A conversation with Dana Publicover, Managing Director of Publicover & Co.
“I really believe that anyone who has a business is a salesperson. You’ve got this far and you may not follow that traditional path. You may not be the guy in the polo shirt who’s going to make 100 phone calls that day. But I feel like there’s something to be said for people who have built their business and want to keep selling it and they have the tools to sell it. You can have these conversations.”-Dana Publicover
In this episode of Control the Room, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dana Publicover about her extensive experience designing experiences for customers across a variety of creative industries and how her background in facilitating Design Sprints influenced her current business. We discuss the importance of embracing your inner salesperson, and we explore what designing an exceptional sales experience looks like and why you shouldn’t hire a salesperson. Listen in to learn about outbound vs. inbound sales, nurturing relationships, and setting the rest of your team up for sales success.
[1:40] How Dana Became A Sales Process Challenges
[5:15] How Design Thinking and Facilitation Influenced Dana’s Current Business
[17:40] Understanding How Customers Experience and Communicate Their Problems
[28:30] Embracing Your Inner Salesperson
[32:00] Planting Seed For Harvesting Later
Links | Resources
About the Guest
Dana helps service-based businesses combine design thinking and content design to craft more effective sales messages & deliver exceptional sales experiences. In the last decade, Dana worked as a Design Sprint and workshop facilitator and a design thinking & digital product consultant—with clients that include Google, McKinsey, NASA, Stanford School, Deutsche Bahn, Siemens-Gamesa, Boehringer Ingelheim, the Food Network, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dana is the author of Empathy at Scale and the ghostwriter behind a dozen other titles (including The Gentleperson’s Guide to Good Grammar and the Deadly Dictionaries series).
About Voltage Control
Voltage Control is a change agency that helps enterprises sustain innovation and teams work better together with custom-designed meetings and workshops, both in-person and virtual. Our master facilitators offer trusted guidance and custom coaching to companies who want to transform ineffective meetings, reignite stalled projects, and cut through assumptions. Based in Austin, Voltage Control designs and leads public and private workshops that range from small meetings to large conference-style gatherings.
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Douglas: Welcome to the Control The Room podcast. A series devoted to the exploration of meeting culture and uncovering cures for the common meeting. Some meetings have tight control and others are loose. To control the room, means achieving outcomes while striking a balance between imposing and removing structure, asserting and distributing power, leaning in and leaning out. All in the service of having a truly magical meeting. Thanks for listening. If you’d like to join us live for a session sometime you can join our weekly Control The Room facilitation lab. It’s a free event to meet fellow facilitators, to explore new techniques so you can apply the things you learn in the podcast in real-time with other facilitators. Sign up today at voltagecontrol.com/facilitation-lab.
If you’d like to learn more about my new book, Magical Meetings, you can download the Magical Meetings quick start guide, a free PDF reference with some of the most important pieces of advice from the book. Download a copy today at voltagecontrol.com/magical-meetings-quick-guy.
Today, I’m with Dana Publicover, the managing director at Public Over and Co, where she helps service-based businesses, combine design thinking and content design to craft more effective sales messages and deliver exceptional sales experiences. She’s also the author of Empathy at Scale. Welcome to the show Dana.
Dana: Thanks. I’m happy to be here.
Douglas: It’s great to have you. So let’s start off with a little bit of a story about how you got your start. How did you get into this work?
Dana: So like most creative people, I’ve had a thousand different variations of some kind of job. I’ve been a photographer. I was a food photographer for a while. I shot a couple of cookbooks. I worked in publishing. I did a lot of ghostwriting and always thought, “Oh, I’m going to be a novelist. I’m going to write my own books. That’s where I’ll go.” And just in all the freelance work I was doing, I’ve been a freelance since I was 21, 22 years old. So it’s always been trying to understand my customers in order to get more money from them. And so it’s evolved into having this really cool understanding of the sales process and coming at it from a completely different way because I didn’t go to a sales training seminar.
