There’s no magic wand when it comes to sales. No secret formula for success, no surefire playbook to close winning deals.
Sales is often looked at as a science, where numbers play a pivotal role in everything from the number of calls booked to the value of the deals closed.
But what if sales pros focused not just on the numbers, but also on all the people involved in the process, from themselves to buyers to their coworkers — yes, even the Marketing team?
There’s no magic wand when it comes to sales. But can you make magic?
Nikki Ivey thinks so.
And it all starts with believing.
Nikki’s no stranger to sales, having worked in the industry for over a decade and holding every role from SDR to CRO. In an appearance on Ashley & Katrine's Infinite Revenue Playlist, she credits what she calls her three themes — mindset, moxie, and magic — for her growth.
Mindset: Luck played a part in her career path, she says, but not without recognizing something pivotal.
“Having access to those lucky opportunities required me to be more open to the idea that good things can happen to me and that I deserve them,” Nikki tells Ashley and Katrine. “Stop telling yourself that you don’t deserve the opportunities that you want.”
Believing you deserve good things is a mindset shift that must happen before anything else.
Moxie: This is a level of gumption and self-belief that’s your responsibility to have, says Nikki. It’s nice if others believe in you too — but you are all you need.
“When you have that belief, that gumption drives you to do things outside your comfort zone,” says Nikki. “And particularly in sales, that’s the assignment a lot of the time.”
Believing in yourself spurs you to take action and do things you might have shied away from, whether that’s applying for a promotion, creating content for other sales pros or your ICP, or pitching for a massive deal.
Magic: When you put that mindset shift and moxie together? Well, that’s when the magic happens.
“The mindset and moxie drove me to start creating content, and the magic happened when that started attracting people who I wanted to link arms with within the sales community,” says Nikki.
She shares different scenarios where sales pros can embrace the mindset shift and moxie to make magic, which took her from SDR to CRO.
Let’s address the elephant in every room right now — generative AI is here, and it’s making a buzz everywhere we turn. But Nikki doesn’t believe we’re as close to the demise of the sales profession as people think, for one solid reason — it lacks humanity.
“We don’t need to compete with AI, we just need to differentiate from it,” says Nikki. “We need to take some of the principles that we've already been practicing in sales to break through and be human and take it a step further.”
Take the permission-based cold call opener (‘Hey, how are, is this a good time?’), which often sounds like a script — because it is — that everyone’s using right now.
“We need to think about different, even more human ways to say that,” says Nikki. “We need to call it out. ‘Yes, this is a sales call, but if we do it right, it doesn't have to feel like one. Are you up for it?’
“It's a subtle difference, and we’re still asking for permission. But it's up to us then as human beings to drop the veneer, break the character, and just actually have conversations.”
The idea of breaking the mold can be frightening, so how do you begin? “Give yourself a break,” says Nikki. “Know that this is something that will take practice and that we’re likely to fail more at it than we want to at first.”
Sales teams often focus on what they’re saying when they should be focusing on prospects instead, says Nikki. Reviewing your sales calls is the perfect place to re-frame how you examine your interactions with buyers.
“We need to listen more closely to every single data point those buyers are giving us in those conversations about what they respond to,” she says. “Dig in as much as you possibly can to what your buyer's processes and habits are relative to how they interact with salespeople.”
Thinking like your buyer also means showing up where they are to listen to them, such as communities they hang out in or webinars for their industry, and paying attention to what kinds of questions they ask.
You don’t have to talk to them while observing if you don’t want to, but it can be both fun and a great way to start a conversation and kickstart a relationship.
Reviewing calls and hanging out where your buyers are can help you learn more about your ICP so you can make your outreach more personal. Nikki says the first time she was on a sales call as a buyer was an eye-opening experience for her.
“It became immediately clear why some of the things we say on sales calls aren’t effective, beyond the science, in a human, emotional way,” she says. “It’s incredibly difficult to do that if your experience with buyers is always just booking meetings with them and that’s all you know about them.”
The best way to get better at something is to practice, and that applies to sales calls and demos too. Nikki recommends practicing with other sales folk inside and outside your company.
This can be terrifying to do for many reasons — sales is competitive, your team mates know when you’ll mess up because they know the product, there’s often one team mate who wants to give you a harder time than any prospect would. But it’s one of those things Nikki says you’re just going to have to do.
“Develop within yourself, and as much as you can among your peers, a culture of active practicing,” says Nikki. “I used to dread it, and I thought if I did it wrong I’ll look weak and dumb. Don’t be afraid.”
That’s stepping outside of your comfort zone at its finest, but absolutely necessary to nail those actual sales calls.
It’s a long-running refrain that sales and marketing don’t get along, but it doesn’t have to be that way. One of the big mindset shifts to get from SDR to CRO is to recognize that revenue isn’t just sales, says Nikki.
“Take a holistic view of every piece of the Go-to-Market function and understand that the interconnectivity is what makes it work,” says Nikki. “They’re your revenue operations, and they don’t happen in silos.”
At different times in her career, Nikki has worked with other teams to create and share resources, engage with people on social media, understand value proposition and positioning, and work on walkthrough and product demo videos.
“I was just interested in all of these different functions. I learned as much as I could about, not just that they're interconnected, but why they're interconnected, and what other parts of the business that touches,” says Nikki.
“I was making these internal relationships with departments that traditionally we’re not supposed to get along with. And it led me to really interesting positions.”
One of these positions? Chief Revenue Officer.
When you leave a company for a new role or ask for a promotion at your existing org, you need to demonstrate your value and why you deserve what you’re asking for.
And if you’re moving on from a role, you’ll lose access to the documentation of the things you did well — something future hiring managers or employers will want to know.
To solve for this, Nikki recommends starting a ‘wow file’ today (yes, today), so that you’re not scrambling at the last minute to get months or years’ worth of information.
What does this entail?
Step 1: Decide what you want to be known for — is it dollars in the pipeline, being an above-and-beyond team mate, a motivational leader, all of the above? These are your goals that you should be able to prove.
Step 2: Every time you hit a goal, document it. This could be a deal won, a kudos from a leader at your org, positive feedback from a buyer, KPIs hit… whatever the goal, store the proof of it someplace.
You can use your wow file to show proof of what you’ve been delivering, what your coworkers are saying about you, and demonstrate alignment to the role you’re applying to. “When you do that, the position you're in when you go to talk about a promotion is not conjecture,” says Nikki. “It’s not just your opinion that you should be promoted.”
Another upside to keeping a wow file? It’s a boost on those days that imposter syndrome kicks in.
“If I'm having a particularly down day, I'm not feeling moxie, and my mindset is taking a beating, I go back and revisit things that customers, leaders, team mates have said to me that make me feel good about myself, and I remember that I'm that person still,” says Nikki.
Be as detailed as you can with your wow file. It’s your responsibility alone not only to advocate for yourself but also to set yourself up with the goods to back up your claims.