Welcome to the fifth installment in our Sales Coach series. This month we’re featuring Nicole Bettan, a sales leader helping people unlock their personalities, connect better, and build clients for life. Nicole is a Founding Partner at IdeaTrek (JNR Ventures), Chief Marketing Officer at Kriddr, Founder and Chief Coach at Boost Sales E.T.C., and Founding Member of the Sales Enablement Society.
Tell me about your journey into sales.
I got into sales right out of college. The first career step I took was into the staffing industry. I worked for Robert Half International. If you can sell in the staffing industry and do the placement side, you can pretty much sell anything. It was great training to learn how to manage expectations. It’s a service-based business and the product is people. It’s not like you’ve got a product that when it’s not working, you send a text. It’s not this thing that works the same everywhere it goes. Your product is people. Learning to manage client expectations was a big part.
You have a lot of sales training experience. Do you think it’s important to do the work of the person that you’re training prior to becoming a manager or trainer?
I’m a big believer that in order to teach something, you have to have been very close to it, if not done it. When I hire people onto a team in sales training or sales enablement, my number one requirement is that they have sold. If you’re going to be working with inside sales reps, you need to have sold in a high volume environment. Otherwise, you don’t have the credibility, the experience, or the instincts to give advice. I’m not saying you can’t teach systems, or teach how a product works, but if you want to tell someone how to overcome objections, you better have done it before.
You have a unique perspective now as someone that invests in SaaS companies. What do you look for in the sales development function and process for any potential new investments?
The companies we’re talking to don’t have large teams yet. What I hope to see within the company is, first, a plan to bring people in; additionally, I’m a really big believer that the leader of any of these teams is just as active selling as anyone focusing on the top of the funnel. They need to be doing the work as much as the people they hire to do it.
Right now, I’m a CEO of a new company, and I’m selling just as much as everyone else. Everyone gets their hands dirty in everything. Additionally, I look at the DNA of someone. I want people that are extremely curious – the type of person that, if they couldn’t figure something out at work, they’ll look it up on the train home.
You’re also a CMO, which means you probably get sold to a lot! What’s the most successful thing a sales rep can do to catch your eye?
I answer my phone as much as I can. When you’re not in an active selling role, you never want to be so far removed from the people who are responsible for your revenue. You need to know what they’re saying. I pick up the phone and I take demos because I want to see what are people doing today differently from before.
One secret for getting to a buyer: when people connect with me on LinkedIn or send me a cold email, they’re ready to meet and want 15 minutes on my calendar. I respond, “How can I help you?”
When they reply with the marketing speak they were given to pitch, I often don’t understand what they’re talking about. If you’re speaking marketing to me, I reply back and say, “What exactly do you do?”
The best reaction is somebody laughing, or responding with humor. If someone can laugh at themselves, I’ll take the call. I like to see personality come through. Humor and personality are so important. You have to have some fun doing it.
What recommendations do you have for continuous training a sales rep can do on their own to improve their performance?
The number one thing is, if it isn’t working, stop doing it. Start by knowing your expectations. If you know everyone across your company is getting 20% reply rates on emails, but you’re getting 15%, you need to find out why.
Also, very often people declare something as “not working,” or that it sucks. I’ll give someone advice one-on-one, and the first time they try it, the prospect yells at them. Then they tell me it doesn’t work. One person, one conversation, one demo does not make a data set. Getting hung up once or twice is not a big enough sample size to prove that cold calling is dead.
Finally, advice that was given to me by my then CEO at Robert Half was, “If you’re not uncomfortable every day, you’re not doing it right.”
You have to be trying and doing new things all the time. Unless you’re 200% past your quota, fine, you can go do the same thing every day.
What advice do you give to SDR Managers about training their staff and keeping them on point, fresh, and motivated?
I don’t like when people call out others. First, we’re dealing with a population of salespeople that are relatively new to their jobs. It’s management by fear. Second – just because someone doesn’t understand their sales process or product, doesn’t mean it’s a bad product. That’s a salesperson who needs to be trained.
I don’t have the silver bullet answer, but I can tell you what I’ve done and what I’ve seen work. Yes, the job is tedious, but if it’s so tedious that you’re bored, chances are there’s more you can do to make it interesting. When management acknowledges the job can be tedious, SDRs feel have an ally.
You need to make sure you’re providing the information or tools to make it interesting. Instead of mass mailing, and setting up sequences and cadences, and doing system setup, make it interesting. Arm them with the tools they need to find better information. Get them a service that can help them personalize their connection. Make the job fun for them, or they’ll go find a job somewhere else.
Thanks so much for your time, Nicole! That’s it for this time, folks. Check back next month when we interview yet another sales leader.