article | March 6, 2013
How to Sell Your Ideas to the C-Suite
An acquaintance recently asked me to review a presentation he’d created for his CRO. This guy is an SVP of Sales, and a sales process expert. He needed to make a business case for a new department in his company. If successful, this department would turbocharge revenue growth. He needed approval to spend money. Some of it would be CapEx, but labor costs would rise too. The stakes were high, personally and for his organization.
The deck was 237 slides long.
In this article, I’ll suggest a framework for a C-Level sales presentation. Even though it’s intended for the top sales leader, anyone can use it. It is short, simple, and powerful. It works for sales professionals also. If you are selling into the C Suite, give it a try. Let me know what you find. Even if you’re restricted by a required format, the framework can still add value.
Click Here to download the C Suite Presentation Template.
Why do so many executives equate a great presentation with complexity? We have all sat through these mind-bending presentations. How many times have you seen the CEO give the “wrap it up” sign? Usually, the unfortunate presenter still has 15 slides left. He lost his audience. He ran out of time. The great concept he had was unrecognized because the audience needed a break.
A caveat: this deck isn’t intended for a simple project update or QBR. It is for executives who need to advance an idea or seek approval. Here is the framework:
Slide 1: Project Name
Slide 2: Statement of what you are solving for, in persona language.
Slide 3: The Solution – get right to the point!
Slide 4: Business Case
Slide 5: Million Dollar Slide
Slide 6: The Competitive Lens
Slide 7: The Project Team
Slide 8: KPIs
Slide 9: Timeline
Slide 10: Executive Summary
The Secret Sauce
The secret sauce is your talk track. In 90% of the presentations you’ve seen, the presenter lets the deck lead them. Click to slide, paraphrase what’s on slide, click to next slide, repeat. This is death. For the audience, as well as for your idea or your sales process. With only 10 slides, you are requiring yourself to create a compelling story. Your words take the lead. The deck supports you, not the other way around. If they give you an hour to present, you take 45 minutes. No more. If you do this correctly, it will have tremendous impact.
This format also works for the top sales leader at the annual SKO meeting. When you address your team, there are always skeptics to take into consideration. They will especially appreciate the Competitive Lens slide.
The Power of the Appendix
People love to believe their ideas are so complicated they can’t be expressed succinctly. No problem – everything else goes into your Appendix. It’s a separate deck. Your boss loves your idea but wants to see more details or specifics? He asks you to show him your math? No problem. Go to your Appendix. Use your presentation tool to build links in it. Use a Venn or fishbone diagram to lay everything out. You can go straight to the section you need to support your case.
Leaders fail to get great ideas adopted all the time. Careers rise and fall in part because of this. Don’t let your presentation drag you into the weeds. The executives you present to will remember you positively for it.
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