EPISODE 393: Akamai’s Matthew Cannone and FireEye’s Pat Narus Share What Young Sales Professionals Must Do for Career Success

Subscribe to the Podcast now on Apple Podcasts!

Become a member of the elite Institute for Excellence in Sales and watch hundreds of replays!

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Sales Game Changers LIVE Webinar sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on August 10, 2021. It featured two finalists for the IES 2nd Annual Jay Nussbaum Rising Sales Star Award Matthew Cannone from Akamai and Patrick Narus from FireEye.]

Register for the IES Women in Sales Leadership Forum here.

Find Matt on LinkedIn here. Find Pat on LinkedIn here.

MATT’S TIP FOR EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Be optimistic. Nobody likes working for pessimist people. Stay curious, operate with urgency, fall through on what you promise the customer. Be thoughtful, lead with empathy and do it with a smile on your face and good things will come.”

PAT’S TIP FOR EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “This is specifically directed for young folks. Ignore on job resumes prior experience requirements, 20 years as a salesperson to apply for this job. Put yourself out there, tell these hiring managers you already have your PhD, that means you’re poor, you’re hungry, you’re driven. You will do whatever it takes to get the mission done and drive success for your team and for the customers.”


Fred Diamond: Every year, at the Institute for Excellence in Sales we have a big award event. For the first nine years, the award event was held live typically at a hotel in the Washington DC area. In 2020, we started giving out our first Jay Nussbaum Rising Sales Star Award. Jay Nussbaum was a sales legend in the public sector markets, he led Oracle’s public sector, played a big role in Xerox, he cofounded a company called Agilex that was actually sold to Accenture Federal. Just basically a bigger-than-life guy.

Every year we give out what we call our Lifetime Achievement Award, Jay was the second recipient of our Lifetime Achievement Award back in 2012. He passed away in 2019. To keep his memory alive, the Institute for Excellence in Sales has created an award, it’s called the Jay Nussbaum Rising Sales Star Award. In 2021, we had eight very capable finalists and we’re very excited to have two of those finalists on the show today to talk about what some of the young sales leaders are up to, how they’re approaching sales, how they’re thinking about the career.

We’ve got Matthew Cannone from Akamai and we have Pat Narus from FireEye, two very eloquent young sales professionals. We’re going to be talking about what they’re doing to stay fresh, how they’re staying motivated and how they’re staying at the top of the game. Matt Cannone, it’s great to see you. Matt, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? Tell us where you work and tell us what you do for your company, Akamai.

Matthew Cannone: Thanks for having me, Fred, it’s good to be joined by Pat. I had the chance to get to know him over the last couple weeks and really enjoy learning his side of the house as well. I’ve been at Akamai five and a half years, my role, I’m a major account executive. Basically, growing up at Akamai during that time starting as an inside sales rep, going after signing up new customers across all major verticals.

Organically stepped into more of a strategic account, new customer acquisition role and then in the beginning of 2021, I moved over to manage four of Akamai’s strategic financial service customers. I still have a little focus on signing up some of the larger organizations who are not utilizing Akamai today, so you could call it a little bit of a hybrid role. I’m exposed to all parts of the business, work collaboratively with marketing, products, finance and have a wide range of resources available to make sure our customers remain happy.

Fred Diamond: Pat Narus, you’re with FireEye. I want to thank you for being on today’s show. You’re getting married this weekend, good for you and thank you so much for giving us a little bit of your time. I’m sure your wife-to-be is very happy that you’re with us today. Same question, tell us what you do and tell us a little bit about your company.

Patrick Narus: Fred, thanks for having me on and I wouldn’t miss this even if I was getting married later this day [laughs]. Thanks again, Matt. Everyone listening, I hope we can help and share some thoughts that may help you along the way. My current role, I’m on the US public sector team, specifically, the civilian practice at FireEye. I’ve been at the company for four years now, I’ve been a federal account executive all four years. Pretty much, I’m the day-to-day point of contact for all of our customers, managing the relationships, all the business and all the future plans.

Fred Diamond: I mentioned that Jay Nussbaum, the name of the award that we give out every year now, was one of our Lifetime Achievement Award winners at the Institute for Excellence in Sales. In 2015, the Lifetime Achievement Recipient was a man name Mark Weber who was the president of NetApp at the time. He had retired from NetApp and had gone to the Catholic University of America and created their sales curriculum there. The Institute for Excellence in Sales has a wonderful relationship with CUA, and Pat, I know you went there. Next question is why don’t you tell us a little bit about your area of study in school and was sales your chosen field or did you just wind up in sales? Pat, tell us a little bit about how you got into sales.

