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The Greatest Sales Deck from Zuora

I like referring to Andy Raskin’s article, The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen for inspiration.

The 5 Elements of a Brilliant Sales Narrative

The sales deck (pdf) is from Zuora which brilliantly led prospects through the following five elements, in precisely this order:

1. Name a Big, Relevant Change in the World

Don’t kick off a sales presentation by talking about your product, your headquarters locations, your investors, your clients, or anything about yourself. Instead, name the undeniable shift in the world that creates both (a) big stakes and (b) huge urgency for your prospect.

The pitch do not start with “the problem.” When you assert that your prospects have a problem, you put them on the defensive. They may be unaware of the problem, or uncomfortable admitting they suffer from it.

2. Show There’ll Be Winners and Losers

All prospects suffer from loss aversion. That is, they tend to avoid a possible loss by sticking to the status quo, rather than risk a possible gain by opting for change.

To combat loss aversion, you must demonstrate how the change you cited above will create big winners and big losers. In other words, you have to show both of the following:

  1. That adapting to the change you cited will likely result in a highly positive future for the prospect; and
  2. That not doing so will likely result in an unacceptably negative future for the prospect

3. Tease the Promised Land

It’s tempting at this point to jump into the details of your product or service. Resist that urge.

If you introduce product/service details too soon, prospects won’t yet have enough context for why those details are important, and they’ll tune out.

Instead, first present a “teaser” vision of the happily-ever-after that your product/service will help the prospect achieve—what I call the Promised Land.

Your Promised Land should be both desirable (obviously) and difficult for the prospect to achieve without outside help. Otherwise, why does your company exist?

The Promised Land is a new future state, not your product or service.

4. Introduce Features as “Magic Gifts” for Overcoming Obstacles to the Promised Land

If it’s not clear by now, successful sales decks follow the same narrative structure as epic films and fairy tales. Your prospect is Luke, and you’re Obi Wan, furnishing a lightsaber to help him defeat the Empire. Your prospect is Frodo, and you’re Gandalf, wielding wizardry to help him destroy the ring. Your prospect is Cinderella, and you’re the fairy godmother, casting spells to get her to the ball.

When you introduce your product or service, do so by positioning its capabilities like the lightsaber, wizardry and spells—as “magic gifts” for helping your main character (prospect) reach that much-desired Promised Land.

5. Present Evidence that You Can Make the Story Come True

In telling the sales narrative this way, you’re making a commitment to prospects: If they go with you, you’ll get them to the Promised Land.

But the road to the Promised Land is, by definition, littered with obstacles, so prospects are rightly skeptical of your ability to deliver. The last piece of the pitch, then, is the best evidence you can offer that you can make the story you’re telling come true.

By far, the most effective type of evidence is a success story about how you’ve already helped someone else (who is similar to the prospect) reach the Promised Land.