Oct. 26, 2022

#62 - Stop Using PowerPoint to Sell

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The show is ‘Let’s Chat Sales’ for a reason… we’re urging sales professionals to have real conversations with their customers. And who needs slides to have a conversation?  Slides get in the way (most of the time.) They slow down the pace, reduce the topic to what is on the screen, and limit your ability to adjust to new information. 

In this quick 12-minute chat, Brendan and Bob talk about how to limit your reliance on Powerpoint in your sales calls, and how to use slides minimally and to best effect when you do.

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Hey Bob, guess what?

No, behold, I'm gonna tell you. Time for another episode of Let's Chat Sales 

Let's Chat Sales! Yes. So excited!

Are you? All right? 

I am. 

So this 

You know, I live for this, right? 

So today, this is a bête noire for me. This is a bit of a personal issue for me, in fact

What was the word you used? 

Bête noire... Like a monster. 

Okay. Right. 

That's a new one, I'm assuming that's French. 

It is French. 

I wanna talk for just a quick minute about slides. About presentations and slides.

I think it's gonna be more than a minute.

Just so you know, folks. 


So go ahead. 

I am of the opinion that you don't need slides as often as you think you do. And I 

Actually, yeah. 

That's crazy. That's heresy. How dare you Brendan? 


PowerPoints rule. They're the single greatest creation that we have in our modern civilization.

Yeah, I don't think so. And I think

Tell us why. 

Yeah. Well, because, I think that in a lot of cases, and is especially true early on in the sales cycle, in the early history or the early stages of a company, you're still trying to build product. 

You don't have a clearly defined product.

Your product is evolving and so forth, and slides have a tendency to turn something that's still malleable into something that's very concrete and rigid. 

And leaves you without the ability to kind of move and do discovery and have a kind of meaningful conversation with customers.

That's one thing that bothers me about slides is they kind of put you in a spot and now you have to talk to that, to that slide deck. 


The second thing is they draw attention away from the you and the conversation and the customer and their conversation and towards some other medium. 

Now they have to read, now they have to focus on something else instead of focusing on you or focusing on what their thoughts are. 

And the third thing is, is they have a tendency to just slow everything down. And that is, you gotta get 'em set up.

You have to shift back and forth. These people that use, builds. Oh that drives me nuts. Cuz now you have to make sure you're clicking the keyboard all the time. 

I find slides to be really an ineffective tool. And so when I go and do a sales call, in most cases I try to avoid a set of slides at all.

If I can't, I may have them teed up, and I think it's useful to have 'em teed up in the background. 

But I find that one of the things you can do is you can often have them teed up, be on the cover slide, or be on the agenda and never leave that slide.. 

And so very quickly, you, you've kind of checked off this idea that, oh, the guy's got slides, he's prepared.

But the conversation just goes in whatever direction it should go, based on the kinds of questions you ask, the statements they make, the kind of questions they might ask and so forth.

So you're not a big fan. You're not a big fan of that idea that, Oh wait, I'll get to that slide in 10. 


Which is one of my favorite things to hear at a meeting. Nothing. 


Nothing says you're helping me like I'll get to your question on slide 18. 

Yeah, Yeah. I, Oh, that makes me nuts.

That sort of thing. 

And for a customer to hear that it's sort of telegraphs. 

Alright. They're not really interested in what I have to say. 

They're interested in going through their routine. 

Yeah. That you have to fit in the company's box and


And I think that's the number one thing that customers these days really want.

They want a customized solution. 


Even if it's the same solution you give everyone, they want a fields customized by the way you present it to 'em, the words you use, the way you integrate it. 

You could go back to the office and say, Hey, we're doing the same five step process we've always done, but to co company X without the slides, without all the, you know, the brochures that tell you the five steps, they're like, Oh, this is just the process for us.

Yeah. And, and it is customized in the sense that you're talking about it in terms that are specific to that.

So even though your product may be relatively generic product, this feature, you know, you're talking about this specific feature, this functionality, and you're talking about it in terms that are specific to them.

