EP 19 – How Sales is Evolving (with new tools and approaches) – Simon Puleo

Presentation of the episode

On the nineteenth episode of the Virtual Selling podcast, our guest is Simon Puleo, Global Enablement Director at Aurora Solar.

We discuss how sales is evolving, with new tools and approaches.

About Simon Puleo 

To learn more about Simon Puleo and Aurora Solar click on the links below :



With the pandemic that came upon us, the rise of video conferencing tools like Microsoft teams and zoom has led to more aspects of the sales conversation to occur virtually. And what began as a crisis reaction has evolved into the new normal, but how normal is the new normal? We’re talking about how the strong shift from in-person to virtual selling has transformed B2B sales experience, virtual sales enablement, new organization’s KPIs. Everything is evolving. In the virtual selling podcast we address these issues in depth twice a week with the experts and leaders of these transformations, heads of sales, sales ops, and sales enablements of the most innovative companies in the field. This podcast is sponsored by sales, the new SAS platform to make your customer meetings more engaging and better prepared.
Find out how you can shorten sales cycles, convert more leads and increase customer engagement. Virtual selling is here to stay. And so is

Hi, everybody. I’m very happy to be with Simon Puleo who’s global enablement director at Aurora Solar, and it’s always difficult with my accent. And you had a long career in enablement before with HP, with micro focus, with contrast security. And we will discuss about that first, but please let you introduce yourself and Aurora.

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Sure. Thanks, Gabriel. My name’s Simon Puleo and I manage the enablement function at Aurora solar where at Aurora we provide solar to retail and commercial providers. And we provide artificial intelligence as well as maps that help them create these designs to actually place the panels. We also provide estimates on energy usage per homes and businesses. it’s a growing field. It’s going really quickly as the industry is adopting software over going onsite and actually doing these estimates. So it’s moving really fast. Like everyone mentioned, I’ve been in enablement for most of my career, and financial services and technology and insurance, even at a few startups. And I really enjoy my work working with sales reps and sales leaders and marketing professionals.

Even before enablement was enablement by the way.

It’s true. It’s true. That’s interesting. You brought that up before.
It was enablement for me, it was called sales training, and I worked in a sales training department at UBS. It was called professional development. And really the forward enablement first came around in about 2009 at HP when the integration of mercury happened and a lot of the people I work with coin that term, the idea of being ready for the sale, being ready for the discussions instead of just training, which is a one-time event.
And that’s really where the differentiation lies for me is that it’s about readiness, readiness through lots of different channels. And training is part of that overall readiness package.

And what are the other channels that are part of this readiness?

Sure. I mean, it could be the assets that help sellers sell.
It could be knowing the right people within the organization. Your SI, your CSMs, the different roles that you might work with? It could be a readiness in formal training. Like I’m training you live today on the pitch or even informal training using tools like Chorus or others where reps can practice delivering their pitch before they actually meet with customers.

Great. What are the difference in term of enablement between organization like HP you have worked with and more younger organization, like Aurora?

Sure. I mean, for me, it really. There’s really twofold. One, the amount of activities that any individual enablement person like myself has to perform and to some of the activities themselves, I mean, in a large organization like HP, at one point I was on a staff of a hundred different enablement people.
So. I would take on a role of maybe a trainer or working with product marketing. Other people would do the coordination, the LMS database reporting the overall strategy. So there was this like many people involved where at Aurora, every single enablement person, there’s three for a staff of 300. So everybody has to really take on a role of strategy and tactics and be involved in both explaining the overarching plan for that enablement program, but as well as running the webinars, setting up the assets, working with marketing and working directly with reps. So it’s a lot more hands-on I would say is the biggest difference for me.

And in term of programs that you prepare for the sales team, the program are different also?