I’m not a, I would say classically trained salesperson and I would never have considered myself a salesperson until recently when someone says, “Well, you do sales, you’re a salesperson.” I always thought, “Well, sales is the guys in the polo shirts who sit on the phone all day, they make 100 calls, they get five through and then one becomes a customer they’re playing the numbers game.” That’s sales. What I’m doing is just having these really great conversations with people and then taking their money. So connecting that with understanding that, “Oh, you’re actually a salesperson and you’re actually pretty good at it and you can help other people be good at it too,” was such a weird logical leap for me, just owning that terminology was just really strange for me because it’s not a space that there are a lot of people like me in.
Douglas: Yeah, absolutely. And there’s something that strikes me as well. There’s a little piece of your background that you left out that I think is an interesting component to that story, which is the facilitation piece. And you hinted at the user experience or a human-centered design stuff a little bit in there, but if you insert all those things and think about your creative background. So you talked about having to, as a young creative, you’re a photographer, a writer, et cetera. Having to be out there as a freelancer and understand what these customers needed and maybe what they weren’t saying, reading between the lines.
Dana: Yeah. Totally.
Douglas: And then applying some of these principles you are learning. And especially after your experience in the world of facilitation, it combined all that together. And now you’ve got a really interesting toolkit for what I like to call inbound sales.
Douglas: So I’m just curious to hear your thoughts around how facilitation and specifically human-centered design maybe played a role in some of these, just the ways that you’re approaching sales.
Dana: Yeah, definitely. I think I first came to human-centered design when I was doing marketing consulting for startups because I love being at the beginning of things. And I really liked planting those seeds of storytelling and finding that. And I realized through my other creative backgrounds, that helping these startups tell their stories was really resonating with investors. And so it wasn’t entirely a money play. It was a buy-in play too. And there was psychology to that, but the investors and the startups weren’t really speaking the same language. And I found that I was running a lot of meetings between these two people and this was back in 2015 and somebody said, “Hey, you’re really good at facilitating workshops. Can I bring you to facilitate a workshop for me?”
Like, I don’t know what that is. I’ve never done that before. So, I go Google it. I figure out what to do. I say, “Yeah, I’ll do it. I’ll take your money. Sure.” And I ran the workshop and then somebody said, “Hey, can you run a design sprint for me?” I’m like, “What is that?” And they sent me the Google ventures blog where Jake Knapp had outlined the whole process. And I see, oh coming soon, the sprint book pre-order analysis. Okay, cool. I’ll pre-order this. And I’m suddenly, I’m a design sprint facilitator. And a lot of what I had been doing in the market research for these startups, talking to their customers, I was building my own process to understand their customers and somebody.
Again, I feel like all of my career decisions have been because somebody else told me what I was doing. So somebody told me what I was doing was user research. So I go, I look up, I learn everything there is to know about user research. And now I’m a freelancer who can offer marketing and I can offer a facilitation. And now I can offer user research and suddenly I’m growing these skills that are in super high demand. And I’m just using all of that. So, that all stayed in the background. And as I grew my facilitation business, I met a lot of other facilitators. I realized facilitators specifically, design sprint facilitators, believe it or not, have a sales problem. Because after 2017, I think the book came out in 2016, so probably 2017 was the best year to be a design sprint facilitator. We had work aplenty. We had everybody calling us up saying, “Hey, we want a design sprint. We heard about it. We want it. Can you run it.”
2018, people were like, “God, we did so many design sprints. We have nothing to show for it. We had this guy who doesn’t know what he was talking about come in and basically just do the book and it didn’t work.” And so design sprints had a little bit of stink on them. They were hard to sell. And what I found was that we could use principles from the design sprint, from user research, from design thinking and also going back to that storytelling and communications and that startup business model, trying to get the investors. We could pull all of that together and we could use that to sell designs prints. We just had to call them something else. So that’s how this business came.
Douglas: Yeah. And so, how did that start to play out for you? So when as you say, “Call them something else,” how did that actually play out? What did you call them? Or how did it even work?
Dana: Well, it’s different for everybody, right? I help them develop their own version and everybody’s already putting their own little spin on it anyway. I don’t think anybody’s doing a by the book sprint. I think even Jake Knapp at this point was not doing a by the book sprint, but what I’ve found that most people were doing specifically in their sales is, okay, so when you’re feeling a little sick, you’re feeling a little off, you’re going to go Google something, right? Are you going to Google cancer? Or are you going to Google headache, chest pain, arm pain. Well, this isn’t cancer. This is a heart attack, but you get what I’m saying.
So you’re looking for the symptoms that you know are happening. You’re not looking for the diagnosis and you’re not looking for the cure. So in order to sell something like a design sprint, you have to understand what the symptoms are to which the cure would be the design sprint. So when you’re having these sales conversations, you’re selling misalignment. Projects that go on and on and on and on and on and on and on, over budget, over time, et cetera, all of these problems, which could be solved by a design sprint. So what you really need to sell is addressing those problems. So it doesn’t matter what you call it.
Douglas: Hmm. Yeah. It’s interesting. Starting with the problem is also potentially dangerous too, because if you think about the types of clients you’re going to be attracting, those clients are going to be very focused on a tool or a method or this quick fix that they heard about versus, I have this thing I need solved, and they’re not going to be as outcome-focused, which is dangerous for you as a practitioner, right?
Dana: How many people in 20 18, 20 19 called you up for a design sprint and in talking to them and doing some discovery, you realize they don’t actually need a design sprint because that won’t solve their problem? What if you just… It was off the shelf. What if you just sold them the design sprint? Would have gone poorly. They wouldn’t want to keep working with you. They wouldn’t recommend you. You did nothing for their problem.
Douglas: It’s not only that. It’s also the notion that they often were super… If they already had this idea that that’s what they needed, now they were just going around almost looking for the cheapest place that they could get that thing. So they weren’t even good clients.
Dana: That’s exactly right. You’re price shopping. Yeah. I got a guy down 10. He’ll do it 30 bucks.
Douglas: Right. Have some fun with that. You can check your box that you had a design sprint.
Dana: Bob’s Discount Design Sprints.
Douglas: It’s the same thing. If you were like, “Oh, I need a knee surgery.” And you’re just going around looking for a knee surgery, then maybe you’ll find a guy down the street that might do it for you, might hook you up, but are they going to actually fix your knee?
Dana: Right? Are you going to trust those results? Exactly. And the results piece is really important too, because I think a lot of us, first of all, we don’t spend as much time as we should on our case studies and case studies are so valuable, but a case study, isn’t just a story of what happened or how you did it. I think it’s a chance for you to show your methods and show how they work. And then I also think it’s an opportunity to show results. People want to see that. They want to see “Oh, I did user research. We did a lot of testing and we were able to shorten the workflow by 17 steps in 30 seconds.” That’s the stuff people want to see.
So they want to see that it doesn’t matter what you call it, your design sprint, your whatever, was able to align a team of 27 people across nine departments on one single outcome. And then six months later, the project launched. That’s a big deal. You were able to shorten a roadmap, a product roadmap by 18 months, et cetera. These are the things that people want to hear. They don’t want to hear you ran 162 design sprints in 2017, even though I think a lot of us did.
Douglas: Yeah. Many of these vanity metrics don’t really matter to even internally, definitely not externally. The thing that also comes to mind is this idea of show versus tell. And you mentioned storytelling earlier and I’ve recently run into several situations where I was reminded of this notion that especially when we’re talking about inviting people to come and be and collaborate in different ways that are unfamiliar, they don’t have a frame of reference to doing that previously. Right? They often struggle. So they’re like, “Wait a second. What does this new paradigm even mean?” Right? And so they could read a case study. They can look at all your marketing materials, but if they don’t resonate with that story, if the narrative’s not there to really give them a clue or window into what this really means for them, then, I don’t think it sets things up for success. And it’s certainly not going to get them super excited about working with you.
