Alli McKee
Sep 13, 2017 · 4 min read

Selling is easier when you’re passionate about your product.

Your burning idea seems to share itself with customers. And when you’re on a roll, you can’t help but drive straight for the goal line.

Not so fast.

Pitching is about sharing your story, but your pitch won’t resonate until you’ve done your discovery work.

At Sales Hacker in NYC, we got to see the anatomy of a “deal-closing Discovery Call” — based on data from 519,291 calls — from Gong.io CEO Amit Bendov.

The top tip?

Make your conversation feel like ping pong, not football.

My visual notes from the session at Sales Hacker

How to dig in

Instead of relying on your pitch to open, keep three key elements in mind: listen more than you’re talking, play ping pong not football, and focus but stay flexible.

But how to actually do this without getting too deep in your own head? Am I talking too much? Was that switch 15 seconds or more like 22 seconds? Is this the 5th topic? Or the 4th?

How do you stop worrying about your performance so you can just perform? Turn your materials into your map.

Taking a lesson from Netflix

Earlier this summer, Netflix launched Interactive Storytelling. It’s “choose your own adventure” TV for the customers with the shortest attention spans of all — children.

From Forbes’ article “Never Bored: Netflix Launches ‘Interactive Storytelling’ to Save Summer”

Instead of presenting one linear storyline, they’re putting the audience in the director’s chair by opening a new “branch” of the story with each choice.

And it’s not just for TV. HubSpot has found that personalized and interactive videos have 35% higher click-through-rates as compared with generic videos.

The conclusion? It’s time to start treating your customers like children. It’s time to put them in the director’s chair.

Building your dashboard

When compiling your materials to act as a “map” for your discovery call, your dashboard is the most important part. Use the most popular dashboard in the world for inspiration: your iPhone.

Use iconography. Create “buttons” with shapes and icons. Think simple and consistent. The Noun Project is a great resource.

Limit cognitive overload. Limit it to <9 topics. Otherwise, the choice will seem overwhelming.

Hide complexity. Even though some apps are deeper than others (e.g. my 16 Spotify playlists, 100s of channels, and 1000s of songs vs. the one-stop-shop Camera), present the choices as equals. Avoid showing the complexity upfront so you don’t overwhelm them (e.g. the 225 voicemails from salespeople you haven’t listened to yet, in my case).

Pick the top 4 topics. What are the most important topics to discuss? What’s in your bottom bar? Even though you may have several options, help them prioritize.

Linking is your best friend

The most underrated feature in Google Slides? Linking. With links, you can build your own world for your customer to explore at her own pace.

Link to internal content: simple, visual imagery within the Discovery deck to spark back and forth conversation on each designated topic (“app”).

Or, link to external content in a new tab — maybe part of your product demo, a partner’s website, or a relevant video. Possibilities are endless.

Checkerboard Decks

For easy navigation, alternate content slides with copies of your dashboard slide. Until we have a tool that supports this interactive storytelling in a more fluid way, this hack seems to work well.

As a result, you’re only one “Next Slide” away from Home and get the same spatial storytelling effect that Prezi offers — but without any seasickness.

The result

By giving the customer control of the conversation, you’re forcing that “ping pong” effect. While it takes time to build your dashboard, you’re investing in the guideposts that will increase your odds of closing the deal.

And in sales, who doesn’t like better odds?


About the Author: Alli McKee is an artist and entrepreneur who started her career making too many PowerPoints as a consultant at Bain & Company. Seeing how broken communication at work was, she spent time in education in South Africa and in design at IDEO.org to better understand how to improve communication by relying on visual, rather than solely verbal, content. After GSB, she learned to code and founded Stick to turn that “magic” visual design and storytelling process into software that turns text into visuals, automatically. Her goal is to use Stick to enable anyone to tell better visual stories to make their ideas sell, spread — and stick.

Show and Sell

Storytelling is the new Selling. Show and Sell brings together the best of strategy, storytelling, and design to show companies how to sell more, faster with stories that stick. Brought to you by stick.ai.

Alli McKee

Written by

CEO and Founder, Stick.ai - Illustrating Ideas in real time with NLP + ML. Painting and Improv on the side. TEDx Stanford.

Show and Sell

Storytelling is the new Selling. Show and Sell brings together the best of strategy, storytelling, and design to show companies how to sell more, faster with stories that stick. Brought to you by stick.ai.

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