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Sales Talk with Francois Bourdeau
Francois Bourdeau has been working in the technology industry since 1999. In 2008, he made the transition to technical pre-sales and, after three years, moved into a pure sales role. In 2020 he and three other sales professionals started 5onFriday, a place for sales professionals to practice their pitch and receive feedback from other sales professionals.
Technical sales specialists, wholesale trade, sell a range of technical goods and services, such as scientific, agricultural and industrial products, electricity, telecommunications services and computer services, to governments and to commercial and industrial establishments in domestic and international localities. They are employed by establishments that produce or provide technical goods and services, such as pharmaceutical companies, industrial equipment manufacturing companies, grain elevators, computer services firms, engineering firms and hydroelectric companies, or they may be self-employed technical sales specialists/agents who contract their services to other companies. Technical sales specialists who are supervisors are included in this unit group.
Labour demand and labour supply are expected to be broadly in line for this occupation group over the 2019-2028 period at the national level.
A University degree or college diploma is usually required. Experience in sales or in a technical occupation related to the product or service may be required. Fluency in a specific foreign language may be required.
Range: $16.03/hr – $41.67/hr plus commission
Range varies widely
(Visit the jobbank.gc.ca Canadian Website For Most Recent Numbers)
Full Length Episode:
Complete Episode Transcript
Today’s guest is Francois Bourdeau.
Here’s our Job Talk with a Sales Professional.
Welcome to the Job Talk Podcast.
Where we talk to people who love their jobs.
Our guests open up about their challenges surprises and secrets to success in their industries.
Through conversation we explore their careers past work experiences and the education that got them to where they are now.
First, what kind of student were you?
And second, when you graduated from high school, did you know what you wanted to do for a career?
So I think it depends who you ask, but I would think if you asked most people that were teachers.
If I go back to elementary school, I had a principal that said I was going to be nothing but a ditch digger.
And then in high school.
True story, I still wake up probably twice a year in a dream that I didn’t graduate high school because I still see this visual of one of my math teachers, Mr.
Ganson, and running down the hallway in Grade 12 because I got 49.
5 on the final exam, so I just snuck through.
So what are they?
You know, they have like the valedictorian and then they have the least likely to succeed.
Yeah, I think I was I didn’t even make the least likely to succeed category.
It was, it was, you know, this go visit him in prison.
OK, but what’s your personality, like?
Was that concerning you?
Or were you just like kind of floating through and everything was fine?
I don’t think I was concerned enough.
I always had like summer jobs and I worked through high school, so I didn’t think I’d be like homeless.
But I definitely didn’t think I’d be following a lot of my friends that were going to post-secondary.
And and it wasn’t like lighting things on fire in school.
I was just making jokes about lighting things on fire.
OK, so you graduated from Grade 12, you get through, you get the 49.
5% on that exam gets you through, you get your diploma.
What happens next?
I did some welding and then I tell people one of the tipping points.
It was in Innisfail and I was actually just there for my son’s hockey tournament.
So it was kind of surreal to be there again.
And the Foreman and they hung an effigy of him on the like, on the tower crane in the shop, so he wasn’t popular.
And on Friday, every second Friday, there was a Chevette that would pull up with a lovely wife and several kids packed into it, and she was there to get this fellow’s paycheck.
And I remember thinking this, this could be me.
So just by chance of fate.
I got laid off.
I went to the unemployment office in Edmonton, and nearby was this technical college, and they had a program where there was some government funding.
I was looking at maybe transitioning from blue collar white collar because it was really not, dude, I’m not good with my hands.
I can barely put together IKEA furniture and I got the the unemployment grant for this program.
I got in.
And literally two weeks later, I got a call from unemployment that said I actually didn’t qualify for unemployment, but they had already paid for my course.
It it just happened.
It just happened.
Yeah, when you when you were when you were welding, were you actually going through the process of becoming a certified welder?
I know there are many leaky grain hoppers all across western Canada that I had a hand in.
there’s a farmer cursing me right now.
Well, you didn’t sign it.
So it’s OK.
They don’t know.
OK, so you get this, you get in.
So what program did you get into when I did it in network technician program?
