By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

Late in 2015 we started producing a bi-weekly radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which runs live every other Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Pacific, moving soon to 11:30 a.m. Pacific.  It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests into 2016. Our very first guest was Funnelholic author and Topo co-founder Craig Rosenberg.  Next we had Mike Weinberg, incredible writer, speaker, author, followed by Conrad Bayer, CEO & Founder of Tellwise.  Recent Guests: Jim KeenanJoanne Black; Aaron Ross; Josiane Feigon, Meagen Eisenberg, and Trish Bertuzzi.

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes.  You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.

We were thrilled this last time to be able to talk to Michael Pici, Director of Sales at HubSpot  Listen in or read our conversation below:

Stories and Data: 3 Proven Methods for More Accurate Sales Forecasting

Some highlights….

  • How’d you get into sales, and when did you know it was something you wanted to pursue as a career?
  • Hubspot has a highly-successful track record for sales, but you started from scratch with the sales product.  What was that like?
  • What do you look for in new reps?  What attributes are most important and what others do you expect to teach/train once they start?
  • What do you look for in potential new managers, especially from amongst your front-line reps?
  • What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made and learned from over the past couple years?
  • You’ve written lately about sales forecasting. Why do so many people get this wrong?

Matt:  Thanks everyone for joining us back here live on Sales Pipeline Radio. You can catch us each week, even if we’re on rerun, we are on the Lead Management Radio Network at 2:30 Eastern, 11:30 Pacific. Every Thursday, you can catch past episodes and catch up on what you may have missed at SalesPipelineRadio.com. And if you like what you hear, I appreciate you joining us, make sure you don’t miss an episode, subscribe to our podcast at Google Play or the iTunes store.

Very excited today to have joining us Michael Pici. He is the Director of Sales for HubSpot and he has a great story and some great insights to share on what’s happening in sales today. I’m particularly excited to hear his story and how he’s grown up in sales in his work with HubSpot and others. So, Michael, thanks so much for joining us today.

Michael Pici:  I appreciate the opportunity to come on the show. Thank you very much for having me.

Matt:  Absolutely. So, want to talk about what you’re learning and what you’re doing on the sales front with HubSpot. I think everyone has seen HubSpot is a very successful sales success story. But want to start with your story. How did you get into sales, and when did you know that sales was something that you would want to pursue as a career?

Michael Pici:  Good question. I think in some ways, I was born into sales. I had a business when I was six years old and what I used to do was go to folks’ houses in my neighborhood and collect their old soda and beer cans. I would bring them back to the store and cash them in for the money from the deposits and then split it 50/50 with the folks that were kind enough to let me operate the service for them. So, I started door to door selling when I was six years old, but I think a lot of the fundamental desire for me to get into the sales career really came from my father. My dad had a corporate job his whole life. When I was going through high school, I think my dad was really starting to feel some frustration around his job and wasn’t having an awesome time and work and he actually kind of restarted his career, even in his 50s in a sales role and really found a ton of passion for it, really enjoyed the ability to control his own destiny as opposed to kind of being under somebody else’s microscope.

I think I was really hearing a lot of that message in a lot of the formidable years of my upbringing. So, I think just had a real desire to control my own destiny from a really early stage and I think that was all around me and always have enjoyed the profession, always have enjoyed building relationships and helping other folks get wins. So for me, I think a lot of it came pretty natural and just kind of a part of my upbringing.

Matt:  No, that’s great and I think we hear a lot of people in sales think of it as sort of their opportunity to play an entrepreneurial role in a larger organization, where they just sort of own their own destiny. It’s high risk high reward, but it can be an incredibly lucrative opportunity, especially right out of school. As a UConn grad, go Huskies … I’m a University of Washington grad so we can both say, “Go Huskies” and mean it. You know, I spent some time in insurance and financial services and curious what drove you to move from financial services into tech and into the startup world. What got you started at HubSpot?

