Luke Robinson

Head of New Business, Wolters Kluwer

How Did I End Up Here? A Tale From Sales


Hi, and welcome to the Insiders by durhamlane, where we get perspectives from industry thought leaders about strategies that are unifying marketing and sales cycles to help accelerate growth inside your world.


Welcome to the Insiders by durhamlane, an industry podcast that connects the worlds of marketing and sales one guest at a time. I’m your host Richard Lane, I’m co-founder and chief commercial officer of durhamlane.

We’re a revenue acceleration agency helping enterprise customers create always on channels of meaningful and well qualified sales opportunities. Today I’m thrilled to be joined by Luke Robinson. Luke is head of new business at Wolters Kluwer UK, a global provider of professional information, software solutions and services in health, tax and accounting, ESG, finance, compliance and legal.

Luke, great to have you on the show and thanks so much for being with us.

Luke: No, it’s really nice to be on and it’s really nice to be back.

Richard: Brilliant.

Well, I must let listeners in on a secret. Luke, before being at Wolters Kluwer was a long time durhamlaner. So we’re going to delve into your journey, Luke, into how you’ve got to where you are now.

But before we do that, perhaps you could just share a quick intro of yourself to our listeners so they can get a better feel for who you are.

Luke: Yep. As Richard said, I’m head of new business at Wolters Kluwer, but it’s the tax and accounting side of things.

So there’s a huge, huge global business out there in terms of the different offerings that we’ve got. But we basically specialise in tax and accounting services. So our CCH software suite gets into anywhere between one to five, six to 39 and above to the top 10, the top 100 to the big four.

We’ve got customers left, right and centre in the UK tax and accounting space. And I’ve been with the business now for about 18 months, very steep learning curve. But as you mentioned, a little secret, spent a lot of time here at durhamlane, eight and a half years, in fact, you get longer for murder.

But it was a very, very steep learning curve. I operated for a number of years in the B2C world selling insurance, bounced about in a couple of different roles, even tried changing the world as a personal trainer. That didn’t work out and found myself firmly and comfortably in the world of sales and haven’t looked back since.


Amazing. So as we were prepping for this podcast, which we’re doing in person, live and dangerous, we came up with a title of how did I end up here? I think probably with an exclamation mark and a question mark. And we thought that would be a great way, particularly if you think about a lot of our listeners that are in SDR roles or maybe the beginning of their sales and marketing career and just thought that it would be such an inspirational story for them to learn more about your journey of how you’ve found your way into sales and then have moved through into the role that you’re undertaking now for Wolters Kluwer.

So can we sort of step back in time? And you mentioned it briefly there, but let’s talk about how sales found you or how you found sales and let’s talk about some of those early days and what happened there for you.


Yeah. So as you can probably tell by my accent, I’m from the Northeast of England and it’s famous for its contact centres.

My first ever role and how I found myself within a sales role was for Littlewood’s catalogue, believe it or not, which was a long, long time ago. I don’t even know whether they still exist. Where I sat on a first orders line, that job was basically a bit of a stopgap to save up some money to go travelling around the world for 10 months, to which I did.

But on my return, obviously I thought I’d found myself and that I’d have some completely different career. But again, found myself doing the first available job and I ended up at More Than, so now Royal and Sun Alliance. And my selling experience there was probably what I didn’t think at the time, but it was a really, really good grounding for the telephone in terms of how you speak to people, customers, certainly the general public, because the B2C space is a lot different to the B2B space.

But ultimately, after about five and a half years or so, working with an ex-colleague, now I don’t know what Jake’s role is within this business.

Richard: Managing Director.

Luke: Managing Director, yeah, another guy with one hell of a journey.

But knowing him and knowing a couple of colleagues that I’ve worked with, they said, we’ve got a great opportunity at a start-up business. The guys in charge are really great. They’ve got a great plan.

They’ve got a great journey. They’d love for you to be a part of it. Sure enough, I joined up.

It was a pretty lethal interview, I must admit. I do remember it. And I think there was this really intentional thing.

You probably don’t even remember it, but you and Lee were sat up higher than me. So it was almost an auditorium type interview. I knew you were looking down, so I felt under even more pressure.

But then, yeah, joined the business. Very, very quickly learned that B2B is a whole different ballgame, but it’s still all around speaking to people. But it was sharp learning curve, a lot of responsibility very, very quickly, which I thank you for.

I didn’t at the time, but you don’t realise the education that you’re getting. You just feel the pressure and don’t actually think, well, this isn’t helping me. But yeah, worked for a number of different clients, selling it to a number of different markets.

