We’ve said it so many times, it’s become a mantra at Corporate Visions. Turning out the lights and giving PowerPoint presentations is a bad idea. We’ve shown statistics, given examples, and written articles illustrating why delivering canned presentations in the dark is an ineffective communication and sales strategy. But this commercial – a great example of the power of visual communications, BTW – says it all. Just imagine what your audience is doing in the dark…watch.
By Tim Riesterer
Telling someone something that they didn’t know, about a problem or missed opportunity they didn’t know they had, has the potential to come across one of two ways. You can either sound like a jerk who is challenging the prospect and calling their baby ugly. Or, you can be seen as someone providing a valuable piece of business intelligence and direction that will make their time spent with you worthwhile.
In the spirit of the holidays, I’d like to share this thought with you. Great marketing and sales messaging is like giving a gift. Your goal during the holidays is to find someone that perfect present… something they could use, but don’t already have, and don’t expect. The reaction you are hoping to hear is, “Oh this is perfect, I really need something like this, but would never have gotten it for myself. Thank you!”
When you develop and deliver a message to your prospect, you should be seeking a similar reaction. You add value by identifying unrecognized, or unknown, or under-appreciated needs, then showing the prospect why the needs are worth dealing with, and how your offering has been designed specifically to help meet those needs.
No gift is complete without a great presentation. Typically, you wouldn’t wrap your present in newspaper. You’d trim it with some fancy paper, ribbons and bows. And possibly make a little production out of the delivery – all in an effort to make the moment as special and memorable as possible.
Same goes for a great message. You can’t bury it in the same old, worn-out presentation models, or sales tools. Make sure you wrap your message in a remarkable way that makes the delivery as impactful as the story. And, just as homemade cards and wrappings are personal and meaningful; packaging your message in a whiteboard presentation has the same effect. Slick decks and brochures are pretty, but they look like they come from the store. Putting in the extra effort to make the delivery look like a hand-made original will make a better, longer lasting impression.
By Tim Riesterer, Corporate Visions
In September, we hosted our annual Sales and Marketing Messaging Conference in Chicago under the theme of “Breaking the Status Quo.” While there were a lot of excellent presentations that challenged our approaches to sales and marketing messages, there was one presentation that stretched us personally and professionally and has really stuck in my mind.
Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, delivered a keynote that could only be described as a mind-bending experience, not a presentation. I’ve never witnessed 400 senior business executives so emotionally engaged in a speech.
(When’s the last time you saw your colleagues singing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy in German – at the top of their lungs with huge hand gestures and giant facial expressions. Yeah, that happened, and people loved it.)
Zander convinced people to pack the front rows prior to starting his speech. In most conferences, it helps to sit in the front row to be able to read all of the bullet points in the deadly dense onslaught of slides. But, in Zander’s case, he didn’t use any slides. Being in the front row meant you were going to be “leaning into possibilities,” unlike the back row people who “observe, criticize and look for a quick getaway.”
Zander used his piano as an important prop to demonstrate how “one-buttock playing” can transform a dull, boring piece of music into a story that sucks you in and takes you on a magical journey. His challenge: How can we be one-buttock players when we engage people we lead?
Zander drew simple images on flip charts. Yes, he used whiteboard techniques to make key points memorable, showing the contrast between “downward spiral” thinking and conversations vs. “radiant possibilities.” Now, every time I have a conversation with someone I can visualize either the downward spiral or radiant possibility whiteboards, and make a conscious decision to change the dialogue to be more productive.
Throughout the keynote, Zander was on a secondary mission to disrupt status quo thinking about classical music. Since only about 3 percent of the population is comprised of die-hard fans, he used not only stories, musical examples and group sing-alongs to make a point about leadership and interpersonal communications, he also managed to convert more than a few folks to reconsider their stance on the symphony. Bravo, Ben Zander.
Here’s a clip of Ben Zander from a recent TED presentation that is well worth watching and will leave you wanting more. http://www.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion.html
Summary of the Visual Storytelling techniques used by Zander:
- Stories – he embedded personal stories to “enroll” the audience, punctuate key points and connect with people’s emotions.
- Dramas – he engaged the audience in sing-alongs, challenging the audience to repeat the song three times with more gusto to prove we hold back.
- Whiteboard – his two flipchart visuals created memorable take-aways, and he didn’t display a single PowerPoint slide, even though there were 400 people in the room for two hours.
- Props – in Zander’s case, a grand piano served as a prop for demonstrating how people can be more engaging in their presentation.
By Lisa Cummings, Corporate Visions
I recently visited a train museum with my nieces. Amidst the relics, a laminated guide to hobo communications stood out. Hobos – the migratory, homeless vagabond workers of the early 20th century – used a set of symbols to communicate with each other. The guide caught my eye because so many things in the museum seemed obsolete and inefficient. Yet this sign highlighted a language of visual communication. Without smartphones or PowerPoint – heck, they couldn’t even circulate written messages on paper – hobos developed a way to tell each other the often life-saving information of where to go to get work and how to avoid danger. The symbols were meaningful, memorable, and simple.
Visual storytelling is not new. It’s what hieroglyphics were all about. Visuals have also exemplified many tribes and communities. Here’s a test. If you think of the hippie movement of the 60s and 70s, what pops into your mind? Peace signs, flowers, and maybe tie-died fabric, right? They’re all visual representations of a concept that would take a lot longer to describe with words alone.
Visuals bring clarity to words. Last year I went to France. I practiced my French enough to master short tourist conversations, but it was ultimately a picture that saved my life. What better way to communicate to any non-French speakers that they’re entering a room of high voltage danger? This picture was all I needed to stop me in my tracks.
