Joff Outlaw - The Art of Engagement

Joff Outlaw - The Art of Engagement

My guest today is my friend and ex-colleague, Joff Outlaw, Managing Director of DesignIt for Australia and New Zealand, having taken over from Katja Forbes who was on the show a few months ago.

Joff has led design and consulting teams across the UK and Australia, with project work spanning across all industry verticals. He has a passion for Design, CX consulting and building successful and happy teams.

Joff’s key passion is helping clients through the sales process, which means taking the the time to truly understand an organisation’s short term and long term goals.


Note: This transcript is machine-generated and may contain some errors.

Andy Polaine 00:09

Hi and welcome to Power of Ten, a podcast about design operating at many levels zooming out from thoughtful detail through to organisational transformation, and under changes in society and the world. My name is Andy Polaine. I’m a service design and innovation consultant, design leadership coach, educator and writer. My guest today is my friend and ex colleague Joff outlaw, Managing Director of Designit for Australia and New Zealand. Having taken over from Katja Forbes, who was on the show a few months ago, Joff has led design and consulting teams across the UK and Australia with project work spanning across all industry verticals. He has a passion for design, CX consulting and building successful and happy teams. Joff’s key focus is helping clients through the sales process, which means taking the time to truly understand an organization’s short term and long term goals. Joff, welcome to power of Ten.

Joff Outlaw 00:59

Hello, my friend, how are you?

Andy Polaine 01:01

I’m very well. Have you eaten any good sourdough recently?

Joff Outlaw 01:04

Well, you know that’s not the case. You know that the only person in the whole design industry that’s not a fan of sourdough. I actually told my new team that recently I think I lost them straightaway.

Andy Polaine 01:14

Yeah, I think you might have done you know, as someone who bakes sourdough, you know, I send you photos occasionally. I feel quite offended. What is wrong with sourdough?

Joff Outlaw 01:22

It’s not so much for bread itself. It’s the monopoly that it’s it’s got of every cafe in Sydney. So for example, the best breakfast in the world in my opinion is Eggs Benedict, and Eggs Benedict it should be served on a toasted English muffin. But you can’t you can’t get that anymore in every cafe it’s sourdough. And, that disappoints me, upsets me. I think sourdough with a bowl of soup is fine. It’s just I just got a problem with how it’s taken over. It’s my main issue.

Andy Polaine 01:51

You will be amused to know that I cut my lip on my own sourdough crust the other day.

Joff Outlaw 01:55

Yeah, you would do. It’s quite a vicious bread.

Andy Polaine 01:57

You’re more of a kind of you know, soft toast bread kind of guy. Hovis.

Joff Outlaw 02:01

I’m more of a soft farmhouse.

Andy Polaine 02:04

The northern roots, right.

Joff Outlaw 02:07

It must be. I haven’t got the the evolution of gums to deal with sourdough.

Andy Polaine 02:11

I don’t know how we segue from from sourdough into your role. But so you’ve just taken on this new role. You just, you know, upset your team, by your sourdough mutiny. What is your new role? And what are your plans?

Joff Outlaw 02:25

I’m not sure yet. It’s come. It’s come very suddenly. So it’s my second role in a year. Which is not not ideal, because there’s a lot of mental toil in starting a new role as you’ve started the year, having left Accenture after five years and joining Wipro and was just getting settled there. And then this opportunity came up. And I guess you can choose when opportunities come up. So I had to take it and want you to take it. But there’s a few issues that are I want to get stuck in straightaway. But my my key ambition really is to make sure that design is recognised in the region. Obviously, we’ve got a really impressive global heritage, do some fantastic work across Europe, in particular in the US. And so yeah, we need to get going in Australia, only the expats know who we are here. So yeah, that’s the aim to, to grow the brand and do work that matters. And hopefully, the team will be proud to be part of it. However, however long it goes on, however big we get.

Joff Outlaw 02:30

Great. Now, you and …, Well, we’ve been… so for people who don’t know, Joff and I work together Fjord in Sydney, and across Australia, New Zealand, and often – I was going to say straight man, funny man, but I think you were the funny man, and I was the straight man in those client pitches and client engagements. Is that fair to say?

Joff Outlaw 03:42

I don’t know about that. So some of your metaphors, are pretty legendary.

Andy Polaine 03:46

Yeah, okay. I tend tend to have quite of dad jokes. But I think it’s probably pushing it to say that I was the funny one. We’ve talked a lot though in, in, you know, in over coffees and all sorts of places around what’s known as client engagement. Whats certainly known in consulting as client engagement. And, you know, understanding where clients are coming from understanding how to, you know, engage with their problems, but just before recording, you said, you know, I want to talk about sales. And I want to talk about why sales is a dirty word. Why is sales a dirty word in your view? Or at least why do you hear that it’s a dirty word from designers,


Because you’re asking for money. And that’s seen as a bit uncouth, maybe, I don’t know.

Andy Polaine 04:26

Why is that uncouth? What’s been your experience?

