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How Content Can Save Your Business with Marcus Sheridan

January 31, 2022
Episode 50
The Recognized Authority Podcast Cover

The podcast that helps experts & consultants on the journey to becoming a recognized authority in your field, so you can increase your impact, command premium fees, work less hours, and never have to suffer a bad-fit client again!.

Writing articles for your website or social media is hugely time consuming, and it’s so difficult to find the time when you’re already working long hours on client projects. But you need to make the time. Here’s why.

In this episode, bestselling author & renowned speaker Marcus Sheridan and Alastair McDermott discuss how writing articles, answering client questions, and giving away “proprietary” secrets saved his business. The internet has changed the sales process forever, and we need to adapt to this new reality.

They also discuss how to become a better leader by asking questions, how to sound more authoritative, and why you should publish pricing information on your website. 

Show Notes

Guest Bio

Marcus Sheridan is a web marketing guru. He’s a highly sought after speaker, consultant, sales and marketing trainer. He is also the author of the book “They Ask You Answer”.



question, people, business, alastair, book, content, answer, marcus, proprietary, sales, fiberglass pool, company, seo, consultant, teach, content marketing, trust, pools, authority, listening


Alastair McDermott, Voiceover, Marcus Sheridan


Marcus Sheridan  00:00

I sat there and pecked away at the keys every night. I slept six hours instead of eight hours. I’m not looking for like, “good job, Marcus”. I’m not interested in a pat on the shoulder. It just is what it is. I did what any business owner would ideally do in that moment.


Voiceover  00:18

Welcome to The Recognized Authority, a podcast that helps specialized consultants and domain experts on your journey to become known as an authority in your field. So you can increase your reach, have more impact, and work with great clients. Here’s your host, Alastair McDermott.


Alastair McDermott  00:33

Hello, and welcome to The Recognized Authority Podcast. I’m delighted to tell you that this is episode number 50. And I have a great guest for you today. Before we get into that, I just want to mention that I am running a live webinar on Thursday. And it’s actually going to be this Thursday and next Thursday, at 11am Eastern Time, that’s 4pm in Ireland and the UK. I will be doing about the topics of building authority creating content. And actually we’re going to be covering some of the stuff that I talked to Marcus about today. Find out more about that at If you’re listening to this later, if you didn’t catch the live version, there is actually going to be a replay there. And that is also linked in the show notes.  Okay, so today, my guest is Marcus Sheridan. And Marcus is known as a web marketing guru. He is a highly sought after speaker, consultant sales and marketing trainer. And he’s the author of “They Ask You Answer”. And we’ll get into a bit more of his backstory throughout the interview. But I’m really delighted to have Marcus with us today. Marcus, thank you for being here.


Marcus Sheridan  01:42

It’s great to be here. I think we’re gonna have a excellent conversation.


Alastair McDermott  01:45

Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. Okay, so I know you’ve told a story a million times. So I’m just going to give a little bit of a preamble and ask you what happened next. It’s 2008, you’ve been a partner in a fiberglass pool business for five or six years. And you’re contemplating the possibility of filing bankruptcy. So what was going on what happened next?


Marcus Sheridan  02:05

Yeah, we it’s the crash, right, which was a brutal time, in many industries, certainly for luxury spending, like swimming pools. And this was the beauty of strain and stress and things like that is it forces us to think outside of our typical box, you know, and so it was during this time that I started to really research the internet, I saw where I had changed online, and how I was using the internet to buy. So I said, clearly, our customers are no different than me, we’re pretty much all the same humans in terms of our behaviors. And so I started reading all those fancy phrases like inbound marketing, content, marketing, social media and stuff.  And you know, what I heard in my simple pool guy mind was Marcus, if you just obsess over the questions, your customers have questions, worries, fears, issues, concerns, and you’re willing to address those on your website through text and video, just might save your business. So I said, Well, there’s one thing I can do is I can listen really well. And I can address those questions on our website. And so I call it a day ask you answer.  And to make a long story short, I just like one, I literally every single night for about two straight years, I address one main question I would get about, let’s say, fiberglass swimming pools, on our website, through text or video. And we ended up becoming the most traffic swimming pool website in the world. And that would change my life in many ways. Right? And it led me to become a speaker, and writer and an author. And they asked you answer, the book now has done about 150,000 copies worldwide. So it’s been an amazing ride. And it really has become like this framework for businesses to use to become the most trusted voice in their space. Which is, which is really thrilling to see.


Alastair McDermott  04:02

Yeah, absolutely. And it really is all about creating trust. So I’m really interested in in the short time period there after you started, because, I mean, if you’re at the point where you you had been considering bankruptcy and looking and things and I started this business in 2007, 2008 was not fun. 2008 to 2011 probably was that was how long it went on here in Ireland. It was particularly badly hit. So yeah, those were tough years. Like how did you survive at that point because you said, you know, it took you a couple years of writing every night creating this content?