The same concepts apply in business communications. Visuals or symbols and drawings can simplify concepts that seem complex in written form. And they can convey in a glance exactly what you’re trying to say. Imagine how much more powerful and memorable your stories would be to a prospect if you told them with a combination of words and pictures.
Want to learn more about how to communicate visually?
We’ve all heard the term “death by PowerPoint,” or worse, experienced it. It refers to the lack of interactivity and boredom engendered by the typical slide presentation. The term invokes an arresting image that reminds us that, if you want to engage your audience while standing out from your competitors, slides aren’t the answer.
In this post, we’ll look at five ways salespeople can boost performance using “visual storytelling” instead of slides. Whether using a whiteboard, a flip chart, the back of an envelope or a tablet PC via desktop sharing software, you can integrate the visual storytelling model into your existing sales methodology and apply the approach as a powerful differentiator in competitive and complex selling environments.
Five Ways to Tell Your Story Visually
1. Develop a Powerful Whiteboard “Story” Instead of Bullet Points
Your presentation should be much more than just a list of bullets – it should be a compelling visual narrative designed to showcase your products and services and how they deliver unique value. For example, you could create a story about a tragic hero (an anonymous customer) who overcomes adversity (the current situation) to attain ultimate glory (the desired state, achieved uniquely by your solution/service).
The story also needs to be visually intriguing, with humorous iconography, and should have a script that goes along with each step. The whiteboard story should include planned “interaction points” where you’ll engage with the customer to ensure a two-way dialogue. Stay away from features and benefits. Instead, ask and help answer these specific questions: what’s the impact of sticking with the status quo, and what’s the value of making a change?
2. Stick Figures are More Powerful than Photography
One way people have attempted to fix the PowerPoint problem is by using large photographs and metaphorical imagery with just a few words on the slides. While this may help make a keynote speech more interesting, it doesn’t advance the cause in a sales cycle, make abstract ideas more concrete, or make complex concepts simpler.
Stick figures and symbols get it done – boxes, circles, arrows, dollar signs…stuff you can draw. Even more importantly, these hand-drawn visuals can be redrawn by your prospects after you leave the room. You want your story to “walk the halls” in your absence, right? You want your prospect to feel smarter and more empowered to promote your story? Well then, give them the gift of a simple story and visual that helps them understand and react, as well as own and distribute.
3. Visual Storytellers are More Consultative
With the visual storytelling approach, it’s essential that you immerse yourself in the content. Prospects perceive salespeople with a clicker in their hand as “PowerPoint jockeys.” You are telling a story that someone else created. A visual story that you draw, and explain along the way, gives you the credibility. It confers the knowledge and expertise to you, not the marketing department that created the pretty slides.
In a world where every salesperson wants to appear as a trusted advisor or practice consultative selling, visual storytellers are seen as adding more value, facilitating more engagement, and delivering insight and expertise. Storytellers get the room to think about their challenges and opportunities in a fresh and interactive way. Turning on the lights and taking a pen in your hand, as opposed to closing the shades and standing in the shadows of the LCD panel, create an entirely different perception of you and the role you are playing in the room.
4. Create a Sticky Virtual Experience
If you’re part of an inside sales team, or spend much of your sales cycle dealing with prospects over the Web and on the phone, visual storytelling can create a huge point of differentiation. Just because you aren’t face-to-face with the customer doesn’t mean you can’t use whiteboarding techniques.
Using simple Web conferencing software and an inexpensive pen tablet, you can easily simulate a full whiteboarding experience. This can be the difference between creating a remarkable and memorable sales experience, and sounding and looking like everyone else.
We’ve found that while 50 percent of WebEx viewers intermittently leave a remotely shared PowerPoint presentation to access other applications, the attrition rate is less than 10 percent using the visual storytelling approach.
5. A Whiteboarding Methodology
Great visual stories don’t happen spontaneously. They are pre-built based on the different moments of truth in the customer buying cycle. At the beginning, you need to answer the foremost question in the prospect’s mind: why should I change? You need a whiteboard that helps them see why their status quo isn’t safe and why they need to consider doing something different.
The next question you need to answer is: why you? For that you need a visual story that clearly delineates your differences and strengths in contrast to the status quo and the competitive alternatives. Finally, you need to address the question: why now? That calls for a visual story that presents the business case and a relevant example of how someone achieved their desired outcomes and realized the projected value.
Each of these is a different, complementary whiteboard that builds on the previous one and develops your story along the decision-making path.
Having a good sales process is important, but having something truly provocative to say when you actually interact is essential. Visual storytelling is the fuel that powers your sales process engine.
Close up of ocean waves washing over rocks. Howard Shore’s “Lord of the Rings” score wafting in the background. Fade to laundry hanging on clothesline, seagull flying over house perched on cliff. Fade to fishing boat, man petting dog nearby. Fade to family photo, voiceover: “You will give the people an idea to strive toward.” Fade to boy running through field, hint of red cape trailing behind. Fade to hitchhiker on a mountain road. Fade to birds-eye view of a farm field. Voiceover: “In time, they will join you in the sun.” Fade to butterfly on chain. Voiceover: “In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” Fade to boy with red cape. Fade to text, “Man of Steel.” Fade to caped man flying at mach-speed through the clouds.
Most of you probably started skimming by the third line of that paragraph. Ninety percent of you didn’t make it to the end. We’re lucky if you’re even reading this.
