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Why Positioning Is Crucial to Your Business with Shannyn Lee

December 13, 2021
Episode 43
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!.

As a consultant, it can often be difficult to be seen as meaningfully different from your competitors. Every consulting firm has  – or claims to have! – smart people, great methodologies and tools, and every website talks about how they can solve complex business problems in a variety of industries. So how can you stand out from the competition?

In this episode, Shannyn Lee and Alastair McDermott discuss why positioning is crucial to your consulting business, why people fear positioning, and how your perspective and ideology helps differentiate you from your direct competitors.

They also discuss how experimentation can help you find what energizes you, the different business models for consulting firms, and why they are happy to be a training organization!

➡️ Learn more about Authority Labs:


Show Notes

Guest Bio

Shannyn Lee is the Win Without Pitching Director of Coaching. She spent a decade in senior marketing and communication roles in Fortune 500 companies before moving to a business development leadership role at a well-regarded Seattle design firm. She also spent four years at Catapult New Business where she worked with agencies of various disciplines and size, building and leading their business development programs. Her time on the front lines of agency business development coupled with many informative years on the client side, has given Shannyn a unique perspective into what marketers are looking for in agencies and what agencies must be doing in order to compete and win.


positioning, clients, people, pitching, coaching, exercise, sale, business, talking, perspective, find, book, niching, conversation, frameworks, superpower, expert, organisation, training, thinking

Alastair McDermott, Shannyn Lee


Shannyn Lee  00:00

So there’s this interesting tension that begins to exist right away between letting the past do what it needs to do to inform things, but really embracing what the future can look like. Which can bring up part of the fear as well because somebody may feel like well, I don’t want to do what I’m doing today. But how am I going to learn to become that expert?


Voiceover  00:19

Welcome to The Recognized Authority, a podcast that helps specialised consultants and domain experts on your journey to become known as an authority in your field. Here’s your host, Alastair McDermott.


Alastair McDermott  00:29

Hey, folks, before we get into today’s episode, I just want to briefly mention that I’m going to be doing a couple of webinars in December and January. And they’re going to be focused on the journey to authority and helping you niche down. So if those are things that you’re interested in, sign up for the email list, if you’re not signed up already, you can get that at  So today, my guest is Shannyn Lee. Shannyn is the Wind Without Pitching director of coaching. She has spent a decade in senior marketing and communication roles in Fortune 500, before moving to business development leadership at a well regarded Seattle design firm. She’s also spent four years at Catapults new business, where she worked with agencies of various disciplines in size, building and leading their business development programmes. And I know Shannyn from her work with Win Without Pitching, and from some really great resources that you’ve put up, particularly on YouTube and places like that. Lots of really cool videos. So I’m going to dive straight in with a question about one of my favourite topics. I’d love to get your take on why positioning is so important, and why people don’t want to tackle positioning, why it’s difficult for people why they don’t want to kind of take it on as their first port of call.


Shannyn Lee  01:44

Great question. So positioning in our mind Win Without Pitching is fundamental business strategy, it is not a linguistics exercise. And so I want to just define it first and foremost for how we view it. And because it’s fundamental business strategy, it affects everything that happens in the day to day of your organisation. So when you’re well positioned, you’re very clear about every move that you choose to make, or anything you choose to walk away from. And so there are lots of benefits that happened as a result, which I can talk about here in a minute. I think that the biggest reason people have fear of entering into a positioning exercise is because they don’t want to sacrifice, they don’t want to miss out on anything. And they view it that way. Instead of putting a different frame or a different lens on it and coming at it with an abundance mindset. They think about it as an exercise and sacrifice and it scares the daylights out of them.


Alastair McDermott  02:47



Shannyn Lee  02:48

And so those are some of the biggest obstacles that I work to help people overcome when I’m in a sales conversation and talking with them about coming into positioning work with us with Win Without Pitching.


Alastair McDermott  03:00

Right. But that fear of missing out that FOMO the fear of turning away opportunity. That’s the that’s the big thing. And so, that fear, I mean, so what I talked about specialisation a lot. And so when you’re when you’re talking about positioning here, are you talking about specialisation and niching down as well?


Shannyn Lee  03:21

I am. Yep, we’re on the same page there.


Alastair McDermott  03:24

Okay. And so can you tell me a little bit about what you do with with your clients when when you’re talking to them? And they’re having this fear of turning away opportunity when they’re fearful of disposition? Can, can you just tell me a little bit about what you’re actually doing? And why it isn’t, you know, wordplay in linguistics, what you’re actually doing when you’re helping them do that?