Marcus Sheridan  04:38

I you know, it’s funny, when you’re in financial trouble as a business often, like I was at those first. I mean, this is not our first time we are in financial trouble. Except this time, it just didn’t look like there is any type of recovery. I look back. I don’t actually know how we made it through the next two years. I’m really serious about that. It’s like I don’t even know how we made it through through a couple of months, just scratch claw scratch claw. One thing that I know that we weren’t doing. And at the beginning of 2019, we weren’t getting paid. So as this is there is multiple times, as a business owner that I didn’t, I didn’t get a paycheck. And that’s how us, right? And that was the only option. That’s why my credit cards were maxed out. And my wife was really close to panic. I mean, she just was, she’s news like, this is so problematic. But slowly, it just, it just turned around. And I’m sure we did a few other things. I’ll say, like, I’m sure we trim some fat that we should have trimmed. And the business. That’s the other thing that hardship does is you trim fat that, you know, you you’ve known that you should be trimming, but it just didn’t take the initiative to do it. And so I’m sure we just went so so lean beyond what is reasonable, lean. During that time, I didn’t have a plan B, right. So it’s like, I’m going to lose my house, or we’re just going to keep going. So the idea of bankruptcy didn’t, it just didn’t have much appeal, because I was still gonna lose my stuff.


Alastair McDermott  06:18

Yeah, we call it austerity here. That was the word that was we had imposed austerity here in Ireland, and the International Monetary Fund the IMF, the Troika, they call them that they kind of ruled the country for for two years here, while we went through a period of really harsh times. Me personally, I had to do one of the most embarrassing things for anybody in their 30s, I had to go back to my parents and ask, “Can I move back in with them for a while?”. And that was just so tough. And you know, you know, meeting people who had gone to school with back in the small town and the saying, “Hey, what are you doing now?” And kind of deflecting and things like that, you know, but that was that was what I had to do at the time.


Marcus Sheridan  06:57

Yeah, that’s a tough pill. But you know, you do what you have to do, right?


Alastair McDermott  07:00

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And so you were doing everything you needed to do to survive you were you kind of treading water, you were maxing out credit cards, everything that you need to do, you’re trying to fight. But at the same time, you absolutely believed that creating this content was the right thing to do.


Marcus Sheridan  07:16

Yeah, I was just clear impression that I had, and I was committed to it. And one of the benefits, though, that I had was Emmys. Again, I look back on this. I’m like, How’d you even do that? Even though I didn’t have any money, I still found a way to put HubSpot on a credit card. And HubSpot was my means of almost checking the score on the video game. Because to me, everything that I was doing from search engine optimization, to you know, watching the traffic leads, and eventually the sales. It was like, it was like I was it was the original days of the Nintendo. You know, gaming system was like Super Mario and Zelda all over again, that ages me. Right. Right.  So it’s, it was it was that it was that exciting and fun to see. I realized, oh, my gosh, if I just focus on these questions that nobody wants to answer, like, how much does a fiberglass pool cost? I can actually get gains really fast. Not just, you know, a lot of people today say how long does content marketing take to work? And and I actually differ with most people’s opinions. But But generally, from an SEO standpoint, it does take a little bit longer today, because of the fact there’s more competition. Well, this is most industries, right? Most industries have more competition today, not not all still, some are still pretty bare. But with that, I could see that I had an entire industry just just ready for the picking I was I just could come in and just dominate by doing that, which nobody had ever done. And it was just one home run after another home run after another home run. And then I started seeing the patterns. If there’s one thing my brain is decent out of seeing patterns. And that’s when I started to recognize Oh, okay, there’s types of content here that do better than others. And let me just continue to focus in on those.  And then I got better, and I got better. And by November that year, so I started in March 2009. They asked you answer by November, I said, I’ve got to be writing about this stuff that I’m doing. And so I started a personal website called “The Sales Line”, because I wanted other business owners to know the success of like the effectiveness of what I was doing what we were doing, and the sales line became my next huge passion area. So I continued going with river pools and I just watched it take off and within about two years, we’re back on financial ground, but the sales line now became this place where I was just sharing my thoughts and that’s what led me to have another whole career. But you know, it’s funny about that. Alistair’s nobody really listened to that one still for about a year, it took me a year to get any momentum on the sales line, and then it took off, too. So you


Alastair McDermott  10:09

said you disagree with people about the speed about how long it takes? What What’s your take on that?


