SalesTech Star Interview with Nico Beukes, RVP Northern Europe at Yext
Tell us about your journey in the Sales industry. What attracted you to join Yext?
Having been a part of the SaaS Sales industry for many years, I have been fortunate to work for a range of organizations within the AdTech and MarTech industries. These include mid-sized email-marketing organizations to my more recent stint in managing Oracle’s Marketing Cloud business in the UK. I have chosen a career within the Sales industry for the opportunities it presents to work with human capital (people – fundamentally the most important part of any organisation) where you can excite, motivate and inspire not only those within your organization, but also the prospects you meet and who ultimately become your customers.
What really excited me about joining Yext was the opportunity to work with amazing people to help build something new that really resonates with organizations. Having a great product that solves real business needs is one of the main things that drives me in business. This synergy creates the type of momentum that can accelerate careers and expedite learning and development.
How different is Customer Experience/Sales for marketing and sales technology products compared to other technologies, for instance, IT SaaS and Cloud?
I have found that MarTech provides the opportunity to make a fundamental difference to the customer experience of the organisation that you are engaging with. You have the opportunity to get creative, because you are often engaging with marketing and digital teams and this is hugely stimulating.
In my experience, this differs from IT SaaS and Cloud, in that these areas are often backend services which are solving an internal problem or process.
How do you differentiate—Customer Success vs. Customer Experience? How have these definitions changed in the past 5 years with personalization?
Customer Success can be defined as the extent to which your customers have adopted your technology, and how your customer-focused teams have enabled/inspired them to use the product to a reasonable capacity to achieve success. We help organisations understand how they can benefit from Yext throughout the sales process and once they become customers, our Customer Success team ensures they are able to use our technology to achieve results within their own ecosystems.
Our customer-facing teams deliver a highly personalised and hands-on experience to our clients. The more we can understand the individual challenges that they face, the more effective we can be in solving them.
How did Oracle and Emarsys prepare you for the current role at Yext?
Oracle is a very complex and large organization, where I learned a lot about navigating the expectations and requirements of internal stakeholders/processes in order to get the best results. Working for a large organisation provides an on-the-job experience that is hard to find anywhere else. Smaller organizations like Emarsys, which focus on selling a solution for a very specific problem, allow more flexibility so that you can operate at pace and with creativity.
Yext is growing very fast but it retains that “start-up” feel that allows us to move at pace and be agile when we make decisions. Too many internal rules and regulations stop speed and creativity, and I am pleased to say that we are running a very lean and optimised machine at Yext.
Which sales technology tools would you identify as most-disruptive in the current landscape?
Collaboration across an organization is absolutely critical. Not just within the sales team, but also across different teams and regions. Knowledge transfer helps drive enthusiasm and better results. We use Slack as an easy and very accessible way to connect our different groups. Slack’s features and functionalities allow us to work at pace and always be up-to-date with the information we need to ensure success across hundreds of engagements.
How do you enable your customers to benefit from your expertise in the industry?
At Yext we strive to constantly enable our customers to learn more about the rapidly-changing search landscape. As a business, we want our customers to learn from us as much as possible, so we regularly hold webinars, events and seminars with industry experts that we have in-house.
We also place huge importance on collaboration between our customers. We believe that enablement and training doesn’t exclusively have to flow from an organization to its customers. So, we create many environments (customer round table events, social events, dinners, breakfast seminars) where our customers can meet and learn from each other.
What are the core strategies you focus on for Global business development? How does it impact your Customer experience initiatives?
Our business development strategies are influenced by what a good customer looks like. We understand what the profile of our best-performing customers consist of and we use this data to drive our marketing initiatives and business development activities.
What is the current state of World-Class Sales practices? Could you elaborate with some examples of how they boost customer success initiatives, or vice-versa?
An important aspect is understanding what your most successful customers base looks like, and ensuring that you drive your business development initiatives to identify more customers like them. Examining which verticals can benefit most from your technology and where your value proposition resonates best is key to developing a world-class sales process.