Shannyn Lee  03:44

Yeah, yeah. So when somebody makes a decision to enter into a positioning exercise, we take into account, you know, what happened certainly in the past, historically, for them, where have they won the most work, what have they enjoyed the most, what’s been the most profitable. But we also want it to be a future looking exercise. So we’re asking them some big picture visionary questions, because we want them to place themselves in a place three years from today, where they see themselves really happy. We want to know what’s happened for them, personally and professionally to make them so happy.  So there’s this interesting tension that begins to exist right away between letting the past do what it needs to do to inform things, but really embracing what the future can look like. Which can bring up part of the fear as well because somebody may feel like well, I don’t want to do what I’m doing today. But how am I going to learn to become that expert? And there becomes the journey really about. Let’s make an informed decision about where you want to focus where you want to specialise your market and your discipline as a starting point. And then let’s really start to understand what is your perspective on this. How do you provide outcomes and business benefit within this area of specialisation. And we get them thinking, we get them writing, we pull all of this intellectual capital that’s sitting in their head, and start to document and codify things and turn it into intellectual property.  And so there’s a lot of really guided thoughtful exercises and questioning that we put our clients through throughout the positioning track of content that allows them to kind of sit in the messiness and tension of it, and feel supported, and run scenarios. And take an eye towards like a thoughtful exercise. But at the end of the day, we are going to ask them to jump and to trust and to try something, and to go out to the market and do some listening and learn and adjust or fine tune a little further if needed.  So it’s a process that brings mindset and behaviour to bare. And it’s a process that brings facts and figures into bare. And there’s art and science involved. And so I think that can be part of why it’s scary, too, is it can feel nebulous, uncertain, they maybe had a bad experience in the past where they didn’t have a guided process. And so it’s hard to think about doing that again. So there’s just there’s a whole lot that can come up in a positioning exercise for somebody.


Alastair McDermott  06:16

Yeah, yeah. And so I really like how you talk about going out to the market and listening. So you’re talking about, like, having lots of conversations trying to understand problems? Is that what you’re talking about there?


Shannyn Lee  06:29

Yeah. So there, there may be an exercise, for example, where we’ll ask, you know, what are 10 things, you know to be true about what it would mean to be an expert in this area? And what are 10 things that you better know, if you’re an expert in this area? And if there are some gaps, and you have to educate yourself, the best place to go do that is sure, maybe close trusted business associates, other experts out in the market, clients that you’ve worked with, that you trust that you maybe want to talk about a pivot with, and what do they think and what do they see? And there are some strategies when you land on something in terms of how you introduce yourself to the market, and one might be this kind of quiet way where you win some work first, do some testing, do some listening, do some learning before you announce to the world. Right that now this is what we’re going all in on.


Alastair McDermott  07:17

Yeah. Can I go back a step earlier, when when people are? So let’s say somebody who’s listening to this, they’re an independent consultants, they they’re an expert, generalist, they have a very wide skill set. And they’ve worked with a lot of different types of clients over their career. And so that very first cut the first attempt at niching, down, they’re not sure where to start, where would you advise somebody like like that, to start? Like, what’s the first thing they should do there?


Shannyn Lee  07:45

I think that you want to think about positioning as an exercise that doesn’t always have to be about niching into a vertical, it could be niching into a demographic, it could be niching into a psychographic, right. Like there’s all these different ways you can do it, it can be audience driven, it can be, you know, how to work better with engineers than anybody else, because you know, the mind of an engineer, right? So, so you want to give yourself the kind of creativity to think big and examine a lot of areas beyond just maybe marketing for financial planning companies, or whatever the case may be or management consulting for, you know, whatever the case may be. So don’t, I think the first thing I would say is don’t feel like we’re limiting you and trying to kind of put you in a box right away, think beyond even what a market vertical positioning might look like.


Alastair McDermott  08:37

Right? Yeah. And so I am a huge fan of vertical specialisation I talk about a lot as being like a superpower, because it does give you these kind of magnified network effects that you don’t get when you’re horizontally specialised. But I think that when you can find a cross section, when you can find a vertical and a horizontal I think that for me personally is is where you get to this place where you have just enough specialisation to to enjoy what you’re doing, and be able to develop unique position. That’s, that’s my kind of ideal if you if you can get there with. Would you agree with that?


