How To Build Rapport and Earn Trust (with HubSpot’s Kim Walsh)

Trust isn't something that is easy to come by in the sales process, but when it's established, it's the key to your team closing more deals. Kim Walsh, VP of HubSpot shares her experience as a senior leader on the importance of building trust - both as a core value in selling and leadership.

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MK: [00:00:00] Welcome to another episode of office hours, where am super stoked about this week’s guest today. We are going to be learning what, companies can do when working, in the enterprise space that they can learn from the startups space on today. To tell us all about what’s happening under the hood in partnerships and out there in the ecosystem is Kim Walsh, who was the VP of HubSpot for X, which will talk a little bit more about what we mean by that. And just a second, but before we talk about her nine to five and all that stuff, Kim, tell us more about your five to nine.

Kim: [00:00:36] My five to nine. wait, what do you want me to just say around five to nine?

MK: [00:00:41] So like the things that you do when it’s not, when you’re not working, like if work is from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, what do you do from 5:00 PM to 9:00 AM?

Kim: [00:00:53] Well, prior to a year ago, I used to do a lot of things around, hanging out with [00:01:00] friends or, you know, sort of doing things. For me, or with my partner. And now what I do, my five to nine is very much taken up, by my two twins, Christian and Emerson. So five o’clock is early bird dinner, special, and seven o’clock is bedtime.
And, I’m probably in bed these days by nine o’clock. So my five to nine is very structured. and sometimes we get away, which I think is pretty healthy, but, it’s filled with a lot of love and, you know, it’s been amazing. So I have two twins, one boy, one girl, and they are just over a year old. So

MK: [00:01:39] On that blue plate special, that happens around five, but we like past the pureed peas phase, we’re into the solid foods like we’re trying and cool new things.

Kim: [00:01:47] Yeah, they love everything nice.

MK: [00:01:49] And they’re not quite walking yet, right?

Kim: [00:01:52] Ones further along than the other, but

MK: [00:01:55] A little competition already in the [00:02:00] fam. So you and I met many, many moons ago when we both were on our corporate team at HubSpot, but you’ve had a really interesting journey in the sales space.
Walk us through your career progression and how you found yourself. being a part of the team that HubSpot, and then after that, we’ll talk more about what ha all the amazing success you’ve had.

Kim: [00:02:22] Sure. Well, I was like to say, I identify as being Canadian, so I’m from Canada, I’m Canadian. I came to the U S to go to school and to play soccer a long time ago and stayed, and just feel really lucky, you know, the energy and the entrepreneurship and. The ambition, really brought me and attracted me to the U S so I’ve just had a lot of fun since I’ve been here.
And for me, I, after school, I went into footwear, and was a third employee. So started with my entrepreneurial journey there, grew that up and it was a fun ride, 2008, 2009 hit. And we had to shut the doors. And I started a marketing agency, which still exists today, [00:03:00] with a friend. And, then that led me to HubSpot.
So I joined HubSpot in 2010. I’ve been there for 10 years and I joined, as an individual contributor. And basically just raise my hand anytime there was an experiment or something that, you know, they ask someone if they want it to take on a little bit more and, and try and. You know, make something of something.
So that was really what kind of, if I look back at my journey, it’s always been a little bit of entrepreneurial, a little bit of risk taking and, you know, just try to do something and help other people at the same time,

MK: [00:03:38] And risk taking, it’s huge to upper your life and move to the U S and forge a new path here. So that risk-taking, and also with having to start out on your own too, has given you that entrepreneurial spirit and giving you that due North, that direction of, you know, like building your own destiny.

Kim: [00:03:56] Yeah. I mean, it’s, it was interesting. I mean, [00:04:00] I definitely understand some people’s immigration story, you know, it took me 15 years to get a green card. Thank you, HubSpot. but you know, definitely, bigs story there, but I won’t, we won’t go into too many of those details, but, yeah, it’s not easy to come to another country. I live and work, but I managed to find a way, so yeah, it’s all worked out.