We’ve just described a trailer for the yet-to-be-released Superman movie. Now watch this…
That’s the power of video. Stimulate the senses and the decision-making part of the brain by using video or visual storytelling in your marketing content.
Thanks to Corporate Visions Global Accounts Manager Ted Ergo for the idea for this post.
By Rebecca Blouin, Davies Murphy Group
I spent last Wednesday and Thursday live blogging from Corporate Visions’ Marketing and Sales Messaging Conference, “Break the Status Quo Barrier” in Chicago. Perched on the ballroom balcony with my fellow blogger, high above the heads of the 400 attendees, we looked much like “The Muppet Show’s” Statler and Waldorf, gazing down with a critical eye and plenty to say (but considerably better groomed hair). After 17 presentations, two bran muffins eaten hastily at the start of every morning, and dinner with a tarpon, these are the things that have stuck with me.
Never judge a conductor by his cover.
Though deep down I trusted the wisdom of Corporate Visions’ conference organizers, I couldn’t imagine how Ben Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, could possibly keep the attention of senior-level marketing and salespeople for two entire hours. Does a conductor a good speaker make?
Yes. That conductor made a phenomenal speaker. I don’t exaggerate when I say that Ben was one of the best – if not the best – speakers I have ever seen. And I can safely state that from the standing ovation, shining eyes, and line of people waiting to have their Ben Zander books autographed, the attendees agree.
Ben demonstrated to me that you don’t need a presentation, notes or even a stage to thoroughly engross an audience. Your message can be powerfully delivered with two white boards, a few pens, a piano (optional), and some thoughtful, gripping stories. And a good dose of humor and fiery passion for what you do is also helpful.
Getting marketing and sales to work in sync is “wicked hard.”*
*Courtesy of Kevin Joyce, chief sales and marketing officer, Miranda Technologies
Nineteen of the best and brightest leaders in marketing and sales regaled us with case studies, stories, overviews and anecdotes about their struggles with unifying marketing and sales around a consistent set of effective messages and materials. One of their main messages? It’s really hard work. Their ultimate message? With hard work, a partner and a plan, it’s entirely possible and will pay dividends in the end.
Self-deprecation can be charming in a presentation.
I can imagine that when you’ve reached the pinnacle of corporate success – be it a senior-most position or founding a profitable company – it might be difficult to resist the glow of success from leading you into pontification and self-congratulation. But to a person, the presenters laid bare their struggles and lessons learned and flew their geek flags proudly (Tim Riesterer in particular) to make their points and tell their stories to help others. That style is not only in line with Corporate Visions’ it’s-all-about-you-not-me approach, but it’s also very effective.
And no one embodied this as much as Billy Beane. With a bestselling book and award-winning movie based on your life, it would be easy to swagger like John Travolta in white polyester. But Billy humbly – and humorously – relayed the decisions he made to get where he is and praised the people who helped him get there. His self-deprecation had even the non-baseball lovers eating out of the palm of his (I probably high-fived Brad Pitt with this) hand.
Breaking the status quo takes a lot of chutzpah.
Inevitably when you take the road less traveled by, there are going to be naysayers pointing out the recklessness of that decision. What impressed me most about these market leaders was how they boldly defined a path, put a stake in the ground and heard – but didn’t listen to – the people who told them they were headed the wrong way. Several of the presentations included a story with the words “it was at this point we knew we were all-in.”
Billy Beane might have said it best with the quote he said served as a mantra for him and his team as they tried to redefine how to create a winning baseball team.
“The road to truth is long, and lined the entire way with annoying bastards.” Alexander Jablokov
Though fun for a picture, putting your arm around a cardboard cutout Brad Pitt is not as good as the real thing.
Or so I imagine…
A congressional hearing on tainted food might be the last place you’d expect to find powerful sales messaging. But, when a congressman recently wanted to elevate the concern over unsafe food on supermarket shelves, he unleashed an emotionally potent presentation technique.
Check out this brief clip:
Your Brain Wants Concrete
A by-product of the information age is that many of the “solutions” being sold today are no longer physical objects. They have no shape, substance or concrete form that can be seen and touched.
Have you noticed that consumer software is sold in very elaborate packaging? It gives you, the buyer, the illusion that you are getting something substantial for your money. In reality, with the advancements in digital storage technology, you could easily sell the entire Microsoft Office Suite on a disposable chip the size of a postage stamp.
Why is it harder to sell intangibles? The answer goes beyond the logic of “getting something for your money.” The reason lies deep in the wiring of your brain.
Behavioral science has taught us that humans are more likely to be motivated to act or to change a behavior based on a stimulus that is concrete. Scientists describe “concrete” as something that can be experienced through one of your five senses (Touch, Taste, Smell, Hearing, or Sight).
Using a prop, a three dimensional physical object, when describing your solution is an effective technique to make your solution appear more “real.” The concept of unsafe food on supermarket shelves, while unsettling, is not as emotionally potent as a plastic jar full of potentially tainted products, and an accused executive having to take his chances by taking a bite.
Here’s One You Can Use
Let’s say that you have a solution that offers greater flexibility to your customers. How do you communicate an intangible concept such as flexibility?
Try this. Hold up a golf ball and say: “This golf ball represents your business. Golfers know there are three types of clubs that are used to drive this ball forward. If you want power to drive great distance you use a driver. If you want a combination of power and accuracy you will use an iron. Lastly, if you want even greater accuracy and finesse you use a wedge or putter.”
Then say: “What’s unique about the solution you are seeing today is that it gives you the flexibility to have everything you need in your bag to ensure you move your company forward the best way possible.”