Dana: It’s a new way of working for a lot of people. And I think a lot of people have already been presented, the new way of working and then the new, new way of working. The new way of working this year. Priya Parker in The Art of Gathering, outlines her case studies so beautifully. She’s telling the story, she’s setting the stage and she’s doing a really good job of helping you understand the context of why people were there and also the experience of them being there. And I think it’s so important to give people that context when you’re bringing them together. And I think that’s what you’re getting at.
Douglas: Also this idea that you don’t know what information that they’re walking into your conversation with. Often, in the world of fundraising with venture capitalists, they talk about asymmetrical information, right? I know a lot of stuff about my startup. They know a lot of stuff about their portfolio and what they’re… And if we’re not aligned on that stuff, it can be difficult to make a deal. And the same thing goes for prospects, right? If we’re going into a conversation and I know all this stuff about the way my stuff works and I don’t come in with a beginner’s mindset, they know a lot of stuff about their problem. And if we can’t get past that asymmetrical information, it’s going to be really difficult for us to have any meaningful partnership, right?
Douglas: I ran into this recently with a client and I got introduced to them through mural and mural had shared some bullets around some of the benefits of like a mural. And the first bullets was like punch up for presentation. And this leader had logged on to that first bullet and just figured it was some fancy presentation software or something. And so she kept harping on, so you’re just going to help us make better presentations. And I’m like, “No.” And I kept trying to explain co-creation and working together and she just wasn’t getting it. So finally I just filmed the video. Also, we had limited time to connect and talk and so there was the asynchronous emails and stuff. And so finally I just sat down and recorded a loom and had one of my teammates in the mural doing stuff. And I was like, “Okay, this is what happens when we do a meeting this way,” and sent that over. And it was like magic. She comes back and she goes, “Oh, I see what this is, da, da, da.” So…
Dana: Totally. You’ve got to find that contextualizing element. The loom helped you tell the story for that. We can’t always just put what we do on a slide deck because it’s not going to land. Yeah. You were saying about information inequality.
Dana: You’ve probably ran into this where you run into a workshop and the people who hired you say “Now, just so you know, the people over here, don’t know we’re about to do X, Y, Z. And these people don’t know about this strategy, and we’re not going to cover this confidential topic.” And you have all of these potential landmines that you’re navigating as a facilitator. And I think it’s so… Information equality. I try to put that into my proposals. And when I was doing maybe two years ago, after I realized this was going to be something that I came up against a lot, I said, “I need all the information that everyone has, but I need everyone to have the same information. And so if you need to spend a day of context upfront to make sure everybody knows everything, we need to do, that we can’t have confidential pieces that are going to impact the outcome of decision-making.”
Douglas: 100%. And to me, that plays out in one of three ways. One, there’s some weird manipulation going on and they’re unwilling to budge. And we just decide not to work together because it clearly, it goes against our values. The other is we help them realize that and we get them to turn a two hour session into a two or three days session, because we got to spend the time to get the team prepped and understand what all is going on, because this isn’t just, you can’t just come in, in two hours, and wave some pixie dust around and imagine that things are going to get better.
And the third way this plays out is I only use this, if I feel it in my bones, that it’s going to be okay. But sometimes you see the stuff and you go, “It’s all going to work out in the room.” The values seem to be in place. It just seems a little dysfunctional. Everyone seems like they’re got their hearts in the right place. They believe in the right stuff. I’m just going to facilitate it in the motion. It’s magical when that happens, because you’ve got the sales guy saying stuff that the CEO’s heard for the first time ever, and the CEO’s jaws on the floor and we’re having to pick it up and it’s really awesome.
Dana: That must be amazing to feel that. I’m going to tell you that Douglas, every workshop I’ve ever done, every sprint workshop whatever, when we’re diverging, I say, “Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. This is never going to come together. Why am I doing this? I don’t know what I’m doing. I have no idea how I’m going to bring this back.” It’s like, how did I get into this mess again? And then it does always work out. It always works out in the end, but I can’t imagine having that level of tranquility and confidence in a workshop.
Douglas: That just comes for getting a lot of reps in. Because I definitely, early on, it definitely freaked me out for sure. And also, you got to know who you’re dealing with. Because like I said, it’s like, you don’t necessarily do that with every client. Some of them are going to need a little bit more planning, a little bit more prep work. But sometimes, you just lean into the emergent nature of the complex world we’re in and let it happen.
