I was recently coaching a client on a presentation for a product his company sells. Its purpose was to give customers a high-level overview of the product. In the presentation, there was a section called “Success Stories”. When my client presented this section, he showed three PowerPoint slides. Each told a story about a customer who was using the product successfully. It took just a couple of minutes to go through all three. After the stories, he moved on to a demo and then finished the rest of the presentation.
During our conversation after his presentation, I asked him why the success stories were grouped together.
“It’s a logical grouping and I wanted to show that we have customers using the product successfully,” he replied.
“Have you considered spreading them throughout the presentation?”
“What do you mean?”
“A well-told story grabs the attention of any audience, technical or non. When you begin to tell a story during your presentation, you will generally notice your audience tuning back in just because you say something about a story. If told well, your audience will have a chance to come back to you if they drifted away. Plus, a story helps illustrate a point. Bill Gove, former president of the National Speakers’ Association, recommended “Tell a story, make a point” as the format for any speech.”
“That sounds good but where do I put these stories?”
“Use a story where your successful customer used your product in a way that illustrates one of your points in your presentation. I’d also consider using your most powerful story as the closing in your presentation.”
Many times in technical sales presentations, we can use customer success stories to illustrate a point. To do this successfully and not just state facts, we need to take the approach that I call “story time with Uncle Bob.” Rather than saying “we have a customer who uses our product for…” and then just rattle off facts, start off by saying something like “You know, one customer of ours had a problem with this. They were losing $1000 a minute when it happened. Do you know what they did?” Give some details about the customer. Use basic storytelling techniques to tell the customer success story. It will grab the attention of your audience so much better than just reciting (or worse, reading off the slide) a series of marketing facts.
Use your customer success stories wisely throughout your presentations to both support your point and get your audience’s attention back. “Tell a story, make a point”! For a simple formula to create your stories, see my post called “The 5 C’s of Great Stories“.