So this was like 99 and I was naive and was like, You know Y2K coming tech is hot I’m going to be a baller.
I’m going to have all this money.
And then I got my first helpdesk job and that was OK because I was pretty young.
But I was like, OK, this is not.
This is not the Bill Gates life I signed up for.
And another true story I won’t name the company because it’s kind of embarrassing on them.
I was working part time as I was like rolling out like kind of almost like a co-op, and I was like, Man, this paycheck.
And they pulled me in like a month later, like, isn’t your paycheck great?
I was like, Yeah, they’re like, Yeah, we’re double paying you for full time and they’re working part time.
So another example of my math skills being subpar.
Yeah, you must have been thinking, even though, that you were nailing it like this, this whole work life thing.
You’ve got to figure it out.
You’re making double what you expected.
I think I went out and bought a new CD player.
Yeah, like, I’m living the good life.
OK, so you’re in the I.
world when you where did you take your training?
Where was that?
It was actually a For-Profit College called CDI.
I think they even put me in one of their commercials as a success story.
They may regret that we could we could look for like a profile were you actually interviewed?
or was it just your your lovely face or radio commercial or something?
So when you were when you were taking that program, did you find that you were more engaged and maybe it was coming easier to you rather than high school classes?
I think I was.
It was interesting, but it was still like a means to an end.
So I was like, OK, if I do this, I’ll get that.
Like, I’ll get a job.
So I don’t want to like, skip ahead too far, but I think I was still a little bit, yeah, immature.
Like I would say, until, I don’t know, we’ll probably get to it.
But yeah, it was really just this is going to get me to the next step.
You know, in whatever, whatever that is.
And I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
Yeah, I mean, really, who does?
How long were you on the help desk for?
I was there for like almost a year, and then I went to another help desk at like internet service provider.
So at the time they were called Videon And then he got bought by SHAW.
And I think I was there a good like three years.
And that was good.
That’s where I was like trying to get into like a network administrator, network manager, I.
And I finally got there in within that company.
And so I think I think by then, I was getting a little bit more mature and less naive and realizing, Oh, all this money I want to make, I need to actually know what I’m doing, and it’s going to take me a while to figure out to know what I’m doing Was that program the only formal education that you took?
I’m trying to think if I.
Yeah, I mean, you know, the reason I’m hesitating is there’s maybe like some of these like technical short certification type courses.
So yeah, that’s all I’ve ever taken in terms of post-secondary or formal.
And I would say probably up until, like maybe ten years ago, I still had like this.
I don’t know if it is imposter syndrome the right word.
Anyway, I kind of thought, Hey, I still need a degree, and now I don’t.
But I still think there’s value in it and I still am going.
I’m still encouraging my kids to do it because I think there’s still a lot of value in doing post-secondary, and I think we’ll probably hit on that at some point to that.
You know, it doesn’t really.
It’s not so much.
Do this degree to get this job.
Just I think the post-secondary is good for like just learning and critical thinking, and you never know what you’ll end up doing with it when you got near the end of your help desk.
What was next?
What what were you looking at?
So the company I was working for got bought out and then it was an option of going to Calgary.
My partner at the time, she still my partner Edit!
She had one year left and before she was done a teaching degree.
So we weren’t Interested in moving, so actually my native language, French came in handy, I got a job with the school board and worked with them, and that was interesting, but I knew I wouldn’t do that forever.
And then we went overseas for a couple of years, so she got a teaching job with a school in London.
So we did that for a couple of years.
And, you know, career wise, it was interesting, but we were really there to travel.
How how long did you live overseas for?
We were in the UK for two years.
I ended up doing similar type I.
network admin work, but again, I wasn’t trying to, you know, further, my career.
There it was.
It was handy when I came back.
Actually, I went back to the exact same job at the school board.
Can you talk about your experience living in Europe and maybe what you learned from from that experience?
I think the big takeaway was it’s like getting outside of your comfort zone, even though we went to an English speaking country.
I’d encourage anybody to like vacationing is great, but living somewhere else just really helps you see things from another perspective, also helps you frankly appreciate where you came from.
So I just encourage anybody to do it.