By using the golf ball as a prop, you take an abstract, sometimes overused concept and make it real and more meaningful to your buyer.
In your next face-to-face customer interaction, bring a prop into the message.
- Make sure it is relative to the needs of your prospect
- Make sure it supports your message rather than steals the show
- Keep the story around the prop very concise and to the point
- Bring the prop onto the scene and then take it off. Don’t continue to hold it once your point is made.
Using this simple messaging technique, you can make whatever you sell seem more real. Plus, you have just made it easier for your prospect to buy.
Have a good example of how you used a prop in a presentation? Email us your story with My Prop Example in the subject and enter to win a wireless PowerPoint remote.
It’s that season again, the season for thanks, for family, for spirit and giving. But if you’re like me, you’re still in a food coma from one holiday meal or another, so it’s also the season for looking down at your stomach and saying, “Whoa, where’d you come from?”
Yes, it’s about this time of year a lot of us start making promises that include dropping that five, 15, 25 pounds we’ve been trying to lose since… forever. There are so many options out there for diets… low calorie, low carb, low fat. Atkins. Jenny Craig. Grapefruit. Avocado-only. South Beach. South Deck. Wait, what? South Deck?
That’s right, the South Deck Diet. Last month’s edition of The Feed showed you how your company’s packaging, collateral and presentations can get “plump” from letting too much well-intended input clutter your message. (Just like we tend to plump up around the holidays from all the well-prepared food.)
This month, we’re giving you a proven, five-step lifestyle change to get your slide deck looking leaner, hotter and healthier.
Step #1: Detox by watching this introductory video.
Step #2: Cut your intake. You can’t force your prospect to digest content if they don’t know how it helps them. Take an honest and naked look at your marketing and sales slide deck and ask yourself: Is it everything on the menu, or just what the buyer is looking for? Is it loaded with extra, high-calorie content that contains little nutritional value? Or does it deliver high-energy nutrients in every slide?
Challenge yourself to cut your slide deck by 75%. (This means if it’s 100 slides, you need to lose 75, for your ideal figure of 25). Less is more. Increase your font size, and keep your slides to five bullet points or less, each one on a single line, if possible.
Also, don’t throw in ingredients that your buyer won’t understand. Propylene glycol alginate, carrageenan, and lecithin probably don’t mean anything to you when you read the back of an ice cream container, so don’t use unknown acronyms, abbreviations, or tech-speak in your deck or your delivery. You are looking for a decision, so use the slides that make it easier for a prospect to make that decision, don’t just pass out a lot of information.
Step #3: Dress for your body type. Nobody’s perfect. But you can make sure your deck flatters your company’s strengths and unique differentiators. Show the parts of your solution that really make you stand out from your competition. Never show slides that you’re not willing to talk about, or that look like everyone else. Use the “B” key to black out the screen when telling stories, asking questions and after you present to keep eyes on you.
Step #4: Use the Buddy System. All successful South Deck Dieters have a support system. Grab a colleague and show off your slimmer self. Let them see and hear the new presentation. And, ask them to hold you accountable to your deck dieting goals.
Step #5: Rest & Maintain. Once you’ve trimmed the fat, don’t forget to keep your newfound slim and sexy deck sharp by giving it a break. Force yourself to step outside the comforts of a PowerPoint-only presentation. Use it, but don’t abuse it. Spice up your presentation by adding in a healthy amount of variety. Try using a flipchart or a whiteboard. Bring in a physical object to help you illustrate a point. Tell a story. Finally, revisit the slide deck now and then to make sure it hasn’t gained back any of the excess baggage.
Stick with these five steps, and you’re sure to get results!
Enter our Slim Down Sweepstakes to win a Slide Deck Makeover by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Slim Down Sweepstakes” in the subject line. One lucky winner will receive a full makeover from one of Corporate Visions Inc.’s professional consultants, for one presentation.
How would you sell a wireless internet card?
There are so many features and functions you can talk about, right? How fast it is. How durable it is. How compatible it is. How easy it is to use. The amazing feat of engineering it took to make it so small and portable.
Now watch this ad:
What do you think? How did this advertiser move the message from your head to your heart?
Rather than showing what it is: wires, metal, plastic and computer chips, they tapped your emotions. They showed what this product means to you. You can finally come out of the dark and into the light. You can be free.
They used suspense to keep your attention. In the beginning you were probably wondering, “What’s happening, why are these ‘nerds’ behaving so bizarrely?” (If you’re Alumni you may remember the Hitchcock clip in the Power Messaging course. The phrase “a ticking bomb under your chair” may come to mind.) Alfred Hitchcock, a master at directing suspense movies, explains that the trick to creating suspense is to tell people that something is about to happen and then…make them wait for it. This video used suspense by making you wait to find out what’s happening. Showing the product became the “Ah ha!” moment. No words were necessary. You “got it.”
Master advertisers and movie makers understand how to grab attention and engage your emotions. Now, it’s one thing to capture the hearts of “movie goers,” but how can you do it in a sales presentation?
Next time you’re selling a product, make sure to talk about what your prospect can do with your solution, what it is that creates that capability and what it will mean to them. Move beyond the feature-function dump. Create suspense by asking a “What if you…” question. “What if you had the freedom to be anywhere and still have access to the internet?” “Would you like to see how you can have that?”
Tell us what you have done to move your message from your buyer’s head to their heart.
Has this ever happened to you? You present to a prospect and you know you did a great job because you covered everything. But in subsequent meetings you realize that your prospect didn’t really retain what you said.
