In 2014 I led a project for the world’s foremost online payments brand. The brief was blissfully simple, ‘our sales presentations are the same as everyone else’s, we need something better’. Across a 6-9 month period we broke down and rebuilt the core narrative, flow and contents of the presentation. We spent time with both marketing and sales teams helping to understand how we could collectively bring this to life in a way that felt right for the business but most importantly the end customer. We banned the word presentation and ‘deck’ and replaced them both with experience. Not to be overly dramatic but to use a word that exactly described what we needed to create. What had gone before was not an experience but a 1-way infomercial.
Like in so many areas of B2B, audience needs and expectations have moved on. B2B buyers do not want a vanilla, one-way, ‘slide, tap, talk’ corporate presentations. Why would they? Let’s not forget that statistically they’re 60 to 70% of the way through the decision-making process by the time a sales person walks into a room. The likelihood is that they will already know all the basics about your business and have an understanding of your products or services. Don’t drag them through the corporate back story unnecessarily. This was evident in 2014 let alone today.
Anyway, back to the project in question, once we’d rebuilt the narrative, putting the customer at the heart of everything, we began to explore what would be the best presentation vehicle to house this new approach. PowerPoint was too rigid, too linear and although you can create more interactive elements to help you break up the linearity of PowerPoint it can get complex and clunky. One thing we know is that sales teams do not take well to complexity. But what else was there? Well, at that point in time, not a lot, certainly not in terms of an off the shelf solution. Therefore the decision was taken to develop a bespoke solution in the form of a CMS driven web app. The CMS allowed marketing to act as administrators of the tool whilst opening up specific areas to the sales teams in order for them to personalise elements of the presentation. A nice, neat and importantly simple back end.
The front end is where it got exciting, we completely broke open the way in which the corporate story could be told. Empowering both the sales person and the audience to collectively decide on what they wanted to view and discuss. It was free form and entirely fluid, designed to organically follow where the discussion moved. The UI was touch based, interactive and very much worked on the basis of ‘less is more’, guiding the conversation as opposed to being the conversation. We also created specific functionality that took the experience up several notches. For example, a real time, on the fly, business case calculator that allowed sales people to get into the meaty end of the conversation from the get go (if they wanted to). Historically it took until meeting three before a ROI calculator would be used, with this new approach it was more often than not used in the first session with a prospect – significantly cutting the sales cycle down.
So, we’d created a great looking digital asset, this is all very nice but sexy digital work was and is relatively common place. It was what it changed that was most satisfying and incredible to watch and what was that? Behaviour. Sales people behaved differently when using the solution and in turn customers responded differently. We literally changed, on a large scale, how sales professionals sold. And for anyone who’s worked in sales and marketing for any period of time you’ll know that implementing significant change is a tough old gig. The results were immediate and overwhelmingly positive. Now, I’m not going to lie and say this journey didn’t have its ups and downs. It did. Lots of them. Is this tool used today? No, it’s not. But, the behavioural change it brought about acted as a catalyst for an entirely new philosophy for how this organisation sold. That stuck.
Fast forward to 2018 and we have an entire segment of the martech industry dedicated to software vendors who author technologies that do some or all of what we created in 2014. They fly under the ‘Sales Enablement’ banner and are being tipped by many (Bridge included) as the next big wave of martech to hit B2B and stick. Why? Because these technologies are addressing a whopper of a problem that's been biting sales and marketing teams on the backside for decades. That is, how do you get sales and marketing teams to work together and more effectively. Now this is a huge challenge, one that technology alone could never solve, but it can be the vehicle and catalyst to bring about positive change and progression. CRM, CMS, Marketing Automation to name three tech trends that changed the very fabric and DNA of how we market and how we sell.
Anyway, getting back to 'slide, tap, talk' and what's next for the sale presentation. Well, leading the charge in this area is a sales enablement tech vendor called Showpad; a group of Belgium based visionaries who have developed a market leading platform that's very quickly gone (and is going) global. At the heart of the solution is a sales experience component that allows B2B brands to break free of traditional restraints and tell their corporate stories through interactive, guided selling applications. They are effectively enabling what we did in 2014 but on a much, much bigger and better scale with an entire sales enablement solution wrapped around it.
Bridge are an accredited Solutions Partner of Showpad, we help B2B brands to rethink how their sales people sell, present and engage. We use Showpad as the enabling technology to bring this to life, measure success and develop much more effective sales and marketing alignment.
Anyone who wants to know more about this rapidly emerging (and genuinely fascinating) area please get in touch.