MK: [00:04:20] Well, with 10 years at HubSpot, also a permanent residency here in the U S like a lot of really important and significant things have happened in your personal life, as well as your professional life through and with HubSpot. But with 10 years under your belt of the company, you’ve seen HubSpot grow through so many iterations and phases of scale.
Is there one particular phase that you remember good, bad or otherwise, of scale that you went through and experienced with the team at HubSpot?

Kim: [00:04:48] Yeah. I mean, I think I’m pretty fortunate to be at HubSpot for 10 years. I feel like I’ve worked at, you know, maybe three or four different companies inside those 10 years.
And if I look back at, you know, when was the most fun, [00:05:00] like I think for, you know, Brian and Dharmesh and T co-founders of HubSpot always has had a really big ambition and really big dream that I’ve been attracted to that still exists today. And I think once when we IPO, like lot of companies think about that as you know, like a piece that you would like a stake in the ground, or you, you know, you crossed a finish line. And I, when I look back that was six years ago and I think that’s really one HubSpot just got started. so it was like pretty scrappy in the beginning. You know, it was, it was fun. But I think when I look back, for some reason when I’ve enjoyed it, the most is really, you know, after the IPO, like once we really started to become more of.
You know, just, a marketing company and a marketing platform, you know, really to become this whole platform and ecosystem. It’s, multi-dimensional, it’s complex, but simple at the same time. And I think that the work is just ambitious and challenging and, you know, you can never really sit back on your laurels.

It’s always just like, what can we do? To find new ways to go to market, to enter into new spaces, to build more partnerships, to drive incremental revenue for the business, and you’ll do it in an impactful way. Right? So that’s what HubSpot for X is. The X stands for, you know, a lot of different things. And when we, what we started as building HubSpot for startups, and we’re going to evolve it to, you know, HubSpot for nonprofits and HubSpot for strategic partners and.

You know, kind of really built this product inside of HubSpot that we can use and expand around our go to market engine. so yeah, it’s been a lot of fun and it seems like things are still just kind of early in it. So it seems like it’s, there’s a lot to do still, which is pretty exciting.

MK: [00:06:46] I mean, not many people can say that after 10 years of working in a company that there’s still runway left.
So that’s for sure. Remarkable. And, and one thing that I want to hone in on is you said you feel like you’ve had a multiple jobs inside of this job that you’ve [00:07:00] had at HubSpot. Can you illuminate a little bit more about that? And let’s dive into like what those jobs have looked like and any similarities that we see inside of those jobs?

Kim: [00:07:09] Sure. So, I mean, I started as an individual contributor and prior to me being an individual contributor at HubSpot, I was a director of sales and marketing in the footwork company. So I had taken a couple of steps back, right. Careers are not up until the right. And I’m taking a couple steps back to, to come to HubSpot and.

For me being an individual contributor was never really fulfilling. Right? Like, as you think about your life journey around being fulfilled, it never really was fulfilling for me. I felt like I could put myself on a recorder and just do my job. And that was just, you know, I kind of got a little bored. I was doing a bunch of things on my five to nine around like, you know, entrepreneurial journeys, building apps and trying to do something.

Yeah. and then what I, I was off, I guess, what I was kind of asked to do, but kind of raised my hand was said, you know, In pass and footwear, I’d sold to, you know, Amazon, Zappos, QVC, a bunch of like, you know, enterprise sales and I enjoyed more of a complex sale. So I’m, I wanted to go up market. it was new.

We didn’t really have any in-house counsel at the time. And it was like, okay. Yeah, you can go try and bring on some big logos and go up market, good luck. and then ended up getting some traction and we sold to divisions within larger companies. And from there it’s really evolved and expanded. You know, now we have a whole global segment.
so I did that for four years. A lot of people kind of came and went along the way. So I think being patient and persistence has paid off there. So that’s worked really well for HubSpot over time. And then for me, I wanted to build and broaden my skillset, outside of sales leadership. So, you know, Tons of experience with sales leadership.

And I wanted to see other sides of the business and broaden my skillset around marketing, around product, around customer success, you know, around partnerships and BD and all, almost staying very close to being a revenue driver. Cause that’s, you know, I really [00:09:00] just like that. It’s a lot of fun to help companies and to help people.