Patrick Narus: At Catholic University, my major was in philosophy. I wanted to differentiate myself because I knew in today’s world, today’s market, the ability to critically think, reason, formulate complex ideas and propose those to other minds at large was so needed. You mentioned Mark Weber, he’s a great mentor and friend of mine, I’m so blessed to have him in my life. Fred, I was able to meet you and IES through Mark Weber at his sales course, I was in his first inaugural sales course ever at CUA, so of course, I took some business classes there.

Fred Diamond: You mentioned you were a philosophy major. I was a history major in college and my parents were thrilled as well [laughs]. Tell us how you got from being a philosophy major into sales.

Patrick Narus: My parents were both in sales, so growing up sitting around the dinner table I heard sales talk, sales forecast planning strategy my entire life. It’s just something I was surrounded by, and throughout college as well, I knew I liked to solve problems, I liked to communicate with people and I also liked to earn money that directly is tied to my efforts and my team effort. Had multiple internships throughout college, inside sales roles, some business development roles, and that led me to sales. And I’m an athlete, Fred, so much like Matt, we like to compete. Sales is the #1 post-college life transition for any sales professional, you can take all that on-field experience and training and parlay it to the business realm.

Fred Diamond: What sport are you an athlete in?

Patrick Narus: Football.

Fred Diamond: Quick question, who’s your favorite philosopher? I’ll tell you mine, you tell me yours.

Patrick Narus: Mine is Thomas Aquinas, who’s yours?

Fred Diamond: Heidegger.

Patrick Narus: Beautiful.

Fred Diamond: You got to die first before you start. So, Matt Cannone, what sport did you play? Before you tell us about your area of study in school and how you wound up in sales.

Matthew Cannone: I played football in college, I was just chatting with Pat earlier and we both were on the offense’s side of the ball, so we like to score touchdowns, not defend them. It was an instant connection there.

Fred Diamond: Did you take sales classes in college? How did you wind up in sales?

Matthew Cannone: Great question. Similar to Pat, I attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. It’s a small liberal arts college, and I was an economics major with a minor in Asian studies. No direct correlation to sales or business, however, one of the major takeaways I had by taking economics classes were presenting case studies and data sets into a group of people, which is now similar to what I’m doing today presenting results and solving problems.

Just correlate with Pat, my dad is a long-time tech executive, currently he’s CEO of a large technology company. My mom and dad also met in a sales program at Xerox out of college. I have two brothers, both in sales, I have a sister in marketing which we all know works hand-in-hand with sales so I’d say it runs in my DNA. I personally thrive off human connection and I love solving problems and allowing people to achieve goals that they might not have thought they would achieve themselves.

Fred Diamond: Congratulations again for being a finalist for the Jay Nussbaum award. A lot of people who are listening to today’s podcast are thinking about going into sales. One thing the Institute for Excellence in Sales does is we work with a lot of organizations that help college kids get into sales and we’re obviously a big proponent of the professionalism of the sales profession. There’s a lot of science behind it, process, it’s not just about courage and charisma. We got a question here from Nick, “How did they both get to their current company?”

You both work for great companies, FireEye and Akamai are both sponsors of the Institute for Excellence in Sales. We’ve done a lot of great work with Dan Satinoff over at FireEye and Chelsea has been a tremendous advocate for us, Randy Wood as well, he also was a guest on the Sales Game Changers podcast a while back. Matt, why don’t you go first? How did your career get you to such a great company?

Matthew Cannone: When I was in high school, as part of the varsity basketball team, we did community service at the Boys & Girls Club at Salem, New Hampshire. After running a second grade youth clinic, I got tapped on the shoulder to start reffing basketball there and formed a relationship with two other coaches who happened to be at the time top sales guys at Akamai. We formed a friendship and maintained that friendship when I went off to college. Then during college, that friendship turned into a gateway to Akamai. It’s not often many people say that they knew where they wanted to work when they were a sophomore in college, but I knew Akamai was the type of company I wanted to be a part of early on.

Fred Diamond: It’s a great company based up in Cambridge, it’s the backbone of a lot of what goes on on the internet. It actually probably was very helpful having parents that were in this space, I’m going to guess not many kids in high school have ever heard of Akamai and understand what it does. We have a lot of guests on the Sales Game Changers podcast who have a parent who was in sales, either mother or father, and that’s guided them there. Pat, how about you? Tell us a little bit about how you eventually got to FireEye.

