Death by PowerPoint is a familiar a phrase that I am sure every reader of this blog has both heard and experienced...well near-death anyway. If you are interested in PowerPoint best practices you can read a blog I wrote earlier this year.
What happened, how did we get here, and what can we do to change?
When I started selling at Control Data Corporation, we were taught to present from 35mm slides on slide projectors like the one shown. Most companies would have corporate slide-decks and multiple product presentations, (they're in the round thingy on top of the projector) .
The big advantage of the 35mm slides was that everyone in sales and marketing essentially told the same story. Most decks would come with every slide conceivable, with the only flexibility for the individual being the slides you excluded from your presentation; for a really important client presentation, custom slides could be made at great expense.
The biggest disadvantage with 35mm slides apart from the lack of client interaction was that the room usually needed to be darkened for best display and often participants would fall asleep...especially if the presentation followed a 2 cocktail lunch.
Another disadvantage for an unlucky presenter was an attack of clumsiness caused by pre-presentation nerves, where the slide carousel would somehow slip from the hands and spill onto the floor releasing the complete deck just prior to the presentation. Now in panic mode, the presenter may have experienced an attack of fumbling and involuntary loss of motor control of the hands and temporary lack of sanity, trying to sort the slides into the right order in the carousel and start presenting.
In 1987, Microsoft acquired "Presenter" as it was known then; it was renamed Powerpoint and a hegemony grew in its wake. Not much has changed in presenting since the 35mm slide days though, other than the technology glitz and of course customizability; now a saleperson may have as many versions of the corporate and product slide-deck as they do prospects.
I remember making an initial call at Ericcson in Texas a few years ago; we walked into the meeting room and the only thing on the table was an LCD projector, it was running hot and awaiting our PC connection (and an expectation of the customary company pitch and feature-benefit dump)...we turned it off and had a productive opening meeting.
Buyers now cringe when a salesperson plugs in an LCD projector as the expectations from hundreds of prior presentations hit a negative anchor in the brain. A 2006 survey published in the Wall Street Journal* conservatively estimated that $252 Million in lost productivity occurs every day due to bad PowerPoint presentations. The reasons given in the survey why presentations were not well received;
|The speaker read the slides to us||60.4%|
|The text was so small I couldn't read it||50.9%|
|Full sentences instead of bullets||47.8%|
|Slides hard to see because of poor color choice||37.1%|
|Moving flying text or graphics||24.5%|
|Annoying use of sounds||22%|
|Overly complex diagrams or charts||22%|
I think our goals when making a sales presentation should be as follows;
- Telling our value creation story in an engaging way, with the buyer central to our story,
- To create understanding of our complex technology and processes,
- To convey to the buyer how we can help them achieve their goals and why they should do business with us,
- To discover more about the client condition, the issues they are struggling with and their priorities,
- At every client interaction, we are attempting to qualify if the buyer is ready to advance in the sales cycle.
Enter the Whiteboard
Whiteboards aren't new, they have been around for over 30 years, however I was immediately interested when I heard of WhiteboardSelling. I had an Ah-Hah moment in the demonstration as I found a sloution to the problem I had been struggling with for a couple of years, – to find a way of extending messaging templates created in our client Messaging Architecture workshop into repeatable sales enablement tools that salespeople would love to use.WhiteboardSelling incorporates a natural and structured approach to presenting ideas through visual storytelling, that helps overcome common sales performance problems often sighted in sales performance surveys;
- They lack basic presentation skills,
- They are unable to articulate the value proposition,
- They are shaky on competitive knowledge,
- They are forgetting to reference sell,
- They lack the natural ability to consistently close for the next steps.
WhiteboardSelling Sales Enablement empowers everyone on the sales team to engage buyers in conversation around their issues and to tell their value creation story–with the buyer fully engaged and their problems at the center of the story.
WhiteboardSelling incorporates three phases in the methodology;
- A Messaging Workshop, for developing a compelling message on a whiteboard, either from existing material or where this does not exist, to help create it.
- An Enablement Symposium, where sales teams are trained in WhiteboardSelling and where they learn the to tell the visual story through role-playing.
- A Certification Process, where individuals present using the Whiteboard and are critiqued by their managers, either in a classroom or over the Internet.
All three phases are underpinned by a WhiteboardSelling Workbench, hosted as a secure Software as a Service solution, that makes the whole process repeatable and the messaging tune-able over time.
I was so impressed with the demonstration and customer presentations that I accepted the invitation to become a WhiteboardSelling Affiliate and have begun the training and certification process.
If you are interested in learning more about WhiteboardSelling, please download the WhiteboardSelling Whitepaper.
If you are stuck with Powerpoint and cannot change the status-quo, you may find the advice in the death by powerpoint presentation of value.
* Jared Sandburg, "Cubicle Culture", Wall Street Journal Online, November 2006