Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pick Up The Phone!

“So then I sent the rep an email…”
“I’m waiting for support to respond to my status update request”

Whenever I hear a phrase similar to these in one of my consulting engagements, I know I’m close to finding a problem, or at least uncovering a major symptomatic issue. Let me explain ..

After four months of travel running enablement and training workshops, May has been kinder and gentler and I have been working on a couple of “take-home” consulting opportunities. Both involve some badly broken internal sales processes at a couple of mid-sized companies. These processes were impacting both the effectiveness of presales engineers and ultimately the win-rate of sales. You know when a process is so badly broken that the injured parties readily admit that they spent more time trying to fix the blame as opposed to fix the process, which is why a third-party comes in to obtain resolution.

In both cases, email was to blame, and the people who relied upon it as their primary communications mechanism. Instance #1 involves a company with incredibly poor Sales Discovery habits and instance #2 a company where Sales Engineering spends 35% of their time bailing out Customer Support. Repeatedly, an email was
  1. Left unanswered
  2. Sent solely as a CYA (Cover Your A$$)
  3. Incomplete and poorly written
  4. Partially answered
My response in both the situations was to say “pick up the phone!”. An email is linear (in the good old days we’d call it half-duplex) as only one party can communicate at a time. An email can’t contain (much) emotion – I don’t feel there is much room for smiley-faces in business communications unless you really know the other person. A phone call allows you to get all your questions answered (you’re in sales – you know how to ask questions and get them answered!). Plus a phone call leaves no audit record other than that the call was actually made. You can say things in a call you cannot in an email.

So if you are frustrated in some internal process (or even in a customer communication) see if email is in the communication chain. If it is – ask yourself what would happen if you picked up the phone rather than send another email?

Maybe things would magically get better.

In my two engagements, the discovery rate doubled and presentation standards have improved dramatically in just three weeks for one customer, and the other customer reports that post-sales time has decreased from 35% to a still-high 22% and is trending downwards.

Pick Up The $^#@ Phone!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The #1 Trick To Improve A PowerPoint Deck

Google "PowerPoint Presentation Tips" and you will get over 47 million hits.

There is some great content out there, ranging from slide design techniques to the classic Non-Verbal Communication tips (stand up straight, look at your audience, breathe, speak slowly etc.) Yet there is one basic, fundamental rule that I see broken all the time - and hardly anyone writes about it. It's simple.

Here is the Prime (PowerPoint) Directive:

"Review your PowerPoint from 40 feet (13m) distance using a standard overhead projector or on a wide screen (60" plus) HDTV".

One of the biggest attention killers is that people simply have to work too hard to read / understand your slides. That because while they may look great on your laptop - when viewed in a conference room setting (where >80% of PPT pitches take place) you have:
  1. Poor choice of colors. Red, Yellow, Green and even Light Blue may disappear with an old or underpowered projector. If they are your corporate colors then good luck.
  2. Font size is too small. Dinky "product marketing" 10 point font is illegible from that distance.
  3. Images are unclear. Usually because they are too small or poorly labeled.
  4. Animations and highlighting get lost.
You get the idea! And why 40 feet? The most important person in the room will often sit at the back of the room in the power position. They may also be one of the older folks in the room. If your VIP cannot read your slides - you are lost.

So - call to action. From now on review all your sides using the Prime PPT Directive. If they are slides produced by another division or department - send them back if they fail the test.

Let me know how this works for you.