SalesTechStar Interview with Jim Nystrom, Chief Sales Officer at Cogito
Jim Nystrom, Chief Sales Officer at Cogito talks about a few pertinent ways for sales and marketing teams to drive better alignment and processes in this quick chat:
Can you tell us a little about yourself Jim and your journey in tech; we’d love to hear about your biggest highlights in Tech Sales.
After graduating from college I joined a software company that automated commercial kitchen food production. It was my first start up and a small team, I was employee # 29. Since then CBORD has grown dramatically and is now public and a market leader. I began as a tech support rep, then trainer, program manager, and then Client Services Director delivering client success in the field and by phone. After that, I joined MCI where I learned about telecommunications. I sold solutions to commercial, state, local, federal, and educational customers. It was here at MCI where I learned about Call Centers. In 2006 my team and I sold the largest deal MCI/Verizon had ever sold in the Contact Center space. One of the challenges of the project was how to build an on-demand contact center in 10 days to serve over 100,000 calls daily, and then tear it down when the disaster event was concluded. It was during this project that I learned about cloud based contact center solutions of which there were very few. I left Verizon and joined Cogito, an AI-based contact center solution that is augmenting human performance in the enterprise. When I joined I thought cloud-based call center technology would be the backbone and future of large, distributed contact center, work-from-anywhere technology. It turned out to be true, and today the market is flourishing with cloud based solutions leading in all industries for contact center solutions.
What’s a typical day at work like for a sales leader like you at Cogito Corp? Can you tell us about some of the ways (daily scrums?) in which sales leaders-middle level and reps interact and coordinate to stay aligned; besides using tools to collaborate at Cogito Corp?
We have teams aligned by verticals: healthcare, insurance, telco/tech, emerging markets, and a partners team. Sales operations and solutions consulting teams support the entire sales and partner organization. On a daily basis, I speak with clients, help with account strategy, help with closing sales, participate in internal meetings focused on our success through our clients success, set priorities, and respond to any internal or external requests.
Each week I host a sales leadership call with other company departments such as marketing, services, solutions consulting, behavioral science, insights, legal, deal desk, diversity, people, and operations. The purpose of this meeting is for each sales leader to communicate progress on deals and get help from anyone needed to help ensure our clients success. In addition to the sales leadership call, we also have a sales all-hands call where everyone and sales and additional team members from the other departments join. The purpose again is to communicate across teams, obtain assistance, learn, and work together as one team to support our clients.
What are some of the core strategies around which your sales plans and processes have been centered around, at Cogito Corp and otherwise? Can you share a little about Cogito Corp’s typical marketing-sales alignment and process?
This first step is to determine target accounts. Once those have been established, we dig deeper and identify key personnel within those accounts. That gives way to a process of marketing, campaigning, and (hopefully) obtaining interest from key personnel.
Once we have interest, we thoroughly research each client, uncovering information such as financial filings, earnings calls, press releases, solutions, and web content. We’re seeking to learn as much about the client before our meeting so we can deliver a meaningful meeting and obtain interest in moving to the next step. From there, we arrange a meeting to learn more about the client and present how we can help.
It is important to note that without the help of the marketing and demand generation departments, paired with diligent follow up with the key personnel, sales would not be successful.
How do you drive better sales effectiveness with tech and what are some of the top tips that come to mind when it comes to choosing the right tools to drive sales?
Sales enablement is critical. Today, tech that can help catalog content, schedule and sequence content, test and certify, and illustrate progress is key to on-boarding and rolling out changes.
As far as top tips? Write down what you feel you need to accomplish. Share the list with several service providers and ask them to demonstrate that functionality to you. Then, speak with several sales leaders (I’m a member of The Revenue Collective, for example), and then talk with at least one reference at those service providers. If the functionality can help you successfully accomplish your goals, then the tool must be considered for your sales operations.
Also, we cannot overlook how essential CRM is to sales success. Any contact with any customer or key personnel should be recorded in the CRM so everyone at our company can see and understand activity. Visibility across a sales department, and organization in general, is vital.
Finally, every sales professional should be proficient at using all web collaboration tools, and be able to accommodate the customer’s preference of tool. Meet the customer at their preferred touchpoint and win them in their arena.
What according to you will dominate some of 2021’s sales / marketing trends in tech?