You know, structurally, I think the programs are very, very similar because the way I look at it from kind of an instructional design perspective and meeting with sales stakeholders perspective is that they all look, they all have a similar flow.
There’s an analysis phase. What is the outcome of this training or enablement effort? There’s the design. Before we go into implementation and the development, you know, what kind of workbooks, what kind of assets in a tool like seismic might we need? What kind of decks do we need? There’s the implementation when we actually roll it out to reps.
And then lastly, there’s the ongoing evaluation of that programYou know, I think, I think the programs look similar. It’s just probably I would say the biggest difference is I can roll out a program in a matter of weeks to days at a company like Aurora and the same program I may take up to two to three months to roll out at a company like HP or Microfocus.

Okay. That’s for sure. And also within the program the way you deal on larger accounts, I believe it’s very different from smaller accounts.

Right. I mean, the biggest difference from like an HP or a micro-focus size organization is that they’re working with stakeholders that have a very large band of both above the line and below the line members from the customers. So there may be a CIO or a procurement professional, a security director, an it director, a compliance director. There, some of these deals that an HP or Microfocus may have to go all the way to the CEO for approval if they’re large enough. So there are all these different factors that reps have to do. When dealing with larger organizations and typically at Aurora, most of the organizations we deal with are smaller. So there will be a champion, maybe an owner and maybe one or two other people, actually making a decision on the Aurora solution.
So a lot of it is helping reps understand the different personas that they’re going to be working with. And then what specific questions they need to be asking to understand and uncover the real value that Aurora can deliver.

Okay. And so you designed your program or understandings the difference inside the customers?

When we first discussion you tell me about different types of programs, certification program new IRA program training program, which is the difference of all those programs?

Well, I think the difference for me has just been what has happened, like you mentioned with virtual selling over the last two to three years.
When I did a new hire program or certification program at Hewlett Packard or Microfocus, it was really the logistics of coordinating everybody to come together in a location to train on that product update or train on that new methodology in a face-to-face environment over two to three days. Typically that was very common for me to fly anywhere in the world and do a workshop like that at Microfocus, for example, where at Aurora, and even in contrast and over the last two years, that same type of program that would have been taught in a two to three-day instructional instructor, led training is now trained in maybe two weeks over multiple hours using zoom sessions, using learning management systems and using assets.
It’s still the same content, a different format, a different rigor. I currently use Lessonly to certify people. And it’s not only an assessment where a formative assessment in terms of somebody, you know, working through multiple choice questions, but then also a summit of assessment where they meet with me individually to demonstrate that they understand the pitch or they understand the product.

Okay, so the sales have evolved using zoom, but the sales training also has evolved a lot, with zoom and all the virtual tools.

yeah, exactly.

That’s really interesting. Do you think it’s more efficient to have those program within two weeks?

Yeah, I would say, I would say it’s still to be debated you know, since I’ve gone through this transition, I definitely see a higher connection with sales process when you meet with people one-on-one there’s really something about knowledge transfer when people are together in a room for more than three or four hours, they begin to indoctrinate that within them. Whereas with virtual training, I feel like the timeframe for impact is sometimes longer actually, just because I roll out a certification program this week, it doesn’t necessarily mean that reps will be using the assets and using the new material the next week. It’s more of like, I have to check in on that next week. And I have to create programs that span over time. The latest certification program that I put in place is about four weeks, for reps to go through all the material and then meet with me to be certified. Whereas if I were to do this and an instructor led fashion. The program would probably be three days of intensive training and then maybe an hour or two of follow-up. So it is quite different

But at the end, is it more efficient to do it on four months and virtual rather than three days?

It depends on the customer’s timeframe. I mean, in a lot of ways, yes, it’s more efficient because it is easier to replicate with the online and virtual training. Because if we have somebody which we had yesterday, somebody late join, they can now join the certification program even. And in the case of the instructor led, they would’ve missed that altogether. They would’ve never been able to have been there. So it’s certainly nice from that perspective. And it’s certainly nice from being able to update content regularly from a virtual perspective.

