Welcome to the MSP Marketing Podcast with me, Paul Green. This is THE show if you want to grow your MSP. This week’s show includes:
00:00 Improve your productivity by eliminating ‘noise’
07:00 Sell more by uncovering prospects’ pain points
13:40 Communicate effectively with your non-technical prospects
Thank you to professional speaker and communications expert Don Colliver, for joining me to talk about how MSPs can sell more by communicating their knowledge and expertise more effectively with non-technical people.
Don Colliver writes and delivers technical presentations at technology conferences including CES, RSA, Black Hat, and Dreamforce for companies including Adobe, Cisco, DisplayLink, and Varonis. He teaches technical public speaking internally at Google and around the world. He will be speaking at the 2023 Toastmasters International Convention in the Bahamas.
Don toured internationally as a theatrical Clown for contemporary circus company Spiegelworld (producer of Absinthe) and performed with the Blue Man Group. Don won the 2017 Toastmasters International District One Tall Tales Speech Championship and he recently released the #1 bestselling book Wink: Transforming Public Speaking with Clown Presence.
Don graduated from Boston University and holds certificates in Cybersecurity, Design Thinking, and Instructional Design.
Connect with Don on LinkedIn:
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Fresh every Tuesday for MSPs around the world, this is Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast.
Good day and greetings to you. Here’s what we got coming up in this week’s show.
Hey, my name is Don Colliver, former Blue Man and touring professional clown, but now I’m a technical public speaking trainer at Google and professional speaker at various cybersecurity events. And if you’re wondering about how to keep your non-technical audience or person you’re speaking to, prospect, engaged, when you’re delivering a technical solution, listen up.
That’s my special guest this week, Don Colliver. Now you’ve heard of the Blue Man Group, right? Well, he used to be in that and he was a professional clown, and now he teaches technical people like you how to give presentations to non-technical people.
We’re also going to be looking at smart questions and different levels of questioning, ways that you can get better answers, answers to help you sell more to your prospects.
Paul Green’s MSP Marketing podcast.
But we’re going to kick off this week by talking about … Oh, sorry, hang on a second. I’ve just got a notification on my phone. I just need to just deal with. Hang … Don’t go away. Two sec. Yeah. Okay, right. Yeah, that’s all dealt with. Sorry. The thing we’re going to start talking about … Okay, hang on. Sorry. There’s just a knock at the door. Hang. Don’t go anywhere. Hang on. Yes? Yeah. What? Oh. All right, we’ll just sort it out. All right. It’s okay. Sorry. Sorry, sorry, sorry about that. Sorry. Oh, hang on. I’ve just got another notification. I’m just going to deal with the …
You get the idea, right? What we’re talking about here is noise. Noise versus real work. Notifications, knock at the doors, the telephone ringing, your PSA pinging away Teams, Teams notifications, about all notifications. All of this is noise.
And the problem is, business owners like you and me, business managers, we have a much more important job to do than dealing with noise. Don’t get me wrong. Someone’s got to deal with the tickets, right? And they’ve got to answer the phones and deal with the problems. “We haven’t got any milk. How are we going to have a cup of tea?” I know someone somewhere has got to deal with that, but why should it be you? Because you are the most capable person in the business, right?
You are. If you started the business or if you’re running that business today, you are the most capable person in the business. So why is it? And this isn’t just MSPs, this is all businesses. Why is the most capable person being constantly dragged down to deal with the smallest jobs?
Because as the business owner, you have to deal with all levels of problems. So you’ve got to placate the unhappy client that represents 27% of your revenue. And then 10 minutes later, you’ve got to fix the fact that there’s no toilet paper in the building, right? Maybe you’re loving along with this because this is your life, but actually it’s quite serious because this stuff is noise.
