Learning How to Adapt in the Sales Community with Celine North

In this episode, we’ve got Celine North with us. Celine, who transitioned from agency sales to SaaS, is the Vice President of Boardable. Celine brings more than twenty-five years of experience to Boardable, which is a platform that allows board members to engage easily. Join us for a great conversation about transitioning in sales and technology selling.

If you missed episode 210, check it out here: Increasing Revenue on Cloud Marketplaces with Tim Hudson of Tackle

What You’ll Learn

  • Sometimes you have to take one step back to go two steps forward in sales
  • Sales is all about building internal relationships
  • How is it going to be like selling in a recession

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. About Celine and Boardable [3:21]
  2. How did Celine transition from a sales agency world to technology and SaaS [09:18]
  3. How the discipline of sales has evolved over the last couple of years [13:11]
  4. What’s the right way to design an environment that motivates your sales reps [19:31]
  5. Paying it forward [24:07]
  6. Sam’s Corner [26:53]

About Celine and Boardable [3:21]

Sam Jacobs: Hey everybody. Welcome to The Sales Hacker Podcast. Today on the show we’ve got Celine North, she’s the VP of revenue at Boardable, and we have a great conversation about her sales background and career. She made the transition from being in agency sales to SaaS, and she talked about how she did that. It’s a really common transition that a lot of people struggle with and she walks through the steps that she took and the mindset that she takes in order to be effective. And now she’s doing an incredible job leading a team of 13 people at Boardable.

Now, before we get there, let’s listen to a word from our sponsors.

This episode of the Sales Hacker Podcast is brought to you by Outreach. The first and only engagement and intelligence platform built by revenue innovators for revenue innovators. Commit to accurate sales forecasting, replace manual process with real time guidance and unlock actionable customer intelligence that guides you and your team to win.

This episode of the Sales Hacker Podcast is sponsored by Pavilion. Pavilion’s the key to getting more out of your career. Take advantage of the Pavilion for Teams corporate membership.

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Without further ado, let’s listen to my conversation with Celine North.

Sam Jacobs: A true entrepreneurial spirit, Celine loves creating lasting partnerships that help clients achieve their business goals. Her extensive and diverse experience in sales ranges from Silicon Valley startups to a portfolio of Fortune 500 accounts. Before joining Boardable, North worked in various sales roles, gaining recognition for her success as a national account manager in Indeed. She grew her territory by over 700% in less than three years.

So tell us what is Boardable? What’s the mission?

Celine North: Boardable is an online board management portal that centralizes communication, document storage, meeting planning and everything involved with running a board of directors. But more importantly, Boardable is the only board management platform built for meaningful board meetings with a more connection based perspective, which, let’s face it, is how most meaningful work is done.

Sam Jacobs: How does that manifest itself in practice? What are some of the features that enable meaningful communication?

Celine North: Boardable is the only board management platform with its own built in video platform that allows you to access your agenda, your documents, your voting, everything that you need to run a meeting under one pane of glass. So there’s no having to toggle in and out of Zoom, having to go find your documents, or agenda somewhere else. It’s all stitched together in one very elegant solution.

Sam Jacobs: What’s the origin of the company? Where are you all in terms of your growth journey? How much money have you raised? How big is the company?

Celine North: Boardable was founded by Jeb Banner in Indianapolis, Indiana about five years ago. He has a huge heart, very big in the nonprofit world. The United Way of Central Indiana had come to him and said, “Hey, do you think you can build something like this for us?” And there it began. Jeb is stepping back as CEO and Jeff, our CEO is now taking over, which is really exciting. To date, we have raised $8 million. We’re about over 50 employees.

Sam Jacobs: Very few people major in sales in college, and then go into sales immediately. What’s your background? How did you get into sales and walk us through some of the milestones of your career over the last 15 to 20 years?

Celine North: Originally I was a personal trainer. Why not? Lots of energy, lots of excitement. But very quickly I realized that kind of very transactional selling was just not my bag. So I walked in the door at an advertising agency. They hired me on the spot as an enterprise level business development representative. And that began my love of really big thinking, very complex strategy, high touch, consultative sales.

How did Celine transition from a sales agency world to technology and SaaS [09:18]

Sam Jacobs: How did you move from the agency world to Indeed and out of Boardable? There’s always this idea that in the agency world, it’s a much more relationship based sale, but that as you move into more technology and SaaS, that it’s a different skillset?