And yeah, that’s really what it’s looked like. So I just kind of raised my hand and tried to do a bunch of things and also let it know I would let it be known that I wanted to do more. and I wanted to build a, I broadened my skillsets. so thankfully. You know, I had leaders that were able to give me the opportunity and took a chance.

And then I think inside of HubSpot specifically, when you try and take on a risk and do an entrepreneurial journey, if it works out, you know, it tends to be rewarding on a pretty fast timeframe. So, you know, my group has grown really fast and we’ve been able to build a really great team around it and got a lot of support from hotspots.

MK: [00:09:43] You know there’s such an interesting similarity between the work that you were doing to evangelize and sell HubSpot externally, and also sell internally the vision that you had for pioneering initiatives that were kind of a new frontier for HubSpot. You know, as I look at both [00:10:00] of these. Underneath selling externally, trying to sell the vision, trying to sell the value, trying to identify and help someone see the future state of what could exist for them.

I’ve heard upping HubSpot, but also having to do that exact same sales motion inside and tell all of your stakeholders, you know, This is what I see the vision for this, like, follow me, trust me on this. Here’s the data to validate this? Like, what do you see as the two underpinning tenants of your success in those two arenas of selling externally and internally?

Kim: [00:10:33] Well, I would say, first of all, it helps when the co-founders, you know, really like what you’re doing. so serving the startup community is one and the entrepreneurial community is one that, you know, to the co-founders of HubSpot is really important. So I would just say, you know, that helps, But outside of that, having bosses that really like you do tend to help and, you know, they’re having, they’re sharing their vision and I can try to execute on their vision is helpful.

But I think for me, you know, in order to do the work and, you know, outside of those conversations, when you sort of go out into the organization both internally and externally, right, we focused on building a brand and to do that, we have to build trust. We have to build trust internally, and you have to build an externally.

So. Yeah. And that’s a lot of it is getting things done via influence, right? Like what are, who is someone who you’re talking to? What are their goals and what are our goals? And do we trust each other? You know, Hey, well, they take a chance on something that’s, you know, a little bit early on and can we grow it?

And do you see the path? And. You know, can you take a leap of faith with us and that’s really all about trust. So, you know, there was a growth product group that I remember, we kind of hacked together a vision of what we wanted and, you know, there was an individual over there, Chris Miller, who said, you know, I see what Kim sees and we trust her and let’s, you know, let’s help her build it.
And that today is like a really important piece of what we do are really the most important piece. So without trust and without influence and [00:12:00] without collaboration. You know, we definitely couldn’t have built what we built, and helped startups, right. And serve them. And I think, you know, we look at ourselves and our team looks at ourselves as our mission is to help serve millions of startups and help them grow, you know, largely by giving them a price reduction or a price advantage or a scholarship or discount on HubSpot.
Because that’s the thing that they couldn’t, you know, they couldn’t afford HubSpot. So we see ourselves as largely making sure we’re championing our community and our ecosystem to make sure that, you know, we’re getting the buy-in from all parts of HubSpot that we’re growing and helping this ecosystem.

So, you know, it’s a little bit of. Being a lobbyist at times, but again, you can be a lobbyist and build trust when, when the vision makes sense and it’s aligned with the organization’s mission. So, you know, I feel fortunate to be able to do it, but yeah, it’s been, it’s been interesting.

MK: [00:12:56] I will say it’s the first time. I think I’ve heard lobbyist and trust be used [00:13:00] in the same sentence as one another, but we’ll, we’ll, we’ll talk about that one and maybe another episode, but like trust trust in selling trust in internal selling stakeholder management, that’s a really amorphous.term, when you think about getting to that time to trust, when we call it the T T T, triple T here, how do you go about establishing or expediting that time to trust in the folks that you’re working with?

Kim: [00:13:26] Yeah, for me, it’s kind of existed as like a little bit of a mental framework. that’s authentic to me. and so I really enjoy being curious around learning two things. Right. One is personal pain. And two is business pains. So I think it’s easy to feel trust if you’re coming at it from an authentic place around, you know, anytime you’re building something or selling something, you know, the person on the other end, if you can talk to them and say, okay, well, you know, what are you going through?

