Andre Vlcek (pictured to the left) is an Australia-based sales consultant and Managing Director of Sales Psychology Australia. He specializes in designing and building advanced selling strategies for sales teams.
In this discussion, Andre discusses the Visual Selling with PowerPoint concept that he evolved with Robert Lane.
Geetesh: Tell us more about your concept of visual selling with PowerPoint, and how this evolved from your everyday work.
Andre: About 2 years ago, I arrived for a ‘typical’ one-hour meeting with the human resources manager at one of Australia’s major petroleum companies. This was my first meaningful contact with them, the proverbial foot in the door. The plan was to discuss the firm’s sales recruitment process. Certainly I had my detailed linear PowerPoint show in hand, for what was supposed to be an informal meeting with only this person—and I had thought a lot about what he needed to hear. As soon as I walked into his office, though, I sensed trouble brewing.
The room contained five people, instead of one, and my HR manager contact proceeded to enthusiastically introduce me to his ‘unexpected’ guests, including the general manager of sales, a psychologist HR consultant, the firm’s call center manager, and of all people … the CEO! His guests happened to hear about the meeting just that morning and were curious about individual issues related to their job responsibilities. All of a sudden, my simple, casual talk turned into a full-blown sales demonstration, addressing multiple competing interests and perspectives. Those careful, late-night preparations for this meeting subsequently evaporated into thin air.
Five minutes into the talk, the psychologist interjected that another meeting was coming up and he had just a few quick questions to ask. Of course, my canned slide show didn’t contain appropriate answers to his issues, or, in some cases, slides sat somewhere 30 transitions away. Other attendees soon asked questions, as well, and a discussion ensued. The GM of sales wanted to know to what extent previous projects had increased sales revenues. The HR manager hoped to explore the candidate testing process; and the call center lady was wondering how all this related to her call center environment.
Over the next hour, most of my PowerPoint content sat worthless and unused before me because I couldn’t properly adjust it to the rapidly changing situation.
Annoyance with PowerPoint’s linear design eventually led me to look for alternative ways of presenting information. It was unacceptable that my reputation hinged upon how well I could foretell the future by lining up perfect slide sequences in advance. Surely I needed something other than PowerPoint, I thought, and then I happened across Robert Lane’s Relational Presentation approach while reading another article. That was the solution I needed and eventually Robert and I teamed up to develop the interactive PowerPoint-based selling process featured in this article, called Visual Selling. The Visual Selling Whitepaper published by Microsoft is now available as a free download from the Aspire website.
Geetesh: How do you believe this can benefit end-users — and is this approach restricted to sales presentations?
Andre: I recommend anyone using PowerPoint apply the innovative organizational and navigational structure called Topical Navigation developed by Robert Lane – CEO and Founder of Aspire Communciations. Doing that will provide powerful flexibility to respond to your audience and overcome the constraints of PowerPoints traditional linearity.
In my case, with my branding, it turned out like the example in Figure 1. Categories of information appear along the left side of slides and individual topics within those categories display in the menu at bottom-left. While working with customers, I now can move seamlessly between hundreds of slide options, in any order, at any time.
Figure 1: Modified version of the title slide with navigational hyperlinks on the left side
Having that kind of flexibility has been a lifesaver several times already. The other day, I scheduled another hour-long meeting with a major bank, to discuss improving prospecting skills for their nearly 200 mobile business bankers. I don’t know. Maybe I attract these things, but upon arriving at the establishment, I could see the buying team was visibly distracted and anxious. The Vice President of Sales then informed me that some kind of technical glitch had occurred within their operations and that he could spare only fifteen minutes for our meeting. My timeslot promptly diminished in size by 75% before my eyes! I had to cut right to the point and hit the highlights of my proposal, without appearing frazzled or disorganized in the process.
These days I can do that, and it’s not nearly as difficult as I once thought.
That same kind of powerful flexibility and adaptability is available to anyone who needs to communicate, persuade, or sell their ideas using Microsoft PowerPoint. In conclusion the power of flexibility is one of the best kept secrets within Microsoft PowerPoint!