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EP 296: Putting The Humanity Back In Sales With Lawyer Autumn Witt Boyd

In This Episode:

  • How attorney Autumn Witt Boyd discovered that she’d over-automated the sales process for her law firm
  • The adjustments that she made to get her sales process back on track—and why she chose to put a human touch on it
  • What steps a potential new clients goes through in Autumn’s hybrid sales system
  • How her values are reflected in the way her business does sales now

We all have a story about a bad salesperson.

Ask my husband about buying a car and he’ll tell you about the time he and his ex-wife got trapped in a user car lot when they refused to make an offer on a car that was well over their budget.

It’s cliche—but true.

If this is the kind of story you think about when you think about sales, it’s no wonder that selling your own products or services would be a challenge.

But this is not what your sales system needs to look like to be effective.

You can be a kind, generous, and human sales person and be incredibly effective.

This month, we’re talking sales.

We’re going to get into the human side of sales in a minute or two. But first, I think we need to make an important distinction here: marketing is not sales. Sales is not marketing.

Can there be overlap? Sure. Does one often support the other? You bet.

But marketing and sales are not the same thing.

In fact, an intentional, proven sales system is often one of the missing pieces of a business that almost works—but isn’t quite there.

You can’t market your butt off and expect it to just materialize into purchases—you have to sell.

So then, what is sales?

Sales is the system that presents the offer, answers any questions or objections, and then makes the ask and closes the deal.

Sales tends to happen a little more behind the scenes—which is why it’s one of the more misunderstood parts of running a small business. It often happens in an email, on the phone, or even in person.

Our goal for this series on sales is to demystify the process and give you a look at what really works when it comes to selling your service, your program, or your product. We’re even going to take a look at sales through a feminist or anti-capitalist lens.

To kick things off, I thought it was fitting to talk with a lawyer—another profession known for their sales techniques… about how she moved away from impersonal, automated sales processes and into a more human way of selling—and why that generated better results for her firm.

Today, I’m talking with my friend Autumn Witt Boyd, the founder of The AWB Firm, which specializes in helping online business owners protect what they’ve built.

Autumn and I talk about why she started tinkering with her sales process in the first place, the speed bumps she experienced along the way, why her sales process ended up too automated, and how she’s taken a more human approach and actually gotten much better results.

Now, let’s find out what works for Autumn Witt Boyd!

Autumn Witt Boyd: We really value taking care of people and being really responsive, and helpful. We value really high quality legal work. We're not a trademark mill. We're pretty hands on, and so I wanted to make sure that they got a sense of that right away.

Tara McMullin: Ask my husband about buying a car, and he'll tell you about the time he and his ex wife got trapped in a used car lot when they refused to make an offer on a car that was well over their budget. It's cliché, but it's true. Now, if this is the kind of story you think about when you think about sales, it's no wonder that selling your own products or services would be a challenge, but this is not what your sales system needs to look like to close the deal. You can be a kind, generous, and human salesperson, and be incredibly effective. I'm Tara McMullin and this is What Works, the show that takes you behind the scenes to show you what's really working as real small business owners take decisive action to build stronger businesses.

Tara McMullin: This month, we're talking sales. We're going to get into the human side of sales in a minute or two, but first, I think we need to make an important distinction here. Marketing is not sales, and sales is not marketing. Can there be overlap? Sure. Does one often support the other? You bet, but marketing and sales are not the same thing. In fact, an intentional proven sales system is often one of the missing pieces of a business that almost works but isn't quite there yet. You can't just market your butt off and expect it to materialize into purchases. You have to sell. So then, what is sales?

Tara McMullin: Sales is the system that presents the offer, answers any underlying questions or objections, and then makes the ask and closes the deal. Sales tends to happen a little more behind the scenes, which is why it's one of the more misunderstood parts of running a small business. It often happens in an email, on the phone, or even in person. Our goal for this series on sales is to demystify the process and give you a look at what really works when it comes to selling your service, your program, or your product. We're even going to take a look at sales through a feminist or anticapitalist lens. To kick things off, I thought it was fitting to talk with a lawyer. Another profession known for their sales techniques about how she moved away from impersonal, automated sales processes and into a more human way of selling, and why that generated better results for her firm.