Celine North: Yes, it is a very different perspective. So, why did I change? In the ad agency world, I was specializing in the recruitment marketing niche. There’s ad agencies that do nothing but employer branding and employer marketing, employee development programs, and I could see that they were really struggling with how to capitalize on the transition from traditional marketing and ad agency revenue into this SaaS space and this digital marketing space.

They’re having a hard time on the employment side. And just for self preservation, I felt as though it was in my best interest to take a step back and really truly begin to learn as an individual contributor what exactly that digital marketing space is, what that SaaS space is. And pretty much don’t be afraid to hit the reset button and learn something new.

Now, what did I learn? A lot more transactional on the front end. So when you have the right type of SaaS platform you can very much expand once you get there and then use my consultative experience to truly burrow deeper into the function that platform is solving for and find multiple ways and multiple users to be able to expand it.

How the discipline of sales has evolved over the last couple of years [13:11]

Sam Jacobs: How do you think the discipline of sales has evolved over the last couple of years?

Celine North: It’s really different. And honestly, I’m still learning and navigating that, trying to figure out what is the balance between the way that I’ve done it and the way that this high velocity selling process now is taking over, especially since COVID. I very much miss the big pony show. That you’re in front of the board, you’re presenting your solution to their pain and getting there even just five years ago was way easier because everyone still 100% leaned into in-person meetings.

The feeling that comes with them, the level of communication that comes with them. And now that it’s just so digitized. And we don’t even get each other’s phone numbers anymore. Everyone’s so busy on their Slack. So breaking through there is such an immense amount of noise going on right now that I believe as I get deeper into this process with my team, that we are going to have to stand out by being true consultants and really shining through.

The ones that really truly break through the noise for me are the ones that are on target with their message. It’s fun to read. We all want to be entertained and we want to still create personal relationships, even if it’s over a digital form.

What’s the right way to design an environment that motivates your sales reps [19:31]

Sam Jacobs: You’ve mentioned that you feel like sometimes sales reps are treated poorly, they’re penalized in different ways. What’s the right way to design an environment that appropriately motivates an individual contributor, but also creates the right level of accountability and urgency?

Celine North: It’s going to really vary, of course, on the solution that you are working on, the rep themselves. Everyone has different personalities. So one of the things that I do with all of my team members when they come on board is I have them do personality tests. And it’s not about: Is this person a fit or not a fit? It’s about: How do I fit that person and how can I adjust my technique to help that person be all that they can be? But as far as the actual quota building and rules of engagement and all of that goes, at the end of the day, I am not a fan of the old school caps on commission, the penalizing of reps.

There’s a lot of product shortcomings in SaaS. Let’s face it, the product is not perfect. And why does that come down to just the sales rep? There’s pricing and packaging that could be at fault, there’s bugs that could be at fault. So finding the balance between getting that rep to perform the best they can with what they have, but not penalizing them for shortcomings in the startup world, and we all have them.

Paying it forward [24:07]

Sam Jacobs: One of the things we like to do at the very end is pay it forward a little bit. What books, what people, who do you think we should know about that maybe we don’t know about?

Celine North: As we come into a possible recession, one of my favorite books is The Art of Racing in the Rain. And it’s just a story, but it’s a fun, light read. Anyone can run a race in the perfect weather. It’s when it’s raining and it’s slippery and you have to wait for the other guys to make the mistake and then boom you can suddenly be the leader. So I love that book. But I’m really enjoying Atomic Habits. As I start to develop this team, massage what’s going on across the revenue teams at Boardable, it’s those tiny micro habits, those tiny micro changes that are going to make unbelievable impact at the end of the day.

Sam’s Corner [26:53]

Sam Jacobs: Hey everybody, Sam Jacobs, Sam’s Corner. Really like that conversation with Celine. I learned a lot. One of them is… “Hey, sometimes you have to take one step backwards to take two steps forward.” She was working in agencies and she was working based on relationship driven sales, and she saw the writing on the wall. And so what she did was she took one step back to move into SaaS sales and become an individual contributor. And now she’s back to being a VP, back leading a team. But she was willing to swallow her ego and her pride a little bit in the short term because she’s playing a much longer game.

And that’s a lesson that I always try to underscore to people that if you can think about your life over the course of months and years, as opposed to days and weeks, then you can do a lot of different things.

Don’t miss episode 210!

Now, before we go, we want to thank our sponsors.

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Give us five stars on iTunes or Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Join the Sales Hacker community. Get any question answered. Go to saleshacker.com and join 20,000 people answering questions and offering support and help. Reach me at sam@joinpavilion.com and I’ll talk to you next time

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