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ESC: Palo Alto Networks is a silver sponsor of the (Virtual) European Sales Competition 2020 (ESC2020) at the virtual room of University of Applied Sciences, Wiener Neustadt, Austria. What connects a software security company like Palo Alto Networks with a sales competition?
Dominic Botez: We have decided to become a partner and collaborator of the European Sales Competition back in 2019 when Palo Alto Networks has decided to launch their Graduate program in the EMEA region which consists of a Sales/Business track and a Pre-sales Systems Engineering track. Hearing wonderful things about this competition and the immense and diverse number of talent it attracts, we considered it as a natural step as part of our university program strategy to build long lasting relationships and become an employer of choice in the early in career market.
ESC: Palo Alto Networks is one of the world’s leading security software solutions companies. How important is active sales despite the enormous brand awareness?
Lando Mennink: Very important. We started our journey to the top in 2005 and it has been a great fight to the all the way. We showed the cybersecurity industry there was a new approach needed and customers are adopting that new approach. Now that we are there, staying there is probably a greater battle which we can only take on by having excellent sales people executing on our mission.
ESC: What is essential for your business success, personal sales or sales support (direct marketing, social media, congresses, trade fairs)?
Lando Mennink: One can not go without the other. Our marketing efforts and after sales support are second to none. But actions speak louder than words (or even pictures). Sales is about building meaningful (human) connections supported by all other sales tools we have.
ESC: You act globally as a company, what are the biggest challenges in sales? – Lando
Lando Mennink: Our Global presence is a great attribute and it also brings the challenge of being sensitive to local environments and (sales) cultures. It requires us to be inclusive to all and adopt our approach to sales where needed.
ESC: What characteristics do you look for in new sales employees?
Lando Mennink: We are trying from early stages to ensure that they align with our company values and that those values “live” in our future members of the Palo Alto Networks family. Dominik Botez: That is why it is essential that new sales employees demonstrate our values all throughout the recruitment process: disruption, execution, collaboration, integrity and inclusion.
ESC: Do you offer your sales staff further training opportunities (examples such as negotiation techniques, objection handling, dealing with stressful situations, …)?
Lando Mennink: We have a mix of e-learning on all of these topics (and more). This e-learning is applied in (virtual) live workshops to help our sellers gain a skill they can use the same day in their selling motions.
ESC: What goals are you pursuing at an event such as the (Virtual) European Sales Competition (ESC)?
Dominic Botez: At such an event, Palo Alto Networks is focussing on how we can best support the ESC organizers in order to run the event smoothly from a partner perspective and give a pleasant experience to the students and teachers attending. Also, we are participating in order to present our early in career opportunities, especially the Graduate program, but also internships. We are open to connect with all the students and discuss with them about their background and passion for sales and align them with our offerings in the Graduate program. Last but not the least, we will be available to all the students that are participating virtually and tell them more about life at Palo Alto Networks and how it is to work in the growing cybersecurity industry.
ESC: Have you already been able to recruit new employees from similar events?
Dominic Botez: Yes, Palo Alto Networks joined the ESC from 2019 held in The Netherlands and we managed to speak to several students that applied to our Sales Graduate program. Several made it to the final round, but eventually we hired 2 participants from the ESC 2019.
ESC: Last question: What tip would you give the participants for the (Virtual) European Sales Competition?
Dominic Botez: Network, Learn, Discover. Even if it is a virtual event, make the best use of the time and effort the organizers have put into creating events where they can attend and network, learn and discover different companies, industries and their offerings for early in career students. Lando Mennink: This is a great opportunity for everyone to connect.
ESC: Thank you for the interview. We are already looking forward to the 1st Virtual European Sales Competition (ESC2020) at the online platform of University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt on December 1st to 3rd, 2020.
Dominic Botez, EMEA University Recruiter, Palo Alto Networks
Lando Mennink, Sales Readiness Professional Coach, Palo Alto Networks
Interview: Alexander Eigner for ESC (2020)