Channeling your inner caveman

Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, Corporate Visions, Inc.

A Forrester Research report revealed that 88 percent of executive decision makers want to have a conversation, not a presentation. This means that if you, as a marketer, want to enable your sales team to deliver successful sales conversations, traditional tools such as PowerPoint won’t cut it.

Fear not. Aberdeen Research found that using whiteboards to tell a story during sales conversations can improve performance. Specifically, they can help realize:

 - 50% higher lead conversion rates

 - 29% shorter time-to-productivity

 - 15% shorter sales cycles

If whiteboard-based stories can enable more effective conversations, why is everyone still using PowerPoint in marketing and sales processes?

Sounds like an opportunity to me

To solve the critical issues around executive buyer engagement, you needto connect with your inner cave person and begin telling your story with stick figures, arrows and whimsical icons — and you need to develop a methodology. This shouldn’t be like a typical sales methodology, centered around sales processes like opportunity management or account planning. A whiteboard selling methodology should be focused on what your salespeople are going to say during a meeting.

Incorporating whiteboards into your approach to executive decision makers is great, but it must be treated like a systematic process if you want to ensure the consistent quality of both the message and the delivery.

If you’re looking to implement whiteboards throughout your organization, here are three essential steps to get there:

Develop – Marketing must work with salespeople to create powerful, customer needs-based messaging. The visual story you tell should start with customer challenges as the design point. Also, there are multiple objectives in the buying cycle that may require a dedicated whiteboard story.

For example, you need a whiteboard story that disrupts the status quo. A simple, concrete visualization of the threats and challenges that put your prospect and their outcomes at risk is critical to creating a buying vision. I call this the “Why Change” whiteboard. Once you get the acknowledgement from a prospect that they must do something different, they will want to know how you can help them do it, and how you do this better than the competition. I call this the “Why You” solution differentiation whiteboard. Additionally, a highly visual whiteboard may help explain a complex implementation processes so it appears more approachable and doable for your prospects.

Deploy – Whiteboard deployments need to be easily adoptable and usable for salespeople. Start by packaging whiteboards into a toolkit that contains both coaching and customer-facing content. Then, you must teach your salespeople to deliver your whiteboard — similar to helping an actor learn his part.

You must assume the role of director and provide a script and detailed explanation of the storyboard. Essentially, this is a step-by-step visualization of how the whiteboard is built and the corresponding conversation that goes along with each visual reveal. You also need to provide a video coaching example of a “golden pitch,” demonstrating how the whiteboard should ideally be delivered. Literally, this should include showing how the pacing, tone and transitions work to maximize the impact.

Deliver – Salespeople need to understand both the art and science of whiteboarding. This means sufficient training on the use of a pen and a writing surface, and becoming comfortable with having a conversation versus giving a presentation. It also means understanding the principles behind why the story needs to be told the way it has been developed − including an understanding of storytelling models
that target the decision-making part of the brain, which doesn’t have the capacity for language. 

Also, practice makes perfect. This is the part where many whiteboards fall apart. Salespeople need to practice delivering the whiteboard until they can present it naturally while demonstrating complete control of the content. It’s not just about eliminating errors. It’s about building confidence, taking ownership and making it their story.

To use whiteboarding successfully, you must know how to create a solid message, and deploy it in a way that can be easily adopted and practiced, so that salespeople can deliver the technique with command. By implementing these three steps, you can enable your sales team to become world-class storytellers and ultimately, help your company close
more deals.  

With more than 20 years of marketing and sales experience, Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at Corporate Visions, Inc., is a recognized thought-leader, practitioner and author regarding marketing and sales messaging. His books, “Customer Message Management” and “Conversations That Win the Complex Sale,” focus on increasing a marketing department’s impact on selling by providing sales-ready messages and tools that salespeople can use to create a compelling story that wins more deals.