What Is Whiteboarding and Why Do You Need it?

By Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer

November 10, 2017

We’ve all heard the term “Death by PowerPoint.” This has become a common way to describe the lack of interactivity and boredom engendered by typical slide presentations.

I heard another one the other day, “waterboarding by PowerPoint” when someone compared it to whiteboarding.

It makes for an interesting (albeit questionable) alliteration but makes the same point. If you want to engage the crowd, while standing out from your competitors, slides aren’t the answer.

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 marketing and sales messaging approach. Modern visual storytelling can be a powerful differentiator in competitive and complex selling environments.

What Is Whiteboarding?

Whiteboarding is a modern selling technique that incorporates elements of visual storytelling to better engage audiences. Unlike PowerPoint presentations, whiteboarding can empower sales teams to convey their organization’s message with more consistency and confidence, leaving a lasting impression. With proper execution, whiteboarding has the ability to shorten sales cycles and build greater trust with buyers.

To understand more of the science behind what makes whiteboarding so compelling, check out the video below:

With a high-level understanding of what defines whiteboarding, you may be curious about what it looks like in practice. Consider that there are many ways to approach this selling technique.

Here are five ways salespeople can boost performance where whiteboarding serves as a more impactful use of visual storytelling than slides in a PowerPoint.

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 interesting 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, specifically asking and helping answer these two 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 attempt to fix the PowerPoint problem is by using large photographs and metaphorical imagery with just a couple of words on the slides.

While this may help make a keynote speech more interesting, it doesn’t advance the cause in a sales cycle. It doesn’t make abstract ideas more concrete, and it doesn’t simplify complex concepts.

Stick figures.

Boxes, circles, arrows, dollar signs.

Stuff you can draw.

And, images that tell a story.

Even more importantly, these hand-drawn visuals can be re-drawn 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, right?

Give them the gift of a simple story and accompanying visuals that help them understand and react, as well as own and distribute.

3. Visual Storytellers are More Consultative

With visual storytelling, it’s essential that you immerse yourself in the content.

Prospects perceive salespeople with a clicker in their hand as “PowerPoint jockeys.” In this scenario, you are telling a story that someone else created.

Whereas 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 be a “trusted advisor” or practice “consultative selling,” visual storytellers are seen as adding more value. Facilitating more engagement. Delivering insight and expertise.

Getting 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 projector 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 corresponding 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 fully virtual whiteboarding experience. This can make a big difference in creating a remarkable and memorable sales call, or in creating a sales call that sounds and looks like everyone else’s.

We’ve found that while 50% of WebEx viewers intermittently leave a remotely shared PowerPoint presentation to access other applications, the “attrition” rate is less than 10% 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.

In the beginning, you need to answer the 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. It should also convey why they need to consider doing something different.

The next question 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 answer 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, complimentary whiteboarding practice that builds on the previous one. They develop your story along the path to decision-making solution that results in a sale.

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.