Marcus Sheridan  10:14

Well, too often you hear people say, you know, in order for content marketing to work, it’s going to take you, in most cases, 12 to 18 months to really start seeing some, some benefits. And that’s just a myopic point of view. What that basically is, is referring to actually, or comes from is the fact that for Google, to really just love you to death, right? And start throwing a ton of traffic away. Yes, oftentimes, it does take sometimes a year or more to get major gains. But that’s to me is such a small reason to be doing content marketing. Because the fact is, if I produce a great piece of content today that addresses a major question a salesperson gets all the time. And that salesperson immediately integrates that content into their sales process. And it overcomes a concern that a prospect had, and therefore they buy or they buy quicker than they would have bought, because of that piece of content that stops working immediately for you. And so the huge mistake that companies make with content marketing, is they don’t immediately train their sales team how to integrate content very intentionally, to the sales process, a massive flaw. And that’s why I can help you tomorrow, if you do it the right way. That’s number one. And, again, this is why and they asked me answer the book, there’s a whole chapter on assignment selling. And that’s one. Number two, even if you’re not getting visitors from Google, and you start this process of, of, we’ll call it they ask you answer, but really just teaching, showing, telling your prospects more than anybody else has in your space through the content on your website. Well, those that are a direct visitor to your site, those that are referral visitor to your site, those that our social media visitor to your site, now, they’re going to be more satiated, right? Their palette is going to be satisfied. And because of that, you’re going to stand out, you’re going to win their trust. So from a, from a user experience, your site just explodes as soon as you do this. So I tell companies all the time, it doesn’t matter. If you never get another search visitor again, from Google, it’s going to be worth it to you to do they ask you answer the right way. You don’t go into it saying searches everything here. Because if that is your mindset, then you’re probably just going to be sitting there looking at the clock, which we all know is not a very effective life strategy.


Alastair McDermott  12:47

Yeah, yeah. So Okay. Does this advice apply to b2b as well? Does it apply to independent consultants, very small firms who are trying to sell into C suite? Or is it different for them?


Marcus Sheridan  13:01

Well, this advice applies to humans. And so if someone considers himself to be human, and in a human business that is based on trust, where people actually ask you questions, and there is some type of sales process that equates to someone is vetting you because they’re researching you, your product, your service. And throughout that process, again, they have questions or they have worries, or they have fears and they need to be addressed. Well, then absolutely. This applies to you. If your business doesn’t fall under those categories I just mentioned, it definitely does not apply. Yeah.


Alastair McDermott  13:43

And, and I think you know, anybody in anybody in consulting, it is absolutely trust based. That’s why referrals are so important word of mouth, because it’s passing trust. So trust is huge in b2b. I call it the currency of b2b Yeah, well,


Marcus Sheridan  13:58

I mean, I I’ve never understood. I’ve heard people say things like, Yeah, but I’m gonna, I’m in a relationship based business, which is just the most arrogant phrase, right? Because it means you’re special. And you’re not, not a single person listening to this, myself included, have a special or unique business, because every business boils down to that thing that we’ve already mentioned, which is trust, and can we get more of it than anybody else? Every single one? Because people say to me, well, well, my business, my industry is price driven. Okay. So are you saying, if they don’t trust the product, or the service, even it’s the cheapest, but they don’t trust it at all? Are they gonna buy it because it’s the cheapest?  Well, well, well, not. No. I mean, not at that point. They’re not but Okay. Same business, same business. And so, the other thing I say to folks where they say, Well, I’m in a relationship based business, it’s always in question. So would you like that relationship to start? Before you shake hands with them? Or after? Which one would you prefer? Would you like them to know your voice before? Or after you shake their hand? Would you like them to know your face your familiarity with you visually? For after you shake their hand? And of course, anybody with a wit is going to say, well, I’d like them to have a relationship with me as soon as possible.


Alastair McDermott  15:28

Okay, so you’ve spoken to 10s, maybe even hundreds of 1000s of people, but only a fraction of them are actually taking this advice. So So where’s the the Delta and what’s happening?


Marcus Sheridan  15:41

I love this, right? I think it’s the same reason why you have a society that loves to brag about how many books they read, and not how many books they applied. I mean, that’s the only thing that really matters, is applied learning. And so there’s this classic, old phrase, right, you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make a drink. And the fact of the matter is, many people will not do what it takes to be successful with, we’ll call it they ask you answer with content with becoming the thought leader of their space.  There’s different reason for this, though, sometimes. They’re lazy. And they like to play the victim card, but they’re just being lazy. Sometimes they create a bunch of red tape that shouldn’t be there. Make excuses? Oh, I’m a financial services provider. There’s many regulations in my industry. So therefore, we can’t really answer our customers questions. No, that’s bull, actually, you can address anything you want. You just can’t always give specific answers to questions. So regulation is not an excuse. I don’t care what industry you’re in. And so we can all address the questions that our customers or potential customers have. Right?  Sometimes we they say things like, I don’t have the time. That’s really funny. Because 2009 I’m working 50-60 hours a week, at least in by most standards, I didn’t have the time. But you see, I was also going to go out of business. So I don’t have the time to sit there and say I don’t have the time. So instead of watching Game of Thrones, what did I do? I sat there and pecked away at the keys every night, I slept six hours instead of eight hours. I’m not looking for like, “good job, Marcus”. I’m not interested in a pat on the shoulder. It just is what it is. I did what any business owner would ideally do in that moment.  So there’s a lot of excuses that we make. Alastair I’ve seen, I’ve seen them all, you know, buy in is a major problem in a lot of organizations, because they think they’re special, or they think the sales process is the same as it was 20 years ago, when the internet was just getting started, which is utterly ridiculous. There’s resistors, sometimes with bigger companies, smaller companies, you say things like I’m a one. I’m a one man gang, I’m a one person, Army, whatever. Because as a one person army, you can do more, because you have no board of supervisors, you have no attorneys to go through. You can just create, you can be a digital David in a land of Goliaths. You don’t have to play by anybody’s rules. And I tell you what I love when like, there’s an open rulebook that says just so fun, because then you can create the rules in your space.