Are you like your prospects? Test your own retention. Watch this video and then read the rest.
Don’t worry, you’re completely normal. There’s even evidence* to suggest that you’re more efficient if you didn’t notice the obvious. When you “keep your eye on the ball” you filter out irrelevant information. Your brain’s capacity depends not on the amount of storage but on how efficiently that space is used, therefore filtering out distracting information. The better the filter, the more efficient you can be at assigned tasks. Your memory’s temporary storage is limited to about three or four items.
What does this mean when it comes to selling?
Imagine how much information you give in any one of your presentations. What do you think your buyer is filtering out? It’s anyone’s guess. If you want the buyer to remember the most important things, you need to keep the presentation focused on 3-4 key messages. A discussion focused on highly relevant areas of the value ensures engagement and retention.
Three ways to get your message through the mind’s spam filter:
- Set your agenda in your buyer’s world with 3-4 things they need that only you can provide.
- Contrast their life without your solution versus their life with your solution.
- Ask for feedback, early and often.
It was an absolutely beautiful morning in Hong Kong. I received the standard friendly greeting from the doorman upon exiting my hotel. As I made my way around the circular walkway, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful trees and colorful flowers so impeccably manicured surrounding the entrance of the underground mall near my hotel. I made my way to Queensway Road East, which would take me to my meeting.
The city was already bustling below with people going every direction in taxis, cars, and motorcycles, or just walking the streets. As I looked out onto Victoria Harbor, I could see the Star Ferry running out to Kowloon. I set out on the two block walk that I had taken the day prior. Relaxed, I made my way to the office complex where my meeting would be held. As usual, I was heading in early.
I quickly walked up the steps, and across the very large, modern atrium. Upon approaching the elevators, the doors opened, I waited for several people to exit, and proceeded in. The doors quickly shut behind me. With the doors now closed, I looked up to select my floor. There were no buttons! No floor indicators! Something was wrong. How would I get to the right floor in this very tall building? What was going on? My heart began to beat quickly. Something was out of place. My eyes darted around the inside of the elevator searching for clues to determine what to do. The elevator started heading up, and I had no way to stop it or indicate what floor I needed. There was no way to get out. My mind was racing, and yet, it seemed that every second was passing so slowly, so deliberately. After what seemed like a very long time, the elevator doors opened. I was at the wrong floor, high above where I needed to be. I made my escape in an attempt to figure out what was going on.
As I think about this event from seven months ago, I can remember so many vivid details. I could describe to you the inside of the elevator. I can still recall the brand of the elevator, even the model number. I can remember the distinct feeling of relief and confusion as I got off the elevator. I can recall with great detail, the feeling of anxiety as I wondered if I would be late to my meeting.
What if during your next meeting, you could create a similar “elevator experience” for your customer that would have them remember vivid details about you months later?
In their book, Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath provide some insight in building memories that last. They conclude that, “…surprise jolts us to attention. Surprise is triggered when our schemas fail, and it prepares us to understand why the failure occurred.” Their research appears to find that as humans, we develop a way, an understanding or a pattern, of how we expect things to occur. During the thousands of times that I had been in an elevator and pushed the button to get to my destination, I was acting within my expected schema and the event was mundane and unmemorable. However, when the doors shut in the elevator in Hong Kong my schema was violated; my natural survival instincts ignited and my mind raced to determine what was happening.
My event in the elevator not only got my attention, but caused clear memories about that specific event. “Unexpected ideas are more likely to stick because surprise makes us pay attention. That extra attention and thinking sear unexpected events into our memories…surprise makes us want to find an answer—to resolve the question of why we were surprised”
Think about your next meeting. Do your customers have a schema, an expectation of what will occur? Will your customer view your meeting like the last several they have had with you? Will the results of your time together be like my thousands of trips on the elevator prior to Hong Kong—uneventful, and unmemorable? Can you contrast an expected meeting with something that will change the schema or expectation of the customer and get their attention to wonder, “What’s next?” By doing so, is there some way that you can create more vivid memories of the content of your presentation?
The book, Made to Stick, refers to a research study conducted by Robert Cialdini who concluded, “You’ve heard of the famous Aha! experience, right? Well, that Aha! experience is much more satisfying when it is preceded by the Huh? experience.” For me, the “Huh?” was created when I looked up and saw no floor selection buttons. Keeping in mind what is written above, the challenge for your next meeting is how will you initially create that break in your customer’s schema with a “Huh?” (expectation of your meeting, sales call, etc.) and follow it with that “Aha!” moment. How do you contrast your next presentation so that it does not look like your last presentation; or even worse, so that it does not look just like your competition? Do you always present the same? Do you start off with the same old introduction, agenda and dim the lights for your PowerPoint© presentation? Are you creating the “typical elevator ride” when you turn the lights down?
George Loewenstein, from Carnegie Mellon University concluded that, “curiosity…happens when we feel a gap in our knowledge.” How can your next presentation create that gap for your customer and increase their attention? Armed with this knowledge, you have the opportunity to grab the attention of your audience by contrasting your presentation from the expected. Presentations today are loaded with facts, figures, charts and diagrams. Chip and Dan Heath conclude that there is an important order here: “One important implication of the gap theory is that we need to open gaps before we close them. Our tendency is to tell people the facts.”
This blog is full of Grabbers that are used to get the attention of your audience when used appropriately. Grabbers can create interest in your entire presentation as a whole, or individual components that you build to dramatize a specific point. Instead of your normal introduction and company overview followed by an information dump, I would highly encourage you to create an elevator experience for your customer. Grab their interest. Get them curious. Have them thinking, “What next?” Grabbers are tools that can be used at anytime throughout your presentation. This approach will contrast your next meeting with your customer from your competition. By introducing the unexpected, you contrast messages and your chances of being remembered as unique are much higher.
Walking into that elevator in Hong Kong was an absolute contrast to any elevator ride I had taken before. It was a memorable event. Every sense I had available was charged up to figure out how to get out of the confinement of that Schindler, Model 7000 elevator. How can you use contrast and Grabbers in your next presentation to fire-up the survival instincts of your customers to help seek the need for change—to move from their existing pain to your solution?
A few suggestions here as you approach your next presentation:
- Surprise for the sake of surprise is never enough. It must be relevant and followed by credible information that satisfies the information gap you create.
- Start with your customer, not your presentation. Build every presentation from the ground-up, realizing that each customer, each selling situation, each opportunity to message to your customer, is a unique experience.
- See your customer from their perspective. How can you make their pains, needs or desires come alive? How can you emulate that “elevator experience”? Use contrast to demonstrate their current situation (pain) and the resulting gain by moving towards your solution.
- Look for a Hot Opening and create interest from the start. Contrast your solution by finding something that is vital to your prospect and more importantly, something unique that only you can provide.
- Don’t give in to the pressure of conformity. It causes everyone to look the same and present the same (PowerPoint presentations with a barrage of charts, graphs, and data). Be yourself. Stand out. Be different. Contrast yourself, your approach, and your message.
Some of you may have had a similar experience with one of the newer automated elevators. I did make it to my meeting that day, and I did get there on time. I eventually made my way back to the atrium and found a key entry pad about twenty-feet from the entrance of the elevators. As you approach the elevator, you indicate the floor you desire to get to. The computerized elevator then matches you with others going to similar floors in the building and directs you to one of the six elevators available – an incredibly efficient process once you understand it!
I challenge you to elevate your next presentation. Be different, be unique, focus on your customers’ world; momentarily close the door to their elevator and create memories that will last far beyond your meeting.
By Steve Hub, Consultant, Corporate Visions Inc.
Heath, Dan & Chip, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Stick and Others Die, Random House 2007 (pages: 67-69, 80, 84-85).
Submitted by Tyler Cobbett, Senior Business Consultant:
I was working a deal with a major semiconductor manufacturer. At stake was just under a $1M for a global partnership. The prospect was a flight away. This meant that every meeting had to have as much impact as possible. The biggest risk was having someone not “get it” and us running out of time.
In the middle of one very important meeting with the buying committee tasked with evaluating our software I asked “So, what do you think?”
For a minute, the key guy on the committee looked perplexed. He then started to make several statements like “I just don’t see…” and “It looks like…”
I recognized at that point that he was a SERIOUS visual learner I hadn’t been connecting with. I began a 10 minute recap on the whiteboard, showing him visually what I had been trying to communicate verbally. We then broke for lunch, and when we returned, I made a conscious effort to spend more time on the whiteboard connecting with the visual learners in the room.
The change in his demeanor and body language by the end of the afternoon session was dramatic. We ended the meeting on a major high note. This NEVER would have happened if I had not completed Corporate Visions training on Learning Channels and how to communicate effectively to each type.
This victory spurred an excellent first half of the year for my sales, helping me bank $2 million of software and services in a weak market.
by Tyler Cobbett
“Who you are shouts so loudly in my ears, I can’t hear what you are saying.”
– Ralph Emerson
As a salesperson, you often spend an enormous amount of time and energy picking the words you use to sell your products and services – but is that where your focus should be?
Studies show that your audience receives just 7% of your message through the words you use – 38% is received through your voice. The remaining 55% is received through your body language. Surprised by those numbers? Most people are at first, until they take the time to think about them.
Can you hear and see if a person lacks confidence in what they are selling? Certainly. Usually though, it’s not the words they use that reveals this lack of confidence, it’s their tone of voice and their body language. Why is the majority of information communicated through voice and body language? Most people consciously choose their words, but they do not consciously choose their tone of voice or their body language. Voice and body language are simply part of the aura that is surrounding them. Samurai warriors had a word for this aura. They called it Ki (key).
Strong Ki is a powerful tool for salespeople. Ki comes from an alignment of your inner beliefs and outward representation. When you believe strongly in what you are doing, your voice and body language will naturally align with your words. The caution here is that strong Ki is not something you put on like a coat. Strong Ki is developed through learning your solution’s strengths so well that you can explain them to anyone. Strong Ki is developed by making a commitment to serve your customers in every possible way, even if that means walking away from an opportunity because your solution simply isn’t right for them. Lastly, strong Ki is developed through a constant exercise of fearlessness.
It is fearlessness above all that expresses strong Ki. The salesperson that welcomes questions and challenges from his/her prospect is a force to be reckoned with. The salesperson who can confidently move off the agenda, when the prospect needs it; or with equal confidence can bring a customer back to the agenda when they are off in the weeds; is one who can carry a message. A salesperson that is ready for anything is the salesperson who is going to win.
By Erik Peterson, Consultant, Corporate Visions Inc.
Kevin Molloy sells educational software to colleges and universities. He used the techniques he learned from Power Messaging®, to sell $35 million in software… before the application was delivered to market. Here’s how he won the business.
Imagine watching three weeks worth of presentations. Do you think prospects want to see every panel on our application? Well, that’s what our competitors do. What the prospects really want to know is how our application is going to help them. To do that, I made my presentation a story and experience for them.