The slides are really secondary to the conversation and the description and your knowledge and expertise of the problem and the solution is much more important than that visual element, which I think can kinda lock you. 

Well, one thing I've really committed to doing is not using slides as much as possible and I do a fair amount of speaking.


And organizers of the things I speak at some of the workshops, some of the conferences are like, where your slides, I'm like, I'm not gonna use slides. 

And they're very put off by that. I have found in the sales process, one thing that can be so much more powerful is to use the whiteboard. 

And to put keywords on a whiteboard and to make it feel like it's organic to that moment.


Even though I've thought out what I might put on the whiteboard. 


You know, the keywords, the things I'm gonna put, they feel like it's unique to them because. It's a blank page and suddenly there are words that go up on it. 


And I think that can be a really powerful tool in creating that sense of customization.

And also a sense that you are hearing what they're saying because so many of the words I put up are their words. 


So that it's highlighting it. 

And I find that that can be a really good way to manage things. 

I think one of the other problems I've seen with PowerPoint slide presentations is that people really clinging to them, like, I wanna make sure I get to everything.


I don't wanna forget one step in the process. 


And that creates the sense that, Oh, geez. 

This is gonna be boring. 

And I've been at meetings where someone pulls out the deck and you're like, Oh, here we go. 


Yeah. Yeah. 

Or worse than that, they pull out the deck the second time because there are two new people that weren't at the last meeting.

And they're like, Let me, let me roll through this slide deck one more time for those of you who missed it two weeks ago. 


Which is, you know, like the worst thing you could do in the room probably. 

Yeah, so the, 

What do you do, Brendan? I'm sorry, I interrupted you. 

What do you do in this situation where someone says, So we'd like to see your slide deck in advance?

I think sometimes, I think if you have to have a slide deck, sometimes it's helpful to have one that's got all the words on it. 

And then you've got another one that's just the images. 

And, I like to not send them slides ahead of time. 

Or I'll send them some very shortened version, some very summarized version of what the 

Dummy slides

Well, you know, like a very short set of slides that maybe just touches on the key points of who I, who the company is. 

The less I can provide. 

In terms of information prior to the meeting, in some cases, the better because it depends on where we are in the process, in the sales process, but generally speaking, I wanna try and have a discovery call with them.

I wanna learn from the customer. 

In fact, in any presentation, I'm hopeful that I'm speaking less than half the time. 

Now, if it's a very large group of people, That's probably not possible then it's much more of a true



But one of the things I find about the presentation process is the sooner 

I can get a customer at some point to speak up and say something, the more comfortable I get in the meeting.

Cuz now it's no longer a presentation that's much more of a dialogue. And so psychologically for me, I find that to be really helpful. 

So if I can figure out a way to get them to provide some kind of, can weigh in on something, ask a question, direct me in a certain direction. 

Those things that kind of all help me feel much more like it's an interactive session.

And then I'm much more on my own. I'm in a much more comfortable place. 

Sure. I think part of that is also they feel like, Wow, this guy's willing to stand up there without the


Cuz I think some people kind of think of it as a shield.. 


It prevents me from having to, I can't make any mistakes if I'm sticking to the PowerPoint slides and I'm reading what I've said 88 other times.


I think though it is helpful, if there's a projector up there and they're expecting PowerPoints, it's not a bad thing to have them. 

I just think you ought to make them very generic so that you're constantly focusing back to your talk to what you're gonna talk about and, you know, so, 

And building rapport, right?

Isn't that really? 

Yeah, building rapport. It depends on, again, it depends on how large the group is.

If you're doing a formal presentation, then yeah, you probably need to have slides up there. 

If it's a group of like, if it's a demo or a Zoom call or a, you know, it's just a few people, you may not have need to have any slides at all, or you may want, again, like I said, tee one up and then just talk and say 

Hey, here's what I had in the agendas. I emailed you agenda beforehand. 

Here's what I thought we talked about. Is that right? And let's get into it.

