New Motivation AI Matters podcast host Lisa Spira, VP of Content Intelligence at Persado, sat down with Taylor Holmes, VP of Solutions Consulting at Persado. You might remember Lisa from our first episode. As the head of content intelligence, Lisa is focused on language, what makes language “good,” and how we use it to achieve our goals. At Persado, she trains our Motivation AI to create language that inspires action. In this new format, she interviews guests on how they use language and what makes language good for them.
During this episode, Lisa and Taylor discuss how Taylor uses language to take Persado’s features and turn them into tangible business value. The role of solutions consultants at Persado is to work with the sales team to better understand potential customers and their goals during the sales process, and to make sure everyone works together to optimally achieve those results. She sets up Persado customers for success by making sure their systems, goals, and expectations are aligned.
In order to get to the heart of what a potential customer wants, Taylor must ask the right questions. Since one word answers often aren’t helpful, the language Taylor uses to ask key questions is vital to driving optimal results. Throughout her time at Persado, Taylor has gone from using technical language and statistical terms (orthogonal design anyone?) to more colloquial language and concepts to describe the products and their benefits. This has widened her audience within the organizations that Persado works with and opened up more conversations about Generative AI. The discussions around Generative AI and personalization in marketing have also become more mainstream.
Starting a conversation can often be a challenge. Taylor suggests leading with empathy and respect by asking a disarming question. According to Lisa, this is also the secret to what Persado does in marketing: adding emotion and empathy to a digital marketing message rather than just highlighting an e-commerce deal.
Finally, Taylor shares the importance of curiosity when finding your voice in a customer-facing role. “Be curious about your customer and don’t be afraid to guess. You might be wrong, but at least you’ll come in with a perspective and a point of view they will respect,” said Taylor.
Welcome to Motivation A I Matters A podcast designed to help you channel the power of language to inspire action.
I’m Lisa Spira here to explore the language that drives business outcomes through the lens of what makes that language good because words matter.
Our listeners might remember me from the first episode where our previous host Alex Olson interviewed me about Posado’s Motivation A I and my work on it as VP of content intelligence at Persado.
It’s my job to understand what makes language resonate for our customers and to train persado motivation A I to create more good language to that end.
I’m always thinking about how we use language as human and what we think about its qualities and how it acts as a tool to accomplish our goals.
So this is the first episode in this new format where I speak with our guests really about how they’re using language and what makes language good for them.
Today’s guest is Taylor Holmes, Vice President of Solutions consulting at Persado.
Her language translates product features into tangible business value.
Plus she’s an expert at prompting perso generative A I solution to show off its talents.
I’m excited to learn more about how language plays a role in her customer interactions, whether or not language as a product is part of the conversation.
Thanks so much for having me.
So you lead Persad Solutions consulting team.
But what is Solutions consulting?
That is the question of the day.
So solutions consulting, the role typically goes by a number of different names at Perso we called solutions consultants.
But other people may know us as presales, engineers or a number of different names like that.
Our role at Persad O specifically is to work primarily with our sales team.
So before customers are customers in order to get to know them to understand a little bit more about what they’re looking for and using Persad O and find a way for us to put together our best practices in terms of process technology and work flows to make sure that we are working together best to achieve those results.
That sounds challenging.
Can you tell me a little bit about how, so your job is different from the sales role?
That’s a great question because we are a bit of partners in crime if you will.
But really how we look at the breakdown is our sales team is often trying to understand big picture what’s motivating them to come to us.
How do we close the sale?
How do we make sure that we tie our services to their pain points?
So that way we can ultimately get signature in revenue.
Whereas the solutions consultants, I always like to say that I have a bit of more negative nancy approach to things because I’m looking for what the risks could be.
So that way we can mitigate them.
So where things might not be compatible, how do we make sure expectations are aligned and that we have all of this ironed out.
So that way, once these customers have joined us, we’re set up for success in making sure that we follow through that we have a successful partnership for a longer duration.
The short way of saying it is that sales might be more optimistic than the solutions consulting team as we move forward.
because we want to make sure that we’re prepared.
So if you’re the pessimistic team or maybe that’s not the right word, you’re the team who’s looking for the pitfalls.
