Nasri El-Sayegh is a sales leader in the tech sector and works as the VP of Sales at Anima Health. He has a wealth of experience in setting up sales teams at Seed to Series A/B stage companies and building out sales functions that are repeatable, predictable, and scalable. Our team worked with Nasri to connect him with his position at Anima Health. And we recently caught up with him about the role of AI in sales, how to build out a high-performing team, and the sales techniques that can drive results in a tough market. Read on to learn more.
Can you tell us about your career until now? How did you get into sales?
I fell into sales. I don’t think anyone goes to mum and dad and says, Hey, guess what? I’m going to be in sales. No-one does that.
Straight out of university, I attached myself to the commercial function of the company I was working for after rotating around a few different ones. And since then I started to develop a real passion for sales.
Early on, it was more that I loved talking to people and the thrill of closing deals. Then, as I progressed through my career – maybe even just six or seven years ago – I started to really get into the psychology behind it. I started to understand that sales is a science combined with a bit of art.
In terms of leadership and how I got to being a VP of Sales – I was given that opportunity during COVID when my team went through restructuring. They came to me and asked if I wanted to run our sales department going forward. I took the chance and haven’t looked back since.
How do you go about setting up a sales function in a young, growing company?
That’s something I had to learn quite quickly. As a sales leader, I’ve done that Seed to Series A/B run a couple of times now. And it’s all about going from chaos to trying to get something that is repeatable, predictable, and scalable.
Those are the three magic words that every sales or revenue leader is trying to deliver. Because you can come in one week and close seven deals. But you have no idea why. Why did we close this deal? What happened? Why did that particular person buy from us? You need to figure that out and build on it.
The first thing you’re trying to build is predictability. Because when you get predictability, you’re thinking, well, I know that if I reach out to 20 people with this persona, based on historical data, I can predict we’ll close three of them. Then you have a baseline that for every 20 people, I’m getting three deals. So, if I get another 40 people, I can reasonably predict that I’ll get six more deals and you go on building that predictability. That’s the first layer.
Then you’re looking at a plan to support what the team is striving for. Say the company is trying to get to the next fundraise – it’s about building a blueprint for how to get there. I look at revenue or go to market as an engine that has components to make it work. The engine drives the wheels and the wheels go forward. But first you need to know what the components are.
I’ve looked at this process through the lens of mentors, coaches, and some of the most successful startups and sass businesses in the world. I ask myself, what were their components? What did they focus on? What did their leaders do? And then I start to build my own blueprint off the back of that.
Then comes the people and the talent within the team. How are you hiring? Who you hiring? How are you onboarding your sales reps, and how do they play into your go-to-market strategy? You need to consider everything from the customers you’re targeting to the messages your sales reps use to where you approach potential clients. What’s the best mix of channels for your company? Is it outbound or inbound or partnerships? How do you get your team to deliver a process repeatedly and what tools do we need to be successful? These are all really important factors – and they’ll influence how you build a team.
Then, comes the unit economics. Is what we’re doing actually profitable or will it become profitable in a reasonable amount of time? I can’t invest millions in marketing and then return one deal. I need to work out how to make my blueprint sustainable and what combination of tactics is going to get me there.
Finally, you have to adapt the model for the particular business you’re in.
Some companies will be more product-led than sales-led. Others will rely more on inbound because the product they have has a strong market fit – with customers actively searching for a solution to a particular pain point. Or if you’re taking a brand new product to market and creating a category, you’ll need to focus more on outbound and command the message around your business.
At any level, you’ll need to adapt the blueprint to what works for the business you’re in, and what strategy you’re trying to deliver for.
How would you build out your ideal sales team?
I try to live by some core philosophies. The first is hiring a mix of experienced and inexperienced people.
You need salespeople who’ve been there and done that. They’ve worked in a similar environment before, handled similar deal values, and have closed deals with the same kind of customers you’re going for. Then you mix in empowering young, inexperienced people who you want to help grow and develop into what your ideal profile looks like. Combining those two layers of talent is key.
The second philosophy is to build a culturally diverse team. One mistake I probably made early on is that I tried to build a team of Nasris. But it doesn’t work like that. You can’t get everyone to be like you or work in the same way you do.
You need to foster a diverse team that will thrive and build a culture within itself to be successful. And by diverse I mean everything from, experience, like I mentioned, to gender diversity, to a mix of people from all different backgrounds, geographies, and career paths as well.
Then, the last philosophy is built around the individuals. I think about how I can invest in the people in my team and help them to be the best they possibly can be.
If you can live by those three philosophies when building out a core team, I think you’re already on the right track.
The market is pretty tough right now. Particularly for salespeople, I think. And outbound is taking a hit at many companies. Are there other techniques you’re seeing success with?
I think the power of the referral is completely underestimated.
Typically, people think about inbound as a channel – so customers that come in from a blog post, website SEO, or events, for example. Or they’ll go for outbound – which is SDRs calling prospects and saying hey, are you interested in our product?
But are we treating referral as a channel? Are we proactive about them? Are we driving it as a repeatable process? I don’t think so. It’s still an underestimated route to more leads – and one that instills a lot of trust with customers as well.
When you think about it, we do this when hiring. If someone refers a candidate to me because they worked with them and respect them, that will get my attention. Why shouldn’t it be the same with a product or service?
Finally, let’s chat about AI. There’s a lot of buzz around it right now. What’s your opinion? How do you think it’ll impact the role of sales?
Honestly, 80% of the time I’m seeing “AI-powered” attached to a product or company – it’s a fad. A lot of businesses are maybe enabled by AI in some way or they’re trying to replicate the ChatGPT model that got a lot of buzz – but it’s not the same thing.
Do I think AI will replace salespeople? No, not anytime soon. I saw a funny billboard the other day where it was a building being built that had a sign on it that says, Hey ChatGPT, can you finish this building? Of course it can’t, right?
So, I don’t think AI is going to take away people’s jobs anytime soon. But will it support salespeople in being more productive? I absolutely think so.
It does depends on the tool, though. If it’s something like a conversational intelligence tool – like Gong or Jimmy or Wingman – that can look at the last 10 deals you closed and tell you the common feature you talked about compared to when you’ve not spoken about that feature, I think it’s brilliant.
Or a tool that says, hey you spoke about XYZ on your phone call just now so I’ve drafted an email for you that covers that. Brilliant. That’s saving me time and money. That’s making my team more productive. When you look at it from that perspective, AI does have a space in sales to make us more productive for sure.