Ditch the Agenda Slide and Start with a Compelling Story of Change

Sales leaders … if you could only coach your sales team on ONE THING this month to improve their selling/presentations skills, this would be it.

The focus is to capture the executive’s attention (aka make them lean in) during the first sixty seconds of your sales preso, demo or cold call.

This is easier said than done.

Here’s the why. Think of the most successful movies (ala stories) of all time. These screenwriters are trained to develop their story in “beats” or story components that take the listener from point A to point B. The journey.

The trick (for us) is to grab attention in the OPENING SCENE and paint this image in the minds of the executives you are presenting to.

This is the lean in moment we all strive for.

 In a screenplay it’s contained in the first three pages of the script — and in your sales presentation it should be contained in the first 90 seconds of you talking. There is science behind all this too. Connecting with the EMOTIONAL brain of the listener causes chemical changes in the body that allows you to keep them on the journey, for at least a short while.

 By contrast — the last two minutes of your presentation should RE-PAINT a similar image that is COMPLETELY OPPOSITE from your opening image. This closer (or closing image) would demonstrate transformation, a change in status-quo, and the end of the hero’s journey. It’s the bookend to your opening.

 The connection you can make (or bridge) between the opening image and closing image — IS THE MAGIC — in every successful presentation.

 Here’s some coaching tips and tricks to play with.

One Word Opening Slide: If you feel as though you need PPT, then try using a one word slide that illustrates the theme of your presentation. Is it trust, courage bravery, etc etc. You can use this same slide at the end of your preso to tie the opening image to your closing image. Less wordy slides is another topic of discussion for sure.

Polar Images: Film-makers use this technique most often. Basically use the same image (visually) but use a completely different narrative to demonstrate the change in status-quo that occurred throughout. Images with no words are the best for this technique. It’s up to you to tell the story — not with bullet points on a slide.

Hot Openers: Great storytelling sales leaders use this as a technique to get folks to lean in quickly. Here’s a few BOLD openers that can be customized just before you paint the opening image in their minds.

  • “I’m about to share something that I’ve never shared before.” — This is the promise of the premise.
  • “Who likes ____?” — Insert your favorite power word here.
  • “Have you ever wondered why ______?” — shift the focus to the audience and get them thinking instead of just listening.
  • “This is what (the business / industry) will look like next year.” — The magic of a fortune teller or the weather forecaster. Anyone that can provide a glimpse of the future will be listened to, until found unreliable. 
  • “There were three things I learned over the last …” — Making a connection of a powerful learning moment that can be transferred to the audience is a cool way to grab attention.

 How Leaders Can Coach These Skills

 1) Preso Deck Reviews: In your next team meeting, ask each sales rep to bring their LAST pitch deck / presentation to the meeting. Ask them to share (with the team) JUST the OPENING IMAGE and the CLOSING IMAGE — and test to see if this was powerful enough to grab attention — and if there was some type of change demonstrated in the story. Most of the time you will see agenda slides, here’s what we will discuss, etc etc. Boring!!!!  It’s a great teaching moment.

 2) Net New Story Time: In your next team meeting, ask each team member to tell a four minute story — with just words, no slides. The story can focus on a key customer or prospect they are working on, and the scenario is a CEO level presentation. Ask, what will you use in the first 90 seconds to grab that CEO’s attention and get them to LEAN IN? And by contrast how will you demonstrate a change in status quo.

 Final tip .. make sure these skill coaching sessions focus on making a connection to the LISTENER (the customer) and it’s NOT all about YOU (the company and the teller). This is the hardest thing to weave into a story, but when it’s done properly, the emotional connection is magic!