Executives Unpacked Episode 31: Valuing Sales Skills with Paolo Cuttorelli 

This post was written by: John Clifton

On Episode 31 of Executives Unpacked we were joined by Paolo Cuttorelli, who is the Senior Vice President and General Manager for APAC and EMEA for Evergent, one of the world’s leading providers of subscription and partner management solutions. Paulo has over 20 years of experience in digital technology, with a range of roles under his belt. He joined us to share some more insights on his fascinating career, as well as the advice he’s picked up along the way. 

What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt during your career? 

I’ve learned the most about speaking to customers and managing people. The one thing I’ve learned in both cases is that you really can’t change people. That isn’t to say you can’t persuade them or convince them or cajole them into doing things – but ultimately you need to accept that people are who they are and they have their own distinct personalities. Whether that’s a colleague or a partner or a customer, you have to work with them to create scenarios that are mutually acceptable for everyone. 

As people we spend a lot of time living in our own heads and thinking about how the world is treating us and what this person said or what happened to us. The truth is that everyone’s having that internal dialogue with themselves, so you need to empathise and listen closely to people’s experiences. That’s what I aspire to do. That includes asking a lot of questions and trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes so that you can understand them. Everyone has a deep desire to be heard and to feel understood. So you can’t change people, but you can try to see life in other people’s shoes.

What do you wish you’d been told earlier in your career?

Lots of things! I’m still learning things now that I think ‘I probably should have known that sooner’. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been working for so long that I should know everything by now. But that’s the beauty of it; you keep learning. That’s what keeps the job interesting. 

Overall, I really wish that I learned how to sell earlier. Sales is something that I’ve been doing for about 17 years, but it’s only part of my role. I do a lot of everything, from account management to risk mitigation and general management activities. The process of selling is something we put a lot of emphasis on internally, because you have to know how to have conversations with customers. Within those you have to figure out if there’s a problem that we can solve or if we’re just pushing a product on them, because that’s not what we want to do. If they have problems that we can solve they will become a long term customer because we’ll be doing something valuable for them. 

So in that sense the selling aspect of my role has taught me a lot about human nature, which gave me tools that I wish I’d had earlier on in my career. I’m not saying I wish I started my career as a salesperson – I’m super grateful for the fact that I started off in the delivery function as a project manager. Earlier in my career I was very dismissive of salespeople, because I thought they were just chasing money. For some salespeople that is the case, but I don’t think that’s what drives me or my team. We’re genuinely looking to solve problems and to create value for people. That’s what I wish I understood sooner.

What are some of the things that have constantly kept you awake at night?

I sleep pretty well, but I’ve always stressed about things. Over the course of my career I’ve tried to use that fear or worry to propel me forward and not let them act as a countervailing force in my life, because if you let it suffocate you, you’re not going to get anywhere. You can use these emotions as a headwind or a tailwind. Something I’ve had to learn, particularly over the past 5 to 10 years, is that these are all perfectly normal feelings. We all have these responsibilities as we progress through life, so you have to be able to harness the stresses that come with them to push yourself forward instead of having them pull you back.

Can you identify a single thread that has run through your career that has led to success? 

For me it always comes back to the value of hard work. There really is no substitute for hard work. I don’t think I’m the smoothest talking guy, or the best salesperson, but I do think I’m a very hard worker. We’re in a very complex space, so we can’t get by through force of personality. You’ve got to put in the hours, you have to have grit. You have to put your head down and get on with it. Even if you encounter a rough patch, even if there’s something that happens that holds you back, you have to keep your chin up as well. 

One of our core values is ‘be optimistic’, because being optimistic is more powerful than you would think. If your head swims in negative thoughts it’s just going to hold you back in life. The most successful people I’ve known were always looking ahead, glass half full kind of people, so that’s what we’re cultivating in our company culture so that we can deliver as much value to our customers and investors as possible. 

What one bit of advice do you always give other people? 

Embrace the unknown. It’s easy to get stressed out about not knowing what’s coming next. You have no idea which challenges and opportunities are awaiting you on your journey, so you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. You have to be very aware of your environment too. Surround yourself with the right people and look out for the right opportunities. Keep an open mind, travel, find a mentor and don’t be afraid of rejection. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help just in case they say no. If someone says no to me, that’s fine. You’d be surprised by who’s willing to help you if you just ask. Try to position yourself for success as much as possible.

To hear more from Paolo, tune into Episode 31 of Executives Unpacked here. 

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