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A strong, high-performance sales team is critical to a successful business. But what makes a sales team truly great, and what strategies can leaders use to create a team that's highly successful? To address these questions, we're talking to CROs and sales executives about "How To Turn a Good Sales Team into a Great One." As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Brambila.

Nicole Brambila

Nicole Brambila is the SVP of Revenue at Deputy; she was previously the company’s SVP of Global Sales. Nicole has over 20 years of experience in sales and marketing, with a focus on the tech industry. She has a proven track record of exceeding quarterly goals and is a strong leader with a passion for helping her team succeed.


Thank you for doing this with us! To start, can you share a bit of your 'backstory' and what brought you to this career path?

I can’t say I deliberately chose a career path in sales—but I deliberately chose tech at some point. I landed in sales because I was looking for a job when I graduated college and I went into wine sales. As a 22-year-old, I thought, “What could possibly be better than working for a wine distributor?” It was a great first job that gave me a backbone in a traditional industry, but ultimately, I left the wine industry because it is very traditional.

I loved the pace of sales and wanted to find an industry that moved quickly which is how why I made the leap to tech. As a salesperson, I quickly learned the importance of being able to understand people, their problems, and what keeps them up at night. Sales is about listening, connection, and finding a solution which makes it so dynamic to me.

Can you share an interesting or amusing story that has occurred to you in your career so far? What was the lesson or takeaway?

The most amusing story was at my last company when we were preparing for our IPO.

During org day, which is the first day you present the company’s story to bankers, I had just finished my presentation around the GTM business, and I was so thrilled that I made it through the presentation and questions. When I went to sit down, I accidentally stepped on the power cord and the entire room went black. I somehow had shorted the electricity. We were only halfway through org day, and I was the only person standing in the room… I was just so embarrassed. It was hard to recover from, but it was also a very human moment of what do you do? I had to make a joke about it and luckily the room was dark so no one could see how red I was.

For our video roadshow, I oversaw filming on a cliff with a running river below it and I could not focus! It was 6 a.m. and the river was freaking me out, so it took twice as long to film because I was afraid of falling in, and I couldn’t say anything wrong in the video because it was all about the numbers for the business. When we got the B-roll back, all you could hear was the river in the background—you could barely hear me —so the team had to do a lot of editing.

The takeaway? In some cases, you just have to figure your way out of the situation, roll with it, and be human. The more you can humanize any conversation or scenario, the easier it is to find your way and laugh about it in the end.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? Tell us about it!

There are a couple of things for Deputy that are really exciting. We’re in a stage of our evolution as a business that is really forcing us to figure out the voice that we want to bring to market and how we’ll do that. What we’re working on right now is how we tailor our focus to meet our customers’ needs and understand their challenges—whether it’s labor shortages, legislation, or helping them make decisions.

We can’t do that for everyone all the time, so finding the industries where we know we can make the biggest impact is a huge priority for us right now. The most successful salespeople I have ever worked with are ruthlessly focused, which initially can feel limiting, but actually drives massive results when done well.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you're grateful for?

The person who helped me the most is the manager who pushed me to use my voice. As a female in business, your voice is one of the most powerful tools that you have when it is used well and when you know how to use it. I had one manager who demanded it of me and made me feel like my opinion mattered. After one of our meetings, she said to me, “You said all the right things but nothing was controversial! You weren’t putting your energy into it I honestly expect more from you.”

In moments like that, I was given permission to have an opinion and hold court in the room. I think that changed the trajectory of my career because it allowed me to find my voice. I quickly learned that not all opinions need to be the same—the differences and sharing of ideas are what progress the conversation.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience leading sales teams? How many years of experience do you have, and what size teams?

I’ve been in sales or sales adjacent roles for 20 years, and leading sales teams for 12 of those years. The team sizes have ranged from three people to 300 people, and the problems of three people are not always that different than with 300 people.

The biggest learnings that I have had are all centered around people. Know your customers, listen to them, and translate that back into the business. It is the same with managing people. Teams want to feel seen and acknowledged and as a leader, you also have to help them understand where the goalposts are and what success looks like. It's not just about hitting the numbers; it's also about the process and the empathy needed to drive those numbers.

What do you think makes a sales team great? What strengths or characteristics do you try to cultivate?

When you are operating sales, there are two components: science and art. Science uses data and insights to help you make decisions. Art is the connection moment and the creativity that helps us understand the trends that are happening and ultimately how to achieve them. Oftentimes, people land on one side of sales or another.

In my experience, when the two sides are working in tandem, you have the most success and it is the most fun. Honesty is also a critical component of a great team. Tell customers what you can and can’t do and don’t sell them a dream—it will turn into a nightmare. If you are managing, you also need to be honest with your teams, clearly set expectations, and give as close to real-time feedback as possible.

Sales is one of the most difficult jobs, and having a thick skin is not enough if you are not learning. You could be the best salesperson one month and have a bad month the next. Some level of humility must exist; there’s always a new target, but the learnings make it easier to continue to find consistent success.

As with any department, there can be a lot of different strengths, weaknesses, and personalities. How do you manage such diversity on an individual basis? Is there such a thing as a blanket motivator?

