Episode 15: Salesforce Career Conversations Charlie Cowan with ROD. Charlie is an Enterprise Tech AE and published Author of “How to sell Tech”. Listen to Charlie talk about his career journey, with a surprise master class in selling pipe cleaners. Charlie has sold both Salesforce professional services and products, and talks about why empathy is important within his role.
Lee Durrant: Hi, I’m Lee Durrant. In this episode of RODcast, we’re speaking with Charlie Cowan about his Salesforce career to date and any little tips or nuggets he’s learned over the years, particularly as a now published author of sales books, I think plural. Let’s just dive straight in and say hi, Charlie. How are you doing, mate?
Charlie Cowan: Hi there, Lee. I’m good, thank you. Thank you for having me on.
Lee: Thanks for agreeing to do it. Obviously, you and I have known each other for quite a long time in this Salesforce ecosystem. I did notice your recent news about publishing a software sales book. I thought it might be good to get you on and have a chat for people that are listening about, I suppose, your journey in Salesforce and how you got into it, and all the way through to this point now where you’re a published author of sales books, which is brilliant.
Charlie: I’d be happy to share that journey. Hopefully, it’s useful either for people that are in sales, but also people that are not in sales and more in either the consulting ranks or interested in what it might take to get into sales.
Lee: Yes, absolutely. It’s a growing part of the Salesforce ecosystem, of course, but even the wider cloud software space, I would imagine. It’d be quite interesting to dig into that. If you’re happy to maybe give us a little overview of yourself and then we can dive into how it all began, if you like. Fire away, tell us what you’re doing.
Charlie: I’m an enterprise tech AE. I’ve worked in cloud sales pretty much since I started working. ’99 seems a long time ago now, but when I left The Agricultural College, which is what I studied in, and just through pure coincidence, the town that I was studying in, which is a town called Cirencester, also had a number of tech companies that got set up there. I was lucky enough to get a job in one, pretty much straight out of uni. I did a quick transition from agriculture into technology. Then I’ve stayed on that path the whole way through, sometimes selling the tech, sometimes selling services. I spent my career in that space.
Lee: Like a lot of people I speak to, it wasn’t necessarily your plan to get into tech, then. Obviously, the agricultural thing that was– You had a totally different life plan.
Charlie: It was pure coincidence and a little bit of luck. While I was at uni, I was also working in my evenings in a local pub. To get from uni to that pub, I used to drive through a little industrial estate in Cirencester. I used to go past this building there, and it had a little car park at the back of it. There was some nice cars in that car park. There was a Lamborghini Diablo, there was a Ferrari 355. There was some good stuff going on. One day, on my way to work, I had a little bit of time before my shift started. I parked up and I went and knocked on the door.
I spoke to the receptionist, and I was like, “What on earth do you do here?”
Charlie: She said, “Oh, we’re a business-only ISP.” I said, “I’ve got absolutely no idea what that means but can I have a job?” I didn’t even really ask for a specific type of job. I didn’t really know what kind of jobs were available. She put me in touch with the sales director there, a guy called Johnny. I popped in a week later to have an interview with him, and had some initial chats about what I wanted to do and what interested me. I was just like, “I’m a student. Obviously, I want a big telly.” That was the only thing I could really remember saying.
Lee: Not a Lamborghini.
Charlie: Not a Lamborghini. Yes, start small. Luckily, I’d stumbled into a sales recruitment process that they were going through, and so the following week, he invited me along to a mass interview. They had about 30 people turn up. We all sat down in their training room. Some sales trainer upfront ran some exercises with us, handed out some of these old pipe cleaners that you’d use for art and craft. “Who can sell me this pipe cleaner? Give me some examples of how you might use it.”
Lee: Jordan Belfort, yes.
Charlie: Exactly. “Sell me this pen.” I was one of the 30 and I just thought, “Well, I’ve got to come up with some ways of using this pipe cleaner.” I put my hand up and made myself known. It seemed to go okay and I got invited back to another interview the next week. That was a bit tougher with one of the managers. Anyway, I muddled my way through it, and I got offered a place as a sales exec. I started there the week after my finals finished. I went straight from agricultural finals and then straight into the first day of sales.
