After well over 150 hours of lessons and exams, an intense practical element, and a lot of extra learning, Chris Grant finally completes all the HubSpot certifications.

 It’s been deeply challenging, frustrating at times, and a lot of hard work, but ultimately I’ve found it deeply rewarding, and in doing so I've joined the small group of people around the world who are fully HubSpot certified.

If you haven’t come across HubSpot Academy, it’s the global leader in inbound education, aiming to transform the way people and companies grow through courses, projects, certifications, and software training. Over 60,000 people pass the inbound certification every year, and if you want to learn how to market, sell, and grow your business using the inbound methodology, you should take a look (whether you’re a HubSpot user or not).

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Back in August 2016 I applied for a job at BabelQuest, now one of only five HubSpot Diamond Partners in the UK. I knew the team at BabelQuest lived and breathed HubSpot and inbound. As part of my preparation for the application, I discovered the HubSpot Academy.

Back then I only had a vague idea about inbound so I made a start on the inbound certification to get myself up to speed. I went through the course — a meaty four hours of video — and then took three attempts to pass the exam, having to go back to the video course each time to refresh myself and work out where I was going wrong.

About halfway through the second sitting, everything started to make sense and my curiosity was ignited

I decided there and then that whatever it took, I was going to work my way through all of the certifications available. In that respect, I’m in a privileged position where my employer gives me half a day a week of personal development time to use as I want.

The Academy team didn’t make it easy. They kept on adding new courses and certifications; at one point I felt like someone was monitoring me and adding a new course every time I was nearly there!

Here’s my take on the courses and certifications with an insight into what I learned and why I felt it was so worthwhile.

It started with...

Learning that built on existing foundations

20 years of working in sales meant that for me, the first port of call after passing the inbound certification was anything sales related! There are quite a few:

  • Inbound Sales
  • Developing a Sales Plan
  • Selling Sales Services
  • Delivering Sales Services
  • HubSpot Sales Software

What did I learn?

The biggest single piece of learning for me was to start thinking about sales from the point of view of the buyer. I was able to confidently move to a sales model built on a foundation of understanding the buyer's context and using technology to focus my activity on prospects that were ready to talk. No more awkward cold calls and forcing features and benefits on an unwilling prospect/victim!

I was also lucky enough to go to Dublin for the intensive two-day LIONS Sales Bootcamp with David Weinhaus and Dan Tyre. If you work for a HubSpot Partner agency, I can’t recommend it highly enough! Even if you don’t, you’ll still be able to find them on the Academy courses and read Dan’s new book, The Inbound Organisation.

From the relative comfort of learning more about sales, it was time to move on to...

Learning that took me out of my comfort zone

Going through the sales certifications had really inspired me to change my mindset towards understanding the needs of the customer. The natural next step was to develop a deeper understanding of the world of our customers. This meant I had to learn to use the HubSpot Marketing platform with confidence and develop a much deeper understanding of the key facets of inbound marketing:

  • HubSpot Marketing Software
  • Content Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Contextual Marketing

What did I learn?

Quite simply, I gained a far greater understanding of what the people I was talking to every day were doing, their goals, and the challenges they might come across. I also gained a better grasp of how BabelQuest’s own HubSpot consultants were able to help our clients. As a salesperson, it came down to really understanding how the solutions and services we offered enabled our clients to overcome their challenges and achieve their goals.

I think that today’s salespeople need to be able to offer much more than just a list of benefits and a price. Gaining a deep understanding of the HubSpot Marketing ecosystem through the practical element of the courses allowed me to ‘step into their world’ when speaking with a client and offer practical advice and help on a regular basis.

Learn more about inbound marketing strategy.

Learning to deliver success

With a new level of understanding of the world as seen by my customers and prospects, it was time to learn how to best communicate what our agency has to offer, as well as look after and deliver success for our clients...

  • HubSpot Agency Partner
  • Client Management
  • Delivering Client Success

What did I learn?

These three courses took my understanding up another level. With the previous certifications I had learned to understand my prospects and customers. The Agency Partner course taught me how to understand things from the point of view of my boss and my team.

I was also able to learn how to position and communicate our offering and ensure consistent messaging and communication throughout the sales process.

After all that it was finally time to take the big step...

Learning that took me way out of my comfort zone

So this is where it started getting tough, very tough, extremely tough! I’d made a commitment to myself that I was going to complete all of the certifications, and I wasn’t stopping so close to the line, but the next batch required some serious levels of extra study, learning, and hard work.

  • Growth-Driven Design Agency
  • Growth-Driven Design
  • HubSpot Design

What did I learn?

With the HubSpot design certification it came down to getting a much better understanding of what my colleagues and clients were doing and talking about. A solid understanding of how a HubSpot website fits together and how to design and build web pages and landing pages has been invaluable for me. Art was never one of my strong areas, and I’m not going to be winning any design awards in the near future (or ever!), but I can do the basics now. For example, I’ve been able to design and build a web page to promote my own HubSpot training services.

For the sales side of me, knowing how the COS (Content Optimisation System) tools work has meant I’m able to manage expectations about time scale and complexity. I always used to struggle to understand why it took a long time to design and build a page from scratch, but now I’ve grasped the basics, I’m able to explain the process confidently to clients, communicate accurately with my design colleagues, and manage expectations so that everyone is happy with the end result.

The growth-driven design (GDD) certification was incredibly challenging, but I came out the other side with a solid understanding as well as a desire to apply many of the principles to the Sales services I deliver to our clients. The concept of growth-driven everything is one that really appeals, and the idea that continuous improvement principles can be applied to almost any area of business (and life) is something I will keep with me.

With the hard ones out of the way it was time to dive...

Back into my comfort zone

I’ve delivered training regularly to clients and colleagues throughout my career, so I jumped at the chance to learn how to teach, train, and coach even better via the HubSpot Trainer Certification.

  • HubSpot Trainer Certification

What did I learn?

The real win for me was learning how to engage and teach people with different learning styles. One of the early classes helped me discover that I’m kinaesthetic learner, which helped me realise why I struggle to sit in a chair and listen to someone talking at me for hours. I immediately started tweaking my own training sessions to ensure that there was something that would appeal to all three types of learners.

The course helped me start to think about things I’ve never considered before like preparing the room, communication before and after a training session, and dealing with disruptive students. It’s also left me hungry for more...

The evolution of the HubSpot Academy

I mentioned that the Academy team kept frustrating my attempts to pass all the certifications by launching new ones. It’s worth stressing that this was never a bad thing!

Over the course of my learning, I’ve seen an evolution of the Academy courses from very good to great. The most recent three that I have attempted are more in depth and cohesive that ever before, moving from the concept of inbound marketing and sales towards a focus on the inbound business:

  • Inbound Certification (New)
  • Inbound Marketing Certification
  • Sales Enablement

What did I learn?

Ever more about inbound and inbound marketing, but I’d like to pick out the sales enablement course as the one that I enjoyed the most. In terms of valuable learning, the simple concept that ‘if you have a deep understanding of the job people hire your product or service to do, it will completely transform your business’ was game changing.

Some heartfelt thanks

Something that had stood out throughout my Academy journey has been the incredible willingness of the Academy and the wider HubSpot team to help and inspire. Everyone I have interacted with has been unbelievably responsive and gone out of their way to support my progress.

  • Special thanks go out to Dan Tyre and David Weinhaus for being seriously inspirational, what a partnership!
  • Kyle Jepson for helping me through my sales software practicum, reminding me when it needed renewing and giving me a one-to-one session to dive deep into how technology can supercharge sales and selling.
  • Sarah Phillips for all your help with getting through the trainer certification, especially all the advice about how I could get even better. Not forgetting helping calm my fears when all my certifications disappeared one evening!
  • Mark Kilens for getting me across the final hurdle. When I emailed the head of the Academy asking for help, I didn’t think I’d get a reply so quickly. Thank you!
  • Ben Cotton for general sales enablement chat, being a steady source of new ideas and lots of help along the way.
  • Courtney Sembler, for swiftly helping me put right the small error that was stopping me from getting through my design practicum.
  • Luke Summerfield for your incredible enthusiasm and excitement about GDD.
  • All the other HubSpot Academy Professors for your incredible drive to help people learn.
  • Olivia Kirwan for being a fabulous CAM and helping me keep focused along the way.
  • Rachael Perry for help with the article that was originally going to be about my Academy experiences but ended up being about how we used HubSpot to drive S&M alignment.
  • Becky and Eric Murphy, for letting me (and the team) have a half day a week to spend on personal development and ensuring we are all able to keep learning.
  • Gem Latimer (who got there first!) for adding the competitive element that helped me keep going, and for your knowledge and advice when I got stuck with some of the finer points of using HubSpot.
  • Savio Campitiello for your patience in explaining the basics of web design and answering all my questions.
  • Izzy Witts for a solid dose of HubSpot knowledge and all your help with understanding some of the finer points of HubSpot.

What next?

That’s probably a question for the HubSpot Academy team. Where are you going to take me next? How are you going to challenge me over the next two years? Will another certification be launched before I can finish and edit this article?

I have a feeling the launch of the fabulous-looking HubSpot Service Hub means I’ll be back on the certification trail very soon...

A final thought

For me, what started out as a desire for a load of qualifications turned into an opportunity to develop a unique understanding of my peers, managers, prospects, and clients. It’s been a tough slog, but I feel that I’m in a position to help everyone I work with and add value to every interaction with prospects, clients, and colleagues.

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About the Author

Sales Enablement, Training & CRM Consultant - helping sales teams get better.

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