Because at the end of the day, everyone’s a user everyone’s, you know, you’re selling to an individual. [00:14:00] And then also that individual is a member of company. So. I just think digging into the personal pain and business pain, is really helpful. And I’m covering at the end of the day, how you are going to help the person.

In their role or at their company, and how you’re going to help the company. you know, so hopefully your product or service is valuable in that way, but if it is, and you dig into both personal and business pain, and you’re naturally genuinely curious about it and you want to help at the end of the day, I think, you know, I think that’s how you build trust and, essentially are like really effective in, in the role as either a seller or a builder.

MK: [00:14:42] And you used a term that really struck me, which is authenticity. Like consumers today are so much more educated, so much more informed and so much more aware of what is disingenuous and what is authentic as you’ve led teams. Now you’ve pioneered new frontiers for HubSpot. How do you coach [00:15:00] your teams to leave with that authenticity and then do it at scale?
Because it’s hard to replicate behavior, especially new contract contributors to your team. and then scale that over time.

Kim: [00:15:12] I think transparency matters. I think being able to, you know, build rapport with people around, you know, are you naturally curious, are you asking good questions? Right. I think like the credibility is in the type of the question that you asked for someone, or ask that you ask to someone and. I think that drives a lot of it, right? Like if you’re a leader of people and you’re genuinely curious on like how you’re going to help people and you ask them the right questions and you’re there to help guide them. and you’re transparent with them and you’re honest with them and. You know, you’re just bought into their success.

I think that’s, you know, that’s very similar skill sets to being a seller or being a builder or growing a business, you know, all those things combined. The other thing is like, if you can do that in an authentic way and people trust you, [00:16:00] I think at the end of the day, if you look at your career, like, are people rooting for you?

Are they happy for you and your business when you’re successful? Or, you know, are they not? And I think. That’s been interesting at times, you know, I’ve been on both sides, and you got to learn and grow. You know, sometimes there’s a really good feedback that comes, that maybe you’re not doing something right.

Or maybe saying something the right way, right. Words matter. And maybe. You know, feedback is amazing to get along the way, because it allows you to take some steps back in order to take some steps forward. So just like feedback, transparency, building trust, you know, all those things. I think while it’s like, they’re sort of intangible.

And at times it’s, you know, you can run things, very metric driven or very goal oriented. but it’s really the things outside of the metrics and the goals that get everyone on the same train.

MK: [00:16:50] I think that’s so well put, oftentimes we take a very binary approach in sales. You look at input and output only, and there’s so much nuance in what [00:17:00] makes for an effective selling today and that nuances and authenticity and in trust. if you’re a hiring manager and you’re looking to build a team that knows how to build that trust and knows how to be authentic.

You know, what do you look for in building the team of directors of individual contributors around you to have that DNA, that culture in sales of trust and authenticity?

Kim: [00:17:25] I think that’s a good question.
I mean, I don’t think there’s a silver bullet out there. Right. I think it’s more around, you know, what works for the culture of your organization and, you know, what are some sort of like, what are they, what is your culture? Like? What is the key principles? What are your non-negotiables? And like do people. sorta fall into that. And like what type of leader are you looking for? Like a director? Can they be strategic as well as lead people and manage tasks?

Right. I think that’s a really important thing. is it a first-line manager you’re hiring, which is our, if it is right, that first line manager is really the most important. holds the most important [00:18:00] relationship between, you know, director level and above, which is often seen as senior leadership and frontline, you know, individual eyes leaders on the ground. So that front line leaders is really important. and you know, sometimes I think if it’s a first time frontline leader, or if it’s an experienced frontline leader, really digging into the why, like why do they want to be in leadership?

You know, A lot of different angles you can take in a career. So I think the frontline leadership one is really important. And then I think like a step up from that, like a director level role is really important around solving. So they pick their head up at 40,000 feet and they go pretty detailed, to make sure it can, they, you know, we’ll mix people around them with a focus, keeps you in, right?

Like so many things are coming in. You can you take something that’s really messy and simplify it, right? Like, can you pass down the clarification? So communication, I think even in a distributed world or remote world where we’re all living in today, like communication is so important because without communication, you can’t have organizational alignment and, you know, a strategy is one thing, but on alignment is key.

So like how all that happens inside. I mean, I’m not an expert in it. I’m just sharing with you what I’ve noticed a lot of years, that matter. And I think what you can look for, you know, in terms of hiring. Individual contributors. There’s a, I think curiosity is, is a really big one. Right? It leads you down this interesting path of what are you interested in?

What do you do on your five to nine? You know, like what’s outside of work because at the end of the day, you know, are you an interesting person? and do you have interest in yourself or, you know, work’s not everything, right? It’s, it’s a big piece of what we do, but there’s. As you guys are, you know, really getting into, which I think is great.

Is there is this whole other element to like, who are you as a person? And can you bring your personality and who you are as a person work? you know, that’s, that’s important today. so I think it, I don’t know, I just had a lot there, but I think it all kind of rolls into. [00:20:00] To one,

MK: [00:20:01] I think you beautifully articulated what is so hard for leadership. And we see this a lot. When we talk about sales, leadership is the fact that, you know, your work isn’t everything. And most sales leaders don’t get that fully. Yet. Most sales leaders don’t understand the impact of. Allowing someone to bring their whole selves to work the five to nine and the nine to five have a place.
And quite frankly, we’re all living in our five to nines. And our nine to fives are very much integrated in one place. And I think you’ve very beautifully articulated what leaders can do to foster a sense of alignment. Through communication in particular. but lead by example, to show what it means to be authentic, you have to be authentic and hold yourself to that high level of standard so that your teams can replicate those behaviors and put those behaviors out there.

What you, how you act internally is how they will act externally as well. Prospecting customer facing.

Kim: [00:21:00] Yeah, absolutely. There’s also one thing that I think just in terms of tactics, like if, if you are a leader, You know, when you get into a one-on-one. I just wonder, like, are you doing, are you starting with your agenda or are you being a good listener and starting that one-on-one at whatever level you are in the organization, like, are you starting your one-on-one with their agenda or with your agenda?

Like just little things like that. I think you gotta be a good listener and you got to make sure that. You know, you’re listening to the people and you’re giving them the space. So I dunno if there’s anyone out there listening, but that’s just one little thing that I try and make sure I always do, but I’m not perfect at it, but it’s, I’ve worked for some really great leaders and ones that I would just say are like really amazing people and really amazing listeners. so that also helps with building trust.

MK: [00:21:55] Now, I’m sure that there’s something to that of, leading by example, in your one-on-ones as an [00:22:00] extension of the behaviors you want to subconsciously imprint on that, even though it is authentic for you to want to lead with them and have that servant leadership mindset. A, you know, a seller has to be a servant leader to their prospect as well. So that skill of listening, of putting that person first and foremost, and using that authenticity to build relationships, build the relate-ability in that, in that relationship and kind of remove the, the friction of a sales process that, that dynamic of it not being a sales process.

I think you’re, you’ve cracked the nut. Like you figured it out. Leaders who lead by example and show people how to be servant leaders and listen more frequently are ones that are making an impact and that extension and beyond and through their team, out into their prospect and customer base.

Kim: [00:22:48] Yeah. I th I mean, I think there’s something there, right?
I think. If one example that really sticks out in my mind of like, probably my favorite day as an individual contributor as a seller was when [00:23:00] the person on the other end, after I had like, given a demo said, well, who can I talk to about like price and who do I talk to when I want to buy. And I was like, Ugh, they don’t see me as, so I was like, well, the answer is me.

it’s pretty cool. And it only ever happened once. And that was the coolest question I ever got because I was like, okay, great. Like you trust me, you just thought of me as someone helping you to the point where you think you need to talk to someone different around like pricing and packaging and how do I get started?

And I was like, Oh, well, I can help you with that. You know, that’s my role too. So that was just, you know, I don’t know if that’s ever happened to anyone out there, but it only ever happened once, but I was like, ah, okay. That’s when I felt like I was like, Oh, that was really cool.

MK: [00:23:42] Yeah. Yeah. So you, you suddenly, the conversation shifted, right?
It wasn’t a set. It wasn’t a selling conversation. Was it a consultation between two friends just kind of brainstorming? he became a trusted advisor in that situation and again, the sale, the close wasn’t, even part of that person’s mindset of [00:24:00] what was happening in the conversation, even though you go full, well, this was going to happen eventually in a relationship.

Kim: [00:24:05] Yeah. I also think that the two things there real quick, like if you can find your why, like, for me, when I was an individual contributor, it wasn’t necessarily the most fulfilling thing to me, but my why when I was selling marketing, what a marketing platform was really around. I love the empowering and helping the VP of marketing, because I knew what it was like to be a VP of sales.

And to think that marketing was just spending a ton of money and driving leads and then, you know, getting, just, not having a seat at the table. So I really enjoyed empowering the marketer. Right. That was my why then I’m Bruno. My why now? Around like HubSpot for startups and HubSpot for X is like, I think startups and entrepreneurs are the most amazing people out there.

Right. Everyone’s sort of. It allows you to be free and it allows freedom. If you can take on a risk and make it successful. And like, I think, you know, that just that ambition, that for me is like, I would, I could talk to those people all day long. Right. It’s just like the coolest thing. It’s not stale. It’s not boring.
It’s energizing, it’s ambitious. It’s, you know, so you gotta find your why. Right. And I think it’d be, find it. And you’re lucky enough to spend time doing it, you know, then the trust piece and the authentic piece. You know, you’re you can’t fake it when you get really excited and people on the other end can feel it.

MK: [00:25:22] You know, you’re, you’re harping in this thing that we, this tagline, we use a lot around our team, which is like care about the person, not the persona. Like you get excited about helping the VP of marketing. Yeah. Have a seat at the table and have a peer to peer conversation with our counterparts and say those three things.

We’re just doing arts and crafts or hanging out with popsicles fix and, you know, pipe cleaners, but like, no, we’re, we’re scientific than anybody gives us credit for. But you enabled that you facilitated that and that for you helped to champion the person who could have a one-to-one conversation with their peers around the table. and you didn’t just think about the persona of like here’s a holistic marketing [00:26:00] automation solution. You got very personal with them.

Kim: [00:26:03] Yeah. Yeah. It was like, what is the biggest challenge was the biggest pain. And like at the end of the day, my goal is to figure out how I can help you solve that and then help the company solve it.

MK: [00:26:13] Yeah, I think it’s so well, put Kim, you have had so many different things to offer in today’s conversation.

I’m going to try to synthesize and summarize this. the first is when you are going through and trying to position value, the, the first thing that you need to do is build that trust and trust starts with the authenticity of which you are approaching a conversation. Now to get authentic, you
have to be a really good listener. And use those listening skills to get to the why, get to understanding what motivates that person and understand what intrinsically will help, overcome any obstacles they have as people not as holistic personas. Did I miss anything in that?

Kim: [00:26:59] The only thing I would say is we’re all always a work in progress.
So having either a growth mindset or an infinite, incident mindset, not a fixed mindset, I think helps, you know, like I am definitely no expert. I’m just passing along a lot of information. A bunch of people passed me, so hopefully it’s helpful, but you know, I was just trying to think about like, You know, how can we get better?

How can we always be a work in progress? And if you have that mindset, I think like sales or building, or joining a company that has ambitious goals, you tend to find yourself in the right spot.

MK: [00:27:32] Yeah. I mean, you nailed what we’re doing here at office hours, right? Like, Everything that I have learned.
I’ve learned through people sharing their experiences through me, and I’ve made my own iteration of that, that their shared experience in that, but like real learning doesn’t it always happened in the classroom. It can, but the relearning happens when you surround yourself with folks were super smart, super talented, and you’ve turned their low learnings into growth opportunities for yourself.

So, yeah. Thank you [00:28:00] for sharing that knowledge and for doing it at me here on office hours, it was such a pleasure to get to reconnect with you, but also get to learn from you yet. Again.

Kim: [00:28:07] Sounds great. Thank you very much for having me. Okay. I’m doing that.

MK: [00:28:11] Of course. We’ll have you on for another episode, I’m sure.


November 18, 2020
Team Alyce
Team Alyce