Episode 231

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The more you know about a person, the easier it is to connect with them. One of the challenges when it comes to biz dev is that we really don’t know too much about the prospect we’re trying to build a relationship with, especially in the early stages of the sales pitch. But what if there was a way for you to gain those insights even if you’ve never met them in person?

Charlie Poulson’s first job out of college was building PPT decks for one of the country’s largest agencies. That experience gave him insights on the technical side of sales. A recent discovery of a tool that adds in some psychological insights has allowed him to build a business helping others succeed at sales.

In the latest episode of Build a Better Agency, Charlie explains how agency owners can structure proposals and presentations in a way that resonates with their audience, because they know who that person is and how they tick, thanks to Crystal, a Chrome plugin that provides DISC assessment information based on their LinkedIn profile and other social channels.
Take a listen and then connect with your prospects at a whole different level.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Agency Owners | Leveraging psychology to improve agency sales with Charlie Poulson

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • If you decide to go with a different keyword, make sure to have the keyword listed in at least one bullet point.
  • The psychology behind agency sales communication
  • How agency owners can communicate more effectively with prospects
  • The art of presentation design for agencies
  • How Charlie creates presentations and proposals that resonate with decision-makers
  • How Charlie is using AI (Crystal the Chrome plugin) to gather data and insights about agency prospects
  • How to create different pitch decks for a variety of personality types
“We’re not just making presentations and powerpoints, we’re using artificial intelligence to get deeper insights on the decision-maker so agency owners can tailor their content to them.” @CharlesPoulson Click To Tweet “Something that all agency owners crave is to understand the person across the table from them.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “Having an abbreviated presentation that is tailored to a specific personality type is much more helpful than handing them the deck you gave to the influencer.” @CharlesPoulson Click To Tweet “One of the things that we do is help agencies find clients that they really like working with.” @CharlesPoulson Click To Tweet “The objective with multiple decision-makers is to make sure that everybody in the room isn’t checked out at the same time.” @CharlesPoulson Click To Tweet

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Agency Management Institute Community, where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money and keep more of what you make. The Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by White Label IQ is packed with insights on how small to mid-size agencies survive and thrive in today’s market. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. Super grateful that you are back with us again, if this is not your first time. And if this is your first time, welcome. For the last almost four years now we’ve been producing a weekly podcast where we try very hard to give agency owners and leaders something new to think about, a different direction, a new idea, a new way of getting something done, maybe a new philosophy or theory, but certainly always try and keep it in the realm of the very practical and the very actionable. And this week’s episode is certainly going to do that.

So some of you may already know this about me, but my actual first major in college was psychology. I wanted to be a therapist and it turns out in some ways I get to use those skills in the work I do today with clients in my agency, and certainly as I work and coach agency owners and leaders inside AMI. But that was really my passion, was I find people fascinating. I love to be helpful and to help people sort things out for themselves. And so that was the first path I went on and someday over a drink, if you want to hear the story of why I didn’t take that path, I’d be happy to tell you the story.

But this episode is sort of near and dear to my heart because we’re going to talk about psychology and the psychology of people, particularly around sales. And so I’ll tell you a little bit more about that in a second, but I’m super excited to talk to our guest today because it’s right up my alley. Before that though, a couple of quick announcements. Number one, I haven’t talked to you for a while about our client’s sweet spot filter.

So I am a firm believer that there are right fit clients out there for every agency. And the more we can clearly identify who those right fits are and find them, the better. We spend less time chasing after people who are a wrong fit, which also will fit into today’s topic, but we’ve developed a tool for you to go out there and figure out exactly what kind of clients are best for your agency, that you are really able to delight over and over and over again. So if you go over to agencymanagementinstitute.com/client-filter, you will find a place where you can download that sweet spot client filter. Super easy to do. It’ll probably take you and a couple of folks, I don’t know, an hour, maybe to get it done. And then I think it’s great fodder for discussion. So I highly recommend that you go and grab that free tool and put it to good use.

