Podcast Guest appearance: Commission Accomplished

invited to share my B2B Sales background

Table of Contents

20 Dec 2022

Commission Accomplished

Referred by Neil Ryland (CRO at Normative now, one of the best Sales leaders I know) to James Young - host of a new podcast called "Commission Accomplished". Invited to speak about my B2B Sales background.

The angle of this particular podcast is to interview Sales leader but focus more on how they got there and their experience as reps/AEs in the past.

Interesting approach.


Available on all major podcast platforms.

11 Nov 2022

My notes / interview questions

Can you introduce yourself, your role(s), and the accomplishment(s) you’re most proud of

I’m Nicolas Deville - usually called Nic.

I’m 43, French-Austrian, raised in Paris, lived in London, now in Munich.
European at heart… but I prefer the US business culture.

I’m an introvert.

For my start in Sales, throwback to Paris - childhood:
Story with my mother / Freelance B2B rep in the 90s in the automotive industry (!). Earning pocket money doing back-office tasks (while she was on Sales calls).
“You could never be in Sales” / not social.
Been rather successful in Sales after all.
LESSON: don’t listen to your mother (or anyone who says you couldn’t do something).
“If there’s a will, there’s a way.”

  • working 7 years for a US B2B SaaS called ON24.
    Started as rep, moved up to Director, VP Sales & Marketing and GM EMEA ultimately.
    IPO’ed last year / 5 years after I left!
    LESSON: don’t count on stock options!

  • then GM EMEA for an Australian B2B SaaSIPO’ed on LSE - lost a bit of money
    Didn’t like the company culture.
    $ culture-fit is underestimated as decision criteria when joining a company$ don’t count on stock options take #2!

  • left to bootstrap my own startup - a Groupon for operators of private jets - with my wife! Whole other story! Sold after 2 years to US competitor. Nice exit.

  • last 2 years contracting with a couple US SaaS companies to help them expand in Europe. Weird (Sales rep only), but it was fun & more money than I had ever made in Sales, for part-time work!

Currently I’m on a sabbatical after a few lucrative years - but intending to start again as VP EMEA or GM EMEA for a US B2B SaaS in 2023.
Probably as contractor - I’m building now the website BtoBSales. EU to prepare for that. Learning HTML & CSS in the process.


Sales * selling largest/impossible deals in all roles / whale hunting (“Easy is boring”) * DT Mediaphone / 1st 7-figures new deal (3.5M) pioneering a new category of products (tablet).

Leader * becoming the youngest VP * bootstrapping a startup with similar results as well-funded US competitor * building great teams and empowering the next generation

If you hadn’t pursued a career in Sales, what do you think you would you have done instead?

Engineer, for sure.

Started learning programming 5 years ago and it has been a life changing experience.

LESSON: start learning programming earlier! Everyone should.

What was your first Sales role (and how and why did you get it)?

Darty - shop floor at French Argos (or Best Buy), aged 18. Cold application to HQ.
No training: “here’s your badge, go and sell”.
Each product has a different commission.
Fell in love with Sales.
LESSONS: * Sales is a game.
* Sales is creating value in the prospect’s mind.

What was the first big mistake you made and the lesson you learned?

Main mistake not reading business books before age 30 = career limiting, not ending.

Dropped the ball on deal.

How did your career then progress (promotions, new companies) and what drove that progression (success, lay-offs, headhunted, good fortune)?

2nd role: French manufacturer of professional video equipment, in charge of DACH/the German-speaking region. Via job ad.
Got the role - and thrived - because I was technical and passionate about video technology.. and spoke German!

3rd role: French manufacturer of telecommunications equipment - from fax machines to IP devices.
Poached at 25, following a successful internship a few years before, in a role where my competitors (and clients) where all double my age (KAM of largest EU Telcos).
Beat bigger brands with more experienced Sales people.

  • make a strong impression wherever you go, if you can.
  • age is just a number.

4th role - ON24- freshly arrived in London with my backpack. Got me started in the SaaS world in 2008.
Spoke bad English - but once again, made up for it with better technical understanding & professionalism (ie unprompted PPT).. and spoke French & German.
I think other candidates had to be really bad though! )

Got promoted every 18 months on average - to youngest VP Sales, then MD EMEA.

To get the VP role, I used what I call the “Jerry Maguire play” - used a couple times in my career.