Notifications are almost the easiest noise to deal with. You’ve got do not disturbs. You’ve got various notification things. I was actually faking my phone have notifications because I have very few notifications on my phone. I have an iPhone and the vast majority of my apps are set to not be allowed to notify, including WhatsApp. So most of my WhatsApp notifications, I love WhatsApp. I’m on WhatsApp. When I’m on WhatsApp, I’m on WhatsApp. I use it a lot. But the vast majority of people who WhatsApp me, I don’t see their notifications. There’s just two or three of my key members of my team.
And the reason for that is I’m happy for a key member of my team to interrupt my day because we’ve set boundaries of what that is. And it’s where normally a big project requires my input. But if it’s my mother messaging me about something minor like, “Please, can I have a birthday list for child’s birthday?” It’s like, okay, fine. That’s not important. If I’m in the middle of something, that’s not important. That can wait until I’m ready to go and get that message.
It’s the same with my Uber Eats notifications. I want that on when there’s a delivery coming my way, but the rest of the time I don’t want their promotional nonsense.
So notifications are kind of the easy noise to deal with. But there’s other noise. There’s client noise. There’s family noise. There’s definitely staff noise. Your challenge is to take all of your noise and put it into a box. And what I mean by that is partitioning it away, taking all of the noise and collecting it and putting it away.
Now, I don’t believe I am the world’s most productive person. There’s always more things you can do, but I consider myself to be quite productive. And one of the things I do very well is partition noise away. So my emails, my WhatsApps, my general, I just need to check on notifications and messages, I’ll do that perhaps first thing in the morning, definitely last thing at the end of the day, just to check I haven’t missed anything, and then maybe two, depending on what I’m doing, two or three times during the day where I’ll check in.
And actually you might look at it and say, “Well, if there’s 25 emails there, Paul, surely there’s a lot to do.” But the reality is, of those 25 emails, there’s probably only three that have some substance to them, something that you’ve got to do. All the rest of them are just noise. And if you delete them as they come in or read them and delete them as they come in, that’s actually less efficient than doing it all in one go because that noise is kind wearing you down. You’ve got a finite amount of energy each day and that noise is wearing you down.
It’s the same with staff interruptions. I remember working with an MSP called Murray a number of months ago, and we were talking about the fact that he sits in an office and his staff can see him and they come and they’re knocking on the door and they’re saying to him, “Murray,” and insert minor thing that doesn’t really matter here.
So he introduced something called Murray time, M time, and Murray time was where they would have access to him for 30 minutes, I think it was like two or three sessions a day of 30 minutes. And the rest of the time they couldn’t interrupt him. So he had a sign on his door saying probably something rude, please go away. Do not interrupt unless the building is on fire. So he could get on with the things that he had to do, which were much more important things, things like quotes, proposals, selling, building his marketing, building the business. But there were 30 minutes a day.
So what he was doing, he was gathering all of their nonsense, and Murray did have to deal with a lot of nonsense from his team. He was gathering it into, here’s 30 minutes here, here’s 30 minutes here, here’s 30 minutes here. And just gathering all the noise together.
There were lots of other different things that you could do, but I think the key thing is you as the business owner must never allow the noise to dictate when you can get on with the real work. It should be the other way round. The real work should dictate when you stop and deal with the noise.
How do you do it in your MSP? I would love to know. Either go into our Facebook group and let us know. It’s the MSP Marketing Facebook group, or you can always drop me an email, email@example.com.
Here’s this week’s clever idea.
One of the easiest ways to both bring on board brand new clients and also to sell more to your existing clients is to really understand them and to understand what pain they are in. Now, everyone is in some level of pain in some way all the time, and I hope that’s not physical pain for you. Well, I don’t really mean physical pain that we’re feeling ow, but I mean pain within the business.
So if you think about your business right now, what are your pain points? What’s hurting you right now? What’s causing you distress? If you could wave a magic wand and change something in your business right now, what would that thing be and how would you change it? What would you change it into? If you wake at four in the morning because you need a wee and you get back into bed and you can’t go to sleep, what work things are preying on your mind at four in the morning?
All the questions I was just asking you there are great questions to ask of your prospects and of your existing clients because what we’re trying to do with those kinds of questions is we’re trying to find out what their pains are.
