Building Something From Nothing: Secrets To Leading High-Growth Revenue Teams

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks
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The secret to leading high growth teams is that there is no secret on how to lead high growth teams.

The leadership team here at HubSpot talks a lot about transparency and the value of a keeping an open feedback loop between the Executive leadership team and the employees on the front lines. We see our employees as key contributors to the growth of the business and we value their ideas and opinions. By keeping our goals and progress accessible to anyone across the organization, instead of having one or two people holding us accountable, we have 1500.  

I am a firm believer that in order to lead any group of people to where you want to take them, you need to be open, you need to be honest, and you need to be trustworthy.

No one is going to follow you down an unfamiliar path if they don’t believe that they’ll be safe and they will gain something from taking that journey with you.

So let’s dig into what that looks like for you, as a sales leader, and how you can build that trust with your team.

Set the Destination

When people understand where they’re going and why, they’re more open to the experience. Setting a clear mission and vision is critical for developing a team that works together towards a shared goal.

Our CEO Brian Halligan loves to use a bus analogy to describe this and I think it tells the story really well. It goes like this. As a leader, to set your team up for success, you must consider yourself akin to a bus driver. Your responsibilities are threefold:

1. You must have a clear set of directions for where you’re driving the bus to.

2. You must have the right people on the bus who want to go where you’re driving.

3. You must have enough gas (cash or resources) to get there.

I personally believe that every team should have their own mission and everything they do should stem from it. When you have a group of people singing from the same music sheet, that’s when magic happens.

To set a mission that gets buy-in from your team, you need to decide on the ‘why’ of what you’re doing. You need to figure out what values your team stands for, who it is you are helping, and how you do it. The best way to develop this mission is to create it with your team. That’s where buy-in comes from.

Communicate the Direction

Once you set your vision and mission, you need to develop and communicate the strategy to your team. As a leader, you need to make executive decisions for your team. If you don’t help your team understand the decisions you make, you’ll lose their trust and as a result, their commitment to the journey.

At HubSpot, we use a document called an MSPOT to share our strategic decisions with our employees. This document shares:

  • Mission – reminds us of the direction we’ve set ourselves as a team or company
  • Strategy – outlines how we plan to get to our destination
  • Projects – describes the 4-5 key plays we’re committed to making happen
  • Omissions – the ideas we have but are deciding not to implement right now
  • Tracking – the numbers we look at to monitor our progress

Here’s what that looks like:

Each leader will have an MSPOT that is accessible at any time to anyone in the company. As the bus analogy highlights, it’s super important that we have the right people on the bus who are excited about the direction we’re headed. Making this information available to our employees gives them full transparency on the direction we’re headed as well as the opportunity to decide for themselves if they want to continue on the journey with us or not.

We tend to re-evaluate our strategies every eight to twelve months to ensure the decisions we’ve made are still the right ones for the business. At the end of the day, we are responsible for every single person on the bus and we want to make sure we get them safely to our destination.

If we need to take another route, we do. Honesty and integrity will gain you the trust and loyalty of your employees time and time again.

Decide How to Get There

Once you develop your strategic direction, you’ll need to determine the two or three key plays that will support it. Less is more in this case and will help you focus on the right things rather than just throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. Sounds like fun, I know, but in actuality by doing too much you’re doing nothing and your team will not thank you for it.

To figure what those key plays should be, there is some upfront work that needs to be put in. My colleague, Alison Elworthy put it great when she said, “Focus doesn’t just happen. It’s a byproduct of shared vision. And vision comes from talking, sharing, looking at data, and updating assumptions.”

At HubSpot, the leadership team will usually take a few days out of the office to discuss and debate our ideas as a group and decide together what our key plays for the year will be.

In planning your key plays, you should think about things like how to differentiate your company from the competition. Think about the market trends.

  • What kind of company do you want to be in five years?
  • Who will your customer be then?
  • What will they want?
  • What is stopping them from getting what they want right now and how can you provide it for them before someone else does?
  • How can you become a leaner organization?
  • What tools or systems can you implement to be more effective? What can your team do that their peers in other companies are not doing?

This is not just a decision the leadership team makes. You should try to include your employees in this research too. Some of the most innovative ideas at HubSpot have come from our employees.

Every year we run a pitch-off that we call ‘Tuna Tank’ where we invite anyone in the company to pitch an idea. The best one will be funded by the company and given the resources it needs to get rolled out. This involvement in setting our strategic direction makes our employees feel like they are a valued part of our company and that they have a voice which has been instrumental to our growth.

You’ll likely come up with a large list of plays you want to roll out but you need to really practice self discipline here and remember that less is more. Extend your research and dive deeper into the ‘why’ of each play. Why do you really want to do it? Is it the most impactful thing you can do to get your team closer to their destination? If not, add it to the omissions bucket on your MSPOT and consider it again when you re-evaluate next year.

Rating each of your key plays using the PIE model can be helpful to prioritize which ones you should implement.

The PIE model:

Potential How much potential impact could it have
Importance How important is it to the company’s overall strategy?
Ease How easy is it to implement?

You rate each play out of 10 for potential, importance, and ease. Then you get the average of the three scores and choose the projects with the highest overall score to be prioritized.

For example:

Potential 7/10
Importance 4/10
Ease 10/10
Overall PIE Score 7

Track Success

It almost goes without saying that without good visibility you won’t be able to see where you’re going or be able to spot upcoming potholes.

Set aggressive targets on your MSPOT with the idea that you’ll only ever achieve 70% of what you’ve planned for. The idea is that if you’re always hitting your targets, you’re not setting your sights high enough. We borrowed this strategy from Facebook, a company whose growth we really admire here at HubSpot. It’s a harder one to get buy-in for because nobody really likes to miss their targets, but it also holds your team accountable to always push for a higher standard for themselves, the team, and the company.

One thing I recommend you try to avoid is ‘analysis paralysis’. I often speak to managers who spend far too much time crunching numbers instead of figuring out innovative ways to get ahead. Once you know the strategy, reverse engineer the numbers that need to happen in order to for your sales team to overachieve on their targets. Ultimately, if sales are exceeding their targets, that’s when you see growth.

Deciding what metrics to monitor needs to be a collaborative effort between Sales and Marketing. Without the combined efforts from both teams, growth is almost impossible unless you’ve got a ground-breaking product that sells itself!

Make sure both teams are in agreement with the goals and create a service level agreement that you can hold each other accountable to each month.

Below are the KPIs that we look at every day at HubSpot to ensure we’re on track:

KPIs Owned By
Traffic Marketing
Leads Marketing
Lead Quality Marketing
MQLs Marketing & Sales
SQLs Marketing & Sales
Opportunities Marketing & Sales
Sales Activity Against those Opportunities Sales
Expected Value of Opportunities Sales
Net New Customers Marketing & Sales
Upgrade Pipeline Sales
Customer Revenue Retention Marketing & Sales
Customer NPS Marketing & Sales

Making these KPIs and the company’s progress against them visible to the entire company is also going to help you build that trust that will ensure your team follows you wherever you want to take them.

The important thing to remember here though, is that no matter what you decide your key plays are or how you come up with those ideas, they must tie back to the vision, mission, and strategy of the business. You must communicate with your employees to help them see the direction you’re going, the reason why you’re going, as well as why they should want to be a part of it. If you can get all of that right, you’re well on your way to developing a high growth team.


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