Michael Pici:  Yeah. Cool thing about starting in financial services is I think it’s one of the few industries where you really get full ownership of your book right out of school. It’s one of the few entry level sales positions that you can take where you’re not just setting up appointments for somebody else. You’re not in a strict demand gen capacity. You really get ownership of a book very early on and I think that provides a young salesperson with a tremendous amount of opportunity to grow and learn and really understand how to juggle the demand gen and sales process responsibilities that go into the role. I think it’s an awesome place to start. I think, for me, what I found in the insurance business, was I really developed a passion for lead generation. I started obviously by literally ripping out White Pages of the telephone book and calling people at dinner time to sell them auto insurance. I think pretty early into my tenure, I said to myself, “There’s got to be a better way of doing this.”

So I logged online, I started looking for different ways to pursue lead generation strategies and I found a bunch of companies that actually were kind of in the lead aggregation space. So you see these folks like NetQuote or IInsureMe.com or these folks that will actually generate form submissions for folks looking to evaluate their insurance and then reselling those submissions to agents. I got into that business and I just absolutely found it fascinating and really, really thought that the online lead gen was cool, really was fascinated about how it worked and through my own kind of research, I stumbled upon HubSpot and really saw HubSpot as a way to be able to create that same effect for myself, which was cool, and take more of that lead gen responsibility into my own hands and have the power to affect that from my individual seat, which I though was really cool. I became pretty fascinated with the idea of being able to teach and educate others on how to really take their lead generation into their own hands and how to be able to grown their business in an inbound way and give people the education and tools necessary to do so.

So, I felt a really strong affinity towards HubSpot and what the mission was. I wasn’t seeking to go from insurance to tech, I was really just really enamored with HubSpot’s mission and I was really excited to jump on board and share the learnings that I got with others.

Matt:  I love that story. We’re talking to Michael Pici who is the director of sales at HubSpot. Great story, starting out right out of school in a sales environment and moving over to HubSpot. Tell me, so you joined HubSpot and very quickly you moved from an account executive to a senior manager to now Director of Sales. You are starting from scratch in the organization. Tell us what’s that like and sort of what did you learn along the way? What are some of the lessons you learned as you sort of moved up the ranks very quickly.

Michael Pici:  Yeah, and people always ask me, “How did you do it?” When I interview folks or when I’m speaking to people at conferences or industry events, they always ask, “How did you accelerate your career so quickly? What was like the secret there?” I think you talk to a lot of folks in the business that perceive it as, “Okay, if I’m an individual contributor in sales, what I need to do is I need to crush my number, I need to be the number one salesperson in my organization and then I need to wait in line for the next management job to open up.” That seems to be, when you talk to people, I think for the most part, the impression that folks are under for how to accelerate your career very quickly. I took a very different route to being able to climb the corporate ladder if you will, but it really didn’t feel like a climb of any type of ladder at the time.

So what happened was, I joined HubSpot as an account executive in 2012 and when I joined HubSpot, we were an inbound marketing company. We were really focused on helping folks attract and convert leads on their website and through their internet presence. We developed into also having some marketing automation capabilities and we became kind of a full marketing platform really early on and I was an account executive under that context. I remember I went to a company meeting and I heard our founders talking about the desire to start to become a multi-product company and to actually get into the sales software space. They were talking about they wanted to build CRM, they wanted to build a sales acceleration product and I just said to myself, “Wow, that’s really where the puck is headed here. It’s very cool.” So the thing that I did was I said, “Okay, if this is where our company is headed, there’s going to be a bunch of things that we’re going to need to execute upon along the way to get there.” They’re going to need a marketing site. They’re going to need lead gen for this new business. They’re going to need a sales process for how to sell this thing. There’s going to be so much innovation that’s going to be required in order to achieve this new mission that we’re on and I simply just got ahead of it.

So, I think the approach I took was to continue to do an awesome job at my day job, but then I took it upon myself to actually build the first ever marketing site for our sales products and our CRM. So, I put a website up, I branded up, I started doing my own inbound marketing and started trying to generate leads for our new product on the site. Three months into my nights and weekends project, I had a website that was generating thousands of website visitors a month and was generating hundreds of leads a month for HubSpot’s business. It was pretty exciting and I was feeling a little proud of it, so I sent it to our CEO. I said, “Hey Brian. Check this out. This is something I’ve been working on nights and weekends and it’s kind of aligned with I think where you want to head.” I got an introduction to the gentleman at the time who was tasked with starting that new division of our company in building the new product. Him and I really hit it off and became just good friends through the process. Christopher O’Donnell, who today is our head of product at HubSpot and him and I really bonded and formed a friendship and he would ask me for my feedback on the new stuff he was working on.