Alastair McDermott  18:41

You mentioned there that the sales process is not the same since the dawn of the internet. Can you talk a little bit about that?


Marcus Sheridan  18:48

Well, I mean, we’re just more informed than we’ve ever been. That’s, that’s, that’s the facts. We do more research than we’ve ever done as buyers as consumers, or vetting companies to death. And so because of this, companies have a choice to make, right? They can either pretend that buyers are dumb, that they’re not going to find the answer. Or they can save themselves. Our buyers are not dumb, our buyers are going to find the answers they’re looking for, because they have this thing called the internet. And because they do have the internet, because they’re going to find out well, we may as well be the company that’s going to teach them we may as well be the one that’s going to address the thing. It’s as simple. You know that the studies show that on average, we’re somewhere between 70 to 80% through the buying cycle by the time we reach out to a company today and my guess is in 1995 when the internet was just getting started the numbers probably around 20%.  And so the influence that salespeople have is never been less. The influence that marketers has have has never been more yet. We still for the most Part see much of the same budgeting dedicated to sales into marketing. And it’s just crazy. It’s just crazy. And so there’s there’s got to be, there’s got to be a major shift. You know, if we, if we really understood the shift, companies wouldn’t say, well, there’s, I just couldn’t afford to bring on that videographer, I can’t afford to produce that content, or I can’t afford to embrace these digital technologies. Just, I miss look around, look in the mirror, it’s not hard to see what’s happening. And that’s, to me really one of the best marketing strategies, you have self awareness. If you look at how you have changed, and pay attention to just the subtleties of the way you use apps, or the way you use the internet, the way you search, that little box called Google, and the types of words that you use when you search and how you’ve evolved that over time. It’s very, very telling.


Alastair McDermott  21:00

Okay, so there’s a few things I want to dig into there. One thing, one fear that people have, and I know you have a story about this was one time you brought a video camera to one of your manufacturers, you started filming, to document, you know, their manufacturing process. And the owner came up and said, Hey, you can’t do that. It’s proprietary. You know, can you talk a bit about, you know, things being proprietary and wanting to keep our secret sauce secret?


Marcus Sheridan  21:24

Yeah. Yeah. You know, like to say that the majority of industries believe they have a secret sauce, when in reality, everybody knows it’s just 1000 Island dressing. And, of course, if you’re familiar with Big Macs, and that’s what that’s what their secret sauce is made out of. Right? It’s the same thing. And I don’t know if they have 1000 Island dressing in the UK. But hopefully, somebody can Google that. And they’ll they’ll understand the the joke, because what we generally feel is a secret is not a secret at all, there’s very little that’s proprietary out there, like the Coca Cola syrup is probably proprietary. But beyond that, there ain’t very much. So just like with, you know, that example, you mentioned that Alistair, before we were manufacturing our own fiberglass pools, I was like, people want to see how these things are made. So I tried when I, I went to the factory one time of our manufacturer, because we they were given a tour. And so I said, I’m just gonna start recording this stuff. Owner freaks out. He’s like, this is proprietary, and I say, Dude, you think this is new. I’ve been to other factories, it’s all the same. This is there’s nothing proprietary. Just give me a break.  What makes something proprietary is when you actually friggin show it. That’s what makes it awesome. That’s what makes it believable. And still, most aren’t willing to do that. And so unless you truly have something that is locked away, in in some secrets safe, that nobody has the access to, you know, it’s your frickin cold storage for your Bitcoin maybe. But, I mean, give me break. There’s, there’s nothing proprietary going on 99% of the time, it’s our people that make us different, really, what’s different about your people, your people probably used to work for the other people. So your people came from the other people’s employment? And yet, you’re telling me it’s your people? That makes you different? It’s kind of arrogant. I mean, I think my people are special, too. So you’re saying your people are, are better than everybody else’s people out there? Well, no. Okay to show your people show them. They don’t believe they’re special. How do we get to know them? Right? See them feel them? Their story. Now we’re cooking with gas.


Alastair McDermott  23:52

Okay, so somebody listening to this is has decided that, you know, they’re going to actually take this advice. Where do they get started with with, you know, coming up with ideas? For example, you talked about worries, concerns, fears, you mentioned pricing? Can you talk a little bit about the the actual type of content, we should be adding the nuts and bolts?