Tara McMullin: Today I'm talking with my friend, Autumn Witt Boyd, the founder of the AWB Firm, which specializes in helping online business owners protect what they've built. Autumn and I talk about why she started tinkering with her sales process in the first place, the speed bumps she experienced along the way, why her sales process ended up too automated, and how she's taken a more human approach and actually gotten better results. Now, let's find out what works for Autumn Witt Boyd. Autumn Witt Boyd, welcome back to What Works. Thank you so much for joining me to day.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Thank you for having me, Tara.

Tara McMullin: Absolutely. All right, so we're going to talk about your sales process and how that sales process has evolved, but I think to set the stage for that, we need to learn about what your sales process used to look like. So, tell us about how you used to do sale at your law firm and why you realized it needed to change.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. So, I'm in year five of running the law firm now, and in the very beginning of course I had no help. So, the sales process was me answering every email and jumping on calls, or doing whatever needed to be done, but as we grew I now have support so I had a business manager who's still with me. Her name is Brooke, and I realized that I was spending way too much time on sales because I really enjoyed it. I can spend an hour crafting the perfect response email to someone who sends me a bunch of questions. The first thing I did was ask Brooke to help me, and I realized later when I asked Brooke to take a personality assessment, she is in the DiSC assessment an S. She is a lover, she is a caretaker, she has a really hard time saying no to people and sales was just not a great fit for her personality. We realized that pretty quickly.

Autumn Witt Boyd: So, I took it back over and I realized I was in a mastermind at the time with a great coach who was encouraging me to automate a lot of things. We worked on automating the sales process, and I think we took it about five steps too far into automation. That's what I really realized last year, so we're recording this in 2020. This was 2019. I don't even know what year it is anymore.

Tara McMullin: No one wants to relive any of these years.

Autumn Witt Boyd: I know. Yeah, so we automated everything. We use a CRM, a customer relationship management tool, that's just for lawyers so don't ask me what it is because it's not great and I wouldn't recommend it, but it works with our law practice management software. So, we use that and it has automated followups, and you can have a bunch of canned responses in there, and you can just set it and it just goes. I had the person on my team who now helps me with marketing, her name is Sarah Cate, she has her own business. She's an entrepreneur. She's great at sales, so I kind of handed it off to her to run the automations, and after about six months, the inquiries that were making it to me had really dropped. Our number of sales calls booked had just fallen off a cliff, and I frankly had not been monitoring it that carefully. I knew Sarah Cate was competent. I had put it in her lap.

Autumn Witt Boyd: So, that was definitely on me for not monitoring it more carefully, but when I took a look at this and I knew our numbers were down, I went and looked at the emails that were going out, and they were incredibly impersonal. So, we had these canned responses for different types of inquiries like if you want a copyright, you get this one, if you want a contract, you get this one but what we had taken out was actually responding to people's questions. People don't usually just email us and say, "I need a contract." They say, "What do you think about this?" Or, "Can I do X, Y, Z?" So, we had just automated it to a point where it was very cold and even though the canned responses were good, you looked at the inquiry and you looked at the canned response, and it just was a total mismatch. So, I think people were totally turned off by that, which I would be too. That is what was not working, to answer that question. Yeah.

Tara McMullin: Okay, that's perfect because I think a lot of people, whether they're doing that more high touch sales which I think is where we're going, or even doing digital product sales, the trend has been toward automation and automation is not always the solution. I think that people find themselves in that position of, "Oh, crap. This is not working. This doesn't feel good." So actually before we get into how things started to shift and what kind of changes you made, I'd love to get inside your head a little bit.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Oh gosh.

Tara McMullin: Maybe even inside your heart a little bit too, because I was just having a conversation just yesterday with a business owner. They were like, "I have a confession to make. I did this thing. I don't like it, and I've been doing it for a long time now, and I just got to get that off my chest. Can we talk about how to change this?" So anyhow, I'd love to hear, what was going on in your head while you're reading these emails and you're like, "Oh, this isn't right." Also, how did it make you feel?

Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. Oh, I felt terrible. I had a pit in my stomach when I was reading through them, and by the way, these emails are all quote, unquote, "Signed from me." The canned responses. So to take it one step further. Yeah, I just felt like it's their first interaction with our firm and just to give you, we are not a high volume firm. We are very high touch. We take really a lot of pride in our customer process, and we just love on our clients, and we like to answer all their questions and just make sure that they feel really good about working with us. Then this was the first interaction with us. I was like, "Of course no one was wanting to have a call with me," because I wasn't acting in the way that the whole rest of our client process is. It was just a total mismatch. So, yeah. I felt horrible.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. I appreciate the vulnerability in admitting that because like I said, I just think it's where so many other people are or have been. What was the first thing that you changed when you decided, okay, something has got to give here? Something has got to happen?

Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah, well and I'll tell you the reason we went to automation. The problem we were trying to solve was that I was spending too much time on sales and I felt like I needed to be spending time on other things. I looked at my schedule and we had in the interim fixed a lot of our other internal processes, so now that wasn't a problem anymore. I had more time because I wasn't spending time on other things that had been not well. Not really automated, but now we have checklists, and we have a lot of followup processes and all those things. So, that was all now off my plate. I sat down with Brooke, the business manager I mentioned. Also, the other thing was Sarah Cate, she really leads our marketing effort. She does a ton of writing, she does all of our social media posts, she does all of our graphics. So, I think that was part of the problem too was that she didn't have a ton of bandwidth for the sales.

Autumn Witt Boyd: I looked at the team and who had more bandwidth, and we just kind of shifted things around, and it turned out Brooke had more bandwidth. Now remember, Brooke is not great at sales, so now we tag team. Every inquiry that comes in, she is very good at followup, very good at process and checking things off a list. I am not great at that, so what she does is she does a first review now of every inquiry we get, which is usually by email. Even if they send us the contact form from our website, it comes by email. Or if it's a referral, it comes by email, so she gives it a first look and then she bugs me about it to get my eyes on it, because I can usually in two minutes say, "Send this," or, "Do that." Instead of me spending an hour crafting the perfect response, she can spend 10 minutes crafting a response because she's not invested the way I am. She's still invested and wants to take care of people, but I don't know, I just feel like I spend way too much time on it.

Autumn Witt Boyd: So now I spend a little time but I give her guidance. Either, "Oh, I recognize this person's name, so let's be sure to make it really friendly," or, "Thank the referral source," or whatever. Or if they ask a question, here's a quick answer to that or, "I can't really answer that in an email. We need to jump on a call." I give her guidance so that it may still kind of be based on a canned response, but it's very customized. Then sometimes she'll draft something and I'll review it, if it's a more complicated thing or if it's a client we're really excited about and we want to make sure we give them white glove treatment. So, it's kind of evolved into this. We still use some automations and we still use the followup reminders and things in our CRM, but now it's just got a much more of a personalized touch.

Tara McMullin: How many inquiries per week would you say that you're fielding?

Autumn Witt Boyd: Five to 10, maybe 15 on a really busy week. I was thinking about that before we jumped on. It's not a small number, but it's not an unmanageable number.

Tara McMullin: Yeah.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Because that was Brooke's first pushback when I told her I wanted to step back into sales. She's like, "Oh, you just don't have enough time. There's no way." I was like, "It's not that many. It's going to be okay."

Tara McMullin: Yeah, yeah.

Autumn Witt Boyd: I'm not doing 15 phone calls a week. There's a narrowing process as who-

Tara McMullin: Right, okay.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Actually gets on the phone. So, that could be the next step.

Tara McMullin: Yeah, exactly. Let's get there in a second. So, are you building in a sales message library while you're doing this, or is it something for now where it is just very organic and we're doing it on the fly?

Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. So, we do have canned responses and when we have a particular question that I know we're going to get again, I will say, "Let's save this one." It still may be tweaked. We try to customize it, but yeah. I'm a big fan of not reinventing the wheel, although trying now not to go too far down that road, but yeah. For sure. We try and keep a library of these kinds of responses. Actually, I think Brooke has a folder called emails for reference or something like that.

Tara McMullin: Got you, okay. Cool, cool, cool. So, yeah. Let's dive into the next step. So someone sends you an inquiry. You help with crafting the response. Your business manager sends it out. What happens next?

Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. So, actually we do something interesting in that first response that I think you might like, because I think I got the idea from you. We include a link to a video in that first response. It is prerecorded. If it's a client we're really excited about, I might do a custom one, but we have just a generic one that goes out and it's me. Because the email is impersonal, so we try and add that personal touch right at the beginning, it's me, it's a minute or two long. It's not long, but it's just saying, "Hi, thank you so much for contacting us, we're really excited. Here's the next steps. Let us know if you have any questions." We've gotten a lot of good feedback about that, so I don't know how many people actually click on it. Maybe 50%. I've not tracked that, but yeah. People really like that.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Then our next step after they get that email is if they didn't fill out the contact form on our website, we send them a form to fill out that's just basically asking, what is your type of project? What are you hoping to get out of this? Do you want just help so you can DIY it, or are you wanting us to do it for you? Are you needing a contract template? Just kind of gathering details, and because I'm a lawyer and we have all these ethics rules, I have to ask, "Is there anyone else involved that I might already represent as a client?" That has happened. Yeah, or, "Have you worked with another attorney?" So I can just get some background. "Are there any upcoming deadlines that are really soon?" Just so we have a good idea. Then we use that to gauge what our next response is.

Tara McMullin: Okay, well let's just keep going. So you get that questionnaire back, you've got all the information you need. Where do you take the sales process from there?

Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. So if it's pretty clearly going to be a good fit, we ask for their website. Brooke usually just goes and checks out their website or reads what kind of project they're interested in. Oftentimes the next step is to get on a call with me, so oftentimes she'll just say, "Great. The next step is a call with Autumn," and so she sends out a link and they can set that up on their own. Sometimes if she's not quite sure, she'll send me the questionnaire and say, "Hey, give this a quick look. Tell me what you think." That's usually the next step. Occasionally, this is pretty rare, but someone will say, "I'm ready to go. I don't need a call."

Autumn Witt Boyd: So, we have had people hire us just from the emails that I've never spoken to, but that's pretty rare. Most of the times people at least want a short call, and we do just a 15 minute call. We don't charge for it. If it's a longer call, we sometimes will charge. If they want to really dive in, get some questions answered, because the 15 minute call is really just, "What questions do you have about the process or pricing?" Or that kind of thing. It's not really, quote, unquote, "Legal advice."

Tara McMullin: Yeah. Do you have an agenda that you follow? Even if it's just in your head for that 15 minute call.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. I just introduce myself and I say, "Thank you so much for filling out the form. I have read it," or sometimes they'll send us documents. I'll say whether or not I've had a chance to look at them, and then I always ask, "In your own words, can you tell me why you have contacted me?" That always gives me a little bit of better background, but I say, "I know this isn't a long call, so I'm going to try and make sure we get all your questions answered. So if I interrupt, it's not because I don't want to hear the whole story, but I want to make sure you get what you need off of this call." Then usually it's pretty easy to keep it at 15 minutes after I set that tone.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. Do you ask for a close? Do you try and make the close on the call, or is that something that typically happens in followup?

Autumn Witt Boyd: It depends. If they're clearly ready to go, sometimes they'll say, "What are the next steps?" I kind of let them lead. I'm not a very pushy salesperson. So if they ask that, I say the next steps. We'll send over an engagement letter and an invoice, and we're ready to go. Or other times if they're just being quiet, sometimes I'll say, "I'll send more information," or, "When would be a good time for me to follow up and see if this is a good fit?" Or sometimes they'll want to talk with a partner or someone else about it. Yeah, it's 50/50 on whether it closes on the call or later, but we are really good at followup because I'm not doing it.

Tara McMullin: Yeah, okay. Well, that was going to be my next question is, all right, tell me what the role of followup is in this because I think that's where so many people end up dropping the ball, and they know it but let's talk about it.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah, yeah. I used to try and do it when I was just a one man show. I would do followup every Friday, but it was my-

Tara McMullin: I like that. Followup Friday.

Autumn Witt Boyd: It was the last thing I had to do before I can celebrate the weekend. Now, so actually Brooke came up. She's got such a good process mind. We actually have an internal form that I fill out after the call, and it asks a couple of questions. Is there any personal details that I want to make sure we remember? Like if we have kids the same age, or if they just mentioned something I want to make sure we have a record of. We have a scale of one to 10, how good a fit are they for our firm? We have a couple questions.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Actually, I wish I could pull one up, but off the top of my head we ask, some of the things are because we know these are indicators of clients that are a really good fit for us, if they've worked in corporate in the past. Those typically are a good fit. If they have worked with another attorney in the past, if their business is more established. Not always. These are not 100%. We don't have to check every single box, but I like to go through and remember for future reference. I think those are the main ones, and then there's a box for what are next steps for followup.