Shannyn Lee  09:18

Yeah, I absolutely think so. And I think part one of part of what you’re bringing up to is, even an entrepreneurs appetite for risk, which we assume entrepreneurs have a huge appetite for risk. And I think it’s fair to say that they do. But sometimes in a positioning exercise, they kind of need to poke and prod and think through things and maybe start out with something that feels a little more broad, like management consulting for healthcare, finance and real estate, compete them against each other and see which one wins out just to give them proof positive about something that feels a little more certain. None of this is certain though, there’s you know, market dynamics and things that are changing and part of the other superpower. I think of any small business owners their ability to pivot. Right? So,


Alastair McDermott  10:03



Shannyn Lee  10:04

It’s those sorts of conversations and thinking that that need to take place when you’re making these kinds of decisions.


Alastair McDermott  10:10

Yeah. And just on the pivot thing, I was part of a small business network when I, when I started my own business, I just remember everybody in that network, I’d say, after the first six months, about 50% of them had pivoted their business to something totally different. You know, and I think that’s just a standard thing is you learn as you go. And the other thing, I think, is that it’s more important to move forward, even if it’s in what seems like the wrong direction. You’re better moving than waiting and kind of, you know, staying in that static position, afraid to move forward.


Shannyn Lee  10:48

Yeah, I still agree, Alastair. And it’s really, one of the things that we’re most mindful of anything we’re doing for clients is this attitude of taking action. It, you just, you just absolutely have to, because you’re going to learn fast, iterate, as a result, get smarter at making decisions more quickly. And it just it benefits your ability to, to do what’s needed on a day to day basis. And these kinds of businesses that our clients are running, right, because it’s a lot of real time, it’s a lot of potentially client fire drills, it’s a lot of trying to stay one step ahead of your clients. So you have to have this attitude of, of action and experimentation to, to thrive, I think.


Alastair McDermott  11:32

Yeah. And so, okay, let me come to so I just thinking about positioning, and you know, what the core parts of positioning are. One thing that I like to go back to is, is a positioning statement. And for me, that’s the fulcrum of my business. It’s like the core thing. And I think people think that maybe this is where player linguistics, but for me getting kind of wordsmithing that and tweaking that to reflect that becomes for me that like the core message or the core thing, that everything every business decision is focused around. Do you view a positioning statement like that? Or some people call a value proposition? Is that what that is for you?


Shannyn Lee  12:11

Yeah. So, yes, and yes, and is the answer to that, because there’s another tool that we think is important, which is perspective. So the way we think about positioning is you start with your focus, which is your market and your discipline. So Win Without Pitching, for example, sales training for creative professionals, and then we want you to write that elevator pitch that statement that serves as something to sit on your website or something to use in conversation. And the important thing about that statement is we want there to be a reassurance statement. That’s a piece of it.  So Win Without Pitching works with small to medium sized, creative agencies. The reassurance statement is, we help you gain the power of position in the sale, to lower your cost of sale, increase what you charge, and feel like the expert in the room, right? So I’m just talking about the business benefit or the outcomes you can expect if you work with us. So you need that reassurance statement to sit in that positioning statement. Then,


Alastair McDermott  13:18



Shannyn Lee  13:19

Yeah, then perspective comes. And perspective is the other leg of positioning that separates you from your competitors yet again, your perspective is your ideology. Your perspective is what is non-negotiable in how you think the work must be brought to bear. So we got lucky because our perspective isn’t our name, Win Without Pitching. Everything we do is in service of helping our clients Win Without Pitching. And that is the way in a room when you’re you have competitors, which you should, you can begin to talk about how you’re different is through this lens of perspective.


Alastair McDermott  13:58

Right. And that perspective, you refer to it as ideology. And you’ve also called a point of view, and I’ve heard some other people call it having a distinct point of view. So basically, that is your kind of unique viewpoint on on your entire and your entire positioning and and what you’re doing your the services that you’re offering. So and another perspective on very close to what, you know, in terms of business model, and in terms of offerings, I think is quite different.  But I think of Jonathan Stark when I think of Blair Enns and Win Without Pitching on Jonathan Stark message is Hourly Billing Is Nuts. And you know, he’s talking to your audience of developers, but that’s his perspective on it. And it’s just it’s it, you know, in a way, you might say, Well, Jonathan, and you guys are direct competitors. But I don’t think that really that you would say that. And I personally, I don’t really believe that there is such a thing as a direct competitor in this type of business. You know, we’re not in a commodity kind of b2c. You know, fighting for shelf space.  But yeah, so that distinct point of view that perspective, that ideology. This is something that I find difficult when I’m talking to people, like how do you come up with that? How do you find or develop that perspective or that ideology that that point of view?