In Power Messaging I learned to help prospects make a decision, and identify aspects of our application that make us unique, the best, and the only one that can provide a solution to their problems. These three words help prospects distinguish between my solution and our competition.
Since I didn’t have a product to demonstrate, I visually painted a picture very quickly. Initially, I let people find a comfort level with me so I understood who the players were. Then, in the first seven-minutes, I drew a Big Picture of what their life would be like with our application. I dramatized what they do today and how our product can help them tomorrow. On one board I listed things they’re doing today (hitting their pain and they all laughed) Then on another board I said, “Here’s tomorrow” , and made sure today’s list had five or six items on it and the tomorrow list had only two.
In order to know my prospect understood the key points in my presentation, I used a “Top 10 List.” The list contained the top ten unique aspects about our product and company. Throughout my presentation, I would direct all my points towards the Top 10 List. Then, at the end of the day, I gave them prizes for remembering what was on the list.
With this “tool set” of techniques, they could see why and where we were going to build this outrageous application. Prospects report after a presentation… “Your product looks easy to use and flexible, you understand our business and what we’re trying to accomplish on campus.”
I’ve been able to adopt these techniques with great success; I’ve replicated my presentation and had the people who work for me apply the same to their presentations. We are now winning all these deals! We closed deals with 55 schools before we had any software… $35 million in business.
So, am I doing my presentations differently now that our product is out? No way!
I do the same thing. I don’t show our prospect’s panels on our application. I show them how we’re unique, the best and the only choice for them.
Picture your last sales presentation or demonstration. How much of the material presented actually needed to be there? How long did it take to present? And what was your reason for presenting that way?
“It’s a technical presentation and they NEED to see it all” or “..they WANT to see it all.”
“It’s what Marketing gave us to present.” Our favorite: “Stop me when you see something you like!”
In the age of information, it is easy to overwhelm your prospect with content not even relevant to the sale and actually make their decision more difficult.
Help yourself succeed by avoiding the most common Deadly Sins of Sales Presentations:
Deadly Sin #1 – Too Much Information
Dimming the lights and letting Power Point, (loaded with content your prospect is inclined to read), lead the way — takes the attention off you. Presenting features and functions is like explaining the material used in phones, rather than what a phone can mean to your life. What your solution IS and DOES, has much less emotional impact than what it MEANS to them. Rather than go through the engine – give them a test drive and ask them what they think and how they see this working in their world.
Deadly Sin # 2 – Not Presenting from the Buyer’s Point of View
Look again at your Agenda. Is it all about the customer and how their problems can be solved using your solution? Or is it about you: how long you’ve been in business, office locations around the world, etc.? Agendas set the tone and focus of your presentation. They work best when they alert your prospect that you are there to solve their problems first.
Deadly Sin # 3 — Not Telling Them What is Different about You
It is hard enough for prospects to make intelligent choices, don’t make it harder. If you cannot prove the difference between you and your competitor – how will your prospects? Make it easy for them! Spend time solving their problems, with clear and compelling reasons why they should choose you.
Exchange the 3 Deadly Sins for the 3 Ways to Win:
1. Keep your Presentation Simple and focused around three key relevant value propositions that are unique to your solution and important to this buyer. Highlight the unique value your solution and company alone can bring them. Make your unique value come alive in their world using tangible, concrete, simple and visual examples.
2. Know your Solution Story and be able to tell it with passion and proof. Focus the presentation on 3 to 5 problems/challenges you know your solution can uniquely solve. Use Customer Stories that highlight the before and after contrast as proof that your solution works.
3. Present from your Prospect’s Point of View, so they can imagine how your solution will benefit their business, financial and personal life. Build your Agenda around their needs, pains and desires. Seek to understand how your solution would work in their world. Ask for their feedback whenever you notice a peaked interest.
Follow this simple formula and your conversations will help both you and your buyer WIN!
Do you know (without looking) the letters below the number 7 on the telephone? No? The reason this information may not be ‘top of mind’ is because it isn’t critical to your survival. Without emotional attachment, it does not get committed to memory.
Robert Ornstein’s work, “The Evolution of Consciousness,” Daniel Coleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence and Professor James McGaugh from University of California at Irvine and The Memory Institute all document the relationship of emotions and memory.
McGaugh states, “Emotional excitement triggers the memory-enhancing cycle all over again, making the traumatic memory even stronger, like a spinning tire deepening the muck hole it’s stuck in with each jab of the accelerator.”
How does this relate to your message? An individual and a company’s survival are measured in value. If you are not directing your message to the specific (emotional) pain points of your prospect, your value will not be remembered. The relationship between emotion, pain, memory, and value must be established in the mind of the prospect in order to make a sale.
Since your prospect has survived for a considerable amount of time with the existing pain, it is not an emotional event, and certainly not one that needs immediate attention. Your challenge is to uncover the pain that they may not even be aware of and bring it to life. A powerful message compels your prospect to quickly understand how your solution will solve their problem. Once the relationship between emotion and memory has been established, your prospect will realize the urgency and need to move forward immediately!
How can you bring emotion into your message?
Use the techniques you learned from Corporate Visions to make your message memorable, move the sale, and truly be in service to your clients. Use Grabbers such as Mini-Dramas to bring the emotional charge of your prospects’ problem to life. Help them connect their relief to your solution.
Use a Prop or Word Play to wake up their urgency to act and, most importantly, make it memorable so they won’t forget who to call.
- Jim Haviland is a Corporate Visions consultant, award-winning public speaker and author of the book, “This Book is No Joke.”