Marcus Sheridan  24:09

Yeah, I think what the best parts of they ask you answer the book is the section on the big five. These are the five main subject matter areas that we obsess about as, as consumers as buyers, as researchers, five things that we want to learn about before we reach out to a company and here’s the five as buyers, as consumers, we want to understand how much does it cost was the problems with the issues the negatives with it? How does it compare to all these other things that we’ve looked at? What’s everybody saying about it reviews? Number five, what is the best it best such a such most such an such loud is such a such quiet as such and such. So cost problems comparisons, reviews and best. Now there’s a little derivatives that come under each, but we’ve found then this is from now hundreds and hundreds of case studies and like, like 1000s and 1000s of pieces of content that we’ve analyzed these the five subjects that move the needle the most, when it comes to traffic leads and sales. And what’s interesting about them is businesses don’t want to talk about them.  So most businesses still don’t want to talk about cost and price. It’s a, it’s a proprietary or it’s a very customized solution. Or it’s very bespoke, which still, you can talk about it. And we can we can address how that is. But most businesses don’t want to talk about the negative things that people ask them that are perceived negative about the product or service they sell. Most people don’t want to talk about the competition. Why? Because they think oh, geez, I don’t want to introduce them to the competition. Again, that assumes they’re dumb. Most people don’t want to give reviews. Yes, even have their own products. But a good review means you have to talk about the good, the bad, the ugly, who it’s for who it’s not for, what are the pros, what are the cons, the most, I want to talk about the best because that means you need to take a stand might mean that yours isn’t necessarily the best. When I say the best, there’s all these best based questions that people search for all the time, right? Are you willing to address those, but it starts with the best keyword tool in the world. And this will piss off a bunch of SEO people, which is your ears. Ears are still the best keyword tools in the world by far. It’s not even close. And then we’ve got the keyword tools beyond that. Because if you really are listening, well, you just hear, you just hear the questions are asking, and therefore the searches they’re all making. Those are the five, those are the five and 80% of your content, especially once you initiate they ask you answer when you start content marketing, whatever you want to call it should be centered around those five things.


Alastair McDermott  26:53

Right? So So we’re, we’ve got our five topics, we’re sitting down, we’ve got our blank screen in front of us. And we’re trying to type it Do you have any any advice for people who are finding it difficult to actually create the content?


Marcus Sheridan  27:07

Well, what’s funny about that is if they were sitting with a prospect, and the prospect, just asked him a question, they would riff. Why do we have a problem? When we start to write? Well, that’s because we, we start to think like a writer, and not as just that subject matter expert. We’ve been for years. One of the best ways, though, to start a piece of content. And I like to do this with video with articles, anything, you always start the question, but he might say it like this. It’s almost like a sympathetic question. So let’s say the subject is how much does a fiberglass pool cost? Right? So I might sit there and start the article like this? Are you researching fiberglass pools and wondering to yourself, so how much are these things really going to cost? Like, what am I going to expect in terms of price ranges? And how can I play in my budget? Relax, relax, believe it or not, we’ve got some answers for you. And so in this article, we’re going to talk about all the pricing considerations that you can have with a fiberglass swimming pool. We’ll talk about what drives cost up. Talk about what keeps the cost down, in by the end, hopefully, you’ll have a great sense as to how much a fiberglass pool is really going to cost. That was an intro for video for an article, I could do that exact same thing on any question. Anybody asked? How much does an SEO consultant cost? Right? So you’re sitting there and you’re saying to yourself, alright, I need SEO. But how much am I going to spend? I’ve seen all these SEO consultants, but nobody wants to tell me how much they’re really going to cost? Is there even an answer out there? Is anybody going to be honest enough with me? Relax. Because here at McDermott, SEO, we like to talk about the questions our customers have. And we know you want to know roughly what, uh, what am I going to spend on SEO? So in this article, we’re gonna discuss some of those factors. Or talk about why some consultants are so expensive, why some are so cheap, things you need to be aware of. And by the end, hopefully, you’ll have a great sense as to what it costs to hire an SEO consultant. Say think.


Alastair McDermott  29:32

Okay, so one thing that could be useful here, but also can be dangerous is templates. Because what you’ve really just done is give us a template. Have you seen people using those? Do they work? Well, you know, as as a kind of a starting point.


Marcus Sheridan  29:48

Oh, of course. All templates work well until somebody screws them up. So it so that pattern is an easy way to get out of your rut and started A piece of content. I’m not a big believer in overthinking it. I, I teach people templatestyles stuff all the time. And they will say things sometimes like, Yeah, but people are going to realize that I’m following a pattern like, So how often have you heard me and said, Marcus, you’re following a pattern, you’re not, you’re not saying you’re following a pattern, you’re just listening. Because if you do it the right way, it’s never going to sound unnatural. What I just stated there was incredibly natural sounding. It’s very endearing to most readers or listeners, it’s going to make them say, Wow, this person’s like me. They’re not Ultra technical, they actually have a soul, I can appreciate that. This is great.


Alastair McDermott  30:42

One thing that you say in the book is that we are all media companies, whether we like it or not, and that he talks a lot about creating a culture of video. And so I’m just thinking how this applies to independent consultants solo consultants. So it isn’t independent is a solo business. Is that still a media company?