I think it’s and, you know, I think some employers really just look at that as the value that they’re like, OK, this person can deal with change and, you know, diversity.
And so it’s although it may not look like something on your resume that you’re like, Oh, I did this really interesting course.
You know, if someone like me who’s done it, they’ll go, Oh, OK, yeah, Kim, like, lived abroad.
He can figure out how to adapt and change.
Did you did you ever think that you were going to stay in Europe?
I don’t think so.
I think my grand plan was come back home and live the, the typical Canadian suburban life.
Have kids get a house, put our kids in hockey and that’s what we did.
OK, let’s talk about that.
You move back to.
Did you move back to Edmonton or somewhere else in Alberta?
We move right back to Edmonton.
I came back to the job small nugget there when we were leaving the UK and my sister was in Australia and we were traveling with some friends the long way home through Asia and Australia, and she was getting married.
So we came home in the summer.
She was getting married at Christmas.
We could have stayed for six months.
So I basically we decided and I said, Look, I’ll see if I have a job when I get home, if I don’t will stay because we’re coming back in six months anyway.
Long story short, I had the job, so we came back, went there for Christmas, but I went back to the school board job and I knew that wasn’t probably something I wanted to do longer term.
And so I actually went back into the private sector at the Autotrader with some old colleagues that were at SHAW.
And that was when.
I think so.
Maybe some of my like thinking around what I wanted to do within the tech sector started to change because I was working with a lot of people on the sales team and I was like, OK, I think this is interesting.
So there was definitely a light bulb moment there.
And also just, you know, life in general.
We had our first kid, we bought our first house.
It was a bit chaotic.
My caffeine consumption went drastically higher, like from zero to 60.
And so I think it just it was a pretty big time in terms of just like mindset going, OK, you know, in terms of a career.
And I think when you know, you can probably really when you start to have kids like your your ability to manage your time and your priorities either gets really good or or it doesn’t.
And so I think that’s when I was going, OK, like what I really want to do in my career, my job.
I don’t have time for this.
I have time for this.
And so I think even though for the first three years are like mostly a zombie and tired because your kids aren’t sleeping, you start to really be hyper focused around like what I want and what I want to do with my life in my job and everything, because you only have so much time now to figure that out.
And was your partner working at the same time?
she was teaching So I think kind of on and off, right?
Have you know, between the three eventually kids that we had, there was some mat leave in there, but we were really fortunate we had some family nearby to help with childcare.
But it was it was definitely when I look back, it was.
It’s a crazy time, but no regrets.
What was your actual position while you were doing this?
And then I want to start getting into your your career in sales.
So specifically, what were you doing when you met?
Let’s jump right into your story and we’ll pick it up when you were in high school.
You know, you mentioned that you were kind of introduced to the sales team and you’re kind of looking at what they were doing.
Yeah, great question.
So I think like when I was at Auto Trader, I was a network administrator and so I was manage IT.
But we really shifted there from when I was like at school board as I was dealing a lot with the people running the sales team.
It was all revenue focused, right?
It just the the the focus of what I had to do and what I had to look after changed, and so I started connecting the dots a lot more around, OK?
Being able to speak with the, you know, the person in charge of finance and whatnot, the value in that I started to really understand that.
So I did that for about five years.
Then I went to an energy services company, did a few years there, and then I transitioned into a consulting company .
And so that was interesting because you had to wear a lot of different hats.
And in consulting, you’re you’re kind of selling your services while you’re doing your job because that’s a way to stay employed.
And I started working with more of the presales and technical sales and sales people, and that’s when I started to kind of go, OK, that I can see myself there.
And so, you know, long story short in that role, I did three years of consulting and then I moved into technical pre-sales.
So that was like my path to sales.
But I do think the technical backgrounds helped.
And what I’ll say about anyone who’s ever kind of even considered sales is there is no right background.
I think there was a kind of assumption that everyone had to be super charismatic, super outgoing, love playing golf, having steak dinners, and that is unfortunately kind of one of the ideas people have or used car salesperson.
But I’ve worked with in the last few years so many good salespeople that are introverts and don’t golf and are just very good at following a process.
And I think that’s maybe kind of one of the poorly advertised things in the sales industry.
And I just think like no one, no one grows up going, I’m going to do this degree or diploma and get a job in sales.
We’re like misfits.
There’s no it’s like where people end up, what do you find?
What are some tips on how to be successful in sales?
It’s a great question.
It’s funny because when I look back, I still tell people like what I did on day one as someone on the help desk when you would call and you had a problem.
Fundamentally, I still kind of do that in a way.
People are looking for a way to solve a problem, like even when you’re going to look at a car, you’re there because you have a problem with the existing car.
And that person can help you find a different one, or they can do a terrible job and annoy you and you leave.
And same with that helpdesk person, right?
We’ve all called in to help this agent and they were able to help us and made our day better.
Or you left going.
I don’t even know what just happened, but I’m angry and you know, I don’t want to oversimplify.
But really, that’s that’s your job for a sales professional as somebody needs something.
That’s why they’re talking to you, and you need to help figure out how you can solve their problem.
And I think what’s misunderstood is that sometimes you can’t solve their problem.
And I think that’s the bad stigma salespeople have is that they have this, you know, yes, they have goals and quotas.
But if you’re working for a company that wants you to sell something to somebody that shouldn’t buy it, then that’s a bad company.
Just like if you go in to buy a car and tell them you have three kids and they all play hockey and you leave with a two door convertible, you’ll be happy for one day until your wife tells you to return it.
What I was going to ask that kind of leads into like.
Are there any myths or misconceptions about, you know, a job in sales that you’d like to dispel?
Well, you know, A: the introvert, you don’t have to be an extrovert.
B: I think people used to go like, Oh, you can sell anything.
It’s true you can learn the technical aspect of selling whatever it is you’re selling.
But the personality traits are hard to change, so companies will want to go, Okay, is this an honest or dishonest person?
Do they follow a process?
But you can learn the technical piece.
But I think what you people might forget is that training you may have had in in an industry or in your post-secondary can be very valuable because I think now the bar is really high.
So when you go, I don’t know why I keep picking on you like you buy a car every month, but when you go, you probably spent like a ton of time educating yourself.
But when we were kids, like there was no internet to go and look at We went in there and we got the brochure from the salesperson.
Now anybody who talks to me can self educate.
So my point there is the more savvy you are about your industry or your products, or let’s say you, let’s say you have a biology background and you’re working in some type of pharma or biotech, that background will serve you well.
And so I think sometimes people don’t really think of that.
And, you know, I think there’s a still a bad stigma with selling like some people really look down on it.
What often changes that is when they realize the earning potential.
What happens in your day in your job?
Podcast interview in the morning.
first, let’s talk about today.
Just right up to this second here.
No, all jokes aside, I would say it.
It depends, you know, and I’ll give you an answer.
But like some days, I’m working on the presentations for potential customers.
Sometimes I’m just dealing with the inbound interest that people have.
So, you know, people are emailing us or calling us, and then I’m following up with them and asking them what they’re looking for or seeing if we can help them.
Sometimes it’s there’s a lot of like cat herding in my role where I’m bringing in technical people because we’re selling technical solutions.
So, you know, you might need something.
I know to a certain point how I can help you, but then I need to bring someone in.
So we’re scheduling meetings or scheduling calls.
I work from home, I would say.
70% of it I’m on these virtual type meetings.
Either I am hosting the meeting or I’m scheduling it.
And then there’s probably, you know, 10% administrative work in the background, managing the the opportunities I’m working on so that the people I report into know how they’re going.
So I don’t know, does that give you a pretty good sense?
You know, I think like my kids, they go, Well, you just sit in front of a computer like that seems like an OK job.
But what what do you do on there?
Are you just playing like Minecraft or what?
I was going to.
What is your what is your actual job title?
What is your career?
Yeah, that’s a great question.
So my title is account executive, which means I have accounts, I guess, which are customers.
But in the sales world, there’s, you know, they’ll be account executives, they’ll be business development executives.
So there’s some that are more maintaining existing clients and some that are more about finding new clients.
And so again, I think different personality traits may lend themselves better to someone.
Often the analogy will be a hunter or a farmer.
So are you someone that just kind of wants to work with your existing clients?
They may have other things they need throughout the year, or someone like the hunter will be more someone who is just finding new customers all the time.
And so, you know, some of those roles, in fact, a lot of them require you to do a lot of what we would call outbound.
So you’re you’re doing you’re doing all the research about, you know, is this potential customer and you’re finding them, so you’re calling them.
And so some people love that and some people don’t, and there’s no right or wrong answer.
There are roles that have a blend of both as well and in in kind of the earlier stage sales career.
Sometimes the now the acronyms you’ll hear are SDR Sales Development Rep or BDR Business Development Rep.
What do you love about your job?
I mean, it might sound kind of cliché, but I do think I’m still like at the end of my day, I can feel like someone had a problem and I was able to help solve it.
And I feel good about that.
I always use like the Mom test as well.
It can explain my job to my Mom and I do tell her like 60, 70% is kind of being a psychologist because sometimes they’re opening up and telling you what the problem is.
But you’re like, Hmm, I know what you’re describing, but I think I’m hearing like, these are symptoms, but I think your root problem might be this.
So I kind of find that fun.
I feel like I’m solving a puzzle, and I like explaining how we could help their problem, and I’m not going to lie.
I like the carrot motivation factor of, you know, if you do better, there is more financial reward.
I’m actually I want to plug your podcast that you you started.
It’s called FiveOnFriday.
Can you talk a little bit about that?
And it’s interesting to me because, you know, you know, producing and speaking on a podcast has, you know, not really anything to do with what your day to day job is.
So the Cole’s notes, is pre-COVID, it’s funny how that’s like a common term now, right?
The pre or post COVID to other sales professionals.
I’m fairly active on LinkedIn.
It’s been a great networking resource to other sales professionals in different geographies in technology.
But, you know, not competitive.
We just kind of connected through.
I can’t remember how we were both talking to each other and messaging each other, saying, you know, we have some presentation coming up.
It’d be great to get another set of eyes on it because sometimes you can get that tunnel vision and your colleague has the same blinders on.
So we offer that up to each other.
And they were like, I think more people would like this.
So we just opened it up.
We just registered the domain 5onfriday.
live put up a landing page and said, let’s see if anybody else wants to do this.
And I don’t know.
I think within a week there was like 100 people that signed up and the ratio was like 60% wanted to present, 40% wanted to be a participant.
And so we would just host a Zoom call on a Friday.
We’d just facilitate the conversation you could present and you could say, here’s my sales pitch.
Here’s the demo I do.
Here’s the cold call script I have.
Here’s the presentation we do, and we would just kind of go around and give feedback.
And so there was clearly a need for it.
I’d say the ratios flipped a bit more to now.
More people want to be just a participant, not everybody, because we record it and we haven’t been doing as many podcasts out of it.
But we’ll just share the video on YouTube.
And you know, it’s been well, I guess it’s going to be 2022.
That’s crazy coming up.
So we’ve had like, I don’t know the exact number.
We’ve done it pretty consistently.
We took a pretty good break this summer, but we’ve had like 60 plus people present and like 300 participants and like a couple of things that blew my mind, one is that many people are willing to give up an hour out of their time to help a stranger complete strangers, and that many people are willing to, like , put themselves out there on the spotlight to get better.
So I think there’s this like people see, Oh, this person’s willing to get, you know, not roasted.
This isn’t Shark’s Tank, but they’re willing to be given feedback publicly.
So I’ll give them that.
And I think a lot of people actually like coming on to practice giving feedback.
So sometimes you’re like, I want to get better getting feedback.
I don’t know where you can do that.
So, yeah, that’s been good.
And I’ve learned a ton like in 65 sessions sitting there listening.
There’s people who come on with five weeks of experience and people come on with like and about 50, but definitely 20.
So it’s been awesome and we’ve had people from mostly sales, sorry, mostly software sales, but we had a guy from Manhattan during COVID that owned a pen and lighter shop, and it was super fun.
You know, I had so many questions as you were talking there and you answered every single one as you were going through it because I was going to ask you, you must have a wide range of people that come on to it, and there’s probably different levels of nervousness.
Do you find?
Yeah, I think most people know they’re going to be in front of a crowd.
I try and give them a little bit of a heads up like, Hey, you know, a little intro to the group would be good to tell us what you want to talk about and what you want to work on and how we can help.
It’s been it’s shifted kind of halfway through to a lot of people.
Often we’ll just basically do like a role play like, Hey, you’re calling me and I’m the customer, and then we just kind of analyze that and give feedback on it, which is fine.
And we have had quite a few people from outside of North America wanting to practice their pitch to North Americans.
So that’s been interesting.
But yeah, no, it’s you know, there’s definitely been people who who you can tell are nervous.
And then I think there’s some people who are interested and, you know, they just they’re not going to jump on the stage, which I can’t blame them.
is there anything that I haven’t asked you that that you would like to share with people about, about the job that you do?
I don’t know, but specifically the job that I do, but I think like I’ve I’ve worked with a lot of really amazing salespeople from every background like it, think of any degree or degree or any training or no training.
So I think there’s there’s no right answer in terms of what background you have to have.
But I would also say, like in general, I have a 16 year old and a 14 year old.
So this notion of what do you want to be when you grow up?
I’m trying to like, I think tying it too much to a career is crazy that we’re asking as 16 or 18 year old to figure that out when we still haven’t figured it out.
So I think what you’re interested in doing is more what I would focus on and if if what you want to do leads you to this post-secondary training.
But the stress we kind of put on and figuring out like what you should end up doing, like it’s a finish line when really most people change their career.
I, you know, I don’t know what I’ve told you other than I think we need to.
I think if you’re if you’re thinking of something right now, don’t sweat it too much like that that everybody thinks it’s a straight line, but often it’s like this.
And then that’s just totally cool.
Like, there’s no right answer.
Yeah, my personality is to immediately panic about something, and it’s complete chaos.
But this might tie into a little bit what you were just saying there.
I guess I would just like to ask you if if you were to talk to talking to someone that was interested in getting into a career in sales, what advice would you have for that person?
I would say.
Take the opportunity.
So let’s say there’s a sales role you’re interested or you have your eye on you.
Take this opportunity to to try and look at the sales role as a sales opportunity.
So show the employer how you would win over them and use some of the approaches as like this new employer is going to be a net new customer.
And so all those interactions you have with them, how you reach out to the hiring manager, how you maybe reach out to people that are their customers.
And so come to them really extra prepared, like, hey, I’ve talked to some of your customers.
I know what you guys do or I’ve talked to some of your employees.
So and I’ll just show them like, Oh, he he or she has already done the work.
We know they’re capable of this.
So I think and don’t be afraid to like, try and I don’t want to use the cliche think outside of the box, but like a job title is this that doesn’t mean that’s exactly what you’ll do, right?
Like, curiosity is really helpful.
And if you don’t, if you’re not a genuinely curious person, it might be trickier.
But if you show that curiosity as you’re either interviewing or interested in, they’re also talk to the hiring manager, ask them questions and do your research like so many.
I’ve done a lot of interviewing, and sometimes it’s like, Oh, what do you know about the job?
I don’t know anything, and you’re like, OK, well, how do you know you’re even interested, right?
Whereas if you’re doing the research about the company, so you know, maybe, maybe some of this stuff is common sense like come extra prepared .
But I’d say that curiosity and treating the opportunity to get that job as like a sales opportunity will just kind of show them, Oh, this person really gets it.
And just ask questions, don’t be afraid to ask questions like listening, asking questions are a lot of what you have to do in sales.
I think people think, Oh, your job is to basically just rattle off stuff to customers.
Your job is to listen to them and hear what they have to say and then add interesting nuggets when they’re of value.
But it’s typically not the opposite, because if all you’re doing is talking, they’re probably going to know like me.
I talk a lot and you tuned out.
Hey, listeners, are you still there?
You know, Francois, I want to thank you for joining us today.
I think you’ve shared some really interesting stories, and I really appreciate you taking the time to to visit with us today.
Anytime, my friend.