Built up my experience, let’s say, but also learned to sell the durhamlane way. And understanding the durhamlane way was what then led me on to the training, coaching, and consultancy role, which I sat comfortably in for about five years of my durhamlane career. But eventually, I probably hit my ceiling and thought, I need the next challenge.


One thing you mentioned there, I don’t remember having a throne, by the way, but there we go. Sitting on my lofty perch.


You were bad cop, actually.


No one will believe that. So you mentioned their throne at the deep end. And we do and have always believed in empowering people and giving them responsibility, probably sometimes ahead of, well, I say sometimes, definitely ahead of the comfort zone.

So can we drill into that a little bit more? How did it make you feel at the time? But with hindsight, it sounds like it was valuable.


Yeah. It’s also how you attracted me, though, with that.

It was like, we’ve got a great opportunity with a fantastic client that we want you to head up. Now, that straight away goes, oh, responsibility. Oh, development.

Oh, a next step for me. So it was in the industry that I’m in now, funnily enough. You come full circle, but it was in the accounting software industry.

That was the client that we had. I had an idea of what they did, what they were trying to achieve. But often, you just do it and you just get on with it.

But bit by bit, you know, rep after rep after rep, call after call after call, you get better, you build confidence. Then all of a sudden, we started hiring more people. Then all of a sudden, the people were looking up to me in terms of an example.

So you talk about, yes, we give responsibility ahead of time, but you don’t know it at the time. But it’s massively appreciated. Yeah, excellent.


So I mean, that’s something for our listeners to think about those that early journey, then try and seek out that situation, because, you know, you don’t have to wait for someone to give you it. You need to be looking out for it as well. And that’s probably something that we would recommend, really, in terms of how are you trying to develop yourself? I’ve always thought that pressure is a great thing, as long as it’s the right sort of pressure.

And that’s how you learn fast, right? So when you’re under pressure in the right way with the right support around you, then you tend to grow really quickly. And maybe that brings us on to you becoming the voice and the guy that delivered Selling at a Higher Level as a training programme, because that was pretty much a baptism of fire, wasn’t it? And then, you know, you took that forward quite significantly.


Yeah. And if I think of any situation where I’ve made that next step, it’s always been something that’s been massively scary. It’s always been a baptism of fire. It’s always been a, wow, can I actually do this? Yeah.

Whereas actually, as soon as you get into it, as soon as you get going, it just clicks. And what I didn’t know at the time in this baptism of fire, that that training programme that I delivered helped me get the job that I have today.


Yeah, absolutely.

Luke: And there might be what, seven, eight years apart in terms of the influence of that. So my current managing director was the sales director at Sage when we delivered the first programme. And we talk about baptism of fire.

I watched Richard deliver the two day programme, took notes, and then next week it was my turn and Richard wasn’t there. So I was left alone in a room full of around 24 experienced salespeople to deliver my first programme when, if I think about fear driving performance, then I had no other choice.

I had no other choice but to just get up there and give it the best shot that I possibly could.


Yeah. And there was framework and there was process and structure around it.

But at the end of the day, you had to draw on all of your experience and then help other people do similar things. So scary moment, but one that you dealt with and that became your path for a few years.



And I think what SDRs or anybody starting out need to recognise is the six months worth of cold calling that you’ve just had is experience. Because we were talking, I think when I said, Richard, I’m not going to have the stories that you have. It’s fine. You’ll find your own. Sure enough, they’re in there somewhere. And a situation that you’re trying to then play out to match what you’re actually talking about, it was in there.

And those experiences are in there, whether it’s six, 12, 18 months of cold calling, meeting clients, face-to-face meetings, account reviews, account management meetups, they’re all there. You just don’t realise it at the time. Whereas actually you can draw on that experience as you go forward in your career.


Yeah, absolutely. And we sort of joked around the title of this podcast of how did I end up here? And, you know, you’ve painted a very positive picture of pressure and having to deliver, you know, having to get into the performance zone. Something that you could also, we could also think about is probably imposter syndrome.

And, you know, how’s that affected you or if it has over the years?


The how did I get here title came around for a conversation that I was having with my good friend recently. He is out for his second stint in Doha. He’s working out in Qatar.

And he just messaged me the other day with a picture of where he was, the situation that he was in. And he actually said the words, how on earth did I end up here? And funnily enough, I was doing a little bit of thinking while I was away on holiday. And even now you do have a little bit of imposter syndrome, like, okay, they’ve just made me head of new business.

