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On this week’s Weekly Briefing, Jim Benton was joined by Nancy Nardin. Nancy, among so many other things, is the Founder of Smart Selling Tools. She’s a legend. You may know her from her days at Oracle, or because you’ve heard about her hierarchy of sales.
However you’ve heard of her before, Nancy and Jim discussed a few different data points that Chorus surfaced around the role that tech is playing in transforming sales teams.
But first, they started like most Zoom calls do: Discussing each other’s backgrounds.
Behind Nancy wasn’t a virtual background. It was her actual Hierarchy of Sales.
“Starting from the left are the tools that help you understand who to sell to and why,” she said. “Then it moves over to the right, which are tools that are all about how to get those people to engage.”
It’s an impressive hierarchy. There are over 600 logos. Which says something about the way that sales has become a tech-first industry. If you look at it from left to right, you can start to see which tools you would use and how to use them.
Everyone is doing 10 jobs. Sellers are having to reach out more than before, they’re following up, they’re adopting new technologies.
Sales Tech Adoption
Looking back to March compared to what we saw in September, SaaS meeting volume has gone both up and down but overall has followed a similar trend as other segments.
“This is indicative of people holding their ground and not letting up,” said Nancy.
When asked if she was surprised, she paused.
“Not really surprised,” she said. “Everyone is doing 10 jobs. Sellers are having to reach out more than before, they’re following up, they’re adopting new technologies. Everyone is doubling down, and because of that it’s helping the industry as a whole.”
There’s no surprise - especially to Nancy - that tech is having its moment.
When asked what her “ah-ha!” moment was, she jumped at the chance to share her excitement about the sales industry wholeheartedly jumping on the tech bandwagon.
“It’s finally here,” she said. “People are finally recognizing that sales tech goes way beyond CRM. If all you have is CRM you are not keeping up. Companies are embracing digital whereas 8 or 9 months ago they weren’t as open to it as they are now.”
Team Selling: Bringing in the Cavalry
More sellers are joining the meetings of other sellers - especially since January. This signals more than just a process change. This is a culture shift.
Whereas teams were comfortable working silos, with rigid handoff processes and procedures, we’re now seeing that teams are lock-and-step at each stage of the sales cycle.
“CSMs are joining AEs on more of their calls,” said Jim. “We’re in a new era of sellers and CSMs working together, which is where we always wanted to be.”
And leadership is continuously being pulled in. “It’s incredible to see the amount of leadership being on the ground with their teams,” he added.
The biggest question facing leadership currently? Simple: How do I move the needle on my team’s deals?
Nancy shared that she is hearing this from leaders she meets with at every turn. “They are all asking: What can I do as a leader to help move the needle? It’s one thing to get meetings, it’s another to turn those meetings into real opportunities.”
And the way to move the needle? Bring in the team.
“It’s more possible to involve more people because we’re digital now,” she said. “So if you’re not involving the right people, you need to set up a process to systemize bringing in key stakeholders from across the organization.”
The Weekly Briefing
Hitting quota is a lagging indicator. So as a leader, I have to use technology to identify leading indicators that can help determine if I’m on the right track.
Pick Your Battles
Another obstacle leaders continue to face is the sheer amount of problems to solve.
To Nancy, there’s an optimistic bend to this overwhelming issue.
“There are just as many problems as there are solutions to solve them. In sales, there are four key objectives: Sell more, in less time, at the right price, while lowering costs. I call these the Four Golden Goals.”
The biggest one, of course, is how to sell more. “What they’re really asking is: How do I hit quota? Because they may not know if they will. Which, let’s face it, [that uncertainty] happens all the time.”
It’s about using tech to help you test the water, and correct the course if you need to.
“Hitting quota is a lagging indicator,” she added. “So as a leader, I have to use technology to identify leading indicators that can help determine if I’m on the right track."
I often ask sales leaders: Are you doing this because it helps you, or because it helps your sales reps? If you’re not considering what will help your sellers, you are actually dis-enabling them.
There are plenty of examples of leaders being less of a help and more of a hindrance. Jim mentioned that he once heard the phrase “Sales Dis-Enablement” to describe the way a leader thought they were helping their sellers, but fell massively short and could actually create more friction for the team.
When asked if she has heard similar concerns, Nancy laughed: “Well, this is Sales Enablement week. And I’d hate to think that there was a Sales Dis-Enablement week, but the term is valid to some degree.”
“I often ask sales leaders: Are you doing this because it helps you, or because it helps your sales reps? If you’re not considering what will help your sellers, you are actually dis-enabling them.
I know when I was a seller, I had to really focus and buckle down and make a lot of calls. But you can’t expect that that’s going to be enough for salespeople today.”
Get the Deck
There’s a need for more human moments in sales.
“It’s not about huge behavior changes,” said Jim. “It’s about products that don’t require a ton of adoption to make a real change, they just make you better. I see us in the business of relationships, and how we make connections and conversations better. In general, how do we make sure we’re enabling sales reps to be human and bring their best into every interaction.”
Nancy agreed, and she took it one step further to add that while Sales is innovating and adopting tech, Marketing is as well - and they’re finding that they need to be more integrated with Sales.
“Marketing is realizing that they have to go beyond demand gen and go into opportunity gen,” she said. “As a seller, if these are still below average emails being sent - it doesn’t matter if you’re just sending more of them.”
Jim asked Nancy if she has strong feelings about where the outbound motion should live. “Are SDRs better fit under Sales or Marketing?” Jim asked.
“SDRs are shifting more and more under marketing,” said Nancy. “SDRs were the first group under sales to adopt tech generally. But the budget for these tools has come from marketing because it’s top of the funnel, so there’s a lot of alignment and commonality there.”
“This is why we’re hearing about Revenue Enablement versus Sales Enablement,” said Jim. Because marketing and sales are closer than we think.
This is what sales leaders need to consider: Does the numbers game work like it used to, or should we think about how to be more effective. And - ultimately - how can tech help us get there.
To hear their stories, watch the episode
Overall Sales Trends
When looking at these data points, Nancy reflected on the teachings of Dr. Howard Dover at UTD.
“He talks about what’s happening in sales now is similar to what happened during the Dust Bowl,” Nancy said. “We’re getting lower yields from our work so we continue to add more productivity. We have more salespeople producing a lot of volume but the yield is going down.
This is what sales leaders need to consider: Does the numbers game work like it used to, or should we think about how to be more effective.”
And - ultimately - how can tech help us get there.
“We’ve gone into human-enabled tech,” said Jim, “and we need to become tech-enabled humans. I’m expecting to see massive changes as an industry. We need to get the conviction and heart to solve real problems back in the conversation.”