Dana: From the Zen Master.
Douglas: Maybe, maybe. So I want to talk a little bit about biases. You mentioned something in our pre-show chat that I found really interesting. And it was this notion of it’s really difficult to get past some of our own confirmation bias. And it ties to your belief that the customer has all the info, right?
Dana: Yeah, totally.
Douglas: And it really struck me because if we’re in this mode of just confirming what we already know, what are we leaving on the table? As far as what they need, that they don’t realize that we can do and we’re not picking up on it because they’re not asking us for it. How do we get past some of that stuff?
Dana: Yeah. You’ve got to pull on your facilitation skills. You’ve got to pull on your user research skills and it’s really, really hard to do it for yourself. Especially if you don’t have a business partner or someone working with you. Because like I said about the confirmation bias, like you’re going to be particularly, and this is just our own human flaws and not something that people are just choosing to do poorly. You’re going to resonate most with the information that validates what you already believe and you’re going to miss little tidbits. You’re also probably working from a script, which is good. You should have a script, but you may get so hung up on your script. If you’re not a formally trained user researcher, if you don’t have a tremendous amount of experience in that, where you won’t pick up on the nuances of conversation that you need to dig deeper into, where you’re really going to get that meat, that stuff you can scoop out and serve right back to them as a sales strategy.
So understanding not only how they experience their problems, but how they communicate, how they’re experiencing those problems, because that’s really the piece you need for the sales strategy. You need to understand how they’re communicating it because you’re going to take those words and scramble them up a little bit in the blender and then serve it back to them as a smoothie, as your sales communications. Like Douglas, if you’re sitting there saying like, “Oh, I’ve got some serious alignment issues. It feels like we never get anything done.” Then I’m going to come pitch to you. Maybe top of my landing page, I’m going to say, “Hey, is your team really struggling to get things done? Do you feel like it could be an alignment issue? If so, let’s talk.” You think about an infomercial. You think about pressing on the pain points.
This is stuff we already know, but if you’re not getting to that level of depth with your customer, you’re doing those five whys, you’re digging deeper and deeper and deeper and trying to understand, not only just how they’re experiencing it, but how they explain they’re experiencing it. And I think the impulse when you’re doing user research is, instead of writing down exactly what they say, you’re writing down your interpretation of what they’ve said. You’re skipping the documentation and you’re going straight to the insight and that’s where you’re missing. You’re leaving this juicy glorious material just out there. It’s gone. Because they’re telling you exactly what you need.
Douglas: Yeah. I think that’s really interesting there’s certainly two big points that I picked up out of that. We’re making sure that we use their language. So it resonates with them. They don’t feel like this thing came out of left field. It’s like, “Oh wait, they really get us. It seems tailor fit for us.” And it’s like, “Well yeah, we just literally echoed back out your language.”
Dana: Yeah. It should feel spooky.
Douglas: Yeah. And then B, making sure that we take time to really synthesize the insights. And instead of just trying to jump to conclusions, how do we verbatim just literally write down what they said. And then later look at it and say, “All right, what are the patterns we see here?” And maybe even across multiple prospects, multiple conversations, what are the patterns? Because those patterns can then feed into our static marketing where landing pages or any offers-
Dana: Hugely important.
Douglas: Free events. I hate the word webinar. Let’s say a free workshops, free participatory experiences.
Dana: I even hate the word free and experience and participatory, and workshop.
Douglas: My thing is that the reason I hate the word webinars, it expects people are just going to show up and listen. And those aren’t very fun experiences. And definitely don’t highlight the work we do. Right? So the more we can make it participatory, where people are engaged and can have a voice. I think that matters.
Dana: But I would challenge you to examine your own interpretation on that word webinar. Is that how you feel about the word webinar and do the people who you hope to convert to customers? Did they feel that way about the word webinar?
