Archive for the ‘Presentation’

Surprise Your Customer

Flying from Ireland to San Francisco on the way to Dreamforce 2013, I was thinking about a session I was going to deliver. It was important. It was the first of 10 sessions we were involved in at Dreamforce and I wanted to kick it off well.  It was also the first public showing of our new Dealmaker Sales Performance Insight solution, so I felt the pressure of a product launch.  The session had been over-subscribed to the extent that it had to be moved to a larger venue, and still it sold out. No pressure.

The plan was that Joe Ryan, the session host, and product manager at Salesforce’s business, was going to talk about and the capability for partners (like The TAS Group, Xactly, Hirevue and others) to extend and the Salesforce Chatter profile in general.

That’s where I come in.

Joe would intro me “And now I’d like to introduce Donal Daly, CEO of the TAS Group, ….“, and I would come on go … “Hi, I’m Donal Daly with The TAS Group” (the audience knew that already – a waste of 5 seconds), “and The TAS Group’s unique combination of sales methodology and smart software has been helping companies like HP, Salesforce, Autodesk to grow revenue by …” (are you yawning yet? Seriously, I want to know).  Zzzzzz.

So, as I thought about this, somewhere over Greenland, I thought to myself, “You know that is not the way to do this.” This is an audience that will sit through hours and hours of sessions at Dreamforce – hopefully many of them ours – and they don’t need the standard “Hi, I’m Fred from XYZ,  we leverage the power of the blah, blah ….”.

So, as British Airways 285 left the coast of Greenland and continued on towards the east coast of Canada, I challenged myself to come up with a whole new intro; one that described our unique value in a way that the audience would remember amidst all of the noise at Dreamforce, and then I remembered a conversation that I had with one of our customers just a few days earlier.

No surprises“, Rob said. “What I love about what Dealmaker does is that it means we have no surprises; Surprise wins, surprise losses, surprise competitors, surprise price pressure, surprises in the forecast, surprises in the pipeline.  They are all bad and a waste of time. Now, because we plan better, and bring more value to our customers, and Dealmaker keeps us on track, we don’t get caught off-guard as much, and that’s why the revenue is up.”

Surprises. We help our customers avoid sales surprises.

The best way to prevent a surprise is to create one, and the best way to create a surprise in sales is to bring uncommon value to your customer.  We try to do that for our customers and help our customers do that for theirs.

So, go ahead. Surprise your customer.


Book Review: Small Message, Big Impact

I agreed to review this book for one reason only.   It was the email from my favorite literary agent, Kevin Small. That was it.  Before that I didn’t feel the compelling need to read another ‘How to create your value proposition message’ book. I’m not saying that I’ve got that nailed; just that it wasn’t the most urgent thing on my list.

But then Kevin sent me a very compelling email.  I was intrigued, entertained, and wanted to know more.  And then of course it was obvious:  If Kevin was using what he learned from Small Message, Big Impact to structure and compose his email, then I wanted to did deeper.

And I’m glad I did.

Small Message, Big Impact is written by Terri L. Sjodin and is subtitled “How to Put the Power of the Elevator Speech to Work for You”. It runs to just short of 200 pages and is packed full of good ideas. Terri has her own definition of an Elevator Speech and  I particularly like the last sentence which reads:

Its general purpose is to intrigue and inspire a listener to want to hear more of the presenter’s complete proposition in the near future.

(I added the bold emphasis here to highlight why I love this.)

  • Objective: Intrigue and inspire is of course much better than inform or sell
  • Call to Action: The only thing you want to achieve is for the listener to want to near more
  • Timeframe: As you know the value of all leads/prospects wane rapidly over time, and when your piqued someone’s interest it is important to act in the near future.

From recent experience, I know that it can be very difficult to develop an elevator speech that gets to the nub of the matter quickly without over-loading on detail.  When we settled on ‘Sell Smarter. Manage Better.‘ as the descriptor for both the company and our Dealmaker product, it was indeed crafted to intrigue and inspire.  We followed that with ‘According to the Aberdeen Group, customers of The TAS Group realize 21% greater quota achievement.’ to describe the benefit.  The combination seems to work well on short and long elevator rides alike.  (By the way, we used Twitter to test the messages, and Linkedin to survey the market before we finalized this.)

As an aside; I’m not the easiest audience on this topic. I wrote extensively on Creating Value Propositions in my Select Selling book in 2004, so at least I think that I know something about the subject matter. I’m either consciously competent, or unconsciously incompetent, and neither option provides a low threshold of satisfaction.

Small Message, Big Impact is a really enjoyable read, not hard to digest, or cumbersome in structure like some of the other books that tackle this area.  Its readability can sometimes mask its depth and it was helpful to review the summary at the end of each chapter to make sure none of the key messages were missed.

Terri does a great job of providing a structure for the elevator speech.  Occasionally for me it get a little formulaic, but that might suit others well. I would recommend reading the book to judge that for yourself.  You will get many wonderful nuggets that you can apply immediately.