How does that translate into how you talk to that potential customer?
Do you use language that’s different from the sales team?
I think so.
And I think a lot of times it’s more in the style and maybe less so different in the words themselves.
But I find it’s really effective in order to truly understand where a customer is coming from, to really understand what they’re hoping to accomplish.
I lead with a lot of questions and so truly understanding what is it that’s driving you here or let me repeat that back to you.
Does that sound right?
Am I translating that in the right way?
I think it is a big tactic of how I speak to customers.
Whereas from a sales lens, oftentimes we want to be selling them, convincing them.
So we may be leading them to a conclusion.
I think that’s probably the biggest difference that I see.
And you also mentioned that you do a lot of expectation setting.
Do the questions come into play there for expectation setting with customers?
You have some other technique.
I think setting expectations is a delicate balancing act because you don’t want expectations to feel restrictive in terms of it’s not as good as it seems.
But you do also want to make sure that they’re not expecting the whole world on a plate.
So I think especially with expectation setting, what I like to do is mostly be proactive about.
Here’s what you can expect next, here’s what we’re going to do.
Does that sound good?
So it’s followed up with a question for verification, but you’re right.
Bring me a little bit less starting with the question.
So you do a lot of asking customers questions and what is the best type of response that you would get when you’re asking questions?
Is it a customer who starts telling you stories of their pain points and going on and on?
Is it a customer who always answers in the affirmative?
What are you hoping for?
What’s a good sign that the questions are working.
I’ll start with what’s the worst answer we can get and it’s a one word, yes or no answer because it just doesn’t tell you a lot.
You are either assuming too much in your question.
And so what I really look for in a response is more like the former of what you mentioned more stories more.
Let me give you an example or here is the situation I faced today or yesterday where this became an issue.
Normally, when people default into storytelling, you end up learning a lot more because you get more context, you start to understand like what matters to them.
And especially when they’re on video too, you can see where they get a little bit more excited.
Do you have an example?
But you don’t need to know who you are talking to or from what brand of a story that a customer told you that was really telling?
And it helped you understand that you had asked the right question and it helped move this process forward.
Yeah, I was recently on a call with a customer and we were talking about something they wanted to learn through using Persado.
They expressed the desire of wanting to test and learn, but we were having a hard time understanding what’s the point, what will you do with these learnings?
And so I asked a question about, is it a scenario like this?
I did ask an either or question, but it had a point and a good response is that, do you want to understand what works the best for this point in time or do you want to really have what’s best in market at all times?
And that really opened up a discussion where they were starting to share of.
Well, I really want what’s best to market at all times.
That’s the end goal.
But here’s where we struggle is how do we know what to put into market at all times?
For example, yesterday we tested this and that worked, but today it fell flat and we don’t know why.
And so that really got us to the root of the issue where we could start to share different solutions, different approaches to different aspects.
And how did Posados solution come into play here and solve this?
I’m hoping it did, maybe it didn’t, it did.
It’s a good one.
And what’s really cool about perso is that we have a number of different solutions.
We have this vast knowledge base of understanding how language resonates with individuals over the last 10 years, different channels, different industries.
So we know a lot about what should work.
But as we all know too, there’s lots of different factors at play and how you might respond to language.
There could be that your dogs breaking in the background or that you are really focused on something.
And so you truly are paying attention.
There’s a lot of different aspects going on at any given time.
And one of our more recent solutions ends up marrying those two solutions where we’re able to look back into our knowledge base, create a couple of different messages that could be the best at any given time.
But we allow our technology to then dynamically serve based on what somebody is doing.
So those user behavioral attributes.
So we were able to suggest our newer solution dynamic motivation in order to address that need of serving the right message at the right time.
But with the understanding that they wouldn’t get those insights of what is the number one best message because that ultimately wasn’t what they were looking for.
They thought it was, but this other solution worked better.
They thought that they could get the exact one winning message or a theme maybe of a type of winning message and it would always work all the time.
And Persada was able to say no, it’s going to be a different message for a different person at a different time based on different factors.
But we have a way to get you that message.
And I think a big part of it is, most of us don’t think it’s realistically scalable, operationally possible to be able to do that.
