Sales Presentations That Work! Walk the Story, Make your Hero, and Build the Dream

Nail It! Walk the Story, Make your Hero, and Build the Dream is a unique framework to deliver persuasive presentations shown to multiply sales teams’ results very quickly and with high acceptance from both salespeople and prospects.

Since this model for presenting in sales relies on the very basics of persuasion techniques, it is relatively easy for salespeople to adopt, and because it is a conversational and natural way of selling is well-received by prospective buyers who are tired of pushy and pitchy presentations. 

Presenting in sales shouldn’t feel like a manipulation game.

When we are taught to ask deep questions during our sales meetings, we fear that doing so will create friction with the prospect, or that we are too invasive, nosy, or just plain bothersome. The truth is, as professionals in our field, without such information, we can’t help our stakeholders to make an informed decision.

Because of the natural acceptance of this model by both salespeople and prospects, it is easy to coach sales professionals in using this framework in their sales presentations. And our prospects will praise this take on otherwise dull meetings.

Disclaimer. Be Warned: I created this method after helping hundreds of sales teams to transform the way they present to build increased revenue and shorter sales cycles. However, there is no third-party research or data to back up my claims. There is a massive difference between a model that I can replicate with my clients with great results and a methodology that can be scaled by and for third-parties.

I want to hear your story and find if this model can help you (or not.) Get in Touch.

If you would like to find if this model can work for your team too, send me a note using the form below so we can talk about your challenges when presenting in sales and funding conversations.

Walk the Story

Walk the Story is about listening to the prospect’s stories (prompted by the right questions) and supporting her narrative, rather than trying to steer her from their set course and into our Story. 

It is also about collecting the information that will help you Build the Dream.

In this world of global connection, she is already on her journey and has done her research and even already made decisions (whether you like it or not.) The foundations for the stakeholder’s narrative are set (and maybe outcomes are already being considered!). In a way or another, she knows what she wants.

Most salespeople will try to steer prospects from their set course in attempting to apply persuasion techniques and magic tricks, creating friction. What if instead of pulling rabbits out of hats to try to bring them to our narrative, we support theirs?

By listening carefully, asking the right questions, and adding the missing parts to the story, we get to be part of their journey and influence its course towards a specific outcome in a natural way, just like when two or more people have a conversation and agree on something.

Make your Hero

Remember High on Storytelling? By making your prospect the Hero of the narrative, you are appealing to ancient instincts that set their gears on and connect with the story at much deeper levels than by using abstract narrative and data.

Narratology states that the Hero’s Journey is the general framework of tales and lore. It involves a hero who goes on an adventure, and through a decisive crisis, earns a victory coming home changed by the experience.

See, the Hero’s Journey is a solid template you can use to create a narrative that puts the stakeholder as the central element of the classic Problem-Solution-Outcome sales momentum.

Let’s say Hellen is valiantly facing low sales that have been disseminating terror at Acme Inc. She embarks on a journey of discovery and adventure to find a solution and comes out from it changed, victorious, and with her boss’s and everyone else’s admiration and recognition. You can see how the whole thing gets immediately connected at an emotional level. 

By Walking their Story, we get to collect information about where she comes from and where she’s headed. We also learn what struggle brought her to this moment and what she imagines that will happen as a result of talking to you. That journey of identifying the real obstacles, going through a process to solve them (having a conversation with you, for starters), and finally picturing the successful outcome are the tools that you need to Build the Dream.

Build the Dream

Building the dream is about helping Hellen picture how things will be once she becomes the Hero. What is the story in the future that we are building with Hellen that will drive her emotions (and behavior) in that direction? 

We can use the details collected during our interactions so far to create a complete picture of how will be Hellen’s life (NOT about benefits or solutions for Acme Inc.) once she becomes the Hero. We will have, from her, a deep emotional commitment and a pull from the future to get there.

I am curious to find if I can help your team achieve the same results as I did for my clients. If you are curious too, get in touch with me directly using the form below.

Real Practice: A True Story

When I started working with Chris, he was suffering from very low engagement in presentations with his SDRs (Sales Development Representatives in an Outbound Prospecting model.) When we first spoke, I started taking some notes about the parts of the problem that created more stress in Chris.

By asking the right questions, I could build a picture of where he was coming from and what the pivotal points of the problem were.

The problem was this: Chris came from a different background, in which using a slide-based tool to present was fine, but now, his team was struggling to keep their prospects’ attention once the presentation started as they used a linear model that felt stiff and lacked relevance to each prospect’s specific concerns. 

