This is our interview with Jonathan Petrino, VP of Global Customer Success & Partnerships at Signal. You can follow Signal at @Signal.
Sales Assembly: Give us your quick background in sales.
Jonathan: I've been in customer facing, consultative sales roles for most of my career. I spent a few years in digital marketing roles and moved back into sales and account management at Responsys (acquired by Oracle in 2013). I have held a few roles at Signal - now running global customer success and channel sales, and previously recruited and built the SDR and field sales organization a few years ago.
Sales Assembly: What's your biggest accomplishment in sales or sales leadership?
Jonathan: To be a part of a truly high-performing team is an incredible experience. I have been very lucky to have had that experience multiple times and to be able to share those learnings with others is extremely rewarding. And, working directly with clients to help them achieve their goals while also creating value for your organization never gets old.
Sales Assembly: What's the best piece of sales advice you ever got?
Jonathan: "Discipline Equals Freedom" - a quote from former Navy Seal and author Jocko Willink. Sales and customer success, like all things in life, benefit from daily disciplines. Those disciplines can set you free from many of the things that plague us all at work - outreach, pipeline management, deal velocity, etc.
Sales Assembly: What's the biggest challenge facing a sales rep today, and how would you recommend they overcome it?
Jonathan: In our industry at Signal (adtech & martech), there are almost 7,000 companies that, on the surface, to a time-crunched buyer look and sound at least somewhat similar. How do you create separation from your competitors? Concepts like consultative or social selling used to be unique - now they are nearly ubiquitous. It will take a daily set of disciplines in all things, commitment to continuous development of critical skills and evolving knowledge with your industry to win.
Sales Assembly: Do you currently have a mentor when it comes to sales, or have you ever? If so, what did they teach you?
Jonathan: I've had so many mentors over the years...people I seek guidance from. I think today it's okay to have a set of people who are open to giving you feedback and from whom you seek council. It could be people from outside your industry, your own team or peers at other companies.
Sales Assembly: What's the best sales book you've ever read? What are you reading now?
Jonathan: Extreme Ownership from Jocko Willink & Leif Babin. It's not a sales book per se, but a book that can help you in all aspects of life - work (and sales) included. Currently, I'm reading The Transparency Sale from Todd Caponi and Marketing to the Entitled Consumer from Nick Worth & Dave Frankland. A recent favorite, as well, is Shoe Dog from Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike.
Sales Assembly: Best sales or business related books, articles, podcasts or newsletters?
Jonathan: There has literally been an explosion of sales podcasts and resources. It can be tempting to spend a lot of time taking all that in. I prefer to pick up a few concepts and implement and learn first-hand. I do find podcasts a great way to stay up on my industry and advance my knowledge, so I listen to "Pivot" (Kara Swisher & Scott Galloway), "AdAge Ad Lib" and "AdExchanger Talks." I also subscribe to Benedict Evans' newsletter from Andreessen Horowitz.
Sales Assembly: What's the best advice you'd give to someone just starting a career in sales?
Jonathan: Working in sales or account management/customer success is an incredible way to learn what makes a business successful. You get a front-row seat to how customers think, what their needs are and what makes them buy (or not buy). I don't think I'm aware of a better education available honestly. Treat everyday and every interaction as a learning opportunity - you never know where it can and will take you.
Sales Assembly: Do you see any interesting future trends as it pertains to sales?
Jonathan: AI, automation, increased amounts of data, etc. - these trends will have a lot of impact on sales. But I think the trick is not getting caught up on the trends themselves and learning how to incorporate (or even ignore them) in your daily set of disciplines while growing your skills and knowledge base. Can a given trend help you influence customers? How does it fit into your process today? Ask yourself a set of questions to evaluate - but, don't get distracted.
Sales Assembly: What makes sales or customer success at a startup different than a more established company?
Jonathan: Depending on your company or industry, be prepared to do a lot of educating and understand that you're helping to build a company, not just there to "do sales." Your role will be integral to the company growing and scaling as they learn from you and with you about what customers want and what makes them buy. It's a great experience but very different than selling or working with clients at a large company.