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Jon Hunter, Former CRO of Micro Focus, On Facing Fears Head-On

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing our loved ones should only tell us things that make us feel good. But Jon Hunter knows true love is telling someone the truth, no matter what. He grew up in what he calls an “Irish Kitchen,” surrounded by eight aunts and uncles. “They were very direct because they cared about me. Hearing the truth from them whether I liked it or not made me a better person,” he says.

Jon has carried that ethos into his decades of sales leadership at top-notch tech companies including CA Technologies, OpenText, BMC Software and – most recently – Micro Focus. “You establish safety in a company culture because it paves the way for people to be authentic. That’s when teams get really productive.”

Once I became a manager, I built that out as a management system. It came from wanting to always be ahead of everybody else up the chain.

Though he spent 18 years at CA Technologies, Jon nearly flubbed his big opportunity to enter the world of software sales. He was summarily dismissed after blowing his first interview with CA – a company he clearly knew nothing about. But he doubled down and wrote a paper called ‘Eat What You Kill.’

“It was my interpretation of what the founder, Charles Wang, was trying to build culturally. They loved the paper and I got the job.”

That experience is just one example of Jon’s willingness to learn from failure and adversity, and acknowledge and fix his mistakes. In fact, his approach to recovering from major stumbles has become an integral part of Jon’s success. “I’ve been scared multiple times during my career – starting my first sales job, moving to New York for a CA position. Fear is part of the process. You need to power through it and have the courage to take the next step in those situations.”

Jon doesn’t believe in taking shortcuts when it comes to instilling a foundation of trust and authenticity in his sales teams. But he boils down sales success to four numbers: 10-4-2-1. He followed this methodology as a sales rep: 10 prospect visits, four new contacts, two technology events, and one line of business meeting each week. “Once I became a manager, I built that out as a management system. It came from wanting to always be ahead of everybody else up the chain.”

Some of Jon’s other keys to success:

  • Building a foundation of trust. Knowing the importance of establishing trust with his teams, Jon takes the time to listen while also sharing his own vulnerabilities.
  • Cultivating authenticity. Jon encourages his teams to develop self-esteem so they can be direct and take direct feedback.
  • Coaching around the number. Jon believes that magic happens when sales leaders coach on why their teams did or didn’t hit their number.