Driving success from Sales Enablement investments

Customizing the messages in sales decks

Robin Griffiths

This blog attempts to answer the thorny question of how much control you should give sales people over the creation of presentation decks – an area fraught with misunderstanding and different points of view!

I also take a look at how sales enablement platforms can help and, in some cases, hinder.

Marketing control versus Sales customization

In the old days of ‘product push’, the product marketing team could argue, not unreasonably, that they should produce the slides used by sales people for presentations, and sales people should put the name of the customer on the title slide and they were done! This way marketing could keep tight control over the messages and the look and feel of the deck.

With the move to solution / consultative selling, however, this no longer works. Even at the early, exploratory stage in the sales process, sales people now need to do their research and tune the presentation slides for the specific prospect and persona to reflect relevant market insights, stated goals of the company, likely opportunities and challenges, etc.

So the question is, how to allow the required level of flexibility without completely losing control over the end result?

Sales Enablement Platforms to the rescue?

Most Sales Enablement Platforms allow you to ingest existing PowerPoint files into the system. The files are actually deconstructed and stored as data in database tables. When a sales person subsequently opens a presentation inside the platform, the system displays the content using its own rendering engine (Microsoft PowerPoint is no longer being used).

One advantage of this approach is, it makes it much easier for the platform to automatically synchronize content to local devices (e.g. iPad, phone) for offline viewing. Also storing presentations in a database takes up less space, which is important for vendors as they have to provide the servers in the cloud to hold all this stuff for customers!

Once you’ve moved your presentation from a PowerPoint file to data in a database, however, manipulating slides and editing them becomes a whole lot harder! With some sales enablement platforms, you have to re-export a presentation back into a pptx file, edit it using Microsoft PowerPoint, and then re-import the file.

Other platforms allow you to select individual slides from different presentations you’ve loaded to the database (your slide library) to pull together your presentation but there’s little or no ability to edit what’s actually on the slides. I’ve heard vendors say, “This is fine because Marketing wants to control what’s on slides and doesn’t want sales people to write whatever they like!”

As we’ve discussed above, however, if you want your sales people to follow a consultative or solution selling approach, being able to customize the message for the individual prospect is fundamental! So platforms that don’t support easy editing of presentation slides once they’re in the system won’t be right for teams that follow a solution selling methodology.

More advanced platforms provide full, native editing capabilities within the UI, allowing sales people to quickly assemble relevant slides from the library and tune language on individual slides for the particular opportunity they’re working on.

Automated generation of slide decks

The alternative to the ‘slide library’ approach is a ‘presentation builder’ tool. These tools provide a set of screens with fields on them for the sales person to enter and edit the key insights and messages they want to communicate in the presentation. When he / she is happy with the text they have entered, they hit a button and the tool automatically generates the required presentation slides, using a template designed by the marketing team and the text entered by the user.

The advantage of this approach is the company can exercise very tight control over what can be changed by the sales person and what can’t, and which slides always have to be included. This is particularly useful in highly regulated industries, such as financial services, where tight control has to be exercised over exactly what is and isn’t said to customers.

Which approach best suits your company will depend of the level of presentation customization sales people require to be able to sell effectively versus how tightly you need to control the message.

If Sales Playbooks are on your agenda, look out for my next blog which is about how to structure them.

Robin Griffiths

Robin’s background includes Director of Projects at industrial group Birmid Qualcast and Founder and Director of Cambridge Consulting Engineers. Robin went on to start Force12 Software and led the company for 6 years; securing $5m in venture capital funding and establishing operations in the USA and Europe. Robin left Force12 in early 2004 to found BPM Works.

Robin is an expert in insight-based selling and messaging development. He has developed programs for some of the world’s leading companies to equip sales people with the knowledge they need on customers and propositions to be more successful.

Robin has a First Class Honors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from King’s College London and a Masters Degree from Glasgow University.

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