Episode 149: Productized Consulting – Max Traylor

Predictable Prospecting
Episode 149: Productized Consulting - Max Traylor
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Succeeding at the top of the funnel requires some out-of-the-box thinking, and that’s what today’s guest has skill and experience with. Max Traylor offers his clients productized consulting services and is the author of a new book called Agency Survival Guide. In today’s episode, Max discusses the impetus for the book, how he got into productized consulting, and why he uses the agency framing to talk about his clients. 

Episode Highlights:

  • The impetus for Max’s book
  • How Max first started to get residual passive income
  • Blending consistency and customizability
  • What Max discovered interviewing people on his podcast
  • Separating strategy from implementation
  • Three stages to residual income
  • Why Max uses the agency framing
  • The importance of a healthy balance in clients
  • How Max plans to socialize the book
  • Where listeners can find Max’s book


Max Traylor


Marylou: Hey, everyone. It’s Marylou Tyler. I finally have a colleague friend of mine on the show today. With me today is Max Traylor. He is by far the best top-of-funnel person that I’ve had the opportunity to work with, strategize with. A little bit of here and there, but he is very, very out of the box thinking on all things that I call agency and inbound. I lump those together which I know is not correct and he’ll correct me on that. We’ve been ebbing and flowing here for the last few years on various accounts. He has written a book called the Agency Survival Guide. I’ve asked Max to come on the show today to talk about the book and also give us some tips with the COVID. 

Right now, I think we’re in month three of COVID, as this podcast is airing, maybe in month four now. We’re in civil unrest in the United States, so that gives you an idea of where we’re at here going forward, but we are still holding our podcast and moving on. I really liked some of the listeners who I know are interested in top-of-funnel to listen to what Max has to say about all things, attracting people to the way that we want them to come and engage with us so that we can get them further in the pipeline to close one. Without further ado, Max, welcome to the podcast.

Max: Thank you for having me and thank you for the kind words. I’ve never heard you say that, nor have I considered myself a top-of-the-funnel person, but you know what? I guess you’re right. I’ll take it.

Marylou: You are.

Max: I’ll tell you what. I don’t have a problem with the top-of-the-funnel. I don’t. It’s not a problem for me anymore. Working with you was a big part of that.

Marylou: Tell us about what was the impetus around the book. The last time we spoke, there was a book in your head or maybe it was always there and I didn’t know.

Max: I have invested four times previous to this time with the book and four times I have failed to write a book. A while ago, I promised my grandfather who’s 95 now that I’d write a book because he was always telling me to write things down. I’d always come to his house after work at the agency and talk about new ideas. Basically, every time I was there, he said well, you have to write this down. You have to write a book. Finally, I promised him. 

He’s an old guy. I don’t know how long he’s going to be around but I made it. We did it. We made the deadline and we got it out there. But I guess it started when as a kid, I would walk into my dad’s office because he would always work from home. I’d asked him where do you make the money? He realized that I thought that he was printing money in his office. I thought he was manufacturing the dollar bill.

He said Max, you can’t print money. That’s illegal. I have a digital scalable residual business model. I was five so I had no idea what that meant and then he would look at me and he would just say it just means you do something once and you make money forever. Oh, that’s interesting. Can we go to Disney World now? But that became my lullaby. 

I guess the number one thing that he taught me was that if you put your personal life first, you will make certain decisions about your business that are out of the box and benefit your personal life. To him, it meant that he didn’t have any products on a shelf so we could leave whenever we wanted. He needed to have systems so that his business was scalable. When he sold something, he wanted it to pay him forever. That’s what […]

Marylou: Great mantra. Residual is a word we don’t use very often. We use scalable. We use repeatable, but residual sounds very lofty.

Max: It is lofty and has lofty results. The result was I got to see my dad all the time and we went to Disney World a lot. I never forgot about that. Anyway, long story short. Early in my career, I wanted to run a marketing agency. I was into marketing. The professional services model was about the opposite of the digital scalable residual. It was a grind, and it ground me up. 

Accidentally, we productized one of our strategies. We took a content strategy that we were delivering as a service. We started to do group workshops around that intellectual property. We began to license it to other agencies all around the world. Lo and behold, I started to get residual passive income from these licensing fees if people that I had taught how to use my system on the other side of the planet. They would wake me up in the middle of the night with an email from PayPal saying, here’s $2000. See you later.