The responsibility solely lies on me for that month in month out. And you do often question yourself like, well, I don’t have enough experience in this industry, or I don’t quite know as much as my actual salespeople. And you are often questioning yourself.

And I think far too many people actually think about what they can’t do and never actually focus on their key strengths. The reason that you’re in the role that you’re in is because somebody likes the strengths that you’ve got. I think a lot of people won’t make the leap or don’t want to go for that role or don’t want to make the next step because they don’t believe they can do certain elements of the job.

Whereas actually there’s part of their strength that would absolutely smash the life out of the job, but you’ve just got to, I think the mindset’s just got to change. Imposter syndrome. It was there probably every session that I ever did.

If I’d been in a sales role for five years and I’d been delivering training for, I don’t know, one year, there’d always be somebody in the room that had 20 years experience, or there’d be 15 years experience or 10 years experience. And I’d often think, well, what are they going to learn from me? You know, are they going to respect me the moment that I walk in this room? Do I have to earn it? How difficult is it going to be? They might know more than me. They’ve probably been through more sales training than me.

I’m up here and I’m delivering it at the same time. There’s all this goes round in your head, but the moment that I suppose the clock starts and you go, the rest of it’s out the window.


Yeah. Excellent. I heard something the other day, we see in the world what we want to see. And I, without getting into too much pop psychology, I think we, most people spend a lot of time on the negatives. And I think that’s perpetuated with, you know, social media, et cetera, in terms of what’s, you know, modern life. But it’s so powerful to think about I am worth it. I have done this.

I am experienced. I have stories to tell. You know, everyone, everyone has stories to tell.




So, yeah, it’s really something really for people to think about is zone in on the good stuff. Yeah.

I try and do that all the time, just zone in on the good things. And then, you know, we all we all have experiences, SDR. And the great thing about the SDR role, particularly in sales development role, is that you’re doing, you’re doing the action all the time regularly.

So you learn much faster.




You know, if you’re only making two calls a day, then it’s going to take you a long time to learn.

If you do, if you make those first hundred calls in a short period of time, you learn rapidly because you’re always getting feedback and you’re seeing where it goes. So, so I think imposter syndrome exists. Again, we can use that as a positive pressure.

Let’s focus on the good stuff. And that’s when things start to happen for us. And that leads me also then to sort of ask you a question about that feeling of earning the right.

So have you felt moments in your career where you sit there and go, yeah, I do. I deserve to be here. Yeah.


In the same thought that I was having about how did I end up here? It was a case of, you know what I do actually, I’ve earned the right to be here. I think you often ask yourself questions. Where can I improve? How can I be any better? But yeah, you’ve got to earn the right to be here.

I think a lot of people in sales, they want to get somewhere yesterday as if they think, well, okay, I can be in this SDR role for 18 months. I could then move on to be in a business development manager for the next two years. And then from there, I’ll look at managing the team and that’ll probably be sales director within about six.

It’s just not going to happen like that. You have to be patient. You have to accept to go back a little bit as well, or stay where you are.

And again, master the role that you’re in. It probably took me three years before I was as accomplished as I thought I needed to be when it came to delivering training. That’s three years worth of internal and external programs.

It’s three years worth of coaching people that I’d never met. Three years going in and do and sales process reviews and offering consultancy to business owners who are probably twice my age. And you know what? It’s okay not to have a plan.

I think far too often people are thinking about that or obsessing about their careers, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing. Maybe I took too much time to get where I needed to actually be, but opportunities will come along.

I think the key is then recognising that they’re the right ones for you because you can write something down on a piece of paper, just like you can plan for this podcast, and it might take a completely different direction. Your career is likely to do that, but just learn how to recognise when the right opportunity comes along, but don’t obsess about a plan and a timeframe because it will be different and it will take way longer than you expected.


Oh, that totally reminds me Luke of my favorite quote from Elma Letterman. “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” So I believe that there is opportunity all around us. We’re just not usually ready to see it, to identify it, to latch hold of it and go with it.

So yeah, spot on. Love that. I think to sort of mirror what you were saying, I think many people today don’t really understand that they need to maybe pay their dues, don’t understand they need to put in time to make it happen.

I think the people that really understand that they want to build their craft, their experience, you know, we talk about a sales and art or a science or both. Well, it’s in my view, definitely both. It’s more process than art, but there is still the skill of selling, negotiating, prospecting, engaging, building rapport, all of those things, qualifying, questioning, all of those things take practice and you have to pay your dues.