Joff Outlaw 04:30

Well, I think, I don’t think this is a new phenomenon. I think, you know, you can go back to ancient times, and, you know, market times and dodgy salesmen, and the mistrust between the buyer and the seller. So there’s always been instances and there will always will be instances of you know, bad sales processes, and you know, the customer not getting what they want or what they thought they would get. And so it’s never as a kind of craft. I think it can be very good. Very bad. And therefore the reputation overall ends up, you know, somewhat tainted in sales becomes a kind of slightly. I wouldn’t say that profession, but potentially not a noble profession. Whereas I’ve always really, really enjoyed it and always been motivated by and it’s only as I’ve got older, that I’ve really embraced it. And I’m proud to tell people that, you know, obviously, I’m a managing director, and I’ve got many hats that I wear, but sales is the one that I always say, That’s my strength. That’s what I do really well. But yeah, even when I’ve had people, you know, starting out, and they say, they kind of say it in hushed tones, like, I’m interested in sales, you know, great. Well, let’s talk about that, you know, it’s so almost seen as the, you know, profession that you don’t really want to do, and you fall back on, because it’s a way to make a living. But um, no, I think, I think if it’s done, right, it is a noble profession. And it’s a very worthy one.

Andy Polaine 05:54

I mean, obviously, without it, you, you don’t have a business, right? And you don’t get to do the work you you want to do. I’ve actually often said that, you know, really good salespeople are the kind of people who you wouldn’t actually want to be friends with, which is not the case, in your case. So there’s some kind of magic sauce there. I think you talk very empathetically about clients, and I’ve heard you, you know, really try and understand, you know, I’d say apply the same kind of empathy that designers do to the, you know, the end customer and the end user upwards, if you like, to the stakeholders and to the clients. What is it that you’re looking for, when you’re.. obviously you’re you’re trying to make a sale, trying to win business trying to grow the business. That’s the sort of baseline of what you’re doing. But it’s, there’s the way in which you go about this, that I think it’s probably a bit of a mystery to some designers, and as you, or people, you know, in the sort of creative professions, what is it you’re trying to do?

Joff Outlaw 06:50

There’s a lot in that a few things that you said, actually, that I think is, is possibly why the sales process is sometimes mis interpreted or misunderstood. So you said, you know, win or lose, hey beat the competition a lot, right? So there’s, there’s a lot of sport in lingo that’s used in sales. So it’s this kind of competitive match, you’re going in a battle type of thing. Whereas actually, I don’t I never trade sales as a, as a sport or a competition. Obviously, you know, it’s great to, you know, win new clients, when we work on new problems. But I think if you treat it as more of a puzzle, it becomes a bit more interesting. So rather than as, again, think of it more as a puzzle. And what you’re trying to do is understand what what is the client’s problem? And sometimes they don’t know, how important is that problem? Can we help with that problem? Do we want to help with that problem, as well, which often comes in, particularly in in the design industry? And if you were treated from that perspective, then I think the sales process has a lot in common with the design process, because you go in into time discover what’s what. So that’s why I love it. I love those conversations with clients. It’s one of my favourite things when a client says I’ve got a problem, or I think I might have a problem. So good, that’s great. Love those conversations?

Andy Polaine 08:04

How often does that happen? Because I hear my experiences, a lot of clients come in with the I’ve got a solution that needs being, you know, being designed, I’ve got a thing, here’s, here’s what I need done, are you the people to do it? Rather than coming with a problem? How do you kind of steer that conversation back to what’s the actual problem space?

Joff Outlaw 08:23

Are you suggesting maybe the brief might be we need a new website, something like that?

Andy Polaine 08:27

You know, typically, that’s what you know, now that comes out, and we need that or, you know, we need a chatbot, or we need a, you know, a drone, whatever the kind of latest kind of tech is, yeah, I am I you know, and I’ve always kind of felt that… A long time ago, in my career, a long time ago, who in my career, there was a well, there was a guy from a, I think, like an insurance company, or came into the design studio, and you know, and said, some sort of naive things around design in terms of kind of what he thought the solution was, and stuff. And afterwards, a lot of designers were kind of laughing about this suit, who came in and how we need to educate him and stuff. And my then creative director said, really kind of picked us up on it and said, it’s just really arrogant, what you’re saying, you know, if you were to walk in.. or if I was to drop you in your jeans and your T shirts, in your scruffy trainers, into the middle of a kind of the boardroom of a, you know, insurance company, you would feel absolutely out of place. And of course, you would try to say something. And so I think a lot of those briefs come in with a solution built in partly because people feel that that’s what they should do. Because otherwise, you know, they’re coming in completely naive. Then the second thing is maybe because they’re they’re worried they’re gonna get ripped off.

Joff Outlaw 09:38

Yeah, yeah. So what it’s about is normally not what it’s about, right? So if they’ve coming in saying, let’s keep it simple, we need a new website. Well, what why, like, why do you need a new website? Are you you know, is it just purely because you don’t like the way it looks? Is it just about looking fail? And if that’s the case, then, you know, do we really want to take that on as a strategic design? firmus probably other people I’d recommend do a great job of just uplifting the brand in, is it because they need to, you know, for the first time start selling things online. If you’ve got a client like that, that causes all different challenges in a different conversation, is it because they want to connect the in store experience more to the online experience and try and create a completely differentiated, you know, product service, you start asking questions like that, and you get to the heart of what they’re actually trying to do. And by asking those questions, you’re showing that you really care, because it’s a lot easier to just go, Okay, we’re the best company ever at websites, here’s 10, we’ve done if you go with anyone else, you stupid, and it’s the price, we’ll give you a special discount. If you sign today. I say you breakfast,

Andy Polaine 10:47

it just the way you said that I felt like you’ve just sold me a car, Jogg.