I realized after a year or so of this happening that I didn’t want to run a marketing agency. What I wanted to do is find people that had these systems, had these methodologies but were working in the grind-yourself-to-death business model of professional services, not knowing about these digital scalable residual options like group workshops, online courses, licensing programs, just ways that you could impact more people with the same or less effort.

That book is about it. How to productize consulting services, and do other things better too. It’s a collection of my story and learnings, and 12 interviews from some of the most influential people I’ve interviewed on my show. Was that a good answer to your question?

Marylou: That’s a great answer and I love the idea of productizing services. I think a lot of us think, even in my business, that each client is unique. Therefore, you can start with a baseline of frameworks, of methods, of systems, but it always morphs into a one-off type of situation. I’ve learned over the years—I’ve been consulting now for 33 years—that you can start with a baseline and very many of these accounts and projects and there are some nuances to it where you are perhaps living off of the framework, but everything in my world, my entire system is numbered. As you remember the […]

Max: I will never forget it. Hold on and you are productized. You have that. You have a periodic table of elements like it’s there. There’s customizability (if that’s even a word). I was always very impressed by the work that you’ve done, so you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Marylou: I do and I think it’s because I’m trained as a programmer that we were taught early on. In fact, I have some colleagues I’ve worked with for a very long time now who laugh because they know, if you do something more than once, chances are, it can be programmed because that’s how I was raised.

Why always look for how can I systematize something and you may not have the entire piece of the puzzle, but you’ll have enough of it so that it’s 85% there as a system, a method of framework and then if you want to use consulting services, coaching services, or advisory services, that is the additional 15% but you can set it up so that it’s a do-it-yourself.

I have three programs, I have to do it yourself, do it with you, and I used to have to do it for you before I went to the other side of life and now I’m working on a three-year project with a company in Denmark. I’m no longer consulting but if I were to have a do-it-for-you model, then we would basically take an outsource and do the work internally, and then provide the results. It’d be more of an at-risk type of engagement. You and I both love the at-risk side of life. That I remember about you.

Max: Things have gotten more risky in the immediate past. We’ve made some changes in how we work but to your point, I do get that pushback a lot from people saying no, we don’t want to productize. Our clients expect custom strategies and everything we do is custom. The way it was explained best to me is, well, what if Apple did that? What if Apple said you know what, every time we make an iPhone, we’re going to talk to Marylou and we’re going to figure out exactly what it should be made out of, what shape it should be, and all these things.

No, no, the hardware, the systems in the iPhone are consistent, but it is tailored to the individual. That’s the App Store. That’s all the apps that are put on it. Those are your settings. There’s always an element of consistency, of predictability, of guarantee, and then there’s the application of that system to the individual, which makes it customized, which makes it valuable. You need both.

Marylou: You do need both. I think as you said, you’re talking hardware, but the framework of professional services and the services you provide. If you were to sit down and actually diagram it out on a back of a paper napkin, you would come up with some chunks, buckets, and categories and tag them. What we do is when you first think about services it’s like walking into a library where all the books are all over the floor.

What we do with those services is we create our own card catalog system, so miraculously the books fly on the right shelves, you know where things are, you know how to go down the history aisle, and what shelf something is on. That’s what we do. We take this seemingly chaotic floor of books, and we put them all on the shelves. We organize them in a way that we can easily find what we were doing with the client.

We can take them along the path of how to navigate through our professional services themselves, and we give them options along the way of extreme hand-holding, advisory and consulting, or it’s good enough here that if you’re a go-getter, A-Lister, go for it and do it yourself.

Max: I think I’m going to have an offering called extreme hand-holding, by the way, and I will credit you with that. Let me know where to make out with that but I’m learning a lot through listening. The library analogy, I’ve now got that one, and the extreme hand-holding, that’ll be on my website next week.

Marylou: Okay, very good. The other thing in our industry, which all my audience knows, it’s all about stealing what works and testing and measuring to see if it works for us. We’re all about swiping other people’s stuff, trying it out, and making sure it works for us because that is the way the world when you’re creating sales messages for people who don’t know you, are not aware of you and you’re trying to put them across them over the line and advance them to having this engagement with you.

Tell me about the book in your interviews. What were the most striking things that you discovered as you interview people on your podcast?