Marcus Sheridan  31:02

Well, if people are primarily finding you online, you can call it whatever you want. I’m gonna call that a media company. Right?


Alastair McDermott  31:10

It’s so on people to find you online. That’s right, if that’s your


Marcus Sheridan  31:13

primary aim, if you want people to find you online, if you want them to be able to find you easily, if you want to become known, and being known today means you’re online. There’s not a lot of people that are Amish that are online and known. Right? It’s like you got to be you got to be online, findable online. Sure. You might say, well, I’ve got a referral based business, I don’t, I don’t need the internet, good for you. By the way, you’re never gonna scale and your business isn’t sellable. But that’s fine. Whatever, whatever works for you. That’s totally, totally fine. And I’m really mean that. But if you want something that’s sellable, you build something online.


Alastair McDermott  31:54

So what does it actually mean to be like, what does that philosophy mean? If you are a media company, if you’re you say, Okay, I’m going to embrace this? Well, it


Marcus Sheridan  32:02

means you stopped thinking the traditional way. And you start seeing everything from Can I show this story? Not just can I tell the story? Can I show this story? Is this worthy of showing right now. Now, I’m not saying that you’re vlogging your entire life. I’m not saying that. Because I’m not necessarily interested in that either. But it does mean that you don’t assume that anybody just understands what you’re saying, you’re saying, I know that Seeing is believing. So I’m going to find ways to show this and not just tell it, I’m gonna find ways to show it. And once again, this goes back to, you know, most your competitors probably are still living in that everything’s proprietary. They don’t, you know, talk much anyway, don’t teach much. Maybe they ride a little bit. That’s it. But they’re not doing a lot of video to show how they do what they do to teach the world their expertise. You know, you take technical SEO for a second, right? It’s funny to me about a lot of SEOs is they don’t want their I’m not seeing everybody here. A lot of don’t want their clients known SEO because it means they don’t have a job. Dude, you show someone technical SEO, and the first thing they’re doing is running to their checkbook so that they don’t ever have to worry about that again.


Alastair McDermott  33:24

This is so true. And I used to work in SEO.


Marcus Sheridan  33:27

Right? You know, I’m saying yeah, it’s like, it’s like, being Neo in the Matrix. All of a sudden, I was like, No, I’m, I’m not Neo. I don’t I don’t read code. I don’t read back end. I don’t understand these technical things. So I’m out. I’m out. Now, do I understand basic SEO? Yeah, of course. But even myself. For technical, I’m out. I don’t I don’t want anything to do with that. So if somebody can show me a little bit of how they do it, they say, Well, now you can do this yourself if you want, or we’re happy to help you. I’m using the one that’s already shown me how to do it. You know, they know how to do it. Exactly. You know, and there’s a big company in the US that does computer repairs called a Geek Squad. They do a lot of content marketing, teaching people how they do what they do. And one time someone asked the CEO, why do you take the time to teach your customers how to fix their own computers? Aren’t you like cutting off your nose to spite your face type of thing? He said, Don’t you realize my number one customer is the person that tries to do it themselves?


Alastair McDermott  34:38

brilliantly. Yep. Okay, I want to ask you about the other book because you told me in our pre chat, you said it’s going to be the most important book that you write. And I’m trying to convince you to call it they asked don’t answer but your your real title for it is going to be questioned first. Yeah. So can you tell them by that


Marcus Sheridan  35:00

a bit. You know, ultimately, what I teach is communication. Sometimes it’s called Marketing. Sometimes it’s called sales training. Sometimes it’s called leadership communication. And question first is an approach that I use with my speaking style on stages, if anybody’s ever seen me, because I interact a lot with the audience. The way I would teach a lecture can’t really do it in a podcast situation. But question first means that you approach the world and see the world in the form of question means you recognize that it’s not your job to be the expert, to be the indole that if you’re the boss, let’s say of a company, or the manager of a department, it’s not your job when somebody comes to you to give the answer. Rather, it’s your job to help them discover the answer within themselves. Okay, that’s question first question first means, as the teacher, as the instructor, as speaker, you’re not the hero you accept that your audience has to hear, you’re going to find a way to help them become the hero, that the employee is the hero, that if people discover their own answers, then it’s going to mean so much more to them, they just might own it, they just might run with it. And if you teach people how to solve their own problems, if you walk with them on that journey of asking just the right question every single time, help them see the light, discover that truth. Now you’re developing leaders. And if you ever want to be a business owner, that can scale and have employees, and not just be inundated constantly in text and emails and phone calls, you have to develop those that are on your team. And the only way you can do that is teach them leadership. And the only way you can do that is helped him to start to think like a leader. And the only way you can do that is to instead of answering their questions that you already know the answer to help them figure out the answer. So that’s question first. Some people might say that sounds like the Socratic method. Yeah, but it’s a lot, a lot more than that. A lot more than that. And fundamentally, most leaders, most salespeople, most managers, most teachers, even they don’t understand the art of the perfect question, and how to dig deeper, and how to help someone have those light bulb moments. The way you can tell if you’re proficient or effective. What I’m talking about Alistair is how often when you’re having a conversation with someone, and this could be a child, right? If you’re a parent, it could be a co worker, it could be an audience, how often does somebody say to you? You know what, I know what I need to do? Or you know what, I just thought of an answer. I know what, I just got an idea. Those are all indications of a light bulb moment. Now, do you induce those? But if your employees or if your kids or your team are consistently saying, You’re right, you’re right, you’re right. That’s what I need you to do. There’s no self discovery there. You’re not teaching them anything. You’re just telling them what to do.