Douglas: My experience is yes. If we call something a webinar, people show up with videos off, if we don’t call it a webinar, they come with video on and that’s a pretty strong signal from me.
Dana: Yeah, for sure. So what are we going to call it?
Douglas: We will usually anchor it on something that we’re doing in the future. So if it’s the Magical Meetings workshop and we’re giving a little one-hour version of that, we’ll call it the Magical Meetings Quickstart or we’ll call them mini-workshops just to give some indication that like, oh this is a little teaser. This is a sliver of this bigger thing.
Dana: It’s short. Low commitment.
Douglas: Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s right.
Douglas: Yeah. Yeah. For sure. And then the other thing you mentioned that I really want to come back to is this notion of a lot of people think that they’re going to solve their sales problem by hiring a salesperson and you were like, “That’s not going to fix the problem.” And so why is that?
Dana: Yeah. So I think the instinct is, as you’re growing your business, and this is mainly true for one, maybe two people businesses and I specialize in B2B service-based, so let’s just make sure that that lens is on it. I think the instinct is, “Okay, we’re getting a little bit busy. I’m spending a lot of time in sales and a lot of time in delivery,” probably maybe 50/50. If not, it may be should be at that point. But you think, “Man, I’d have so much more time if somebody could just handle the sales for me.” And you think, “Oh, the sales is the hardest part of this. I’ll get somebody who really knows what they’re doing and they can do it.”
But I think the instinct is okay to get help and to scale. And that’s really how you start to make the real money. You get other people working for you. Yes, that’s true. But a sales person will have the same sales problem you’re having now, unless you have something that you’ve created for them and set up for them and handed it over to them. And this is the problem space that I’m really obsessed with because I think that first scale to a business development person, somebody to help with sales, it’s such an exciting time in a business. It’s such a cool apex point and you can pinpoint it back when you look at the timeline like, “Wow, this is when stuff really started to pick up.” And I think it’s such a crucial point with a lot of possibility of failure. And this is something that I was learning.
I was talking to a lot of people having a lot of conversations with these small agencies, these design sprint agencies, these UX agencies, people with maybe one to four freelancers working together as a conglomerate, that thing. And they said, “Yeah, we’re just going to hire a salesperson, pass that off. And then we can just focus on delivery.” And a lot of them hired salespeople and it didn’t go well. And so, me as a freshly minted, I am now a salesperson I’m owning that title. Let me figure out why you don’t want to hire a salesperson. And in my research, I found that they were hoping that this sales professional would just step in on day one, read through the slide deck they’d created and get on the phone. And that’s just not an effective approach to sales. That’s not how you offload something from your plate to a salesperson. The most brilliant salesperson in the world can’t sell that way.
You have to have the clearest idea of what you’re selling. You have to have done the research. You have to have talked to customers. You have to understand their language, their pain points, et cetera. And even if you’ve done that, you probably need to do it again. I would say, even if you think you’ve done it enough, you haven’t. I haven’t done it enough for my own business. I can always learn more. And so, instead of focusing on passing it off to somebody else, what I’ve done is create this package that gives everybody what they need to make that transition in this really crucial time in their business. So for example, instead of just saying like, “Okay, I’m going to redesign your sales deck.” What I really do is dig in and understand what your customer needs. Does your customer need a sales deck, for example, what do they need to hear in order to make the decision? How do we streamline this decision-making process?
How do we automate as much of it as possible? And then we look at the whole sales experience and we see where are the areas we can change? Where are the things we can leave out? Where can we save your time, their time, your energy, their energy, where are the crucial points of communication where we need this type of information and what information is it? So it’s things like that. And it’s basically creating this nice little stack that you can hand over to your day one business development person, but it doesn’t have to be a a business development person at that point. Literally anybody can take that stack of stuff and go sell for you. And that’s what I’m trying to build.
Douglas: Yeah. I’m hearing a few different things. If I were to summarize, there’s a chunk of mistakes people are making, right?
Dana: I don’t want to call it a mistake.
