Nancy Nardin’s Advice on Using Technology to Drive Sales Excellence

I had the pleasure to sit down with Nancy Nardin, Founder and President of Smart Selling Tools, and get her thoughts on how organizations can drive sales excellence. Nancy has an impressive background. She is a thought leader on sales and marketing productivity tools and a highly acclaimed professional with almost 30 years of experience.

Nancy’s expertise gives her a unique perspective on how sales organizations can leverage technology to achieve performance. We also talked about what companies must keep in mind when selecting vendors and the role of sales operations in technology decisions. My favorite part, Nancy shared with us who inspires her and why.

Nancy Nardin

What’s your one advice to sales leaders for using technology to drive sales excellence?

Start with the basics. Don’t over-complicate. Ask yourself three questions:

  • What is keeping us from generating more revenue?
  • What technological options are there for eliminating or neutralizing those barriers?
  • Which options will fit best—in our culture, with our time-frame, with our resources, with our existing technology, with our roadmap?

We’ve created a Hierarchy of Revenue Needs model to help with that. Our report entitled, “Complete 3-Step Guide to Building Your Sales Technology Stack” includes the hierarchy model with checklists that help you decide which barriers are the most important for you to address. And it includes technological options.

You help organizations choose the best sales and marketing technologies. In your experience, what are the top three criteria to keep in mind when selecting a vendor?

  • What are the odds we have the commitment and resources needed to see it through?
  • What are the odds it will do what we want it to do?
  • What are the odds our salespeople will use it?

What role do you think sales operations plays in driving technology decisions? How about their role in sales effectiveness?

It differs from company to company. Sales Ops often perform catch-all duties ranging from processing orders internally, consolidating forecasts, coordinating internal sales meetings and events, running management reports and managing the CRM. On top of that, they’re often asked to evaluate technologies.

In larger companies, one or more people in Sales Ops are responsible for taking a strategic approach when it comes to technology. They have the luxury of stepping back and answering questions that are geared toward improving sales effectiveness. Rather than think about technology from an over-all sales effectiveness strategy, smaller companies are forced to be more reactive to technology opportunities because they’re short on staff.

As you noted, Sales Ops often is a catch-all position with varying degrees of tactical and strategic roles. Do you see sales teams struggle with the disconnect between what they need and what they can successfully accomplish given the maturity or skill set of the sales operations function in their organization?

Yes, there’s often a disconnect not only between what they need and what they can accomplish, often times there’s a disconnect between Sales Ops and Management. The two sides need to get together to create a shared vision that’s supported with the appropriate resources.

Do you see change as a challenge for sales organizations? Specifically, transformational change relating to business drivers like growth by M&A, high growth mode, or highly volatile/competitive industries.

Of course. In this scenario it’s more a matter of keeping up with all the new responsibilities that high growth or M&A growth require, not the least of which is iterating on—and perhaps redefining altogether—the overall strategy. All too often, Sales Ops will find themselves in a constant state of fire-drill mode leaving no time to be strategic.

You are a leader and influencer in your industry. We are curious to find out who influences you and why? 

I like people that are change oriented, that challenge the status quo. I’m a big fan of continuous improvement which—by definition—requires that you’re not only open to change, but in fact seek it.

The nature of how people make decisions, what motivates them, and how to activate change is what excites me. I’m a big fan of Chip & Dan Heath’s books (Decisive, Switch, Made to Stick). I also love Robert Cialdini (Yes! and Influence).

And, one of my all-time favorites, Seth Godin. Humans tend to complicate things. Godin does the opposite. Case in point, go to page 174 of his book, Small Is the New Big, read, “Progress” and see if you can spot why your customers don’t buy, or why sales leaders focus on quota instead of figuring out how much revenue is actually possible. I would say definitely buy the book not the digital version. It’s something you’ll want to flip through. And ignore that it was published in 2006. He deals with truisms and basics which resist the effects of time.

Nancy Nardin is one of the 12 Sales Effectiveness Experts to Follow if You’re in Sales Operations. Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your thoughts and inspiration with our readers!

Leslie Stefanik

Vice President, Digital Marketing

Leslie is a B2B marketing executive focused on tying strategic marketing initiatives to corporate objectives through branding, revenue marketing, and media and analyst relations.

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