Interview with 2022 CRO of the Year Award Recipient John Grosshans, SVP, Chief Revenue Officer, Prisma Cloud

In his role at Palo Alto Networks, John Grosshans is responsible for many things, not least of which is aligning Prisma Cloud solutions to customer needs, developing relationships with executives, providing insight to help customers understand the value of the Prisma Cloud platform ... and the list goes on.

John, though, is anything but your typical chief revenue officer. Maybe that’s why Selling Power recently named him 2022 CRO of the Year.

Let me give you an example of John’s above-and-beyondness. His commitment to training the generations coming up around him led to Prisma Cloud Academy — a full-on, state-of-the-art training platform for sales, solution architects, partner development managers, business development specialists, and renewal specialists. The immersive experience delivers real-life skills through gamified certifications designed to challenge and engage all.

But John didn’t stop there. He also created Cloud Leadership Academy, a sales leadership program designed to inspire and foster culture across first, second, and third-line leadership worldwide.

The interesting thing about Cloud Leadership Academy Training is that it homes in on two of John’s passions — customer obsession and extreme ownership. As I’d expect, these topics came up when I sat with John to talk about the things that excite him.

You’re being recognized for “leading people to grow their passion for creating satisfied customers”. Is that something you’ve consciously pursued in your career?

Yes, every day. It’s everything, right? When I think about the priorities of a great culture, always, at the top of the list, is our customers.

Our customers are the most important factor in our culture. Focusing on, obsessing on, being centered on our customers is everything. It’s what drives a great ethos. It creates a common theme for teams and individuals to rally around.

Customers. Where are they in terms of your vision for your work?

Customers are front and center. My vision builds on customer obsession and the priorities of a great culture. What are the priorities of a great culture? First, it’s the customers. Then it’s your partners who help serve the customers. Next, it’s the company. The company has to be successful to have a thriving organization capable of providing its customers with a safe harbor. Finally, it’s you, it’s me, the individual.

So that servant approach where you prioritize customers, partners, and company — in that order — is how individuals succeed.

So how do you bring your vision home in your approach to management?

In every organization I’ve led, I’ve always built a mission statement. It starts with a vision and is supported by tenets. The tenets are closely held beliefs that put in place a framework around which the organization will rally and operate.

At Prisma Cloud, our vision starts with the customer — with a world where each day is safer and more secure in the cloud than the day before.

Our mission fills in the vision:

“We are cloud security experts. We work backwards from customers and partners to be the cloud native cybersecurity partner of choice, protecting the digital way of life. We are the voice of the customer for our product teams. We operate as one team across Sales, Product, Systems Engineering, Customer Success, Customer Support, Partner, Professional Services, and Marketing.”

Now, the vision, mission and tenets of the Prisma Cloud organization were authored by myself and with the collaboration of the leadership team. Here’s where we bring peers together to drive extreme ownership of the vision, mission and tenets across the organization.

What I’ve found to be effective is to revisit the vision, mission and tenets so that people can be inspired by them. It’s important that you consistently help everyone be grounded and inspired by our core values.

Can you tell me about the tenets that you mentioned?

Every organization should have tenets. I’ve found them, along with vision and mission, to be incredibly powerful. This is our platform. It drives the culture and rallies people around the common goals we share.

At Prisma Cloud, our tenets include:

  • Operate as one team
  • Recommend the right solution
  • Own the business
  • Embrace inclusion and diversity, think big, act locally
  • Escalate quickly, speed matters
  • Get leverage
  • Communicate

Can you elaborate on what the phrase “operate as one team” means to you?

It comes down to five things that I’ve found consistently create “one team” interaction.

  1. It starts with trust. Do I identify with you? Do you identify with me? Do we trust each other? And you have to earn trust, and trust has to be maintained. You have to constantly serve and maintain that trust to keep it where you need it to be — which is implicit trust. To get there, you need to be authentic. You need to be who you are.
  2. You need to be empathetic. That means receiving the other person wherever they might be. If someone tells you they’re not having a great day, you identify with that.
  3. High standards. Make it clear that you hold yourself to a very high standard. You expect things to be done right. And you expect things to be done without cutting corners. You expect to deliver excellence in everything you do.
  4. Deliver results. When you ask me to do something, it gets done right and to a high standard, with authenticity because I’m highly transparent while I’m doing it. You are made aware that this is what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, this is what you can expect. And then I deliver on that expectation. I deliver results.
  5. Bias for action. I have found a bias for action is critical to building “one team”. If you have an expectation for me to do something, your expectation is that it's happening now.

This is especially true today, especially true for the generations growing up around us. It’s become a part of our social culture to expect things almost in real time.