Yes, for convenience, it’s very clear, but also the fact of learning on a longer period, to take time to train and to test and to go back to the content and to go back to the training. Does it has an impact on the….

Yeah, I think it has an impact on the bottom line because I’m able to run, one I’m able to run reports to see that everybody can do it. Two, I feel like I can check in using tools like, like chorus to see if they’re actually performing and discussing new products as I mentioned.
So, I mean, you could argue that the impact is greater because I have more, more visibility into the process, whereas you know, Pre pandemic while I would do an instructor led training, I would not, not necessarily check in on someone’s actual performance. And you know, we really are making the shift now to a performance-based culture for sales, where we’re not only able to see what they’re doing in Salesforce. But we’re able to see what they’re doing actually in their meetings. Yeah.

During our introductory call with you discussed also about the fact that you already use cards and decks to train your team. That impressed me a lot. Like the product Salesdeck I’m launching. Could you share a bit of this experience?

Sure. Well, in cybersecurity, there’s something called the kill chain, which is the way an attack happens or progresse. And in that particular way that an attack progresses, it’s very important that sales reps understand each step of the attack life cycle so that they can have intelligent discussions with their customers about where their vulnerabilities within their networks or within their infrastructure. And I used a card game that I worked with another vendor to create, to help teach the reps at each phase of the cybersecurity kill chain, what different types of attacks can happen and how attackers can move and then how customers can develop systems or processes to stop those movements of attackers. And it was very successful because it really gave reps away to relate to that process of the kill chain. While being involved in a game like setting

And how were you using ? It was only for role play during training, or they were using it also during meetings or to prepare the meetings?

For this particular one, it was just for role play in training. At the same time I have seen, there’s something called an attack simulation that customers will do. And I have seen games and card games used for attack simulations as well with customers to help customers understand the level of depth within cybersecurity in particular.

Okay. Great. Do you have some other points you want to share about the way sales enablement has evolved since last years?

Yeah, I mean, I think we are having higher adoption now of virtual training and virtual sales enablement more than ever. I think pre pandemic, the role of the learning management system or the kind of seismic asset system, systems like chorus or gong. I think systems like that were seen as secondary, were seen as part of like first-line sales BDR type SDR, first call those, those systems were designed specifically for kind of lower level sales reps.
But as time goes on, I’m seeing more adoption of these types of systems by higher performing reps.
At Aurora, I’ve seen that a few of the higher performing reps have higher completion rates and understand how to use these tools to educate themselves and educate their customers more. More, even more than some of the first line BDR ups, because they’re understanding that education and knowledge is the future of how I’m going to position to my customer.
And they’re hungry for that. I think that’s a big change we’re seeing now.

How do they use it? For the high performers, that’s the first time I hear it.

Yeah, they do at Aurora and I have not seen that before when we’re a micro-focus or HP high-performers they would never access to learning management.
They may not even bother using chorus because they don’t see, they see it as an invasion of what they already know, and they just want to meet with their customer and have like a very one-on-one relationship. But I think that’s changing and that the true high performers that will come out in the next generation of sellers will adopt these tools and use them much like Luke Skywalker and C3 PO and R2D2, you know, he needs his artificial intelligence. He needs his robots to get by. I think that every sales rep is going to take advantage of all those tools that they are presented in a virtual world to continue their sales.

That’s great. And that’s a great conclusion because I truly think that you can really empower sales people and even the top performer and not only the low performer.

That’s really, yeah. Yeah, really interesting. Thanks a lot.

Yeah, thanks a lot Gabriel.

This episode of the virtual selling podcast is over. Thanks for sticking around. Join us twice a week for a new episode, with new stories and challenges of giants in the field. If you enjoyed today’s episode, we are always listening for your feedback. Share the show and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform so you don’t miss any episodes.

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Thanks a lot, Simon. It was really interesting. Thank you.

Thanks you Gabriel.


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