But we actually do have that solution.
So sometimes the problem is we don’t even know what we’re asking for if we just ask for a solution versus what we’re truly trying to achieve.
Do you talk to a lot of customers who don’t know what they need and don’t know what they’re asking for?
Maybe they’re asking the wrong question.
Yeah, I think customers, but also internally I think anywhere you are in any conversation, so much of us by default will ask for what we think is going to solve our current issue because that seems like the fastest way to resolution.
But we can’t know all things, everyone has a different perspective.
So if we stay focused on what’s the core issue that we’re trying to solve and not what the solution that we think we need is oftentimes we end up getting better solutions that way.
And I think that’s probably why I was pulled to this role because I truly do like finding what’s the right solution here when you’re looking for the right solution with someone, do you find yourself stopping and thinking about how you phrase the solution or how you ask the question, how you communicate with that person making it specific to them or is this something that comes naturally for you?
You found that asking questions can help you get people where they need to be?
That’s a great question I would say on my best days, I stop to think about it a lot and I think that’s, you know, really how I’ve learned to become most effective.
Of course, I always slip into old habits and do things that are routine.
But I do find that when we take the time to take a step back, think about who we’re communicating with.
What do they care about and adjusting how I ask questions or what content I focus on.
It ends up being much more effective in getting to those resolutions much more quickly.
Yeah, I think so too.
And I don’t often stop to think about my language when I’m communicating.
But I feel like when we do it can be so effective, especially if you think about the story and all the time is that something worked?
It’s so true.
I am much more often able to stop and think when I’m writing in communication, but I’m much less attentive to this when I’m speaking out loud.
You do a lot of speaking in your role, you get on the phone with customers all the time.
You also do a lot of speaking on behalf of perso if you feel like written communication gives you a lot of time to stop and think how do you prep for being on calls all the time?
That’s a good question.
But I think the key is actually in your question.
So because I know myself and writing helps me think through this and prepare, that’s how I prepare for co so I’ll write down different things that I think are important, try to figure out what key points I want to hit, but I never write myself a script because you do have to be live in a conversation and reacting.
So I think that getting some points out on thinking about what will these people care about?
What is this customer’s concern?
What’s their outside of Pero?
What do they care about?
All of those?
Help me be more prepared in order to speak and stay on topic and make sure that I’m listening to those cues.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
And you’ve been at Pero a long time, a company whose focus is language and you’ve seen Perso products evolve.
What’s the biggest change you’ve observed and what Perso can do today and the solutions that you’re talking about today to customers that you’ve had to learn because the product has evolved.
There’s some parts of Persad o in the more than six years that I’ve been here.
Now, there’s a lot about Persada that has seemingly changed from the outside.
But I think what keeps me seen in the day to day is that at its foundation, at its core, we’re focused on the same things and we have the same approach.
I think what we’ve learned over the years and what feels like the change now is that we were founded on a very mathematical data driven foundation, which is what makes our product so great, but that doesn’t always translate to all audiences.
So being able to use that core to have a great product but be a little bit more nimble and flexible in our application.
As we’ve gained confidence over the year has allowed us to come up with new product lines that are easier to use and adopt that connect directly to our customers problems.
And the biggest change that I’ve had to learn throughout this is if I was to speak about Persad in the first year that I joined, a lot of what I would talk about were statistical concepts and how we apply data.
Nowadays, we can talk a little bit more colloquially.
That way I can focus on the problems that customers know about and it’s still all rooted in the exact same information.
But how you tell that story has really evolved.
It seems to me like that would give you a much bigger audience to sell to because I think math scares people.
Math scares me.
I’m definitely a language nerd.
And then the data science team starts talking about statistics and it goes over my head and probably that’s really scary in a sales cycle if you’re talking to a prospect about complicated math and they don’t understand it, that might scare them away from the product.
Do you feel like being freer to use less?
I don’t know less math, less, very particular language about the product has opened up new opportunities.
It also has allowed us to yeah, have a wider audience.
So maybe the customers are still the same, but we have more of an audience within that customers group.
So that way, there’s a more understanding of what it is that Perso does rather than working through this one time person or the data science team, we have an audience with more.