Joff Outlaw 10:53

Sold you a website. Exactly. So you said, the more the more you take the time to investigate, the more trust you build. And you know, they always say I’d say people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. Now, the flip side of that, of course, is if the client doesn’t want to tell you anything, right, then either already know who they’re going with, and they’re not really interested in yet and you making up the numbers, or they have no idea what to do at all in which case projects will never happen. So by being investigative, you’re actually qualifying as well to see is this someone you know, is this an organisation you want to work with? Is this how you want to spend your time, which is just as important because in good salespeople or just people who are good at qualifying, you’ve only got a certain same hours in a day as everyone else. So how you choose to spend your time, you have to be very careful with that. And if you’re not good at qualification, you spend all your time chasing the wrong deals, and you have to get a new profession. Right. So investigation is the most important bit of any any cell.

Andy Polaine 11:55

I know you’ve got a very good radar for this, you know, very good nose for kind of that investigation to sort of watch you in action, as it were, it seems quite instinctual. I’m interested to know how you kind of develop that knows, and whether you have a kind of process that you could say, you know, this is my process or whether it’s more something you’ve learned over time?

Joff Outlaw 12:17

Well, you know, I’m the I’m not a huge price sky. It’s bit of a weakness of mine. There’s lots of qualification frameworks, and you have too many to mention. And most of them fail as well, because of that kind of instinct that as you say that the nose for it. So there’s a bit of an art and a science to it. You know, you’ve got to you’ve got to kind of understand those cues. But you’ve almost got a seen it before as well. Because if you’re going through a qualification process, and you’re asking the questions just to try and get answers, so you can tick a box and then start working on the proposal. You’re not really qualifying properly. So qualification frameworks can give you a steer in the right direction, but then it’s the same with, okay, I’ll bring the analogy back to research. You could give anyone a discussion guide, right doesn’t make them a good researcher. Same thing, when it comes to qualification, you’ve got to kind of really try and get a sense for what the client is trying to do. How important is it? Do you really understand the issues or the issues quantifiable? And that’s, that’s, there’s so much in this, but sometimes you can’t can tell you the problems. But when you say a Why is it a problem? They go burner? And then you’re you suddenly realise it’s no, it’s never gonna get funded. Because there’s no business outcomes tied to what the charter do. They’re just leading you on a merry dance. So there’s a lot in it, I think you a qualification framework can help but then you’ve got to go get the experience, you’ve got to go and get burned and you know, lose that time and know what it feels like to spend months on a deal. That’s never going to happen. And before you really kind of can become having no sweat, as you would say,

Andy Polaine 13:56

And what was your trial by fire? In that sense? Was there a moment where you kind of had had a click or was it a gradual sort of accretion of experience over time?

Joff Outlaw 14:06

There was no eureka moment. I wish there was no it was years and years of dejection. Yeah, it’s the same as anything and it’s just experience and you learn and you get you get a little bit better every day, right, it becomes a bit easier.

Andy Polaine 14:26

So I’ve got a slight theory, or at least it’s me, I’m just saying, I’m just talking about me, but I think there is you said dejection, but it also made me think of rejection. You know, there’s there’s quite a lot of that’s part and parcel of that process. You know, it’s that’s quite hard to kind of personally to take sometimes I have you dealt with that aspect of selling design wrok?

Joff Outlaw 14:46

Have I dealt with the rejection? It’s not that important in the grand scheme of things, and so I say,

Andy Polaine 14:57

I don’t care is the answer to that question, is it?

Joff Outlaw 15:00

Yeah, no, I mean, like, of course, like, you know, you want to win interesting work for the team. And I felt enormous pride when we’ve, you know, certain projects and potentially certain projects we’ve worked on together, where you bring that piece of work in at the studio, and everyone’s super excited about it. And then you look at the teams working on it for months, and you see the end result and you’re like, you feel a sense of pride. But when you lose one, I mean, it’s part and parcel of of the nature of the work, you can’t you can’t win them all. Like, it’s impossible. So the main thing is just if you’re going to lose, just lose quickly, like the worst is that kind of the maybe that goes on forever, you know, when you’ve got a you know, that’s that’s normally means you’ve done something wrong qualification. But when you’ve got a client who, you know, drags on for months and months and months, that’s the worst. But I’ve got no problem with you, you know, if you’ve got an opportunity, and a month later, you get told it’s a no, that’s great. Move on, gotten the next one.

Andy Polaine 16:02

So it’s, it’s pretty common, at least certainly, in my coaching work. And you know, also in my sort of consulting work, I hear designers moan about clients and stakeholders as well. How can stakeholders be a better buyer of design?

Joff Outlaw 16:16

How can stakeholders be a better of but I don’t think that’s their job. That’s our job, right? So you know, that they’re not design professionals, and they’re hiring us because we are, yeah. Now I know that you get different levels of sophistication and understanding. I mean, it’s very helpful if you get a client that really knows their stuff, although sometimes that can be a bad thing as well. But yeah, I would say it’s our job I do. I know, I know what where your questions are. And I’d hear a lot working with a team where, you know, it’s always the client doesn’t get it. And, you know, the client doesn’t know what they’ve signed up for. That, to me means that we’re not doing a good enough job either in the sales process to scope it properly, or during the project in terms of project management, comms, and, and communication. Now, look, you’re always gonna have those instances where it just doesn’t work out. But you know, if you if you get the sales process, right, and look for a reason and qualify out could be that the client just doesn’t isn’t a good fit because of that, like, they’re just too immature, their expectations are too outlandish. Why would you put yourself through it? The budgets not right. You know, there are reasons why you don’t go into that relationship. But if you decide to go into it, then you know, we should be helping them look good. That’s our job. Right?