Tara McMullin: Got you.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Brooke reviews this form after I fill it out. It takes me a minute or two to fill it out, it's really quick, so I usually do it right when I hang up before I do my next thing. Then she's got her marching orders for followup.

Tara McMullin: Got you, and does that form live in your CRM, does it live in Google Drive? What's the technology there?

Autumn Witt Boyd: It does. Yeah, it's an internal form and it took us a little tweaking to make sure it was not getting sent to the client, because that's the default setting. So, we really tested that 100 different ways, and it does not go to the client and yeah, it lives in our CRM. So if I pull up someone's record, that's there along with all their emails and other communications we've had with them. It's all in one spot, which I do really like.

Tara McMullin: Yeah, awesome. You'll hear more about the ins and outs of Autumn's sales process in just a minute but first, a word from our What Works partners. What Works is brought to you by Mighty Networks. Now, did somebody say sales? Making the sale gets infinitely easier when your prospects are highly engaged, excited members of your community. When your prospects are members of your community, you can easily keep your brand top of mind, personally nurture the right people, and regularly demonstrate the value you can provide.

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Tara McMullin: Okay, so let's take a few steps back now and just review over the process, because you've made this point that you tried to automate things, you automated things too far, then you started to put back the human element. So, just give us the bird's eye view now that we've, I guess it's kind of the opposite way that you normally do it, right? We've gotten so far into the details of the process, which is fantastic, but I'd love to just zoom out again and say, "All right." What pieces of the process are automated now, and what pieces of the process are human?

Autumn Witt Boyd: So, we don't have anything that runs without a human touching it. I would say the automated parts are the CRM keeps everything together, and we've got it set up to basically remind us when it's time to follow up, but it's not doing anything without us taking an action. Brooke gets a reminder that it's time to follow up. She may check in with me because sometimes I've talked to that person on social media, or I've seen them at a local event or something, so she always checks in with me to make sure that there's not some context that she is missing. Our followups are pretty standard at this point. They're, "Hey, just checking in. See how things are going." You know?

Tara McMullin: Yeah, totally.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah, but nothing is totally automated. I would say the only automations really now are keeping everything in one place. We've got the canned responses where we can grab them, but it still requires a human to actually execute.

Tara McMullin: Okay, okay. Beautiful. Another question that comes to mind is you have other attorneys that work with you now, correct?

Autumn Witt Boyd: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tara McMullin: So, when you are doing ... I shouldn't project this on you necessarily, but I know a common fear that people have as founders is that they are often the ones doing the sales, but then they're handing that work off to other people. Is that communication part of your sales process? Is it something that the client knows about, cares about? How do you handle that?

Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. I had a ton of fear around that [crosstalk 00:22:44] when I first brought in. We have one attorney who works with me now named Michelle, and she has a little bit of different expertise than I do, which is nice. Her background is labor and employment, so we work with a lot of our clients who are building teams, and especially remote teams. If the question comes in, 98% of the time I'll still do the sales call even if it's for an employment issue, but something I really don't know anything about and don't feel like I could just spitball about, I will have Michelle either join me on the sales call or sometimes I'll have her do them on her own. Her hours are a little more limited than mine because she's part time, so scheduling is a little bit trickier with her calendar, but yeah. I had a lot of fear about it that no one would want to work with anyone else. That is not true. People just want help.

Tara McMullin: Yes.

Autumn Witt Boyd: I am not that special of a butterfly, but I try to be really thoughtful about introducing the fact that there are other attorneys that they may work with. I talk about that early, especially if they do come to me with a project I know Michelle is going to basically run with, I'll say, "We have a really great attorney on my team," and I kind of build her up. "You're so lucky to be working with her," because they are. It's not like they're getting the second string. For their project, she is really a much better fit than I am. Then there's some things that either of us can do, and so sometimes I'll introduce her by email if I haven't mentioned her before. Yeah, it's been really easy, and she's great, and she's great with clients. So, that has made it very easy to hand off projects and things to her.

Tara McMullin: Awesome.