Shannyn Lee  15:21

It is something it is true that you want it to be polarising in the sense that it’s going to attract some and repel others. It doesn’t mean you have to take the path of like radical polarisation in your perspective. But there better be something that invokes an emotion in somebody when they’re when they’re reading about it listening to you talk about it. And I think that one of the great exercises you can use to think about what is the perspective of how I approach this work is let yourself unleash on the page write the article you really want to write but you’re petrified to hit send on to your clients to those thinking about working with you. And see what comes out at you have a see what comes out of you see what enrages you about the industry or about the clients or see what is it that has become complacent that needs to change. So I think if you can go through an exercise like that you oftentimes can find like what you really believe about what’s going on here and why you think the work needs to be thought about done in whatever manner it is, that’s non-negotiable to you.


Alastair McDermott  16:25

Right? That’s really cool. I like that as an exercise.


Shannyn Lee  16:27



Alastair McDermott  16:28

And for me, part of that is I haven’t got the words for this yet, I’m still trying to develop the language around it. But for me, the thing in my world is this total dependency on referrals and word of mouth, in this industry. It’s massive, you know, in my, in my research, you know, I was finding that it was dominant as the business development, lead generation tool for firms size, one to 10 and 11, to 20 and 21 to 50 and 51 to 200, which is crazy that firms that big are relying on word of mouth and referrals. And so that’s, that’s something that I’m trying to help people move away from. And, you know, there is this other option of authority marketing, inbound marketing, which I think is really powerful, you know, if you want to choose that, and so,


Shannyn Lee  17:24

I fully agree with you, this idea of referrals, it’s so unpredictable.


Alastair McDermott  17:30

It’s so unpredictable. Philip Morgan said to me on another podcast, he said, I would be terrified if my business was dependent on referrals. Um, he has, he has an amazing inbound machine.


Shannyn Lee  17:43



Alastair McDermott  17:43

And he has, you know, he has, he has a great audience who really trust him and what he does. And Philip Morgan, by the way, for anybody listening to this is, he’s a business coach of mine, but he’s also like the specialisation guru. He’s written several books by positioning and specialisation. And he’s the, the kind of the preeminent guy out there at the moment for that in the kind of b2b Consulting world, I think.


Shannyn Lee  18:07

So he’s so good. We love him.


Alastair McDermott  18:10

Yeah, yeah, he’s awesome.


Shannyn Lee  18:11



Alastair McDermott  18:11

Really nice guy as well. Okay, so you talk about positioning as being the right Dorian. What do you mean by that?


Shannyn Lee  18:18

Well, if somebody comes to me, and they explain that they’re having challenges in the sale, they’re losing more than winning, they can’t seem to charge enough. It’s because in most cases, they’re not seen as meaningfully different. And that’s positioning. Right, that is specialisation. And so they really need to get their house in order first, in order from a specialisation perspective, in order to have that correct power in the sale that lets them lead in the sale, which sets them to then lead in the engagement when they win the work.


Alastair McDermott  18:55

Yeah, yeah, the having the power in the sale. Having the authority one might say, and yeah, and so you find, or we spoke briefly, in the pre-show, you find that a lot of people don’t want to go to positioning. They think that it’s sales training that they need to set aside is that we find it?


Shannyn Lee  19:14

Often, but often in that very same conversation. By the time we get to the end of it. They’re either confessing or they know that it’s positioning.


Alastair McDermott  19:23



Shannyn Lee  19:24

I think they just like there’s a hope we don’t have to go down that path, you know, because of all of the reasons we’ve talked about, oh, it’s sacrifice. So I have to change everything. Oh, what does this mean for my team? One of them, like when I chose and they all leave, right? There’s all these kind of what ifs and fear-driven types of questions that come up.


Alastair McDermott  19:40

Yeah, that the fear, what if it doesn’t work? And then the other fear of what if it does work, and we end up doing this all the time. You know, and there’s all sorts of fears associated with that as well? Yeah.


Shannyn Lee  19:51

Yep, exactly.


Alastair McDermott  19:54

So okay, getting the positioning, right. I would like to just touch on the the pricing stuff, because you guys have have like your your kind of thought leaders in the world of pricing. So I just want to briefly talk about that. So you talk about Win Without Pitching, why do you not need to pitch?