Everything that occurs is important and has a high bias for action. It needs to be almost instantaneously delivered. If it’s a process that’s going to take time, the expectations are for transparency. The expectations are about communicating the steps to be taken to deliver.

Others need to know we have a high bias for action.

These sum up the things I think about when I consider how to foster the “one team” culture. It’s beyond the day-to-day business. It’s the foundation that supports the day-to-day business.

In your role, what does transparency mean and why is it important to you?

When speed matters, transparency is imperative. Never let news age. Good news or bad news, be transparent and authentic in near-real time.

If I have something tough to share with one of my leaders, I share it with them immediately. Then they have an opportunity to respond. This gives them time to react, to take appropriate action, whatever it might be.

Transparency is simple and direct, easy to understand, no positioning required. People want the truth. It’s the human condition.

Can you illuminate the phrase “own the business”?

We are committed to accountability and measure it in myriad ways. Because it starts with the customer, we measure ourselves by customer references. Are customers so delighted with their experience that they're willing to be a reference, to put their reputations on the line? And we track everything — logo retention, renewal and expansion, references, and customers willing to do case studies with us.

I routinely go through our customers one at a time. I want to know the customer story of today. What’s going well? What are our opportunities? What are the threats? What actions need to be taken?

As a team — customer, success, sales, solution, architecture, professional services, product, renewals, executive — what actions do we need to holistically own to make sure our customer is delighted?

So we walk every customer, one at a time, with our cross-functional team to ensure we’re doing everything we can to make sure they are successful.

We hold ourselves accountable to have multiple relationships with the customer — from the practitioners to the CISO and, in many cases, the CEO and CFO — to make sure everyone is informed, that everyone is a part of the process and we’re working together to make sure we’re successful.

Have you experienced failure and, if so, how have you processed that? What are your thoughts on failure?

One of the goals for managing loss or failure is learning — listening and learning. We need to listen before we take action. We need to listen deeply to feedback. I believe in harvesting the learnings so we can integrate them into our organization wherever they need to land.

Failure is part of the continuous improvement mechanism. It isn’t the catalyst — the continuous improvement mechanism is perpetually in motion — but failure is certainly one type of catalyst. We take our learnings and say, Hey, let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again. Let’s use this as a case study and make sure all improvements are deeply heard by every stakeholder.

From there, it becomes a journey. Where our customers are concerned, we are there for them. We remain present and available even if our customers are deploying a competitor. We believe in operating with respect, earning trust, and being customer obsessed.

Let’s go back to your vision. What does it mean to you to make the world safer?

From the moment you start your day, you’re using a mobile application that is authenticating you to a cloud platform, and you’re accessing personal information — personal identity information, payment card information, perhaps HIPAA information. You trust that your personal data is secure and, of course, expect privacy. With no compromise, zero exceptions.

What if you share information about your family, about your child’s education or health? What if your use of a mobile application implies it’s safe for your loved one to use? What if you’ve gone so far as to recommend the app to others? The stakes are bigger than you, so, yes, you absolutely need to be assured of security and privacy.

I want to be part of providing that assurance. I want to personally work toward ensuring that your use of cloud-based solutions is a safe and secure experience for you.

 

And on that note, my time with John came to an end. It seemed cut short, if only because I knew we had merely touched the proverbial tip of the iceberg. But all of us at Prisma Cloud are proud to work with our CRO, and we celebrate John’s recent, much deserved recognition.

Annual CRO of the Year Awards

The CRO Collective and Selling Power, in collaboration with Sales 3.0, hosted the first annual CRO of the Year Awards on December 8, 2022. Highlighting individuals who have gone above and beyond to grow revenue — and people — Prisma Cloud’s John Grosshans was one of 15 honorees celebrated at the Sales 3.0 Conference held at the Hilton Hotel Cocoa Beach, Florida.

“This collaboration between Selling Power, Sales 3.0 and The CRO Collective helps bring awareness to companies that best align sales and marketing and customer success,” said Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO of Selling Power. “CRO’s [sic] deserve to be recognized because of how critical their role is for growing revenues, leading people to grow their passion for creating satisfied customers.”

More About John

John Grosshans, SVP and Chief Revenue Officer of Prisma Cloud

John Grosshans is SVP and Chief Revenue Officer of Prisma Cloud at Palo Alto Networks, a role he's held since 2021. In the years prior, he served at Amazon Web Services as Managing Director of SAP on AWS. Before that, John was Group VP of Energy and CPG at Oracle.

With more than two decades of experience leading global cross-functional teams across business development, marketing, sales, and partnerships, it’s not surprising that John has been a 5x leader of worldwide field operations — nor that he has 3x paved the hypergrowth journey to $1B in annual revenue.