Autumn Witt Boyd: She also is very careful. She, I think, would do more sales but again, she's got the limited time and she is not as involved as the online world as I am. Actually, this was our year. 2020 was the year we were going to go to a bunch of conferences together.

Tara McMullin: Same.

Autumn Witt Boyd: All of that has been canceled, so I just have a lot of relationships that she doesn't. It just naturally falls to me to do a lot of the sales, but she is really good at recognizing that the primary relationship, the reason people hired our firm, is generally me. So, she will often draft emails for my signature, or run things by me that she doesn't really need to run by me, but she's just I think ultra careful about making sure. She knows my name is on things. So, I appreciate that.

Tara McMullin: Yeah, well and I appreciate you sharing that too because I mean, you said you have fear. I think a lot of people have fear around this, and just talking about it and getting it out there in the open I think is really important. I'd love to talk a little bit about how or if the sales process for your hands on law work differs from the sales process that you have for your digital products, because you guys have a great library of legal templates, contracts and templates, that people can use and I'm curious if you have allowed more automation in that sphere of things. Or if you do more of the more traditional digital marketing on that side of things, or if you do still handle a lot of it personally.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. I think we're actually less automated over there, which is kind of funny. I know. Well, so we do all the online marketing stuff. I go on podcasts like yours, I do Facebook Lives, I do all kinds of other things. We have a weekly email. I have my own podcast. So, we market them through all of those channels but we also, if I post that we're having a promotion or if we're pushing a particular contract, I always invite people to send questions. Brooke handles a lot of those responses, and I think she does sign her name. We try and make that, you don't really get access to me if you're buying the templates, but we also want to be helpful. So, that's kind of our attitude with that. We're happy to answer questions.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Usually the questions are, "Which contract do I need? I am XYZ business. Is this or this a good fit?" Or they may be looking for a particular term like, "Does this include a noncompete?" Or, "Does this include a nondisclosure?" So, Brooke is very capable of handling all those questions, or she can just run them by me. Sometimes they come in through DMs or PMs on various social media platforms, and I'll answer those, or in a group. Sometimes people will ask, but yeah. I don't really know because those inquiries are just so weird. I guess we could automate them, but we have not tried. Our volume of inquiries over there is pretty low. Way low. Far fewer than on the one on one client side.

Tara McMullin: Got you. I think it's so helpful though to just hear that yeah, it's communication, it's interpersonal, it's one on one sales because I think so many people think, "Oh, well I'll get this into digital product form, and then I'll never have to touch it again."

Autumn Witt Boyd: "I never have to [crosstalk 00:27:42] talk to another person."

Tara McMullin: Yeah, and it just doesn't work that way. I mean, yeah. It doesn't matter. I don't think it really matters what you're selling. There are things that can and do well obviously with digital marketing.

Autumn Witt Boyd: We have FAQs on our website. I guess there's a way we could load that into something that would be automated, but I feel like it's just, I don't know. We were going to put a bot. We just built a new website that just launched, and the designer asked if we wanted a pop up, a Q&A. I said, "Well, I don't want to have to staff it. I don't want to have to be sitting around and promise that I'm going to respond immediately. I'm in the middle of doing other stuff. My team is all part time. We are working weird hours." She said, "Well, you could just set it to say, 'We'll get back to you when we're available,'" and I was like, "That just seems not very helpful."

Tara McMullin: Yeah, I think-

Autumn Witt Boyd: So, yeah. I don't know. I would worry that we'd send a weird canned response that wasn't a good fit. Again, it's the over automation problem is what I would worry about.

Tara McMullin: Yeah.

Autumn Witt Boyd: I'm sure there's a way we could do it.

Tara McMullin: Yeah, totally. Okay, well that's a good segue I think into where I want to head next, which is when you were thinking through how you were going to change up your sales process, I'd love to hear about the values or the experience that you really wanted to prioritize for the people that were getting in touch with you, and how you baked those values or that experience into the process that ultimately you built.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah. We really value taking care of people, and being really responsive and helpful. We value really high quality legal work. We're not a trademark mill. We're pretty hands on, and so I wanted to make sure that they got a sense of that right away, because we're also not inexpensive. So if you're hiring us, you're paying a premium. There's a lot of places you could get an LLC set up or a trademark filed that are cheaper than us. So, the reason people hire us is because our process is really smooth and we answer every question they have. We don't nickel and dime them for extra help, and so those were the values that I wanted to make sure were coming through, because why would you hire us if you're not getting a sense of that? You'd go to LegalZoom if you're going to get a canned response anyway. So, yeah. Those were all really important. We send a welcome packet, we send gifts to our clients. We have this whole customer experience after they hire us, and I wanted to make sure that the beginning fit with that.

