The world of sales is not one-size-fits-all. Each expert has their own tools and practices that allow them to succeed and thrive in even the most competitive environment. We interviewed a variety of experts to get insights on what has made them successful.
For our latest interview, we will hear from Alea Homison, the Vice President of Sales Strategy at AlphaSense. She is responsible for the development, acceleration, and optimization of talent across the sales and service organization. Alea specializes in building go-to-market strategies for organizations focused on growth and scalability. She has developed and managed a variety of high performing teams throughout her career which spans sales strategy, corporate strategy, and investment banking.
Alea holds an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School and a B.S. in Risk Management and Business from Gannon University. She also wrote a book on sales leadership, titled Leading Sales Development: The Art and Science of Building Exceptional Teams with Jeremey Donovan, who we interviewed earlier in the series.
Here’s Alea’s insights into sales, leadership, and what enablement will look like in the near future.
What are your current favorite blogs, podcasts, books, etc for keeping up with sales enablement industry news?
A few of my favorite books are:
· The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
· Sales Differentiation by Lee Salz
· Gap Selling by Keenan
· Cracking the Sales Management Code by Jason Jordan
I also listen to a lot of TED Talks and podcasts that are more psychology focused given how essential I believe understanding the psychology of sales is to being a successful sales enablement professional. Given this, I would recommend any content from Brené Brown.
What is the tech that your sales team can’t live without? How do they use it on a daily basis?
From a sales enablement perspective, I believe conversational intelligence* platforms are the must-have tool for any sales team. These tools allow you to scale coaching, best practice sharing, and self-learning in a way that is impossible without them. For us, this translates to better new hire ramp and overall sales effectiveness.
When I first joined AlphaSense, we didn’t have such a tool in place so coaching was limited to calls or meetings that fit my schedule, but now my team and I can coach to calls any time of the day without being limited to the schedules of our reps and clients. Being able to point to best practice calls from across the organization also allows new hires to ramp faster as they can see what good sounds like in the context of a client conversation.
There is also an immense amount of value in these call recordings for the reps as they create mutual plans. Being able to more actively listen on calls versus taking detailed notes, and most importantly, use the recordings to be able to discuss value in the context of the clients own words (not their own) is critical.
Describe your typical day to day workflow as a sales enablement leader:
I’m not sure there is a typical day-to-day. Our Sales Enablement mandate at AlphaSense covers onboarding, new hire performance ramp, and ongoing sales effectiveness so every day is a constant balance of supporting the entire sales and service team across all three of these programs.
That said, unlike many Sales Enablement teams, what we do not spend our days doing is building collateral or SFDC dashboards* as we have amazing product marketing and revenue operations teams to do this work. Of course, we partner extensively with both of these teams, but we are laser focused on helping the organization understand our clients and optimizing the client conversation. This happens slightly differently in each of the programs we are responsible for:
We are focused on welcoming new hires into the sales organization and AlphaSense more broadly immediately on day 1 and our onboarding program continues for three intense weeks.
Week 1: Focused on the industries we sell into, the personas within these industries that buy from us, and developing deep product knowledge. The capstones of this week are a presentation to senior management and a demo certification.
Week 2: Focused on our sales methodology (Sandler*), discovery, objection handling, and our intro client deck. The capstone of this week is an intro deck certification with senior management.
Week 3: Focused on connecting client value stories, discovery, mutual plans, and objection handling into the demo so that we are not giving feature/function oriented demos. The capstone for this week is a demo with discovery certification with senior management.
New hire performance ramp
We remain as focused as we were on supporting new hires during onboarding throughout the next 12-weeks of their ramp at AlphaSense. This program is focused on the application and further development of the skills developed during onboarding.
Every new hire knows the exact success metrics that they are responsible for in any given week of ramp and Sales Enablement is providing constant support along the way.
Ongoing sales effectiveness
We are focused on creating a culture of constant learning, continuous feedback, and accountability so that as a team, we can be better today than we were yesterday.
Our sales enablement team is commercially-minded so we partner with ramped sellers to support their professional development goals through regular performance training, skills development, small group training, deal workshops, and client call and meeting coaching, among other things
How closely do you work with your marketing team?
We work very closely with our marketing team as their success runs hand in hand with the success of the sales team. We work with our product marketing team on voice of customer work, personas, product feature launches, and identifying the collateral needs of the sales team. We also work with our demand gen team to understand what is working and not working in their campaigns so we can amplify or avoid certain messaging, accordingly.
How have you set up your comp structure? How does this align with your sales strategies and goals?
Because our sales enablement team is more commercially oriented than the average sales enablement team, our comp structure tends to be different as well.
The key difference is that our sales enablement comp is tied to revenue and other sales metrics vs. being discretionary, which is typically the case. These sales metrics are revenue for the entire sales team and new hire ramp (pipeline, trials, and closed won business during ramp).
What big trends do you see coming for sales ops/enablement in the next few years?
I believe the biggest trend is going to be a split in how organizations consider the role of sales enablement going forward.
Many organizations will likely continue to view sales enablement as either an ops or collateral based role. While I believe a strong partnership with ops and product marketing are absolutely essential to the success of sales enablement, I believe we are going to see more organizations evolving sales enablement beyond this to a more commercially focused role consistent with how my current organization approaches the role.
Top Takeaways from Alea’s Interview
Alea’s success at AlphaSense is no mistake. With the right tools and processes in place, sales can work most effectively. Some of her top takeaways include:
- Conversation intelligence platforms are vital for effective sales communication. They allowed the sales team at AlphaSense to have better coaching and training for new hires, as well as improve their sales techniques through recorded conversations.
- Teamwork across the entire company allows sales enablement to have better focus on what matters most. Because AlphaSense has strong product marketing and revenue operations teams, sales enablement can focus all of their time and energy on the most important aspects of their job.
- A streamlined and intentional onboarding process for new hires is critical, but equally important are ramp and ongoing effectiveness programs to accelerate new hire success and continuously improve overall sales productivity, respectfully. Leaders must create a culture of learning amongst their team. A learning culture is core to the AlphaSense sales DNA, and a core contributor to success at the team is constantly striving to be better today than they were yesterday.
Alea has created a successful team by emphasizing products and processes that allow her employees to work at a higher level. Give some of her insights and suggestions a try to get the most from your sales enablement team!
*Conversational Intelligence: Using technology to facilitate conversation, such as messaging apps, chatbots, and speech-based assistants.
*SFDC Dashboard: Salesforce Classic Dashboard. Used to visualize data.
*Sandler: Sandler Training is a full-service development agency you can find here.
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