You will make more money and you’ll have a much happier client set who stay with you for longer, which that’s the goal, right? You will make more money if you can spend your life uncovering people’s pains and then finding ways to get rid of their pains for them.
In fact, people are much more motivated to spend money and to invest time and resource to make a pain go away than they are to gain something of pleasure. Let me put that another way. It’s easier to get someone to part with their money and to make a commitment to remove a pain versus them adding some extra pleasure to their life.
And that’s great news for MSPs because that’s essentially what you do. I know that you are here for all the positive reasons to make them more productive and help them achieve their goals and all of that. But actually there’s a lot of pain removal in there as well. You make sure that they never have the pain of losing data, they never have the pain of ransomware, they never have all of those other pains and things that can completely destroy their business or just even hold them back and make their staff complain.
Staff complaining all the time is pain. And we were just talking about that, weren’t we? It’s noise and that noise is pain. So you’ve got kind of an opportunity to you to really explore with prospects and with existing clients, their pain points. Take some of those open questions I was asking earlier, and that’s the key to this, is open questions.
So you know the difference between open questions and closed questions, right? I’ll just recap it just so we’re all on the same level. A closed question is where there’s a finite number of answers. Are you … No, here we go. Did you have breakfast this morning? Did you have breakfast this morning? It’s yes or no. So that’s a closed question because there’s just two options. But then if I say to you, what did you have for breakfast? That’s an open question. You could have absolutely any answer in there.
And the trick to uncovering pain points, well, there’s two tricks to it. One is asking open questions. The second thing is asking open questions about the answers. So for example, if I said, “If you could wave a magic wand and change anything about your business, what would that be and what would you change?” So let’s say they say, “Oh, I’m fed up with my staff complaining. It just drives me mad. I’d wave a magic wand, I wouldn’t have staff, and all the problems would go,” and you and your prospect or your client would laugh because it’s a shared thing amongst business owners that we’d much rather clone ourselves in a laboratory than take staff on.
But that science doesn’t exist yet. So you have a laugh about it, and then you ask a follow-up question, another open question. Can you give me an example of something a member of your team has done that’s frustrated you? Can you give me an example of something a member of your team has done that’s frustrated you? It’s a deeper level of question on the same subject. And then they give you an example. It doesn’t really matter what it is. And then you ask them a follow-up question on that and you say, “So how did that impact you?” Again, it’s another open question. The answer could be anything. How did that impact you?
And you could then take that even further. What do you think would stop that pain from happening again? Or what do you think would stop that problem from happening again? And this is what I mean by deeper levels of questions.
This was something I was taught at journalism school in the mid-90s when I became a newspaper reporter. They taught me to ask a question, but then always dive into deeper levels. So take the answer someone gave and explore it and push and open it up and ask always, always open questions because you tended to get the better answers, the deeper the level of questions.
Now, you don’t have to be trained to do this. You can take exactly what I was talking about there and just whenever someone gives you an answer, you just explore the answer more. But you’ve got to remember you’re doing it in the context of trying to find their pain.
Pain is everything. Pain is an amazing sales tool because you more than anyone else on this planet have the ability to take their pain away, and they will give you great, huge amounts of money if you can do that.
Paul’s blatant plug.
I mentioned earlier that we have this Facebook group. It’s for all MSPs. It’s the MSP Marketing Facebook group, vendor-free zone by the way. Good place to go and discuss your marketing with like-minded individuals and me because I’m in that group every single day. I’ve actually got it up here on my phone. Yeah, it’s a little bit of noise, but I’m looking at it right now just to give you an idea of some of the content you can get in there.