Douglas: Well, sure. But I’ve seen it time and time again. So maybe I’ll say mistake because I coach enough startups that I see this notion of the fallacy around, “Oh, this person’s going to come in and save the day.” And it’s like, rarely does that ever work.
Dana: Nope. You’re the hero you’ve been waiting for. You need to save your own day.
Douglas: That’s right. And this notion of passing it off as a fallacy because you have to stay highly involved. Now the trick is what are the pieces that you don’t enjoy doing? You don’t find love and enjoyment of, but you’re going to still have to oversee it because you are the one that understands this like no one else understands it and you can’t just hire this person and just pass it off and be done with it. Right?
Dana: And unless you’re closing 90, 100% of your sales, it’s possible that maybe you don’t fully understand it either.
Douglas: Yeah. Exactly.
Dana: How could someone else come in and just take over?
Douglas: That’s right. And then the other thing is, there’s not a clear go to market strategy. What are they going to do? Are they going to go develop that for you? If so, do they have the skill to do that? And that’s typically a more expensive person than most people are thinking about hiring when they’re trying to solve for this problem.
Dana: Yeah. And I’m sure now that you’ve said that, I’m sure there’s a guy you could pay $2 million tomorrow who could come in and sell whatever it is you’ve got.
Douglas: Yeah. But is that the person that you can hire and bring in, right?
Dana: Yeah. Yeah. And the thing is you’re… So I really believe that anyone who has a business is a salesperson. You’ve got this far and you may not follow that traditional path. You may not be the guy in the polo shirt who’s going to make 100 phone calls that day. But I feel like there’s something to be said for people who have built their business and want to keep selling it and they have the tools to sell it. Even if you’re awkward on the phone, even if you hate talking to people, which I don’t know why you’d be in a service-based business, if you hate talking to people, but maybe you can physically do it. You can have these conversations. And I feel people need to own their own salesperson title in the way that I had to, where you learn that that’s your responsibility for your business. And yeah, you might get too busy and you want to hand it off, but you’re not ready to hand it off yet. You’re not ready.
Douglas: There’s one other thing that come to mind earlier. So I want to come back to that and that’s marketing versus sales. But the polo shirt guy you keep talking with making all the phone calls. Yeah. Todd’s awesome.
Dana: Dude, he’s doing great.
Douglas: Yeah. And the thing we have to keep in mind there is there’s so many different kinds of sales. And I think what you’re conjuring up is where a lot of people go to when they think about sales and that’s totally an outbound sales strategy where they were cold calling people off to some random list that-
Dana: I’ve never cold-called anyone.
Dana: Well, no. I actually did. I worked for a telemarketer for a while.
Douglas: Well, I think the thing is, it can work for some businesses and don’t want to tell anyone it won’t work, sure test it, but the thing is that’s part of the go-to-market strategy. Understanding what’s working for you and having a solid plan before we just bring in someone that’s just going to go execute. Unless that person’s mission is to go figure this stuff out, but you got to give them carte blanche and you’ve got to be willing to let them fail. And you’re probably going to do sales while they’re figuring that out. Right? Because that expectation of just handing it off on day one is not going to work there. And I think to me, for most of these services companies, like we were talking about, I’ve just seen inbound work so much better, right? Nurturing these relationships, what’s coming in out of this and not leaving any money on the table.
Dana: Exactly. And I talk a lot about how much I hate the value ladder, but it works. It works. The, what is it? The.com secrets formula. It works. We’ve seen it work in our own network. It works. And same with Todd where he’s going to get on the phone and make 100 phone calls a day. He’s going to close one to five of those, no matter what. So yes. But what you’re trying to do is find the way where you’re going to sell what you do in the way that you do it. Even if you’re not a salesperson. And if you want to hand it off to somebody, what you’re really handing over is, you’re exchanging your network for theirs. So you want to bring somebody in who has this really incredible network, where they’re really keyed into your customer and they’re going to deliver basically your sales script, your sales materials, your sales pitch to their network. So you’re doubling down on your audience reach, but you’re not really changing the strategy. They’re not going to really sell in a different way than you do.
