Sales Calls without PowerPoint: Why High-Tech Sales Gurus Go Low-Tech

The new low-tech trend in high-tech sales? Salespeople at Software AG, Borland and Symantec are ditching PowerPoint and engaging with customers using a whiteboard and markers. Here's a look at Software AG's strategy.

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"Instead of having a canned, standard technical diagram," he adds, "the salesperson really gets a view of the customer's world."

A New Way to Sell Software

Today, Software AG has six WhiteBoard-developed and -inspired presentations for its sales force. Gentry says that while his salespeople have accepted and embraced the selling method, customers are often shocked when the salesperson doesn't bring a laptop and projector.

"They're thinking: Here comes vendor, plug in the projector and run the PowerPoint show for us," Gentry says. "And then you say: 'There won't be any PowerPoint today, and I don't even have my computer with me, and I just brought these four markers with me. So if you could point me to a whiteboard or flip chart, I'd appreciate that.'"

Beyond any pleasant customer "shock value," Software AG salespeople who have rehearsed their presentations demonstrate a new level of confidence, Gentry adds. "With WhiteBoardSelling, you're helping them gain their confidence, learn the message and feel good about their delivery of it," he says. Salespeople can also go off script with ease or shrink their message for a harried executive who can meet only for 10 minutes.

PowerPoint still has its purpose and place at Software AG—in meetings with 500 people, for instance, the WhiteBoard method isn't as effective, Gentry says. "There's a time and place for PowerPoint, but unfortunately it's become a crutch for most people," he adds. "This way, it forces them to really learn the story."

As to a return on the time and money invested, Gentry can't definitively say the WhiteBoardSelling methodology has "lead to this amount of money or this particular [customer] win," because there are a lot of elements in play in a customer engagement, which can last several months.

However, he's heard plenty of successful stories from customers who appreciated the PowerPoint-free process. In addition, he tracks when and where the WhiteBoardSelling method was used in a customer-facing process. And in more and more the opportunities when Software AG is the winner, he says, a salesperson has used the WhiteBoard presentation.

"It's not just for software vendors," Gentry adds. "It's for anyone who has to communicate effectively, engage audiences and tell a story—but also tell a story that's aligned with a message."

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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