So we’ve got here an off-topic thread. What are you most looking forward to doing this weekend? That’s a good one. Give an example of how you build trust with your leads and prospects. That was a good conversation. We got something about, what’s that? It’s about one thing for you to think about. Oh, it’s about exercise. Yeah, it was something I saw in a promotional email that was sent to me about the value of exercise. We’ve got a vendor love thread here. We’ve got something about webcams and improving them. Here’s something about Facebook jail. Have you heard of that? It’s where you get Facebook slapped for doing content. We’re talking about KPIs for marketing activities, Google Ads for MSPs. Thumbs up or thumbs down on that? There’s absolutely … Oh, here we go. It’s a make money Monday in this post. What’s your most important marketing activity this week to grow your MSP?
Look, if you are not yet a member, it’s completely free. As I say, there are no vendors so you can talk quite openly about your marketing and get advice from me. And there’s around about, I think nearly 2000 other MSPs around the world.
So grab your phone, go into Facebook, type in MSP marketing at the top, make sure you go to groups and you’ll see it there. A couple of easy questions to answer. My team will just check you are really an MSP and let you in. And I look forward to talking to you in the Facebook group.
The big interview.
Hey everybody. I am Don Colliver. I’m a professional speaker and trainer and I’m passionate about helping technical folks connect with their audiences.
And isn’t that something that every MSP should be absolutely throwing themselves into? How do technical people connect to ordinary folk, ordinary business owners and managers who hopefully will go on to buy from you at some point? Tell us a little bit about your background, Don, because you’ve done some really interesting things over the years.
Yeah. Well, first of all, thanks so much for having me here. It’s great to be on the podcast. Yeah, right now I teach public speaking and technical public speaking at Google. I’m in Silicon Valley, I’m in Redwood City up the street from Mountain View, and I also speak at a lot of cybersecurity conferences. I just wrapped up RSA and then I’m heading to Black Hat in a couple months.
But prior to that, I was a professional clown and a Blue Man, and I was a clown for a company called Spiegelworld. They have a show called Absinthe at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. If you’ve been to any Vegas trade shows, you may have been to Absinthe. It’s a little Absinthe, it’s a little bit racy, kind of a burlesque type show.
The clown work I’ve done is not your typical red nose. It’s a little bit more provocative. But I think the crossover, what I’m passionate about is the work I’ve done in my performance and as well as what I’m doing now, it’s all about how can I connect and engage better with audiences and how can I help folks engage better with their audiences.
Yes. And before we talk about any of that, we’ve got to talk about Blue Man Group. So how long does it take to … Well, for anyone that doesn’t know what Blue Group is, Blue Man Group is, you’ve got to go and google it. I mean, I can’t imagine there’s many people who haven’t heard of it, but how long does it take to get ready for a show?
It doesn’t take that long. It’s just a big tub of grease paint. You just put a bald head wig on and then slop it on and you get pretty good at it after a few times.
I guess the question then is, how long does it take to get it off before you can go home afterwards?
Well, I guess the answer is it never really completely comes off. There’s always little edges of it around.
Yeah. And how long did you do that for?
Not very long. I was just in New York for a few months, but I had trained for over a year. It’s a very selective process. I was in an audition of hundreds in Los Angeles and I was just one of two that made it through that. Then they send only five or six people to New York every year to train. And of those five or six, only a couple make it through.
I went out to … I was training all year in what they call drum school, because if you’ve seen the Blue Man show, there’s a lot of drumming and very fast drumming and they play these tube instruments. I’ve never done that stuff before. So I spent a long time in drum school training, learning how to drum, and then I had to learn those tube instruments. And that’s even just to get there and begin to learn the show and the character. So there’s quite a bit of preparation to get ready.
Yes, yes. I can imagine there is. Okay, back to technical presentations then. So what’s the issue? What’s the risk that, and I should declare, I’m not a technical person. I’m a marketer who now is very happy inside a technical world, the channel, the world of managed service providers. But the vast majority of people that I speak to on a day-to-day basis are technical people who’ve started their own business and have realized at some point with utter horror that they need to get good at sales and marketing. And that’s pretty much my niche, my niche in a sentence there. So what’s the issue with talking technically to non-technical people?
