"Certainly, every company should have the big 4"

Veronika Traublinger
August 24, 2020

Check out the interview Nancy Nardin as we talk about sales tech, AI in sales, and how to stay up to date in the growing sales tool market.

If you're working in sales, you should have heard about Nancy Nardin, one of the greatest sales tech experts in today's world.

Nancy's been a salesperson since the early '80s, when she sold for the world's first laptop computer manufacturer, GRiD Systems, in Silicon Valley. During her 30 year career, she's provided sales leadership at some of the most well-known analyst firms. In 2008, she launched Smart Selling Tools to track Sales Technology trends.

Having created the widely recognized "Nancy Nardin's SalesTech Landscape," a graphic of the entire sales technology market, Nancy has been recognized in Forbes, Crunchbase and LinkedIn, and has won numerous top industry sales thought leadership awards.

We were lucky to chat with Nancy about her ideas and expertise. Read on to learn more about sales technology, AI in sales, and how to stay up to date in the fast-growing sales tool market.

What inspired you to found Smart Selling Tools?

I’ve always had an interest in technology. My first job was selling the TRS-80 computer at one of the first Radio Shack Computer centers in 1981. From there, I moved to Silicon Valley to be a Sales Rep for the GRiD Systems, a start-up that created the world’s first laptop computer. I laugh about it today, because we had to tell people why they might want to take their computer with them. Of course, there wasn’t much in the way of software, so we created a digital slide show program for salespeople to use on their laptop. My belief is that the advent of mobile computing is what led to the sales software industry starting with CRM. Long story short, I later sold consulting services for analyst firms including Gartner and IDC. When it came time for me to strike out on my own, I took my passion for sales technology and my understanding of the analyst world and created the first company to track the SalesTech, or sales software space.

I lately saw a graphic showing how the Marketing Technology landscape evolved over the past few years. The number of tools has grown from 150 to over 7,000 from 2011 to 2019.
For Sales Tech, it doesn't look that much different. Hundreds of new tools and some completely new sales software categories are evolving every year.
How can a non-expert keep an overview of what is in the market and what tools are relevant?

I suggest that people don’t try to keep track of it all. Instead, they should think about the problems they want to solve. What’s getting in the way of selling more, in less time, at the right price? Then, do your research to determine which solutions can tackle those problems. In my Nancy Nardin SalesTech Landscape, I’ve grouped solutions into 6 major categories aligned to problems like knowing who to sell to, how to engage, how to quantify value, what to do to close, how to renew/upsell/cross-sell, and how to manage/train/compensate. As an example, if your challenge is that reps aren’t getting to the right prospects, you can simply look to solutions in the “know who to sell to and why” section.

There is a lot of hype on AI, and also many sales tools like to ride this wave. Do you think there are already tools providing "real" AI, and where do you think sales teams can benefit the most of AI now and in the future?

AI is a game-changer for sure. It allows salespeople to do things they otherwise couldn’t do either because of the time required, or because of the complexity. There are well over 100 sales solutions that use some form of AI or machine-learning. I caution readers from seeking out AI solutions since AI is an underlying technology. What really matters is what the solution can do for you. Whether it helps you know the best things to say to a prospect as you’re talking with them, or it serves up the best content based on sales stage or the buyer’s persona, or it automatically creates a to-do list based on conversations or activities, those are all great examples for adding value through AI.

In our interview with Lauren Bailey, Lauren said, "I think in 10 years we won't call it inside sales, we will just call it sales."
And looking at the current development due to the crisis it really seems like digital sales is and will be the number one sales strategy.
Where do you think B2B sales is heading in the next 10 years?

I agree with Lauren except for one detail.  I think we should just call it sales now. It used to be (and still is, in many companies) that inside sales was thought of as an entry-level position. It was a stepping stone to being a “true” salesperson with a territory. Nowadays, inside sales and account/territory sales are simply two different types of selling requiring slightly different skill-sets and passions but they should be equal partners.

Finally, we want to know how the ideal tech stack for every digitally selling company should look like at the moment?

Certainly, every company should have the big 4; a CRM, an online meeting solution, an e-signature solution, and a prospect research solution. An example would be Salesforce, Zoom, DocuSign, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator. There are many other categories of tools vying to be considered essential (and rightly so) such as conversation intelligence solutions like Chorus.ai, conversation optimization solutions like Ciara, sales engagement solutions like Outreach, and sales enablement solutions like Seismic and Bigtincan. The big take-away is that we’ve never before had such a wealth of tools at our disposal to eliminate friction in the sales process. If you’re getting by on the big 4 (or like many, just CRM), you’re not doing enough to help your sellers over the finish line.

Thanks again to Nancy for joining us in discussing these topics! If you have any follow-up questions, or are interested in learning more about Nancy, her sales tech landscape, or Smart Selling Tools connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/nancynardin/