Patrick Narus: For any upcoming salesperson, I’d recommend three key things. While you’re in college, take any professional courses you can, sales courses, etc. That’s #1, #2 is internships. Throughout college I would stack up my fall semester while playing football, I’d overload my semester to free up spring semester so that I could work at various internships and get sales experience on my resume. Third and lastly, arguably the most important is it comes down to networking and relationships. Network your butt off, meet folks, offer yourself as a service to others. You don’t want to ever be perceived as taking, needing. Offer something in return, but it genuinely all boils down to relationships and referrals. Cultivate that networking aspect of your life.

How I got into my current role was after graduation, I worked at Moody’s Analytics selling business intelligence solutions to the US public sector. I was there for about a year in the Washington DC office and then the FireEye opportunity presented itself. I was actually tipped off about it from Mark Weber, of all people. He said, hey, they’re looking for a young hungry hunter, this opportunity doesn’t open up much, I think you should go for this. That’s what led me to this opportunity and I’ve loved my time here ever since.

Fred Diamond: I want to acknowledge Mark Weber over at Catholic University. He’s placed so many young professionals at so many great companies in the tech space, not just in DC but throughout the country as well. Good having a guy like that as a mentor to help you guide there.

Let’s talk about some of the lessons. Pat, you just talked about a couple of them, building networks, relationships. Matt, why don’t you give us maybe one or two of the key lessons that you’ve learned along the way?

Matthew Cannone: A couple things that I would say to any rising sales leader or entry-level, first of all is stay patient. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, enjoy the process, enjoy the networking, talk to a lot of different companies, get to understand the market. Two, I would say remain curious. I think people who have a deep sense of curiosity drive more honest business conversations void of conflict and drives respect. Two, the most important and underrated element of being in sales is being thoughtful. Try to balance operating with a sense of urgency, but take a step back, maybe not respond to every email on your phone and sit down at your computer and think about it. Gain a more credible opinion before you voice your flavor of it.

Fred Diamond: One thing we talk about a lot on the Sales Game Changers podcast and the live events that we do at the Institute for Excellence in Sales is that this is the sales profession. I want to ask you both this question, talk about what you’ve observed as a profession. I like what you just said, Matt, where you talked about being thoughtful. Pat, why don’t you go first?

Again, it is truly a profession. One thing we talk about all the time is it may not go your way all the time, you may have a plan, you may have some guidance from your leadership and you may go out there ready to go. One of the expressions we use all the time is Mike Tyson’s famous line that everybody has a plan until you get punched in the face. Talk about the professional aspect of sales. You guys work for two very, very well-esteemed companies. Pat, the profession, tell us some observations about that.

Patrick Narus: In a way, our profession is entrepreneurial at heart. We manage our team, we manage our book of business, we manage our customer relationships and ultimately, the success or failure within each client boils down to us. The responsibility lays with us. Fred, coupling off your question, I would recommend two important traits for young salespeople in the industry. The first one’s humility, you’re not going to know everything starting off and that’s okay. It hearkens back to what I previously said about trust and relationships. When you’re honest with a customer, when you will let them know, hey, I don’t have the answers right now. I’m not going to BS you but I will follow up and I will ensure that we get that to you, that goes a long way, it really builds trust.

Secondly, Fred, the point I would offer is discipline. In our profession, this isn’t a normal 9 to 5 job. We’re not clocking in, we’re not clocking out for lunch, anything of that sort. You need to be self-disciplined in everything you do, managing your schedule, managing your forecast, thinking about out quarter forecast, etc. Forecasting customer challenges, getting ahead of those and then ultimately, all of that boils back to the relationship aspect I said. Because your word is your bond when it comes down to this, so when a customer asks for something, needs something, they want to be able to know that you’re the guy or gal they can call and they can trust.

Fred Diamond: Trust is a word that comes up a lot, I’m glad you brought it up. We have a question here that comes in from Kathleen, another world that we talk a lot about on the Sales Game Changers podcast and webcast is value. The question from Kathleen is, “What do you define as value selling? How should a sales leader teach value selling to their salespeople?” I’m going to put you on the spot there, Matt, to go first. We talked about professionalism, we talked about trust. Value, one of the most common words that we talk about every single day. Give us some of your insights.

Matthew Cannone: When you’re talking about value, another piece of advice that I would say is any time you have a sales methodology, a class, there’s a lot of different types of trainings out there, try to take a tidbit on each one and then put your own flavor on it. There’s no magic equation, the journey to success is not linear. There’s going to be ups and downs, so have an open mind. In value, I always come back to two things, especially when you’re in the weeds of the sale cycle. What is the pain, and are we solving a problem? When it comes to those two aspects of sales, if those do not exist, you might be in a place where there might have to be some difficult conversations.