Lee: Fair play. Just to go over that again. It took some balls to walk into a car park full of Lamborghinis and all those lovely cars to do what you did, probably something that I don’t imagine many people do nowadays. I have to ask you as well if you can remember, what was your answer then to the “sell me the pipe cleaner thing”? What did you say?
Charlie: First, instead of walking in through the door, I would say, I’ve always thought about that since then. So many people when it comes to wanting to get a job think, “Right, I’m going to go to LinkedIn,” or, “I’m going to speak to a recruiter,” or, “I’m going to hit apply on a careers page.”
Lee: None of that existed. I’m not trying to make you sound really old, did any of that exist then? Probably not. Probably not LinkedIn.
Charlie: There would have been offline recruiters.
Lee: Oh, that was around. Yes, they’d been over there knocking the doors for you.
Charlie: Yes, exactly. Essentially, if you just go in through the traditional methods, you just go into a pile with 100 other people. Whereas if you either literally walk through the front door or metaphorically walk through the front door by speaking to someone that’s influential or getting in contact with a hiring manager directly, these are things that separate you from someone that just hits apply on a LinkedIn ad today. Definitely, always think about that as a way of differentiating yourself. Then in terms of, what did I do? I can’t remember. I think it was about you could use it to clean something, you could use it to hang something on a radiator. It was just pointless. Pointless ways of using a pipe cleaner.
Lee: At least you stuck your hand up.
Charlie: Exactly, that was the thing. It was like, “I’ve got to stick my hand up, whatever. I can’t sit here and not say anything.”
Lee: I think the very fact that you steamed in there as a young man and said, “Give me a job,” probably puts you at the top of the list without you even realizing it.
Lee: I said at the beginning of this podcast, we jump all over the place. That’s what I’m doing. How could that translate into today’s world then, walking into an office like that and saying, “I want a job.” Sometimes all you can do is apply on LinkedIn.
Charlie: You mentioned earlier that I’ve written a couple of books. Actually, the first one which we carved off the front is really about how do you get a job in tech sales. It’s applicable to anything, which is, if you have got a company that you want to go and work for, how do you make sure that you can get a job there. One of the things is to target an individual hiring manager. Let’s say you do want to work in sales and you know a particular company that you want to go and work for; it’s not difficult to go onto LinkedIn and find out who are going to be the sales managers or the Salesforce practice managers or whoever it might be.
They’re going to be the people you’re likely to work for. Then through LinkedIn, you can very easily see if you’re connected to that person and you can either get a referral. If you can’t get a referral, a warm intro, then it’s easy to find people’s email addresses. You just literally go to Google and type in company name, email address format, and you’ll find something that will come up. 75% of the people at this company have got this email format. Then you can just email that person directly.
Lee: You’ve given away a lot of my secrets here for recruitment. We all do the same thing, don’t we? That’s a bit of, I suppose, just being a bit, especially if it’s a sales job as well, more than anything, if it’s a sales job, you should be a little bit more creative around how you approach these people.
Charlie: Exactly. Sales is all about getting in contact with the right people, and if you can’t demonstrate that in trying to get a job somewhere, then you still almost fail at the first hurdle.
Lee: Absolutely. Going back to you then, you got that job, no doubt. You mentioned there in the company.
Charlie: Yes, it was a company called Star Internet back in the day.
Lee: You were selling to small businesses via internet?
Charlie: Internet connections. It was ’99. Still small companies were just getting connected to the internet for the first time or trying to upgrade. We are selling ISDN connections or in some cases, for larger companies, leased lines, which we used to call it a pipe back then. It was like, “Oh, these big companies get a two Meg lease line pipe.” Now, you think about a two Meg connection for a company with hundreds of employees, you think, “Oh, this is crazy,” when we’re now on gigs and gigs. That’s what it was. That company, we invented a new way of scanning for viruses as well. Viruses were just starting to become a problem and spam as well.
That really took off. It was before things were called cloud. We called it like a managed service, but it was about scanning your email as it came through the ISP. Whereas up until that point, most people had a box on their own network and then that box would scan for viruses, and you’d update that box maybe once a week with new patches. That was very much how people stopped these viruses coming in. This one virus came out, the Melissa virus, that absolutely just destroyed.
That was probably one of the most famous or infamous viruses that came out. Because our company was scanning people’s email as it came through us, we managed to protect everyone, whereas everyone that was waiting for a patch came in on Monday morning and got hit by this virus because they hadn’t updated their patches.
This was really the genesis of cloud-based virus scanning. It really took off to the extent when– Well, in our company, Star, we split it off into a second company called MessageLabs, which just did the virus scanning and spam scanning. I was there for another eight years or so. When that became a global business, it scaled up and ultimately got sold to Symantec in about 2010. It was a really lucky door to walk through in ’99, because that was a 10-year story that grew into being a global business.
Lee: You started doing that just about the same time I started off in recruitment. 1999 is when I first started recruiting for, funny enough, cabling-type engineers and stuff like that. Did the Y2K thing affect you or your business? I seem to remember in 1999, everyone was panicking, weren’t they, about Y2K, and planes were going to fall out of the sky, and IT was evil. That’s what it felt like anyway. I didn’t know anything about it. Did that affect you at all, or did you guys thrive because of that?
Charlie: No, it seemed to be. I joined in that summer of ’99 after my final, so maybe I started working June or July or something like that. It was six month run-up to the millennium. I remember a lot of talk about it, but it all seemed to be a bit of a damp squib when that happened.
Lee: We don’t have the fast forward to your Salesforce days. I’d be interested to see how it played out and at what point you became aware of Salesforce.
Charlie: It was really interesting, actually. You can fast forward to maybe 2008, 2009, something like that. I was getting into more social selling. This was as a salesperson, you need to have a blog and you need to be writing and you need to have your opinion out there and be building a network on LinkedIn and Twitter. I did start a blog and started writing a few things.
Lee: I remember that. Do you still do it?
Charlie: I do bits and pieces, but less a formal blog.
Lee: Around about 2008, 2009 was when we started ROD, and I definitely remember following your blog quite a bit. It became quite big, didn’t it? If I remember rightly.
Charlie: I was writing a few things. Well, it was sort of around, obviously, technology. I was looking for things to write about, and I thought, “Well, I’ll write about Salesforce,” because that’s a big cloud company. At the time where I was, MessageLabs, we were a cloud company and we always looked on it. Salesforce was being a business that was going crazy growth in that market. I registered for what was called Cloudforce back then, so it became the World Tours.
In fact, I registered for the New York one. It wasn’t an in-person one. It was the Cloudforce where they announced Chatter as a new product because going back a good way. Now, I’d been going to tech events here in the UK. InfoSec was the one that we used to go to. It was about info security, and it was in Olympia in London. It was very stereotypical, let’s say, for an InfoSec event. It was very male orientated. It was very technology orientated.
Then I went on to this Cloudforce event. They’re playing Kings of Leon. It was almost like 50/50 women to men. It was very business-focused and not just tech. I was like, “Oh my goodness. This is like a completely different kind of tech event. I’ve never seen any event like this.” That was my first exposure to Salesforce. I started writing about the platform, I started learning because there was a lot of self-learning that you could go and do through the online sites. That inspired me to set up a consulting business focused on Salesforce, which is when we first met. I set up a small consulting practice focused on the SMB market, which I felt wasn’t very well served at that time.
Lee: Absolutely. It was Kiboko, wasn’t it?
Charlie: It was.
Lee: Did I pronounce it wrong then and still now? Probably I can’t remember.
Charlie: Well, that was a made-up name. No, it wasn’t a made-up name.
Lee: I thought it was South African or something.
Charlie: I think it was some African name for a hippo. My wife is South African. I think we were looking for Swahili names for animals and that jumped out as being something that was quite memorable and also had a dotcom domain available.
Lee: That’s more importantly.
Charlie: That was it.
Lee: Unlike everyone else at the time, you didn’t call it cloud this or that, which was refreshing. I remember Kiboko.
Charlie: Some Latin name for a type of cloud. We avoided that and had something different.
Lee: It was successful. Correct me, I can’t remember what happened with Kiboko. Perhaps you can tell us, and perhaps you can give us an idea of what it’s actually like to start something like that and grow it and get to the point where you make a decision.
Charlie: I think the golden rule is, if you’re going to set up a consulting business, then you should work in a consulting business for a long time before you try to do that yourself. I came from a sales background. I love selling, I love talking to customers, I love learning about that business, and then working out how I can best help them to take that business forward. One thing that I had zero experience of was consulting and understanding how to build out a level of effort and resourcing a particular plan and knowing how that you can deliver that project successfully and profitably.
We definitely touched on an area of the market where there was demand. We built up a good relationship with a number of the team at Salesforce. We were like, “Great, we need more partners that are focused on this area.” Customers absolutely needed that level of support, because they totally, like myself, bought into Salesforce and the journey and the vision, and then they wanted to know how to take the ball of clay that is Salesforce, and turn that into something that met their needs.
That’s often where, certainly I, and the team, we had a challenge, which is taking each customer who’s got very unique requirements, whether it was a company that sold speakers or a charity, or a company that was doing real estate lettings. They’ve all got their own individual processes and requirements. How do you then take what used to be called the Salesforce Quickstart and implement that, and give everyone what they need and do it profitably?
I think over the year or so that we ran that business, that’s really where I personally came unstuck, in that what I wanted to be able to deliver to these customers was not something that I was skilled in delivering. That’s why after a year, I drew a line under that and got into consulting, well, still doing the same thing, but working for a company doing that, rather than trying to run it myself.
Lee: Listen, there’s no failure on your only feedback. It was obviously a really good lesson. That took you to, correct me if I’m wrong, and that’s NewVoiceMedia, or did you go from it to Appirio?
Charlie: I went via NewVoiceMedia for a period of time. I think I was there for a year and a half, which was still in the Salesforce ecosystem, was a great experience there implementing Cloud Contact Center solutions for customers on the Salesforce platform. This is where I had serendipity. You never know where your life will take you. Through my time doing Kiboko and the blog and being on social networks like Twitter, and through going to Dreamforce and getting to meet people in the Salesforce community, someone then contacted me on Twitter and said, “Appirio,” which at that time was one of the best-known boutique Salesforce consultancies in the US, “was about to open up in Europe. Did I want to go and meet the GM?”
Lee: They bought Saaspoint at that point?
Charlie: That was their routine. They acquired Saaspoint, which was an existing Irish headquartered Salesforce Consultancy over here. That was their entry into the market. “Did I want to go meet the new GM who was coming over?” I went to go meet her in London. Great person, really bought into the culture of Appirio. I moved over and carried on my consulting career. I was in the sales team, but we were selling consulting around Salesforce, Workday, and Google.
Lee: Must have been a big difference, or maybe tell me if it was or not, but from the SMB market you were aiming for with Kiboko, where you’re all of a sudden like enterprise, global, customers, go and sell to them, or were you still aiming at the small boys?
Charlie: No, no, it’s very much large enterprise. We were selling to the very largest customers in the world, top health care companies, top tech companies, top media companies that we’re putting in a very big program. We were still a global boutique large enough to do the big global programs, but more of a boutique, and able to move faster than maybe one of the larger GSIs.
For me, it was a massive learning curve, because frankly, I had not sold to those types of companies before. I’d gone from doing SMB. I’d done some channel sales. Maybe I’d sold some mid-market, but I’ve never sold to a global enterprise before. That was a bit of fake it till you make it situation.
Lee: What is the difference between selling to an SMB to switching to an enterprise company? It sounds like a bit of a stupid question, but just for anyone listening who’s thinking about getting into this, or perhaps they’re already selling to SMB and they want to move to enterprise, what’s the differences in your opinion?
Charlie: I think one of the main ones is just the number of people that are involved. If you’re selling into an SMB, you might be selling with just one person. It might be a business center. It might be a sales director. They can make that decision on their own. If they can’t make the decision on their own, it’s likely to be quite an informal process of, “We’ve got a team meeting next week, and I’ll say, “This is what I want to do”.” It’s much faster-paced and more informal.
As you get into a large enterprise, you might be dealing with 15 or 20 people. You might be in a formal RFP process where you’ve got to manage structured presentations. It might be that you’re dealing with multiple regions, and you’ve got to deal with different geographies, different legislations and so on. It’s really just around the complexity of their own organization and then also the timelines. When people are buying something at an enterprise level, they’re typically looking at a program that might go in over a number of quarters or years.
What they’re looking for from a salesperson is different. I don’t just want someone that’s going to generate an order form and quote for me. I’m looking for someone that can actually provide some insight and guidance and coaching and actually lead me through this because they’ve not done it before but we have. It’s a very different conversation.
Lee: Like I mentioned. Channel sales, obviously, that was through NewVoiceMedia, I’m guessing. Is that more like selling through partners? What’s the difference there?
Charlie: Probably most of my channel experiences are actually back in MessageLabs when I ran a referral program. We had about 1000 IT resellers across Europe. They were referring business to us. This is right at the time when people were just desperate to get their antivirus protection up and running. We did direct business, but a lot of small companies would actually use a small Microsoft reseller as their IT department.
You’d have these local IT resellers that would say, “Look, my customers need MessageLabs. Can we get them on a contract? Can you give me a commission in return?” I kicked off and ran that program. It was one of our most successful go-to-market channels. That was really quick business where you’re transacting hundreds of deals every month.
We paid them a commission. We put in place some incentive programs, some nice rewards, and it worked really well. It taught me a lot about empathy. That’s something that is right at the heart of sales, which is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s not just about us trying to transact deals, you got to put yourself in their world. For all of these IT resellers, it’s really thinking about, what’s their view of the world? What are they trying to do? What’s their relationship with their customers? How can we help them to be more successful and build a program that supports them?
Lee: It’s quite a good tip for anybody who sells anything, is to try and see the world through the eyes of the person that you’re selling to. Obviously, I’m in recruitment, and it’s really easy to make it all about you and trying to get your deal done, rather than actually thinking about the other person and what it means for them. Obviously, recruitments are strange like that, because obviously, you’re not selling a product, you’re selling something that can say at the end of the day, “No, thanks. I don’t want to do it.” I suppose you’ve been down the road of selling products, but also professional services, but do you prefer either way or do you like a bit of both?
Charlie: I’m more on the product side now. I’m really glad and love the eight, nine years or so that I was selling services. I think the main difference is that when you’re selling a product, you’re selling something that exists. As long as you’re an upstanding salesperson and you don’t say anything that’s untrue, then when that deal closes, then what you’ve said is what will happen. The product does X, you buy it, and it does X; happy days. The difference with services is you’re selling something that doesn’t actually exist. You’re selling an idea or a concept. “This is what the Salesforce Experience Cloud will look like. This is what your Sales Cloud will look like. We’ve done it before for other customers, and we’re going to go and do it for you.” Therefore, that’s why with services, there’s much more work that needs to happen after the sale, because that’s when you’re bringing that vision, that idea to life. It depends on people, like real people with lives and families and travel and all this kind of thing.
One of the things that never failed to surprise me in my time selling services was that a great consultant that goes down brilliantly with one customer, and they’re like, “Oh, my goodness. This person is just absolutely brilliant.” The next customer, you go, “Right, I’ve got the best project manager for you. They’ve just come off this other project. You’re going to love them.” They go, “Get that person out of my office. You’re like, “What?”
Just because different people work in different ways, so they rub each other up the wrong way. Then someone gets effectively booted out of a project, and then they go into something else, and again, they’re a star of the day. It just is that lesson that what you’re dealing with is people and personalities, and it’s not bits and bytes, which is what you deal with in selling products.
Lee: I was going to ask you, I tend to ask everybody. If you have a particular kind of biggest challenge so far in your Salesforce career, if you can remember back to what was the biggest challenging moment or project or role, I suppose, if you could think back to that?
Charlie: I had an opportunity to work alongside some really amazing projects with amazing customers that were things that were really touching tens of thousands of people that were using it in those companies. When I think what’s challenging, this is just general across all of the Salesforce platform is, it’s so big, and it’s changing so constantly with those consistent three releases every year, but then all the acquisitions coming through marketing cloud, field service, all of this.
As a consultant, or in my world, as a sales person selling those consulting teams, it’s like staying on top of it. Just like I was saying about you’re selling a vision, you’re selling an idea, which you are, but you’re selling it on a vision or idea where very few people have done that before, including people on Salesforce, whether that’s CPQ, or field service when that was acquired, or communities, or portals, or Experienced Clouds. It’s talked about now. That was always the biggest challenge is everyone’s at that leading edge of what Salesforce platform can do, and you’re always almost in project figuring out what’s the next step that you can take.
Lee: You mentioned back to when it was called Cloudforce. They only seemed, looking back now, people were either a salesperson, or they’re an admin, or they’re a consultant, or they were a techie person, and that was it. There’s so many more things that you can be and do now in Salesforce. Not one person can specialize in everything anymore. suppose, pick your lane and stick to it.
Charlie: That’s what makes it interesting. There are other more legacy platforms out there where you could run the same project again and again and again, or at least with the same technology. That’s one of the things that we all love about the Salesforce platform is that it’s continually growing, and it keeps things interesting.
Lee: Absolutely. Bringing this up to your book release, congratulations on that. I haven’t had a chance to read it, obviously, yet. Are there tips in there about– You’ve obviously been in a situation where as you’ve described, you’ve been interviewed, obviously, and you’ve also been interviewer, do you have any tips around what people should do as salespeople in the software world when they’re being interviewed, and I suppose on the other flip side of that coin, when people are interviewing as well especially for salespeople?
Charlie: I think for salespeople, you’ve got to put yourself– Again, it’s empathy, when you’re selling, that you put yourself in the mind of the person that you’re selling to. When you’re going for a job, then it’s the hiring manager. What does a hiring manager want from a new hire? Well, they want to know, is this person going to succeed? Are they’re going to hit their target? Number two, they want to know, is this person going to come up to speed quickly, so I’m not going to be having them on-ramp for a long period of time?
Thirdly, it’s like are they going to get on well with the team? A lot of interviews are all about trying to understand, where have you done this before? Give me an example of where you’ve done it. You can be quite reactive to that kind of thing and wait for some questions, but much better, is to think, “Right, let’s imagine that I’ve already got this job, what am I going to do? How am I going to approach it? What’s the sector that I’m going to go after? What would be my tow truck? What do I know is the problem that most customers have got and how would I suggest that they solve it?
It’s all this kind of stuff. It’s basically thinking ahead to how you’d actually do the job. Now, when you come to having your interview or even when you’re doing your cold outreach to that hiring manager, it’s, “Look, I know, this is the sector that you’re focused on. I’ve had some thoughts about how you would approach that for the financial services industry. Financial services are struggling with X, Y, and Z at the moment, and I think that we could position the product to do A, B and C.”
Immediately, that’s not a normal recruiting conversation. Suddenly, you’re talking about business, and you’re helping that hiring manager with exactly what they’re trying to deal with, which is, how are we going to approach financial services? How are we going to do it? What techniques are we going to use? That is all about reducing the risk from the perspective of that hiring manager.
