asked based on my goals of growth and formalization of sales, how do YOU see HubSpot fitting in?
This is important 🙂
Do you see what she did there?
She subtly pushed me to internalize HubSpot as the solution to my problem. Letting me work through it on my own. This is a smart technique that you absolutely need to employ.
After I responded, she continued to tie HubSpot’s services to the goals and issues I outlined.
Don’t Limit Your Products Based On Their Engagement
Part of the connect call is learning about the big picture for the lead’s business. Their dreams. Their goals. Be a close, personable listener, and don’t be afraid to mention other products or services that your firm offers that may be a better fit than what the lead originally reached out about.
For example, she referenced the sales product as what makes the most immediate sense for me, but she also referenced a few common problems and HubSpot’s solutions for those.
She’s basing those suggestions off people she has worked with in the past who were in a similar situation. This is a great way to avoid limiting your offerings as a business and incorporate social proof at the same time.
That brings me to my next point.
Discover Their Pain Points & Reference Other Customers in Similar Situations
Repeatedly throughout the conversation, the HubSpot rep would talk about other people and how they thought through the same pain and points and decisions I am. This establishes authority and trust in the process moving forward.
In other words, it establishes these beliefs:
- HubSpot has worked for other people (social proof).
- The rep I’m talking to knows their stuff (authority).
Discuss the Final Conversion Point
Always establish a next step. This changes based on the goals and product fit, but most of the time this is encouraging a free trial or KEI offer and then setting up a deadline for the next point of contact.
“I’m going to send you some information on how partner agencies are set up, and then you can look over things before I reach out next Thursday. Is that okay?
You’ve got options for this depending on how time-sensitive and qualified the lead is.
You can establish that you’ll be handing them off to someone with more expertise in their space (a sales rep that works in a specific industry etc.). You could go ahead and schedule a proposal review call. You can suggest reading materials or a free trial — that’s ultimately up to your rep and business model.
And that brings us to the most important part of the whole process 🙂
The Purpose of a Demo/Sales Call
All you need to do in a demo is prove that your product / service is a good fit for their problem. If you’ve done your job up to this point, then you know this to be true, and proving that won’t be hard! The only time you’ll lack confidence is if your product / service really isn’t a good solution for them.
How to Conduct a Perfect Demo
This is the most critical part of the close, but conducting a demo doesn’t have to be intimidating or difficult.
For SaaS businesses, this is just walking through your product and personalizing it to your opportunity. For online businesses or consultants, this is when you pitch exactly how your firm will solve their problem, typically through a presentation of data and specific steps.
Here’s how to make the most of it according to HubSpot:
- Confirm the meeting is happening the day of and verify that the key decision maker will be there.
- Use a personalized slide deck and software like GoToMeeting.
- Take time to get to know the prospect before hopping into the presentation. Be human!
- Set an agenda at the top of the meeting.
- Reference past conversations
- Explain the product while always referencing their specific pain points and why your product is the solution.
- Always be open to questions and letting the customer figure it out for themselves.
- Set expectations & next steps.
- Record the presentation. This is useful to send to the opportunity afterward and to review internally to see what went well and what didn’t.
If you do most of those, then your team will already be off to a fantastic start.
HubSpot also has a habit of using multiple sales reps on the call to let a newer sales rep learn and be a part of these conversations before taking lead.
After the call is over, it’s finally time to get the sale 🙂
Nothing kills closes more than letting too much time go by. At the end of your meeting, you need to immediately discuss when the customer how the customer would like to move forward.
This is best done by:
- Validating that they enjoyed the presentation. Make them say it in their own words: “So… how did you like our call? In your opinion, do you think (your business) will solve your problems and help you grow?”
- Rehashing the problem. Tie your product to the solution (again).
- Making them understand the cost of the problem they have. This is also known as the cost of inaction. “Your problem is costing you $20k a year, our product costs $5k a year. Do you agree that this is a smart business decision?”
- Offer time-sensitive discounts if necessary. A little extra incentive goes a long way.
After all of that, remember that this is your time to cross-sell if it’s appropriate as well. Think bundled discount on software plans etc. 🙂
After the sale is over (win or loss), it’s time to evaluate what happened.
The thing about your sales process is that it should be constantly evolving based on feedback and experimentation.
Swapping out processes, variables, and techniques HAS to be a fundamental part of your culture, or you will lose out on revenue.
Key Metrics Your Business Should Keep an Eye On:
- Visitor-to-Lead Conversion Rate
- Lead-to-MQL Conversion Rate
- % Sales Accepted Leads
- Lead Work Rates
- MQL-to-Opportunity Conversion Rate
- Opportunity-to-Customer Conversion Rate
- Lead-to-Customer Conversion Rate
- Sales Cycle Length
- Average Cost Per Sale
HubSpot obviously makes it really easy to see these numbers in their software, but with different software or a little Google Analytics digging you can figure out any one of these metrics.
Get the list of key metrics your business should be tracking and their definitions here.
Try incorporating a monthly check-in to review all of them and determine where to focus your marketing efforts for the next month.
Tie Your Sales Team’s Incentives to Customer Success
Traditional sales models are outdated and ineffective. Your business isn’t going to survive if your sales reps keep closing unqualified leads through pressuring tactics — all this means is that your user retention is going to be awful.
HubSpot actually claws back commissions of their reps if their customer doesn’t stay on for more than four months (and sometimes even longer). This forces sales reps to only close people who are actually a good fit, and this makes your monthly revenue more reliable and develops a much healthier customer base.
Well, there you have it 🙂
A look inside how one of the biggest online businesses approaches sales.
There is SO much to unpack here 🙂
To summarize, you should:
- Establish your sales process.
- Determine your lifecycle stage definitions (MQL, SQL, etc.)
- Optimize your blog for prospect conversion.
- Identify your KEIs
- Assign the right leads to the right reps
- Reach out to the SQL
- Conduct a connect call
- Get a demo or sales call on the books.
- Evaluate 🙂
Other Bits of Sales Gold from HubSpot
Here are few other awesome things Channing & HubSpot recommend for companies building their online sales funnel:
- The smaller the business, the smaller the sales cycle.
- Use form swaps to allow a customer to submit multiple forms of similarity but be flagged as a high engagement prospect.
- Reps should only be allowed so many leads to ensure the quality of outreach.
- Hire your salespeople according to a criteria based on company values.
- Align marketing and sales by communicating as openly as possible.
- Match sales incentives with customer retention.
And here’s the link to the full interview again 🙂
Interested in equipping your new sales process with an online sales funnel that converts at 6% or higher?
Imagine what you could do with that level of engagement 🙂
We run a program here called Relationship Funnel Accelerator.
It’s a “done-with-you” service where we take everything we’ve learned at Wild Audience and apply it to your business.
So you can get results like these 🙂