So that way the copy teams directly can leverage us and have our insights and not be too overwhelmed by all the numbers and orthogonal design that we throw at them that I’m sure gives people ptsd.
I know orthogonal is such a cool word and orthogonal design is such an interesting thing, but it takes a lot of explanation to wrap one’s head around it all.
I also have anxiety saying that out loud for the first year of working at Perso, I was convinced I was going to say it wrong every time.
Do you feel like you no longer have to explain complicated concepts like orthogonal design in order to talk about persad solutions?
Or are there complex things that you’re explaining today?
But they’re just new and different?
I feel like we’ve gotten a little bit away from that level of complexity.
There’s still complicated issues that we have to discuss from time to time.
But I do think that they’re more mainstream now, whether that’s because generative A I has become more mainstream, different personalization tactics have become more common across different users.
I’m not sure exactly what could be driving that the most.
But I don’t feel like it’s quite as foreign as some of the statistical concepts we had been discussing before.
I want to take us in a different direction now, because I had mentioned earlier that you’ve done a lot of speaking for Burs Ao and you mentioned that your favorite part of any project is when many separate functions and parts come together to drive an impactful end result.
For example, in the context of our partners such as Brave and snowflake along with Bursa, what is a challenge that you’ve experienced with different functions, communicating with each other?
That’s a great one.
So before my role as a solutions consultant, I was in project management and I think that’s probably why that’s one of my favorite aspects.
But I think that in that role and similarly in the solutions consultant role, you’re often between a number of different types of teams.
So today, as a solutions consultant, you might be working with our engineering team, a client product team, their marketing team, and our content team.
And so they have very different approaches to what their focus is, what they truly care about, what their day to day truly involves.
And a few of the groups bring them all together.
But most often times we do need organizations or parts of the organization to be dedicated to one specific aspect and they don’t see the full big picture.
So I think that keeping that in mind first is key, but we’re not all on the same page tends to be very important anytime you approach communication.
But then to learning to get comfortable with that, I think partially takes time that certain groups, they speak very directly.
Other groups may speak very gently.
Sometimes you have to ask direct questions versus more general ones and get all the information you need.
So I think a lot of observing, trying to understand somebody’s role, what they truly care about helps you learn how to best and most effectively communicate with them to achieve a goal.
Do you ever find that one group just cannot communicate with another?
And you are like a translator, translating English to English, I wouldn’t say can’t.
But yes, I do find that we are often translators especially like the common thing that we say it’s too technical for this audience to understand.
And we end up being a translator in those terms.
I think that’s most often a role that the se team across the board plays at any organization to the point where they can understand some of the details of the product team is saying and translate that into customer speak.
I do think that most teams have the capability of being able to understand, but it does take time, focus and attention which not everyone has.
Maybe there’s some amount of not wanting to.
As soon as someone says, orthogonal, you just shut your brain off and decide that you can understand it.
Yeah, I, I could see that for sure.
I think it’s like, in some ways similar to how you might look at your inbox, like what your eyes are drawn to and what they’re not like what you just immediately delete versus what you’ll pay attention to.
There’s some preprogramming in there.
Yeah, we think about that a lot at persad in terms of the inbox and what your brain will just overlook or be drawn into when you’re talking to prospects or when you’re talking just across teams.
Are there certain things to steer clear of because people’s brains will just tune out or delete them?
Yes, I think there are.
I’m trying to think of a good example, but there’s prospects where you can engage within the first few minutes of a meeting, whether they’re going to be paying attention to what you’re presenting or if they have other things going on.
So I feel like by observing what their interaction is with you, you can make it on the spot call of, I’m gonna continue presenting this presentation or I’m going to stop and engage in a dialogue because then you, you’re less able to multitask if you’re having to speak and respond.
But I think we’re all very good at this point of having something up on the screen, kind of paying attention while you do something else.
I wouldn’t say very good, not very effective, but we often do that.
Everyone feels pulled in so many directions that I think people feel like they have to be doing all of these things at once and you’re getting messages on slack while you’re trying to be on a call and answer your email.
And it’s hard, that’s a really great a tactic to switch to a dialogue with somebody who is less engaged.