Max: One of the major concepts to maintaining your status as a strategist is for a professional services company if they don’t recognize that they have a business or strategy in the business of implementation. Those two are separate things. It’s a separate perception. It’s a separate relationship. It’s a separate business model. They’re separate competitive pressures, but people tend to bundle it together.

The first set of interviews is really helping people understand the implementation side of any industry, whether doing things will always be commoditized. Especially in an age where training is globalized, and anybody can put on an online training course, the doing of things is going to get easier, there’s going to be more people in the marketplace that can do things, and thus the competitive pressure is always going to be on the rise.

When there are more people that can do the work, all of a sudden the processes and the systems to get the most out of those people become more valuable. I’ve heard the Bureau of Labor Statistics call the gig network, the industrial revolution of our time, and so selfishly I interpret that as okay, well who is making the most money during the Industrial Revolution? It was not the line workers. They had a job, but it was not the line workers that were getting rich. It was the people that said, hmm, maybe I’ll make, I don’t know, an assembly line, a system, a methodology to get the most out of this commoditized labor force. They made a few bucks.

Marylou: They did. Just a few.

Max: That’s number one is just separating strategy from implementation in your mind, and then when you start to sell strategy, the most important thing you can do is understand how to maintain your status as an indispensable partner to your client. That’s maintaining control, that’s having a system. That’s inviting leadership to co-create with you. I suppose it breaks down into how to establish yourself as an indispensable partner, and then maintain your status as an indispensable partner.

Marylou: Also give them those milestones along the way so that they understand where they are relative to the goal, because a lot of times we’re going to be attracting people who are very much like us and in my world, people want to know, where am I not necessarily relative to peers, although I have a quite a big contingent of clients who want to know how they’re doing based versus other folks, that’s because we’re salespeople, and that’s our nature, but it’s also about where am I relative to go?

Where am I on the success path? Am I beginning, middle, towards the end? Where are we? I think those are the milestones a framework can provide, along the way, along the success path. Here’s the quicksand that we’re going to come up against. No one could interpret what would happen with COVID, but because my clients were understanding the importance of different channels, most of them are able to quickly adapt away from the telephone and into another channel and still maintain the level of workload.

Now granted, I’m not going to travel or the industries that were heavily affected necessarily, but the phone just went dead overnight. For those clients that were very reliant on the telephone, we quickly had to pivot into another channel, because they had the sales conversations already bucketize and ready to go. It was just a matter of changing the channel underneath it and leveraging digital channels versus analog channels in this particular case that we did.

I think that the beauty of a framework is that you’re actually getting an understanding at a deep level, how to maximize your return on effort. You and I have talked about this over and over again, and also to be able to multiply the result of your effort with the same amount of hours 2X, 4X, 5X, 10X results, and because we had that flexibility we were able to quickly switch (in this case) channels of distribution and still maintain the integrity and also maintain the volume that we were looking for results.

Max: Yes to those. You did nail part four of the book, The Roadmap to Residual Income. There are three stages. One is to deliver it yourself as a consulting service. Two is to be able to facilitate that process with a group of people, and three is to be able to get someone to pay you to do it for their clients.

You’ve got consulting, facilitation, and licensed income back to my story about licensing the IP that I had to other people, they went out, they sold it, they deliver it, and I make income off of that. That’s the final stage but back to what my dad taught me. You start with your personal life, what do you want your personal life to look like? That final stage isn’t the final stage for everybody. It’s not in their life plan.

They might get everything they want because they love teaching people. They might stop at that facilitation stage, and really embrace speaking gigs and deliver one-to-many, but still doing it themselves. As you said, I think if you have the system in place, you’re then able to tailor it to what people really want out of life. It’s been fun.

Marylou: I bet and I’m really curious about the word agency, why the word agency to encapsulate what it is that you do?

Max: You mean my ideal customers?

Marylou: Because the subtitle of the book is how to really package up your professional services. Why do you frame that in something called an agency?

Max: It was really hard to choose honestly because my best clients identify as consultancies. I had to make a decision and I guess I defaulted to the agency because they need the most help. This book isn’t an instructional guide to doing it. This book is a collection of stories to really give people the motivation and the understanding of what’s possible.

Marylou: Okay, got it. Usually, people who gravitate to you are people in agencies who deliver products and services to their clients like resellers.