Alastair McDermott  38:17

Does this apply to a client situation as well? And anyway?


Marcus Sheridan  38:22

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. So I want you to you, I want you to pick a profession, and then I’ll show you how it applies. Just pick one. Anyone that you think one of your listeners could be right now, Alastair?


Alastair McDermott  38:35

Change management consultants in the healthcare industry.


Marcus Sheridan  38:38

Alright, so they’re a change management management consultant in the healthcare industry. So somebody comes to you as a change management consultant. And they say, so tell me why I need a consultant like yourself. Now, most people are going to do what in that moment, Alastair? They’re going to answer the question, she’s going to say, Okay, here’s all the reasons, instead of that approach needs to be very different approach first is going to be, I’ll say, I don’t know, if you really do need a change management management consultant. I don’t know if you’re ready for one to tell you the truth. And so we need to figure out if you’re actually ready for one, and in conjunction with that, whether or not you should get one. And it’s going to be a very honest conversation. Now, in order to find this out, I’m going to have to ask you some questions. I’m going to need you to answer very, honestly. And by the end, my sense is you’ll know if this is something you should do. Does that sound fair to you? You say yes. And then we go. And you’ve just told me, ask me the questions you need to ask me so that I can figure this out. That’s question first, in a sales setting.


Alastair McDermott  39:52

Okay, one thing I heard you talk about, and this is just slightly different, but it’s really asking questions. I think I heard you say Asking shorter questions conveys authority. Can you talk a little bit about that and the different ways that we ask questions.


Marcus Sheridan  40:06

So let’s say that let’s say you have an employee, okay, just being hypothetical. And they really messed up on on an account. Right? And they just they’ve been screwing up lately. So if that’s the case, tell me which one is has more authority of these questions in which one is going to render the better answer. Okay. So I’m going to ask the question first, and then I’m gonna ask a question. Again after that, Alastair? Okay. First question. Hey, Alastair, I just want to do, I just wanted to check in with you on some of these mistakes you’ve been making recently. And I’m just wondering, is it you know, is there something going on that I’m not aware of? Like, you know, I mean, I know you’ve had a lot going on in your life and everything. But, you know, I’m just pretty concerned about everything. And the clients are pretty frustrated. And so, you know, can you help me just get a sense of, you know, what might be happening? Question one. Question two, Alistair, what has been going on lately? Something’s wrong. What is it that you tell me? Which one is going to render? More clear of an answer? Which one was more heard?


Alastair McDermott  41:29

Yeah, I think the shorter one is far more impactful. And, yeah, just comes comes across. And, in fact, I’m now a bit concerned that the first version is the way that I asked questions on of interviews. So maybe I need to work on that in my interview as


Marcus Sheridan  41:45

well. Okay. Well, I mean, not, not necessarily, Alastair, but let’s say, especially with dig questions. And everybody knows they should do this, but they tend to struggle. So let’s say you ask a setup question. And they give you an answer. The next question should always be very incisive. If you’re digging, you might be why, or tell me more, or what can next than one person just continue to talk? Right? It’s no different than if I came to you. Let’s look at another example of question first, let’s say you’re a consultant. And you say to me, Marcus, tell me why should talk about cost and price on my website, I’m going to say to you, um, it’s going to sound just like it’s gonna be question first, right? say to you, Alistair, do you really want to know if you should talk about costs and pricing your website? You’re gonna say what?


Alastair McDermott  42:38

Your? Absolutely. Saying that.


Marcus Sheridan  42:42

Alright, so just just pretend that you’re the consultant for a second, I just want you to answer me like, like you, like we would in the live here. Okay, Alistair. So let’s just say you said yes. And I said, Okay, pushing everything aside for a second. Alastair, if you were a potential customer of yours, researching a consultant, would you as the customer want to understand pricing? Yes or no? Yes. Why would you want to understand,


Alastair McDermott  43:11

so that I know what kind of financial commitment I’m making, so that I understand what the factors are in increasing or decreasing the cost?


Marcus Sheridan  43:19

Yeah. If you know those things, what we feel towards that company?


