Sales Presentations: Present Like You Mean It Written

By: Julie Hansen Total Views: 1627

THANKS JULIE!

In order to strike a balance between no theme and full-on theme park, it’s important to understand how to choose a theme that’s right for your presentation and your audience.


A group of flight attendants in matching uniforms strolled through the boardroom handing out drinks and snack-sized peanuts to the executive audience in the boardroom. After some puzzled looks, one of the flight attendants announced: “Buckle your seat belts, you’re in for a ride!” Landlocked training program? Nope. Just an example of a sales presentation venturing into full theme park territory, thus defeating its primary purpose: anchoring their solution to the prospect’s goals or objectives.

A theme can be a powerful unifying tool – especially for longer or team presentations — but there’s a fine line that can be crossed that can spell disaster for your presentation (as it did for this sales team in the above example) when you don’t have a good understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish and some of the traps that you can stumble into.

What is a Presentation Theme?

A theme underscores the central message of your presentation in a way that is meaningful and memorable for your customer. The most effective presentation themes center around prospect’s objectives (growth, competitive advantage, innovation, etc.) and how you’re going to help them achieve it. A theme can typically be described with a few words or a strong image. Although used prominently in your opening and closing, a good theme often runs like a thread throughout your presentation, even influencing your slide design and messaging.

What a Presentation theme is not:

Your Brand.

Don’t make the mistake of confusing your product or service “theme” with your presentation theme. While materials provided by your marketing department may be good, most are focused on your product or company and not specific to your prospect’s unique goals or challenges. A generic theme will not resonate with your customer and provide very little in the way of value or “stickiness.”

Your Customer’s Brand.

I’m all for using a customer’s language and examples from their world, however using their product or branding as a theme is not as unique or effective as you might think. Case in point: An experienced sales team I was working with was pitching a six-figure solution to the Disney organization. Their initial idea was to use a Disney character theme with each section of the presentation focused on a particular character, complete with Disney character props, videos and pictures. At our first meeting I asked the team how many “Disney-themed” sales presentations they thought Disney executives had sat through. The first time was probably cute. The fifteenth? Not so much. We worked together to come up with a theme targeted to the unique goals Disney had in a specific area that their solution resolved. (They won the deal.)

How to choose a theme for your sales presentation:

In order to strike a balance between no theme and full-on theme park, it’s important to understand how to choose a theme that’s right for your presentation and your audience. Before picking out a theme, consider these three questions:

  1. What do you want to accomplish? Different themes convey different emotions. For example, a sports-related theme may be good for challenging or motivating a prospect, a space-related theme may serve to inspire them to greater heights.
  2. What is the tone? Serious? Light-hearted? Humorous? The tone of your presentation should be consistent with your theme. For example, if your message is about turning a company around from the brink of disaster, a theme about badminton may be a little lightweight to support such a substantial subject.
  3. What are the visual possibilities? A good theme lends itself to a clear visual. The more instantly recognizable the better. For example, a theme of “teamwork” might be easily identified by a celebrating sports team or two clasped hands, while a theme of “maximizing value” might be more difficult to quickly convey.

Finding your theme:

Coming up with a theme can be a challenge if you’re not a creative type. Here are some suggestions to help you get started finding the right theme:

  • Brainstorm: If you’re working as a team, plan a brainstorming session with one rule: There are no bad ideas! If you can’t all get together in one place, have everyone list off ten ideas and submit them via email by a certain date. You can then run a poll and vote on the top choice.
  • Review your core message. This is the 10,000-foot view of what you’re trying to say to your prospect or how you’re trying to make her feel. Your presentation itself can be a good source for this core message. Try looking in these sections:
    • Your customer’s objectives: In discovery you should have identified the challenges your customer faces and what desired outcome from your solution was most meaningful for them. Can you describe it in a word or two? Is it freedom, innovation, visibility?
    •  Your competitive advantage: If your presentation is focused on “why buy us” – in other words, they know they need your solution but the decision to buy from is not made — you may want to create a theme around a competitive advantage. For example, if mobility is important to your prospect and your competitors are lacking in this area, a theme like “The Power of Now” can highlight your strengths.
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Eight Ways to Drive Yourself Calm, Not Crazy