I don't think there is a blanket motivator. Individuals and teams often respond differently to different types of motivation. With sales, there has to be a success motivator—it can be in the form of money, hitting a number, or simply the spirit of being able to help people. If you take a blanket approach with anything in life, there is always going to be somebody who is missing.

In sales, you must be motivated to “win”; winning can be interpreted in a lot of ways, and how you win can be individualized and should be. From a management perspective, it is important to remember that the same style doesn’t translate for everyone. Ensuring you know how to read individuals’ nuances in communication styles will also help people feel seen and heard. Generally, when people are seen, they feel confident— and confidence is key in sales.

What strategies have you tried to increase motivation, engagement, and productivity? We want to hear it all; the stranger, the better!

Some of them have been the best ways the team could embarrass me. I often come across as not overly emotional and maybe a bit direct, so in one business I often was called “Elsa” by team members, and if they hit certain metrics, I’d have to sing the theme song of Frozen—which is not a prize for anyone but apparently hilarious for them.

In general, I’ve tried everything! Are you motivated by competition? There is a carrot and stick approach, so we’ve done things like run contests. In fact, I think people get the most engaged when we run global competitions and some of that is purely based on pride, and you don’t have to do much. The teams banter with each other and listen. In sales, no one wants to lose.

Of all the strategies you've tried, which did you find to be most effective? Did this have a direct correlation to sales?

Team contests! You win as a team, and you lose as a team. If you have a strong management team and partners in the business, when you win a deal, you win with lots of people, and everyone wants to celebrate.

Similarly, if you lose the deal, you aren’t doing it alone and it isn’t isolating. When global teams come together and find common ground, you don’t want to be the person who is not showing up because then you’re letting your entire team down. Sales doesn't have to be an individual sport. The other tactic for effectiveness, which I mentioned above, is focus—know what you are doing and why.

Can you tell us about a time that your sales team outperformed their targets? How high over did they go, and what was that like for everyone?

There have been a lot of times. It’s usually not when one person outperforms—the most exciting times have been when multiple people have outperformed, and the deals just keep coming. It creates an energy that is like nothing else.

At Deputy, there was a moment in Q4 where suddenly, all of the pieces fell into place, and it was the first time the U.S. team outperformed our traditional Australian business in the midmarket space. It signaled to the teams that they could do it and we kicked off the next quarter feeling like we know how to do this! Success breeds success.

Great things often take time. What do you think is a realistic timeline to take a sales team from good to great? 

I don’t think there is a timeline—how do you define “great”? You can have great people, processes, and moments, but I think that the marker of greatness moves, and if you rest on your laurels, are you ever great? I think it takes time to set foundational moments for a sales team and when you find those moments you have to learn how to capitalize and repeat, but a great team can only become better. When you stop reaching for greatness, you stop winning.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five strategies that will help turn a good sales team into a great one?

1 . Know Your Audience - Who are you selling to, why are you selling to them, and do you have a product that meets their needs? What problems does your audience face and can you solve them?

2 . Understand Your Industry - Know where your business and product fit into the greater landscape. Ensure you are aware of the industry nuances in everything from language use to partners, key players, and competitors.

3 . Understand Your Sales Motions - Is it SMB, midmarket, or enterprise–and does that demand to form a process perspective? Do you have tools and data in place to support the motions or know when to change them? Use data to help decipher if the motions are getting you the results you need.

4 . Hire Great People - In a world where buyers are better informed and can do a lot of research on their own, it often comes down to people buying from people. Hire people who are passionate about the role, eager to learn, and want to contribute. I have all the time in the world for people who work hard and want to succeed. Oftentimes, behavior really sets the tone of success, and it just makes the workday more fun.

5. Know Your Numbers - It’s not only about what your target is—it's all about the numbers that lead to the target. How many leads do you have? How many calls do you need to make? How are you pacing? How do your numbers ladder to the company?

Lastly, if you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good to the greatest number of people, what would it be?

I would love to inspire young adults to understand the impact and the power their voice has on building their future and influencing the world around them. Young people today are exposed to so much, but it seems we don’t often pause and ask them enough about what they are interested in and how they want to show up in the world.

What if we were able to give them a broader platform to use their voice? In my own career, I can’t imagine what would have happened had I not had someone tell me it was ok to speak up and have an opinion, and who was willing to build my confidence when I was still developing. Young people interact with the world differently today, but I strongly believe everyone wants to be understood and given the opportunity to be heard.

As cliché as it might sound, our youth are our greatest asset. We should empower them, give them feedback, and not just box them into what generation they belong to. I want young people to feel confident in knowing that their voice matters, regardless of how fresh or new they are to something. It’s ok to change your opinions. More importantly, it’s ok to have opinions.

How can our readers further follow your work online? 

You can find me on LinkedIn.

By Phil Gray

Philip Gray is the COO of Black and White Zebra and Founding Editor of The RevOps Team. A business renaissance man with his hands in many departmental pies, he is an advocate of centralized data management, holistic planning, and process automation. It's this love for data and all things revenue operations landed him the role as resident big brain for The RevOps Team.

With 10+ years of experience in leadership and operations in industries that include biotechnology, healthcare, logistics, and SaaS, he applies a considerable broad scope of experience in business that lets him see the big picture. An unapologetic buzzword apologist, you can often find him double clicking, drilling down, and unpacking all the things.