All right. So in the vein of psychology, let me tell you a little bit about our guest and what we’re going to talk about today. So one of the things that I think we all know is true from our personal life and our professional life is the more you know somebody, the more you understand how they tick, the more you are able to tailor the way you communicate with them in a way that is going to be best receipt. So it’s not about being authentic. It’s not about being fake. It’s just about understanding how to frame things in a way that gets through the filters, that there are fewer barriers between you and the other person you’re communicating with. But when it comes to sales, when we’re selling to strangers, especially when we are maybe answering an RFP or we are putting together a deck for someone maybe we’ve only met once or twice, now all of a sudden we don’t really have all of those social cues and we don’t have the history with that person. So we tend to default to communicating in the way that perhaps we think would be most effective, or we may communicate in a way that has worked for us in the past, regardless of who we’re communicating to this time.

And so that’s what we’re going to talk about today. We’re going to talk about how do you learn more about a prospect in particular or someone you don’t know very well? And how do you leverage what you learn about them in terms of their personality, to tailor your communications to be more effective, to really resonate with them in their native language, if you will? So our guest today is a gentleman named, Charlie Poulson. And Charlie owns a company called the Americano. So he comes out of, and I’m going to ask him a little bit more about this, but he comes out of big agency experience where he was embedded into their biz dev team. And he learned very early on how to start structuring proposals and presentations in a way that resonated with the audience.

And then recently he has also applied some of his learning and added a Chrome plug-in tool that we’re going to talk about to get even deeper into the psyche of the audience that agencies may be talking to in a new business situation. So this topic is going to be all about psychology, and people, and biz, and presentation. So buckle in, this is going to have a lot of great takeaways for you. And without any further ado, let’s get to Charlie. So without further ado, Charlie, give us the insights, the secrets of how we can know the inner workings of the minds of our prospects. I mean, that is something every agency owner craves, is to understand the person across the table from them literally or figuratively. And you have the solution.

So I know we’ve got everyone sitting at the edge of their seats, or maybe they’ve even paused the treadmill if they’re on the treadmill, because they want to know this. So let’s just jump in. First of all, tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to figure all this out.

Charlie Poulson:

Yes. So my background actually comes from graphic design. And I graduated from Iowa State University and I decided there’s not a whole lot for me in Iowa. I’m just going to go bigger or go home. And I moved to New York city and I went there with just the intention of hitting the pavement and getting like whatever work that I could. And one project in particular fell in my lap where I’d never really had the intention of working with ad agencies before, but this project was being the presentation designer for Ogilvy, had made this new business team. So it was literally just designing PowerPoint and Keynote just for the sole purpose of winning new business.

And while I was there, I learned a lot. One, that people really eight agencies really need really good proposals and two, I’m the type of person where I learn a lot by observing. And so that gave me the opportunity to observe what types of content decision-makers are more receptive to, or what types of content do they not really enjoy and learning from the wins and losses of that new business team and along with other agencies how to best tailor content in order to get the decision that you’re looking for.

So fast forward to today, my visual design studio, Americano almost solely niches down to presentation design for agencies. What’s really unique about it is that we’re not just putting together a PowerPoints and Keynotes, is that we’re actually using artificial intelligence in a way that we can get deeper insights on the decision maker and then be able to use those insights to tailor the content specifically for them, so we can essentially have like a checklist of everything that that person needs in order to make a decision that they feel good about.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So tell us a little bit about how you’re using AI to gather that data and then what insights that data gives you, and then we’ll dig into how you actually weave that into the decisions you make about how to construct a presentation.

Charlie Poulson:

Yeah, so what we do is we use a, it’s like a Google Chrome extension called Crystal, and I’ll send you a link for that. But essentially this extension will work on people’s LinkedIn profiles. What it does is it will take just millions of data points, like from how somebody fills out their bio, a history of their job titles, just quite a few many, many, many data points of when a person is posting and what is public information? And then based off of that, it will tell you their disc personality type. And what’s great about Crystal is that it actually has a section called a conversation coach and it’ll tell you, it’ll give you all these options of like, hey, I want to let’s say, pitch Drew on a sale or something it’ll go through and tell you how to word things that are more specific and tailor to your personality type.

