While on the one hand, the ongoing pandemic has disrupted sales and marketing processes and models across the typical B2B organizational hierarchy, it has also highlighted new patterns and trends including sales tech adoption habits, that are set to give sales and marketing a new base in the near-future: Dave Wilner, Chief Revenue Officer at Auth0 discusses more:


Hi Dave, welcome to SalesTechStar! You’ve had quite an exciting journey in tech through the years…take us through the biggest moments and highlights…? Your ‘’favorite’’ experience thus far?

I’ve been fortunate to work at some great companies, with some amazing people, over the last 20+ years.

Watching Auth0 grow from less than $1mm to over $100mm in annual recurring revenue in 5.5 years has certainly been a highlight; I’ve been a part of a number of high growth businesses, but nothing that’s been so well received by such a large market, so quickly.

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I think my favorite overall experience has been something I’ve had across most early stage companies I’ve been a part of—being a disruptor. My very first tech company, Applied Discovery, was a pioneer in electronic discovery—teaching lawyers how to take a more modern, more efficient approach to the discovery process in litigation. Redfin was the country’s first fully online real estate brokerage, and the first to overlay real estate property listings on virtual maps. And Auth0 of course created the application identity space.

The 2020 pandemic had to make sales and marketing leaders more immune to adapting to quick changing customer needs: tell us about your time in 2020 and leading sales / revenue at Auth0 during this time; what were some of the most impactful strategies that worked that you’d like to talk about?

One thing I’ve had to really work on is my intensity over the phone/Zoom. My natural tendency in a 1:1 or team call is to be very direct, to the point, and time-efficient. Not much time on “how was your weekend?” etc. The pandemic has required us all to be more intentional, patient, and empathetic leaders. As a result, I spend at least the first 5-10 mins of most calls/meetings just ‘connecting,’ giving team members a chance to vent, laugh, cry, or just talk about something lighter than what we’ve all dealt with over the last year. The pandemic was a good reminder to inject more humanity into the day-to-day.

There’s a difference today in how sales leaders need to build and hire sales teams when compared to a few years ago; can you share a few top thoughts that need to take more focus in 2021?

Given that buyers are far more educated today—I think surveys typically conclude that buyers’ technology diligence cycles are often 70+% complete before they ever speak to a sales person—critical sales skills are wildly different than say, 15 years ago, when salespeople could control access to demonstrations or proofs of concept. If your buyer has already done their homework, it’s possible that they only have a few “final mile” questions to get answered before making a decision. It’s therefore easy for sales folks to be intellectually lazy—to just recite the answers to prospects’ questions, cross their fingers, and hope for the best. The best sales people today have the intellectual curiosity to dig deep and truly understand a buyer’s situation, along with the confidence and presence to reengineer the vision of a buyer that may have inaccurate preconceptions based on their research.

It’s also becoming increasingly important to hire people who have perspectives outside of sales. In SaaS in particular, it’s critical that the buyer journey be technically and thematically consistent across technical presales and post sales customer success. Sales folks that are accustomed to doing whatever it takes to get a deal closed, then throwing a messy deal over the wall to the post sales teams, will struggle with mature SaaS businesses with strong focus on net retention.

What are some of the sales technologies that you feel sales teams need to be more adept with but surprisingly aren’t, especially at the SDR and mid-level? 

Despite the explosion of offerings around propensity data—propensity to buy and/or propensity to take a call or meeting—my email and voicemail boxes are brimming with messages from folks that have cold called me with services that are not at all on my mind. Five years from now sales professionals up and down the org chart will be leveraging data around behavior signals and other BI to better focus their targeting efforts. Today, use of these technologies is still sporadic.

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As sales and marketing teams in tech optimize their remote processes through 2021, what are some of the views you have for ensuring brand and sales outreach stands out better?

Everyone is competing for eyes. The death of physical events has marketing orgs running exponentially more webinars, virtual lunch-and-learns, and other attempts at connecting with a market that is wholly disinterested in most digital marketing invitations. The result most Marketing orgs are struggling to get the same ROI on their virtual events when compared to the physical events that aren’t currently possible. The best sales and marketing orgs have focused less on how to “do the same thing, but virtual,” and have instead used the pandemic as a forcing function for innovating entirely new approaches. We’ve been successful of late in focusing on deeper, higher quality interactions with a much more targeted, much smaller target audience.

How according to you can marketing and sales work more closely to deliver better customer service today? Some alignment and tech tips that can help?

Net Retention—a combined measure of customer expansion and churn—is a critical SaaS metric. Companies with world-class net retention metrics (think: north of 130%) typically trade at much higher multiples than their peers with less success in this area.

The most successful SaaS businesses begin provisioning for their customers’ successful adoption of their service well before the initial deal is inked. Perhaps they bring in members of their PS organization early in the sales process to review a customer’s project design for holes. Or help the prospect build a three year TCO model to better set expectations. They also ensure that sales leaders across the business have skin in the game around churn, and customer success leaders are incented to drive very short time-to-value cycles for their customers.

A parting thought on what you feel every sales leader in tech / B2B needs to live by today….

Be bold. So many leaders and teams are struggling to adapt their old GTM motion to whatever the new normal has become. There is a unique opportunity for those that are willing to think beyond what has worked in the past, who take controlled risks on entirely new approaches, to differentiate themselves and their companies in meaningful and compelling ways.

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Auth0, the identity platform for applications teams, provides a platform to authenticate, authorize, and secure access for applications, devices, and users. In July 2020 the company closed a $120 million round of Series F funding led by Salesforce Ventures, bringing Auth0’s valuation to $1.92 billion.

 Dave Wilner is Chief Revenue Officer for Auth0, responsible for all field teams including Sales, Marketing, Professional Services, Support, and Customer Success. Dave has spent the last two+ decades in executive roles at high growth, highly successful software companies.

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