Alastair McDermott  43:24

I will feel appreciative trust, trust, trust


Marcus Sheridan  43:29

our store, do you want that trust with your customers? Absolutely. Yes,


Alastair McDermott  43:35

I do. Okay,


Marcus Sheridan  43:37

so that was question first. Right. That was question first. But you notice the questions aren’t long. Yeah, they’re all very punchy. They’re incisive, because when we’re incisive with our questions and our thoughts, we render incisive, clear answers. When we’re wishy washy with our questions. We render wishy washy answers, if I see to you like I said earlier, Alastair, I know a lots been going on with you. I mean, I know there’s sure you got a heavy, heavy schedule and everything. But I mean, can you help me understand what’s happening with your, with your client work? Now? There’s almost like you’ve got his green light to say, Well, I mean, I’ve just been really overloaded recently, Marcus. And so I’ve already get like it came out and I gave you the answer to start. I said, I know you’ve been busy. That’s, that’s not helping. It’s not helping at all. Now, it’s okay for me. And I do need to show you that I care. That’s important part of this. But you don’t have to add a bunch of words to show someone you care. Alistair, I believe in you so much as a worker. But what I’ve seen recently isn’t close to your potential. What’s wrong, see, different game? It’s gonna render different answers. And so, the most effective communicators generally ask Ask the shortest questions.


Alastair McDermott  45:01

Okay, really interesting. I’d love to have the time to dig further into that. But I think I might ask you to come back. And when you have the book ready to come back and talk more about that, yeah, it’ll be fun. I have a couple of things I want to ask you about, just as we wrap up one of those, so you own it. Now you sell pools, you manufacture pools, and you have a franchise operation as well. And you run your own agency, Sales Training Agency and your speaker, how do you do all that? You know, how do you manage your time?


Marcus Sheridan  45:31

Well, I get good business partners. And I have good people also use question first. So we develop leaders, I’ve got this amazing group of people that I’ve mentored, that have been able to take the reins in different areas of my businesses. And at the same time, I don’t feel the need to be in charge of these things. I just, it’s not, I’m not gonna micromanage great people, teach them sound principles, exercise, trust, and really great things happen. Now, if you want to go in business with people, you need to get business partners that fill in the voids, that you don’t have strengths. I don’t want a business partner that’s like me, I want a business partner that’s different than me. And people, for some reason, they, they want to oftentimes go in business with their best friend, I don’t want to go in business with my best friend. I want to go in business with somebody that doesn’t share my skill sets, but has another set of skills that are very strong.


Alastair McDermott  46:39

Cool. Um, I don’t really have time to dig into that more. But that’s, that’s fascinating. I’m going to ask you just just two last questions on their buy books? Do you have a favorite apart from the ask you answer? Do you have a recommended resource book that that you find inspiring or useful that you recommend people read?


Marcus Sheridan  46:58

Well, the the singular most important business book I’ve ever read, for me, was Good to Great by Jim Collins, there’s so much there. And I would recommend that you read it, take notes on it at least five times before you move on to another book. I think one of the most evergreen books that I’ve ever read in personal development, though, was how to win friends and influence people. And I think it’s just as true today as it was when it was written, like, I don’t know, 80 years ago, whenever it was written. And so those two books have had massive impacts on my life. And the speaker that’s had the most impact on my life is Jim Rohn. Our Oh, H N. Jim Rohn. He was the original godfather of personal development, Tony Robbins, worked for him before anybody knew who Tony Robbins was. So if you get a chance, YouTube, Jim Rohn. If you’re listening to this, just listen to him today. And just watch yourself, walk with a bigger spring in your step and your chin is going to be a little bit higher.


Alastair McDermott  48:03

Awesome. And I’ll link to those in the show notes. And what about fiction? Do you read fiction though?


Marcus Sheridan  48:08

I, I read a little bit of fiction, but not enough to say, Hey, I recommend this. I will say this. The reason why I named my blog, originally, the sales line was two reasons. The first book I ever read as a kid, that was a serious book. Because I had I was in the slow readers class. Simply while to come around on reading. first book I ever read was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And there’s something about lions that was that was just magical to me. And that particular line in that book was just amazing, right? And so I had this affinity towards towards lions. That’s one of the reasons why I named my first blog outside of my pool company, The Sales Lion. Right. So I still love that book. It’s got a lot of great teachings in it.


Alastair McDermott  49:06

Yeah, absolutely. Very cool. Marcus, where can people find you if they’re interested in learning more?


Marcus Sheridan  49:11

Well, if you’re listening to this, you should follow me on LinkedIn. Because I’m really dang good follow on LinkedIn. I usually post six to seven times a week. That’s where my best content goes. That’s where it lives. That’s where I hang out. I don’t hang out anywhere else. You can’t find me on Facebook or anything like that. Because I want to be around positive people saying positive things. And so find me on LinkedIn. You can also reach out my personal email is Marcus at Marcus Sheridan comm. Marcus at Marcus


Alastair McDermott  49:42

Awesome. Marcus, thank you so much for your time and for being with us today. My pleasure. If you would like some help with the journey to authority, I have a free webinar available at, and there’s a link to that in the show notes. You can sign up for the live webinar. If you can’t make it. There will be a replay available. It is purely an informational webinar. There’s nothing for sale. It is just a webinar to help you take that next step on the journey to authority. I’ll have some free downloads and tools to help you with that available if you sign up, so that’s at


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