Pete Agresta of Nasuni Corporation On Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective CRO

An Interview With Rachel Kline

Authority Magazine
Authority Magazine
11 min readMay 1, 2023


Results focused. It is in the title — you will be measured and judged on revenue results. To be effective, you must have command of the business, be obsessively focused on results and all the activities added up to achieve them. I adopted a success measure of a “successful quarter” from a former boss of mine who would say, “You’ve had your first successful quarter when it’s the fourth quarter in a row of overachieving your target results.” Many things need to be working at a very high level to achieve 4 quarters in a row of results.

A CRO’s role is essential for a company’s growth, taking on the responsibility for all aspects of driving revenue to the company. What makes someone an effective CRO? For someone considering a role as a CRO, what does it take to create a highly successful career in this position? To address these questions, we had the pleasure of interviewing Pete Agresta.

Pete Agresta is the Chief Revenue Officer for Nasuni, where he is responsible for growing and scaling the revenue-generating organization for Nasuni including worldwide Sales and Solution Engineering, Channel Sales, and Strategic Business Development.

Pete has a wealth of experience building and leading high-performing teams for organizations at all stages and sizes. Most recently, he was the Vice President of Enterprise Sales for Pure Storage, where he led a team that more than doubled the business to over $1B during his 4-year tenure. Prior, he was Chief Revenue Officer for LookingGlass Cyber, where he helped recapitalize the company, acquired, and commercialized a threat intel platform, and grew the business over 50%. Earlier in his career, Pete spent a decade at Cisco Systems, leading the Global Financial sales teams in various sales and sales leadership roles and 7 years on Wall Street at AllianceBernstein, a leading global investment firm, as Managing Director for Middle Market Sales.

Pete lives just outside of NYC, is married and raising 4 kids. He holds a BA from Siena College and an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I am the 5th child in a family of 10. A family friend aptly described our family as “organized chaos” and while we were very close (and still are), we all developed a drive to succeed and highly competitive personalities. I always tell people my competitive personality was born of necessity because I grew up competing for attention, hand-me-down clothes, and dinner.

Professionally, my first role was in the mid-1990’s as an inside sales representative at a New York based value-added-reseller designing local and wide area network infrastructure. I hustled my way into the job. It was the ground floor of the company, and it was the first innings of a huge growth industry. The internet build out was just getting started and the role was a great providing ground for me.

From there, I got recruited to join Cisco Systems on the Global Sales Team responsible for our Wall Street accounts. That was one of the best sales roles on the planet during the late-1990’s. Joining Cisco in that role at that time really changed my career trajectory and my life. I worked with and learned from some legendary go-to-market leaders. After Cisco, I took a very unconventional career transition to work on Wall Street in equity research for seven years before coming back to technology sales leadership roles.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you first started? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

As a first-time manager when I got promoted at Cisco, I used some budget dollars to sponsor and join a 3-day “cruise-to-nowhere” on the Queen Elizabeth 2. The premise was potential customers didn’t have to pay, but they were stuck on the ship with the technology vendors who sponsored the trip — so there would be plenty of opportunity to build relationships and sell your products. I learned that only non-decision-makers would ever take a cruise with 30 technology sales vendors and that this was a complete waste of time and money. I also learned that I get seasick. Also, you cannot expense blackjack losses.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

So many people in my life have helped make me who I am today, but my wife Jacqui has been by my side throughout my career and is the most important person impacting my success. She’s more accomplished than me. She earned a PhD and built an amazing career as a school social worker, while raising our four kids. Her success and professional stability enabled me to take on risks and trade lower compensation for experience and equity multiple times over my career. That freedom to take risks because of her support has been invaluable in my career.

Beyond the support at home, she has been a secret weapon for me in building meaningful business relationships with customers and colleagues. She has a genuine curiosity about people and can connect effortlessly with almost everyone. I know that if I can create an opportunity to spend time with my most important customers in a setting with Jacqui, she will win them over and my relationship with them is cemented.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Curiosity. Being genuinely curious leads you to learn the “why” behind any position and knowing the “why” leads to creative solutions, whether crafting a proposal, negotiating a contract, or building a team. I had a leader on my team who didn’t want the same stretch assignments as other leaders. Why? Was he less ambitious? Not at all. I found out he wanted to give back and build his own unique career path. For him that included becoming an author and writing about his experiences. When offered support and freedom to pursue his ambition, he became a much more effective leader for our team.
  2. Drive to succeed. The best leaders have an internal motivation and drive that cannot be faked. Success requires more than raw talent, more than great work ethic and effort. It requires a drive to push past obstacles, a willingness to make decisions and courage to face your own shortcomings and growth areas. For me, my desire to get it right is bigger than my desire for being right. That’s another way of saying my ego takes second place to the team’s success.
  3. Willingness to take risks. John Chambers, legendary CEO of Cisco, used to say, “If you got everything right and hit 100% of your goals, that means you didn’t take enough risks and didn’t achieve to your potential.” Having the willingness to take risks and fail has been a huge part of my success. First, taking new roles outside my comfort zone has stretched me and forced to me grow professionally. Second, people have been drawn to my leadership based on my willingness to take on risks and create space for failure and growth. When you as a leader are willing to fail to achieve great goals, your team is willing to stretch and do the same. Inspiring a team that is willing to fail changes the targets you are reaching for.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about creating a successful career as a CRO. For the benefit of our readers, can you help explain what exactly a CRO does? How is a CRO different than a CMO or a CFO?