by Diane Berenbaum

Between your work, errands, and family commitments, you may not realize how much stress you’re under. However, your body is well aware of it. According to Henry Emmons, MD, author of The Chemistry of Calm,“When you repeatedly get stressed, your nervous system stays keyed up, so even small amounts of stress can make you feel overwhelmed.” All that tension can disrupt your thinking, wear you down, and may even start a chain reaction of health problems.

Yet, you can bring more calm to your hectic life. Here are eight ways to drive yourself calm, instead of crazy:

1. Identify your stressors, and strive to avoid them
How often do you purposely avoid the things that stress you out? And, how many times do you succeed in these endeavors? If you made a list of the top stressors in your daily life, you might be surprised to find that many of them can be avoided. Or, they can be altered to make them less debilitating.

For example, perhaps your day would run more smoothly if you structured your workday so that you missed rush-hour. Or, be clear about your schedule, so others are aware of your availability. Consider ways you can change your habits or adjust your routine, so you feel less stressed.

2. Do what brings you joy
Think about what makes you happy, and then pursue it…relentlessly! Do what brings you joy. It can be anything, from volunteering your time, to walks with friends, to playing with puppies. It doesn’t matter what it is. If it makes you feel good, do more of it! It will give you a broader perspective and lift you up.

3. Do one thing at a time
Our attention is essentially binary; in other words, we can usuallyl only focus on one thing at a time in any given moment. We often multitask to some degree, but delude ourselves about how well we do it. Yet, research shows that doing more than one task at a time, especially more than one complex task, takes a toll on productivity and performance.

Plus, multi-tasking is exhausting. Daniel Levitin, professor of behavioral neuroscience at McGill University, found that “switching comes with a biological cost that ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing.”

4. Say “no,” when appropriate
Some people are uncomfortable saying “no” to other people. In fact, they’d rather inconvenience themselves than say “no” to someone else.

Our inability to say “no” is at the root of a lot of people’s stress. After all, if you were able to say no and feel great about it, odds are that you wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. You might even be at a point where you’re psyched about all the things on your plate… and when you’re truly excited about your projects, it doesn’t feel so overpowering.

5. Exercise—work it out with a workout

The Mayo Clinic found that exercise increases your overall health and sense of well-being, And, it has some direct stress-busting benefits:

  • It pumps up your endorphins. Physical activity helps bump up the production of endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike can also contribute to this same feeling.
  • It’s meditation in motion. After a fast-paced game of racquetball or several laps in the pool, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements.
  • As you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything you do.
  • It improves your mood and your health.  Regular exercise can not only increase your fitness level, it can also build self-confidence and relax you. Exercise can also improve sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All of these exercise benefits can ease stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.

6. Get more sleep
A lack of sleep can be debilitating. Sleep deprivation can weaken your immune system, which could mean you’re less able to fight off illness. You may also experience more headaches and pains, and you may even experience memory loss.

Consider setting your alarm for 10pm to remind you to get ready for bed. Aim to close your eyes and be asleep by 10:30, or a time that is aligned with your body clock. Your mind and body will be grateful for the respite.
7. Write down your thoughts, dreams, and aspirations
There’s just something about the process of sitting with your thoughts and gathering them into logical sentences that switches your brain into a very deep, almost meditative state. It forces you to think seriously, but at the same time enables you to zoom out and see the bigger picture. I have had many of my greatest realizations (and revelations) sitting somewhere with a pen in my hand.

