John Giacomini, Senior Vice President of Sales, North America at Netskope chats about changing buyer trends and how B2B sales will transform further in light of new industry needs in this chat with SalesTechStar:
Hi John, welcome to this chat with SalesTechStar! Take us through your sales journey through the years and more about your new role at Netskope?
I started out, interestingly, in physical security many moons ago. It was my first job out of college, and taught me a lot about the basics. It was about hustle, effort and making connections, and protecting valuable assets. The physical world has suffered crime going back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Crime and nefarious activity is no different in the electronic world, other than the criminals tend to be smarter, and they have more targets to attack.
I learned a number of foundational skills at that first job that helped propel me through other roles. The journey has been great, albeit it wasn’t always perfect. Looking back, I learned far more during the difficult times. Cyber security was just getting started and I was fortunate enough to be in the early stages of a critical industry that helps protect our way of life. Netskope is a culmination of my career in technology, combining various technologies I have represented in the past. Netskope is a modern era solution to the dissolving perimeter. As companies (and employees) have changed the way they work, Netskope is an enabler of the modern business — work from anywhere, accessing applications that are everywhere.
As a sales leader, what are some of the big focus areas you feel incoming sales heads to new teams need to be looking at deeply to drive new business value in the near-term?
Sales is going through a massive transformation, with buyers being much more educated about the needs they have, and the requirements they need to address. To drive business value, one needs to understand the initiatives that are important to the customer. Unpacking and truly understanding the business issues a prospect faces, allows them to serve their needs. Customers don’t necessarily buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Translated, that means we need them where they are, spend energy really driving into deep discovery, to unlock the joint potential of our capabilities that can match their vision.
How would you tell sales teams to drive stronger alignment in their process and how they collect and centralize their data, in order to drive more impactful future strategies?
Wow, there is a lot here to unpack! Customers are inundated with vendors (all of us) trying to get their attention. Being prepared, researching their industry, being relevant to the challenges they likely face allows us to be more relevant more quickly. Information is power. The more we know, the more likely we can craft intelligent solutions that likely will meet the needs of our customers. Customers want outcomes, not activities. Harnessing the information we have or can gather helps us target our ability to solve problems quicker, and more efficiently.
What are some of the sales technologies that you have often relied on in your various sales and revenue roles?
The tech stack for sales has been an interesting to watch unfold. Not to date myself, but I had a “rolodex” on my desk, with actual business cards in it — that was really a thing back in the day…haha! Simple evolution to database software like ACT! has morphed into a whole new world of automation. SFDC is probably the most universal platform tool I have used over the years, as it was truly foundational to having a true customer database. Other tools that come to mind, like Gainsight have been useful in keeping a pulse on the customer, how we are doing with the on-boarding journey with the intent of reaching those stated outcomes, to overcome business challenges. Sales is also a customer of the marketing automation space. Tools like Marketo, which can help curate the buyer journey electronically, help the team focus its energy on prospects that have shown interest in various capabilities we offer. Lastly, in the area of forecasting, I am a fan of Clari. This tool simply puts into an application the way a revenue leader thinks. Using algorithms and science, tools like Clari add the dimension of the human elements to predicting future performance. I was skeptical at first, but when joined with a good methodology, some rigor in the forecasting process, tools like Clari allow us to make less “gut calls” and more predictive forecasts.
What do you think the future of B2B sales would look like a few years from now?
Buyers are more and more educated and their processes don’t often include engaging with B2B sellers early in the process. So, the digital presence of a company is more and more important, and that research and investigation can take place wherever and at any time. However, the same basic principles of being successful hold true. Take care of your customers, and they will take care of you. Earning Advocacy in your customer base is the goal. If they “reach Advocacy Status,” they become the most powerful resource you can have to expand your new account growth (we used to call them referrals). I had a CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) show me a Slack channel he was a part of. There were 20+ like-minded CISO’s on this channel, sharing information, talking about trends, discussing vendor strengths and weaknesses. He told me, “John, I can promote you or crush you in this market, with two or three sentences in the channel.” So, it just reinforced my operating condition that spans decades of my sales career — take care of the customer, and they will take care of you.
A few thoughts on the future of salestech?
I’m excited about the progress we’ve seen in the use of automation, as the pace of change, the increased demand from customers and the speed at which business operates, traditional methods just don’t scale.
As we continue to move to a world of work from anywhere, with decision makers located everywhere, I believe the future of salestech will be critical to helping buyers and sellers connect in an efficient and mutually meaningful way. And like the aforementioned use of the “rolodex”, I feel that in a year or two we’ll look back at how we did things pre-Pandemic and shake our heads at how inefficient they actually were. That is the beauty of working in salestech. While many of the core human-esque principles will always remain (do the right thing, take care of the customer, etc.), the way we carry out our business has hit a historical inflection point in terms of how quick “the way” turns over. And that strategic progress is incredibly exciting to me and I am looking forward to what we will collectively experience next.
Some last thoughts and takeaways before we wrap up?
I joined Netskope recently, and at a very exciting time. So many converging themes here that culminate my career. I am excited to see internet security converge with traditional networking capabilities that will speed innovation and secure an ever-growing infrastructure. The pandemic forced us to work differently, and I am proud to be a part of a company that made, and continues to make, our new reality possible. The network perimeter (think ‘castle and moat’ analogy) is a thing of the past, and customer data lives in the app universe. Just like we have accelerated change in how we live, work, socialize and recreate, B2B selling is forever going to be different. My job is to keep us a step ahead of that curve, meet buyers where they are, focus on solving their most pressing challenges and deliver business outcomes.
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