There is real value in Small Message, Big Impact. For me, there are a few messages that constantly come through as you make your way through the book.  (These are my interpretations and my words, so any shortcomings here are probably mine not Terri’s.)

  1. Context is everything
  2. You can’t deliver an elevator speech (read value proposition) smoothly without lots of practice
  3. Every elevator speech is a sales call – you need to plan it, and be clear as to what you want to achieve.
  4. And did I say ‘Context is everything’?

This book is well worth the read.

Oh, and by the way … here is the email from Kevin that started it all.

Hi Donal,

I usually sit down and pour some serious time into my notes to you (especially when I have a new author I really care about). But right now I’m in Washington DC on a whirlwind book tour.

Its one of those book tour launches that is non-stop: appearances, special speaking gigs and interviews at all hours. So anyway I’m holed up in a quiet corner of the Renaissance Hotel with a great story to share with you.

I took on a new client Author, Terri Sjodin, who pitched me her new book; Small Message, Big Impact: How to Put the Power of the Elevator Speech Effect to Work for You. She is the ULTIMATE elevator speech guru. Anyway – I picked up the manuscript and burned through it on the plane out here to the tour. This was the first book I’ve read in the past two years that I put into action immediately. I mean literally.

On the first day of the tour before the fireworks start I get a meeting with publisher of a major house. My purpose is straight forward. I think publishing is screwed. This whole system isn’t working and something has to change. I was there to pitch something totally new. I’m watching what Seth Godin has done with the Domino Project and I think it is all wrong. I’ve got my big idea and I’m racking my brain for how to get this guy to buy into my point of view.

Between the plane ride and my meeting – I took Terri Sjodin’s book Small Message, Big Impact and literally rewrote my Mr. Big Pants Publisher pitch in a cab from JFK. Terri convinced me I was pitching completely BACKWARD. Albeit a little on the nervous side to have a brand new elevator pitch – but with Terri’s help via the book – I completely nailed the meeting. I walked out of what was a 20 minute meeting a hour and a half later with an agreement to launch a new deal for authors (more on that in the future).

So my point in all this….? If you are looking to pitch someone – don’t wait until you’re on your way to the meeting like I did to read Terri’s new book Small Message, Big Impact. Oh – and if you want a free advance reader copy – shoot me a reply with where to send it and I will get you one of the 30 copies I have for my blogger friends.

Again, thanks for letting me bring you these little gems.

All the best,

Kevin Small

Literary Agent

What do you want to be famous for?

businessbattlecard.jpgI just got finished reading a new book by a friend of mine. It’s called The Business Battlecard, and the author is Paul O’Dea, who was my co-author on the Select Selling book that we published in 2004.  Paul is CEO of Select Strategies, a strategy consulting practice, and since he sold his last company, he’s been involved in helping the leadership of companies make growth happen. Though the book is targeted at company management, the lessons therein are of significant value to every one in sales who wants to grow revenue.

You may recall my previous post which detailed the results of a survey I ran to determine which of four sales skills I listed was ranked as the most important.  Of the four listed (Negotiation, Presenting a Value Proposition, Business Acumen, and High Impact Questioning), the skills ranked as most important was Presenting a Value Proposition.

As I mentioned in that post, one of the results I found most interesting was the difference between Sales and Marketing on the importance of Presenting a Value Proposition as a skill for sales professionals.   As you will see from the chart below, only 25% of those who identified themselves are marketing professionals felt that this was the most important, while of their counterparts in Sales, 54% felt this was most important.  Is this because Marketing believes this is their job, or that the messages they provide are perfect, or is it a reflection of that old chestnut of mis-alignment between sales and marketing, where the sales folks think they need to do it because (in their opinion) Marketing doesn’t know what works when you’re at the coal-face?  In any case, I believe that each sales person has a responsibility to be comfortable in presenting their value proposition to a customer, clearly and concisely, and that’s what Paul’s book helps with.


The approach adopted in The Business Battlecard is very straightforward, and sets out a process that company leadership can follow to lead their company in the everyday battle of business growth.  Paul uses five simple but crucial question that, in my opinion, every sales person must be able to answer – not just in a generic way – but customized for each customer, or customer segment.

  1. What do you want to be famous for?
  2. Who are your selected customers?
  3. Where is the measurable value?
  4. Why should customers choose you rather than competitors?
  5. How will you get your product to market?

When we (at The TAS Group) provide sales effectiveness solutions to our customers, we look at how to embody these questions, and their answers in the Dealmaker Sales Performance Automation platform.  For example, we look to guide our customer to determine what we call Unique Business Value (What do you want to be famous for?) and the Solution Fit (Who are your selected customers?) and so on, and through this process craft strategies to help grow revenue.

