On January 27th, 2022, Ryan Barretto, President at Sprout Social, sat down with High Alpha Managing Partner Scott Dorsey for an interview unpacking the early stages and IPO of Sprout Social, the importance of asking for and taking feedback from colleagues as a leader, characteristics of successful new hires, and why Ryan cares so deeply about learning and self-improvement.
After an impressive 10-year career in sales leadership at Salesforce, Ryan made the move to SVP of Global Sales at Sprout Social, a business creating social media management tools. While at Sprout, Ryan has helped the company grow the company from $30 million in revenue to $170 million.
Over the years, we’ve held 59 interviews and counting featuring guests from international recording artists to professional athletes and SaaS unicorn founders.
One IPO later, Ryan is President of Sprout Social, and our first Speaker Series guest of 2022! Below, we share some of our key takeaways from the interview with Ryan.
Recruit top candidates that aren’t looking for a new role.
To many people’s surprise, Ryan is still sourcing candidates through LinkedIn today. When he asked about his “reach-out” technique and interview style, Ryan offered the following advice:
- Always add a personalized note when inviting a potential candidate to connect on LinkedIn. He said, “I know what it’s like when somebody is connecting with me and there’s no description. I usually don’t accept it.” Ryan said, “At worst, it’s not a fit, but we get a chance to network. And then as soon as they accept my invite, I immediately follow up with a link to our most recent earnings deck, because for me that is the value prop of our whole company.”
- When speaking with potential candidates, do not be afraid to highlight the companies shortcomings. Ryan said, “I will be very transparent on the things that I don’t think we do well and where I need help. As I have gone through interviews, I have learned that the people that we need at Sprout are people who want to solve problems. They don’t want the whole thing figured out.”
Identify successful new hires that are self-critical learners.
Ryan shared an anecdote from the Microsoft playbook — look for learn-it-alls, not know-it-alls. Ryan said, “The whole idea of learn-it-alls versus know-it-alls is that we want people who are in a constant state of evolution that are trying to grow and trying to learn. And so I am always looking for people that haven’t figured it out, they have more to learn, they are always searching for answers, and want to do the work to get that information.”
Ask for and take feedback from colleagues as a leader.
In Ryan’s experience, the more you move up in your career, the harder it is to get feedback. He says, “you have to be thoughtful in how you ask for feedback.” Ryan offers the following advice:
- Understand that your opinion as a leader often influences others. Ryan advises leaders to create an open space and wait and share their views at the end. He has found that colleagues are more likely to debate a topic and provide better feedback.
- Share where you fall short to a bigger audience. Ryan said, “Something I am trying to get better at is sharing with the group feedback I have received and then what I have changed based on the feedback. And if you can name that person that gave you the feedback, even better.”
Learn and build credibility as a leader through being hands-on in all areas of a business.
It is critical to learn and build credibility as a leader now more than ever. In a world where many of us are working remotely, Ryan and his team have found new ways to stay connected with their customers and with each other.
- A touch of personalization can go a long way. Ryan said, “When we are sending out messages to current customers or prospects, I encourage our leaders to leverage video over email and slack. When I am engaging on a deal email, I will take the time to record a custom video for them. It is that extra step of personalization that often closes the deal.”
- Find creative ways to stay in touch as a team. Over the last two years, Ryan has found new ways to stay connected with his team. Him and his team have taken to walking one-on-ones. He said, “if we don’t need to look at a screen, a deck, or a Google sheet, I have encouraged everyone to get out and walk.” The critical piece of learning and building credibility is actually connecting with your colleagues on the other side of the call. It’s crucial to make enough time for human connection unrelated to the work that you’re meeting about.
Grit is critical in building a high-performance organization.
Ryan believes that grit is the hallmark of the best people at Sprout Social. They’re passionate. They’re present. They want to work as a group to figure it out. He said, “gritty people are committed to figuring it out no matter how complex the problem is.” While it certainly takes a lot of grit to grow and scale an organization, Ryan advises his colleagues to celebrate the wins. He says, “You have got to find joy in work and make sure you can zoom out every now and again and remember all of the great things you’re creating. Something that has really helped my team and I over the last couple of years is sharing our gratitude with one another.”
If you missed the event, you can watch the entire conversation with Ryan here. Every month, we sit down with leaders and leaders like Ryan and dig into learnings from their backgrounds and careers. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get updates on upcoming events.