With 40 years at Advantage Solutions, Ben Santangelo knows the power of relationships

Michael Browne

“All things being equal, people buy from those they like and connect with,” says Ben Santangelo, who has spent his 40 years at Advantage Solutions building the types of relationships that close sales.

As customer development director for the Ontario, Canada division, Santangelo leads a team of business development and customer account managers and runs point for the division’s longest-tenured client. During his time at Advantage, he has built long-standing connections with clients and customers and assumed the role of coach and mentor to his teammates.

“One of the things I learned early on was the idea that ‘everyone carries the bag,’” Santangelo says. That’s something he still believes in today. “We all need to be connected and strengthen those relationships.”

The depth and breadth of relationships Santangelo has built over the decades wow his teammates.

“Ben is connected to the CPG community like no other. He always knows someone somewhere,” says Maryse Larose, Advantage vice president of sales for Canada. “He’s truly appreciated by his peers, clients and customers, always ready to help capitalize on opportunities, resolve an issue and connect with others to ensure we win together.” 

Santangelo, she says, “is living proof that when you believe in what you do, you can go a long way.”

Santangelo joined Advantage in January 1984, fresh out of school and working part-time in a grocery store. Through a connection he made in-store with an Advantage sales rep, he was brought on  as a part-time retail specialist.

Within six months he was moved to full time as a customer account manager and in less than two years, he was was named a business development manager. After being promoted to senior business development manager, Santangelo was promoted to his current role in 2005 starting with a team of two and growing that to 14 by 2012.

One of the keys to his longevity at Advantage, says Santangelo, is that “the order still excites me, the chase, the negotiation. Closing the deal. It’s what keeps me motivated. And I’ve worked with great people, which makes showing up every day an enjoyable experience.”

While he’s celebrating 40 years with the company, “It doesn’t feel like 40 years,” he says. “We have the luxury of representing so many brands in all categories, and it’s continuous learning. New clients, new business, new relationships.”

And when you’ve been with a company as long as Santangelo has, you see all the changes and evolution that come with time. As he says, “I remember having this huge mobile phone resting on the driveshaft tunnel between the seats of my car.”

But beyond the technology, Santangelo also has witnessed how Advantage has changed the way it runs its business. Under CEO Dave Peacock and his executive leadership team, over the past year the company has redefined its mission, values and purpose — and Santangelo is enthusiastically on board.

“Everything I’ve seen so far has been great,” he says. “I love how the company has approached this transformation, keeping everyone informed and engaged along the way. It’s time to take the next steps, and lead our teams by example to make sure everyone is on the same page. Anybody working for Advantage today should be feeling very good about their future.”

But it’s not all work and no play for Santangelo, who spends much of his off time with his family and friends, on vacations or out on the golf course. And he finds cooking for his family to be very therapeutic.

When it comes to the next generation of talent joining Advantage, Santangelo has a few words of wisdom: “We’re looking for people who can build relationships in the business — those who are willing to learn, to take chances. Being adaptable, able to change quickly without a lot of notice.

“And smile,” he says. “A smile goes a long way.”