Max: People that helped their clients grow their businesses.

Marylou: Right, but in reality, a solo practitioner, a lawyer, a financial services person could take the teachings from this book, because they are their own agency, so to speak and apply it to that.

Max: I would be a hypocrite if I just called it how to productize consulting services because I am a big fan of focus and I do teach that to all of my clients. You’re right. I have people come to me and say, hey, I read your book. I have clients that are law firms. I have a client that moves biotech companies. I have clients that are totally unrelated, but that’s what tends to happen when you focus because you get so much traction in your focus area that you become more referable, and people almost feel they’ve won something like you’ve let them into a secret room. When they’re like, hey, I know you only work with agencies, but could I pay 25% more maybe you could consider me? Well, maybe we’ll figure that out. Yeah, maybe we could do something.

Marylou: It’s funny. You’re narrowing that niche, but in reality, it does apply and you people can see through that, especially when you’re offering these what I call levers of facilitating workshops, information nights, one on one coaching. You mentioned speaking and now that’s morphed into virtual speaking, but the frameworks themselves are always there that you can teach and reteach. That’s the beauty of it.

What I love about it is if you are working with a lot of students, in my case I do, then you’re getting feedback on delivering your service to a larger audience. One of the biggest things, downfalls of the work that I do, if you want to call it a downfall is that I’ve only really had three to five clients a quarter, and that was all I ever worked with.

In the big scheme of the pie, I’m working with a very small sliver of selected clients (if you’d want to put it that way), where in reality I would love to test my methodologies to the wide net. The guppies, the minnows, the smaller, but this is a way you can do that and take a very expensive offering and package it for this residual annuity while-you’re-sleeping type of income and still serve the world. That’s the beauty of it.

Max: I think a healthy balance is important. The client that pays you an arm and a leg that you’re working with one on one is such a rich source of really in-depth information. You really experience it and can live it with them. Plus when they pay you an arm and a leg it means they’re really bought in. They’re your ideal customers.

When you’re delivering one to many, that’s the experiment. You get a larger volume of information, you start to figure, oh, it’s great for this group, it’s bad for this group, here are the mindset characteristics that we should be looking for, and it’s all a part of the journey. Who knows what delivery format is going to be most attractive to you and in your case, it does change over time.

What you love when you’re 30 might not be what you love when you’re 50. A world crisis might change your view on things and the opportunity to move somewhere, live a life you never thought you would. You have to have the systems in place to be able to quickly deploy it in new ways. That’s why I wrote the book so people would do that.

Marylou: Wonderful. What’s next for you? When’s the book coming out or is it out officially now?

Max: We’re in a stage of collecting reviews. As I have heard, those are important before doing a formal launch of the book, but you could certainly get the book. It is on Amazon, Agency Survival Guide. I did make it available for free on my website. It came out during COVID so I just figured, look, it’s here and if you like it, you could buy it. It does exist. What was the other question? What’s next?

Marylou: What’s next? How are you going to socialize it to the world?

Max: Being a student of Predictable Prospecting and intentional pipelines, I have been able to generate conversation. I have a team of researchers. They know exactly who I’m looking for. Down to their previous career and how they were educated. I know that much about people’s reactions to what I have to say. For example, agency owners with creative backgrounds now usually don’t work out.

Marylou: Not so much.

Max: Agency owner with financial backgrounds, economic backgrounds. They’re like, yeah, productize that’s perfect. Operations background they’re like […] from this? You can’t search for that, you need a human being. So I have a team of researchers that goes and finds these people and over the years I’ve been able to generate conversations with about 20%. Now my plan I’ve got a box of books here. I’ve got my coasters which function as business cards.

I’ve got the written word. I’m going to handwrite. I’m actually going to handwrite people’s notes about why my researchers came across them, why I think that we should talk about what they have to contribute. I’m going to send people books in the mail. No stone will be left unturned. This is stage two of three, stage three is showing up at their house and knocking on their door and saying, no, you don’t understand. I paid someone to find you and we’re going to talk.

I think it’s really intentional and that’s always been my approach, especially after working with you. That’s what’s next with the book that we have found after COVID. What we were forced to do is create an offering that was faster, more essential. What we found is that that experiment really taught us how to accelerate the pipeline at any time. There were some valuable lessons that were learned. Our business model hasn’t necessarily changed, but it has been improved, in that we’ve got a new accelerant to the business, something new up our sleeves, and it taught us that out of our whole methodology and everything that we’ve created, there are in fact, one or two things that that can generate 90% of the results and that’s really special to find.

