Fireside Friday with Pete Prowitt
Sales Assembly: Give us your quick background in sales.
Pete: I started in tech sales after stints as a professional basketball player in Europe, speechwriter at an international governmental organization and then as an investment banker. I loved elements of each, but none paired the dynamic nature of working at a hyper-growth company and a competitive charge like tech sales (and didn't risk torn ligaments or broken bones). Over the past eight years, I've been lucky to work at great companies such as Box.com, Quip and now Intercom, both as an individual contributor and as a sales leader. In my current role, I lead multiple teams of sales account managers at Intercom, both in San Francisco and with a growing presence in Chicago.
Sales Assembly: What's your biggest accomplishment in sales or sales leadership?
Pete: Starting and then building up a new team of sales account managers on our existing business side at Intercom. We define sales account managers as sales reps on our existing business side, each with a revenue expansion quota. In my first leadership role, we took a team of junior employees and a hypothesis around how they could positively impact our existing business retention and expansion, and set off to prove ourselves against a lofty revenue goal. The end result? A year in, we grew the team from three to eight reps and were able to drive over $9M ARR, far exceeding our initial mandate.
Sales Assembly: What's the best piece of sales advice you ever got?
Pete: “What got you here, won’t get you there.” - My old manager, Kevin Michaelis.
Sales Assembly: What's the biggest challenge facing a sales rep today, and how would you recommend they overcome it?
Pete: Adding value to modern customers, who are better informed and prepared going into a purchase than ever before.
Sales Assembly: Do you currently have a mentor when it comes to sales, or have you ever? If so, what did they teach you?
Pete: Yes, they taught me to never get complacent and to be open to new challenges.
Sales Assembly: What's the best sales book you've ever read? What are you reading now?
Pete: The best sales book I've ever read is The Challenger Sale. Understanding that great sales reps earn the right to challenge their customers when it's called for, and that this leads to better business outcomes for both parties was a pivotal moment in my development. I'm currently reading The Transparency Sale by Todd Caponi, because I love his message - the most powerful person you can be with your customers is yourself. Human beings are really good at picking up on B.S. - it's important to be your authentic self in your sales career (and life!).
Sales Assembly: Best sales or business related articles, podcasts or newsletters?
Pete: A bunch - a lot of LinkedIn. I listen to the Outreach podcast regularly and enjoy their content, alongside others like Gary Vaynerchuck, John Barrows and Richard Harris on LinkedIn.
Sales Assembly: What's the best advice you'd give to someone just starting a career in sales?
Pete: Sales is a crazy profession. You are basically signing up to risk 50% of your paycheck by betting on yourself. You need to keep that in mind every day and control everything you can to beat your goals, because there’s no soft landing in sales.
Sales Assembly: Do you see any interesting future trends as it pertains to sales?
Pete: I think that the lines are blurring between different roles at companies, and everyone has to figure out how to add value in a new environment. For example, when does the line between sales end and success start? When does marketing stop and sales lead generation begin? How do these differ from company to company? I think that the next iteration of the modern sales pro is one where we can touch multiple parts of the company. Some days, it might be releasing a video to LinkedIn to promote a product release, on others it might be meeting with product leads to bring the voice of the customer to that team. Sales professionals shouldn't be "boxed in" to older convention; they should be the engine that drives a company forward - even if it means stepping outside of their job description.
Sales Assembly: Why does working at high-growth startups feel so messy?
Pete: In the history of business, it usually took companies 50-75 years to achieve a valuation of $1B. Now, you see companies hitting that mark in five years. This means that hyper-speed companies are making fast bets and moving at a rapid pace, and this can feel hectic. Don’t worry - it’s normal and actually is a positive.