However, I think value selling is also being adaptable. Today, we’ve seen that over the last two years. We as sellers are changing, but the buyer’s journey is beginning to change and the global pandemic has showed that as well. Sometimes you don’t need talking or sometimes you can do things over text. I would say when it comes to value selling, it’s a balance of solve a problem, make sure there’s pain. To Pat’s point, your action speaks louder than words. Put your own flavor on it.

Fred Diamond: You guys are right on top of things. Again, you guys were nominated and you became finalists. For people listening, we had over 25 nominations for the Jay Nussbaum Rising Sales Star Award, and Pat and Matt, you guys were finalists so you definitely were at the top of your game for where you are in your career.

But it probably hasn’t been all easy, I’m sure there’s been some challenges, obviously there’s the pandemic so you’ve had to figure out how to make things work from home, but everybody has. Talk about some of the challenges that maybe you both have faced. Pat, why don’t you go first? Talk about some of the challenges that you face either presently as an up-and-coming sales leader or maybe in earlier stages in your career and how you’ve overcome them.

Patrick Narus: I think everything starts initially with managing yourself. One of my previous points was discipline, you need to make sure you are doing everything in your control to ensure success for yourself, your team and your organization, and of course, naturally, the customer. When the customer succeeds, you succeed. Moving outward from that as well, you got to stay on top of your team. Are folks doing what they say they’re going to do when they’re going to do it?

You have to hold customers accountable as well. “We’re working to support you and your initiatives, we agreed upon X, Y, Z.” Hold customers responsible as well. Just staying disciplined first with yourself, then with your team and then ultimately, with customer. Just that day-to-day consistency, getting up to the batter’s box every single day, getting after it. It’s the consistency which is the difficult part, but once you get good at it and you can get a routine down, it works like a well-oiled machine, Fred.

Fred Diamond: Matt, how about you? Any specific challenges that you’ve had to overcome in the first part of your career?

Matthew Cannone: I would say it’s the balance of always wanting to do more while making sure that I’m getting everything out of the role that I’m in. It’s a balance of not pushing myself too hard, but also not getting into any noise. I look at some of the leaders and the mentors that I have and I always say, wow, they have such thick skin, they’ve made it in their career. But their journey, everyone’s different.

In sales some of the challenges that I’ve faced is how do you think outside of the box? That is getting with people who sit in other parts of the business. When you fully start to understand how an organization is run is when you can unlock the next level of your sales career and start to have conversations that resonate with buyers more personally. Continually push yourself and don’t ever settle for being single threaded within your own personal network or your professional.

Fred Diamond: We have a question that comes in from Josie, “Are you looking to move into upper management or to continue as far as you can as an individual contributor?” That’s an interesting question. In sales, there’s a whole bunch of ways you can go, you can go up the management ranks, move up to the next level, you can keep building at a territory. I’m just curious, at this stage in your career are you looking to move into management or are you looking to stay maybe as an account leader pursuing the huge accounts? Matt, why don’t you go first? Then Pat, I’m interested in your thoughts.

Matthew Cannone: I think that’s a personal question to everybody and they have their own take on it. I think either way, staying in sales, sales management, switching to a different part of business is all good exposure. For me personally, I’m inspired by leading others and building teams that really take down obstacles to help win consistently. Personally, I do plan on climbing the management ranks and go as high as I can go.

Fred Diamond: Pat, how about you?

Patrick Narus: I’m the exact same vote as Matt, I echo everything he said. Just naturally being a competitor as well, this is a team sport, this is a team business so motivating others around you, naturally tackling even larger challenges for your customers. I see myself in the future as well getting into management and naturally leading other sales professionals and solving even greater challenges for our customers.

Fred Diamond: Prior to the pandemic when I would do the Sales Game Changers podcast, I would interview typically sales VPs. Sales leaders, sometimes chief revenue officers. One of the questions I would ask is what is the biggest challenge you face as a sales leader? Almost everyone would say hiring and recruiting top-tier talent. It got to the point where one of our guests said hiring and recruiting was table stakes, so everybody has that challenge. What are other challenges you’re dealing with?

There is, even today, a huge challenge for talent. I’m going to guess, guys like you and some of the other great people that we had as the finalists, you guys are first-round draft picks and companies would die to have a whole team of people like you. What would be your advice for companies that are trying to recruit more talented young people like you to be attractive? You guys had options available to you, especially now that you’ve been successful. Give us some of your advice for what companies should be thinking about.