8. Shift your focus; Focus on what soothes you and don’t forget to breathe
Joseph Campbell once said, “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” When you’re feeling tense, you may get the (unproductive) urge to mentally replay what went wrong, over and over in your mind. Dr. Emmons recommends shifting your focus to your body instead. Find a quiet place to sit down, then take long, deep breaths from your diaphragm, and exhale through your mouth.

We may not realize it, but when we’re stressed out, we sometimes forget to breathe. We’re still getting air into our lungs, but we’re not breathing properly or in a way that is beneficial to our health. Instead of shallow breaths, make them deep and meaningful! When you breathe slowly, deeply and deliberately, your body shifts to a relaxed state.

Exhaling longer than you inhale deepens your breathing, which helps calm your nervous system. Emmons also noted that “You can even practice your breathing when you’re not stressed, so you know exactly what deep-breathing counts soothe you.”

So, take a moment, right now, and breathe in deeply. Exhale slowly. Then, breathe again and repeat. Feeling better already?

Proposed State Budget Increases Fail to Address Critical Issues in Higher Education

by Taylor Myers

Policy and Research Analysis

On January 10, 2018, Governor Brown released his final budget proposal, a $131.7 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year. The proposal earmarks $18.5 billion in General Fund appropriations for higher education. Following its release, California Competes published an initial analysis of the new budget which highlighted an expansion of investments in full-time student success and innovations targeted at the millions of workers who lack a college credential. While there are many reasons to be optimistic about the proposal, as a policy blueprint, it fails to address several critical issues for improving student access and success across the state:

1. Investing in college completion is critical to promote degree attainment and close the degree gap.

California needs 2.4 million more credentials and degrees by 2025 to remain economically competitive and closing this gap requires every segment to significantly increase degree attainment. The state has historically been inconsistent with imposing enrollment goals on CSU and UC, and has never imposed a strict completion or attainment goal on the segments. This year is no different—the Governor’s budget does not include any enrollment growth or completion rate expectations for either the UC or CSU.

2. Strong policies to support on-time completion and transfer should support the cost of non-tuition expenses while students attend full-time.

Research suggests that full time students who work between five and ten hours per week are less likely to see their academic performance impaired by their jobs than students who work more than 20 hours per week. However, many students need to work longer hours to cover living expenses. Incentive programs that seek to increase full-time attendance, like the proposed consolidated grant for full-time Community College students, should consider the difficult decisions students face when deciding between academics and work. The California College Promise may address this challenge for students who are eligible for regional college promise programs; regions may use their local programs to support students for a second year of full-time attendance, or to cover non-tuition costs. For students who do not qualify for the California College Promise, or who are not additionally covered by a regional college promise program, a solution has yet to be offered.

3. California’s competitive economy depends on increasing degree attainment, which can’t happen without statewide cross-segmental coordination and aligned data practices.

This spending plan doesn’t address the need for statewide, cross-segmental coordination of higher education systems. Several legislative attempts to create one have been introduced, including the current measure AB 1936, authored by Assembly Members Low and Eggman. Over the last several months, policymakers have shown interest in revisiting the Master Plan for Higher Education and in considering more aligned goals for the state’s public higher education segments. But despite demonstrated enthusiasm from policymakers, the budget does not address the need for statewide coordination.

Nor does it include any impactful provisions for data collection and sharing – it leaves institutions to continue to serve as gatekeepers and stewards of information on student and programmatic outcomes. Currently, state policymakers and researchers have no way of efficiently and robustly evaluating the impacts of the state’s higher education investments. California desperately needs a statewide longitudinal data system to evaluate the impacts of the myriad of programs receiving funds from the state.

As they continue to refine the state’s 2018-2019 higher education budget, policymakers should consider the efficacy of the policy changes proposed in the current budget in the absence of the critical components discussed above. Addressing the needs of California’s diverse student population and ensuring equity in educational attainment and economic opportunities requires significant investment from the state in meaningful segmental or institutional goals, stronger higher education finance policies, intentional cross-segmental coordination, and a robust longitudinal student data system.