Andy Polaine 17:26

That’s I guess what I’m talking about in terms of, it doesn’t necessarily have to be experts in design, they don’t necessarily have to know about design, I guess I’m saying, but in fact, maybe there’s more, there’s obviously more than one client, but at least there’s at least two camps of I’ve got this problem. And I think design might be the solution or the thing I need. And then there’s I’ve done this a lot. And this is kind of what I’m after, for the people who for whom, you know, the client, it might be their first time where it’s been a design heavy kind of project, design may have been a kind of sort of ancillary, decorative service for them up until now, something they couldn’t go on, you talked about, say said branding, and, and those kinds of things. But for something that’s maybe more, you know, change led, or it’s got a kind of heavy CX component in it. And they are going much more heavily design support, I’m struggling not to say DESIGN LEAD, because I don’t actually really want to say that, but it is heavily designed, supported. It’s often you know, the first time they’ve really engaged in that way. And I think that is often the mismatch of expectations is often a mismatch of or some misunderstanding or misaligned kind of mental models of what this could be often kind of felt like, those clients are actually sort of struggling to buy everything they actually need. And that’s what I meant by how might there be some better stakeholders?

Joff Outlaw 18:42

You know, as we both know, it’s, it can be very hard because we don’t always know the answer, we have to go through the process to get the answer, right. So when we talk about the particularly if it’s a strategic kind of services aren’t project, you know, we can explain the process. And the client will often say, Well, what does that look like that? And it’s the old consulting. And so well, it depends.

Andy Polaine 19:04

What is the outcome look like?

Joff Outlaw 19:05

Yeah, what were the what did the outputs look like? And you can show examples? But then, then that can be dangerous, because then suddenly, you’re tied into doing a journey map again, when it might not be the right answer. I think the only answer I’ve got to that is that you need a project manager. That is equal to the sales team. So that is working, or a project lead doesn’t have to be a project manager, but it’s managing those expectations all the way through regular check ins. Here’s what we are, here’s what we found, early sketches. This is what we think we’re going to do, what do you think, and look, part of the project setup is how you’re going to be invested in this project to help us through because normally when design projects go wrong, it’s because you’ve got a disengaged stakeholder who kind of just wants to throw it over the fence, that that’s often a sign that it’s going to go badly because at some point, they’re gonna get engaged, and they’re gonna go, Oh, hold on, this isn’t what I was thinking. And we never captured what they were thinking because it’s three weeks down the line. with, you know, we’ve already started sketching out particular concept or service vision or whatever, have it, you need a good you know, project lead to kind of counterbalance with the sales team. But I also don’t think the sales team should disappear either like, projects tend to go better when the sales lead is there for the client was kind of, on the balcony. So you can come and chat to me if, if something’s not going as you’d expect, plants get pretty upset with their sales guy comes in because the dance is gone as soon as a contract sign. So you need that kind of guy on the balcony as well, just to provide a bit of perspective. And they can be clamped down if they get a bit anxious.

Andy Polaine 20:39

This is the person they first formed the relationship with and trust.

Joff Outlaw 20:42

Yeah absolutely. Yeah, yeah. And you need that objectivity, you need someone outside of the project, just to provide a bit of, yeah, provide that, that objective view of what’s going on and give the client a bit of comfort.

Andy Polaine 20:54

So you know, the, the selling is another kind of first part of it, and then you’ve just talked about that project manager who’s or project lead, who’s kind of shepherding it through, which feels in a way, you know, lots of sort of mini sales points, actually, you know, kind of saying, you know, this is where we’re at, you know, what do you think of this, this is where, you know, literally to say, are you still buying this, you know, of what we’re doing here, but there’s this sort of other end, which I’ve seen a lot of, and you and I have experienced, you know, teams get burned out on, which is that disconnect between the people who sell the project and what the experience of actually doing that project was because selling the project is also involved in as part of it’s also scoping it and saying, we need this many people for this much time, this is what we’re going to achieve. And if that feedback loop doesn’t happen at the other end to go, do you know what, we actually needed two extra weeks on that project or another three people because that was a kind of complete nightmare. And we were all kind of frazzled and burnt out that quite often that feedback loops doesn’t seem to happen so often.

Joff Outlaw 21:54

Yeah, no, I agree. It’s, it’s absolutely essential, you know, you need to have that retro and the sales. I mean, look at the sales lead should be working with, as I said, the delivery lead in some capacity all the way through. And that ritual needs to happen. You need to like just same same way as a client, you need to avoid the use of them, which can easily happen. When things get tough, the delivery team can, the easiest thing for delivery team, per se is sales teams. Easiest thing to do, just playing the scoping of the project, because it’s often easiest thing for the sales. Easy for the sales guy to do, he’s got delivery messed up it. So you need to kind of watch out for that because it doesn’t serve anyone’s purpose, the company’s purpose long term or the clients. So I agree with the retros really important. And it could only stretch her what everyone can, what went well what went wrong and learn and look at in terms of the sales process, it’s not an isolated, it shouldn’t be an isolated team working on that I’ve the design team should be providing inputs, the challenge that you often have, as you well know, in agency land or in a consultancies, that it’s very hard to predict, who’s going to be available to work on the project whenever the sale may happen. So a design director might work with a sales team to scope it. But that might not be the same design directly in the project when the client finally signs it three months down the line. And so the team have to get comfortable with that as well. And so well look, you know, hasn’t necessarily been involved in scoping this, but I trust my teammate who has, and, you know, approach it with a positive mindset to try and make it work. Because everyone would do things differently. It’s not, you know, we’re dealing with complex problems. So there’s never kind of one single answer in terms of solving that.