Besides that, I learned that his team had never had any formal training on how to present – a major red flag.

Moreover, their presentations were remotely delivered using a screen-sharing solution, but its technological complexity was high, and many meetings went astray because either end had technical issues.

And so the process of asking questions to Walk Chris’ Story up to the present moment had me describing it to him as such: his sales team was struggling with a lack of presenting skills and the astray engagement of their prospects. Those, in turn, happened because the team wasn’t able to be quick on their feet to bring the presentation to a conversational level. Technology troubles were part of the problem since they relied both on hardware and software compatibility on the prospect’s side. And that he was on a quest to solve this issue, and now we were in that quest together. We then spent the next few minutes savoring the idea of smooth, conversational meetings and what that meant for him.

Then I told him that his frustration was because those small issues were blocking the view to the bigger picture: if his team could present smoothly, he would be able to bring 10x more qualified prospects to the AE team.

Making Him the Hero

By verbalizing the struggle back to Chris and placing him in that emotional position, I can start making Chris the hero of his journey, beginning with the distressful situation.

Taking from past experiences helping clients in similar situations, I knew I could relate them to Chris’ situation, and use them to help him. With some additional skills, I started being able to help him build his Dream.

Dream-Building Skills

Then I went on, recalling a previous client’s story. Marzia had problems with a lack of presenting skills in her salespeople, so we solved it by creating a simple framework for them to follow. We taught them to have conversations instead of presenting and then gave them a TODO list of things to keep in mind before and during the meeting. In that particular case, we opted for a quick solution and to create a framework, instead of giving full training on presenting and soft-skills to her team.

That story took care of showing Chris’ first steps to the making of his Dream.

I also told him that most of my clients who present remotely had the same problem as he did. Most screen-sharing tools out there are too complex to use for the first time. Since his prospects used it for the very first meeting with prospects and had issues most of the time, that would abort the meeting, or at least briefly but so, take the focus out of it. 

I figured the solution was to use a tool that meant zero effort for the prospect, and if possible, also avoided the need to juggle different tools at the same time, such as a screen-sharing tool plus PowerPoint combo from the pits of darkness itself.

Luckily, many applications could help him, and due to my expertise, I recommended Prezi. Prezi (disclaimer: I am a certified Prezi Expert) would be later mentioned again as an integral part of my proposed solution to him. I let him know that he was using the wrong tools for the job, so if he had the correct ones and proper knowledge to make them thrive, his solution would be widely recognized at the corporation.

Back-and-Forth Storytelling

My point was backed by the story of a friend of mine who was hindered by a tool that was inadequate for the job, but the company refused to update. So she afforded a trial by herself and showed everybody how much revenue the company was losing. This was the first step for her to become their current CRO.

To build his Dream, I had to tie all the different stories that Chris and I have told each other and put them together in a way that helps him commit emotionally to that proposed reality. However, there was still room for a few more questions that would help me understand what was at stake for Chris.

Well, if Chris failed, he would lose his job. If he succeeded, he would keep his job and earn more commissions. Was that it? Or was that it?

I got a hint of how Chris was invested emotionally on this project when he belatedly expressed that he wanted to “show them wrong.” What could happen if I pulled that thread a little more? I wondered.

After some questions, the real story was revealed. When Chris applied for an internal promotion, someone else did the same, and the other candidate got the job. However, Chris felt strongly about their qualifications and thought that who made the decision made a mistake. The emotional knot is that Chris felt rejected and not appropriately valued in the organization. That was the final piece I needed.

By putting all these pieces together in a coherent narrative and verbalizing it back to Chris, I got to use his own stories to create a strong feeling about the current moment and then move that emotional weight to a sense of relief, success and resolution by telling the story that will be (or that was starting to become).

Sure enough, his Dream started to crystallize in a matter of days, as the results of us both Walking his Story and Building his Dream became visible to the naked eye in concrete, positive outcomes from his team and the spike in his professional recognition.

Give it a Try

Now, take a while to think of previous contacts you had with stakeholders or prospects. Choose one and have this framework applied to it. Was your prospect indeed the Hero of the Story? What was the conflict they faced, and what did you learn from the first conversation with them? Did you Walk the Story with them and helped them Build their Dream? If not, what was missing on your part as a presenter?

Lilly Builds the Dram by Catru Illustrations (Sketches)
Lilly Builds the Dream by Catru Illustrations (Sketches)

This article was originally published on LinkedIn on November 20, 2019.

