PowerPoint

5 Slides.


5 SlidesI’ve been working with clients on a new strategy for engaging clients on sales calls and navigating them through complex programs and offerings.  From introduction to agreement in 5 slides.

If you’re like many digital publishers, ad tech companies or other sales organizations, you’re probably a little intrigued by the idea.  You’ve probably seen first-hand the emotional and human cost of a PowerPoint culture run amok.  Your marketing and product people labor over the perfect company narrative, generating dozens of detailed slides containing heavy images and intricate builds and animations.  Your sales people feel the pressure to show all these slides to customers who not-so-surreptitiously check their phones and look at their watches.  Wasted opportunity follows wasted opportunity. And the worst thing happens:  nothing.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by AppNexus. Join AppNexus at this year’s Yield Executive Summit, taking place on Wednesday, September 28, in New York City.  We look forward to an exclusive day of discussions and presentations with top influencers in digital advertising as we examine the essential tools that every publisher must have for successful monetization and digital acceleration.

So here’s the radical idea:  run the entire sales call with 5 simple slides.

Slide 1:  The Phrase Cloud.  This is a technique I’ve been teaching over the last 4-5 years.  Research the client’s business online and put up 5-10 phrases (headlines, blurbs, quotes) that relate to important business and marketing issues they may have in mind.  Your PC doesn’t have to be perfect or even mostly correct.  It just needs to be a credible effort at some homework. Let the client read the slide while you sit quietly.  Then ask them what they found most interesting and valuable.

Slide 2: The Challenge.  Write out a brief statement that answers the question “Why are we here today?”  This is the moment where you clearly call out the unsolved problem you are prepared to tackle for the customer.  Ask them how important they think this issue is and what other detail they’d like to offer.  Listen to what they tell you.

Slide 3: Process and Values.  On this slide are several statements and headlines that detail the process and values your company will employ as you work for the customer.  You’re establishing how it will be to work together before you tell them what they should buy from you.

Slide 4: The Solution Placemat.  This is a simple schematic that visually depicts the elements of your proposed solution.  Screen shots of products, phrases and numbers representing audiences and scope, visuals illustrating thematic ideas.  (If the client’s feedback on slides 1 and 2 changed things, you can simply cross out or add elements to this page.)  This allows the rep to conversationally talk through the different parts of the recommendation without a lengthy trail of slides. (And if something needs immediate elaboration, you can take a detour for an additional slide or trip to the site.)

Slide 5:  The Close.    On this slide the rep notes the initial price estimate and specific ask of the client.  “If we can execute this program and help you solve problem X, will you recommend/budget/green-light $X over the next X months?”  (Tip:  Many sellers are scared to death of such a direct question, but it’s the only way to truly qualify the opportunity — and the decision maker — and shorten the sales cycle.)  Be sure to include both a number and a verb on this slide.

If you’re thinking “but what about my company introduction?” don’t bother.  Your sales people will define themselves and your company much more effectively by getting down to business and solving problems collaboratively with your customers.  These 5 slides may be just the vehicle to let them do so.


Not So Fast!


You there!  Yes, you!  DropNot so fast the mouse and back slowly away from the keyboard…hands where I can see ‘em.

Sure, sure…I’ve heard it all before.  You were just going about your business getting ready for one of those “sales calls” that your boss likes so much.  You finally wore down that 29-year-old Media Sup to the point where she agreed to “get the team together” for a sit-down next week.  And now you’re making sure you’re armed to the teeth and ready for battle.  You’re pasting the customer’s logo onto the front of a hefty PowerPoint that has it all:   company intro….partner logos….all your products….case studies….even the obligatory Questions? slide at the end.  You’re even packing up a few gifts to make them all feel engaged and included:  a little swag to grease the skids.

This week’s Drift is proudly underwritten by Adroit Digital.  Adroit Digital unlocks the combined power of unique data, media and technology to deliver intelligent performance.  Our programmatic experts leverage our proprietary dataset and media-buying savvy to create results driven programs for modern marketers. Adroit Digital’s experts help agencies and brands craft solutions to the challenges facing today’s multi-channel advertisers.

But I just can’t let you go through with it.  I’ve seen this movie and I know how it ends.  It’s Fatal Attraction and you’re Glenn Close; it’s Thelma and Louise and you’re both of them.  In the name of all that’s holy, stop now and start over again!

Too many of our sales calls end up with both parties simply falling into their assigned roles.  Both the seller and buyer know they have to have a certain number of meetings, and they end up in the business equivalent of a bad blind date.  You share the same space, make polite but disinterested conversation, and part with some vague talk of keeping in touch or sending something.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

What is the meeting going to be about?  If you haven’t proactively identified a business or marketing problem and centered your entire meeting on it, then you’re simply another rep doing another “catch up” call who’s hoping for some of their money.

What exactly to you want to happen?  Write out the words of your closing “ask” before you walk in.  If you don’t know what you want to happen, you’re certainly not going to get it.  The right people might not even be in the room to give it to you.  Any answers that include words like update, education or evangelism are just too soft and meaningless.

What are you telling them that they don’t already know?  If you’re armed only with the information that the buyers themselves have given you, then you end up being another rep who’s describing their own product, rather than one who’s prepared to make something new happen.

Do you really need that PowerPoint?  People really looked forward to seeing PowerPoint decks….in 1995.  If you’re seeking a real, genuine conversation, then a piece of paper with some observations about the account is a better bet.

How will you use the first 90 seconds of your time together?  Sales calls have something in common with fistfights.  How they begin goes a long way in determining how they will end.  Hyper-awareness and presence right at the outset can change the entire character of a call.

If your sales calls are feeling less than fulfilling, look hard at your own approach.  You just may be sleepwalking into mediocrity.  You deserve better.


The Truth, Points 6-10.


In this post and the last, I’ve republished portions of a 2007 column called “The Truth.”  In it, we explore the ten basic truths of a career in media sales that I’ve gathered over the past 26 years.   Here’s hoping they spark some great discussion among sales leaders and their teams.

6.  IF YOU’RE NOT DIFFERENT, YOU’RE DONE. Never forget that every customer has seen hundreds of predictable salespeople and thousands of lame PowerPoint slides before you walk in the door. If you can be only one thing, for God’s sake be unique. Think about the things that a “salesperson” would ordinarily do at a given moment… and then do just the opposite. If you’re not unique, it won’t matter how good you are because you’ll never really be heard anyway.

7.  TRAJECTORY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MASS. All those statistics you’ve collected about the size of your audience and your share of the market don’t mean much. Nobody wants to know how much the car weighs; they want to know where it’s going. This is where real vision and leadership matter in a sales organization. If you can’t tell a good story about where your company is going, ask your leadership. If they don’t know, then you’ve got bigger problems than your next sale.

8.  ACHIEVEMENT IS TERRIFIC, BUT JOY IS LASTING. Sure, make your numbers. But don’t think that numerical success alone will sustain you. Look at the ten most “successful” people you know and you’ll find that they’re all constantly finding little sources of joy. A great business friendship. A terrific meeting. Mentoring somebody. When your kids grow up they may not know or remember much about the details of your career. But they’ll remember whether you loved your work or not.

9.  STOP FIXING YOUR WEAKNESSES. Bad management is like bad education. It’s all about bringing up that “C” on the report card. If you hate getting up in front of a room of 20 people and think you suck at it, you probably do. Build on your strengths instead. Help your manager understand the things that you’re really good at and ask her to help you plan your success based on them. That’s what great managers do. And don’t you deserve a great manager?

10. THERE IS NO NUMBER 10.  When you’ve said enough, stop. Quit while you’re ahead.