Presentations

It Ain’t Showbiz.


If I asked most Drift readers what they do for a living, they’d offer up a job title like chief revenue officer, account executive or regional director. If pushed for a more concrete job description, eventually most would say they sell advertising, technology or services to marketers and agencies.

But I don’t think that’s what you do at all. At best, selling describes an outcome, a result of other actions you take every day… at least, if you’re doing it well. It’s taken me a long time and a lot of observation and introspection to get there, but I think I’ve nailed what great sellers do: they engineer experiences. The mediocre ones? They’re the ones who get all caught up in the performance they’re giving, the lines they recite, and the slides they flip through.

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A sales call isn’t a golf shot or a piano sonata. But so many of us prepare and act as if it is. We drill ourselves on our lines, memorize key points, practice the voice-over for the 37 slides we’ll show, test the demo to make sure it purrs like a kitten. We believe that if we only perform well enough and hit all of our high notes, the power of our words will impress and persuade.

Only it doesn’t work that way.

Now, reframe the sales call as a shared experience. You and the customer are both living in that moment together, and now it’s your job to engineer that experience… you’re no longer the funniest guy at the party, but rather the host who’s creating an awesome environment for his guests. What will you do differently?

You’ll attend. As in, the root verb in attention. Ironically, attending is also the same as being present. Get it?

You’ll know something about your guests. There are no strangers. You can always know enough to make the other person feel interesting.

You’ll draw people out and make connections. Use what you know to bring the other person into the experience. This is the opposite of bludgeoning them with your own story.

You’ll have a plan and watch the clock. Great hosts pay attention to time and pace. They know when things are starting to drag, when people start to disconnect.

You’ll rewrite the plan when you need to. If things are petering out and nobody’s connecting, change the plan. It’s your plan; you get to do that.

Sales is not performance art. It’s about creating a fertile space where trust, emotion and opportunity can grow. Too many of us become tone deaf from listening to the sound of our own performances. Let it go. Be interested. Engineer a great shared experience and watch how everything changes.

Including you.

Originally posted in 2014, but still well short of the expiration date.


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.

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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.