Douglas: Before we round things out here. I just want to come back to one thing that I think is worth mentioning that folks have found this fascinating. It’s one little point that I think might be helpful for them to see the full picture. And that’s this notion that you talked about. If you’re going to bring someone on like this, you need to set them up for success. And in my years of startup land, we always used to talk about, you always want to hire your VP of marketing six months before you hire your VP of sales because the VP of marketing is planting all the seeds that the VP of sales is going to start harvesting from. Right? And so you’re talking about having these assets in place and you got the language and what do they need to be successful?
And so I guess if you’re really thinking about bringing someone on, maybe thinking about how you sow the seeds around the marketing and you already gave some really nice tactics around listening to the customers, what words they using, what are you putting in the proposal? And if you’ve written five proposals that basically say very similar things, there should be marketing landing pages and collateral that say those things. So you have them on the ready.
Dana: Right. But you should also be listening to the reasons why people don’t buy.
Dana: And writing down every question you get asked on a sales call. Every question someone asked you on a sales call should be a sales point you address on your landing page, in your web copy, whatever. Especially if it’s the same questions over and over again. All the objections, all the reasons why people don’t buy. Again, write them down, use them, put them in the FAQ’s. The FAQ’s should be the things that people said, “Oh, are you sure? Does this really solve my problem?”
But you should also be using your sales calls as research calls because you’ve already got somebody on the phone. And so if you’re doing all the talking, it’s probably not a good sales call. If you’re doing a lot of listening, it’s probably a very good sales call, but maybe they’re just venting because I think sometimes these people really just need to talk and be heard. And as a facilitator, you get a vibe for that and you say, “Okay, let’s let them be heard.” I think there’s a really good balance of asking the right questions and asking those, dig deeper questions and realizing you’ve got a potential customer who for some reason or another was willing to talk to you about this. Let’s get some data from them. Let’s turn this into user research. So at least five of your questions or five of your minutes in that call should be juicy goodness research for your business. And you can pull that off. That’s easy to do.
Douglas: Excellent. Well, it’s been a pleasure chatting today. We’ve hit the end here, which is always unfortunate because I would love to talk and talk and talk. But why not just at this moment, give you a time or an opportunity to share some final thoughts with our listeners.
Dana: Sure. Number one, don’t hire a salesperson because if you think that’s going to solve your problem, you know you have a sales problem and I think you need to fix that first. Number two, your customers have all the information you need. They will basically tell you your entire marketing and sales strategy if you ask them the right questions, you can’t do it without them. You don’t know your customer better than they know themselves. You are not your customer, et cetera, et cetera. And number three, anybody’s a salesperson. Everybody’s a salesperson. Anyone can sell. Trying to get your toddler to put their shoes on is sales. Trying to convince your partner to go to a restaurant, is sales. Anything you try to negotiate in your life is a form of sales. And if you can do that, you can convince a customer to give you money for a service. So don’t be intimidated by the word sales. Stop saying, “I’m bad at sales. I hate sales. Sales sucks.” Taxes suck. Sales is awesome.
Douglas: Excellent. I think that’s really great advice and our businesses live and die by our ability to make sales. And so let’s not feed ourselves and convince ourselves we’re bad at it. I love that advice. It’s such a pleasure having you on the show today. Someone’s interested in working, how can they find you?
Dana: Sure. So my name is Dana Publicover. It’s the two words public and over put it together and now you know how to spell it. So now you can Google me because I think I’m the only one. And you can find me. My company is Publicover and Co it’s, www.publicover.co. And I think I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on Instagram. I’m pretty much everywhere. So you can find me.
Douglas: Awesome. Well check out Dana, anywhere, everywhere and look her up.
Dana: Just google me. It’s fine.
Douglas: Yeah. Just google her. Excellent. Well, it’s a pleasure as always. That’s a wrap for today. Thank you so much for being a guest.
Dana: Thanks for having me. Talk to you later.
Douglas: Thanks for joining me for another episode of Control the Room. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates when new episodes are released. If you want more, head over to our blog, where I post weekly articles and resources about working better together. Voltagecontrol.com.