Drew McLellan:

So give me an example of the kind of direction or the kind of coaching or insights that this data set gives you. So what would it tell you to do or not do based on all of the data points about this person?

Charlie Poulson:

So for example, it’s actually interesting. I looked up your personality type before this and you and I are actually both motivators. So that means if I were to prepare myself for a pitch to you, then I would know that for one, you and I are both motivated by having conversations with strangers, which is like this podcast is a very good example of that.

Another thing too with motivators is that if I were to use this conversation coach, it’ll have things like say this, and a list of like do’s and don’ts. So for example some dos would be like joking around a little bit, building that personal rapport.

Drew McLellan:

That’s a do, if you’re trying to sell someone like me. So what you’re saying… Yeah. Okay.

Charlie Poulson:

Yep. So getting more on like a personal-

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Charlie Poulson:

… Sending visual aids through email, or Screen Share like being expressive and like using colorful language, but also trying to keep the conversation focused are some really good tips for trying to converse and sell with a motivator.

On the opposite end, some of the don’ts would be using overly descriptive language or providing too much additional data. Which is really interesting because I see a lot of proposals that will outline all of the data when they’re giving a presentation or a proposal to a CEO, which in most cases CEOs fall within the captain and driver personality type, which is very close to motivators and they actually prefer to make decisions with as little detail as possible.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, right. Let’s just get to it. Right.

Charlie Poulson:

Right. Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, that’s Very accurate. Yeah.

Charlie Poulson:

Yeah. So another few things of what not to do is talking about costs immediately or talking too much about past experience. Whereas if you were on the opposite side of this personality wheel, like let’s say maybe you were an analyst or a skeptic or a questioner, then you would want to know about costs right up front. You would want to know all the small details.

Drew McLellan:

And you’re right. I mean, everything you’ve said, I will say is accurate. I don’t… I really want to know that it’s going to work first and then we’ll deal with the price. But at first I want to feel like it’s actually going to be a tool that I can use to help other people or whatever the discussion is. So that’s accurate. Right.

Charlie Poulson:

Yeah. I think a lot of people will take some of the presentation skills that they learned in elementary and middle school, of like seven bullet points per slide and like sight words for bullet point. Which I think is great for elementary kids and middle schoolers to learn how to make presentations. But I think once you start getting into college and beyond, being able to tailor content based off of someone’s personality type is going to give you a whole lot more direction of, okay, if somebody doesn’t want to hear all the details, let’s not fuss all of the small details and try to jam all those in.

Drew McLellan:

So when you’re doing this for agencies, a lot of times it’s not a single decision maker on the client side or the prospect side, but there’s a small committee of some sort. Right. So how do you use this data when there’s three or four decision makers, or you don’t know who all the decision makers are? So if many agencies use PowerPoint or Keynote as the poor man’s layout software for even written RFIs, right?

Charlie Poulson:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Drew McLellan:

So I’m not actually giving a presentation, I’m just creating a written document and I’m doing it in a visually pleasing, air quotes, visually pleasing PowerPoint. Right. So how do you help clients if you don’t know all the players or if there’s multiple players? Because in theory, if I’m a motivator, but my lieutenant is the opposite side of the personality wheel as you called it, how do you build a deck that suits both of them?

Charlie Poulson:

So let’s go through when you have multiple decision makers [crosstalk 00:14:27]. It’s a lot like conducting an orchestra. So the objective of multiple decision makers is that you want to make sure that not everybody in the room has mentally checked out at the same time, because once everybody’s checked out, it’s really hard to get them back. And you want to tailor certain parts of the content in different ways. So if you have somebody, I mean, for starters, it’s actually quite rare that you’ll have people on opposite ends of the personality wheel in the same room making the same decision.