With my aforementioned bias stated, I’d strongly recommend that you take a look at The Business Battlecard as you plan for 2010.  But if you don’t read the book, then at least think about each of the core questions above.  Before you meet your next prospect, think about What you want to be famous for?  What is it you want the customer to think when you leave?  They say that people can remember three things – plus or minus two. So, if there’s one message you want them to get from your meeting – what is that? What do you want to be famous for?  It’s worth the effort, because if you don’t know, then it’s unlikely that they will either.

Building The Right Foundation for Sales 2.0

A recent comment on my blog by John Esposito, VP of sales at AMICAS, reminded me to write a post about his company’s successful implementation of a sales methodology last year.

I was delighted to present a brief case study at the recent Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston last month.

AMICAS had some very common sales-related business issues:

  • Inconsistent sales performance
  • Needed a common, manageable approach
  • Very competitive, complex, political deals
  • Ongoing qualification in dynamic customer environments
  • Tracking complex deals over a year or more
  • Minimal and ineffective opportunity planning
  • compliance critical

ES Research Group took AMICAS through a comprehensive and objective requirements assessment and guided them through a sales effectiveness provider vendor selection.

At the time of AMICAS’s evaluation, The TAS Group was the best fit among many sales training companies that responded to the RFP (which ESR wrote). Their methodology-based approach and Dealmaker Sales 2.0 application was the basis for an unusually short-term, measurable—and apparently sustainable—jump in sales performance. ESR monitored the methodology work, training, technology implementation, rollout and ongoing reinforcement. Bruce Ellis of the Bee Group, The TAS Group’s business partner responsible for all the delivery and account management, was exemplary.

John Esposito is the first to tell you how skeptical he was. Since AMICAS’s successful sales transformation, John is a believer.

Whether or not AMICAS decides to invest further in additional Sales 2.0 technologies or processes, the foundation has been built. They’ve gone about things in the right order and their results bear that out.

Here is the presentation I delivered at the Sales 2.0 Conference. There are live links on the last page if you are interested in learning more about the tools ESR has developed for sales training vendor selection.

Power Corrupts … and PowerPoint Corrupts (Clear Messaging) Absolutely

images.jpgPower Corrupts … and PowerPoint Corrupts Absolutely. It’s about 5 years since Edward Tufte made that observation, and goodness knows we’ve all suffered through enough Death by PowerPoint to agree. I’m not proposing to delve into the Cognitive Load Theory of information overload, or the challenge of invoking simultaneous stimuli in your audience (auditory and visual) as you make a presentation loaded with words on the slides and overloaded with verbal overlay.  There is sufficient research that shows that people are over-loaded if they have to multi-task when they’re absorbing information.  Based on a some recent sales calls I’ve been involved in, I’ve a few observations to make, some suggestions, and an exercise that I believe will help you better communicate your message.

No one reads the title on slides anymore.  With so much time spent on the Internet, we’ve all become conditioned to ignore the advertising banners that take up the top inch of so of a web page.  So it is that titles on slides – often used by presenters as the main point being made on the slide – are ignored.  I’m not sure that much attention was ever paid to the top area of the slide anyway.  Communication theory would say that if you want someone to remember something that you say, then that should be the last point you make.    Finish with the point you want people to remember.

When creating a presentation (or a brochure or ad for that matter) you need to think about the single most important thing you want people to get from the slide.  Not the three or five points, just the one point, and those words or image (images are better) that support that message better not reside in the title or it will be ignored.  Typically (in the western world) your eyes quickly go from top left to bottom right – so where should you have the key message?  Bottom right.  Most of the stuff at the top of the screen gets ignored.  There’s a reason why news tickers on CNN run along the bottom, not along the top.

Let your voice tell the story. Adding words to your presentation as an aide-memoire might help you, but will confuse your audience. Speaker support is not the same as audience suport.  The slide should illustrate what you’re saying – not replace it. It’s all about arrows – not bullets.  You should be pointing the way you want your audience to go, not taking them on a sightseeing tour on the journey – they will only get distracted.

Simplifying your message.  The challenge therefore is to be crystal clear on what you want to say and consider what you want the audience to feel, think, and do when you’ve delivered your message.  Here’s an exercise your might do if you want to get really clear on a building a sales message, or a value proposition, to a customer. It’s best done with two or more people.

  1. Turn your computer off.
  2. Have each participant write down the key message or value proposition in exactly 32 words.
  3. Swap your description with the other participants and discuss the relative merits of each version.
  4. Now repeat step 2 – but this time reduce the message to 16 words.
  5. Repeat step 3, and then continue to iterate until you’re down to just two words – the two words you want people to remember from your presentation, sales call or value proposition.

This isn’t about dumbing down.  You can make things simple, without making them simplistic.

When we did this exercise at The TAS Group, it illuminated for all participants the core value that we deliver to customers.  Of course, in the early steps in the exercise there was a lot of talk about sales methodology, increased revenue, accurate sales forecasts, and advanced technology, but, at the end when we asked the question – “What do we help our customers improve?”, the answer in just two words was sales performance, and everyone gets that.

Attribution: Some of the thoughts and comments in this post are based on theories or writings from The Thiagi Group and simply communicate.

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