People, office

Did you know more than 60% of qualified pipeline deals end in no decision? What this means is that the lion’s share of prospects have a serious bias against doing something different.

Because of this bias, salespeople need to revise their approach to their customer conversations. Salespeople can’t just think of themselves as sellers armed with traditional selling skills. More than anything, salespeople need to start thinking of themselves as managers of change. As such, you need to apply the principles of change management to your customer conversations.

In their excellent book, “The Heart of Change,” authors John Kotter and Dan Cohen reach a counterintuitive conclusion about how change happens. According to them, change almost always follows a “see – feel – change” sequence, not an “analyse – think – change” one.

In other words, at a very fundamental level, change is visual. So, to deliver a story that primes your prospect to do something different, you need to be thinking in visual terms, too, deploying a status quo-busting message in visually powerful tools (ideally, whiteboard-style, not PowerPoint!).

As you develop your story, keep in mind these “three Cs” of visual storytelling, which can give your customer conversations the visual edge you need to be engaging and, most importantly, remembered long after you leave the room:

  • Context – Paint a visual picture that highlights how your prospect’s world is changing and how their current situation leaves them vulnerable to emerging business trends and other external factors. What forces are behind their status quo situation? How is that situation leaving them exposed to what you know is coming? These types of questions will give you the context to set the stage for a provocative “why change” conversation in which you introduce prospects to their “unconsidered needs,” or the challenges or missed opportunities they don’t yet know about. By visually showing the emerging challenges that could stop them from reaching their most important goals, you help them see and feel the urgency to change. It also sets you up for the “why you” story, allowing you to link your prospect’s unconsidered needs to your unexpected strengths.
  • Contrast – The decision-making part of the brain, or the “old brain,” responds powerfully to images, and it craves contrast to help it make decisions quickly. By drawing—literally—the contrast between the pain of your prospect’s current situation and value they can reap with you, you can lead prospects on a pathway to a “new safe” where your solutions are specially suited to resolve the business problems they’re currently mired in.
  • Concrete – The decision-making part of the brain isn’t analytically driven—hence the “see – feel – change” sequence that change typically follows. As a result, using too many abstract visuals will bog your “why change” story down, contributing to your prospect’s default perception that change is too complex and hard to realize. Instead, use numbers, basic shapes, arrows and stick (preferably on a whiteboard!) to translate potentially complex concepts into clear and resonant ideas. For most prospects, change already seems challenging enough. The right types of visuals in your story can help to dispel that notion.
Convincing prospects to leave their status quo requires a sea change in the way salespeople think about their jobs. It’s time for traditional selling principles to take a backseat to the principles of change management. Great visual storytelling can help you realize that shift in your customer conversations.

By Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and marketing officer, Corporate Visions