The Power of Storytelling in Sales Presentations

Take some time to remember one of the most famous of Aesop’s Fables.

A slow, yet persistent reptile defeats a famously quick and cocky rabbit. Despite various setbacks, the underdog tortoise keeps at it and is rewarded with a victory. The fable transcends age and time in its lesson: Never give up. We all heard it, felt it, and many of us truly applied it to our lives. It’s a valuable lesson worthy of repetition.

However, no matter how many times you tell someone to never give up, it may not resonate. It takes more than hearing those three words to make a change in oneself or another. It takes feeling it. It takes a Story.

Despite what is often thought, Aesop’s weren’t made for children. Their target was adults and had the goal of trying to shape their behaviour in society – and they worked.

THE SCIENCE OF STORIES

The Tortoise and The Hare is a simple yet clear example of a didactic story. The story does not tell us what to do, it shows us. It gives us a chance to make our connections and wiggle them into our context, adding personal meaning to it.

A didactic story is suggestive, giving the listeners an active role in the suggestion through their interpretations. This engagement allows the audience to go away with a lesson that they extracted. Instead of taking orders from someone, the listeners can apply their knowledge instinctively from their personal and professional growth.

The science of storytelling is irrefutably proven in business storytelling or life lessons learned through fables as children. Young and old, we remember, understand, learn, empathize, and most importantly engage through stories. People retain 65 to 70 percent of information shared through stories while only 5 to 10 percent is retained when presented as data and statistics.

To put it simply, didactic stories make it stick. And by knowing How to Tell Stories educationally, conscious salespeople have a strategic advantage. That is why it’s time to maximize your power of didactic storytelling to educate our stakeholders.

YOUR FABLES

As didactic as it may be, it is not recommended to use The Tortoise and the Hare in your presentations. Most listeners have heard it, processed it, and subsequently exhausted their connections on the matter, leaving them uninterested with wandering minds. Christopher Witt and Dale Fetherling in their book Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint: How to Sell Yourself and Your Ideas (2009) suggest crafting a personal story from your own life – a tale of your own.

You can become the Hero of your Story, going directly through the plot: with a problem, facing the climax, and harvesting the resolution. It not only shows off your creativity, but engages the audience’s emotions, imparts a message, and makes the speaker accessible and authentic.

Your transparency plays a big role in Captivating the Audience. And as psychologists Shamir and Eilam (2005) discuss, ‘storytelling leaves the listener educated, feeling the information is valid, and confident the speaker is trustworthy’. It adds a whole new layer to your transparency and the trust-generating process.

BREAKING THROUGH THE STATUS QUO

Allow me to tell you a story.

I first met a distressed Melissa, now a friend and client, when she was facing dwindling engagement in trade show visitors. They would come from the constant flow and be invited inside the booth she managed. Then, her team would start conversations with the guests to make groups for an interactive conference. She had to have them interested enough to commit to a half-hour long conversation, but she knew if they were convinced to stay through it, her close rates would skyrocket.

What I remember most about that conversation is not the details about her struggle, but how intense her emotions were. She felt so disheartened because results were just an inch out of her grasp, but needed some spark to make the gears run.

Looking for that spark, I told her a few situational stories – how the situation of other clients was similar to hers and how I helped them to solve the problem. There was one that stood out as a breakthrough for us both, though.

Another client of mine had the task of creating a presentation where the content had to change based on the outcome of a previous step. My jaw dropped. He had spent an extreme amount of time creating about 50 PowerPoint presentations to present the different outcomes.

Long and exhausting days into this process, he called me for help and after a short talk, I asked how much content had to be shown on screen. He said, ‘Just a phrase’.

So I asked, ‘Say, why are you using PowerPoint?’.

There was a 30 seconds pause, until he spouted, ‘…what do you mean?’.

That was a surprise, but not so much. PowerPoint is still regarded as the staple tool and comfortable crutch for presenting, despite The PowerPoint Problem. We came to realise that his problem was leaving the status quo zone. He hadn’t even challenged the idea of using PowerPoint because that’s what you are supposed to use when you present.

Melissa could get what I meant with the story. Her breakthrough was noticing, identifying the status quo and breaking through it. Mine was realising how many people are hindered by it.

We discussed that her salespeople should try to break the status quo, just as my previous client did. By implementing Conversational (or Non-Linear) Presenting with her team, her salespeople could now be flexible in the conversation with visitors and projected confidence while fast on their feet to address questions. I showed that they shouldn’t hide behind the slides – the responsibility for the conversation and its outcome was in their hands.

