Talent Spotlight: Dan Corwin Shares Sales Leadership Tips

Talent Spotlight: Dan Corwin Shares Sales Leadership Tips

Samantha Shankman

13 Feb 2023
5 minute read
big ben in london - dan corwin talent spotlight

“We’re really serious about creating an elite sales team at Navan,” says Navan's Global CRO, Accounts, Daniel Corwin when reflecting on the organization’s approach to sales leadership. 

A seasoned sales leader with two decades of experience at hyper-growth startups, Dan was looking for his next rocketship when he came across Navan and knew it ticked all the boxes.

“I’m the type of person who is all in or not in at all,” says Dan, who recognized that Navan’s culture had high standards for itself and that the team members around him worked with passion, enthusiasm, and excitement. 

“Navan absolutely has this culture. It’s easy to get out of bed in the morning, and you can feel it. It’s a culture of smart, dynamic people who are really driven and feel like they’re building something meaningful and special. That culture is not everywhere.” 

But let’s go back to the beginning.

A Sales Legend in the Making

Dan is responsible for roughly 80% of the company’s revenue across all business segments. 

Dan started his career in finance as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley. His team advised tech companies on their IPO and M&A strategies, and although he was learning a lot and working with very smart people, he wanted to be involved in actually building a hyper-growth company—not just advising one. When Morgan Stanley’s two-year analyst program ended, Dan joined a well-funded tech company and was tasked with finding new business opportunities. A recession started soon after, and revenue became the only thing that mattered. 

“The company's CRO liked me and said, ‘I’m trying to figure out some new areas for the business. I need someone smart to come with me to meetings.’ So I started doing that,” explains Dan. The role involved sales management, and he never looked back. 

Dan spent the last 20 years leading different go-to-market teams for high-growth SaaS companies. For just a peek at some of the companies that Dan has helped scale, consider Intralinks, where he held various senior sales leadership roles as the company grew from $25M ARR to $230M ARR and completed a successful IPO; e-Marketer, where he led all of the revenue before it completed a successful sale of the company and became Insider Intelligence; and WeWork, where Dan led the North American business — a team of 400 people driving roughly 60% of WeWork’s global revenue.

“When I left WeWork, I wanted to be part of building a meaningful hyper-growth company again - but one with a different ending,” says Dan. “I looked for what I thought was an elite company, and that involves several things: a large market opportunity, strong momentum in the business, a highly differentiated product, a world-class leadership team, Tier 1 investors, and a culture of passionate, inspired people who are hyper-committed to what they’re building. The stage was also important to me. I wanted a company that operated, on the one hand, with the discipline, talent density, and professionalism of a mature organization and, on the other, with the speed and creativity of a startup. I saw all of those things at Navan.”

While some people might have hesitated to join a travel company in November 2021, Dan only saw the opportunity. “I never doubted that travel would come back, and it still has much more room to grow,” he says.

Scaling a Sales Culture Built on Excellence

Navan has a team of seasoned operators who work with the heart and hunger of a startup. This organization-wide culture bleeds into the sales organization. 

If a strict, driven sales organization is on one side and a softer, celebratory sales organization is on the other, Dan, and the rest of the sales leadership team at Navan, speak often and consciously about creating a sales culture that integrates the best of both worlds. 

“While there are best practices and gold standards for success, there is also room to bring your authentic self to work. We balance accountability, discipline, and high standards by making people feel supported and heard. We solicit creativity and listen to people in the field,” says Dan. “We try to be hard on the process while nurturing the people.”

Given his breadth and depth of experience leading successful sales organizations, Dan has fielded multiple requests from people asking for his playbook when taking over a new team. That, combined with his one-year anniversary at Navan, prompted Dan to reflect. The result was a LinkedIn post in which he shared his approach to taking leadership of a new sales organization in seven steps. 

“When you take over a new team, sometimes the hardest part is knowing what to do. You have to figure out how to make a difference and then actually do it,” says Dan.

“I always thought of it like a three-legged stool. You (1) spend enough time with the customers, partners, and employees in the market, (2) look at the data to make sure what you’re hearing is showing up in the numbers, and then (3) come up with a plan. If you then overcommunicate it, measure it, and refine it over time, then usually there’s a lot you can impact.”

When Dan hires, he looks for the intangibles first: grit, work ethic, coachability, integrity, intelligence, and EQ. Dan describes the most successful hires as “drivers,” a reference from Frank Slootman’s Amp It Up: Leading for Hypergrowth by Raising Expectations, Increasing Urgency, and Elevating Intensity. Drivers, unlike passengers, get things done and know how to get an outcome, even when operating in ambiguity.

“We’re really serious about creating an elite sales team at Navan,” says Dan, who aims to create 25 future CROs from the Navan sales team. It’s this drive to create an environment and culture where ambitious people who want to be exceptional will find the training, comradery, and support to make that happen.

Travel Talk:

  • Favorite business destination: London
  • Favorite leisure destinations: Italy and Japan
  • Window or aisle: Aisle. I’d rather be disturbed than disturb someone else.
  • Travel hack: I have one policy, which might be weird, it’s been a decade since I’ve eaten plane food. If I eat the meal, I hate it and still want to eat when I get off. So I’ll have peanuts on the flight and then a nice dinner when I land and feel really good about it.

Navan is actively hiring across all GTM teams and globally across all business segments. See available roles at Navan today.

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