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John Kemp

John Kemp: Turning Challenges into Conquests

25 Years of Sales Mastery Across Diverse Industries!

Do you ever find yourself stumbling into a career, only to realize it’s where you truly belong? For John Kemp, Chief Revenue Officer at S-RM, his journey into sales began as a mere happenstance after completing his education. Little did he know then that it would become the cornerstone of his professional life. Over the past 25 years, his career has traversed various realms of sales, sales management, and leadership roles, spanning industries from commercial radio to consulting services.

With a wealth of experience under his belt, including stints in networking, telephony, video conferencing, and cyber intelligence services, John’s passion for sales stems from the dynamic nature of the industry. “I love working in an industry that evolves and grows daily, helping clients mitigate risk and respond to threats,” he shares.

Throughout his career, he has honed his skills in navigating the ever-changing landscape of sales, adapting to new technologies, market trends, and client needs. His tenure in cyber and intelligence services, spanning over eight years, has equipped him with invaluable insights into mitigating risks and addressing emerging threats.

As CRO, John brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table, driving revenue growth and strategic initiatives for the company. His dedication to understanding client requirements and delivering tailored solutions underscores his commitment to excellence in sales leadership.

In a world where sales are often viewed as a transactional pursuit, his journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of embracing one’s career path wholeheartedly. Through dedication, resilience, and a passion for continuous learning, John exemplifies the essence of successful sales leadership in an ever-evolving business landscape.

Below are the interview highlights:

Can you please brief us about your company and its inception story?

S-RM started as Salamanca Risk Management in 2005 as a small security consultancy based in London. The current CEO, Heyrick Bon Gunning, joined in 2007, and by 2011, when the corporate intelligence practice was set up, the annual revenue was over £5 million. Growth continued with offices opening in Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro in 2014, the same year the cyber practice started.

In 2015, S-RM’s directors led a management buyout from the Salamanca Group. Today, S-RM has over 450 staff across ten offices including New York, Washington, Hong Kong, and Singapore and Kuala Lumpur which just opened earlier this year.

What motivates and drives you in your role as a Chief Revenue Officer?

My focus is on the end-to-end client journey, the messaging our business puts to market that piques the interest of a prospective client, how they initially engage with us, all the way through to the delivery of the engagement, and the follow-up once we have completed our project. Getting this right and delivering a world-class service that ensures initial customers become long-term strategic clients is what motivates me to push harder daily. Equally, building an environment where teams can innovate and work together to achieve collective success is something I get a kick from creating and driving.

How do you approach building and leading high-performing sales and marketing teams?

The key thing for me has always been to hire on potential, create an environment where people can develop, learn, and drive growth opportunities for their career progression, and aid them in achieving personal life goals. Selling is a team sport, so I always look to build teams with people who are collaborative and can work well with others rather than the heavy-hitting ‘lone wolf.’ I’ve been lucky to have some superb mentors in my career, and so I have always looked to create strong learning opportunities for junior members of the team. I believe having a mentor who isn’t your direct line manager but is someone who has a wealth of experience is hugely beneficial for individual development and motivation.

Can you highlight a specific challenge you’ve faced in maximizing revenue growth and how you successfully navigated it?

The global pandemic was, of course, a strange time for any sales organization. Losing Facetime with clients and internal teams meant everyone had to lock in and work that little bit smarter for success through this period. I endeavored to create an environment in which the teams not only connected for business talks and planning but also created time that would have ordinarily been spent on coffee breaks or kitchen chats so that the feeling of “team” was not lost despite the remote nature of each communication. We successfully grew and outperformed the budget in each region through this period and strengthened many client relationships, often gaining more personal insight into their lives outside of the office. To support this, designing and managing a strong collaborative process was key. Making people accountable for actions and follow-ups and trusting them to perform while looking after their personal lives and home environment enabled us collectively to outperform targets through this strange and disturbing time.

What strategies do you employ to foster collaboration between sales, marketing, and other revenue-related departments within the organization?

I believe a single-team mindset is key to success across sales and marketing functions. Regular team sessions where the agenda is driven by everyone, with open and honest discussions that encourage ideas, feedback, and an opportunity to reflect on what we are doing well and what we can improve. Creating an environment where everyone in the team has a voice and a chance to contribute to the direction is key to driving strong cross-divisional collaboration.

How do you stay informed about industry trends and technological advancements that could impact revenue generation?

I use social feeds, insights, and newsletters to keep up to date with industry shifts, but I am also an active member of several networking groups where we share ideas and lived experiences with other revenue and customer success leaders.

In your experience, what role does customer feedback play in shaping revenue strategies, and how do you incorporate it into decision-making?

Gathering customer feedback is essential in sales and wider business decision-making. A disciplined approach is key—consistently collecting data, monitoring, and analyzing. After every completed client project, we ask for feedback, we run a broader annual client survey, and we gather engagement across all marketing efforts too. That gives us a great picture of the client and feeds into our planning cycle. And I encourage my team to hone their listening skills too, because we need to understand the issues clients are facing to help.

Can you share a memorable success story where your revenue-focused initiatives significantly contributed to the organization’s overall success?

In late 2019, I joined a US organization pushing a new practice into the UK market, to grow from £5 million to £50 million in revenue in 5 years. My initial focus was on hiring and enabling a regionally dispersed team to map onto our clients across the region, hiring across the UK, France, Benelux, Dubai, Spain, and Italy. Over the coming two and a half years, we collectively grew revenues close to the initial 5-year target by giving our clients care and attention, strategically analyzing our revenue opportunities in each account, and driving a culture where “team” was the drumbeat we all worked to.

How do you balance the short-term goals of meeting revenue targets with the long-term strategy for sustainable growth?

In a growing business that is operating against a challenging economic backdrop, being agile and adaptable to change is key. Working with a solid leadership team that discusses and aligns strategy with a clear direction and plan has enabled us to flex to the needs of the business accordingly. For me, having clarity on my long-sighted vision and then breaking this down into bite-sized, achievable goals has been a way for me to ensure short-term goals align with the longer strategy.

What advice would you give to aspiring Chief Revenue Officers looking to excel in their roles and contribute to organizational success?

Focus on supporting the success of others, lead with empathy, lead by example, never stop learning and listening, be consistent, think like a CEO, stay hungry, and finally, be a master of your time allocation.

Could you please let us know about any honors or awards you have received thus far in your professional career?

I’ve won numerous sales and sales management awards across my career, from “Deal of the Year” to “Top 1%,” “Manager of the Year,” and various winners circles and presidents clubs.