Patrick Narus: This is directed toward senior managers, hiring executives, etc. I would say focus on the long game. Perhaps more traditional thinking says, I want to hire somebody who’s seasoned, who’s been in the industry for X, Y, Z years. I think a younger sales professional can learn all of those things but they also bring a new energy, a new drive, a clean slate. “Teach me your ways, I don’t have any preconditioned notions of how you want me to do things, how things are done.” Take a shot on young folks. If you invest in them, they will stay loyal to you, they will grind their butt off for you and they will stick around. Focus on young people, invest in the long term, give them that opportunity, invest in them and good things will happen.

Fred Diamond: Matt, what is your advice for companies that are looking to get young top-tier talent?

Matthew Cannone: I think the game’s starting to change out there, Fred, and I think people are becoming more open to job-changing within every year. Because right now there’s more demand than supply, people will make the jump quicker than someone with X amount more years’ experience. I do agree with Pat, I think the number of experience in terms of years matters, but everyone has a story. If you can confine that criteria of what you’re looking for, be transparent about what you’re offering to the person, talk about growth.

One thing that I’m always holding myself accountable to is a one, three and a five-year plan. That is something that I talk to not only my direct manager about, but my mom and dad, my coworkers and anybody that I have the ability to have a business or mentor conversation with. Don’t write it down, but continually think about that. When you’re doing the interview process, you can map out rather than a 30, 60, 90-day plan to get ramped up quickly, and hand-in-hand with what Pat said with the long game, this is where I want to be in one year, 36 months and then five years out. I think that could create more of an investment from the interviewee and then the company to create a two-way relationship.

Fred Diamond: Before I ask you for your final bit of advice, we have one more question here. Jen wants to know, “What do you like most about sales?” What do you like most about your job? Again, you guys have a lot of energy, you work for great companies, you’ve made it through hopefully towards the end of the pandemic – thank you, Delta variant. But what do you like best? Then after you answer this question, we wind up every Sales Game Changers webcast and podcast by asking our guest for one bit of advice. You guys have given us a lot of great ideas, I’m going to ask you for your final bit of advice. But Matt, what do you like best about being in sales?

Matthew Cannone: Personally, what I like best about being in sales is I love to win. I love to compete but I love the process and the grind. When you have a group of individuals working towards a collective goal, it brings out the best in people and it allows people to achieve things that they might not have thought they could have achieved themselves. You can think about it as getting in the boat and just steering and making sure you guys are all rowing in the same way. The glory tastes great, but when you lose it hurts. That balance is what keeps me coming back and keeps everyone engaged.

Fred Diamond: Pat, how about you? What do you like most about sales?

Patrick Narus: I’d echo everything Matt says and I would just add two points. One, I think one of the best parts about sales is no two days are the same, which therefore forces you to stay fresh, forces you to think outside the box and stay creative and stay audible-ready for your customers. Also, with sales you have the ability to steer your future with it. There was a question, do I want to stay as an individual contributor? Do I want to get into management? We talked a little bit about marketing earlier. The options are endless, in sales not only are the wins real sweet, the options for you and your future open up. Everything boils down to relationships and that’s what sales is.

Fred Diamond: I want to thank Matt Cannone with Akamai, I want to thank Pat Narus. We have some comments here. Josie says thank you so much. We have a comment from Nick, it says, great insights, guys. To wrap up here, I want to thank you both. Again, I want to congratulate you for being a finalist for the Jay Nussbaum Rising Sales Star Award. We’re going to be giving out the third in 2022, congratulations on all the success. Thank you for all the great answers. We like to wind down every Sales Game Changers podcast with one final bit of advice. You both have given us so many great ideas. Pat, why don’t you go first? Give us your final bit of advice for all the people listening to today’s webcast or today’s podcast.

Patrick Narus: This is specifically directed for young folks. Ignore on job resumes prior experience requirements, 20 years as a salesperson to apply for this job. Put yourself out there, tell these hiring managers you already have your PhD, that means you’re poor, you’re hungry, you’re driven. You will do whatever it takes to get the mission done and drive success for your team and for the customers. That’s what I’m going to leave everybody with, Fred. Thank you again.

Fred Diamond: That is a great bit of advice. Congratulations again this week, have fun at your wedding, good for you. Matt Cannone, bring us home. Give us one great bit of advice for our listeners today.

Matthew Cannone: On top of what Pat said, I would say be optimistic. Nobody likes working for pessimist people. Stay curious, operate with urgency, fall through on what you promise the customer. Be thoughtful, lead with empathy and do it with a smile on your face and good things will come.

Fred Diamond: Once again, thank you, Matt Cannone with Akamai, Pat Narus with FireEye, and thanks to all of our listeners today.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *