The Pavilion Podcast
The Pavilion Podcast

Episode · 7 months ago

Ep 164: Being The First Sales Hire w/ Callum Woodcock

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Ep 164: Being The First Sales Hire w/ Callum Woodcock 

Part of the TGIM (Thank God It's Monday!) series hosted by Tom Alaimo.

All right, welcome back to the Pavilion podcast. This is the podcast where revenue leaders come to learn about the tips, the tricks, the tactics that can make them successful in their roles. I'm your host tom a lame O T. G. I am. Thank God it's monday excited to get into today's episode. Before we do that. Let's give a quick shout out to our sponsor sponsoring. Today's episode is Sandoz. So Sandoz. So the leading sending platform is the most effective way for revenue generating teams to stand out with new ways to engage at strategic points throughout the customer journey. By connecting digital and physical strategies. Companies can engage, acquire and retain customers easier than ever before. So definitely show some love to our friends at Sandoz. So can also learn more. I post every single day I'm linked in. My name is tom Elena, you can learn more about me there. All right, today, I've got an interview with Callum Woodcock. Callum is the commercial director of it over at No me. Oh, he got his come up in sales over at jpmorgan, went to grace to be an A. E. And so he is the first commercial higher over at Romeo and at a relatively young age. So we talk all about that. What's it like to be the first, not only sales higher, but first we'll go to market commercial higher. What were the first steps that he took? How do they land their first deal? You know, how is he thinking about hiring and expanding and scaling the team. So if that's your role, if that's the world that you live in or want to live in or aspire to live in. This is the episode for you. So without further ado, let's get straight into my conversation with cal all right, we've got Callum woodcock coming from to us from across the pond. Callum, How are you this evening? Yeah, I'm very well expected to him very well. How you doing? I'm doing well man, I'm doing well. It's not every day that the podcast guest has has a suit on or at least code on. So I'm feeling like you came ready to...

...play today. Yeah, absolutely. Well we've been in meetings all day. It's just the end of the working day right now. So I thought I'd keep my, my work outfit on. Stay true to my sales routes, you know, are people out there um, in the face to face mode? Like are people meeting at, at offices and getting lunches and stuff or is it mostly So you know what, we're in this weird kind of twilight zone I think here in London where most people are now going back to the office, but everything stayed on zoom. So all of our discovery calls, all of our demos, I would say 99% of them are still over zoom or teams or whatever. So yeah, it seems really strange just going into the office to sit on zoom all day, but that's what we've decided to do. Got it okay. I'm always curious how how things have progressed, I'm I'm still working from home with no end in sight here in san Francisco, so who knows, but people in Miami and other places Austin, you know, they've been, they've been yucking it and they've been going to bars and steak dinners for six months, so you know, everyone's different. So I want to, I want to get to a bunch of different topics with you today first, let's let's start at the early days, let's start with um you know how you joined the world of sales coming into, you know, most people in tech sales don't have a major like financial institution background like Jpmorgan, so talk me through coming out of university, going there as your first sales role. Yeah, no, that's a great question. Um so I think the kind of long answer is I knew from a very early age when I was 17 or 18 that I wanted to be an entrepreneur or at least I wanted to play like a key role in the early phase of building a business, right? My dad has built a few businesses, in fact he's building a SAAS company right now and he's in his early sixties and I think that kind of inform my thinking from quite a young age um and then you know when I was a college or university is recorded here in the UK doing my bachelor's degree, I...

...was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and I read Rich dad, Poor dad, that kind of famous book or whatever and whether you like it or hate it. Part of the advice in that the author gives is if you are, you know, non technical, so I'm not a computer scientist, I like building relationships, but if you're non technical, you want to be an entrepreneur then learn how to sell. Like that's the key advice he gives. And in that book he recommends trying to get onto like a blue chip sales grad scheme. So I took it at face value and yeah, ended up joining checking organ nice. Um, what was it like? They're like a lot of training, a lot of cold calls like what was the deal there? I don't know much about the sales culture. Yeah. So it's as you'd expect from a company, you know, as large and as well resources as JPMorgan, they've got this awesome training program in place. It's called the sp the advanced sales program and at least within the financial services sector is kind of known as the gold standard. So you get like an incredible amount of coaching, an incredible amount of mentoring and you know what the interesting thing about selling the product that I was selling. So I was selling investment funds and obviously when you're selling a tech solution, that solution doesn't change much, right? You can kind of learn the key points and keep selling it. I didn't realize at the time, but selling funds is ahead of a lot harder because the markets change all the time. You have to constantly think of new ways of positioning them and yeah, of course, as you said, that's involved a lot of cold course. So yeah, I spent a couple of years they're really learning how to sell, moved from kind of a purely cold calling roll into more on account management role I suppose. And then yeah, after a couple of years I decided that I was ready to take the leap, start moving towards a job and starts up, man. Okay, and did you go straight from there to to know me, oh, do you have a Exactly. So yeah, a couple of years after I started working at J. P. You know, I was I was really interesting to get started, you know, and to move into a startup, ideally an early stage startup. But with so many of these things I really had no idea how to make that transition. So my way of doing things was I wanted to immerse...

...myself in, you know, where I saw all these entrepreneurs coming from and in the UK, you get a lot of great startups coming out of Oxford and Cambridge and Cambridge. Running masters basically in business and entrepreneurship and I thought, okay this could be a bit of a stepping stone for me, I can meet those entrepreneurs, I can either figure out an idea or come on board with one of their companies, but at the same time, you know, I wanted to stay in a job, I wanted to pay the bill, so it's part time masters, so from JP I moved to scale up where I was working at as an a effectively or a business development manager they call it, but I knew that was gonna be a stepping stone for me and then, you know, you need like Cambridge have pretty wild networks as you can imagine, and I came across No, me while I was going into my final semester there and I think, you know, at the time, josh, who's our, our ceo and founder was looking for a commercial director basically to take the product to market, start iterating towards product market fit, and it was the first commercial higher the business has been in the R and D phase up until that point and yeah, I mean the product was incredible. It was, it was very clear that they built something pretty unique And facing the opportunity like that, you know, figuring out who we can serve, heading up sales and marketing and whatever as someone in their late 20s, it was pretty much a no brainer for me. So there were a couple of stepping stones from JP two formula, was there any hesitancy for you, I know you mentioned You wanted to get into early stage, you wanted to get into more of an entrepreneurship role, but I imagine a couple of years at a company like Jpmorgan that has probably what? 100,000 employees probably pretty okay, okay, probably pretty well paying some, some nice perks um you know, like did did you do that kind of like low you or or create any hesitancy for you or were you gung ho on this mission? You know, it was a, it's a great, that's a great question. I think my mom was definitely keen for me to stay at JPMorgan, I...

...think she liked her friends as moms are exactly right, but now I think she, you know, in terms of me personally, I was pretty ready to move on and I think if you're, you know, the kind of person that does well in the start of environment, the thing that appeals to you is the risk and is the uncertainty and you know, ironically my biggest fear was to become one of those people that just kind of slept, walked into a career And you know, woke up one day at 45 years old to find that I was managing director or vice president of something and that had been my whole career. So now I was always, I was always, I joined knowing that at some point I was going to be moved, I was going to be moving on, but yeah, there are less kind of free lunches and stuff in startup land? Yeah, exactly, at least for now. So you get hired as the first, the first go to market higher. Is that fair? Or just first? The first, the first commercial higher. So I was employee number three. So I joined the team and it was josh, the founder. Um, and then to developers. Okay, so you get the first sales hire first commercial higher rather you know, you're in your late twenties, you know, effectively haven't done this before. Right? So like what's your walk me through? I want to get into the, into the tactics a little bit like what did you do like well what's the first step that you take in a position like that? Yeah, so I think for me it was an interesting one because they were aware based on the fact they were all technical, the fact they're all computer scientists that they had built something extraordinary. But when I joined, I think it's fair to say this, we were what, you know why Combinator call a solution looking for a problem. Right. So we had a couple of design partners, early paying customers who kind of informed the build of the product But at the same time we needed to work out where the value of the product could be best applied. So to give you a little bit of context, they're created this way of capturing data from documents with like the highest level of accuracy on the markets in 99% plus the closest anyone had come before. That was 60, They built something they knew was really cool. But then the first rule of...

...gaining traction is don't try and boil the ocean, right? You know, if you try and serve too many people too many different sectors or whatever it wants, you're gonna spread yourself too thin, you're not going to really understand each individual sector the way that you should. And so I think my priority was to find, you know, a beachhead, if you like, a market that was relatively small, ideally based in the UK because again, time differences and spreading ourselves too thin uh and who really needed the functionality that we offered. So that was always the starting point. And you also have to draw some assumptions about the product. So when you're looking at the functionality that nominal provides, it basically makes really complicated documents instantly understandable. So we knew that we had to find industries where they were managing massive contracts in terms of value Sure, but also in terms of length we knew they had to contain loads of obligations that needed managing ideally they had to last a number of years. So there might be people who are managing these contracts, leaving the business, others coming in. And so that kind of led us to the infrastructure sector. And yeah, we've we've kind of run from there. Yeah. So it's like you find that first customer that like you said, the beachhead that you can then use for reference points that you can use to kind of gain some momentum, uses a testimonial or you know, referrals or or try to just launch from there. How was the, how I guess, how quick did you do that? Like how long did it take to to land that, that first kind of like dominus that Yeah, no, that's a great question. So I joined the business in March and I think we, you know, we we haven't necessarily closed those kind of first early sales in april, but we've certainly found the beach had to start it. And that really came about. You know, once we have identified the kind of core parts of the product that we thought were the most impressive and most unique. We set out to find industries that we could serve with those with those particular features. And that started as so many of these things do with me talking to my immediate network. So friends, friends and friends, their contacts, um some...

...random random people that we contacted on linkedin who were kind enough to get back to us. And that really led us down this rabbit hole where, you know, we started looking at legal companies, that property companies, but eventually, you know, someone suggested the renewable energy space and that was super super interesting. So once you've got a bit of a focus, you can find out more about it before I approached anyone in the industry, I went on a load of job site, which sounds sounds stupid, right? But completely by chance we found a job description, like a major, major european energy company that was basically hiring someone for quite a significant amount of money to do the exact job that our products largely automated. And once you see something like that, you know, you're solving a problem for them. And then that was a matter of reaching out to be the hiring manager with a quick overview of what we did. And basically asking the question, you know, hey, I saw this job description, would this functionality be useful from you? And yeah, we set up a call and we've, we've gone from there. I love it. I love it. And then from there, once you get that initial domino, everything just gets easier right, then, you know, kind of the target you can find look alikes, definitely like, I think the key thing is that you start understanding the problem. So you, from speaking to those, that first customer, you get a sense of, you know how much of an issue this is in the industry and with the particular customer that we started speaking to, we knew they were a major european player. And the chances are that if they hadn't found a solution to solve this problem that no one else in the sector would have, right. And it was also a great reference points. So they recommended us to a few people in the sector, we had a load of inbound interest and then to move on. So our Ceo always talks about expanding our footprint from that kind of initial beachhead, if you like in like concentric circles, right? So you saturate one sector and you move to the next. And it naturally really happens when you're having those many that many conversations and especially when you offer some functionality that prospects perhaps haven't seen before they go, oh yeah, this is awesome for our use case, but actually it could also serve this sector as well. So we ended up in basically expanding into the public private partnerships sector two, which is building and running schools and...

...hospitals and all those big infrastructure projects off the back of a conversation we originally had with someone that ran, you know, a load of wind farms in Scotland. So it's amazing how it can occur very organically once you've got that initial bit attraction. Mhm and talk to me about, you know, hiring out the team, right? Obviously you're the first person on the commercial side. How many do you have and go to market today? So and go to market, let's see there's five of us at present, we're about to be six. I think hiring out the teams are a really interesting one for us. We knew we were going to have to be customer success heavy, there is a short onboarding time. The customers we were dealing with, we knew were gonna want a point of contact of the business. So we started by building out a customer success team. We hired this awesome lady called Anya who had turned down to left Cambridge. So she was super smart, turned down Clifford chance, the, you know, the magic circle law firm to join nominal, which was pretty humbling and we've kind of grown from there. But I mean my experience of hiring was, it was pretty interesting. So we just brought on an SDR because we now more understand the markets were targeting. We know our messaging, we understand, you know, where we can, where we can position ourselves within that market. But until you've achieved that, I think you can spend a lot of money in the wrong places. So there's not a lot of points in, you know, investing in linkedin ads and, and paid search and big marketing or a growth hacker kind of person because you can throw good money away just by pursuing the wrong messaging, pursuing the wrong demographics, pursuing the wrong target market effectively until you've really locked it down. So if I was to advise anyone again on, on my role as if you need the extra outbound firepower, which of course everyone does in the early days, right. And either you don't have the money to hire a full time str or you perhaps aren't sure it'd be worth the investment in an SDR at this point because we're still establishing your...

...market, then hire an intern genuinely hire an intern, we bought on an intern called ali for two months this summer just gone. He was in his second year of college, basically had no kind of commercial experience to talk to talk of and because you're working such a close knit team, you pick up so much so quickly by the end of the first months, you know, he was consistently booking meetings and even like optimizing our processes and stuff. So yeah, I think the main thing is work out who you need to go to the next step and try and keep it like that. It's very easy, particularly when you're playing with venture money, you know, to pour money into hiring or raising another round, but until you're sure of what market you're going after. Yeah, be strategic I suppose. But here you are. So how about for the type of person you're looking for for the scr roll? Because um, it's probably different than who Jpmorgan is looking for or who Salesforce's hiring as an SDR. Right? Because not only is there the tough job of booking the meetings and all the things that are required of an SDR, but they're also somewhere where you are in the early stages of, you know, traction with customers and prospects and it's very likely that when they call someone, they won't know who you folks are in a lot of cases. So, anything unique that you think that, that you've done to try to weed people out or ask particular questions or anything to to find the right SDR for this particular type of company. Yeah, definitely. So it was interesting when we were hiring for this particular role, I think both myself and Josh were quite certain the idea, we didn't necessarily need someone from a sales background. And I think that was really important by the incident that I was mentioning coming in, we saw them do very well because they were coming into a role with no preconceptions, right? They weren't thinking this is how we used to do it at dawn, or this is how we used to do it at Jpmorgan and it gives them an opportunity to kind of craft their own style, obviously with our guidance. So, I think the first thing that we're looking for is we knew they had to be really smart. We're at the stage now where we need a lot of talented...

...generalists who aren't going to be necessarily limited by their job description. So they're not going to think, okay, actually, you know, I'm an str I just do this, we're at the stage now where people have to kind of muck in at every different part of a part of the company. We needed someone that was up for that, frankly, because for a lot of people they want to go into a company. They want to specialize in a role. It's what they're told to do throughout their throughout their lives and the build up to starting a career and I think it took it was very clear from our interview process. The people that were serious about joining a startup because similar to me, they liked the idea of jumping into the unknown to some degree and building something out of nothing. And those who kind of want today, you know, a cushy job with a very clear structure to it, where they could, you know, be sure of where they were going to end up in a couple of years time. So I think that willingness to plunge into the unknown, that kind of natural intellect was very important. And then, you know, it sounds kind of stupid but I think you can tell from you know, we had a very structured interview process. So we had a number of people come through but they have to get on with the team And I know that sounds so obvious in every company says that, but it is amplified when you're a team of you know, 89 10 people because one person that's not drinking the kool Aid right, can kind of derail the whole culture And at this point when you've got such an embryonic culture, that's a massive risk. So the SDR ended up hiring super smart, super super driven guy. But we just when we interviewed him, we just saw him as a natural fit. So I think culture is very important to mm let's talk about tech for a few minutes. Obviously, early days of building out the commercial team, Probably not a ton of budget to go around, but I'm sure there are a few tools that you probably invested in or are considering investing in. What does that look like for you? Yeah, definitely. This is where you want me to say going, right. But this is, this is the case study. No, I'm just kidding. No. So the first thing I found it interesting. So when I walked into a nominee josh and the rest of the development team were like Evangelical about using notion. So for your...

...listeners that don't know notion is almost this very flexible project management system. So we use it as an internal internet. You know, we log everything to it. It's where we store all of our ideas. Marketing collateral are key company documents is where I manage my pipeline at the moment. I know you you'll be horrified by that. But I think in fact, you know, the ability to utilize notion was even in the job description for my role. So if you haven't seen the ocean, definitely check it out at the same time. You know, we're at this, we're at the beginning of that kind of hyper growth trajectory, we've gained that initial attraction. We're scaling up to series a the moment the team gets much bigger, particularly the commercial side on the sales side, I was very aware we're gonna need to Crm and there is nothing worse than implementing a Crm and then having to populate it with data and so I wanted to collect that from the beginning. So we use hubspot crm every conversation and email that we sent, we log to hubspot automatically. But if I'm totally honest at this stage, we rarely dip into it at this stage of its growth. It's it's mainly just this log that we're keeping because we know in a year's time or six months time when we start building out a team that's gonna become like our single source of truth, right? You know when we get to the point that like collaborating on a google sheet or whatever isn't a viable option and then in terms of other tech we use a product called mix max but running our sequences, if you haven't heard of them, they are really awesome, provides some incredibly detailed analytics so you can see what's working and what's not. And when you're testing messaging, obviously that's invaluable, then Lincoln sales Navigator, I can't understand how people can get an effective sales process without it. Um and then everything you'd expect like zoom hangouts teams however are our customers want to speak to us in these pandemic days. Yeah. How how have you prioritize, I mean crm goes without saying, I think for most people. Sales Navigator goes out saying how did you prioritize mix max versus my understanding of them is more, it's more of a competitor to like Callen lee and chili piper than it is to like...

...outreach and sales loft. Is that fair interesting? So, so they do have that calendar functionality as well. In fact, I think that's where they originated. Um, but they have obviously realized their utility and almost being like a kind of a sales loft light, like an outreach light. So you can still send sequences and collect analytics and everything. And it's great for when the team is small, you know, do we move to one of the bigger players down the line? Possibly. But at the moment it's kind of perfect for our needs. So yeah. Okay. That's great. That's great. That's helpful. Um, so let's talk about, we talked about all the great things that you've done so far in the role. I'm curious for someone that might be stepping into a similar role. What are any mistakes that you made that you would advise someone walking into your shoes to not take Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, I don't think mistake. I'm joking. Um, so I think if I'm totally honest, we, you know, the normal website at the moment as you probably see now is still very much a landing page. It's basically like, this is what the product does look at all of our investors right and that's fine in the very early days, but we're getting to the stage now where I feel like we're gaining customers in spite of it rather than because of it. So I think investing in a website, so you look professional very early on is probably pretty important. We're playing catch up with that now, we're designing stuff as we speak. And I hadn't fully understood how important that was. And the reason for that was because we were speaking to so many people, the conversations were going well, you know, they were being progressed down the pipeline, but where it becomes super valuable having a very, really professional looking website, it's very easy to navigate, very easy for people to find the use cases that apply to them the information they need isn't when you're speaking to, you know, your key point of contact at a business, it's when they're speaking about you internally, right? So when the first thing, I'm sure I definitely do it, I'm sure you do too. When you hear about a new business, the first thing I do is google that, right? And when you have a one page website, that doesn't tell you...

...much, it's, you know, that that can only be a bad thing. So we're we should have invested or I should have invested our website earlier. And then the second thing is marketing collateral. So we made the decision consciously, very early on to basically produce collateral as and when prospects and customers ask for it, which is a kind of a lazy thing to do. So for ages we were kind of managing with, you know, like a two pager that we put together, but I think having some detailed branding collateral, you know, have it on a paragraph, have it on a page, have it in a deck, depending on the level of detail that customers want to see. Because what we found is we've started speaking to bigger and bigger companies, uh, they have different standards that they expect and I think a very small investment in that collateral early on can save you a lot of time when stuff starts to get busy and you start gaining traction. Um, so yeah, I'd say those, those have been more to two key takeaways. That's great. And you've been doing a job that you hadn't done before, right? You're kind of building the plane as it flies, so to speak. What resources have been helpful to you through that process of any like by that. I mean, any books, any podcasts, blogs, people, you fall in linkedin, anything that, that you've kind of tuned into that has been a good resource, totally. Well, I mean, in terms of podcasts, obviously yours tom that's a great question because, you know, I've always been quite proactive, I suppose in in trying to understand how best to sell, learning you marketing techniques, whatever it might be. And when I was a rep I found new sales simplified by Mike Weinberg as like a really awesome resource. Um It's very rare and that it's the sales book completely without like fluff right? Without padding. It's just really actionable content. It really gives you a formula to succeed. But of course when you're stepping into a position like mine where yeah of course, you know in the early days you're still very much on the front line selling. I hope I kind of always will be to a degree but you need to also understand where that fits into the wider...

...operational strategy of the business. And there I found predictable revenue by Aaron ross to be a super relevant resource. I'm sure you've had a number of guests that have said the same thing, like it's 10 years old now but it just gives you this really clear methods by which to scale the business and especially around the systems that you should put in place. Um so those who definitely gosh, in terms of links and influences, I mean I follow a load of sales influences. I find a lot of their content really valuable but you know, the original, the O. G version of the Pavilion podcast or the revenue collected podcast as well as the sound sound Jacobs has been a real go to and then the final thing is find mentors like we've been incredibly lucky with our angel investors. Um there's a Michael Marcus Excell who's kind of a close mentor, both josh and I's, who's been there, done it all before and just having someone you can pick the phone up to, he's done it before and just to say, hey, are we doing this right? And you can give you reassurance, will tell you where to redirect your focus is super valuable. Um, and that's where the, you know, the Pavilion kind of mentor mentorship scheme as well has been super, super useful. How much time do you spend with other angel investors or company investors that to help kind of guide the mission or, or do you generally just pick like one or a handful that you've really gotten along well with and, and kind of take their advice. How did, how does that work for you? Yeah, no, that's a great question. Um, so we have kind of a, I suppose I've got kind of two key points of contact amongst our investors so I can go to for advice. You know, we're very lucky in that a round was led by Kindred and Sequoia Kindred capital. Uh, one of those amazing VCS where they're there if you need them, they're not trying to, you know, really push you to change strategy at any point, but they're like, look, this is our network, use it. Right. So I've spoken to a load of people in my role at different, you know, different portfolio companies within Kindred network and that's been...

...super, super valuable in terms of our actual angel investment network, I kind of know they're always there, but I should be utilizing them more. I suppose it's just some of these, some of these big names running companies like hop in and test in intimidating to talk to you. Right? Yeah, yeah, fair enough, fair enough. Um, the last piece I want to get to with you is um, you know, obviously Pavilion is a resource community to help people connect and learn from each other. What's one tip that you have for, you know, networking or building business relationships? Yeah, definitely. So I think the main thing is ask give without asking anything in return and that sounds so obvious, but it kind of informs our sales philosophy as well. So, you know, tom, I think this conversation originally came about by me getting in touch and mentioning how much I love the pod and that's happened over and over again. You know, I'm always very touched if someone reaches out to me to say, hey, I, you know, I saw you did x or I saw you did why? Um, I really liked it. And then those kind of initial conversations where you don't ask for anything in return so often lead to a coffee or, you know, a lunch or a deal even or even featuring on a podcast. Right? So I think I think that would be my key takeaway, which I found to be amazing. Like the generosity of other people to spend time with you. And, and that, that key thing as well, like give without asking. And then, you know, if you want, especially we're looking for advice rather than anything else. If it's, if that's the genuine, the general, the genuine reason for, for for for getting in contact, sometimes it is great just to ask, you know, so many people kind of sit there in silence and say, okay. Actually, I don't really want to, you know, I don't want to risk reaching out to this person or they might say no or they might ignore me. And honestly, so what, you know, if you get ignored 10 times, one person saying yes could have a massive impact on the life and career. So I think it's always worth it. So to slightly contradictory answers there. Um, but yeah, that's definitely what I found anyway. I love it. Um, calum this has been great. I appreciate you spending some time with us here. What is the best place if folks want to connect with, you get to learn, learn...

...more about Romeo, learn more about you, What's the best place to do that? Yeah, definitely. So, um, I'm on Lincoln all the time. So if they want to go on my linkedin, it's just linkedin dot com forward slash in forward slash Callum woodcock or for one words and then my name's c a double l um, or if they want to drop me an email, its calendar dot woodcock Romeo dot com. Always keen to hear from a listener of this podcast. Awesome Callum. I appreciate it, man. No problem. Thanks Tom. Thanks so much for checking that episode out of the Pavilion podcast again, you can hit me up on linkedin. My name's Tom Alaimo. Otherwise, this episode was brought to you by Sandoz. So they deliver modern direct mail, personalized gifts and other physical impressions that make your outreach more personal until next week. See you on monday. Get after it. Peace. Mhm.

In-Stream Audio Search

NEW

Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (242)