Life after Powerpoint – Using Stories for Engagement


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PowerPoint Presentations are the default delivery mode for 95% of the sales and marketing presentations made in the World. What may surprise you is that the average PowerPoint has very low visual impact and is less effective than a conversation in engaging buyers.

Analyst firm Forrester says 88% of executives prefer conversations, not presentations. No surprise here as the average sales presentation is boring and is typically all about the vendor and their “best-in-class, groundbreaking products”.

Last week I had to open a 3-day messaging workshop with a new client in front of the sales and marketing executive team. I had prepared several visual confections in a 10-slide presentation using examples to lead the discussion and was fully prepared for the meeting. The night before the messaging workshop my client requested that we use a different approach to creating the messaging, which made my PowerPoint deck redundant. Fortunately the client had a whiteboard and a flip chart handy.

Starting a Meeting with a Story

To kick off a 3-day workshop, I still needed engagement and buy-in from the audience. My sponsor in the messaging workshop and I had worked on a similar messaging and sales enablement project several years earlier, which was transformational for his company and he introduced me and told his version of the “Who I’ve Helped Story” of our prior engagement, from the customers point of view, which was fantastic as this story is always more powerful coming from the customer, vs. the supplier.

Since many of the participants did not know me, I started with my “Who I Am” story. In 90 seconds I told the story of the past 10 years of my professional life as a consultant. It wasn’t a story about how fantastic I am – it was about the journey, the struggle and the lessons learned, that give me unique insight.

I will outline my story in bullets so that you can see the form of the story and you can adapt it to tell your own story.

  • In 2003 I was staring down the barrel of a 2nd lay-off in 2 years. (vulnerability)
  • Realized customers had changed and I hadn’t. (insight)
  • Didn’t have 20 years selling experience – really had 1 year experience repeated 20 years over. (vulnerability – call to adventure)
  • Started a search for new ideas, journey of discovery – (the journey begins)
  • (Joke) My wife heard me practicing my story – she said “keep looking” (humor)
  • Moved to UK, started a sales training consultancy (transition)
  • First graduates could get meetings with CXO’s, but when they got there would revert to “product-speak” – Realized they needed messaging to help engage buyers around their issues. Started messaging which has been a part of every engagement since. (Tension + Insight)
  • In 2008 we had customers, but no leads – introduced to HubSpot and started creating content and generating leads and has become a part of our DNA. Messaging now used to drive content marketing. (experience + lightbulb moment)
  • 2010 relocated back to USA and met Corey Sommers at Whiteboard Selling, invited me to work with him to use my sales training experience and messaging skills to create visual stories. (relevant experience)
  • 2013 connected with Mike Bosworth and learned story telling, come full circle – that’s why were here – capture your message so everyone can tell your story. (call to action and resolution)

Next I needed enrollment in the discipline of our process for the next 3 days.

Using a Curiosity Hook for Enrolment

After I told my Who I am story, I drew three large numbers on the flip chart.
I asked the audience what they thought the curiosity hook128,000 related to. After several guesses, I revealed that this is the number of times their sales team would pitch their “big idea” in the next 12 months if they had just four conversations a day with prospective customers. If we add everyone else in the company who needs to answer the “so-what-do-you-guys-do?” question, it would be over a million times a year.

Then I revealed the question mark with a question …How clear is your sales team in positioning the value of your technology solutions on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is terrible and 10 is crystal clear. I was somewhat surprised when the answer came back and the consensus was 5….to which I responded “that’s OK, it’s where most of our clients start and thanks for your honesty and we hope to be somewhere near 10 when we exit this process”.

The final number 10% had everyone stumped. This is the percentage of sales meetings with salespeople that buyers rate as actually worth having, where the vendor brought insight to the table. The remaining 90% of sales meetings are rated as a waste of time as the vendor talked about product or tried to develop a relationship…neither of which buyers wanted or needed.

If you are interested in learning to tell your story in an engaging manner and in more effectively listening to the buyer as they tell their story, you are invited to join us at one of the forthcoming Open Storyseekers workshops in Minneapolis or Monterey.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mark Gibson
Mark Gibson has been at the forefront of developing sales and marketing tools that create clarity in messaging value for 30 years. As a consultant he is now engaged in helping sales, marketing and enablement teams to get clear about value creation. Clarity attracts inbound leads, clarity converts visitors into leads and leads into customers, clarity builds mindshare, clarity engages customers, clarity differentiates value, clarity helps onboard new hires clarity helps raise funds, clarity + execution win markets.


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