Book review: Inbound Selling by Brian Signorelli

Review by John Newton, Marketing Director at Aroq

Tom and Jerry. Lister and Rimmer. Marketing and Sales. Sales have always ruled the roost, but today prospects no longer need salespeople to provide them with information, instead turning to marketing content. Sales needs marketing to hit their numbers. Which is why it really is time we got to know each other.

In 2015, I reviewed ‘Inbound Marketing’ written by Hubspot’s founders. I found it diverting but missing the detailed, practical content that would make it a must-read. Perhaps sensing the need for more specific instruction, Hubspot has pushed out four new books (‘Inbound Content’, ‘Inbound Organization’, ‘Inbound PR’ and ‘Inbound Selling’) which are, presumably, designed to complement each other.

I got hold of ‘Inbound Selling’ by Brian Signorelli, director of HubSpot’s Global Sales Partner Program, hoping it would provide a roadmap to help sales and marketing understand each other’s territory, and in doing so, drive forward the economy we all rely upon. No pressure then.

The book starts with an interview with the CEO of Hubspot, Brian Halligan, in which the central problem is driven home - that people neither pick up the phone nor read unsolicited emails, and will wait until the last minute before speaking to a salesperson.

Signorelli then continues to build the case, stating that by 2020 80% of a buying decision will be made without a sales rep. He then reveals the type of salesperson who succeed today - goal-orientated educators who love learning - and the sales process they should follow; Identify > Connect > Explore > Advise. And how should a sales rep identify a potential buyer? They’ll be people on your website, reading your emails, following you on LinkedIn. You segment them, find out what they might be interested in, and then try to contact them by email or phone, the very stuff we were told no longer works (but more on that later).

There is some new stuff in here - Signorelli encourages all sales reps to blog which helps build credibility, extols the power of opening positioning statements and offers some questions to help reps better understand what drives their customers. He also writes about the three key, regular activities that allowed him to build an effective sales team; Coaching, Scaling and Recruiting.

Most interestingly, Signorelli chooses to include (only slightly) redacted real-life emails from his time at HubSpot by way of illustration. For salespeople these give a chance to watch a peer at work - for marketers, a glimpse of the pressure that salespeople have to absorb on a daily basis.

The thing is - if inbound selling requires marketing and sales to work closely to create content that matches buyers needs, the first three-quarters of the book doesn’t give that impression. The book ‘Inbound Content’ may deal with this, but buyers of ‘Inbound Selling’ will likely be unaware of that companion book and will want Signorelli to reveal how inbound sales and marketing teams should interact - a little less Tom, a little more Jerry.

Then, in the final quarter, the book takes an unexpected and inspired turn. The author includes four interviews with fellow HubSpot colleagues in sales, marketing, sales enablement and sales operations. These interviews deliver on the promise of this book series - giving real-life insight into how ‘smarketing’ (where sales and marketing work to deliver sales growth) happens within a real organisation - the author’s own. You learn how HubSpot’s different teams work to achieve the common good, and how their structure could be applied to your own business. Smart move, Mr Signorelli.

Then, one final surprise. The last chapter - written by a sales futurist - looks forward to 2037 when the only job still done by humans is buying. Salespeople are no more because the maxim “people buy from people” was tested and found wanting. The key message here is for organisations to sell how people like to buy - and today that means without a salesperson whenever possible. All of which means that sales as a profession has no more than twenty years left - and the same is true for marketing, both roles made redundant by AI.

And this is the lasting message of the book - that sales and marketing will finally be forced to work productively together in a combined struggle to defeat Hubspot the machines before they defeat us. And you know what - I think we can take them.

By John Newton, Marketing Director at Aroq 

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