Well, first of all, we’re birds of the same feather. I also am leaning more towards the marketing side, but I will say I’ve never worked in IT, but I’m a long time, I guess we can call ourselves nerds now back in the Apple IIe days. I was just talking with a friend the other day. This must be the nerdiest fight ever. I once got into a fight in high school over which was better, the Apple IIe or the Commodore 128. We had a literal fist fight. That’s the level of nerd we’re talking about, but-
That is quite impressive.
Yes, very impressive. The biggest challenge I think for technical folks, especially MSP owners who maybe in the past had been IT folks that were working running lines and fixing problems and stuff like that, when you’re communicating to someone without your technical background, there can be a breakdown in communication because it’s hard. They call it the curse of knowledge. It’s hard to remember what it feels like to not know something. And it’s hard to speak from that point of view.
And you need to be able to do that if you are marketing to a non-technical person. You need to be able to shift into their shoes and explain in that way, rather than speaking over their head and getting frustrated that they don’t understand. Or like when my parents call with computer problems, sometimes I get really frustrated, and that’s because I’m not seeing it from their perspective. It takes a little work to be able to do that.
But we, all of us by default, assume that other people have the same knowledge that we have.
Exactly. Exactly. And unfortunately, there’s a not necessarily true stereotype of the technical person who’s like, “Come on, did you reboot it? Geez. You got to … ” We have to surmount that point of view.
Yeah, yeah, completely. Now, I can’t remember which book I read this in, and it was possibly The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. There’s a wonderful sentence that stayed in my head all these years, and I think I’m summarizing what you do with this sentence, which is to influence what John Smith buys, you must look through John Smith’s eyes. Is that essentially what you teach technical people to do?
Look at that. It’s got a rhyme in it and everything. Of course, that’s a perfect little marketing. Yeah, that’s exactly what we’re talking about. And there’s a lot of different methods to do that, but that’s the basic goal.
Okay, so talk us through, and let’s set some context for this. I know you teach how to speak or how to present, and for some of the bigger clients like Google that you work with, I can see how that will be relevant. I think for the average MSP, they’re not doing a lot of public speaking, but they are talking, the vast majority of the time they’re talking to non-technical people and their technicians are talking to non-technical people. So talk us through some of the techniques that you use to help people come out of their own point of view and moving to that other person’s point of view.
I think it all starts with three questions. And I think if you start with these questions and really, really answer them, you’re going to be okay. The first question is, who are you talking to? And under that, I mean, what is their level of expertise? What definitions do you have to provide? How into the weeds can you go? So first question, who are you talking to?
Second question, simple, what do you want them to do? If it’s to purchase something, some kind of binary sentence of like, “This is how I will know if my communication is successful.” And then if you can hold that sentence up to every part of your sales demo or webinar or whatever, you can quickly find out if something needs to be in there, if it’s not directly helping you get them to do what you want them to do.
And lastly, the most important one, this is what we’ve been talking about, is what’s in it for them? Meaning what’s the context for them? What problem of theirs is your solution solving? It’s not how clever your solution is or how hard you worked on it. It’s what problem of theirs is it solving?
And I like that you used the word context a minute ago because people throw around storytelling, people throw around narrative, people throw around context. And I’m really curious about what does that mean in terms of a technical person or in terms of a business owner. Am I really going to tell the hero’s journey about Luke Skywalker leaving Tatooine? Is that really helpful for me?
And I think sometimes the word context is a little bit more appropriate for what we’re talking about for MSP owners. And for me, context means defining the person’s problem, defining the drivers of that problem, and then defining the impacts of that problem, but all from the customer or prospect’s point of view, and spending some time on that before you get into that meeting of what are the things driving this problem for this person? Because if you’re not on the same page about the drivers, the problem and the impact, they’re not going to be listening to what you have to say.
Yes, completely. And I think what’s exciting is as an MSP, once you’ve figured that out once, every single conversation you have with non-technical people it’s a variety of exactly the same conversation. So you sit down with three businesses, A, B, and C. Business A could have 200 employees, 200 users, business B could have 50, and business C could have 5. But they’ll all have variations of exactly the same problems.
