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sales Legend

Ryan Barretto, President of Sprout Social, On Leaning Into Opportunity


Ryan Barretto felt he was pursuing a safe and respectable career choice with corporate law. But life had other plans for him – and by leaning into that, he built an incredible career in the tech industry.

Highlights of that career include more than 10 years at Salesforce in a variety of leadership roles as the company scaled from $180 million to more than $7 billion in annual sales. More recently as SVP of Global Sales for Sprout Social, he grew the company from $30 million to over $200 million in revenue before being promoted to President.

But sales wasn’t on Ryan’s radar after he gave up his dream of being a lawyer. Inspired by his marketing classes during college, he went on to earn a master’s in international marketing. Upon graduating, he landed a corporate communications job at SAP. Ryan was thrilled by the opportunity – but his father stopped him in his tracks. “He advised me to think twice because he said to be a great executive, I needed to learn how to sell.”

I discovered what it means to live up to a high expectation of excellence, and that leadership needs to start with vision and inspiration.

After taking this advice to heart, Ryan searched for and found a sales job with Ceridian Canada. While the position paid far less than his SAP offer, Ryan credits his job with Ceridian for laying the foundation of his career. “It ended up being the best decision of my career because it gave me all the other opportunities I’ve had within sales and go-to-market.”

Ryan’s next sales role would be at Salesforce. But before he landed there, he tried his hand at launching two startups. While neither succeeded, he’s grateful for the experiences. “I had my hand in everything from running events and cold calling people to selling people on a vision. Once I became a sales leader, those experiences gave me more appreciation for entrepreneurs and successful businesses.”

Fortunate to nab a sales job at Salesforce in the early days, Ryan once again learned invaluable lessons. “I discovered what it means to live up to a high expectation of excellence, and that leadership needs to start with vision and inspiration.”

Those lessons paved the way for Ryan to rise to the top at Salesforce, ultimately serving as VP of Global Sales. Now after leading a 7x rise in Sprout Social’s revenue and taking it public, Ryan is leading the charge as President. “Starting with the customer is in our DNA. We want to deliver more value than is expected of us.”

Ryan’s other keys to success include:

  • Expecting excellence. Ryan expects himself and the people who work for him to over deliver on their goals.
  • Delivering joy. Creating a differentiated experience in B2B is how Ryan is leading Sprout Social to deliver joy to customers.
  • Prospecting for talent. Ryan and his executives go after people they think would be a good fit, rather than wait for candidates to come to them.