Drew McLellan:

So they tend to cluster together is what you’re saying.

Charlie Poulson:

Yes. So for example, a lot of CEOs and C-suite level leaders tend to be within the range of as far as architects all the way over to motivators or encouragers. So like you and I fall within that half of the personality wheel. So what’s cool about this wheel is that the way that it’s organized is that there are similarities that overlap each one.

Drew McLellan:

Sure.

Charlie Poulson:

So even if you use the Crystal extension and maybe they used a template to build their LinkedIn profile, so it’s not actually their exact specific personality type, it’s very close to what it is. So there are a few like tactics that you can use to overlap between the two, but essentially yes, it is like a symphony where if you do have people who are on the opposite ends, where maybe upfront you give somebody who doesn’t need a whole lot of details and just needs the overall objective, maybe you give them a summary slide upfront of like, “Hey, here are all of the ideas that you have and the benefits of each one of them.”

Whereas somebody on the opposite end maybe further into the proposal, like you give the actual details they’re asking for in an RFI and that person just needs the high level information, that’s their chance to rest and check out. Whereas like the high level stuff, the person who needs the details, that’s their point to rest and checkout.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So let’s go back to now the construction of the PowerPoint. So when do you recommend, so of agency owners are going to check out Crystal and do you recommend that they do that before they ever meet with a prospect? So they get a phone call, they get an inbound inquiry, they get a referral. And because there are a lot of agencies listening who probably don’t go to the full formal deck proposal every time with a client. Right. So my guess is even for you, sometimes when you’re talking to prospects is really a conversation and a buying decision is made in that conversation. Right. So how do you translate what you do in PowerPoint? So let’s say you were trying to sell me on your services and I’m not asking you for a written proposal. I’m not asking you for a deck. Would you still use the Crystal extension learn about me and then how would that tailor your verbal conversation?

Charlie Poulson:

Yeah, so I think it’s very important to be using Crystal as early as possible, partially because if you don’t somebody then, of course anybody is going to want to know how to speak to a stranger. Right. If I were to not know you and I wanted to be selling to you, then if I don’t even ever get to the proposal phase and I just want to know how to talk to you, then Crystal will guide you through and not only tell you like do’s and don’ts of conversing with you, it’ll also give you templates for emails.

Drew McLellan:

Oh, really?

Charlie Poulson:

Yeah. So part of that whole process of pitching idea, there’s also a lot of in-between of talking on the phone or emailing. And what’s cool about Crystal and I don’t have any obligation to them. I just hated the office thing. What’s really cool about it is that in the conversation coach it’ll give you options like, “I need to call someone, I need to email somebody. I need to make a presentation to them.” So it gives you, it slightly changes depending on the mode of your delivery. So having the options to see if like, okay, if I’m going to email Drew, this is what I’m going to say. This is how long did the call needs to be. This is a good idea for a subject line. That’s going to be different from, okay, I need to call him and I need to keep it focused, but crack a few jokes. So it’s a really good one from the whole entire process.

Drew McLellan:

When you look at the profile of the motivator that you say is who I am, does it say you should call or email or text or carry your pigeon? What does it suggest?

Charlie Poulson:

So it doesn’t give a recommendation per se of communication. However, if you have somebody who just really likes to cut to the chase and doesn’t like to go into deep personal conversations, then you know that sometimes communicating our ideas is just faster by calling someone, or if you know that they’re busy and it’s not something that they need to take immediate action, then emailing somebody but keeping it brief would probably be a better recommendation.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So part of this is understanding their communication style. How does that actually translate into a deck? Because what you’ve talked about is not specific to a visual presentation. So how do you marry what in terms of how to make effective presentations with this insight to your audience to actually make decisions around? Because I talk to a lot of agency search consultants, I talk to a lot of agency owners, and I’ve seen a lot of presentation decks and a lot of them are not awesome. Right?