Andy Polaine 23:34

Let’s talk about procurement.

Andy Polaine 23:43

It was lovely to see your face, I wish I wish people could have seen your face. I give procurement a beating quite often in sort of writing and talking and presenting and thigns because, you know, on the one hand, I feel like I’m always we’re very sorry for anyone’s in procurement, because I feel like I’m being very nasty to those people. But actually think of it more systemically, in the sense of you’ve got this kind of strange setup where this department exists in order to ostensibly save a company money and stop them getting ripped off. And yet it seems to function to entirely waste money and end up you know, encouraging people to sort of hoodwink them in order to get through it and yet And yet they’re only doing what they’re supposed to be doing which is to kind of maintain the status quo.

Joff Outlaw 24:32

Yes. Hey, yeah, procurement. My next door neighbour works in I feel sorry for him, look, there’s a lot of that let’s not completely bash the whole profession. I think there’s some very good skills that you need in procurement that are useful in lots of areas of business. So procurement people are normally very good at negotiation, very good at kind of gathering requirements and you should be good communicators as well. So there is some good skills within that that profession is a question how I not how I deal with procurement much my strategies for working with procurement is that we’d like to know,

Andy Polaine 25:08

It’s slightly… I mean, I guess it’s what I’d say is procurement seems to be function well, in the way you’ve just described it for things that are of unknown quantity. So if you’re buying, you know, boxes of Sharpies, or desks, or office space, or whatever, where we know this thing is a is a thing. And we can compare it to other exactly the same things on the market, and therefore negotiate a deal. It seems kind of absurd to try and negotiate a deal on something where nobody actually really knows what the middle of the project and then you might know what the desired outcomes are. But those are different from outputs. Right. So and I think procurement really is not set up to procure the kind of work that that we do

Joff Outlaw 25:51

Create services or complex services, yeah, no, I’d definitely so there’s some truth in that. I think the the key thing here is that the procurement team obviously don’t write the briefs, right, that kind of sat on the desk now, you know, we need to do we really need to try and improve our, you know, banking experience for the new generation of digital natives or whatever. It’s terrible briefs, but you get the idea that they’re obviously getting their briefs from their stakeholders. So our job is really to influence those stakeholders. Be involved in the mean, ideally, you want to always avoid procurement, as she kind of hinted at, but where it becomes too big procurement normally get involved. At that point. You need to have done the work before the RFP comes out. So if you’re if you’re responding to an RFP that you didn’t know about, good luck with that.

Andy Polaine 26:42

Okay, let’s move on. Let’s talk about the whole process. So RFP, and there’s RFIs aren’t there as well. So let’s, let’s D acronym them, what are these strange things job for those who, down the other end of the design process? I’ve never heard of these things.

Joff Outlaw 27:00

And you’re sure your listeners want to hear about these things?

Andy Polaine 27:02

Well, they might, they can always skip, they can always fast forward.

Joff Outlaw 27:05

Yeah. Okay. So very quickly. So you have an EOI, and EOI is the worst of all, that’s an expression of interest. That basically translates as we just want some information off you to find out things what we might not know about, and with no commitment to buy anything off yoiu. An RFI is a request for information. Normally, a request for information is the precursor to an RFP. So you normally would consider doing that if you knew with good faith that it was going on to something bigger, and you wanted to make sure you were down selected for the RFP. And then RFPs obviously, the request for proposal, that’s where the the real work starts. That’s where you get the 30 page PDF and you lose a few weeks of your life responding to try and win that big business, often in government, of course, as well often in government.

Andy Polaine 27:59

Yeah, which disadvantage is smaller agencies sometimes, right, because it you know, it does require a someone who’s a just constantly across those very arcane kind of places where those things appear, for starters. And secondly, is is able to plough the time into going through as, as our Accenture, previous Accenture colleagues would call answering the exam question, right, which is literally to sort of just go through and have we ticked all the boxes in this RFP?

Joff Outlaw 28:30

Yeah, I mean, that those organisations are trained to respond. Right. So any of you being, you know, the big four or Accenture as the Big Five, their, their trained, they’re match ready to respond to these RFPs. They’ve seen other questions before they have all their content ready. As a small agency, you know, I mean, most of those RFPs anyway, you you wouldn’t even be a take the risk to take on the project. Because if it went south, you could use up your whole team as well. So would you take that risk to have all your eggs in one basket? I mean, the government has tried to do some things around that in Australia, obviously, with the digital marketplace. I think that if you were involved in that. Yeah, so we created that to try and make it easier for smaller businesses. But yeah, RFPs procurement, not not a lot of fun but they’re a necessary evil like, these are the tend to be the market changing opportunities, the ones that you really want to work on. And that’s why procurement are involved because there’s big, big dollars involved. So they want to make sure that they’re, you know, following the due process to make sure that they feel confident they’re getting the right value from what they’re putting out there. The main advice we’ve got is to do the do the pre work like, make sure you make sure you’re having the right conversations and with the right stakeholders and finding out about the problem so that the RFP isn’t a surprise to hear. So many companies respond to RFPs. We know relationships. They don’t know anyone When in the government organisation or the financial institution, or whatever sector it may be, and they respond, because the opportunity is so big, they get excited about the potential of winning. But it’s a lottery, it’s a lottery ticket, you’ve got very, I mean, everyone’s got one, everyone’s got one story, and we didn’t know anyone. And we still want it hurts, but then it’s, that’s a curse itself. Because that all that does then is waste the next 20 years of your life that you keep going after.

Andy Polaine 30:28

So what has been your, obviously you can’t name names, but give me an example of just the thing to avoid what’s been the kind of terrible sales and client engagement experience you’ve had? And maybe what was the lesson. Just get out your big book.

Joff Outlaw 30:44

I wouldn’t say it’s terrible, you know, I had a lot of knocks come in coming through in terms of going to meetings where I thought I was ready to go on my own. This is, you know, decades ago, and then turning up and going, I’ve got nothing to say actually should have brought someone who knows what we’re talking about. And the meeting lasts like 15 minutes, and you’re like, Alright, I’m gonna get the train back to Ipswich now, sorry about that. That’s a bit awkward. But the ones that and most of most of the things I kind of, I always treat this whole profession with a sense of humour. And, you know, it’s a bit of fun, I enjoy it. But there’s a couple where sometimes now, and again, they’ll creep back in, and I’ll go, we should have, we should have done that work, we should have done that project. One in particular, which you’ll know of, which is when we had to fly all the way to New York, to pitch for it from Sydney, which isn’t a short flight, it was Saturday for about three days, I think. And we should we should have, we should have won it, we should have won it. And we didn’t. And we didn’t looking back and thinking about it, we didn’t because we weren’t set as a team going into it. So we pulled in so many different people. And they were all the right people. And we were the best company to do the work. And I still believe that to this day. And this is going back about four or five years now. But we didn’t win it because we weren’t formed as a team. We hadn’t sold something together as a team, we hadn’t yet delivered something as this group of individuals going to do this presentation to some very senior people. And it showed because the process was so thorough, its way out. So that was kind of an important point. Because what we should have done is just stick with the people that we knew that, you know, they might not be the most senior or as senior rather. But we would have had a bit of chemistry and we’d have been able to I believe off each other and it didn’t come across as more authentic. So that one hurts because we should have we should have got that. I mean, I genuinely I don’t mind losing. I don’t mind not winning a deal or losing a deal. If you know sometimes you get what I’m not sure we were right for the client. I’m not sure we had the right services or it’d been a bit of a stretch for us to be really, you know, there’s lots of reasons you can rationalise a loss that when I couldn’t that when I was like we were definitely the right company to do so it killed me a bit.

Andy Polaine 31:45

We were robbed.

Joff Outlaw 33:06

We were robbed, yeah.

Andy Polaine 33:08

So you don’t is as long as the other team kind of played better than it’s okay. But when it’s just like a kind of…

Joff Outlaw 33:14

Yeah of course. Yeah. And you could end up being on the other side. It’s a small industry and you know, it’s just good to see companies spending good money on design right. And important areas. So it’s positive.

Andy Polaine 33:27

Did you hear my attempt there to try and talk football to you?

Joff Outlaw 33:31

Yeah, I decided to ignore it.

Andy Polaine 33:33

So, er, soccer to our American friends. Do you still play? Joff still claims he could have been you know, played for some Premier League team. Is that Is that still the case?

Joff Outlaw 33:48

Depends if I’ve had more than two beers. Normally if I’ve had more than two beers I could have captained England. No, I still play for as long as my hamstrings last night and it’s about five games. And then that’s for the rest of the season.

Andy Polaine 34:01

It’s a young man’s game. That’s for sure. And it was when I was a young man, it was not my game either. So it was never my game. I was putting goal at school playing soccer because it was rubbish. And then when the ball came towards me I’d sort of go “Aagh!” and it would go through.

Joff Outlaw 34:19

You did my sort of goalkeeper,

Andy Polaine 34:20

I’m always fascinated by goalkeepers because I think when you see a good one, there’s a level of commitment even if it’s in the wrong direction, particularly with penalties, there’s a level of commitment to dive towards the you know where they think it’s going to be that you have to have that I don’t I have… I flinch away I’m too dithering they’ve kind of I don’t know which direction to go in.

Joff Outlaw 34:41

The psychology of goalkeepers, so they’re always crazy this person on the team goalkeepers strange strange breed

Andy Polaine 34:47

Yes. Well, they also got big hands too. I don’t know where that leaves us. So that was a so that was that was a we would end up laughing. So that was an interesting aside, but I was I was hoping you might go somewhere. For me, I think that the commitment to the kind of direction thing was where I was going with that, I think is actually is quite important to have some kind of commitment to direction and then, you know, okay, we weren’t the right fit, or we’re not the right person to you, because I think I’ve seen where, for me, I’ve seen sort of sales go wrong, at least from this perspective of being, then part of the team who are having to deliver on the promise is to bend yourself out of shape in order to try and, you know, satisfy the ask, instead of having the guts to say no, so, you know, you talked earlier about, you know, we should things I wish I’d gone for and so forth. My experience, and I’m interested, if it’s yours is that the things you say no to are much more important. And I wonder if you’ve had some examples of things you you’re glad you said no to or whether you’re even agree with that?

