Everything You Need to Know About Whiteboarding in Sales

Last updated: 02-22-2020

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Everything You Need to Know About Whiteboarding in Sales

Whiteboarding your sales presentations is a powerful alternative to PowerPoint—and research shows it’s more effective, too.

You’ve likely heard the phrase, “Death by PowerPoint.” It’s become a common way to describe the mind-numbing experience of sitting through a feature-length slide presentation filled with bullet points and clip art.

It’s a little dark, but the point is clear: If you want to engage your audience, while standing out from your competitors, relying on a shoddy sales deck isn’t the answer.

Thankfully, there’s a better way to deliver your sales presentations—one that won’t put your audience to sleep.

Whiteboarding is a modern selling methodology that incorporates elements of visual storytelling to effectively engage your audience during your sales presentation.

Unlike PowerPoint presentations, whiteboarding can empower your sales team to convey your message with more consistency and confidence. Research also shows that whiteboarding communicates a more memorable sales message than traditional slide presentations.

Whether you use a whiteboard, a flip chart, or the back of a napkin, telling a compelling visual story can be a powerful differentiator in competitive and complex selling environments.

With proper execution, whiteboarding has the ability to shorten sales cycles and build greater trust with buyers.

In fact, our research shows that simple, concrete, hand-drawn visuals on a whiteboard outperform PowerPoint presentations in the areas of recall, engagement, presentation quality, credibility, and persuasion.

These benefits hold true in remote selling environments as well. A separate research study found that using interactive visual stories for virtual sales calls boosts engagement, increases favorable attitudes toward your story, improves recall, and makes prospects more likely to meet with you.

These studies reinforce what decision scientists call The Picture Superiority Effect—a research-backed concept affirming that pictures are far better than words at getting people to remember what you communicate. And making your message more memorable is critical, especially considering that memory is the catalyst for decision-making.

Keep in mind, however, that whiteboarding successfully takes more than just drawing pictures or writing down words. Wielding a pen instead of a clicker as your sales weapon of choice requires a purposeful, repeatable, and structured approach.

Incorporating visual storytelling into your sales strategy needs to be developed into a systematic process within your organization. Following these three steps will ensure that your sales reps can deftly deliver your story with confidence and conviction.

Great whiteboards look spontaneous, and the imagery seems simple, but they’re the product of a well-facilitated message development process. They follow a proven choreography for how a great story is built, told, and visualized.

Whiteboarding should also include and leveraging brain science in the process. This includes understanding how visual contrast is required to spark a reaction to your picture, and how to grab and spike attention with compelling visual techniques and storytelling models. It isn’t merely about putting some words, arrows, and stick figures on a board.

If you can’t explain or justify why you draw your whiteboards the way you do, then you’re just guessing and hoping that it’s useful. Instead of guessing, develop your whiteboards using science-backed principles that are tested and proven to work. And ensure your message matches the specific decision you’re trying to address in the different stages of the customer journey.

Packaging your whiteboard presentations for use in the field requires a toolkit containing coaching and customer-facing content. As you might expect, teaching a sales rep to deliver your whiteboard is like helping an actor learn their part—it’s requires both a compelling message and a convincing delivery.

As the director, you provide a script and a storyboard. You will need to decompose your whiteboard into a “build,” showing how each part is drawn, along with the commentary behind it. This is documented in a sales coaching guide with thumbnail pictures of the whiteboard steps with the accompanying script next to it.

You should also capture an example of someone delivering your whiteboard presentation and providing a video or voiceover of a slide deck, complete with illustrated images and micro-builds. This helps demonstrate the ideal timing, cadence, emphasis, and interaction.

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Your sales reps need to understand both the art and science of whiteboarding.

Your salespeople need training on the use of a pen and a writing surface and getting comfortable with the whiteboard presentation. They need to understand the why behind the story—why the story needs to be told the way it’s been developed. Share the supporting psychology and storytelling models at work in the content, as well as the ultimate objective for each whiteboard.

Practice, practice, practice. Repeated three times not to be trite, but because this is the part where many whiteboards fall apart.

Your salespeople need to practice delivering the whiteboard until they can deliver it naturally and demonstrate complete command of the content. It’s not just about eliminating errors. Ongoing training, practice, and coaching builds confidence and creates ownership around the story. Ideally, you will develop coaches who are capable of providing appropriate feedback and certify client-facing folks on their delivery.

Here are some examples of whiteboarding in action. The following slide deck includes three example whiteboards:

The Dangers of One-Size-Fits-All Sales Messaging from Corporate Visions

1. Slides 2-6 – The first whiteboarding example explains why customer expansion requires a different approach than customer acquisition.

2. Slides 10-18 – The second whiteboarding example illustrates the power of Unconsidered Needs in your acquisition-focused sales message.

3. Slides 23-30 – The final whiteboarding example shows the benefits of using research-backed renewal and expansion message frameworks.

Of course, these three visual examples are only one dimension of the full whiteboard presentation. How you deliver the story verbally adds depth and weight to your story.

Great visual stories don’t happen spontaneously. You need to intentionally plan and build them based on the different buying moments in the Customer Deciding Journey.

In the beginning, you need to answer the question in the prospect’s mind: Why should I change? You need a whiteboard that helps them see why their status quo isn’t safe. It should also convey why they need to consider doing something different.

The next question is: Why you? For that, you need a visual story that clearly delineates your differences and strengths in contrast to the status quo and the competitive alternatives.

Finally, you need to answer the question: Why now? That calls for a visual story that presents the business case and a relevant example of how someone achieved their desired outcomes and realized the projected value.

Each of these requires a different, complimentary whiteboarding practice that builds on the previous one. They develop your story along the path to decision-making solution that results in a sale.

Having a good sales process is important. But having something truly provocative to say when you actually interact is essential.

Visual storytelling is the fuel that powers your sales process engine.


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