Charlie Poulson:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

So how do you translate this insight into the actual deliverable that is the deck?

Charlie Poulson:

What we do is we take the information from Crystal and based off of our experience prior to Crystal, we used to look at presentation design either from a left or right brain perspective, which we know that left or right brain thinking isn’t particularly as specific as we would like it to be. So this left and right brain starts to become more of left side of the wheel, right side of the wheel. And then based off of that, even deeper into what part of the other then. So what we do is we take our expertise from the left and right brain thinking, and we went through and looked at every single personality type and determined, okay, what are the top three things that this personality type needs to make a decision? And then what does that look like in terms of the type of content and how that content is designed and what order the content is designed?

So for example, a really good way to look at this is we know that CEOs are typically like captain drivers, but a lot of the times a CEO is actually not in the room for a proposal. And it’s actually somebody else who might be, the chief marketing officer. In which case a lot of the time they are the influencer personality type. So while captains and drivers kind of need a summary slide to see all of the ideas and not a whole lot of details, an influencer needs a lot of imagery and conceptual ideas and understanding the emotional impact that a change has on people. So translating it into design, let’s say for an influencer, the type of content that would change would be okay, we’re going to use a lot more visuals video if we have it and if it’s possible and we’re going to trim down the text as much as possible, make the text huge and then changing how it’s presented.

So instead of the typical proposal set up where it’s like, okay, here’s our opening slide, our agenda slide, and section one, two, three, an influencer has to think about that proposal as a story. So the organization of that proposal might be something where it’s like a movie plot, right, where you start out with a problem and then there’s an emotional drop. And then you hit rock bottom so that they can go on that emotional ride with you and then bring them back up of like, okay, and here’s our solution. And here’s how this would impact other people if you were to make this decision.

Drew McLellan:

So in the example you’re giving, in this case the director of marketing or the CMO is going to have to sell to their CEO, right? So it’s a two layered sale, which it often is for agencies. You have to sell the buyer, the prospect, but then they have to get somebody to approve the budget, the agency choice, whatever that is. So if the person you’re actually presenting to is as you said, an influencer, so they want to go on this story arc, but they’re going to also take your deck then and use it to get their boss, typically the CEO or COO perhaps to approve the expenditure and the agency choice, how do you build a deck that satisfies both audiences, especially if the influencer is going to have to be the sales person? You’re not going to be probably in that second meeting where the CMO is pitching his or her choice of agencies to whoever controls the purse strings.

Charlie Poulson:

Right. So one way to do this is thinking of it as when you get on like Hulu or Netflix and you’re going to watch a series and you zip through and be like, “Okay, like how many episodes are there?” And you can tell from the previews and the thumbnails of the episodes what’s about to come. So in that case, you might also include just a quick summary, like a five page marks summary of that proposal that they can then take and give to their CEO. A lot of what you would do for an influencer is talking through and building that story verbally. So having an abbreviated version to give to somebody that is more tailored to their personality type would be much more helpful than just handing off the deck that you gave to the influencer.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So what you’re saying is I would in essence develop two decks, one that I would actually use in the presentation with the CMO type, and then I would have a tailored version that is more built for what I know, because I’ve used Crystal or my assumption that because they’re a CEO, they’re more of a captain or a driver. So I would give them a different version of the deck to sell up the food chain.

Charlie Poulson:

Right. So you would essentially give them a super short version because what usually happens when you email a proposal or you hand it off to somebody and you don’t have control over how that is pitched, most likely they’re going to just zip straight to the cost page, and just make a decision from there of whether it’s an insultingly low amounts for it’s just way too much.

So by having this shortened version to be like, “Hey, here’s what it is at a glance,” then that mentally prepares them for if they want it to look at the full version of the deck, then they would have that precursor of like, “Okay, I know how many episodes are in this series and I know exactly what to expect.”

Drew McLellan:

Okay. So I want to ask you a little more about that. And I want to ask how you present the different deck. I want to talk about the talk trac