See? What storytelling does is teaching by proxy. Stories are didactic instruments, and the Status Quo story allowed Melissa to see things differently in her context and to draw conclusions fitting her scenario.

TIMELESS TALES

Often seen as wasted time, storytelling is, in fact, very powerful. Better yet, it is timeless. Stakeholders leave with more than fleeting facts and figures. No matter how many facts you throw at your stakeholders, our brains actually can hold only so many of them compared to the sticking power of experiences in our unconscious minds.

Researchers Camille H. James And William C. Minnis state in their work Organizational storytelling: It makes sense (2004): “stories are regarded as narrative devices that skilful managers call upon when they wish to secure a change in the ways in which their employees and/or colleagues think, feel and act at work”.

But how does it work – at a neurological level?

Meaningful stories fit into our Episodic Memory. That is the part of the mind first revealed by Neuroscientist Endel Tuving in 1985 and regards the bits of long-term memory which are stored into episodes of situations lived or seen. Your first kiss, remarkable college activities, specific celebrations with your family – it is all stored almost indefinitely and is revived easily with little prompting.

That is why Business Storytelling works. The story and the information it carries will go hand in hand, supporting one another. If the message begins to fade, the story beckons it back. Again and again.

FROM STORIES TO SALES

As we’ve learned from Aesop, the inspirational and educational power of stories is not new. And now, it is it not even limited to one form. While technology has shaped our preferred presentation methods with special effects and global dissemination, it isn’t the bells and whistles that captivate listeners most.

Just as in Melissa’s story, a more humanistic approach will reach further into your prospects’ emotions. Identify your message, craft your Hero’s story, and witness the might of Business Storytelling – as tales of your sales success will keep on delivering for a longer time than you could expect, to you and your stakeholders.

I help sales teams to adopt storytelling in their sales meetings with a combination of nonlinear presentations design and storytelling training. Get in touch to find if my model can work for you and your team, or not.

How to Make presentations That Work at BizBash Live New York 2019

I had the privilege to give a talk (have a conversation) with BizBash’s Guests at the BizBash Live New York 2019 Convention. A Big Shoutout and my gratitude to David Adler, BizBash’s CEO for having me. It was an incredible experience of plenty of learning. The workshop’s topic was How to Make Presentations That Get You What You Want!

Pablo Povarchik on How To Make Presentations That Get You What You Want at BizBash Live New York 2019

We discussed many things during the workshop, but the big takeaway was this:
The big story that you tell your prospect, the one you use to build their dream, is the one that you create using the stories they tell you.Use the stories that your prospect tells you, to build their Dream.

We also discussed visual metaphor versus bullet points. By using spatial cognition and relatable images we get the message across much more effectively.

Consider this:

Versus this:Visual Metaphor vs. Bullet Points

We also spoke about visual rules.

90% of the information that our brain retains comes through our visual channels.
Our eyes.

90% of the information that our brain retains comes through our visual channels. Our eyes.

Our brain processes visual metaphor so much faster than written data.

Our brain processes visual metaphor so much faster than written data.

We cannot read and listen at the same time.

We cannot read and listen at the same time.

On a daily basis, 80% of the information that we retain is visual vs 20% written.

On a daily basis, 80% of the information that we retain is visual vs 20% written.

Harvard says visual metaphor is 43% more persuasive.

In short, the brain works best with pictures and visual information than written data.

Because of lack of time, we didn’t talk about:

Linear and nonlinear presentation tools.

Neural coupling and optimizing meeting time. Have a conversation instead of presenting.

We briefly spoke about Nonlinear Presenting.

A Nonlinear Presentation’s Structure.

We didn’t get to play our interactive game with the audience, there wasn’t enough time.
You can take a stab at cracking it below.

This is the Prezi Presentation that we used during the workshop. Contact me using the form below to get a free copy. The game is at the very end.

Originally published at wOw Prezi by Pablo Povarchik on October 24, 2019.

One Technique to Beat your Fear of Presenting

Parroting the Script

Fear of Presenting is real as it gets. It’s Sales Presentation showtime. It should be a show – but it drives you crazy in fear and anxiety; sweat gets more intense and visible, and clothes feel tighter. Your slides now look insufficient to get the job done.

Fear of speaking in public is no stranger to any of us, but sales professionals tend to fear it a level higher. Speaking in front of prospects and stakeholders can have fantastic or disastrous financial results. We feel exposed, judged, rated, and responsible for the outcome.

To cope with that fear, we cower behind the slides that we parrot without much consideration to what’s going on around us.

That comes at a hefty cost: ephemeral satisfaction and inability to expand our influential energy through emotional connection and conversation. We dedicate so much energy to work around the fear that we miss the present moment, hinder our potential, and set low standards for ourselves.

The prospect sees badly-repressed fear and pitch parroting as stiffness, and lack of authority and expertise by the salesperson. Cue in the absence of trust, killing the sales process.

Hack That

Instead of presenting to your prospects, have a conversation with them.

Taking responsibility for the situation and assuming an active role, engaging, being assertive, and asking questions, and coming up with answers.

Diving into that change headfirst is overwhelming and may take some time or never happen. Unless that instead of trying to change our behavior, we change the rules of the game.

If instead of presenting we have a conversation, then the parts are at the same level and there is lots less scrutiny to each other, like in any peers talk. A salesperson who is at ease with his client can give off a remarkable impression of an expert who is helping them to make a well-informed decision.

Consider everyone in the room as a character in a story that you walk along with. Your job is to uncover the highlights and go with it, managing micro-outcomes towards success. Instead of presenting, ask more questions, and talk less (yep, shut up.)

Mark and his Fear

Mark was going through one of the roughest patches. He had recently changed jobs, and now presenting to prospects was a vital part of the sales process. And a colossal fear of his.

Mark is an excellent Sales Professional with many years of experience; one of his traits is being assertive while not imposing. During our call, he used his gift to ask me deep questions and elaborate on those, drawing conclusions and taking notes. During that same call, he sold me on several ideas and ways I could improve too. It was a fantastic interaction, plenty of trading and learning for both.

In the end, he asked me for a takeaway, one piece of advice that would help him overcome his fear of presenting. So I wondered aloud, why don’t you make your presentations more like this conversation and less like presentations? 

After a one-month learning curve and trial and errors, Mark has been presenting conversationally since 2015 with amazing results.

Renata and Her Sales Trainees

Renata, a client and friend in Italy, manages a team of 150 salespeople whose job is to present to high-ticket executives in a very formal setup. She had hit a serious wall trying to train her team on how to perform in these situations. Especially when training less experienced team members.

Because of the complexity of this particular sales process, I couldn’t be of much help over the phone, so we agreed on flying me out to run an onsite workshop with a handful of the most troubled trainees. My goal was to identify ways to help them feel more comfortable and relaxed when presenting.

During the workshop, I asked them to present to me as if I was a prospect. It was a painful struggle.

After this first session, we went through the workshop, teaching them simple yet useful tools to gain confidence, manage their body, and to ask the right questions to the prospect.

The change was visible in the team, and we all felt great about the results. Yet, I wasn’t satisfied and asked them to present to me once more.

This time, though, I decided to be an active prospect and started challenging them with questions and follow-ups. I was set to take them out of “presenting mode” at all costs, interrupting and forcing them to have a conversation with me and among them by asking questions that needed consensus. I dismissed the “presenting struggle” completely, hijacked the presentation, and turned it into an intense exchange. And they forgot that they were presenting. And we had an incredibly productive meeting.

Renata decided to roll-out the same training to the entire sales force, including the CRO and his close team. Her team has been presenting conversationally for a year now.

Putting together different metrics, (that I can’t share here,) we discovered that by implementing the Conversational Method, revenue increased by 27% and the sales cycle length got reduced by half.

Takeaway

The next time that you gather your sales team to talk about how they present in their sales process (you do it often, don’t you?) try a conversational approach. A good way to start is by, instead of presenting, asking the prospect: Thank you for your time, how can we make the most out of it? Role-playing this among salespeople is a great starting point.


The expedient of giving people some easy-to-learn tools to overcome fear and present with confidence is simple. With fun and smart training, they can learn to ask questions and use the answers to Build the Prospect’s Dream. Your bottom line will see the impact quick.

I would love to hear about your experience presenting in sales situations. I am eager for feedback and real-life stories that can prove my ideas right or wrong. Get in touch with me using the form below

If you want to get in touch with me directly, buy me lunch, or drop me a line on LinkedIn or Here and we can make your salespeople thrive in presentation skills. If you want to read more of my takes on Business Storytelling and Conversational Presenting, follow my Blog.