Joff Outlaw 35:52

Oh, yeah, no, no, of course, I agree with that. If you change stretch yourself out of your comfort zone, well, it’s normally hard to sell in that way anyway, because, you know, you’re kind of faking it a little bit. And that normally comes out in the wash. What’s even worse sometimes is when you win, and you kind of stretch in your capabilities, what I mean, in a bad way, I think, I think we’ve been up we yeah, we’ve been talking about sales a lot as if it’s this separate entity within the entity. So good sales is good delivery, it’s good work. It’s good business, it’s, it’s all connected. So the sales process doesn’t stop if you get the deal signed, if the project then ends up running a lot, because you had no idea what you were talking about, are you sold the wrong thing, then that’s not a good sale? Like that’s a disaster, right? And I’ve seen many instances of that where, you know, projects completely under sold. And it’s it’s terrible for the delivery team. And it’s terrible for the client, because it’s just been set up to fail. And no, no good salesperson would ever feel good about that. They would never go Oh, that’s okay. I got those those things on my number, you should always care about well, did it lead to the great outcome, which you can then talk about? I mean, that’s what that’s what salespeople, good salespeople talk about. They talk about the good outcomes, they don’t talk about the good sale, because that’s largely irrelevant.

Andy Polaine 37:25

Whether there’s plenty of some high fiving of the big sale in agency land, right?

Joff Outlaw 37:29

Yeah, I’d hope less so in, in this when I said the design, you know, the more strategic design, UX kinda, I think we’re a little bit more… salespeople tend to be a bit more integrated, hopefully with the teams and there’s less egos but yeah, I guess so in marketing and advertising land that has been traditionally a bit mature. But yeah, I don’t I don’t subscribe to that kind of sales environment. I don’t that’s not something I would work with

Andy Polaine 37:56

it sometimes triggered by the kind of, you know, incentives and KPIs that the sales teams cost, which is about volume rather than outcomes.

Joff Outlaw 38:07

I remember a good friend of mine once when he left university ended up at Foxtons and I think he aged about 50 years in nine months and it’s just horrific.

Andy Polaine 38:18

For people don’t have Foxtons is a real estate agency that massively expanded in England kind of very quickly.

Joff Outlaw 38:25

Yeah, it’s very, very boiler room type sales environment, you know, ringing of the bell kind of thing, handing out cash on a Friday, real kind of

Andy Polaine 38:35

Glengarry Glen Ross.

Joff Outlaw 38:40

Yeah, “always be closing”

Joff Outlaw 38:41

The biggest learning that… Well, by the time they’ve got to that stage, if you’re talking about the more senior kind of design directors and your senior services and senior designers, they already have the knowledge, right, they’ve got the knowledge of their craft, so it should take comfort in that. They should take comfort that they know what they’re talking about. And if you want to build trust with a client, you’ve got to have good intent. So you’ve got to be there to want to help them solve the problem, as we discussed earlier, but you’ve also got to have expertise. So they go in into the room with the expertise so they should take comfort in that. Now what they don’t need to necessarily have, although it’s definitely can can acquire this skill or learn this Well, if they weren’t, but these are things around negotiation, you can get, you know, a bit combative, if done in the wrong way. Pricing switches more can be quite administrative, particularly work in big companies where it’s all about trying to get the margin, right. You know, they don’t necessarily have to know these things to be involved in the sales process. I think my advice would be that you you’re there for a reason, which is to bring in your, your expertise and your knowledge. Now, if you want to get more in the business mechanics effects, and great, I mean, happy days, I think every salesperson would love it if a design director wanted to have conversations around margin now with that stuff. But yeah, tech tech companies in what you know, I mean, that’s your security blanket, you know, your stuff, right?

Andy Polaine 38:41

Always be closing, if anyone’s interested in a horrific example of an envireonment, watch that film. It’s become a weird kind of cult classic. So you know, a lot of designers, you know, are interested in as they become more senior. And certainly, you know, by default, as they get into leadership roles end up taking more of a role in the sales process. And some you want to for that very reason of like, I’m fed up of working on projects that had been scoped wrongly or whatever. What’s your you know, you’ve had a few you’ve designers go through that process and work with you. What’s your advice to them? What do you think’s the biggest learning they have to…

Andy Polaine 40:40

Yeah. Although I tend to think that designers weirdly, talk about design too much to clients sometimes. In that, you know, we talk about, here’s all the work we’ve done. And here’s all the kinds of things, you know, either at the end of a project, or in the middle of the project of, you know, here’s so we interviewed these people interviewing, there’s all these people, and we tried this and that didn’t work. We tried this, and this didn’t work. And we try that and this doesn’t work. And then the clients like, Okay, well, I don’t know, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be looking at. Or, you know, you know, during the ante, I’m guilty of this, you called me the professor for that very reason. But talk, you know, long about process and, and the design process and not so much about outcomes.

Joff Outlaw 41:20

Well, I enjoyed your monologues Andy. But yeah, I understand the point. Yeah. Look, that’s the job of the sales director or the commercial director to do proper rehearsals, to coach this is what these are the key points, this is what your role is. Does it always work out perfectly? Of course not. You’re always going to get occasions where maybe someone gets nervous or girls, just goes into verbal diarrhoea, do lose a sale because of that. Probably not. Like, you know, providing you still can cover everything, and you still get to the detail and the project bill. I think clients sometimes they forget all that. You know, he obviously knows his stuff. He was a bit nervous during the sales process. They understand that they you know, there are people too, and obviously, so, yeah, look, rehearsals help and the sales director should be there to coach you that and the more you do it, the easier it gets. So, yeah, it’s not I never kind of freak out if designers, you know, going off on one, I kind of think it’s part of the charm sometimes, but unless you unless it just completely takes over and you lose, but then you have to then as a sales director, you have to interject you have to take control back, right?