Do you often feel that pull someone in or can you feel them resist the fact that they have to have a conversation?
I mean, definitely seen it both ways, but I think most often times they’ll lean in, especially if the conversation is relevant to them.
If you’re just asking them questions to ask them questions and it’s yes or no.
In short, there is still an element of understanding that response, whether it’s positive or negative, we look at our content.
Is it effective or not?
There’s a click on an email to go to the website, there’s a click to unsubscribe.
So you wanna make sure that you’re not mixing just reaction for something positive?
But is it the right reaction?
We know we’re going into holiday right now for our retailers even just starting with the disarming.
I’m sure things are crazy.
Like what broke today creates a little bit of connection so that way you can start off on the right foot.
I love that question.
What broke today.
There’s always something.
Do people give you real answers when you ask that or do they just sort of like sigh and say,, everything.
I think it depends on how bad of a day, but usually I get something because there’s, I definitely lean on some of my past experience working at a retailer before.
Persad of, oh, I know that by October 10th you’re in the thick of it.
What month is it now?
Are you in December or are you in October or you hindsight?
September at this point?
Do you have other disarming questions that you use at other times of year?
That’s a good question.
Mostly with retail, it does fall around everything, holiday, whether it’s post holiday, pre holiday.
But I think if you think about other industries and other areas thinking about what is that equivalent?
So I know for the insurance agency is you think about like the enrollment period, that’s a very stressful time being mindful of the experience that your prospects or customers are going through.
I think just helps to disarm that there’s some sort of empathy there and that there’s a mutual respect.
Yeah, I think that finding the language to bring empathy to that conversation is so important.
It’s funny because that in a way is the secret of what perso does in marketing too by adding emotion into marketing language.
It’s almost in some ways adding that empathy that you’re doing in your conversations to say something more than just 20% off, but you deserve 20% off already connects with the person.
Hey, lucky you.
I totally agree.
I think that’s why I was so drawn to Pero as well because we get a little bit of data to tell us what to do, which is more where I lean towards.
I like to prep, I like numbers.
I like things like of that nature.
Very type a and so I think I worked with so many creatives and it’s amazing what we can come up with.
But I myself don’t consider myself that way.
I love it very much more programmatic.
So being able to pair those two is so cool.
And I think it helps me take a more methodical approach to preparing speaking language.
All of this.
Have you tried using A I to help you prepare either using Pero’s tools or using a different generative A I solution to help you write language for yourself or think up language for yourself.
I’ll use Posados tool oftentimes just to generate content for our customers in order to give them examples of what it could be like.
But for myself, I don’t often use ourselves to write an email to somebody, but I do use that G BT on occasion to help really remove writer’s block or to start getting inspiration of.
What else can I be thinking about here?
I know that’s a question I recently asked Chat G BT, what am I missing from this?
Which is helpful just to think about other perspectives or even just to start to get the start of an idea that then I might go change or modify it to be really my perspective.
But it is helpful to really remove that writer’s block.
I think A I is super helpful for removing writer’s block.
I think a lot of what perso does for people is remove writer’s block because we all get stuck in these ruts sending the same campaigns all the time.
And Persad is able to sure give you data back.
I understanding of why certain language will work great for certain audiences at certain times.
But also just give you more language that you can play around with and make your own and test if it works for your audience.
And I think that A I does a lot for bringing inspiration into language.
If you were thinking about A I for solutions consulting, is that what it would be?
I do think it would be mostly around.
What else have we not thought of?
What else have we, you know, not explored?
Can we look at these integrations?
How can we make this part easier?
I think it’s that and then maybe also who do we then talk to?
I think it’s not only what else can we look into or how else could we solve this but really who needs to be involved, I think would be a key part more breaking down barriers.
And do we have all the right people in the room who might we be missing from this organization or from our own organization.
Both internally and externally.
Normally I feel like that’s what ends up delaying things more is just missing 11 key piece of the wheel.
If you have one tip for somebody who is getting into solutions consulting and is going to be talking to customers a lot and trying to figure out how to craft their own voice and their own language.
What’s your tip for them to be successful?