Shannyn Lee  20:15

Our hope is that you don’t need to pitch. And we think that you don’t need to pitch because if you’re, again, we always are going to go back to to positioning, if you’re seen as meaningfully different, and you’re seen as the expert, then right away right out of the gate in the sale, that client lets you lead. And what I mean by that is they let you be the expert in the room, they let you size them up just as much as they are sizing you up. They let you ask all the questions that need to be asked in order to figure out, can we help, and they’re more apt to be transparent about the investment that they’re willing to make, and who’s going to be a part of making the decision.  So there’s this dynamic that that takes place, right when you’re in that role. And so that then leads to your ability to price in ways that may be very different than your pricing now, and I don’t just mean, moving away from pricing based on time and materials. But I mean, thinking about options, thinking creatively and expansively for your clients. And so if you can find the right clients that can set that pitch process aside, because they do see you as meaningfully different, you do have this newfound power in the sale. You know, if not, if you’re put into this pitch situation, it’s just this cost-driven comparison at the end of the day. And to me, that’s a signal that the client does not necessarily view this as important and endeavour as they’re saying it as.


Alastair McDermott  21:49

Yeah, yeah. I think about this a lot, as you know, the importance of trust and trust being this like currency in the world of b2b. And so it’s about this trust is by trust and building trust and authority. And like you say, having power in the sale. And I just want to say briefly, so you guys have the book, pricing creativity. Is that what it’s called?


Shannyn Lee  22:15

That’s right, yep. “Pricing Creativity, A Guide To Profit Beyond The Billable Hour”.  Yup.


Alastair McDermott  22:19

Yeah. And it’s probably one of the most expensive books I’ve ever bought.  And it’s also probably gave a return on investment larger than any other book of loss. Quicker than any other book I’d bought. And, you know, some of the things that are in there are, you know, talking about some of the positioning stuff, talking about, you know, the way to present proposals and having different options and things like that. We’ll save that conversation for another day. I just want to say I would highly recommend that everybody listening to this invests, I think it’s 100 or 200 300 bucks in in, in that, and I think it’s a great investment. So let me ask you about the other thing I wanted to talk about, because I have heard Blair talking in in other interviews, and just randomly, Blair, is your, your business partner?


Shannyn Lee  23:12

He’s my boss. Yeah, he’s the founder of Win Without Pitching. Yep.


Alastair McDermott  23:17

Okay, okay, so. So, I’ve heard player talking about how he was a consultant. And how he had this epiphany or had this this change, where he decided, this is the last consulting gig that I’m doing. And I am changing to a coaching and training business. And your your title is director of coaching. So I’m just really interested in coaching, and also in kind of picking, choosing a business model. So can you tell me a little bit about your perspective on that story?


Shannyn Lee  23:54

Yeah. So I think the biggest shift when he decided to move from consulting, to training, consulting organisation to a training company is one this idea of scale this because our mission is to change the way creative services are bought and sold the world over one business at a time. And when you’re one person, it’s hard to do that. And he made great progress on the mission, but he had a bigger vision for helping creative professionals. And one way to do that is to scale. And so the idea of a training company where you have a host of coaches that can help deliver this content in different formats, whether it’s a four day workshop or a six week boot camp, or a private training engagement that’s highly customised allows you to scale differently and allows you to have more impact around your vision.  And it also means we became a productized company versus a customised consulting business. And there are good things about that there are things that I think are clean and easy about that, even though it’s taken time to land on what we feel is the right product mix. And we’ll probably always be tweaking and experimenting and trying things. But it allows you this more clean go to market strategy, I think also. And he just said he was ready. So at that point in his career to make a shift.


Alastair McDermott  25:19

Yeah. And so I’m just wondering, like, is it quite ironic that that you guys now have this fixed price productized service, where you’re helping people with pricing for customised projects. Is that right?


Shannyn Lee  25:32

Yeah, exactly. I think this is, this has bantered about, let me tell you, and we’ve dipped our toe in the water of more of that consulting side of the equation where we’ve taken on a couple clients and been paid based on outcomes. But every time we do that, we get reminded of how messy that consulting side of the equation is, and how you really have to be embedded to make it work. And so we feel good about what we’re doing. We feel good about the value we’re adding. And the mission, the mission is the bigger thing that we have our eye on. And the money will follow. It’ll be fine.


Alastair McDermott  26:10

Yeah, yeah.


Shannyn Lee  26:11

Those kinds of things.


Alastair McDermott  26:13

Yeah, I find the same that you know, if you if you look ahead, to helping people and being in service to your clients, or your podcast listeners, or whoever it is, that ultimately the kind of the, the rest of the train just follows naturally. Being the you know, the the whether that be social media shares, or cash in the bank, or whatever that is, I think it’s all kind of interconnected.


Shannyn Lee  26:42

And I think it’s in I would just say quickly, like, one of the things I appreciate so much about a Blair and his wife, who’s also his partner in the business is that they have an eye towards having a life, right. So there’s much about this, that is a lifestyle business as well. And the goal is not to create this big massive machine, we will stay small, because that’s what we want to be and we want to have high impact. And so it feels good to be a part of an organisation that is clear about that. That all comes to positioning. Right. It all stems from that.


Alastair McDermott  27:18

Just out of interest, what what sizes, the business in terms of headcount.


Shannyn Lee  27:23

We are about eight in headcount.


Alastair McDermott  27:28

Wow, cool, that’s, that’s awesome. It’s something that, you know, I made a decision when I started the business about 15 years ago that I would never have any employees. And I changed that this year, where I took on a full time assistant. And now I’m kind of thinking, Okay, well, maybe I’ll be happy enough having up to five people. I repeat this decision, that’s, as I just see the scalability and flexibility, and kind of multiplying effect that it gives you it’s it, having having a team can be good. You know, most people listening to this probably like me, in that, you know, we want to do the work and we want to help people.


Shannyn Lee  28:02



Alastair McDermott  28:03

We don’t want to be full time managing, and we don’t want to be definitely don’t want to be managing other managers and not even talking to people doing the work. So that’s, that’s something I think about.


Shannyn Lee  28:13

Those are smart decisions, though, because you need that admin and operations support in order to free you up to be the visionary for your business. And that’s the right thing to do. Right. So.


Alastair McDermott  28:24

Yeah, yeah. And, you know, like, just just as a like, as an aside, normally, when I was doing my own, you know, bookkeeping and things like that, it wouldn’t take me all that much time. But I would be there would be one week, a year, in October, November, whenever the date is, when I would be really stressed. I wouldn’t get all that much work done, you know, last year, or this year, for the first time. I had my my accounts, I had them in early. I had them in like nine months early. So it’s just like it’s a big deal having somebody just there supporting you in the background. And I know that doesn’t seem like like a big deal. But just it’s it’s done. I don’t have to think about it. It’s it’s a closed loop and closing open loops I think is a good thing. And let’s go back to kind of David Allen getting things done kind of thing where you have all these open loops in your head. Anytime you can close a loop close and work get get something out of your off your plate. I think it’s really important.


Shannyn Lee  29:19

It’s a huge deal. Mike crossing my two dues off my to do list is critical to me staying like mentally healthy. Yeah, you got to feel progress and action.


Alastair McDermott  29:31

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Let me ask you a bit more about coaching then, because you’re director of coaching. So I’m guessing them does that mean you’re not doing a lot of training? You’re working specifically in coaching, is that right?


Shannyn Lee  29:44

So at this point in our evolution, I am actually doing all of the delivery of our products except for our public workshops that we run about six times a year and Blair and I or Blair, one of my coaching team members deliver that. So I’m in their coaching and training, delivering boot camps, private workshops, private training, and then I also oversee our coaching team. So when I met capacity, then I have a team that I activate to come in and help.


Alastair McDermott  30:14

Awesome. Can I ask you then about coaching? What is different because I’m, I’m a, I’m coming from a background where I was consulting, and I was also doing this other thing called mentoring, but which is really consulting under a different name. And that was the technical name is used by the organisation I worked with. But I was really consulting and kind of not dictating, but basically saying, Here’s what I think you should do. And now I’m trying to coach and it’s a different approach. Can you can you just talk a little bit about that?


Shannyn Lee  30:48

Yeah, I feel like I, I feel like I know what the differences, but I feel like the lines get blurred in what I do anyway. And so in my mind, training is somebody comes to us, and they say, I want to get better at the qualifying conversation, I want to learn how to have a value conversation, and develop a three option proposal. Well, we’re going to put our frameworks into action, and I’m going to train you how to do those things. So that’s the training element, right, like framework and tactics. And that side of the equation, the coaching side of the equation comes into play when I’m working on things like mindset and behavioural shift, right? Like, what are these people’s motivators that are causing them to go sideways in the sale? What do we need to tackle to build the confidence to get them over that so they can go do an effective job of using the framework to qualify?  And so for me, that’s where it becomes a little blurred sometimes. So there are training sessions. And then I’ll get a call where somebody like I just had a qualifying conversation, and it went terribly wrong. And I think I’m the worst salesperson in the world. That becomes some coaching, that becomes some time to like, embrace them in a virtual hug. Hear what happened, lift them up again, push hard to remind them, why did you bring this kind of bad behaviour to bear when you knew this was something you were trying to kind of break in the sales cycle for yourself? Let’s take a look at that. So there’s messiness intention that you sit in when you’re coaching, versus,


Alastair McDermott  32:19



Shannyn Lee  32:19

Kind of clarity and frameworks and process when you’re training.