CRO stands for Chief Revenue Officer. The title is still somewhat new and has gained traction over the last few years. It is the role responsible for all a company’s revenue departments and functions. That includes new business sales, account management, pre-sales engineering, business development, go-to-market channels, alliances, and the like.

A CRO is responsible for designing the way the department should operate, hiring and developing of the right teams and overseeing the teams’ effectiveness in producing results. I sometimes say therefore that the CRO is the Chief Results Officer. Or Chief Reality Officer.

In addition to producing results, the CRO is also responsible for creating the right conditions for future success and the culture of the go-to-market organization. The culture that the team builds is a crucial ingredient in succeeding in this role. A high-performing culture that celebrates success and challenges individuals to stretch is a multiplier effect to any go-to-market team.

Can you tell us about a project, person, or a team you led where you successfully made a big impact? What secrets can you share with us?

I recently had a team that was pursuing a large customer who had a project that was ten times the size of our usual contracts. In addition, they wanted to use a new subscription model we had built but had just started selling and had not delivered yet, so we were very immature in our ability to sell and negotiate the terms.

I recognized that we had assembled the right talent on the team to pull this off, but they needed to be given the right support and autonomy. When you have a talented team, they want to be challenged and supported. In this case, it meant giving them resources that were atypical. For example, a full-time project manager was assigned to help create the proposal. And it involved championing the team and the proposal right up the CEO, CFO, and the Board.

While the team was successful, we broke some new ground, and we signed the company up for some terms that were financially different than what we had modeled. I needed to take full responsibility for any negative outcomes and let the team get all the glory for delivering the biggest contract of the year. This is part of creating loyalty in a team who will deliver for you when you need them.

Have you ever been presented with a difficult situation that required creative problem-solving? Can you please share the story with us?

All leaders are presented with difficult situations to manage — that is the essence of the job. I have a saying I stole from a leader I worked with years ago: “If it was easy, they would just send a dog with a note.”

I took a role with a team that included a husband and wife on the same team. One was performing exceptionally well with lots of future potential, and the other was not. Parting ways with someone not performing well in the role, while building confidence and trust with their spouse was not easy to navigate. We had to work overtime to help the impacted person land a new role with a partner organization and we needed to create a brand-new role for the person we wanted to keep happy and in the organization.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are your “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective CRO?” Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Results focused. It is in the title — you will be measured and judged on revenue results. To be effective, you must have command of the business, be obsessively focused on results and all the activities added up to achieve them. I adopted a success measure of a “successful quarter” from a former boss of mine who would say, “You’ve had your first successful quarter when it’s the fourth quarter in a row of overachieving your target results.” Many things need to be working at a very high level to achieve 4 quarters in a row of results.

2. Culture Creator. Revenue teams THRIVE when they are challenged to achieve great things and they have belief they can accomplish stretch goals. There is natural stress and pressure to deliver results, but the right culture focuses that pressure into positive leverage instead of negative feedback loops. When you create the right culture, great people want to be part of the organization to build their own success around yours.

3. Developer of Leaders. Ultimately, great organizations have leaders at all levels of the team. I know I was inspired to achieve great things by different leaders I’ve worked under. Now, I spend more time working with people on their skills and careers than I do discussing their issues and business. In this role, you need leaders who can execute the business and possess solid skills and judgement. Your job is to assemble, inspire and motivate a team of leaders who have more talent and skill in their roles than you.

4. Market Relevance This means possessing deep customer relationships and having partner / ecosystem relationship and relevance. As the leader responsible for creating revenue, you need to be personally steeped in your customers’ world and be able to see clearly what value your company can deliver. It also means having gravitas and relevance in the ecosystem of your industry so that people want to be associated with you and build a business together. In every role I’ve had, I make it a priority to spend extensive time learning the customer’s world and building solid relationships that inform my strategy.

5. Great Communicator. A highly effective CRO can determine and distil powerful messages in a way that truly resonates with customers, the team, and other stakeholders. That comes in all formats, from all-hands presentations to one-on-one customer meetings, from blog posts to internal emails. Communication comes in many forms and people have very different styles. Effective CRO’s don’t need to be the loudest, but they do need to find a way to influence powerfully through communication skills.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. ☺

I’ll answer with a slightly smaller ambition than inspiring a movement. Our college and university systems should develop a revenue professional major / degree. I’m personally passionate about preparing the next generation of leaders and this is a career path that takes knowledge, skills, and practice, and it should be treated as a first-class career option. Our higher education system should be generating the next group of world-class leaders. This path has provided a great career and livelihood for me and many others that I know and respect, but most of us had to learn our craft through work experience only and there is so much more a professional degree could provide.

This is a topic I’m investing more time and resources into, especially as I have my daughter in college and three more behind her. We do a great job here at Nasuni hiring young graduates onto our team and helping them develop skills and advance their careers, but there is more we can accomplish by making this an attractive academic degree and course of study.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find me on LinkedIn at Pete Agresta or on twitter at @agrestap.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.



Authority Magazine
Authority Magazine

In-depth interviews with authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech