This is our interview with Nick Beil, COO at Narrative Science. You can follow Narrative Science at @narrativesci.
Sales Assembly: Give us your quick background in sales.
Nick: I have 20+ years of sales leadership/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.
Sales Assembly: What's your biggest accomplishment in sales or sales leadership?
Nick: Looking back at my sales experience, my two largest accomplishments are developing a team that was part of $0-80M growth over five years (before selling the company) and building teams that act as catalysts for change across digital technologies. These include search advertising (circa 2002), social media (circa 2008), addressable media buying (circa 2010) and AI for Enterprise (circa 2012).
Sales Assembly: What's the best piece of sales advice you ever got?
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.
Sales Assembly: What's 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.
Sales Assembly: Do you currently have a mentor when it comes to sales, or have you ever? If so, what did they teach you?
Nick: Because my sphere of influence spans Customer Success, Marketing, Sales and Business Development (partnerships), I have developed an advisory board that consists of leaders from other industries across those functions. I rely on these advisors to push me to continuously learn new things and stretch my thinking around strategies for growth, talent development and culture.
Sales Assembly: What's 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).
Sales Assembly: Best sales or business related articles, podcasts or newsletters?
Nick: Some of my favorites are the Tim Ferriss, a16z, Making Sense (Sam Harris) and Customer Success (Gainsight) podcasts.
Sales Assembly: What's the best advice you'd 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 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.
Sales Assembly: Do you see any interesting future trends as it pertains 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 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.
Sales Assembly: 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. 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.