Tara McMullin: That makes a ton of sense. Ton of sense. Is there any part of your sales process that you're super excited about or that maybe it's a little detail that you love that I haven't asked you about?

Autumn Witt Boyd: The video part in the initial response. That was the thing I was most excited about. Oh, I think the other thing we do, I kind of feel like you're still in the sales process when you're just starting to work together because that's the time I think people get nervous or they're like, "I'm not sure. Was this investment a good idea?" So, I send another video as part of our onboarding, and I do that for every client. That is totally unique where I give an overview of what to expect next. What is going to happen next? Who on our team is the right person to ask if you have this question, and a timeline for your project.

Autumn Witt Boyd: So if I'm waiting for something from the client to get started, I will remind them of that. Or I'll say, "I have everything I need and I'm going to be working on this later this week," or, "I'm working on this next week." So, we do a lot of expectation setting. We also talk about our communications cadence. So, I'm checking my email every day but I don't always respond that same day. So, just trying to train people with how we work, how they can work best with us, just to give them a lot of confidence that they've made a good decision and it's going to be a good experience.

Tara McMullin: I think that's awesome that you point out that that initial period of working with someone is essentially wrapped up in sales. I mean, I'm sure some people would argue the whole client experience is an extenuation of-

Autumn Witt Boyd: Still sales.

Tara McMullin: Yes, still sales, but you're so right. That first part, that's where people end up bailing and if you can-

Autumn Witt Boyd: You're like, "Oh, it's been three weeks. I haven't heard from them. I don't even know what's happening." Yeah.

Tara McMullin: Yeah, exactly. So if you can cut that off and make people feel really comfortable during that time, you've got a client for life, right? I love that.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Hopefully.

Tara McMullin: Yeah. I love that. So, you told me that you've gotten good feedback on this sales process from your clients. How are you collecting that feedback? What does that feedback sound like? I love the idea that you're thinking about feedback on your sales process and not just feedback on the actual legal work that you're doing.

Autumn Witt Boyd: We don't specifically ask for feedback on the sales process.

Tara McMullin: Sure.

Autumn Witt Boyd: It's just come in. We had a new client recently, and he has a very similar setup to us. He sells digital templates, and he uses a lot of video in his own marketing, and he just at every step of the way he was like, "Man, I love what you're doing. This is so great." So, hearing that was really helpful. We definitely hear when things aren't working. For a while, the law practice management software we used was kind of new and it was hard for clients to pay their invoices, which is really frustrating. So, we got a lot of feedback about that. If things aren't working, especially we want that to be really smooth and easy, please pay us, so they will definitely tell you if something is not working. We do gather client feedback at the end of projects, but that's too late to hear about the sales process. So no, I don't know how we could collect better feedback about the sales process. We just get it as it comes.

Tara McMullin: Okay, all right. Still, [crosstalk 00:33:29] I just love that you're paying attention to it. Yeah. Awesome, well Autumn, I so appreciate this look inside your sales process and the change, and just your openness to explaining how it came about and why it came about. So, so, so helpful. Before we wrap up with you, what are you excited about right now?

Autumn Witt Boyd: We are recording this in the middle of COVID crisis, so everything is new and different. I'm excited about summer. The weather is finally turning. I know this is airing later, but I'm looking forward to just being outside a lot since that's what we're doing these days.

Tara McMullin: Yes.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Doing a lot of outside time.

Tara McMullin: Same, same. Autumn Witt Boyd.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Praying that swimming pools are open.

Tara McMullin: Yes. Oh my god, yes. Oh, so, so praying.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah.

Tara McMullin: Autumn Witt Boyd, thank you so much for everything you've shared today.

