Episode 185: Gerald Alston on Enabling Reps to Make the Most of the Tech Stack

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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast, I’m Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space, and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so that they can be more effective in their jobs.

Today, I’m excited to have Gerald Alston at Varonis join us. Gerald, I’d love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.

Gerald Alston: My pleasure. My name is Gerald Alston. My role is Platform Enablement Manager at Varonis, and Varonis is a pioneer in the data security and analytics space, specializing in software for really three core use cases: data protection, threat detection and response, and compliance.

SS: We’re excited to have you join us today. One thing on your LinkedIn bio that caught my eyes is that you like to challenge sales professionals to do better. I’d love to hear, from your opinion, what are some of the biggest obstacles that salespeople face today?

GA: Well, you mentioned it really in the intro that sales is evolving and it’s doing so rapidly. The landscape is changing and COVID has only accelerated a lot of that. One of the biggest things for me in terms of pushing sales reps to do better is helping them embrace the technologies needed to be optimal in sales. It’s really tough to generate consistent success today without some help. Most of the help is some type of software or other technology that we must use to make us more efficient.

When I challenge sales professionals to do better, it’s in large of part getting more out of the tools in your stack, but also just making sure that you understand where your strengths are, and you show up every day looking to leverage those to the best of your ability.

SS: I love that approach. Now, I do want to double click into this because you’re obviously responsible for platforms at Varonis, so how do you help reps overcome these challenges through platform enablement?

GA: With my role, it’s important that when a sales rep starts at Varonis, you have onboarding and you have training when it comes to the product and selling, but today, salespeople really need to have a certain level of comfort with the tools and the stack to get the most out of the role. It’s nearly impossible for sales rep to really generate the type of success they probably want for themselves without some tools working in unison to get them there.

A big part of my role is to make sure that reps are comfortable with not only knowing how the tools function and why we actually have them, but also giving them some strategy on how to use them together, especially in-house because all companies are different. They use things different ways and Varonis is no different in that respect. My role is to really make sure that when they come on board, not only do I get them up to running on the tools, but we dive deeper into best practices and strategy, depending on the rep and their territory.

SS: Yeah, I think that’s phenomenal. I think adoption of new platforms is absolutely critical. What are some of the types of platforms that you think reps need in order to really maximize success in today’s selling environment? How would you say that these platforms help to streamline processes for reps?

GA: With a question like this, there are so many options out there to choose from, but I would say at minimum, you need tools that are going to help you gather insights. You need tools that will help you get to know prospective customers without them necessarily knowing that you’re there. If you aren’t solutions-focused with your approach hoping to solve people’s problems, it’s going to be tough to get their attention. You need tools that will help you not only gather insights, but also verify your contact information to make sure you have the most accurate information that you can work with.

Beyond that, you need a tool that’s going to help you reach out to these individuals across multiple channels and do so consistently without having leads fall through the cracks. You need to stay organized and ultimately you need something that’s going to help you scale your activity day to day in a way where you can keep up with the demands of the landscape.

Unfortunately for salespeople, the job just gets harder year over year. The number of touches that it takes to take a stranger and turn them into a prospect and now they’re sitting here looking at your demo, that just increases year over year. How do you keep up with that demand? If you’re a salesperson, it’s really tough to do so if you don’t have certain platforms in place to help with that process.

SS: Absolutely. I think part of the process for equipping reps is making sure that they’re armed with the right resources that they need to effectively engage with their buyers. What role do platforms play in this?

GA: Well, from my perspective, the platforms are critical, but I guess for me the first domino to fall is you have to get in contact with someone to even start a conversation. If you have to get in contact with someone, how do you even get their attention to get in contact? That’s really what the tools are there to do, to really help you get their attention. If you don’t have certain tools and you have more of a traditional approach where maybe you spray and pray email, you just stick to templates, you don’t add elements of personalization, some reps of course might be allergic to cold calls, if you will, some might be allergic to adding little elements of personalization they really just prefer for the speed of things to send out the template as is, unfortunately these types of approaches that maybe have generated success years ago, they won’t give you the consistent results today. If you don’t have platforms in place to get their attention, then how do you even start the conversation?

My biggest part is not so much focused on engaging with customers, but I want to make sure that our reps, when they reach out, they have everything they need to not only get someone’s attention, but to leave a lasting and memorable impression so that they stay top of mind with these prospects. That’s really the game that I focus on. That introduction, leaving an impression good enough to where they actually want to see more of your product, and they show up to see it. That is really what I think is the bread and butter when it comes to top of the funnel, and you can leverage these tools in ways to really check a lot of boxes in that respect.

SS: No, absolutely. In fact, I’d love to dig a little deeper into this notion of engagement. What are some of the key metrics that you look at in determining how successful maybe some of your reps are at engaging with these buyers and customers? What are some of the ways that you gather these insights?

GA: So, I like this question because when it comes to key metrics, it’s really contextual on who I’m working with. What it takes to sell in say New York or in Seattle may be different than what it takes to sell in North Carolina or Georgia. When I meet with a rep, first and foremost before I look at any metrics, I want to look at the art of what they’re doing. The things that can’t necessarily be measured in the day-to-day to see, is there anything that we can do? It may not be that you don’t work hard enough. It could be that you have the right numbers, the right output, you’re sending out the emails, but the nuance in your messaging may be off.

What I really look for is, one, what result are you looking to get? Did you get it? If you didn’t get your result, let’s take a look at what you did and then I’m going to try my best to help you figure out how to eventually get there. Honestly, I don’t know if there’s a key metric other than talking to the rep. Did you meet your goal, or did you not meet your goal? That’s my approach from an enablement standpoint. It’s not that I don’t care about the metrics, but my job is just to help ensure that reps are getting the most out of their experience. I’ll leave the metrics and all that to the managers.

SS: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I think that definitely makes a ton of sense for managers to be looking at those key metrics. A closing question for you, Gerald, looking ahead to 2022, what do you think some of the biggest opportunities are for organizations to better enable their sales teams through platforms?

GA: You know, looking ahead, the reality of these tools and their impact in the sales world is undeniable. It’s a requirement now that sales reps have a certain level of comfort with these tools to really get the most out of the role. Organizations moving forward, I think the biggest opportunities really just lie in the fact that the role that I am currently in, it didn’t exist until it was created. I think that there’s a lot of opportunities to really specialize the training around some of these tools in the stack, and it’s needed because again, companies use these technologies in so many different ways. You need people inside the organization who understand how it fits within the scheme of the organization, and then they can communicate that to others as they come on board.

I think that we have so many tools that we invest in, the opportunity is there to just further develop support around those tools to support the organization and it’s something that I don’t want to say is unlimited, but the technology is not going anywhere and it’s going to be only more and more important to have that expertise inside the organization. I think that’s really the biggest opportunity moving forward, leveraging the expertise to make sure that when sales reps come on board, they don’t really have as much of an uphill battle that they may have experienced in other places.

SS: Absolutely. Well, thank you Gerald so much for your time today and your insights that you shared with us.

GA: Oh, my pleasure.

SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there’s something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

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