A huge part of a successful sales organisation is also rooted in building a team of people who are naturally curious and care about more than just the initial sale itself. Sales teams that do not have the customer’s success at the heart of their ethos are fundamentally flawed. As a business, you need to ensure that your sales teams care about building the relationship with the clients, and feel a personal commitment to their success. Ultimately, this kind of mutually respectful relationship will lead to incremental revenue and better customer experience.
What is the sales culture that you represent? Why is it important to build a sales-focused culture for any business?
I always tell everyone around me to have fun. When you’re having fun at work, you’re feeling good and are more likely to be performing your best. Customers can see when a team is having fun, and it’s very contagious. Everyone wants to be part of a fun movement or organisation. We also strive to build a culture that has a “family feeling” to it. This “family feeling” is immediately visible when you walk into our office. It helps us to attract the best talent, and undoubtedly helps us to win and retain more customers.
As a sales leader, it’s also important to believe in your product and service offering and make sure this vision is shared with the team. Our team is incredibly proud to be a part of Yext, and this creates a perfect sales environment. All technology businesses have a sales target, and we are no different. When you have fun at work and create a team that is naturally curious and share the same vision, achieving your sales goals become very easy!
What are the major pain points for sales-driven companies in leveraging Customer Experience technologies for their own benefits and for business development?
An anecdote that I often use to describe a successful business is that it is like making a fire. If you don’t add fuel to it, it will go out. In the same way, if you don’t provide new tools, innovations and ideas to a sales organization, it will lose momentum, become stale and performance will decrease. A pain-point that comes with enabling rapidly-expanding teams is full and proper adoption. We are continually refining our processes and updating the technologies we use in order to support our sales team in the most effective ways and make it easy for them to adopt new technologies.
What are your predictions and observations on the “Role of Chatbots and AI Conversations” influencing CX*- driven Sales journeys?
Voice technology and AI is already mainstream within our society, and its role will only continue to increase. Today, we are constantly looking for ways to make our lives easier, and this type of technology gives you instant access to information, often in the palm of your hand.
These services align with the new ways that we as consumers are searching – our questions are getting longer, more conversational and complex. AI and voice search is actually training us to interact with the world around us in this way. Moreover, we’re learning that instant knowledge cannot always come from a human, and we’re getting more comfortable with placing our trust in AI, as long as the information it provides is accurate and relevant. We have very little patience when it comes to incorrect answers, or even waiting for information. We want it to be correct and we want it now!
Which events and webinars do you most often attend and why?
I attend events and webinars that discuss the changing search landscape, AI, chatbots and voice search technologies. I’m also keenly interested in human behaviour, and the ways that we are changing our behaviour based on our environment, and how in turn that environment is influencing us to change.
Your advice to Customer Success/ Service/Sales executives?
Control the controllable. Always be well prepared. Treat everyone around you with respect, in the same way, that you would like to be treated. These are the basics, but I am often surprised at how many people don’t get the basics right.
Tag a person whose answers to these questions would like to read from the industry?
The person who I really admire and whose answers I would like to read is Oliver Samwer, the CEO and founder of Rocket Internet. Its business model is to create versions of some of the biggest tech firms and most innovative start-ups, scaling them incredibly quickly in markets the originals weren’t serving.
The customer journey starts with a question. And consumers expect answers. Yext puts businesses in control of their facts online with brand-verified answers in search. By serving accurate, consistent, brand-verified answers to consumer questions, Yext delivers authoritative information straight from the source — the business itself — no matter where or how customers are searching. Taco Bell, Marriott, Jaguar Land Rover, and businesses around the globe use the Yext platform to capture consumer intent and drive digital discovery, engagement, and revenue — all from a single source of truth. Yext’s mission is to provide perfect answers everywhere.
Yext has been named a Best Place to Work by Fortune and Great Place to Work®, as well as a Best Workplace for Women. Yext is headquartered in New York City with offices in Amsterdam, Berlin, Chicago, Dallas, Geneva, London, Miami, Milan, Paris, San Francisco, Shanghai, Tokyo and the Washington, D.C. area.
I am incredibly fortunate to work with an inspirational team and for a rapidly growing company. It is truly exciting to help shape and define a new sector that will, in time, become an essential part of every organisation’s strategy.