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It wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that almost everyone who meets Juan Altamar, Director of Sales in the U.S., finds a friend in him. As a team player who naturally goes the extra mile to form good relations with customers, he has consistently delivered stellar sales results and is a 4th-time Le Club winner. Not only that, but his warm, friendly nature is much appreciated by his colleagues. “I love working with Juan,” enthuses Jérome Lecat, CEO. “He is dedicated, he is proactive, and he takes feedback very well. He also makes a point of saying thank you to anyone within Scality whenever he asks for a favor.” Juan is also famous within the company for his remarkable memory for details. “Juan has an uncanny ability to remember everything about someone he met only once,” reveals Marc Villemade, Chief Solutions Architect. “Then when they meet a year later, he’ll remember their name, how many kids they have, the kids’ names… it’s ridiculous!” I didn’t manage to unearth the secret to Juan’s amazing memory, but I did discover his tips for connecting with customers and his passion for sports, food, and continuous improvement.
Part 1: Finding common ground at work
JW: You’re based in D.C., right? Have you always lived there?
JA: I’m a D.C. native. I was born in the city and grew up about 15 miles outside the city. I’ve gone away for school and lived abroad a couple times but I always end up back here. My wife and I met here, and my two boys were born in the same hospital I was born in. So this is home.
JW: Was there anything in particular that prompted you to go into business and sales?
JA: It wasn’t my intention, but it’s something I do well and gravitated towards. After consulting, I got into technology via a tech company that needed business expertise. And before long, rather than doing pure product management, I was actually helping to enable sales teams to position and sell our product. I realized that I was effectively selling, and doing it well. So I made the jump over from the product manager/strategy side into selling. And I’ve enjoyed it. If you’d asked me 15, 20 years ago if I’d be doing this, I wouldn’t have thought so.
So it’s brought me to this and I’ve enjoyed helping the growth of this company, in particular, a company of this size where if I have a good day, then it’s a good day for the company; if I have a bad day, then the company’s going to feel that too. So I like being impactful in that way.
JW: What do you think is the key to establishing great customer relations?
JA: I pay a lot of close attention to details. I listen, a lot. I listen for either direct or indirect messages that the customer may be giving. But the big thing for me is, I remember every interaction with everybody. I’ll recall little things that they mention, for example, a sick parent or a special event that they had. And I make sure to follow-up on those items in subsequent conversations so that those people know that I was really attuned and listening. And that lends you credibility as someone that’s genuinely interested.
I don’t think of myself so much as a salesperson, but more as a conduit for getting a good solution in the hands of somebody that can benefit from it.
JW: I think everyone would describe you as a natural people person. Has this ability to form connections with others always come easily to you?
JA: My wife likes to say I’ve never met a stranger. I will strike up conversations with people sitting next to me on the plane or in a restaurant.
As a kid, I was always drawn to team sports. I never did individual sports. It was always about the team—soccer, baseball, basketball. I loved that concept. When I went to business school I intentionally picked a school where nearly everything you did was based on group projects.
JW: Is there any advice you’d like to pass onto newbies in your field?
JA: A lot of salespeople are coming in from within the storage industry. I would recommend that they not try and presuppose what the customer needs. They may tend to think, ‘Well, if they’re doing this, they need to have this.’ They may turn off their ears a little too soon and not ask the right questions to ultimately get to that ‘connection moment.’
JW: Who or what has inspired you in your life?
JA: I don’t know that there’s a specific person or event. I’m a big believer that for the most part, we’re all capable of more than we’re actually doing. So this notion of continuous improvement is very core to me and drives me in both a personal and professional manner. It comes into play with health, family, and hobbies. Work-wise I ask myself, ‘Can I be doing more?’ Sure, absolutely. However, more importantly, if I make a mistake or lose an opportunity I make sure I learn from it.
Interestingly, whenever I play sports, I always ask for the number 2 on my jersey. I don’t want to choose the #1 for my uniform; I want to aspire to be number one.
Part 2: Bonding over sports, travel, and food
JW: What sports are you playing these days?
JA: During the summer, I play golf and tennis; during the winter, paddle tennis. It’s a fantastic sport. I probably play three or four nights a week in wintertime. I’m an addict and worked hard on getting good. I won both individual and league championships this past winter! So I hit the number one spot, but I’m still going to seek ways to improve.
I also started playing competitive baseball again three years ago. I play in an over-45 league with a lot of former semi-professional and even some retired professional players. That’s both fun and humbling! The Washington All-Stars. We compete all around the DC area and then we’re typically invited to a World Series event in Florida where we play on an Major League field. It’s like living a childhood dream, right? Really fun.
JW: What else do you do outside of work?
JA: My wife and I love to travel. If I had the means and the luxury of being able to do anything, I would spend a long, long time and many dollars traveling around the globe.
JW: What have your favorite destinations been so far?
JA: Paris is my favorite city. I love just walking around and getting lost in different neighborhoods. One of the Le Club trips two years ago was to Morocco. And that was a tremendous, wonderful surprise. I was able to see a wonderful culture and great food and interesting cities that made me want to go back.
JW: I read that you’re really into food. Can you talk about that a bit?
JA: I love experimenting and going to local places. I don’t really look at the menu. I just say, “What should I absolutely have?” And if they say, “The octopus is to die for,” I’ll say, “All right. Bring me the octopus!”
To me, a enjoyment of eating is you learn a lot about different cultures through their food and their mealtime experience. And that to me is what I love.
JW: Is there anything you want to try next?
JA: Going back to the notion of continuous improvement, I think there’s always a next step in the career. The last thing I want to do is continue working without adding something new, where it becomes rote or tedious. I haven’t put my finger on what it is I want to do, but I think career-wise I need to develop and challenge myself to do more.