“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.” —George Jessel, actor, singer, songwriter and producer
“My team gets lost in the deck and can’t tell our story,” a VP of sales told me recently. “Our pitch puts others to sleep. And I struggle also.”
Simply put, his team was used to giving presentations, rather than creating experiences. Like the old adage goes, “You can tell if a man is clever by his answers; you can tell if a man is wise by his questions,” the best discussions are rooted in thoughtful questions.
Sadly, most companies are failing in this area and don’t even know it. It’s hard, realizing that most of our customer interactions are on autopilot.
“We bury the customer in needless slides,” the VP of sales said. “We bore them,” he laughed, and confessed, “I too am guilty.” He asked how a presentation could be both impactful and truthful, and I shared with him the following four pillars of an Impactful Presentation —
PILLAR 1: Share a Dangerous Blind Spot
Don’t begin sales meetings with boring facts; instead inform your customers of a sneaky, competitive threat or emerging risk that could disrupt their business. Uncover a true blind spot.
I recently shared this approach with a client I coach:
“We now live in a world where customers don’t share their honest feelings. I guarantee they are not being honest with you. And I can help uncover the truth.”
My client agreed with me, because I have honestly shared very difficult feedback in the past. I have demonstrated that I am not afraid of sharing the truth.
PILLAR 2: Show Them What They Will Lose
Most people are inspired by possibility, but are moved to action by necessity or potential loss. If you care for a customer, show them what they will lose if they don’t act. Sharing the uncomfortable truth, even if it is unsettling, is a sign of a candid relationship. Here is something I recently shared with a client:
“Per my research, your largest competitor is loved by your customers — and they want to put you out of business. And if they continue at their pace, they may accomplish their goal.”
Sharing that difficult insight was disruptive, but my client understood I was sharing information that could right their ship. And they knew I was committed to help them reposition their sales story.
PILLAR 3: The Boardroom Agenda of the Customer
Most companies waste their customers’ time, sharing information they already know. There is a listening deficit. Anxiety and lack of preparation create an urge to talk too much.
Quit spending all your time building a deck and spend your time diagnosing the high-level boardroom agenda of your customer. Also, uncover your most distinct assets that address the customer’s blind spot or competitive threat.
You will only matter, if you discuss ideas that matter.
What do you possess, that only you possess? What unique hidden assets do you own that truly matter to the customer? How can you tie this asset to their higher-level boardroom agenda?
PILLAR 4: Experiential Storytelling
A great story has mystery, emotion, and believability. It pulls you into the experience. So do great customer discussions. They are worth the time and cost of the ticket.
When you discuss a new product, service or idea, have fun with it. As a rule of thumb, if you are having fun, so are your clients. Make it experiential.
If you are not thoughtful and experiential why should a client be engaged? Research shows that most folks are just being polite, waiting for the show to end.
Sustainable, competitive advantage comes through a culture of humility, self-knowledge and impactful storytelling. Are you and your message one?
To echo the words of the great American storyteller Jack Kerouac, “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”