Chris helps clients protect their computers from harmful virus and unauthorized IP removal. To best demonstrate the power of his unique software he uses his iPod to launch a virus into a computer. The audience doesn’t realize his computer is protected with his product. People gasp as they see the invasion begin and then suddenly it stops as the software takes over and destroys the virus. He then starts to remove proprietary information. Once again his software is there to block the virus.
The prospect was easily able to understand what this service would mean to them. Using a Mini Drama to highlight the value of proactive protection against viruses or theft of proprietary information, vs. a feature/function demonstration provided an emotional response that moved the sales forward…very quickly.
Long gone are the days of simple salesman/client relationships. Today’s client is represented by a management team and/or buying committee, while the salesperson has their own management and sales team. Alliances, partners, and competitors extend the sales cycle and add to its complexity.
An inappropriate purchase can literally bankrupt a company. An extended period of implementation can cause a company to lose their competitive edge, or make them late to market. Either may be fatal to an organization.
Given this complexity, the prospect seeks simplicity from the sales team. However, what happens instead is they make the prospect’s life look even more complex by giving out too much information that doesn’t even relate to the needs of the prospect.
Why? Either the sales team doesn’t know the prospect’s needs, or they are so enamored with their own product they feel compelled to show every feature. There is no excuse for either mistake, and in today’s competitive environment, you’re only allowed one.
Recently in one of our messaging workshops, a participant mentioned he had a presentation scheduled Friday, but was not aware of his prospect’s specific pains. With the help of the group, we identified the top 10 reasons why most prospects consider buying this solution. Within minutes, he converted this list to a fax correspondence and called the prospect. He asked him to prioritize the list and add any other needs that may apply, to maximize the use of time available during Friday’s presentation and demo.
The next day he received a voicemail from the prospect stating how flattered he was by this concern for his needs, as opposed to a “typical” presentation focused on the sell. He added that he would be meeting with the team to ensure the list was a consensus of those who will attend Friday. What a great atmosphere for a salesperson to enter. And to think, all he had to do was ask.
An over abundance of irrelevant information will bore and discourage your prospect, because they are not interested in what the product is, they want to know what it does that will make their life easier.
What if you called a shuttle service for a ride from your hotel to the airport, and prior to scheduling your reservation, you had to listen to all the features of the shuttle vehicle, including; model and year, trunk capacity, wheel span, head room dimensions, sound system specifications, engine cubic inches, etc? Sound bizarre? Well, that’s how it sounds when salespeople recite features and functions that have no relevance to the prospects’ immediate need.The cure?
- Use “Big Pictures” to visually connect your prospects’ dilemma to your solution.
- Dramatize their pain. This emotional anxiety motivates people to take action.
- Articulate the benefits of your solution, highlighting financial, business, and personal value.
- Use Customer Stories that prove these benefits and values with added credibility.
In addition, be aware of your words, voice, and body language during your presentation, as well as the different learning channels present in the audience.
Keep it simple, valuable and engaging – and it will sell.
It’s easy to forget PowerPoint is simply another presentation medium, just part of telling your story. And like any good presentation medium, it should be balanced with variety and pace. If you are working with PowerPoint, make it come alive, by weaving in compelling stories and examples of how your solution directly impacts your prospect.
When creating your PowerPoint, remember:
- Center the content on your prospects’ world – not yours.
- Help your prospect see how your solution will solve their problem.
- Create contrast and differentiation between you and your competitors.
- Use the 5 by 5 rule: No more than 5 bullets, 5 words per bullet.
- Use 20pt font or larger (no one wants to squint).
- Avoid standard PowerPoint templates, use a look that is unique to you.
- Less is more! Try to reduce the number of your existing slides by 50% to 75%.
When delivering your PowerPoint, remember:
- Don’t focus on product features that are similar to your competitors. Focus on your differences.
- Use the “B” key to black out the screen when telling stories, asking questions and after you present. This keeps the focus on you!
- If your offering is complex, use slide transitions to show the layers of this vs. showing one big complex picture.
- Force yourself outside of a “PowerPoint – Only” presentation. Use a flipchart or a prop to illustrate key points. Mix it up.
- Avoid corporate jargon and acronyms. Keep it simple.
- Never show more than you are willing, or prepared, to talk about.
- Remember, you are looking for a decision, so use slides to make it EASIER for a prospect to make that decision, don’t just pass out a lot of information.
Ann Taylor, the women’s clothing retailer, was looking to experience some revenue uplift from its online channel while decreasing administration costs through an e-commerce system upgrade. Greg Miller and his EasyAsk team, (a year-and-a-half into the sales cycle), were being undermined by a cheaper competitor. From the buyer’s perspective, both companies had similar dynamic search and navigation systems – except one was cheaper. In reality, EasyAsk had a differentiating merchandising and analytics benefit that easily warranted the extra expense.
Greg used a number play to explain how EasyAsk understood Ann Taylor’s business challenges. Greg asked, “What do 10, 5, and 1 have in common?” Ten (10) e-mails currently needed, plus five (5) people to make one (1) change.
For contrast, Greg shared a success story of one of EasyAsk’s customers using another Number Play: 34, 18, .3. Their conversion rate is now up 34%, with an 18% increase in order size, taking only .3 (1/3) person to do the effort.
In the past, we would leave a demo or presentation meeting with some open items. This time, the last thing the CTO said was, “This is great, I don’t think we’ll have any problem implementing.”
Greg concludes, “The difference? This time it was all about them. We had set the bar so high that our competitors were now chasing us.”