Andy Polaine 42:31

So I mean, rehearsal is an interesting thing, isn’t it because it’s there’s a sort of golden, a golden sort of middle to that. Because if you could just go in and wing it. Just the kind of thing you and I would have never done it, it can look like you’re just going in and winging it. But if you start over rehearse, it can just come off too polished and actually inhumane and stiff.

Joff Outlaw 42:53

I agree. I agree. Yeah, yeah, there is definitely a balance and never do a rehearsal on the day of the presentation. That’s another mistake. Never do that. Never do that. Because any any feedback you get at that point, two things normally happen: you won’t remember it. In which case why bother with last minute rehearsal or the second thing is you try and fit it in get your words wrong, because it’s different to what you’re gonna say. So by the time the morning comes, of the big pitch, just you’ve done everything you can just go and enjoy it. Don’t try and cram in some last minute message in our last minute rehearsal.

Andy Polaine 43:29

Because your your brain just kind of rattle you just have “don’t say elephant don’t say.. elephant!”

Joff Outlaw 43:37

Yeah, exactly. It’s not helpful. It’s normally someone very senior in the organisation that suddenly has a nervous reaction and suddenly wants you all in a room. You know, with like 15 minutes to go.

Andy Polaine 43:47

With a huddle. Much like rugby team. “Everyone. Be professional” Really? Okay, well, listen, we’re coming for time. As you know, the podcast is named after this Ray and Charles Eames film about the relative size of things in the universe. And my final question is always what small thing is, is overlooked, that has an outsized effect on the world?

Joff Outlaw 44:14

It’s the most difficult question of the whole podcast, isn’t it? I feel like everyone always struggles with it. An easy answer would obviously go back to sourdough and just remove its influecne from all the cafes in Sydney. Still keep it around, but just you know, get it back in its place. I don’t I don’t know if this outweighs its impact. I’m going with it anyway. Because it’s has a big impact, but I really don’t like cars. I don’t I don’t like driving. I learned to drive very late, because I’ve always lived in cities and it was only when I moved to Australia about got to know eight years ago now. I realised I have to charge because, you know your just not as connected?

Andy Polaine 44:53

Hang on. You only learned to drive eight years ago?

Joff Outlaw 44:56

Yeah. Yeah. So I learned in my 30s Yeah, and That might be why I hate driving, because it’s something that I’ve had to pick up late. But, yeah, even the younger, I never wanted to do it. I think it’s a waste of time. It’s dangerous. It’s not good for the planet. Yeah, just just and it just feels like it hasn’t moved on at all. I mean, the cars are still broadly the same as they were back in the 20s, or 30s. To sickness a nice, we need something better. I feel like we could have used the last two years or locked in our homes to just redesign all the roads. And we could have come out with something like the Jetsons or something much better, I don’t know. But cars get rid of them.

Andy Polaine 45:34

All the roads have turned into kind of trams and trains and sort of and smart things. And we’re gonna lock you away for two years. Yeah. And then we’re going to come out. it’s like that Woody Allen film where he kind of wakes up in the future…

Joff Outlaw 45:47

Or you just go into like a slide like, like a water slide. But without water, we could it could be water in Sydney it’s often quite hot here. And it just takes you where you want to go. But it’s not fast and exhilarating. Because I don’t like that either. But just nice and relaxing. And you can read instead of kind of being behind the wheel thinking is someone going to smash into me. And road rage as well, why does everyone get so angry in their cars? It’s almost like the car acts as a shelter where it’s like, oh, now I can just be really rude and swear at you. And it only because of a pane of glass. So I don’t know cars, get rid of them.

Andy Polaine 46:19

Cars or like the the sort of physical social media, right, where you can kind of… you’re hiding in this little bubble and you can. You know it’s why people pick their nose in their cars and stuff and all sorts of things, even though they’re actually in a glass box. And they’re allowed to kind of act in ways or they give themselves permission to act in ways that they wouldn’t if they were actually face to face. So yeah, maybe cars need like eyes or something maybe that would just change things if if the cars have eyes and so they were sort of frowning or looking upset and stuff. You know.

Joff Outlaw 46:51

You talking about Herbie? Herbie Goes Bananas.

Andy Polaine 46:55

Herbie didn’t have eyes did it? Herbie just did wheelies and things. I think I’m talking about cars. I’m actually now talking about the Pixar film, I think. Yeah. Joff, thank you so much for being my guest on Power of Ten.

Joff Outlaw 47:09

Absolute pleasure.

Andy Polaine 47:10

Where can people find you online? By the way?

Joff Outlaw 47:12

LinkedIn is my preferred medium for everything work related. I’m not huge on social media, actually. But LinkedIn, LinkedIn, I’m quite, quite active on.

Andy Polaine 47:21

Okay. All right, well, I’ll put the link to LinkedIn and to your new home in the shownotes. Thank you so much.

Andy Polaine 47:30

As I’m sure you’re aware, you’ve been listening to Power of Ten. My name is Andy Polaine. You can find me at @apolaine on Twitter, or where you can find more episodes and sign up for my newsletter Doctor’s Note. If you like the show, please take a moment to give it a rating on iTunes. It really helps others find us. And as always get in touch. If you have any comments, feedback or suggestions for guests. All the links are in the show notes. Thanks for listening and see you next time.