Marylou: You’re also a student of testing and measuring, putting quality into the pipeline to begin with. If some of the audience listened to you, you have researchers that know what they’re doing. You’re not just purchasing a list. You’re going after the people at a deep and meaningful level. The ones that you […]

Max: Which doesn’t exist. For what I know I need, the list doesn’t exist.

Marylou: The ones that have a higher probability of closing. The Predictable Revenue formula has not changed. That’s the highest probability of closing which is yield with the fastest amount of time that you can add value, get the sense of urgency, get them close, that’s a cycle of time, and then the deal size going through. If you adhere to those parameters and put quality in, you are assured a certain level of success.

How you take it further and keep fine-tuning it is through testing and measurement. You do everything that I originally talked to you about and continue to try to advance beyond where most people would ever consider, so I love that. I love that. That’s great.

Max: Now I know where I got all this because I was like, why is my brain wired? Oh, yeah. I read your book and met you. That’s what happened.

Marylou: You can be someone and but then you have that experience that may tweak other areas that you might have left a little lagging, dormant, or you had to consider and you’re more open to it because you’ve heard it and now you’re ready to apply it. That’s the difference between people who I think are further along that level of greatness is that they take a piece of information. They use repetition to apply it frequently and then they measure the performance that puts their ego in their pocket.

They’re not going to put a lot of stake into it, but they are going to try it to see if it works, or it’s not, go or no go. Yes, no. We don’t like maybe, we don’t like hope.

Max: Well, then for the listener, let me be very clear. The most disturbing thing that I have found since meeting you and actually being aware of it and conscious of it, is almost no one that I talked to has a physical list of the people that they want to work with. They don’t have it. Show me a list of all the accounts you want. If I could snap my fingers, you’d want to get accounts, so show me the list of people that you want. Everyone looks around and they go, well, we have like personas. No, no. Where are their names?

Marylou: Physical, tangible, I want to get my arms around accounts.

Max: Who can I call for you? I’m not going to do that. That’s the most disturbing thing because that’s the first step to being intentional is just knowing who you want.

Marylou: It’s disturbing but it’s just a beautiful thing to hear because it’s something we can all correct.

Max: Yes, it’s very easy to do. You just tell someone else in your organization, go get me a list of 20 people that we want to work with. That’s it. Send them. You go […]. You’ll definitely be in a better position than you are today.

Marylou: Exactly. Don’t be passive about it. I teach my students to be proactive. Give yourself permission to want to know your total serviceable market. Who they are, whether they’re existing clients or new clients, whether you’re selling existing products or new products. Those are four different ways you can go with your list. You really want to focus on that and have that because of quality and quality out. Rule number one.

Max: Indeed. Also, we talked about on the show, Marylou, or are we out of time? I’m not sure.

Marylou: I think we’re out of time, but I wanted to once again promote and say thank you for attending the podcast and talking with me today. The book is the Agency Survival Guide. What’s the website, Max? We’ll put it on your page. What’s the website that they can look and see, download a free chapter on wondering or what do you have?

Max: They can download the entire book on my website. There’s the buy button and then there’s the download free button, you make the choice.

Marylou: Or donate.

Max: We’ll see how that goes. Hopefully, I will have internet in a couple of months. The website is maxtraylor.com.

Marylou: Maxtraylor.com.

Max: You’re probably looking at my name in the interview.

Marylou: Yeah, I’ll put it on your page. We do a page with your beautiful face and get everything on there, so we are ready to go. Anything else you want to share with the folks before we say goodbye?

Max: A hundred and fifty conversations have turned into opportunities and one quarter closed as sales. Seventeen new customers in 2019. That was my predictable pipeline.

Marylou: All right, good number. Love those waterfalls. You hear that everybody? Waterfalls are important.

Max: By the way, I don’t want that to change this year. I don’t want any more. I just want that exact thing to happen again, and we’re well on our way.

Marylou: And you’re happy about that. Very good. Well, thanks again for spending time with me, take care of that beautiful family of yours and we will talk to you later, Max. Take care.

Max: Cheers.