5 Years in 5 Months: What Working at a Sales Innovation Lab Taught Me

September 10, 2018

by Nicholas Kleinhuizen

I’ve worked in sales for half a decade. After dipping my toes in a variety of sales jobs ranging from retail, to owning my own business, and selling SaaS platforms, I’ve learned quite a bit.

While these experiences were great, each one only gave me a small piece of the overall picture. That all changed 5 months ago, when I was hired at the #1 sales innovation lab in the US. I’ve learned more in half a year here than I have at all my other sales jobs combined.

This blog post will outline my top 5 pieces of advice to jump-start your sales career at a record setting pace.

1. Learn the Tools

“Even if you’re happy at your current company, you owe it to yourself to go online and look up training courses for new platforms.”

Carpenters use hammers, plumbers use wrenches, and salespeople use tech stacks.

If you want to do your job well and stick out from the competition, you owe it to yourself to learn as many sales platforms as you can.

By working at a Sales Innovation Lab, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a dozen new platforms for salespeople ranging from Zoominfo to Salesforce and everything in between.

Individuals who work at one company for a few years may only use a handful of sales platforms. When they decide to move on to another company, they may not know how to use the systems at their new company. At best, this can cause on-boarding to take much longer than necessary, at worst it can cost you the job… Ouch!

Even if you’re happy at your current company, you owe it to yourself to go online and look up training courses for new platforms. Companies like Salesloft, Salesforce, and Google AdWords have entire courses set up where you can gain certification in a few hours.

By learning a wide variety of sales tools, you can set yourself apart from the competition and improve your set of sales skills drastically.

2. Smile and Dial – Get on the Grind

Learning how to become an expert salesman comes down to relentless practice. Sure, you can become certified in Salesforce or any other tool, but that doesn’t mean squat if you can’t put it to use.

“Being in sales means having a willingness to grind yourself to the bone. If you want to jump-start your career, you need to put in 150%.”

Making your first few calls can be intimidating and discouraging. Don’t let this get you down– the sooner you can make your first 1,000 dials, the sooner it’ll come naturally.

Becoming an expert and a star on the floor means working harder than anyone else. Remember: you’re getting paid for what you do, don’t let your team down and do your absolute best.

Pick up that phone (or headset), smile, dial, and close some deals. Don’t worry about messing up, everyone does. A good sense of humor goes a very long way.

3. Learn how to Compose a Proper E-mail

“Directors, VPs, and C level execs get dozens — if not hundreds — of emails a day. They’ve seen every trick in the book. That Hubspot template you’re going to use? They’ve seen it. That cheesy joke people swear by? They’ve heard it. The canned compliment? Snooze.”

As the popularity of the cold call wanes, the importance of skilled email correspondence rises. If you want to sell effectively, you need to learn how to use every method at your disposal– email being paramount.

There’s a wide array of resources online that can show you how to write an effective email. Many websites offer pre-made templates. I would suggest steering clear of these because most CEOs and VPs have already seen them before. The last thing they want is some run of the mill copy and pasted bull template.

The biggest trick to mastering emails is experimentation and customization. One size doesn’t fit all in this department. If you can write a concise, personalized email with a strong value prop, you’ve got a leg up on 80% of your peers.

If you have to send a high volume of emails, try to get as specific as possible. For example, try sending your emails by industry or title and make it your mission to be fluent in the dialects and idioms that your prospects would use.

4. Social Sell

Social selling is a rather new concept. As the name implies, it involves selling over social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and more.

“The art of sales is evolving rapidly, and social selling is one of the top skills to learn in 2018 and beyond.”

While it’s oftentimes tricky, it can be incredibly effective. Social selling is softer than emailing and cold calling. It involves a knack for tact and a keen awareness of your network and relationships.

If you can learn how to connect with the right people and bring value to them through social media platforms, you will become a strong influencer with a powerful network at your fingertips.

To get started, take a look at this slideshow on social selling created by LinkedIn.

5. Find a good Mentor

“Just because you’ve graduated high school or college doesn’t mean it’s time to stop learning. If you admire someone in your office, approach them and ask for advice.”

Learning how to sell is challenging. It requires learning a plethora of tools, making thousands of cold calls, sending countless emails, and constant experimentation.

Doing all of this alone can be tough, which is why having a mentor is important.

If you’re working in sales, keep an eye out for the top salespeople in your office. They have more experience than you and have endured plenty of embarrassing lessons. They’ve learned what works and what doesn’t the hard way . That doesn’t mean you have to.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with a variety of mentors. Ranging from Sercan Topcu, a Forbes 30 under 30 superstar, to old-school cold callers (looking at you, Tim!) who have turned their profession into an artform.

Just because you’ve graduated high school or college doesn’t mean it’s time to stop learning. If you admire someone in your office, approach them and ask for advice. You’ll be surprised to find that more often than not, these individuals are more than happy to teach you some of their tried and true tricks.


Being in sales can feel like riding a roller coaster. No matter what, keep in mind that it all comes down to a numbers game. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t do whatever you can to nudge the odds in your favor.

“Take pride in what you do and refuse to stop learning. Don’t let the grind wear you down. Be creative, be proactive, and build a community of mentors to show you the ropes.”

If you’re looking to start your sales career, try to find an open minded company that allows you to try new things rather than sticking to the script, as this will give you the freedom to learn new sales skills at a fast pace!