How to Be Successful in Software Sales: 6 Tips from Tim O’Neil, CRO at Alation

By Timothy O'Neil

Published on January 11, 2022

Woman wearing a microphone headpiece in an office setting

As Chief Revenue Officer at Alation, my responsibilities go far beyond just sales. I work side-by-side with my colleagues in Marketing to orchestrate our go-to-market motion. I work with Engineering to bring broad market insights into the development cycle. And I collaborate with all teams to ensure we’re pushing towards the same growth goals. I also engage with our customers to ensure the Alation journey continues to be beneficial and rewarding to both them and us.

Indeed, teamwork is how we’ll win. I’m a dad to three young kids (two girls and a boy), two of which play basketball and I’m the team’s coach. I learned long ago that being a cohesive team is critical to success, whether on the court or in the office. Everyone has different strengths, but when you add them up, a great team is so much stronger than a group of individuals. We’re building an exceptional team at Alation and we’re far from done.

It’s always been tough to find great salespeople and the so-called Great Resignation is exacerbating this challenge in new and unforeseen ways. This trend and related forces are not just pulling millions of people out of the economy, they’re driving experienced workers and tech workers out of the workforce at inordinately high rates. That’s a double whammy for someone in my role because experience matters in tech. In other words, we, as a team, have our work cut out for us.

At Alation, we’ve always worked hard to build an enthusiastic, energetic, and top-performing sales team. But now we’re working even harder to keep these headwinds from impacting our sales teams, salespeople, and our business. Here’s how.

1.Solve a Real Pain for a Large Total Addressable Market (TAM)

It’s difficult to sell a product you don’t believe in or that doesn’t fill a market gap. We’re grateful our founders and development team have created a market-leading data catalog that customers need and love. Organizations today are eager to solve their data governance, analytics, digital transformation, and other data challenges, and Alation can clearly help.

Add it all up—great product, large market, pressing need—and we have a robust pipeline of potential customers. We then enable our salespeople to provide those companies value, educate them on the benefits, and inform their choices. Once they become customers, those same companies enthusiastically share their stories, further easing every future sales cycles.

2.Make Sure Everyone Knows

The combination of our superior product and the market’s urgent need for such a solution has propelled Alation into top positions on every relevant analysts’ recommended list. In just the past few months Alation has been recognized in:

Since most enterprise customers tend to heed the recommendations of these analysts and influencers, this recognition puts Alation into instant consideration for buying teams.

3.Create a World-Class Sales Enablement Program Focused on Productivity

As I mentioned above, I also work closely with our Chief Marketing Officer, Tracy Eiler, to align our sales and marketing efforts. It helps us tightly define our market, create a cohesive and compelling message, collaborate on filling gaps in the funnel, and ensure we’re both working from the same playbook. Good salespeople see Marketing as a collaborator and partner, and we thrive on that relationship at Alation.

To put that all into practice, we enable new salespeople with robust training materials and a comprehensive Sales Bootcamp so they’re productive, know the product and market, and can make a quick impact. We then provide ample content tailored to a broad array of customer needs and situations, such as deployed technologies, use cases, audiences, and industries. We also have scores of customers that happily share their Alation success stories (see #4 for more on this).

Our focus on enablement is critical to our success, especially as we’ve doubled the size of our sales team. Despite this surge in growth, we still have a record number of new reps exceeding ramp targets and tenured reps on track to hit or exceed annual quotas. This makes Alation attractive to novice sales talent who want to launch their careers, as well as experienced reps who want to accelerate their careers.

4.Let Happy Customers Sell It for You

Happy customers are integral to sales success. Customer references are always a great resource for salespeople, especially in B2B enterprise sales. It’s so much easier to let a happy customer sell for you rather than trying to dance around the lack of customers willing to talk positively about your solutions.

Alation doesn’t just pay lip service to customer success, however. Dean Thomas, Senior Vice President of Customer Success, ensures every Alation customer receives maximum ROI from our solutions. We also expanded our customer success and support efforts by adding three executives to lead Global Customer Success, Global Technical Support, and Professional Services. By doubling down on customer success across the customer lifecycle, we’re ensuring Sales has a never-ending source of satisfied references.

5.Be a Great Place to Work

Of course, all of the above means nothing if the actual employees don’t love coming to work. Culture is incredibly important, and something we take very seriously. Alation was named to Inc. magazine’s annual list of the Best Workplaces for 2021, so we know we’re doing a lot of the right things.

And we continually strive to do more for our “Alationauts.” We offer great benefits, professional development opportunities, and a flexible work-life balance. We’re also pioneering a new market with an innovative solution, which opens up exciting and interesting opportunities across the business. That also gives us ample opportunities to promote from within before we recruit from outside. We want our employees to grow with Alation.

We’re also choosy about who we recruit and hire. Personally, I want to work with people I enjoy being with, respect, and can learn from, so I consciously build teams with an eye towards empathy and kindness. I believe the measure of a human is determined by what they can do for someone who can do nothing for them in return. We expect Alationauts to treat colleagues with respect regardless of their role.

We also expect our team to be “professionally urgent” in everything we do. The opportunity is ours for the taking if we act professionally yet move mountains to win. As a coach, it won’t surprise you that I love sports metaphors, so I’ll put it this way: Alation is in a championship window. We need everyone to play their hearts out and we’ll only recruit people who deserve to wear the Alation jersey. As we win, we’re creating more value with Alation and building an unstoppable team of Alationauts.

6.Know the Value of Sales

Salespeople place a high value on compensation and sales leadership when considering a career move. For the latter, we find, hire, and keep the best leaders because of everything listed above. The best leaders want to succeed and want their teams to succeed. A great product, market, and company mean a great deal to good leaders, and Alation delivers on all fronts.

For compensation, well, our eyes are wide open. And we know what it takes to attract the best. We then do everything we can to make sure they win.

I work closely with our People team to determine how we recruit the best and brightest, keep them happy and motivated, and keep them growing into and beyond their roles. As we move into 2022, this has become an increasingly interesting—and fun—challenge for me and the entire company.

With all of that said, we’re hiring! We have scores of openings, including a dozen or so in Sales. Take a look at our Careers page to meet some Alationauts, see what’s unique about our culture, and learn more about our values. Combined with what I’ve written above, I hope you see that Alation is, truly, a great place to be. Especially in Sales.

  • 1.Solve a Real Pain for a Large Total Addressable Market (TAM)
  • 2.Make Sure Everyone Knows
  • 3.Create a World-Class Sales Enablement Program Focused on Productivity
  • 4.Let Happy Customers Sell It for You
  • 5.Be a Great Place to Work
  • 6.Know the Value of Sales
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