The first hurdle marketing content creators have to clear when creating messaging for salespeople is recognizing that the majority of selling conversations are delivered in the spoken word, not the written word.
As a result, text-heavy marketing tools, including whitepapers, brochures, and detailed case studies, are not effective sales aids. That leaves PowerPoint presentations as the visual tool of choice to support spoken words.
While PowerPoint presentations have historically been the go-to sales tool, the current trending strategies are “solution selling” and “consultative selling,” which place an emphasis on selling higher, bundled offerings to increase deal size and selling value so that a higher price is justified.
These approaches embody a tremendous backlash against so-called “show up and throw up” PowerPoint presentation decks. They focus on questioning techniques, discovery calls, and assessments. So what’s a marketer to do? How will you make sure your messages are delivered in a compelling way by salespeople who are being told to have a conversation, not deliver a presentation?
Making A Conversation Meaningful And Memorable
Memory and retention research shows that people remember only about 10 percent of what they hear just one week after hearing it. Spoken words alone are not enough to position your solution and persuade a prospect. (So much for making a big impression with your new selling approach.)
However, in that same research, retention was found to jump to 65 percent when a picture was associated with the key messages being delivered, proving that some sort of visual is still needed. But if you’re steering away from a PowerPoint or a brochure, what can you use?
We need only to turn to our caveman ancestors for the answer: hieroglyphics. Stick figures, arrows, boxes, and whimsical icons drawn on a whiteboard, easel pad, notepad, or napkin will transform your marketing messages into true sales conversation enablement.
My company recently surveyed our database of 6,000 organizations and asked how many of them were beginning to replace PowerPoint with whiteboarding approaches for sales presentations. About 87 percent said they still rely primarily on PowerPoint or no visual tools, while 13 percent professed to using whiteboarding. Within the latter group, 69 percent admitted that their whiteboards are done ad hoc by salespeople, while 31 percent said they were prebuilding visual stories and training their salespeople to tell them.
If my math is correct, then that means only 4 percent of companies are developing and delivering prebuilt, purposeful whiteboards and training their salespeople to use them. This means there’s still a huge opportunity to differentiate your selling conversations if you can bring hand-drawn visual storytelling into your company as a corporate discipline.
Interestingly, a recent Aberdeen Research study indicated that companies that have started using whiteboards instead of PowerPoint also have improved sales performance, including:
- 50 percent higher lead conversion rate
- 29 percent shorter time-to-productivity
- 15 percent shorter sales cycles
While these are correlative findings, you could conclude that whiteboards can drive more effective customer conversations.
Turn Prose Into Pictures
What’s the next step for marketers? First, I’d recommend you check out a new book called “Whiteboard Selling - Empowering Sales with Visuals,” by Corey Sommers and David Jenkins (Wiley 2013). Don’t let the title fool you: This book is as much for marketers looking to add whiteboarding to the sales enablement tool mix as it is for salespeople who want to deliver a differentiated sales conversation experience.
Second, I recommend you start doodling. That’s right, put down the PowerPoint clicker and pick up a pen. Challenge yourself to turn your prose into pictures. Remember these three rules for images so you will know you are creating visuals with power and purpose:
1. Context: Your visual needs to show your prospect’s current situation. Don’t just draw your solution. Prospects need to see their current status quo as unsafe, so your pictures must depict the gaps and deficiencies in their current state that makes them unsustainable.
2. Contrast: Your picture needs to show clear contrast between the status quo and your solution. Depict the “to and from” by showing how your new approach specifically fills the gaps and overcomes the deficiencies of the status quo your visual portrayed earlier. Contrast is required to help the brain determine the virtues of your solution–if there is no contrast, no value will be perceived. This is because the part of the brain you’re appealing to does not have the capacity for language, and it craves contrast to help make a decision.
3. Concrete: Simple, concrete visuals tell your prospect’s brain that the solution is real and doable. Complex and abstract visuals confuse the brain and paralyze it from making a decision. Again, the part of the brain that makes a decision to change–the part you are directing your visual story to–is a very basic functioning area called the “old brain.” By using very simple visuals, you are making a complicated concept seem accessible, approachable, and, as a result, doable enough to drive a decision.
Ironically, I just used almost 1,000 words to tell you why you should use whiteboard visuals to improve your sales messaging. To go deeper and see this done using visuals, I recommend you check out a recent webcast I did on the topic using only whiteboard-style visualization.