Full disclosure, I served nearly four years as Zerto’s Vice President for Asia Pacific & Japan and remain a Zerto shareholder. Thus, my assessment of this announcement cannot be described as impartial. While it has been a while since I was involved with Zerto, my insight is likely to be deeper than most other commentators.
This announcement is really more than two years in the making and hopefully marks the end of some poor judgement at the executive level that has been responsible for the company going through some unnecessarily tough times.
Coley Burke replaces a CRO who came in with old school sales mentality and the idea that he had to whip the sales operations into shape. The approach was outdated and out of kilter with the enormous positivity that had flowed through the company in the years that preceeded. The effect was to demotivate a previously high energy sales team that had largely been getting things right. The reality was they only needed careful guidance and mentoring to get to the “next level”. The heavy-handed, high-pressure approach just wasn’t needed and broke things that didn’t need fixing.
If you look at Glassdoor as a gauge to what I am saying, you will see my assessment are not the words of a disgruntled ex-employee. In fact, my personal experience is that I was ever only treated well and with respect by Zerto from my first day to my last. However, like Coley I had one foot in both eras in Zerto’s history. I experienced the amazing “start-up era” under the sales leadership of Paul Zeiter, where we grew from less than 200 people to over 1000 at a whirlwind pace, and for a short while I experienced the “whip them into shape era” under Paul’s replacement, the previous CRO.
Having had the chance to work with Coley in the past, I believe he will lead a third era for Zerto. Hopefully, this will enable the company to heal and move on from a second era which probably never should have happened and hopefully be quickly consigned to history.
The press release refers to “team-building”, something which if you read and believe many of the glassdoor reports has been in short supply across the Zerto Sales organisation. I have no doubt this will be restored under the new sales leadership.
So for Zerto customers present and future, why does this all matter? Should you really care who is leading the sales organisation? The question is rhetorical, and it matters a lot. The success of Zerto has always been based on amazing technology in the right place at the right time. It sounds like a cliché but it's true. I have worked for many technology companies over the years, but Zerto is one of only two where when you walked in the door and told an IT director what the product does, you would get a similar response time and again. “If you can really do what you claim, I will buy your technology”. The great thing was it really did do what was claimed and hence the company experienced incredible growth.
Here’s the problem. When sales leadership works from the assumption that feedback from the field is just an excuse for poor sales results, then important information which helps to shape the product features and pricing get ignored. Under the “start-up” sales management, feedback from the field was always taken seriously, and experienced managers listened and fed back what they deemed was valuable, and filtered what they assessed to be excuses for poor sales. Based on what I understand happened in recent times, the sales team has been shouting loud that product and pricing positioning needs to change, but have been met with a wall of “this is just an excuse for poor sales”. Let me be clear, this is just my hunch, I have no inside track here, only anecdotal stories which I map together with my own experience of the personalities that were steering the ship when I left.
But as a generic point, this is why sales leadership matters for customers, the technology you invest in will have a better future development path and roadmap, if there is healthy encouragement from the sales leadership to solicit feedback from the field.
In addition, a motivated and respected salesforce will be able to focus on delivering great customer service rather than sweating all week as to whether they are going to get “beaten up” on their next forecast call.
Which brings me back to Zerto, the two-year experiment can be resigned to history, and by rewarding a long-standing loyal employee with a CXO title, Zerto are giving themselves a chance to get the culture and hopefully their journey back on track.
Press release follows in full below
Zerto Strengthens Executive Leadership Team to Accelerate Growth and Market Momentum
New Chief Revenue Officer and VP of Americas Sales tasked with increasing revenue growth and team-building in an already world-class organization
Zerto, an industry leader for IT resilience, announced the appointments of Coley Burke as chief revenue officer and Chris Nelson as vice president of Americas sales.
Combined, the roles will focus on leading Zerto’s global sales team and building on another year of sustained growth. Taking the primary leadership role of the sales team, Burke will capitalize on Zerto’s ongoing success and further build a team that embodies the core spirit, culture and values of the organization. Nelson will move into Burke’s vacated role and continue the focus on driving consistent and predictable growth and helping scale the adoption of the Zerto software platform in all vertical and customer segments.
Burke has decades of experience in the disaster recovery space. In his nearly three years at Zerto, he has played a pivotal role in shaping Zerto’s culture, proving he understands what it takes to propel sales of Zerto’s solution to grow the bottom line of the business. He will be instrumental in an aggressive growth strategy with a focus on acquiring new customers, growing enterprise and existing accounts, and will support Zerto’s partner Go-To-Market strategy to increase strategic partner revenue and deepen relationships across the company’s partner ecosystem. His goal is to help customers transform the way they protect their businesses.
Nelson will move into an expanded role responsible for all customer facing functions in the Americas. Nelson brings more than 20 years of enterprise-class sales experience solving key customer issues. He brings operational excellence to the sales organization and the ability to solve business challenges by matching the Zerto platform to those critical customer needs.
Both appointments are being made internally and underline Zerto’s commitment and culture of developing and promoting talent from its own ranks.
“Coley has been an invaluable asset to the Zerto team since he joined. In this new role we fully expect him to continue to lead by example and help Zerto customers and partners achieve transformation through IT resilience,” said Ziv Kedem, CEO, Zerto. “We are also excited to see Chris take on this new role. He’s been successful at every level and has earned a reputation of making his teams stronger. He’s quick to challenge himself and those around him to reach for ambitious goals. Both Coley and Chris have been great members of the Zerto family, and we’re excited to see them continue their success in these new roles.”
“Zerto is at an exciting stage. We know who we want to be and how we want to be seen in the industry, and we have a clear vision and strategy aimed at delivering value and innovation for our customers and partners,” said Coley Burke, CRO, Zerto. “What makes this company special is our vision, our people and our culture. My role isn’t about making sweeping changes; I’m tasked with aligning our platform to customer business requirements and executing the strategy that has made Zerto a world-class organization. My approach will be to lead by example, nurture our core values and stay laser-focused on the customer and their transformation journey.”
“Since joining Zerto, I have been committed to a customer-first approach and make every decision with the customer in mind,” said Chris Nelson, vice president of Americas sales, Zerto. “Zerto is and will continue to be a 100% channel-focused company, leveraging partners for scale and collaboration. However, our partnerships don’t stop at value-added resellers; we will continue to grow our industry friends and alliances. That is where we will see expanded growth and field partnerships providing value to our customers and where I’ll be looking to make an impact.”