I think he appreciated from me that I was a builder and I was kind of getting out ahead of stuff and I was taking on and learning new things that were just outside of my specific role. So, I actually joined that team in 2014, I never had to interview for the job, never had to do anything. They kind of came over to my desk and said, “Hey, pack up your stuff. You’re moving over to the product team.” I joined with a team of six software engineers and a product manager and we built HubSpot sales division from nothing to the substantial portion of our business as it is today. So, super exciting ride for me, but I think the lesson that I really try to get across there is that growing your career is more than about just doing an awesome job in the role that you have today and then waiting in line for that next opportunity. It’s really about understanding the direction that your company is going in and trying to get ahead and serve the needs of the business ahead of those things becoming problems or major initiatives.

So really trying to innovate within the guardrails that your company has set I think is a fantastic way to set yourself apart from folks that you work with or other colleagues or other players in your industry. I think that’s where you start to be viewed as having something special or being somebody who is different and being somebody who people are really excited to call on and get perspective from and to invite into different situations. It doesn’t always feel like a promotion. When I hopped over, I felt like I was lost and that I had a job that was like nothing I had ever done before. I went from carrying a quota to trying to find product market fit and I had never done anything like that.

Matt:  Right. Right.

Michael Pici:  But throughout that, you get presented with a lot of new interesting opportunities that take you to different places.

Matt:  Absolutely. Hey, we’re having a great conversation with Michael Pici, Director of Sales from HubSpot. We’ve got a few more questions, but we’ve got to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be right back. This is Matt Heinz, Sales Pipeline Radio.

*Break*

Paul:  All right, back to Matt.

Matt:  Well, thanks very much again for joining us everyone on Sales Pipeline Radio. We’ve got just a few minutes here left with Michael Pici from HubSpot. Michael, I think of all the other questions that we had talked about in advance, you know, we always like talking about best practices but sometimes worse practices are just as valuable. Tell me a little bit about what are some of the biggest mistakes you feel like you’ve made in the past, and what have you learned from those?

Michael Pici:  You know, I think it’s probably hard to point out one specific or two specific big mistakes that we’ve made or that I’ve personally made because there’s actually just been so many. We have made so many mistakes. I think the one thing that I would really note on mistakes is that all of them tend to originate from having a team that’s not all on the same page. And so I think one thing that I really respect about Brian Halligan, our founder here at HubSpot is he really describes his job as, in a lot of ways, being a bus driver. His driver is to get everybody on the bus, get the right people on the bus and make sure that everybody understands where the bus is headed and make sure that we’ve got enough gas to get to our destination. He uses that analogy, but it really is in my mind so important. Every hurdle we’ve faced, every obstacle we’ve had, every time it’s felt like we were making mistakes, it’s really that the team’s not all on the same page about what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to accomplish and people aren’t communicating well amongst each other.

So, to the extent that you can get somebody in your organization that can really be the bus driver, that prevents I think a tremendous amount of mistakes from being made and it prevents mistakes from getting worse when you can spot them very quickly. You can spot those potholes and you can get the team together to understand where we’re going and where we’re headed and fill them back in. So, that’s the biggest learning, honestly, I’ve had in regards to screwing something up or making mistakes.

Matt:  You’ve written lately about sales forecasting and best practices for how to do that better. Why do so many people get forecasting wrong? What are some of the common things that people are doing or in some cases not doing that make that more difficult?

Michael Pici:  Well, I think when people do forecasting, I think they tend to view it from one lens or view it from one perspective. I think the most common one is, they look at a weighted average pipeline right and we’re asking our sales team, “What’s the forecast?” And there’s just a tremendous amount of optimism that I think can generally get built into a lot of the forecasts that organizations are using and they’re primarily doing them through the concept of the weighted average pipeline and they’re really relying heavily on the front line management and the sales team to report back on the quality of the pipeline. I think that’s a great approach, and I think it comes down to doing that extremely well and building in great process to have consistent approaches to talking about deals and consistent ways to discuss opportunity and specific exit criteria in your deals that start to add more predictability to that place.

But then I think also, there’s a tremendous value in cutting your forecast in a couple of different ways and looking at a couple of different iterations of types of forecasts that can actually, when you blend them together, help get you much closer to reality of where it’s going to land and can also help to give you opportunities to discuss why they seem to be so far off. So, for instance, the weighted pipeline that gets reported up from the sales organization is one way that we look at it internally at HubSpot. We’ll also take a cut and we’ll look at a strict leads-based approach. How much demand did we actually generate in a specific time frame and how much of that demand do we expect to close and what’s the anticipated value based on previous time periods that we’ve seen come from that demand. That’s a really interesting indicator of how your forecast could land as well.

So now when you start comparing those two different cuts of your forecast against each other, it starts to provide interesting ways for you to diagnose why they may look different or why sales is saying that everything is going so great when really the demand doesn’t suggest maybe that that’s true. So you get different perspectives and it gives you the ability to poke a little bit more at it. You know, approach I really like to forecasting is actually taking a expected value of created opportunities. So, looking at a demographic lens as well as a lead score lens against any type of opportunity that comes into the pipeline and running again back on the expected value based on previous AST and close rate et cetera, and then starting to actually say based on just the sheer opportunity creation that we’ve been able to accomplish in a specific timeframe, what does that look like compared to your leads, compared to your weighted pipeline. I just think that any time you get more data points and more insight into the funnel from different perspectives, it’s going to make for richer conversation. It’s going to get you much closer to the truth when you start to expose different things that may or may not be true or tight about the way that you are looking through one lens of it.

So, I think just appreciating to look at it from multiple perspectives and appreciating that unless you’ve got a very systematic and crisp approach to the way that you discuss deals and talk about deals and forecast deals that everybody knows and understands, then you’re probably dealing with a lot of hot air.

Matt:  Awesome. We’ll wrap it up here with Michael Pici, the Director of Sales for HubSpot. Just a couple minutes left to go, Michael, but wanted to ask you a question that we ask a lot of folks here and this is a nod to Paul. We sometimes call this our Mount Rushmore of Sales question. If you’re thinking about some of the people that you’re learning from, the people who’ve been most influential for you in your sales career, sources of information that are still valuable for you as you’re learning. Who might be up there on that Mount Rushmore of Sales? Who do you look up to that’s had the biggest influence for you in your sales education and learning so far?

Michael Pici:  Well, I think there’s definitely been a variety of folks who’ve contributed. I think first and foremost, you know Mark Roberge was our VP of Sales and Chief Revenue Officer throughout my early tenure here at HubSpot. Mark took me under his wing and mentored me very early on. I’m sure a lot of the listeners of this podcast are familiar with Mark or come across him before, but if you haven’t heard of Mark, definitely search Mark Roberge. He’s over at Harvard Business School now and he’s got a fantastic book, The Sales Acceleration Formula, which I recommend to everybody who I offer advice to in sales leadership or sales in general. I can’t thank Mark enough for his mentorship and what he’s meant to me over the years. But, I love everything that he has. I think our current SVP of Sales at HubSpot or, I’m sorry, our Chief Sales Officer, Hunter Madeley, he’s fantastic. Lifelong learner, real sales veteran. He’s amazing and has brought me under his wing as well. I’ve just been lucky to work for folks who have been fantastic and have embraced me and who have been willing to mentor me and take the time. So I’ve really be phenomenally lucky there for some of the sales leaders that I’ve worked underneath.

Matt:  That’s awesome. We want to thank again our guest today, Michael Pici from HubSpot. Really appreciate all your insights. We always run out of time before I’m able to get to all the questions you want to answer. But I appreciate your insights. If you like this conversation, want to hear more of it, you want to share this with others on your team, you will get an On Demand version of this at any time up at Sales Pipeline Radio and if you like what you’re hearing, please check us out on the Google Play and the iTunes store. You can subscribe to our podcast and check us every week. We are live on the Sales Lead Management Network at 2:30 Eastern, 11:30 Pacific. For my producer Paul, I appreciate you joining us. We’ll see you next week. This is Matt Heinz on Sales Pipeline Radio.

Paul:  You’ve been listening to Sales Pipeline Radio, right here on the Funnel Radio Network for at work listeners like you. Brought to you by Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing.