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Blog Sales Trends Every Rep Should Know

We recently partnered with Sales Assembly, a community of sales leaders and revenue teams in the greater Chicago area. They interviewed our COO, Nick Beil, for their Fireside Friday series and he gave them his favorite sales advice, what he’s reading, and insight on what’s in store for the industry (hint: data storytelling and a need for operational intelligence accessible across the company). This is an edited version of that interview.

Give us your quick background in Sales.

Nick: I have 20+ years of sales leadership and revenue ownership at the regional, national and global level. This includes general management and CEO leadership experience with a focus on digital technology and enterprise software.

What’s the best piece of sales advice you’ve ever received?

Nick: This quote from General Colin Powell shapes my mindset for sales: ”Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” I believe that sales is a team sport and as a sales producer, the mindset of “it can be done!” is a rallying cry for those you will rely on to push deals across the finish line. This also allows for creative problem solving when deals inevitably go sideways.

What is the biggest challenge facing a sales rep today, and how would you recommend they overcome it?

Nick: The biggest challenge for sales reps today is the constant fight for mindshare and attention. This is not different in the consumer space: we are all distracted all of the time. In order to overcome it, reps need to rely on creativity and warm introductions from their biggest fans to consistently perform year after year. And they need to be adept at storytelling to communicate to customers and internal teams. Their stories must be clear, accurate, and persuasive.

What is the best sales book you’ve ever read? What are you reading now?

Nick: There are a few business books that I love that focus on revenue and operations: High Output Management (Andy Grove), Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable (Seth Godin) and Extreme Ownership (Jocko Willink and Leif Babin). I’m currently reading: Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (Yuval Noah Harari), Poor Charlie’s Almanac (Charlie Munger) and Tools of Titans (Tim Ferriss).

Best sales-related or business-related articles, podcasts, or newsletters?

Nick: Some of my favorite podcasts are The Tim Ferriss Show, Andreesen Horowitz’s a16zMaking Sense by Sam Harris and Gainsight’s Customer Success.

What advice would you give to someone just starting a career in sales?

Nick: Employ a mindset of process thinking where you are focused on the key activities that drive outcomes versus being purely focused on outcomes (e.g., crushing your quota). Dig into the data with your revenue operations team and find the top salespeople who are always delivering on the activities that lead to bookings for your company. Go spend time with each one of them and buy them lunch/beers/etc. to get to know what makes them successful. Then, put your head down, work your ass off and become great at those activities. Believe and trust in the process.

Do you see any interesting future trends as they pertain to sales?

Nick: The modern software company needs to align with a modern approach to acquiring, enabling and retaining customers. This means that sales/marketing/customer success (aka “account management”)/product management and sales and marketing operations must operate in one fluid motion versus the silos of the past.

The value put on acquiring the RIGHT customers that will have a high NPS, engage with the product/service and grow over time is incredibly high for modern SaaS companies. This puts so much functional pressure on the revenue operations of the company, which requires a unified front towards marketing/sales/customer strategies and tactics. I don’t think this is any different for companies operating in services or other industries outside of tech.

What data is needed to ignite conversations between management, marketing, and sales to improve pipeline, bookings, activities, etc.?

Nick: The answer is – less data, more stories. Sales teams are deluged with numbers and data these days, and it’s not giving anyone an edge over the competition. We’re all spending way too much time interpreting numbers and writing up these insights for others. Our team at Narrative Science has absolutely felt this pain and need for storytelling. With our new product, Lexio, which translates business data into plain-English stories, my team and I don’t need to spend precious hours analyzing dashboards and playing with pivot tables in Excel to determine the actions we need to take to drive revenue growth. We just pull up our Lexio stories and share them with one another.

I’m in Lexio every day. It’s given me visibility into the daily activities and trends of our Sales team and they’re now being held accountable more than they ever have been before. It’s catalyzed a constant dialogue between myself, our Marketing team, and our AEs and ISRs about the actions we need to take to improve pipeline, bookings, activities, etc. It’s effectively kicked off our operational intelligence effort – anyone across the company can see what’s happening with our business in real-time. I love it because we’re using this time to take action whereas we used to spend it chasing down numbers in Salesforce or working with our data analyst to build a dashboard.