So yeah, great story there about sort of moving through the zones of confidence, belief, but can I really do it through to I’ve earned my place at the table. I’ve earned my role. I’ve earned the responsibility because of the things I’ve done in the past and what I’ve achieved.


Yeah. And I would always give people advices to seek out the next scary thing, because I think you start with, well, if I lean back on the training career, you’d start with an internal session, the selling at a higher level half days that used to happen where it was external businesses that would come in. It was based on a calendar of delivery.

There might be anywhere between five and 10 people. Then all of a sudden it was, well, you know, the next speaking events that you need to get to need to be a membership organisations. Then you need to get in front of, I don’t know, 50, 60 to almost a hundred people.

I think once it get past 50, it doesn’t really matter. But I remember the first ever big speaking event that I did where it was me on stage and everybody looking back, there were 96 people in the room. I came out like a firework had just exploded within about a minute and a half, I had to reach for water because the adrenaline had dried my mouth out so much because I was so pumped to get it right. But at the same time, so scared and so excited that I came out and just went whack and then thought, hang on, no, now I need to bring it back down. But I would always tell people just seek out the next scary thing because the moment that you have to do it, I think that’s when you find out whether you actually can.


Yeah. Which is great advice and leads us back to where we started really about being thrown at a deep end, you know, just into steps, pulled out, supported, help to take that control. So it’s really nice to hear, Luke, actually, because I feel I feel I have skin in the game in terms of where you’ve got to and the career, which is very, very cool.


And by no means is this all sunshine and rainbows. Like it’s rough some days. The sales career, I mean, I must have had over my eight and a half years here, probably about five moments where I just thought I’m going to hit the F it button, talk down off a ledge on a regular occasion.

But it just sometimes it’s really rough. You are going to get through it and think that was awful. But if you look back, one of my friends used to call it type two fun.

It’s awful at the time, but you look back and laugh at it. I think sales is a lot like that in different sales situations. There’s nothing worse than going into an account review, knowing that you’re underperforming, thinking I’ve got absolutely nothing in this report and I’m going to have to polish the turd in front of the client.

They’re going to put me over the coals. They’re going to ask every single question under the sun. It’s going to be the worst half an hour of my life.

But actually, when you get out of there, you go, that wasn’t as bad as I thought. And there’s so much that you can learn from all of these rough situations. I mean, some of the rooms that both myself and you have delivered in in the past, some of the programs that I’d got.

I remember going into one program and the guy who was in charge of, you know, getting it on board and then delivering it. He opened up with the room saying there were a lot of tortured souls in this room. “You are the final straw and I hope that you can help.”

And he left the room. And then all of a sudden you’ve got 16 people looking back at you thinking, right, come on then. And it was just, it was really, really rough at times, but it built so much resilience for one, which I didn’t know that I had, but the ability to actually engage people and bring them on board and actually make the learning fun.

And because I would say maybe 50% of the room when you deliver any program, don’t really want to be there. They’ve probably got better things that they need to be doing. They’ve got customers that they need to be talking to.

And all of a sudden you’re up there and you’re like, right, well, I’ve got you for two days. Come and listen to me talk for 12 hours. Right. It’s, it’s really tough. So I think I learned a lot about people. I learned a lot about myself, but I learned a lot about how to positively engage people as well that didn’t really want to hear anything.

But again, that was all built from the basics. It was all built from the reps. It was all built over time.

And when we say we earned the right to that path, that path, as I’ve said, is not easy, but once you get there and once you realise you’re there, it’s, it’s brilliant.


Yeah, absolutely. Excellent.

I don’t remember having a program for tortured souls, by the way, but I’m sure it’s in the repertoire somewhere we’re going to, we’re going to move on. And we always talk on the insiders around actual insights. So we, we go out and I think we’ve, we’ve definitely covered some of those points already today, but we we go out into our communities and ask for any questions.

And we got a question here from Richie who said, what role does networking and relationship building play in your business development efforts? And I presume let’s take that from your current role and your role at Wolters Kluwer.


Yeah. So the current role, it’s absolutely massive.

We sell to accountants who are naturally risk averse.




Okay. When it comes to being a business-to-business buyer, somebody who knows how to manage money also knows how to be quite tight on a budget as well. So often they’ll only buy with people that they massively know, like and trust. And the only way that we can do that is get out and see them.