Are you going to hit your target? Well, this person certainly seems to know what they’re talking about and they’ve got ideas of how they’re going to do it. Are they’re going to get up to speed quickly? Well, they’re already thinking way ahead than most people are, so yes. Then, they’re going to get on well with the team? Just the fact that you know what you’re talking about, is going to be helpful.
Lee: Great tips. Yes, absolutely. I thinkif we’re recruiting here at ROD, I was talking to you just before we came on to the podcast about COVID and how that’s affected. I suppose you’ve spoken to a few people about it’s since COVID happened. Has that affected your career as such or certainly the way you’re working?
Charlie: Obviously, it has in terms of no customer face-to-face meetings for two years. It’s just starting to come back again now. On the one hand, you’d say, “Selling can’t be effective if you’re not in-person.” To an extent, that’s true. It is always going to be better if you’re in front of someone than if you’re not, but that comes with an opportunity cost.
The number of times when I’d have spent a whole day flying to Geneva, and then on a train to Zurich, or whatever to go to a customer meeting. Then you have your one hour there, and then you’re back to the airport. All of those other meetings that you don’t do because you’re traveling, has an opportunity cost. You have to say, “If I take two days of travel for one hour, is that better than spending 20 hours on other calls with other customers or video?” That’s one aspect to it.
The other is that having done that travel to Zurich, or Stockholm, or whatever, for the customer, you’d often find that there were maybe 4 or 5 people in the room, but they’d also be 10 other people on this spider phone in the middle of the table. Those people never really interacted, they never asked questions, they didn’t really feel like they were part of the meeting.
In an all Zoom world, or in an all Google or all Teams world, everyone’s level. We’re all on video and everyone feels the opportunity to ask a question, whether they’re in New York, whether they’re in Australia, whether they’re in Zurich in the room, because everyone’s out of the room. I’ve certainly felt that in these big sessions where there’s 15 or 20 people, it’s been a great leveler on the customer side, and we’ve gotten much better– It’s been much easier for me to ask a question of someone at the customer regardless of where they were, whereas if I was in a meeting room in Zurich, I’d very rarely ask a question of someone that was on the spider phone because I didn’t know who they were.
Lee: That makes sense to think of it that way. You are going back to travelling soon, but probably not as nowhere near as much.
Charlie: Nowhere near as much. It will be much more targeted. It will be much more with maybe an existing customer, “I want to come over and spend a couple of days with you and get to meet some other people in the team and build up an existing relationship.” Than these big RFP sessions that many customers used to ask for, which is bringing hordes of vendors through their doors back to back, 16 people from this company, 20 people from that company, all of that handshaking. It makes you think about it now. The environmental impact of hauling all these people around either Europe or the world for these one-hour meetings that in reality are much more effective now doing them virtually.
Lee: Absolutely. It’s a very positive thing that’s happened and has been forced on us. I think that’s definitely the way forward. If we bring this up to your book then, which is entitled– Let me make sure I get this right. How to Sell Tech, a step-by-step guide hitting your target in your first technology sales role. This is very much about getting into a technology sales role, as opposed to someone who’s perhaps been doing it for a few years. I’m guessing they’re still going to benefit from that book.
Charlie: Exactly that. It’s aimed really either someone that is maybe they’re in an SDR role, which is a self-development role. These are the early sales roles just before you move into a full salesperson role, or someone that has got their first sales role, their first AE role. I very much picture. I talked at the start about my first job in Cirencester. I remember that day in about June or July in ’99. I’m literally sitting down at my desk with desktop computer, Goldmine with the CRM system of the day, and a desk phone, and my manager going, “There’s a list of numbers. Get going.” Me going, “I’ve got absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to do.”
Here 20 years later on, you have acquired all of that knowledge or a lot of that knowledge that has come in through various angles. How do I negotiate? How do I present to a large group of people? How do I organize and run a meeting? How do I prospect? How do I qualify a deal? How do I forecast my manager? How do I plan my territory? All of this stuff that now I take for granted or any aid that’s been doing it for so long, takes it for granted.
