Building a Story-Driven Sales Deck That Wins More Business
BY John Miller
September 6, 2017

How many people do you know who are overwhelmed by information? You know, the colleague who has an inbox with 2,000 unread emails, the friend with 31 open browser tabs, the overwhelmed customer who returns your time sensitive call 12 days later?

The problem is information. There’s too much of it, and it can be paralyzing. We’re now into the third decade of the Information Revolution, which has been fascinating because we now have the entire world of knowledge at our fingertips. But as the tidal wave of content and info has grown and grown and grown, we tend to think and work in tighter and tighter circles without ever really thinking about whether we’re really moving in the right direction. (Hint: tighter and tighter circles are not the right direction.)

For sales and marketing, this is the opportunity. And, in particular, it’s a reality that should inform how you build your sales deck.

As you certainly know, the way people buy things has changed. Today, people—your customers, whether you’re in a B2C or B2B business—don’t want to be sold; they want to be helped. But that’s only the half of it. The reality is that customers are in charge of the relationship now; they decide when and how they shop, how much information they need, and when it’s time to buy. This is the new buyer’s journey, and the success of any business requires an understanding of it.

And that means we can’t sell the same old way. Rather than talk about our features and products, or what makes us different from the competition, we need to help the customer see what’s possible for them.

Rather than get down in the weeds of product details, let’s help them envision a brighter future. Let’s thrill them, not deliver a mountain of drudgery.

Less selling, more helping.

More and more, that means ditching the sales pitch and telling a story that captures attention and begins to make sense of the customer’s dynamic world. Stories might sound soft, but there’s hard science behind it—a good story gets our neurons firing and excites our brains.

Figuring out the story you want to tell isn’t a matter of diving straight into PowerPoint and starting to build some slides. It begins with determining what your company stands for; this creates a unifying mission and vision for your company, and it should explain the benefit you intend to deliver to your customers.

From there, numerous marketing and sales materials flow. Which brings us to your sales deck.

There’s a good chance that your sales deck focuses on what your company offers. That seems logical, doesn’t it? But it’s wrong. The purpose of the sales deck is to pull your prospects along their buyer’s journey by having an exciting conversation about the future.

The problem is that many sales decks are inward looking. They focus on what the company can deliver, rather than what the prospect needs to succeed. Take a look at your deck, and if it’s all about you, it’s time for a change.

Let’s fix it. Here’s the flow that a story-driven sales deck—and all your business conversations, really—should take.

Identify the big shift that’s happening. For instance, at Scribewise we focus on (this is getting meta) navigating the Information Revolution. What is the big honking change in your industry that is both exciting and terrifying? Identifying and naming this trend creates the context in which you can have a more meaningful conversation with potential customers. Every good story has this context (“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”).

From there, what makes the story interesting is dramatic tension—making it clear that there will be winners and losers, and that while winning will be fantastic, losing will be cataclysmic. If your prospects don’t commit to winning in this emerging battle, they will be left behind to wail and gnash their teeth. Well, at least that’s the type of juxtaposition you want to create.

Describe the bright future. In a well-trafficked post on Medium, Andy Raskin described this as the “Promised Land.” It is a land of milk and honey, where man and AI work together in synchronicity. Or whatever. But what you’re focused on here is a better situation for your prospect and their customers. Importantly, this is not about the experience they’ll have in working with you; it’s about what is possible.

Of course, they’ll need help to achieve this future state of bliss.

Now, finally, you can discuss your features. This used to be your starting point, but it never had context. You’d never given them a reason to care about those features, which is why so many of your sales meetings ended.

Now you should position them as tools that help the heroes of this story vanquish the competition.

Prove that you deserve a role in their story. And then demonstrate how others have succeeded by following this path, i.e., by using your company’s service or product. Case studies and client testimonials are the best way to accomplish this. This is where all those logos you’re so proud of should go.

Every company needs to know, understand and be able to tell a compelling story—one in which the customer is the star. This is a mindset shift for most organizations. It isn’t easy, but selling during this Information Revolution calls for something new—an acknowledgment that your purpose is to serve the customer and help them navigate this brave new world.

Let’s talk about growing your firm.

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