Creative Tools for Sales Development
Sales Prospecting 11.09.2021

Creative Tools for Sales Development

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On this episode of the Sunny Side Up podcast, David Szabo of Palo Alto Networks shares a fascinating strategy that took him from a curious young coder through the full spectrum of roles within the sphere of tech product development – from inception through design, testing, marketing, sales, and customer experience. Once he got familiar with all the different hats, it was easy for him to identify the one that fits best and at which he excels: Sales Enablement. David is known as an innovator who supports reps and SE’s by challenging them to uncover their motivation and define their mission. Learn about the array of creative tools, live exercises, and training that David provides in order to set up his teams for enduring success in the field. 

About the Guest 

David’s tech journey started as a 12-year-old boy who loved to code. At the age of 19, he had jumped in and did 3 software engineering roles across various tech companies including Microsoft. His curiosity to learn more led him to grasp knowledge in 4 countries, launch 3 tech start-ups as co-founder or VP. David’s expertise lies in UX, project management, product marketing, business development. Currently, he is at Palo Alto Networks, as the Director of Cortex Sales Enablement. ]

Connect with David Szabo

Key Takeaways

  • David explains why it was so important to him that he understood and experienced every stage of product development – from concept to sales and customer experience.
  • Innovative coaching and training form the basis for David’s unusual approach to engaging with – and exciting – the sales teams he’s tasked with activating.
  • David’s Academy Training: Live coaching sessions in which sales reps – experienced and newer – work together in role-play situations that sharpen the tool kit and inspire confidence out in the field.
  • For aspiring executives, David encourages work experience across geographies and cultures. Demonstrable competence and depth of knowledge/understanding are essential.
  • David’s focus isn’t on the product but on enabling and advocating for his reps and SEs, helping his teams discover their narratives, acquire knowledge, and practice skills that set them up for success in the field.


“I believe before a rep can really go before a customer you need to give them a lot of opportunities to try (through role-play). Not just read playbooks and product collateral, but to get coaching from colleagues.”

Highlights From the Episode

What early realization set the course for David’s career?

Far from thinking himself the most talented engineer around, David looked early on at his gifts and limitations. That self-awareness sent him on a journey through many disciplines that culminated in finding the thing that excites him most and he’s the best at Sales enablement. His exploration of sales, product support, user experience, and even art/design shaped the 360°-degree perspective he brings to Palo Alto Networks today.

Was there a major influence that shaped David’s professional choices?

David understood early in his career that a grounding in all aspects of product development would give him a huge foundation within the tech industry. He wanted to have first-hand knowledge of every step from product conception through production, marketing, sales and customer care, and user experience.

Can David pinpoint his primary contributions to tech innovation?

There are two areas in which David feels he has brought something new to the table: 

1) Helping sales and marketing people understand the importance of story generally and their own narrative in particular when it comes to connecting with selling a product or service.

2) Using creative, entertaining, and really engaging ways of teaching and training, which could mean an internal mini-documentary or communicating personal stories across silos within the company. 

Does David have a unique approach to sales enablement?

Inspiration through stories and connecting in a playful way is one of the fundamental underpinnings of David’s sales approach, but he also incorporates a very practical element. He and his team at Palo Alto Networks have been gathering data points from real-life case studies and creating role-plays. At his “Academy,” seasoned reps work with newer salespeople, lending insights and sharing wisdom. More than a thousand employees have participated in this unique coaching format.

Why is it important to work in geographically distributed offices?

A Microsoft mentor once told David that, in order to be successful at the VP level, it’s essential to have worked across a minimum of three theatres. That’s what indicates that you’re seasoned and versatile. Through his “ambassador network,” David’s teams can access eyes and ears on the ground – a critical piece when it comes to connecting across cultures around the globe.

What are the emerging leadership trends in sales development today?

Twenty years ago the whole user experience didn’t exist … Then one day someone came up with an idea: “Why don’t we think about the user and the interaction of that user with the screen? Suddenly the whole user experience profession was born. David believes a parallel narrative can be applied in many realms. He’s all about making his reps’ experiences user-friendly by enabling – and advocating – for people at work in the field. What do they need? How can they be better supported? Where are the gaps in tactics and training?

Recommended Reading/Resources

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