Two Top Palo Alto Networks Americas Sales Execs Depart: Sources


Palo Alto Networks Americas sales leaders Patrick Blair and Rich Wenning have both left the company in recent weeks, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

One source said that Blair left Palo Alto Networks on March 1 after leading the company's $1.56 billion Americas sales operation since August 2017. Wenning and a fellow VP of the commercial side of the company's Americas sales team both reported directly into Blair, who served as SVP and GM of Americas sales, according to the source.

Wenning left Palo Alto Networks on Feb. 22 to take a job leading Americas sales at a different cybersecurity vendor, according to the source. Wenning had been the company's VP of sales, Americas enterprise accounts since May 2017, where he was focused on growing business with a small number of major, high-impact accounts in verticals such as healthcare and financial services, the source said.

[Related: Palo Alto Networks SaaS Deal Referral Program Is Causing Partner Angst: Sources]

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"I'm very concerned. It takes a long time to build sales culture for execution purposes," said one Palo Alto Networks partner who didn't wish to be identified. "Whenever you start losing the people that got you there, that's a problem for me."

A second source also told CRN that Blair and Wenning have departed Palo Alto Networks. The source characterized both Blair and Wenning as being great channel advocates, and said additional turnover in the Americas go-to-market team would leave them worried.

Blair and Wenning didn't respond to requests for comment, while Palo Alto Networks declined to talk for this story, saying that the company doesn't comment on personnel matters.

"The guys you aren't seeing exit are the ones who built this," the partner said. "They understood what it took to get here."

The first source was very surprised by Blair's departure since he had spent a decade at Salesforce pioneering cloud and consumption-based sales models. New Palo Alto Networks CEO Nikesh Arora and President Amit Singh both previously spent a number of years at Google, and the source anticipated that Blair's experience would be helpful in taking the company where the new leadership team wanted to go.

"That [20 months] is a pretty quick enter and exit for that strategic of a position," the source said. "It takes a big amount of time to turn them [major customers] into a productive Palo Alto Networks user."

Wenning, meanwhile, was praised by multiple partners for his commitment to the channel and ability to bring the right resources in to carry a major deal across the finish line. The first source said that Wenning facilitated customer interactions with Blair as well as a phone call with former CEO Mark McLaughlin to provide clients with the assurances they need to seal the deal.

"They are very supportive in these deals," the source said. "It takes a village to close a big deal. They always have my back."

Another partner said that Wenning was both a good sales leader and human being, and specifically praised him for hiring "rock stars" to run each of the regions for the enterprise accounts team. The quality of Palo Alto Networks' regional teams and markets is a testament to Wenning's hard work, the source said.

"I was impressed [by Wenning]," the partner said. "He was a strong, seasoned executive sales manager. … He's a hard person to lose."

The source had been told that Wenning's position wasn't going to be replaced, with more responsibility falling to the major account leaders in each region. The position held by Blair, meanwhile, reports into EVP Worldwide Sales Dave Peranich, and the source anticipates that a replacement will be hired or appointed relatively quickly.

Solution providers have seen a lot of new faces in the Palo Alto Networks leadership team, with Anar Desai also joining the company in 2018 to run Americas channel sales. Desai came over from Nutanix, where he had served as senior director of channel sales.

Palo Alto Networks disclosed last month a new SaaS Deal Referral program where partners would receive a 10 percent reward for bringing RedLock opportunities to the company. The company acquired RedLock in October 2018 for $173 million to strengthen its cloud threat defense capabilities for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

Partners told CRN at the time that the SaaS Deal Referral program relegates the channel to a model that restricts their relationship with the customer and limits the margin they can make on a product sale. Solution providers also expressed concern that the program could move to other products besides RedLock, though the company hasn't indicated any plans to do so at present.