In B2B and B2G marketing presentations, we try to deliver every message in our playbook and make all possible arguments for our solution. We never want to talk about our company, product or service without including a plethora of differentiators. This happens when we talk to any audience, whether it be customers, media, investors or others. But, John Asher of Asher Strategies, reminded me recently at GAIN 2017*, a conference on government marketing, that keeping it simple will make us so much more successful.

First, open up your basic slide deck, and I’m betting that your first slide (maybe even your first 10 slides) is all about you — your company, its background, the leaders, etc. But, if you flip that around to talk first about the customer’s needs, you instantly start a conversation, and that is where the best pitches are won. When the customer joins in a conversation, they are infinitely more engaged than they are when you are doing all the talking. John said that the brain releases more dopamine when people talk about themselves. Go to any cocktail party, and I’m sure you could find evidence of that!

If you watch a master salesperson or a great comedian, you will see that they like to get an audience’s attention up front, often with a laugh. Then, as they go through their routine or pitch, they sprinkle in interesting anecdotes because they recognize that the audience will start to grow restless after about 10 minutes. This is where you need to pull the audience back into your presentation. Both salespeople and comedians always end with a bang. It sounds simple, but we often convey our message by relaying a laundry list of details rather than putting on a bit of show.

Another key to keeping it simple is to make your deck a maximum of 7-10 slides. Client prospects are usually sitting through multiple pitches, often lined up back-to-back, and they are on information overload. Keeping slides to a minimum will have a much bigger impact than squeezing in everything and the kitchen sink. When you wrap up with a bang, don’t forget to take a second to remind the audience what you want them to take away from the meeting. When you’ve sat through five pitches in one day, you need a reminder of what was important to remember.

The last thing John talked about was providing clear contrast – bright, shiny, stark differences. While the lawyers want us to use equivocating language like “one of the leading providers,” great salespeople will say the “only provider that offers X.” These should be tailored to the specific audience you are pitching. If they care a lot about cost, one of your differentiators better be on ROI, and you should compare yourself directly to others that are likely to be in the running.

We know inherently that this is good advice, but for some reason when we open up a slide deck, we feel something akin to a gravitational pull to use every great slide in our gallery. Resist. Keep it simple and you will engage with your audience in a much more authentic, personal and powerful way.

*NOTE – If you’re interested in marketing to government, GAIN 2018 is set for Nov. 1, 2018.

Robin Bectel
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