In 2021, sales and marketing teams must make it easy for prospects and customers to do business with them. In a world of rising customer demands, a wave of companies and evolving to meet those demands, and they are doing it well. If you don’t prove the convenience that your brand, and your product, provides, companies will find convenience elsewhere.
Additionally, your solution must apply as a “Work from Anywhere” resource. It’s no hot take to proclaim that remote work is a staple of the new normal, and will continue in majority through 2021. As a result, you need to make sure your product fits into the remote work model without any added hassle.
Finally, companies must be responsive and focused on customer success, and your solution must meet a requirement or demonstrate value in order to justify cost. Competition is only growing, and nowadays, companies must formulate their tangible value down to the last detail more than ever. Your customers and prospects must know how exactly your product will fit into their operations, and be able to measure the value it brings to their company.
What are some of the biggest takeaways sales, marketing teams and business leaders should grab from this entire experience of working and living through a global pandemic?
We can start with the obvious – you can work from anywhere. We are months into the pandemic, and sales operations have yet to skip a beat. That flexibility will continue in a post-pandemic world, which is why Cogito established a permanent “Office Anywhere” company offering. Bouncing off of that, you can hire the best people in the world since you can work from all over. Companies are no longer geographically restricted from building the best teams they possibly can.
On a similar note, recognize that your clients are working from anywhere and it will continue indefinitely. Seek new ways to engage with clients, since physical shows, introductions, dinners, and other networking events are changed forever.
Finally, embrace the new way – it’s more productive, less expensive, and may be better for your personal and family life. I miss traveling to meet with clients, and look forward to when I can safely do so once again. In the meantime, I’m looking on the bright side of the remote work lifestyle.
What should be some of the top must-dos for sales leaders during a pandemic?
First, meet with your teams often. Staying informed, and maintaining transparency and visibility across your team, is vital to keeping productivity and morale up. Also, become proficient with the use of tools and tech that power this remote work style – it’s not going away anytime soon.
Furthermore, be respectful of everyone’s time. Start and end meetings and assignments on time, and inspect what you expect. The move to remote work doesn’t remove the air of professional standing that should accompany each work day. Plus, your employees are working to maintain a personal and work life balance, so firm timelines are key. Care for your team members, their families, and their lives. Empathetic and emotionally intelligent leadership from the top is what will power employee wellbeing through this pandemic. Piggybacking off of that, re-create the after-work happy hours and coffee breaks virtually. It plays into employee wellbeing and injects a sense of normalcy.
Finally, share a topic about yourself to your team or company through a virtual meeting. Let people get to know you. It will make you more approachable and more human, and will help develop and maintain the camaraderie and culture you wanted pre-pandemic.
Some parting thoughts / tips you’d like to share with sales reps for a better virtual selling process?
The first tip can appear obvious or rude, but it’s often overlooked: consider another job! It’s not meant to be negative; some people are just not wired for a sales job, and may find more happiness and fulfillment in a different department or field.
If you do stick it out though, think of the benefits that sales bring, that not everyone can enjoy! No commuting, more time at home, less financial detriment. Sales people in a virtual environment have it pretty good right now. To make the experience better, embrace the conferencing tools, and use them to collaborate as a way to further bolster your sales skills.
Performance-wise, plan out your sales meetings. Set time bound topics and then execute the meeting – use your time efficiently, and always plan a follow up meeting before you end today’s meeting. Follow up immediately after the meeting to keep that thread going! If your client doesn’t know and trust you, find out who they know and trust and see if you can partner with them. This can give you an advantage through an introduction or partnership. Once you find common ground, you have an opportunity.
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For more than 30 years, Jim Nystrom, Chief Sales Officer has helped build and lead high performing sales and customer success teams. At Cogito he is responsible for leading all aspects of sales strategy and execution. Prior to joining Cogito, Jim served as Executive Vice President of Sales at Five9, a leading provider of cloud contact center software. In that role, Jim led teams of sales and customer success professionals, with a focus on sales, adoption, retention, and expansion of Five9 software. During his tenure, Five9’s annual revenue grew from $20M to more than $300M. Earlier in his career, Jim led sales, sales engineering, and customer service teams within the global enterprise sales division of Verizon. Jim holds a degree in business administration and culinary arts from Johnson and Wales University. He is a recreational hockey player, former firefighter, and resides in North Carolina with his family.