Alastair McDermott  32:23

Yeah. And do you find that given the nature of what you need to do, you need to help people with something that they find scary, sometimes even terrifying. Do you find that that you need to go into that coaching mode and understand those motivators and understand that mindset?


Shannyn Lee  32:42

Always, I really feel that it comes back to that because there are people that definitely come in, that are good at selling and have some sales skills, but there’s always something going on, that causes some sort of block that we’ve got to dig into, like, what is it? Do you have the need to win? Do you have the need to make friends? Do you have the need to kind of be competitive and dominated the sale? Like, what is that motivator that could cause some of this right? Are you uncomfortable? Talking about money? Because it wasn’t talked about in your family growing up? Right, so you do have to kind of dig a bit into, you know, what’s beneath the surface that’s driving some of this?


Alastair McDermott  33:20

Yeah, yeah. And so what I find, as I kind of move more, down the road of doing coaching, what I find is that it’s very much about trying to understand the person that you’re talking to, and understand their their kind of mindset motivations, and help them within that context. Help them to find the answers for themselves, rather than rather than presenting it. And this goes totally against my, my kind of engineer, consultant mindset of here’s the answer. But I think having the people discover or, or uncover and answer themselves, I think it motivates them more when when they go to implement.


Shannyn Lee  34:05

I think you’re right. And I think it is hard sometimes not to give the answer because you just want to help you want to make it better. And that’s what I mean by as a coach needing the ability to kind of sit in the messiness intention of it, and just let that be okay, that that can exist for a while until somebody finds their way to the other side of it and finds an answer for themselves.


Alastair McDermott  34:25

Yeah, yeah. Okay, so what advice would you give to somebody who’s who’s just starting out with they’ve started their own consulting firm or they’ve been doing for a while and and they want to take it to the next level? What what would you suggest be the be the first thing that they do? What’s the first step?


Shannyn Lee  34:42

I think that anybody starting out with a new business should actually kind of experiment and try a lot of things before they land on positioning. And I guess part of that has to do with like, how long they’ve been out there in the professional world, right and kind of What’s their experience been? But when you’re starting a new business, I do think it’s worth, you know, trying some things unless you kind of know coming into it that I better specialise, then I would take that seriously. But I do think there is time and space to experiment a bit to make sure that you land on what energises you and what can create the most value for your clients.  And then I think from there, the biggest thing I want anybody to do is be a human being and have a conversation during the sales cycle. Even if you don’t have all the frameworks and the training, that’s going to get you further than trying to go into slick sales robot mode and try to convince somebody of working with you. So it’s just stability of being a real person being okay saying no, if it’s not a good fit, just have a conversation to see if you can help.


Alastair McDermott  35:50

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I totally agree with you, I think that everybody has to have some sort of broad experience in the past, be it in your own business or somewhere, that you have some sort of broad platform where you you have you know, you’ve gone down some dead ends or you’ve worked with, you have to work on some projects, he didn’t like work with some clients who didn’t like in order to know what you do, like, you know, you kind of have to have that as a as a base. So I definitely, you know, encourage people to have some sort of messiness at the start. I think everybody does, it’s just the natural, the natural kind of flow the way it works.


Shannyn Lee  36:30



Alastair McDermott  36:31

Okay, so as we record this, I’ve just had Ron Baker on the podcast just released this week. He is like the the godfather of value pricing. And we talked about value pricing, which is something that is like core to what you do. And I’d love to have you back to talk more about those things, particularly, you know, that those conversations and the value conversation in particular, if anybody’s listening to Ron’s interview, which was just released, he was telling me that I think the number was of some of the people who are really experienced that that the number of times that they say that they have great valley conversations is about 40%. And it is just something that’s difficult to do. And so I know, I’m opening a loop here, a big teaser, but I would love to have you back on to talk about the value conversation, because I think that’s something that we would find really useful.  Okay, so the other thing I like to ask people about his business failures, would you be able to tell us, is there a failure that you have in your career in the business that you can tell us about and what you learned from it?


Shannyn Lee  37:39

Totally. And I’m always happy to talk about business failures, I think we need to do that for each other. Because if you haven’t had them, something’s wrong. You know. So I think for me, honestly, probably when I got fired from a rather large organisation, and it was a moment where going into that job, I knew I was over my head. But I wanted the job because it got me back to Seattle. And I had been living in California, and I wanted to come home. And I had enough knowledge to go do it. But I hated it. It was a toxic culture. I wasn’t good at playing the politics at that level. And it was just a wake up call for me to remember that I do matter. And I have great gifts to give the world but I need to find the right place for me and quit trying to be something that I’m not. And so it was awesome. From that perspective.


Alastair McDermott  38:29

Yeah, yeah. And I had kind of a similar experience, except I wasn’t fired, but should have been. Because I was a terrible, terrible employee. It was the the job I had just before I started the business in 2007. I’ve been working as a software engineer with a company called Sun Microsystems. And I’ve been there for six to seven years. And it was a great company. I love the people I work with. I just didn’t like the work I was doing. And I was I was just bored and unhappy. And I was I was good enough at doing enough not to get fired, basically. And it would be better for for my for my workmates and for me if I’d been fired earlier, so. So yeah, I think it’s I think getting out of those environments where you know, you’re not contributing, it’s not good for you. You’re not good for them. I think that’s that’s important. So good for you.


Shannyn Lee  39:18

Yeah, it’s good to be fired. Let it happen.


Alastair McDermott  39:23

So the other questions I like to ask people just to wrap up I like talking about books are now obviously we’ve mentioned pricing creativity. Is there any other business book or resource that you would really recommend that people check out if they’re kind of in this mindset in this mode?


Shannyn Lee  39:42

Yeah, it’s interesting because it sort of has to do with my story of getting fired. One of the exercises that I went through Win Without Pitching when I joined about six years ago now was this idea of uncovering your unique ability, and then working hard to work within your unique ability, at least 80% of the time in your job. And so the book is called “Unique Ability”. And it comes from Dan Sullivan, who’s the founder of Strategic Coach. And you can find it on Amazon or wherever even go to Strategic Coach’s website. And it’s just an eye opening guide, to really understanding what your gift is, and what your superpower is, and a plan of attack for working within that superpower as much as possible. So I think that’s a really worthwhile book and set of exercises to put yourself through.


Alastair McDermott  40:35

Cool, we will link to “Unique Ability” in the show notes. And I really love Dan Sullivan stuff. I’m reading another book of his at the moment called, “Who Not How”, which is really interesting. Which goes back to the team building thing.


Shannyn Lee  40:48



Alastair McDermott  40:48

So. Okay, and what about fiction? Are you a fiction reader?


Shannyn Lee  40:53

Oh, I am a fiction reader. Yeah, yeah.


Alastair McDermott  40:56

What, what, what, what would be your your favourite kind of your genres?


Shannyn Lee  41:01

You know, I guess I’m a little all over the map, if I’m honest. But I picked up a book that I’ve had for a while that I don’t know why I didn’t read when I bought it, “The History of Love”. And it’s just such a wonderful story about the messiness of love. Right. And there’s a lot more to it than that. Nicole Krauss is the author. But it’s just a really beautiful book. So that’s what I’m reading today.


Alastair McDermott  41:30

Okay. Cool.


Shannyn Lee  41:31

Aside from a couple of books about how to reach raise teenage girls, because I have a daughter who’s 10 that’s approaching those years. So I’m trying to get smart about that.


Alastair McDermott  41:40

Okay, I don’t have any experience with that. But I can just say good luck.


Shannyn Lee  41:43

Yeah, exactly. Good luck with that.


Alastair McDermott  41:46

Okay, so Shannon, if people want to hear more about you, and I know you’ve got some awesome stuff on YouTube, so I can recommend that. But where should they go to find out more?


Shannyn Lee  41:55

Yeah, I think just going to our website, is just a treasure trove of great thought leadership. You can find the YouTube channel there, you can learn more about our product offering and there’s just lots of good content and information.


Alastair McDermott  42:09

Yeah, and I also highly recommend buying soft copy of “Pricing Creativity”. And I mean, even if you look at the sales page for that you should learn from, from how the how that’s presented. I think that’s kind of a great way to present, you know, some of the principles that you talked about. So, Shannon Lee from Win Without Pitching. Thank you very much for being with us here. I really appreciate your time.


Shannyn Lee  42:35

Yeah, it’s been great, Alastair, thanks for having me.


Alastair McDermott  42:41

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