And it may or will be that you don't need to have any slides whatsoever, or you may want to have a slide or two, that one has here's the workflow that you can talk to, or here's the problem statement. 

And it may be that those are things you have in your back pocket you can bounce to in the event that you need to have some sort of illustration to point to.

If you've got a complex workflow that you want to talk about, it probably makes sense to have that slide in your pocket and then be able to put it up so that when you get to a certain point, you know, the customer can kind of map you. 

How this workflow works and how you understand it and how they understand it and, and where the, over where there might be a disconnect.

I think branding, you and I are both of the age that we were around before PowerPoint and before

the internet, and I think PowerPoint and the internet have really given the customer. 

A lot more access to information A lot sooner. 


And so there, if it's on your website, they've probably looked at it if your competitors are talking about it, if they know how a process works.


I don't think it's useful to have a PowerPoint slide that explains to people stuff that they already know. 

Like if you were giving me a presentation about Chick-fil-A franchise. 


You don't need to walk through the steps of how they do the. 


I know it all too well. 


And those are the types of slides I think that in this day and age, people get very frustrated with, like, Really?

You're telling me what I already know. 


And in the old days, You know, you were on the phone with them or you were in person with them. 

Now with Zoom, now with the internet, now with PowerPoint, with all these tools, it's not hard to vet a company well in advance. 

And so I think that means that really these presentations that we're doing are, like you said, really all about building rapport more than anything else.

It's the note like in trust by. 

Building rapport, but it's really about learning about from the customer's perspective.

So I mean, it's doing discovery. 

It's learning about what their issues are, what their challenges are, and 

If you have to have slides, the more detail you have on them, the more you're pre predefining the answer you might get back or you're creating more potential objection.

Oh no, that's not how we do it. 

You clearly don't understand. But if it's, if there's no slide and you can say, Oh, I don't, Oh, that's better.

They can map it out and, and explain it. 

And you don't have a predefined, you haven't already set some level of expectation or put some sort of stake in the ground in terms of what your understanding is.

And this is where this is again, this is where I think slides can do you a tremendous disservice in the sales. 

Because they predefine what the, the conversation might be. 

And I think that, you know, this is, then again, this is for B2B sales where there's a, where there's the possibility to kind of craft your solution to the customer need.

Or to focus on certain functionality or certain capabilities based on the customer need. 

You've got a consumer product that's, locked down and that may be a different thing, right? 

Anyway, if you're, 

If you're selling home repair, it's pretty straightforward and the slides explain the process and what goes into it, and the warranty and.

Well, I guess, but it depends on what you're repairing. 


It really depends on how flexible your solution is. 

If you're a general contractor that focuses on remodels or home repair, you may have the capability to do all sorts of repairing.

And if you've got a slide that. 

Plumbing and electrical and framing, and they say, Oh, we need a new bathroom. 

And it doesn't list bathrooms are there, right? Then, this is where slides come in. That's 

A great example. 

Yeah. So it's, that's yes. That's kind of where I see these slides.

So I think using slides as a crutch, as 


As a safety net. 

Is something that as you get better at this, you get more expert in terms of how you talk to customers you'll find that the less and less you need slides.

And by the way, this is gonna be really helpful when you're at a cocktail party.

You're in an elevator or, or you're in some other ad hoc situation where someone says, 

Hey, what is that you do? And you don't have the slides around. 

Oh, I show them the slides on my phone then Brendan do you, 

If you're in the elevator with me, I just pull out my phone and I've got PowerPoint right on my phone.

Sure, you do. 

Well that, by the way, that's an indication that we beat the heck out of this topic, so, Oh, there you go. 

So, let's wrap up and maybe we do this again sometimes. 

What do you think? 

Think we should, I would enjoy that so much cuz you know, Brendan and I live for it.

Let's Chat Sales! 

That's right. All right. 

Very good, Bob. Talk soon, man. 

See yah ya

That was another episode of Let's Chat Sales a quick one, of course.

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