SalesTech Star

SalesTechStar Interview with Matthew Smith, Chief Strategy Officer at Tessian

Boosting customer engagement and customer value consistently with great customer experiences can be challenging for many sales and marketing teams. Matthew Smith, Chief Strategy Officer at Tessian shares some thoughts on building business outcomes with a customer-centric mindset in this chat:


Hi Matthew, we’d love to hear about your biggest sales learnings over the years, your journey through the years in tech and of course, what are you now most looking forward to in your new role as CSO at Tessian?

Over the past 18 years, I’ve had the chance to work at some really great technology companies. Prior to joining Tessian, I was the Global Vice President of Partner Sales and Business Development at Duo Security, responsible for building and leading the company’s indirect strategy. I grew the global partner organization and business development at Duo Security from 1 person to 30+ and from $30M ARR to $300M in 3 years. Before Duo, I spent eight years at Symantec, leading teams across corporate alliances, strategy, and tech partnering.

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Over the years, my biggest sales learning is to always stay focused on the voice of the customer and truly understanding their pain points and challenges. It defines how you sell, how you partner, how you develop products, and how you resource your teams. The bigger you get as an organization, the further you get from that voice. Accordingly, I’ve found you need to instill that mindset in your management and make it a part of how decisions are made.

Second, another key takeaway is around people and culture. Keeping an eye on how your culture evolves at the team level, department level, and company level is key. And it will evolve. And it will define how people act, how they make decisions, and how willing they are to take risks and share crazy ideas with you. As you build out your sales organization (whether at hyper growth startup stage or at a large company), hiring people that will enable your culture is an absolute. There’s no quicker way to destroy a high performing team than to hire a jerk that disrupts the team vibe.

What are some of the challenges that are facing revenue and sales leaders in tech today and what key tips do you have to share here?

I think the top challenge many leaders are facing is around finding great talent for their sales organization. In the tech industry, there is a shortage of great sales talent coupled with a glut of funding for startups of all sizes.

It again goes back to why building a great culture is so important. At Tessian, we are focused on the Human Layer – both as a product but also in how we lead and how we work with each other. Most people leave a job because of their direct manager and, in a competitive environment, most people will join because of the manager, the team and the opportunity. An existing team that’s excited and engaged will shine through to your candidates. In addition, having a well-built hiring and recruiting process will reflect positively on your group and also ensure a level of rigor and objectivity.

Seeing the key changes in today’s marketplace and how consumer behaviors are also changing in terms of how they want to be approached and what content they want delivered, what are the top factors that today’s customer-facing teams need to be optimizing more of to meet these changing trends?

At the moment, the customer engagement environment is challenging not only due to Covid-19 but also due to webinar and Zoom fatigue. Plus, with the influx of funding for startups, you are seeing escalation in lead acquisition costs and saturation of traditional routes to reach customers.

All that being said, most studies will show that over 70% of CIOs/CISOs/tech buyers look to their peers and their network when looking for solutions. That has not changed with the current environment.

Accordingly, building a robust customer referral network, architecting customer-led dinners and events, and sales 101 of asking for referrals are all still valid and highly productive means for reaching mid-market to enterprise customers.

In addition, customers continue to use value-add partners and consultants to help them solve their business and IT challenges. Building relationships with channel and technology partners provides an option to better reach prospects via their relationships.

Right now, Tessian is in the process of building a channel-first and channel-led sales motion to accelerate our ability to reach and sell to our prospects and customers.

Can you talk about some of the top solutions over the years (sales technologies!) that have helped you drive better business outcomes? And also, those that you plan to implement at Tessian to drive your goals?

First and foremost, building a channel program that is built with a partner and customer-first mindset is the best driver of revenue and business outcomes. However, a lot of companies get this wrong and build with a “me first” mindset. Second, sales technology is really only as good as the sales process and methodology that you implement. So I find it’s better to think of the technology as an enabler of your own process and methods, rather than as the solution to providing a method.

At Tessian, we are maniacally focused on our customers and partners. It’s baked into our values. We are building out a small set of highly focused partnerships and building a bespoke engagement or program for each of those partners.

The best sales tools we have are Slack, for real-time, rapid communication across our global team, and Gong which is a tool that lets anyone listen to an actual customer call. We use Gong to help train our teams and highlight our sales methods.

How, according to you, will the future of customer engagement in a digital buying world start evolving further (Augmented Reality demos, etc)…to change the face of digital customer engagements as we see it today?

As I’ve worked for SaaS companies for the past 10 years, I have a strong bias to the speed and depth that a SaaS platform gives you with customers – both in customer acquisition and in customer expansion and retention. Engaging customers real-time with trials, cloud-based proof of concepts, and using all of the telemetry a fully hosted solution provides is driving higher quality offerings and higher quality engagement across the IT space.

A few thoughts on what you feel today’s sales leaders need to do to motivate, train and uplift their teams to optimize business and sales performance, and the sales technologies you feel sales teams should have more of (implementation / better training) to drive goals?

In terms of motivating, training, and uplifting sales teams, I return to the voice of the customer and truly understanding their pain points and challenges.

The more you can orient yourself to solving real problems for customers; making their life, and their team’s lives, better, the easier it is to motivate a sales team that the work they do matters. Oh, and it also makes it a lot easier to close deals and make money for them!

Again, this usually requires a mindset shift from pitching my product to truly understanding what’s driving a customer to look for a solution or make a change. I would then look for tools that accentuate and reinforce this methodology.

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Tessian automatically stops data breaches and security threats caused by human error – like data exfiltration, accidental data loss, business email compromise and phishing attacks – with minimal disruption to employees’ workflow.

Matt Smith is the Chief Strategy Officer at Human Layer Security company Tessian. Prior to Tessian, Matt was Global VP of Partner Sales and Business Development at Duo Security and he previously held senior business development and partner roles at Symantec and Dell. Matt is based in Austin, TX and, outside of work, he is active in the non-profit area where he serves on several boards and founded an initiative called Autism Speaks with his wife.

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