Your marketing team has spent countless hours developing your company’s pitch deck. There are awesome graphics, custom-designed slide templates, the thought leadership slide, problem/solution statement slide, etc., and even a special architecture slide tailored to how your solution works. While all that is table stakes, the unfortunate reality is your prospect has seen some variation of this type of deck every single day for the last two weeks. So how can you be impactful and stand out at the same time?
It’s typically best to kick off with the industry trend slide. This allows you to provide your point-of-view on the problem and gives you an opportunity to engage with the prospect to better understand if they agree with your perspective on the emerging trend. If they do, you’re headed in the right direction. If they don’t, you have a lot of education ahead of you but now you know where you stand so you can navigate appropriately moving forward.
The problem slide is typically next. This is pretty boilerplate in terms of the content but this is usually your first opportunity to pepper in what I like to call “seed planting” statements. Basically, it’s the concept of dropping in very specific, very targeted subliminal messages that you can circle back on towards the end of the presentation to ensure the prospect is understanding the message you are trying to deliver and thread the message together in a cohesive and logical manner. Below is one example as it relates to your competition within the problem slide but you’ll want to compose such statements throughout your presentation.
My favorite method for combating an internal build is a seed planting statement like “while eliminating the pain associated with this is important, it’s not a competitive advantage.” Most everyone studied the advantages of specialization in economics 101 so it’s easily relatable and most often, it’s a logical conclusion. This sounds like a statement you’d make during the competition slide but you actually want to make it during the problem slide. By planting this seed early, you can revisit it later in the competition slide. When you reach that part of the presentation, you can say “remember when I said it’s not a competitive advantage” and then expand on this train of thought with “therefore you shouldn’t build and manage this yourself. You should outsource this to a specialist; whether us or not.” That triggers the prospect to mentally revisit the earlier slide in their head and now draw a connection to why they shouldn’t even consider building this internally and consider you. The trick with these “seed planting” questions is subtlety. If you go for the jugular early in the presentation, you run the risk of a typical salesperson on a typical sales call. But if you take your time and thread logic with rational conclusions, then you're tying everything together in one cohesive story.
Now, around this point of the presentation, you either show a slide of how your solution works or jump into a demo. This is the ideal time to drop in “seed planting” statements. It’s important to note, I’m not referring to questions here; questions are essential of course and are part of the presentation but for the context here we’ll focus on statements.
Here is where you make declarative statements about your solution or company. You want to highlight specific features that either you do super well or you know your competition doesn’t do at all. Not only will this help focus the prospect on one of your superpowers but it’ll plant the seed for when that eventual question comes toward the end of your meeting, “so, how are you different than XYZ company.” Now, you can reference back to something you showed during the demo which makes it much more tangible and real vs a spatted off list of features you have logged in your head.
Here’s a favorite of mine, during the demo highlight a feature that is unique to you and drop the statement “as you can see, we’ve built a lot of functionality in here over the years and this is only possible because we focus 100% of our time on this and will continue to do so.” Not only are you telling the prospect that you’re specialized in this area of expertise but your subliminally suggesting that your product will continue to improve year over year with or without you as a customer. Now your prospect is asking themselves, “do I want to hitch my cart to a wagon that will grow and get better independent of me or not.” Most of the time they do want to hitch their wagon to the company growing the fastest and improving their product quicker than anyone else in the market.
I hope these few examples were helpful. Again, the idea here is you want to drop in statements that allow you to circle back towards the end of the presentation and during the Q&A to tie everything together. You’re not doing this to trap your prospect or set them up but instead using this tactic to bring logic and cohesiveness to the overall presentation. If you can successfully do this, not only have you clearly communicated why your solution is the best - you’ve also won the respect of your prospect as someone they want to do business with. Thus, why the pitch deck can make or break your deal.
Bonus tip: always send a draft agenda to every confirmed person for the meeting ~24 hours beforehand to solicit feedback on the agenda and give them permission to change or add to that agenda. Make sure this is a one-to-one (vs one-to-many) communication. You want to do this for two reasons. A) it helps to understand what each individual cares about and gives you an opportunity to prepare for such topics and B) it allows for feedback and that is a signal they’re interested.