SalesTechStar Interview with Laura Zwahlen, Chief Revenue Officer at NextRoll

Laura Zwahlen, Chief Revenue Officer at NextRoll talks about the top in-demand B2B sales skills while taking us through the future of salestech and revtech in this catch-up with SalesTechStar:


Hi Laura, thanks for joining us, what are you most looking forward to as NextRoll’s new CRO?

NextRoll is entering one of my favorite stages of company growth, where the days of organic growth are behind them, and they have shifted into a proactive growth mode, leaving significant opportunities to drive efficiency and effectiveness in their current day-to-day work streams. Even during my first two weeks, I’ve seen multiple examples of untapped opportunities to set the organization up for more efficient scale, whether it be how we approach sales and support today, standardization around a common sales vernacular or even simply refining an existing legacy workflow. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces are there. Maybe one or two are hiding under the rug, but they exist. We just need to start moving the pieces in the best-suited direction so they all fit together more seamlessly.

How have you been seeing the role of the typical B2B CRO evolve today?

Over the last 18 months, the pendulum has shifted from “growth above all else” to a much more “profitability first” mindset. As such, CROs have had to adjust their approach and really double down on efficiency and effectiveness to drive productivity metrics.

So many organizations made the error of outrunning their coverage (meaning they hired too quickly) and, as a result, had to make tough calls in the last year. It’s imperative to look at the levers we have as revenue leaders to bolster both areas. Efficiency can often be easier to tackle as it implies removing some of the lower ROI activities (of which there tend to be many) and task saturation from your teams’ day-to-day. Effectiveness can be a longer play as it implies some up-leveling of skills through training or another method.

The best example I have heard to differentiate these two terms is that efficiency can be thought of by imagining two people who are asked to knock on 100 doors. Whoever knocked on all 100 doors first was more efficient. Effectiveness, on the other hand, is all about what those two people say to the person who opens that door. Laser focus on these two areas is critical for growth in this evolving market. We need to get more from less, and one of the best ways we can set our teams up for success is by viewing them as separate areas of opportunity.

Read More: AI Trends Redefining Sales and Marketing in 2024

What about B2B sales needs to change in your view and how can sales leaders (EVPs/CROs/Others) come together in a more structured manner to drive better sales practices?

When I think of a few words that come to my mind about salespeople, the output is not particularly flattering. We are often perceived as pests or an unwelcome annoyance. It doesn’t have to be that way. How we interact with our customers and prospects from the very first interaction sets the tone for that relationship. If done correctly, you can establish equal business stature with your prospects whereby that “seller chases prospect” dynamic is mitigated.

While there are some fantastic sales training programs out there, many revenue leaders are fans of Sandler Selling. What I love so much about this specific training is its focus on establishing that equal business stature. At its forefront is transparency and the art of being tactfully direct. If more sellers in the field adopted even portions of this approach, it would be a game changer for how we are perceived. It would be a more pleasant sales process and deliver a stronger and more predictable result for the revenue team.

According to you, what are some of the top skills every B2B seller across the hierarchy needs to have?

Given strategies and tactics that were effective in years past have lost some relevance, sellers have had to get creative. Those experimenting with different mediums, such as video, and are open to embracing new tactics they are not accustomed to tend to deliver stronger results. One of the most critical skills I look for is a seller who follows a rigorous sales methodology. The actual method matters far less than the rigor around that process. In addition, a seller who embraces a hunting motion versus relying too heavily on marketing is critical.

Far too often, we see organizations over-hire on the sales side, and suddenly, the account executives don’t have enough pipeline coverage. I’ve made the same mistake! What’s surprising, though, is to see how many sellers use the lack of pipeline as an excuse for missing their numbers (while often pointing a finger at marketing). The lack of a pipeline is an explanation, but it’s not an excuse. If you have a gap in the pipeline, go out and fill that gap! While it seems obvious to some, I’ve been consistently surprised in my career to see so many sellers that lack that outbound fire. 

Can you shed light on some of the salestech/revtech that have helped drive your goals and plans over the years?

There is some great tech out there, but no silver bullet. I’ve seen tooling positioned in a manner that purports to solve all our challenges—and that’s not real. While I won’t go into every tool I’ve used, I do have a few favorites, such as Gong and Clari.

The key to revtech is really ensuring the data that sits beneath it is as clean as possible. If you overlay a great tool like Clari on top of bad data, it won’t deliver a result—junk in, junk out. While perfect data isn’t realistic, working on your CRM before rolling out tools is nearly always beneficial. In addition, you often need the support of a solid revenue operations team and enablement support to get the full value of the technology. In a prior role, we did a tooling audit around the $300 million mark and were stunned to see that much of our stack was duplicative. The tools were purchased in siloes, and enablement and adoption were an afterthought.  A lot can be accomplished by centralizing tools in one area and implementing an adoption program.

Read More: SalesTechStar Interview with Will Patterson, Head of New Product Integration at Clari

What are the five things you feel everyone in sales needs to do daily, weekly or monthly to stay ahead of the competition and meet goals?

  1. Follow your competition by setting up news alerts and monitoring LinkedIn. You should always know what is relevant in the space and how companies position themselves.
  2. Have specific calendar blocks for prospecting and DO NOT allow it to be booked over.
  3. Follow your prospects on LinkedIn, news alerts, blogs, podcasts, etc. It’s the best way to get to know what their world looks like which creates relevant opportunities to engage.
  4. Ask for advice. Lean into leaders and ask for feedback. Look at the company’s top performers and lean into them by asking to be mentored. The reality is that you can always learn, and given a changing environment, no one strategy will always be impactful. We must adapt.
  5. Always do a quick call prep AND a quick debrief with your internal stakeholders to ensure everyone is on the same page. It’s remarkable how often we do the prep call but then never debrief. The end result is often internal miscommunication or lack of clarity on the next steps and who owns what.

NextRoll is a marketing technology company delivering products ambitious companies use and rely on to grow their businesses.

Laura Zwahlen is Chief Revenue Officer at NextRoll

Also catch: Episode 199 of The SalesStar Podcast: Top Trends in Modern B2B Marketing with Emily Singer, Head of Marketing at Drift

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