Whiteboard Selling Book Review

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If you want to be different from your competitors, build your credibility with prospects and customers, and get your audiences more engaged in your presentations, Whiteboard Selling: Empowering Sales Through Visuals, by Corey Sommers and David Jenkins can show you how.

As the title of the book indicates, the authors urge salespeople to can their slides and conduct their presentations interactively using a whiteboard.

There are some strong arguments for getting away from slide decks:

  • As I’ve written before, senior level executives (and probably everyone else) often dread having to sit through the standard sales deck, with its reams of slides displaying the “company history” and walls of words. If you show up and do something different, they will definitely pay attention.
  • Some salespeople are just projector operators. They show up, connect the laptop, and read off the screen a presentation that someone else put together. If you could train a monkey to operate the projector, or better yet, just email the slides in advance, you would deliver equal credibility and value at a much lower cost.
  • Sustainable agreements are much more likely when the customer is actively engaged in telling you their story and building the solution with you. The design of most presentations fosters a transmit-only approach and discourages questions and interactivity.

Whiteboard Selling shows how to encapsulate a large slide deck into a single whiteboard that builds the story you need for particular stages in the sales cycle, including qualification and discovery, why change, competitive comparison, making the business case, and closing. That’s a particular strength of the book—it’s as much about effective sales process as it is about presentations.

In their words, “it should be a cohesive visual that tells a singular story within a defined space”. This phrase neatly captures the two principal advantages of the whiteboard approach. It allows you to build a story with your customer while also harnessing the power of visuals. You’ll know you succeeded when the customer insists on saving what’s on the board so they can sell the idea internally.

Even if you don’t want to take the drastic step of getting rid of your slides entirely, the discipline of going through the whiteboarding process would definitely sharpen your thinking and your delivery.

Some people reading this review might shudder at the thought of unleashing your sales force onto the world armed with nothing but colored markers. How do you ensure quality and consistency? Have no fear; the book is actually written with sales and marketing managers as its audience, and devotes substantial space to the process of designing, training and implementing a whiteboard approach in your sales organization. As such, it’s not really a “how-to” for individual sales professionals, although any reasonably intelligent and experienced salesperson could probably design their own.

While the general approach outlined in the book makes excellent sense, I would guess that the challenge—and effectiveness—of rolling out the process to the entire sales force is not as straightforward as the book makes it appear. In fact, the close scripting required to ensure a consistent message would seem to detract from the flexibility and natural flow that effective sales conversations require, possibly defeating the purpose.

Maybe the ideal approach combines the best of both approaches. Ironically, the authors advocate using PowerPoint to design the whiteboard templates to begin with. That got me thinking: why not combine both approaches? Tablets running MS Office could be used to project slides, and the presenter could write and draw on the slides just as with a whiteboard. It’s worth finding out, and I plan to experiment with the approach and write about it in upcoming posts.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jack Malcolm
Jack founded Falcon Performance Group in 1996 specifically to combine his complex-sale expertise and his extensive financial background to design and implement complete sales process improvement initiatives at top national and international corporations.

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