Also, I left all roles on a high - I think that’s important. Not easy, but important.
Personal growth as vector for the leaving decision.

Did you ever consider leaving Sales for something else?

Yes, I did - entrepreneur.
Sales can be tough but bootstrapping one’s business, building a product, is a whole other level!
Hence also why I’m coming back to Sales now :)


  • then bootstrapped my 2nd startup - a platform for automating office tasks. Sold also after 2 years, less successful though. LESSON: not built to be a solo founder of a technical SaaS - need a team.

Good: What were your strengths as a rep? What habits or tactics do you feel set you apart?

  • curious
  • technical
  • thinking a few steps ahead & laterally
  • passionate
  • bold / fearless (or perceived as such)
  • languages

Habits / tactics:

  • business creativity
  • do more than others when it matters (to me)
  • thinking ahead (what do I need to do now to be where I want to be then)
  • use the right tool for the job

Bad: What were your biggest weaknesses? What best practice could you never follow, and what workarounds did you rely on?

4 major weaknesses:

1) the social aspect.
Workaround: be better than others on the technical & solution-finding front.
I am not social but compensated with technical understanding which gave me the ability to understand a technical product at a deep level while articulating the benefits for business use.

2) Lazy hard worker / hard to do the same boring thing every day.
Workaround: automation.

3) Over-prepare or under-prepare.
Still working on that one.

4) imposter syndrome.
Workaround: “read the user manual”

Ugly: What was the biggest, (almost-)career-ending mistake you made during your time as a rep? And what were the repercussions?

No career-ending mistakes but plenty of Sales mistakes that cost me deals.

Like Michael Jordan: ““I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

There are learnings in the mistakes.

Plus: “The difference between my mistakes and the competitor’s mistakes is my edge”

Hate to lose vs love to win.

What one piece of advice have you carried with you throughout your Sales career?

  • perception is reality?
  • it’s not done until it’s done?

As a leader, what traits—or things you consider ‘unteachable’—do you look for when hiring/promoting?

  • people with something to prove (to others, or themselves)
  • growth mindset (eg open to feedback, willing to change, etc..)

* do the right thing for the business even if not in the person’s benefit (selfless vs selfish) / leadership trait. Hard to gauge pre-hiring though.

What pet-peeves get under your skin or give you ‘the ick’ when being sold to?

When you feel the rep is just following a script.
And there’s no substance when you go off script.

And finally… if you were to start over again—from day one — what would you do differently this time around?

Starting to reading business books earlier in my career.
Always been an avid reader of fiction books, but started reading business books aged 30 only.
Reading a dozen business books per year since - and still some fiction on the side. Science-fiction mainly.
All the knowledge is out there - to do whatever you want to do.
Read a couple books on a topic and you have more knowledge than most people operating in that field (in the business world) - best foundation to build up experience from.

ADDITIONAL QUESTION / James: do you have any book recommendation?

for reps: Gap selling, by Keenan

Written in a more informal style while covering very well the essence of what selling is - and how to do it.

Its style means it's an easy read even for someone who doesn't like to read. Hence it has become my first recommendation for reps (as not all are big readers).

for reps & VPs: The Qualified Sales Leader by John McMahon

Same as above re style, but a step up in terms of both what it covers, and experience of the author (5x CRO at public companies).

Covers the basics of a Sales process extremely well.

Top recommendation for any (aspiring) VP Sales/ CRO - even if not much new for the most experienced, it's still good to have the whole process laid out clearly, and based on an actual situation (albeit fictional here).

for VPs in high-growth environments: The Sales Acceleration Formula, by Mark Robergé

My personal favourite from Hubspot's original CRO. His background as a "quant" (quantitative analyst), means he laid down a very pragmatic & methodical approach to building a Sales organisation, as a foundation for a high-growth company.

It validated some of my own "out of the box" approaches at the time, while opening my eyes to both new ones & how they all fit together.

Parting thoughts?

I believe that if you do things for the good of the business as the north star, good things will happen to you.
It's like if you're in a team and a team player cares more about themselves than the team - it makes it more difficult.
I believe one of the main reasons that enable to get promoted is to show commitment to the team and business, trumping even individual skills as an evaluation criteria when making a decision for promotion.

As a leader, if you manage to do that at scale, you get the most cohesive team, made only of team players committed to the team's success.

Most of the friction in companies come from territorialities and politics.