And interestingly, none of those are really technical problems. And I think from the MSP’s point of view, it’s really easy to listen to someone say, “Oh, it’s really difficult for us to work from home,” or, “It’s really difficult to find where we’ve put files or share things effectively.” And immediately the MSP is thinking, “Oh, you need a SharePoint solution,” or you need this solution or that solution. And actually the challenge is to jump away from thinking what’s the technical solution to thinking into why is this person having this problem? What’s a better workflow? And then, only then, how are we actually going to enable that workflow?
What kind of work do you do to help people get into that mindset and to start to add that kind of context and think about that?
Well, it’s funny, I’m actually working on a curriculum right now for a company that we’re going to do an in-person training, and I actually do it in class in a very fun way because my background is comedy improv clown, and I set up small groups to build these. I also use something called Barbara Minto’s Pyramid Principle. It’s a McKinsey consulting way for businesses to present solutions to problems. And it’s a very logical way. It’s not a sales type of thing. It’s more just a very clear way of presenting a problem. And that’s the way we structure it and present the problem. And then we also get into context.
But the way I teach it is I have say, a group present to … They’re selling, trying to get a group onboard with internet connected computer, but the class is all vampires. Okay? So they need to think through, the small group needs to think that what are the vampires’ problems? What are the drivers of those problems? What are the impacts of those problems? How can this internet connected computer fit into their perspective? And then they need to present a three-minute demo or pitch, not a demo, to get the rest of us vampires on board. And then of course, we get to ask questions and give them a bunch of trouble. But I think it really kind of makes the rubber hit the road for some of these questions.
Yeah, yeah. I love that. I guess the biggest problem for a vampire is how do they get their Fangbook profile set up?
Oh, come on, Paul.
Oh my God. Come on.
It’s my podcast.
I’m stealing that. That’s brilliant.
I can do the dad jokes. I can do the dad jokes.
Tell us a little bit about specifically what you can do to help smaller businesses with this kind of context. So for people listening right now who are thinking, “Hey, this guy could help me,” what can you do to help and how can we get in touch with you?
Well, what I can do to help is small group classes, virtual classes. It’s very much experiential, hands-on, just kind of like that vampire exercise. I give you the framework, and then we do it. That’s I think the most important thing, because as you know from this podcast, could there be more books on this stuff? No. There’s endless books, endless perspectives of saying the same thing. But I think doing it and getting peer feedback is invaluable.
This has been the game changer for me at Google for my students at Google, simply not just for me, who I’m less of a person telling you what’s right and wrong. I’m more of a facilitator of what’s in the way of your messaging right now. And I’m reaching out to the other folks in the class, the peers to be like, “This isn’t going to work in front of a VP or a C-Suite.”
So yes, small group classes. I do coaching, one-on-one coaching. Yeah, I’m uncomfortable pitching myself to be honest. I just enjoy doing this stuff. So if somebody wants to tune up their getting over that curse of knowledge, just check out winktechtalks.com and reach out to me and happy to help.
Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast. This week’s recommended book.
Hey, this is Grant Baldwin, founder of the Speak Lab, host of the Speak Lab podcast. Hey, the book I’d encourage you to check out is called The Road Less Stupid by Keith Cunningham. Now, it is a broken up in a bunch of different chapters that it’s easy to kind of bounce around, choose your own adventure, easy to digest. The thing that I like about the book though is there is a lot of questions, a dozen questions at the end of each chapter that just gives you time to think. And so as entrepreneurs, it’s helpful to just stop and to reflect, and Keith shared some really, really practical wisdom and business advice. So definitely check it out, The Road Less Stupid.
Coming up next week.
Amazingly, we have reached 200 episodes, and next week we’re going to look at five times that this podcast has changed an MSP’s life. Join me next Tuesday and have a very profitable week in your MSP.
Made in the UK for MSPs around the world, Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast.