After graduating from Wake Forest University, Christian Conti began his career with Gartner in 2000 on our Research & Advisory team. Over the course of his 19-year career, Christian has had the opportunity to take on several sales roles within our marketing business, technology business and government practice, working in offices around the globe. Today, Christian is the MVP of Supply Chain Sales for the EMEA & APAC regions, working in our London office. Below, he shares his growing with Gartner story and his career advice for others considering a career in sales.
August marked my 19th year at Gartner (many of those years at CEB before we became part of the Gartner family), and one of the best parts about having been in this business for a long time is to be able to watch exceptionally talented people grow and develop in their careers. When I have the opportunity to coach or mentor someone, often I try to guide them to focus on two qualities that I think are underrated but can make all the difference in having an interesting career.
Some of the best learning moments of my life have come from simply being open enough to say, “I’m not sure I understand that, can you explain a little more?” It’s a rare colleague who won’t respond generously to that kind of openness, and you can learn almost anything. Coming from a liberal arts background I didn’t have any knowledge on sales, people management, technology strategy or supply chain. But I asked questions, I read our research, and binged on our podcasts and events, and slowly I was able to take knowledge from an army of smart and talented people around me, and I still try to ask that question at least once a day. There’s still so much to learn!
Clients are also an opportunity to learn — we aspire to help them every day, but they give so much back to us as well. One of the most incredible parts of working at Gartner is that we spend time with the most senior executives at the world’s largest and most influential companies. Listening to those executives, learning from their personal and professional experiences, it can be an endless M.B.A. as you get exposed to ideas, industries and approaches you’d never have thought of before. A great example is that at the beginning of my career I was lucky enough to be selling to some of the chief sales officers of the world’s biggest companies, and even though they had day jobs and thousands of sales people to lead in their own organizations, many times once I was done with a sales visit calling on them they would take the time to give me feedback on how I could have run the meeting better. Who wouldn’t want that kind of learning opportunity?!
For me, one of the most important learnings that took time to sink in is that career paths nowadays aren’t linear. Some of the best career decisions I made didn’t clearly seem to be that way at the time — stepping in laterally to help fix a challenge in another part of the business, stepping out of leading sales people to participate in multiple integrations. They weren’t promotions but they were chances to gain valuable cross-functional experience, and what I learned through each of those roles made me better as a sales leader when I returned to that role. Often what you gain from a diversion in your career path is exactly what you need to move forward faster.
Along those same lines, flexibility to me means being open to coaching and feedback. When I’m looking for the best talent to sell our services or to lead our teams, I care a lot more about someone’s ability to absorb and adapt to coaching than I do their knowledge or experience. Being open to new ways of doing things, to making small improvements every day, to taking the lessons of every sales call into the next client meeting, that’s a quality that never stops paying dividends.
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