So I think we might be one of the only industries where events are still a huge thing and they’re a huge source of our revenue. If we were, let’s say that we do, we didn’t have a release of something new. So we decided not to attend an event.

It would be massively, massively bad for us because everybody would go, well, well, where are they? Customers like to like to see us. They like to meet us. And I, you know, I think about 64% of the accounting industry or accountants are at retirement age.


Right. That’s interesting.


So if we think about our buyer in terms of they’re probably a little old school in the way that they operate, that networking piece, that face-to-face piece is absolutely key.

We’re regularly having customer dinners. We’re regularly bringing in partners. We’re bringing in people together at different events.

We even had our first ever customer event in London last year where we brought everybody together, but unfortunately it was on the same day as the train strike. But networking, building relationships, is it a skill? Yes. Because you need to get out and do it.

I think a lot of people can sit and be a successful inside salesperson and sit at a desk. But I believe that if you play to your strengths, if networking is for you, then get out there and do it because there is a huge portion of customers that massively appreciate it. And I think once they know you, once they trust you, you’ve got a much bigger chance of being able to sell them something that they need.


Yeah. And I think I always say the hardest thing is to put your first foot forward. You know, when it comes to networking, a lot of people feel uncomfortable doing it.

As soon as you put your first foot forward, then it tends to be okay. It’s a conversation.


And go by yourself.

Don’t go with a colleague. Yes. Because the moment that you go to a networking event with your colleague, who are you going to stand next to?


Yes, indeed.


Yeah. You’ll just sit in the corner, have coffees, think, oh, should we go and have a conversation? It’s not easy because often networking events have regular attendees. So it seems that everybody else knows each other, but you don’t seem to know anybody at all.

The only way you’re going to find that out is to actually go and introduce yourself and start having a conversation.


Put your first foot forward. Yeah.

There we go. Excellent. Well, look, I’ve really enjoyed having you come into the Insiders studio and talk about some of the past, but also your present.

And we look forward to understanding the future for you as well as we as you go forward. We’ve got one last question, which is typically the hardest question of the lot on these interviews that we deliver. And this is to ask you for a track for us to add to our Insiders Spotify playlist.

So every guest that has been kind enough to give us their time and has the option of providing a song that we add to the Spotify playlist. So what would you like to choose?


Well, it’s a big one for me because I’m from good stock, if you want to put it that way, in terms of my family. I say it’s a musical family.

My dad is still in the industry. It’s still his full-time role. He is a front man.

He is the lead singer, which probably gives me a good idea of why I actually stood up in front of people and started. You know, my dad would used to call them gigs. Have you got any gigs this week when I was delivering training? But yeah, he’s the lead singer of a blues band.

And my household was when I was younger, was always full of blues. When I was younger, I used to say, Dad, will you put the Wolfman on? So huge, huge voice. And I’ve chosen a song by a man called Howlin’ Wolf, probably famous for the likes of Smokestack Lightning and a few different ones.

But I’ve chosen Killing Floor just because it’s cheesy and it’s kind of like a sales floor might be. But he’s got one of those voices that makes you scrunch your face up every time that you hear it. So if you’ve never heard of Howlin’ Wolf, please listen to him.

But ultimately start with this song.

Richard: Awesome. Well, I couldn’t think of a better track to include.

And having seen your dad in his band, then you are from good stock. And it definitely helped you to stand up in front of people and deliver selling at a high level to new audiences. So Luke, thanks so much for being with us. Any final thoughts before we wrap up?


No, it’s been quite cathartic, actually, to walk down to walk down memory lane. Yeah, probably, you know, there’s so much things that you want to say and you have an idea of what you want to say on these things. But yeah, it’s it’s it’s been great. It’s been a really good experience.


Excellent. So just sort of my sort of really enjoyed it, too.

Thank you. I think the some of the takeaways there are about challenging yourself, looking for the positive, thinking forward, putting that first step in front of you, making things happen. Yeah.

And, you know, if you at the beginning of your career, in the middle of your career, towards the end of your career, it frankly doesn’t really matter. You can be doing all of those things and you’ll make a positive impact for yourself. So it’s been great having you with us.

Thank you so much. And thank you to everyone for listening. Always appreciate you tuning into the insiders.

Please subscribe on your preferred podcasting site to ensure you’re notified of all new episodes as and when they are published. And if you’d like to learn more about durhamlane and Luke has talked a lot about our unique method of selling at a level, if you’d like to learn more about more about these things, then please visit for more information. Thanks again for listening.

We’ll catch you in the next episode.


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