The less than helpful metaphor: The sales doctor and customer patient.

Pain points, a lot of salespeople (and sales training) use this metaphor. The metaphor assumes your potential customer is in pain, has some urgent problem that needs solving. And that you are the “doctor” who can help them.  The problem with this metaphor is that it is not true, it doesn’t really apply.

It’s pretty rare that a potential customer is in an urgent situation (is in “pain”).  I just worked on an emergency equipment replacement project that took a year to conclude.  They were not in pain, but they realized they were going to face some big problems in the future if they didn’t replace the piece of equipment as soon as they could.  It was an emergency because it wasn’t budgeted for and the budgeting process would have added a lot of time to the replacement process.

According to business consultant Andy Raskin, there is a better way to look at potential customers (Pitch stakes not pain).   You look at them from a What’s at stake? perspective.  What’s at stake if they do, or do not, purchase the new technology or service?  What’s at stake for them if they wait until next year’s budget?

As Andy Raskin advises, your presentations should be focused on two future outcomes “one that your audience wants, and one that your audiences fears”. What’s at stake for your audience?

My presentation planning begins with two questions: What’s my message and who’s my audience? I am now going to add a third question, what’s at stake for this audience?

So as a presenter, what’s at stake for you if your audience doesn’t remember your message?

Joe Pops

Can you give me one good reason?

number 1

I was in Malaysia and Singapore this month to give some mini-workshops on sales presentations. During one of the sessions I asked my audience, who was very engaged, to “Give me one good reason” to buy their product.  Most of the attendees struggled to come up with an answer.  I thought it may be an ESL (English as a second language) issue since things get lost in translation, but even the English speaking members were not having an easy time.

I used this “one good reason” exercise when I was discussing the need for a concise, clear message in sales presentations. I thought it would be a good place to start, something everyone could relate to.  But I was wrong, it was not that way at all. Coming up with 10 or 12 reasons why customers should buy their products was not a problem, however coming up with one reason was difficult.  Was this because they knew their products and services so well, in so much depth, that they could not get beyond the specifications, features/benefits mode … a case of “You can’t see the forest for the trees”?  Maybe it was another version of the Curse of Knowledge? (Curse of Knowledge)

This can also happen to presenters. You know your content, your idea, so well that you can’t seem to condense it down to its basic core. The core message of a presentation should answer a simple question: what is your point?  It should give the audience one good reason to act on what you are presenting. It’s been proven that people can only remember a couple of points, not the dozens presenters typically throw at them.

So, if you want one good reason to follow this blog, here it is:  An impactful presentation is key to moving your idea forward (or selling your product).  In this blog I explore how you can create that impact.

Any ideas on how to better help people develop a core message for their presentations?

Joe Pops

Refuse to be boring

What’s your point? 4 tips on writing the message for your presentation.



whats your point

Think about the last presentation you attended; what was the presenter’s point?

Designing a presentation around the most important point (the message) greatly increases the chances that the audience will remember it over time. This is why presentation design starts with crafting a clear concise message. One mistake presenters make is to assume an audience can remember multiple “takeaways”. The old saying is true; if everything is important then nothing is important.

I follow a message crafting framework that is taught by Dcode communications ( in their presentation training program called Wavelength. They recommend crafting your message by completing the statement What I really want you to understand is _______ .  The you is the audience for the particular presentation you are working on; the what is the one thing you need them to remember after you finish.

It sounds easy but it isn’t.  A couple years ago my wife asked me to help her design a presentation on writing for (academic) publication; it took a lot of discussion and questions (from me) for her to identify the most important point she wanted the audience to take away. During our discussion her “message” often blended with the learning objectives of the presentation, but there is a difference. For even experienced presenters it can be challenging to boil down the content into a single message; the content supports the message.

Here are my tips for writing a presentation message:

Figure out your point, as in the question, “So what’s your point?” Your point is not your goal – your goal for the presentation is the result of the audience understanding, and acting on, your point.

Try and write your message in one clear and concise sentence, “What I really want you to understand is …”. If you are a Twitter user, think of it as a 140 character tweet.

Use the words “you or your” in the message. (Remember the You factor from a previous blog)

Don’t assume your message is obvious – is it obvious for everyone in the audience?

State your message early and late in your presentation but don’t actually say “What I really want you to understand is…” Design everything in your presentation (content and visuals) around supporting your message. As the folks at Dcode say, “Presentation is driven by message, not content.”

So remember, presentation design starts with crafting a clear concise message. Designing your presentation around your message will greatly increase the chance that your audience will remember it long after you leave the room.

What do you think?


Joe Pops

Refuse to be boring