Charlene “Ignites” DeCesare is a trusted sales advisor with more than 25 years of experience igniting massive sales growth for companies such as Gartner and Bright Horizons. As Founder of Firewalk Sales & Firewalk Sales School, she accelerates growth for individuals and organizations by focusing on three key sales success elements: mindset, message, and method.
Charlene has a B.S. in Communications from Emerson College and an M.B.A. in Sales & Marketing from Rivier University. She’s a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Nationally Certified Brain-Based Success Coach, and a Certified Sales Leader (CSL).
She is also the author of The Email Cemetery: Where Bad Sales Emails Go to Die & How to Resuscitate Yours.
You can link to everything she does at www.charleneignites.com and she can be found on every social media platform @charleneignites.
Where did the idea for Firewalk Sales come from?
While “Charlene Ignites” has been my personal brand as a writer and speaker going back to when I had a J.O.B., Firewalk Sales & Firewalk Sales School mainly came from my rebellion against traditional sales training. Despite being a top sales performer and sales leader at two multi-billion dollar organizations (Gartner & Bright Horizons), never did I suck more than when someone gave me robot scripts and steps within an overly-structured model. As a sales advisor, trainer, and coach my mission is to be completely authentic in my approach and inspire others to do the same. Growing a business shouldn’t be painful – for seller or buyer. You can read the full story of how/why the “Firewalk Sales” brand was born here.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’ve always been that guy who bragged about waking up by 4am, not needing much sleep. Recently though, I read the book, “Why We Sleep” and it created an obsession with getting seven hours of quality sleep. If I wake up anytime from 4am on, I pop in some earbuds and press play on abundance and positivity affirmations. (Also obsessed with mindset programming.) Eventually, I get up, usually by 5:30am, with a pair of alarm clocks cleverly disguised as cute, semi-annoying, hungry cats. From then until 7am, I’m in mom-mode: kitchen, laundry, get my teenage son up, ask him the same three questions seventeen times so he can grunt something that I’m pretty sure means “no,” and see him off to school. My assistant works 7 – 9am every day, so that’s usually when we’re working on social media, projects, and general prep for the day. The rest of the day is typically a series of Zoom calls: sales training sessions, client coaching sessions, networking meetings, and prospect calls. Over the years, I’ve used a variety of productivity systems. Right now, I’m in post-it note mode. The wall next to my desk is “Asana in real life” complete with itemized rows and color coding. Most calls are done by 4pm, and I’ll use 4 – 6pm to catch up on any emails I didn’t delete throughout the day. (I feel about emails sitting in my inbox the way Mommy Dearest feels about wire hangers.) After that, it’s back into mom mode with dinner, cats, cleaning, etc. Mondays are exclusively designated “no meeting” days, so that’s when I write, make TikTok videos, and generally get stuff done. The other thing that helps me be productive is that I don’t watch television and I stay off social media except for what I do for my business (which is often cleverly disguised as personal, but actually I don’t spend any time there personally.)
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m a huge fan of David Rock, who among many other claims to fame, wrote the book ‘Your Brain at Work.’ He talks about the brain being like a stage. It’s very hard for the brain to see something it has never seen before, and when the stage is crowded with existing thoughts and ideas… the natural tendency is to see versions of what already exists. I’m grossly summarizing here, but the only way to get new ideas to pop up and sing is to clear the stage. So, my meditation practice is largely for that purpose: to do nothing and clear the stage. When a new actor (idea) pops up, it’s a race to get it out of my head and onto paper. Sadly, I’ve learned too many times that no matter how great the idea is, I won’t remember it later. I used to rely a lot on other people to make my ideas come to life. As an entrepreneur, I’ve been much better served by just trusting myself and taking action – even if in some small or imperfect way. Small things done over great things planned.
What’s one trend that excites you?
TikTok! The best, most fun, and highest ROI things I’ve done this year.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Letting go of perfection. That includes my responses here. #sorrynotsorry
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be so afraid of being weird. Let it shine. Yes, some people will judge you and maybe even be a little bit mean about it. It actually has nothing to do with you. Go for it. Being different will actually serve you in so many ways, both personally and professionally. (Later I’ll meet Sally Hogshead who will tell me, “Often, being different is better than being better.”)
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Everyone always agrees with me. (See?)
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Watch the sun rise every morning, and bask in gratitude for another day to create this experience of life. Let the amazingness and miracle of the new dawn wash over you and infuse energy into the rest of the day. I know it sounds a little cuckoo-for-coconuts, but it’s actually pure magic.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Consistent discipline around building my social media connections, actively engaging with people online, building real relationships from there, and being as helpful as possible. Being unique also helps. See also: TikTok videos on LinkedIn. It’s something I started doing many years before I would have considered myself an entrepreneur, and it has served me so well. The key is not making it a big project. It’s 15 minutes a day, every day of connecting, responding, commenting, thanking, and being helpful wherever possible. While I often talk about the universe conspiring for my success, as people come out of the woodwork with referrals or opportunities. But really, I’ve been polishing that wood for more than a decade.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Especially in early days, there was a part of me that thought I had to accept every engagement offered to me at the right price. I’m not sure I believe in “failure,” but it sure gave me a lot of learning moments. For example, one company asked me to create and facilitate a very specific training on change and leadership. It went okay, but the reviews were mixed and worse, I absolutely hated doing it. After several such learning opportunities, I remembered that *sales* is the realm that makes me come alive. Just because I’m able to do other stuff, doesn’t mean I want to or have to. I’ve learned to do the stuff that gives me energy and say no to anything (and anyone) that I know I’ll dread doing.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Coffee wagons out in the morning for early dog walkers. My sister mentioned how impossible it is to get her (full bladdered) dog to wait for her to make coffee and put it in a to-go cup. So, she grumbles and goes without. Midway through the walk, the resentment sets in, especially if there’s a chill in the air. If only there was someone out there with a cup of hot coffee, she’d sell her soul!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Inspired by the show, Home Edit (ah-maze-ing), I just spent around $100 on clear plastic shoe boxes and other bins and baskets to organize my walk-in closet. It’s so beautiful, I just stand in there sometimes and look around.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I use an app called FocusKeeper on a regular basis. It’s based on the Pomodoro Method which is a tool for staying focused on a specific task in work sprints. It’s how I wrote and published my book in less than three months. Although there are lots of of ways to do time sprints, I’ve found this particular app to be the right combination of technology, visual/audio cues, and ease-of-use.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Oh gosh, I’m such a book nerd. So many! First, it has to be fiction. People need a break from personal and professional development. The brain needs to wander, visualize, fantasize, and travel to new dimensions. All that said, I’d highly recommend “Way of Kings” which is book one of the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. While there are lessons in there about leadership and other business-applicable topics, it’s pure magic. So well written, and literally a whole new universe (called the Cosmere.) It’s the first time I’ve ever read a series of thousand page books and was excited to go back and read them all again. People literally wait years between Sanderson books, and thankfully the next book is coming out in November 2020!
What is your favorite quote?
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
- Always take action, even if in some small and imperfect way
- Being a weirdo is totally acceptable, if not preferable
- When you want a new idea to come to life, clear your mental stage
- Social media success takes 15-minutes a day of connecting, engaging, nurturing, and being truly helpful
- Focus on doing things that make you come alive