Autumn Witt Boyd: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Tara McMullin: There are a ton of great tools out there to help you improve your sales process, but it absolutely is possible to over automate how you connect with your potential buyers. Just like Autumn's firm did. I love that Autumn shared a hybrid model for sales that kept things efficient and process driven while also keeping them fully human. Think about your sales process. Is it skewing too far in one direction or the other? Is it taking up way too much of your time, because you don't really have a process in the first place? Or, is it way too automated and losing out on the opportunity to connect with your prospects in a more human way? How can you find a happy medium that features both the human touch and the benefits of systemization? Hopefully this conversation with Autumn gave you some inspiration.

Tara McMullin: Find out more about Autumn Witt Boyd and the AWB firm at Plus, you can find Autumn's podcast, the Legal Road Map podcast, wherever you listened to What Works. What Works is produced by Yellow House Media. Our production coordinator is Sean McMullin. This episode was edited by Marty Seefeldt. Our production coordinator is Kristen Runvik. What Works is coming up on 300 episodes, and we'd love to know how the show has impacted you or your business over the years. Drop us a line and share your story. Email

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By Tara McMullin

Writer, Podcaster, Producer. Founder of What Works.

Sep 1, 2020

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EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

This week, I’ve got 4 more stories to share with you from small business owners who have intentionally done things their own way when it comes to sales and selling. They’ve found what truly works for them–even if it bucks the prevailing wisdom or would make a bro marketing expert role his or her eyes.

These stories come from business coach Ashley Gartland, marketing expert Amy Lippmann, designer Mel Richards, and work reinvention coach Lydia Lee.

Listen for how they incorporated these same considerations into finding their own unique sales systems. They designed their systems with personal values, strong relationships, reduced anxiety, and agency in mind.

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

This show is called What Works for a reason.

Sometimes it’s a declaration: this is what worked for this small business. And often, it’s a question, “What works?”

Today’s episode is very much a question, many questions, really:

What works when it comes to selling when you want to avoid manipulative or exploitative practices?

What works when your values conflict with many of the best practices of selling online but you still want people to buy your stuff?

What works when it comes to sales in a business that is actively anti-racist and anti-capitalist?

And even more bluntly: Can you even sell things without causing harm or perpetuating harmful systems?

My friend Kate Strathmann is the founder of Wanderwell, a bookkeeping and consulting firm that grows thriving businesses while investigating new models for being in business.

Recently, Kate took a bit of a detour from how she’s used to building her business, which is 90% referral based and fueled by deep relationship- and community-building. She decided to offer a small group program called the Equitable Business Incubator as a way of exploring anti-capitalist business practices and how they apply to the small businesses we’re building.

To fill the program, Kate need to sell differently.

Which led her to asking the question: Can you even sell things as a anti-capitalist?

While that might not be your specific question, I have a feeling that you too have wondering how you can effectively sell your offers without causing harm, perpetuating harmful systems, or damaging relationships. And that’s why I knew Kate and I needed to explore this topic on the show.

This is a conversation about what a kinder, less harmful sales process could look like—and it probably contains more questions than answers. But I’m confident those questions can help you find the answers that are right for you and the sales system that you want to build to make your business stronger.

We start out by defining what we’re really talking about when we talk about capitalism and anti-capitalism. Then, Kate shares how the Equitable Business Incubator came to be and how she ended up selling it. And then we dig into what makes many of the sales formulas and best practices being taught today problematic—and how to think differently to create your own alternative practices.

Now, let’s take a look at what works for creating less harmful sales systems!

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

Today’s guest is Katie Hunt—who is a member of the former group and serves the latter group.

Katie is the founder of Proof To Product, which helps creative entrepreneurs run and grow thriving product-based businesses. She works with designers, illustrators, and artists to help them develop in-demand product lines and get them sold in stores all over the world.

Not long after the pandemic threw her business and the industry she serves for a major loop, Katie and her team launched Proof To Product Labs to provide a completely digital, ongoing support opportunity for business owners when they needed it most.

And that launch was a smash.

Katie and I get into all of the nuts and bolts of how she adjusted the offer to meet the moment and how she warmed up her audience before the campaign, as well as the exact mix of emails, podcast ads, and social media content she used to sell the offer when it went live. We also talk about how she sees the sales system evolving in the future and how the offer has been received now that people are using it!

What Works offers in-depth, well-researched content that strips away the hype of the 21st-century economy. Whether you love the podcast, the articles, or the Instagram content, we’d love your support