Today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, there’s someone that’s sitting down at their desk for the first day, just like I was 20 years ago, going, “Oh, my God, what do I do?” That’s why I wrote that book for, which is really like a step-by-step guide like, what do I need to do in order to hit target? What does it mean? Hopefully, these girls and guys have to do less faking it till they make it because there’s a guide for them.
Lee: You’ve done it for them.
Lee: Let me just say again. It’s How to Sell Tech, a step-by-step guide to hitting your target in your first technology sales role. Available on all, I’ll say, good bookshelves. I’m guessing these days it’s just have a look on Amazon, isn’t it?
Charlie: Which is great. Then it’s either a paperback or a hardback. Then there’s also a Kindle version as well for those that like it digitally.
Lee: Any more ideas for books in the future?
Charlie: I think this is this for now. There’s three parts to it. There’s the How to Sell Tech, which is for people that are in that role. There’s an e-book called Start Selling Tech, which is to help graduates and non-salespeople to find and get into their first sales role. That’s handy for people that are trying to get into it. Then the third element is, I call it a journal, a sales journal, which is really a workbook that someone that has got a sales role can use for their forecasting, for their qualifying, for negotiation. It’s more for doodling, guided thinking. It’s those three come together to help people that are kicking off their sales role.
Lee: That sounds excellent. Obviously, just jump onto Amazon, type in Charlie Cowan, and up you come I think with loads of book on sales, which is fantastic, mate. I’ve got to ask, going right back to the beginning, what car do you now drive? Do you drive a Lambo or did you not drive it?
Charlie: No. I’ve got four children in four years.
Lee: I was going to ask.
Charlie: I drive the smallest car that I possibly can. I have my little toy that I go for going to the train station because it’s basically free to run, which is great. Then we have a VW transporter shuttle bus for all of the family because it’s got nine seats to chuck everyone in. No Lambo. I’m sorry.
Lee: No Lambo. Well, you have the mid-life crisis coming up. When the kids are all grown up, then you can go and do that, can’t you? Drive back through that tiny Cirencester village.
Charlie: Exactly. I do say to the children quite regularly, “If we didn’t have all of you, I would have a Lambo.”
Lee: Love it. That’s it. Any excitement for the future in terms of the Salesforce world, I suppose, but also the wider cloud tech space. I know I’ve sprung that one on you, but is there anything that’s exciting you?
Charlie: Yes, I think for me generally, I love the space. I’m an avid Twitter user. I’m more of a lurker than a poster.
Lee: You used to be a poster.
Charlie: I was a poster. Now I just spent so much time reading on that. I learn so much from Twitter every single day. Every morning I go on when I have my morning coffee, just go on to Twitter. What I love is to see there are so many new products and platforms being created to solve everything, whether that’s consumer or business, and that whole space that Salesforce is in or other tech companies. It’s just exciting. There’s so much going on there and so many new businesses coming through.
Lee: Like you said earlier on, so many acquisitions. You blink, and there’s another one. It’s still an exciting place to be in, isn’t it?
Lee: Your career has still got a long way to go, so we’ll watch you with interest, see how you get on. Thanks so much for agreeing to be on the podcast.
Charlie: No worries.
Lee: If you have any other tips or anybody, let me know. Otherwise, we’ll make sure that they look you up on– Where are you best findable? Are you LinkedIn or is that saturated?
Charlie: LinkedIn is a good place to find, and then through that, there are links to a personal website that links to the book and some other things that I’ve written and write about.
Lee: Excellent. We’ll check that out. Don’t forget, guys, it says How to Sell Tech, a step-by-step guide to hitting your target in your first technology sales role. Charlie Cowan, thank you so much for joining us, mate. It’s been great to catch-up.
Charlie: Thank you. It’s being a pleasure.
Lee: Yes. Good luck with the book. I hope it takes off. Well, I’m sure it will. I’m sure it has done already. We’ll look forward to more in the future as well.
Charlie: Thanks so much. Cheers, Lee.
Lee: Cheers, Charlie.
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