It’s definitely to be curious, you know, that doesn’t sound very helpful, but I think in whatever you’re approaching, not only is the solution consultant, you’ll need to know your own technology very well.
So would it work if I did this, would it break if I did that?
All of those questions of curiosity in order to learn, not just to be a pain, but to learn as well as being curious about your customer and not being afraid to guess, I assume they’re going to care about this.
And therefore I’m going to be prepared for that.
You might be wrong, but at least you’ll come in with a perspective and a point of view that I’m sure they will respect.
So being curious enough to wonder about what they’ll care about.
Being curious enough to ask them questions, being curious enough to come prepared, I think is really the key in being successful as a solutions consultant, but probably in most roles.
I think that’s a wonderful tip.
I always ask my team to be curious all the time and to be curious when they’re thinking about language and to try new things and to ask questions and if things break and they don’t work, it’s ok.
We were curious and that’s a good thing.
The worst thing that can happen and something that we use all the time is just making an assumption and sharing it because maybe you’re right and that gives you a lot of respect, but maybe you’re wrong and then somebody has the opportunity to give you that information.
So really, there’s little downside so long as you aren’t coming in saying it’s the one and only truth, you can be a little bit humble about it.
You can admit that it’s an assumption.
But I do think that it really helps get you ahead.
So we’ve talked about how language can be really successful for you in your role.
But what are times when language has failed or how has language failed you?
Most often times I think when you’re communicating without context or without reading.
So like I mentioned, I no longer write scripts.
I think that in the past if I’ve been operating off a script or trying to do things without paying enough attention and that tends to be where things go off the rails, maybe I’ll present something to a prospect that’s really not relevant and they lose their attention so fast that we’ll never get it back.
Or maybe internally, I’m trying to just use the same solution for something over and over again and it doesn’t hit the mark and just creates more frustration.
I think to me, that’s most often where language fails is when it’s directed or just not taken into consideration who it’s being directed at.
That’s so interesting because we see that, of course, when we send messages through Persada platform, if we don’t take into account who the audience is or what the campaign is like, the example you gave off the top of trying to find the one best message.
But that isn’t really what you need.
If you don’t take in the context, then the language doesn’t land.
And that certainly is also the case if you don’t take in the context and you just like I am I stuck to my script because I know it works.
Then of course, it doesn’t work because people are all different and have different contexts so true.
All it takes is like one really bad email for me to unsubscribe from that list.
And that takes me a lot because I get a lot of emails and then you’ve now lost me as an audience member forever.
And so I feel like it’s the same of you do have to be careful about what you say.
So that way don’t lose that chance to talk again.
So since we’ve been working on creating generative A I that’s gonna create the right language for the right person at the right time.
I think my question to you is, can a I do this?
Can A I achieve good language that’s going to work and that’s going to resonate with people?
Yeah, I truly believe it does that it can and that it does but not in a vacuum.
You still have to work with A I, you have to use it as a tool and not as something that stands on its own.
It can’t create a narrative, it can’t create an entire message that’s going to connect with everybody.
But what it can do is it can come up with different ways of saying things.
I think the the main thing is especially working in marketing, we say the same things over and over again in different ways and we’re all human.
You can get stuck in your rats.
And so it, it’s really helpful to be able to help break you out of maybe just a tiny bit out of your comfort zone to see what works.
And I think it is a really helpful tool and it really can create language that makes sense in a way for you.
A I creating good language is A I creating new language, creating varied language, creating things that we as humans hadn’t seen before or hadn’t thought of doing the same things over and over if it’s that holiday campaign.
But doing it in a new way or just putting like a seed of inspiration into you as the person who is talking to the customer or writing the marketing message to do it in a new and different way.
And that’s a freedom that A I is generating something new and good in the language realm that we haven’t had before.
Thank you Taylor for joining us on motivation A I matters.
I think you’ve had a lot of incredible experience in your career thus far using language in a lot of different ways and have provided a lot of really wonderful tips for our listeners about how they can think about and tailor and craft language to really make it work for them.
Thanks for joining us.
We’ll catch you next time here on motivation A I matters until then make sure you’re subscribed and learn more about how to find the right language to motivate your customers and how generative A I makes this possible by checking out the resource library at perso dot com.