Lilly and The Parrot Presenter
Lilly and The Parrot Presenter by Catru

Business Storytelling in 2019

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

The power of a story makes it overcome time. Hemingway wrote this a century ago, and we still talk about it. Stories are everlasting – imagine what this could do for your brand.

What is Business Storytelling

We all know what Storytelling is, but we all have a different understanding of it. Most are correct in that understanding. It forms two-thirds of our daily verbal and visual communications.

However, when asked, most salespeople couldn’t agree on what is Storytelling and less so on how to apply it in their business meetings.

Business Storytelling is all about using narrative in business scenarios to compel the involved parts to engage and collaborate, to learn and remember more. The point is how we use stories in our business situations to increase performance.

For some, a line of charts make a story, for others, stories must follow a rigid script and are complicated to introduce in sales meetings, while for many more, Business Storytelling is using real-life stories to bring the message home.

Whichever the understanding, most would agree on something: the effects of Storytelling go to a deeper level than any other sales technique, and science has everything to do with it.

Business Storytelling is steadily becoming one of the most successful ways of selling. From featuring Smart Content to working with Sales Intelligence, Nonlinear Presenting has changed the way we share our ideas with stakeholders and partners.

High on Storytelling

Storytelling works the brain – it evokes a proven, strong neurological response. But how? According to Neuroeconomist Paul Zak‘s research, our brain goes through different chemical reactions according to how the story develops. From producing cortisol when something gets our attention and dopamine when the story makes us feel good, to oxytocin to promote an empathic behavior, to connect.

Storytelling goes beyond listening or watching: It allows us to understand, empathize, and learn.  

Much has been said about the brain’s chemistry on storytelling; to our point, which is delivering truly engaging presentations that spark collaboration and trust, that chemistry lets us influence the behaviors of the people involved in the experience to gain buy-in and influence.

Though I haven’t found evidence or previous research on the topic, I believe that storytelling works by mimicking in the body and the brain the real experience told from the story to impress the teaching more organically and comprehensively; to create stronger memories.

The work The Neuroscience Behind Storytelling in Sales by Emma Brudner @ HubSpot seems to confirm my thinking: The brain uses a real-life-facsimile to better record the story’s teaching as much alike as a real experience as possible. In this way, the memory gets recorded through multiple channels and organically (like 3D vs. 2D), and not just as an abstract concept.

Watching a story unfold is the best next thing to experiencing in real life, and the chemical process is similar. As a result, we get an altered state of mind; we are hooked. As Doug Stevenson from Presentation Guru says, most people who have ever run a business meeting will affirm that “stories are more memorable than facts and data.

This is how the power of storytelling works: It creates a strong neurological and physiological response that conditions the way we act and think, it comes naturally to use that to impact others’ lives as well as to influence them. 

Storytelling is central to human evolution, now more than ever.

We use storytelling to transfer knowledge, to learn perils and opportunities, to learn from the past and build a better future on top of it, to rebuild what it takes to evolve. We have been doing it since the beginning of time, and it’s now necessary to keep on doing it in order to upgrade ourselves.

Never has there been so much information on every possible subject out there, and never has there been so much to catch up with if you intend to cover a topic. We can’t begin to study, or even read all the existing information, and this is what storytelling has been preparing for, to serve humanity fully – and why it is now, more than ever, crucial to humankind evolution. 

Storytelling travels time and space

The reach of stories is fantastic. Some stories, first told thousands of years ago, are current today and reaching far across cultures and populations. Some stories have gone through so many transformations and traveled so far that are unrecognizable. Stories evolve and expand, adapting to different cultures and community organisms to reach the four corners of the world.

Because of its nature, storytelling has the ease in passing knowledge across space and time, allowing a higher chance to resonate deeply with the people interested in a given topic, ensuring the preservation and growth of Culture.

Business Storytelling is, indeed, an undeniably useful tool to communicate and empathize with others in any given context. So how can we create, carry, and share a story successfully in business?

Nail It! Walk the Story, make a Hero and build the Dream

Lilly the Hero by Catru

Lilly the Hero by Catru

Lilly the Hero by Catru

A possible framework for applying storytelling to your business meetings.

Walk the Story

Our prospect (or stakeholder) is already immersed in her own story, and we only have to support that story toward success while helping her building the dream.

By asking questions and listening carefully, we can help in building every part of a Three-Act (or Five-Act, but seldom needed) story practically always. This is Exposition in a Three-Act play.

Make your Hero

Start by uncovering the problems; this is the Rising Action. Use mini-stories to relate to others’ similar problems and their solutions. Bring the story to Resolution by situating your prospect as the Hero of the story in the future.

Build the Dream

Connect Resolution and Success to Build the Dream.

What is the story in the future that we are building with our prospect, that will drive her behavior in that direction? Aliens gave you superpowers, and you became Gotham’s Hero, you have everyone’s admiration, and merchandising royalties are piling up. Okay, that’s you being the Hero, but what would your life really be like if humans of the future had given you superpowers? 

If we can use the details that we collected during the conversation so far to create a complete picture of how would be her life (NOT about benefits for Acme Inc., or ROI, or…) once she becomes the Hero, then we will have a deep emotional commitment from her to get there.

Other Business Scenarios

Baby Shoes by Catru

Baby Shoes by Catru

Short Three-Act library-style stories are perfect for agile conversations in complex sales or when we have a variety of products and possible outcomes.

This is valid for sales conversations that span a variety of products or solutions that may need a library of stories (stories that you cherry-pick as you go to build a library to drive the message home about each different solution in your offerings).

Three and Five-Part Stories for Marketing

Business Storytelling in Marketing is often based on a niche concept. Instead of building the story with your specific prospects as for Sales meetings, in Marketing, we define our Hero based on a Persona or Buying Profile. 

The winning combination here is STORY+NICHE where one story appeals to most in a given group.

Become the Hero in Funding conversations

Investors fund people with great stories. They’re not investing in a product or service, but in the people behind it.

In sales, the prospect is the Hero. However, in funding conversations, I am the Hero – and not the investor. Instead, the investor reaps the benefits from me being the Hero.

Your success is the investor’s ideal outcome; you are the Hero of your story and your investor, the successful assistant. Build your success as their Dream.

Your trainees are the Hero of their story

Most of the time, staff onboarding and training programs look to be inspirational. Storytelling in training is all about building a success story in your trainees’ mind, where they are the Hero of their own story. It is a Nail It!-like structure, where you assist them in their journey by selecting the right metaphor for the right situation instead of asking questions-toward-results.

Changing Scenarios

Using storytelling in meetings that are flexible on its content by nature is slightly more complicated. Being fast on your feet is essential, but also creating a library of stories based on situations that you encounter today and you want to use in the future (harvest today’s experiences as stories to tell in the future.) The trick is carefully noting down stories worth using to create a library. “Stick” short stories to different parts of your business narrative or presentation, and build up your library of stories to use across the different sales stages.

Having a framework ready to use makes the creation of a story with your client as the Hero flow smoothly and naturally, especially in sales meetings with lots of moving parts.

A Silver Bullet

There is no silver bullet here and the information you gain from this article must be converted into knowledge through experience: Find what works for you!

Longer, more complex sales processes grant for putting more thought into creating different stories for each item or solution. Moreover; shorter, more transactional sales may grant for only a general approach.

A short and transactional sales process will use Business Storytelling in a very different way than a complex one. While the former can use short, abstracted stories to create a quick emotional connection, the latter will possibly involve assisting the Hero on a longer journey.

Pablo Povarchik is a Consultant and Public Speaker in Business Storytelling & Nonlinear Presentations for Sales Teams.

© Illustrations by Catru. Freelance Illustrator for hire.

References:

Trust, morality, and Oxytocin by Paul Zak

The Neuroscience Behind Storytelling in Sales

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn by Ernest Hemmingway.

Lilly the Hero by Catru
Lilly the Hero by Catru – Backstage sketches
Lilly the Hero by Catru
Lilly the Hero by Catru – Backstage sketches
Lilly the Hero by Catru
Lilly the Hero by Catru – Backstage sketches

Originally published by Pablo Povarchik on May 23, 2019, on LinkedIn.

The PowerPoint Problem

The PowerPoint Problem

PowerPoint was created over 30 years ago...

…and its basic structure hasn’t changed. We still get to present (or be pitched) page after page, like a book. (unless you are a highly skilled professional in the art of designing PowerPoint presentations in which case you will be able to create more interactive experiences.)

Death by PowerPoint is not about the audience’s death, but the end of your sales process (or funding conversation, staff training, idea pitching …)

People do not consume information like slides anymore.

However, people have changed and the way we consume and comprehend information has changed. We don’t want to be talked at anymore and prefer conversation and collaboration to reach conclusions.

We need to engage our stakeholders in the discovery process with visual storytelling and conversation to overcome the problem of very short attention spans in our audiences today.

Harvard says: Stop using PowerPoint, it's damaging your brand and your company.

Because of that dissonance between how PowerPoint presents and how people consume information today, Death by PowerPoint indeed happens, our brains disengage as soon as we are “pitched at” and that’s the end of our sales process, or generally speaking our ability to communicate effectively.

Is Anybody Out There?

When we hand over a hard or digital copy of our presentation, we lose touch with the process (for example, we don’t know if our prospect or investor is looking at our deck, for how long, or even which parts is she spending the most time and what is most important even, who is she sharing the presentation with.)

We also don’t know how much PowerPoint is damaging our efforts to communicate effectively*.

(* Unless we implement complex, old-minded, PowerPoint-ish tracking techniques, we don’t know what’s going on, and one of the big black holes in any sales pipeline is “handing over” a copy of our presentation.)

A waste of Talent and Resources.

It is notable how companies invest enormous amounts of talent, time, energy, and money into building a brand, corporate culture and creating the best products and services, and then fall short of showing those achievements by presenting using old ways that are damaging to their image and lack accountability.

Slides are easy and Conversational is hard.

Presenting with PowerPoint is easy, but only for the presenter. Presenting in a linear way is a safe haven, we don’t need to expose ourselves and take responsibility for our prospects and audiences; someone did that when wrote the pitch and made the PowerPoint, I just have to click my way through the presentation delivering the same pitch over and over, making sure that I covered most of my prospect’s possible questions, and leaving little room for actual conversation and discovery.

Because we were born with PowerPoint as the de-facto model and is so ingrained in the way we see the world of presentations, we struggle with change. PowerPoint is part of our culture.

New technologies usually slowly creep in our lives in the form of updates and upgrades (PowerPoint is an excellent example) and we don’t realize how those technologies impact us and the way we do business.

However, from time to time, a new technology pops up that prompts us for a mindset switch, to make the change in a conscious way. Think switching from VHRs to DVDs. Remember BlockBuster? They chose to stick to the old ways.

Changing mindsets is more difficult than adapting to changes that happen over time, and thus we struggle to change from pitch to Conversational Presenting because it means seeing how we interact with our prospects and stakeholders in a new way.

Luckily, Conversational Presenting is not rocket-science and with quick and specific coaching it can transform the way we connect with our audiences; it all comes down to understanding that the content is structured in a different way, that is easier for us to manage and for our audiences to understand.

Originally published on April 9, 2019, at LinkedIn

Conversational Presenting

Non-Linear (or Conversational) Presenting is the ability to adapt your message on the fly to cover the needs and questions of your prospects without having to resort to counting slides or juggling different decks.

The traditional ways to present (ie. Death by PowerPoint) are no longer valid and people do not consume information like that anymore.

Today, people (your prospects) find more value in talking to each other than in being talked at.

With Conversational Presenting we can present in a dozen different ways with one deck.

Making the most of this precious time together

Our stakeholders know a lot about us and what we do before we even enter the meeting room, pitching content that they already know is not a smart way to use their time (or yours.)

Instead of steamrolling our way through the meeting room with a PowerPoint, we could start by asking how to make the most of that time together. How about:

  • Thank you for giving me 20 minutes of your time, how can we make the most of it?
  • How can we create the most value for everyone in this room with these 20 minutes that we have?
  • What are your questions? How can I help you?

Collaboration moves the needle forward and builds trust

When we present in a linear way, we are pitching. We are the active speaker and our prospect is the passive listener.

Instead, when we present conversationally, our prospects are an active part of what’s going on, there is collaboration and then trust.

It is important to realize the power of interactions like this versus the classic slide deck pitch of who we are and what we do.

Spatial Cognition

Spatial Cognition is the ability to relate concepts to locations, and this is achieved with Prezi by the use of an open canvas and layers.

If we associate information with an image, is easier for the brain to fix it. If we associate information to images AND locations, then the brain really gets it.

Spatial Cognition Illustrated

The Power of Stories (and today’s attention span levels.)

By using stories to explain ideas and concepts, we appeal to the part of our brain that pays attention and mimics the real experience because that is how we survived until today, by listening to precautionary or encouraging stories.

Smart Structures

By being able to manipulate entire sets of information in an easy way, we are able to personalize our presentations with ease, making them more relevant to specific situations, without the need to create new decks or having a dozen versions of the same deck.

Get in touch to find if these techniques can be applied to your sales process