Storytelling in Sales Presentations

Part
01
of four
Part
01

Using Storytelling in a B2B Sales Process - Best Practices

THE MESSENGER

Who is telling the story or delivering the message is a crucial part of how effective B2B Storytelling is; and thus an integral consideration to implement best practices in the B2B Sales Process.

THE CONTENT

Creating content is inherent in using storytelling in the B2B Sales Process, but best practices in creating content include quality versus quantity, both how long-lasting and how relevant the content is, and how innovative the ideas in the content are. Each of these best practices relies on the business to make the best decision for their budget and capability. How the content makes the end user feel, how consistent the content is, and the channels utilized are three content related best practices that any company can implement.

Research Strategy

We combed many articles on B2B storytelling and determined what overarching similarities they shared and found examples of each, determining that the messenger and the content are the most important best practices to consider when creating a B2B sales campaign.
Part
02
of four
Part
02

Visual Design to Enhance Storytelling in B2B Sales - Best Practices

After an extensive search through consulting sites and industry related sites, as well as searches related to B2B companies that are demonstrating excellence in the area of visual storytelling, data on the best practices related to visual storytelling for B2B brands was not found in the public domain. However, several useful insights on the various types of visual elements that are being used successfully, as well as examples of companies that are doing it well were found, and have been included as helpful findings.

Helpful Findings

Visual Interactive Content

  • It has been found that visual interactive content results in a 70% conversion rate. Therefore, if the goal is to move people along the sales funnel, this type of content should be considered.
  • One example of interactive visual content is this animated ebook produced by NASDAQ. Why does it work? Because it allows NASDAQ to highlight what they feel are the most important points, while allowing customers who want more detail to easily get it. Killer Visual Strategies also recommends ebooks when companies have a large amount of data to share.
  • Hubspot offers a Website Grader which allows potential customers to see how their website is performing. One of the keys to the success Hubspot is having with the tool for lead generation, is the fact that it requires minimal effort on the part of the customer; only a website address and email needs to be entered in order to receive valuable results.
  • The two types of interactive content that has been found to be most popular with viewers are interactive infographics and interactive videos.
  • According to Ceros, the best practices for creating interactive infographics include having solid data, knowing what the story is, having a visual theme, and adding depth through examples, analogies, quotes, and/or commentary.
  • Other types of interactive content include calculators, self-evaluators, surveys, and quizzes.

Types of Visual Storytelling

  • According to OnmiKick, visual storytelling can include photos, memes, GIFs, custom illustrations, charts/graphs, videos, animations, and infographics.
  • This article on Gartner's blog shows the difference between simply using a graphic and using a graphic that also tells a story.

Examples

  • As described below in the research strategy outline, the examples being included here are those that were highlighted by at least two marketing experts or consulting firms as being an example of excellency in visual digital storytelling for B2B brands.
  • This video for HP called The Wolf focuses on the importance of printer security. While this is from 2017, other videos have been produced more recently. Zoominfo and Digital Authority Partners both liked the approach because the company was able to make a dry topic engaging.
  • Cisco has used several visual storytelling strategies that have been effective and engaging, including The Network Effect which was highlighted by Telepathy, and a graphic novel that was highlighted by Digital Authority Partners.
  • Deloitte was also highlighted for two different visual storytelling strategies. This video uses a slick, brand centric approach, while this one takes a bold stand that got noticed by customers.

Research Strategy

We began our research for best practices related to B2B companies using visual design in their storytelling on the websites of consulting firms with an expertise in visual storytelling such as Killer Visual Strategies, Gartner, and Digital Authority Partners. While all of these resources gave suggestions on how B2B companies can use visual storytelling to promote their brand and sales, there was nothing to indicate these were best practices. Additionally, there was no consistency across the practices being recommended, which would have allowed us to make an informed assumption that those practices repeated by several sources could be considered best practices.

Our next strategy was to look for B2B companies that had been recognized for excellence in visual storytelling. Our hope was that we would find several companies that had been highlighted by multiple firms, which would allow us to make the assumption that the practices being implemented by those companies were likely best practices. We did find some B2B companies that were featured in multiple articles for their excellence in visual storytelling. General Electric was mentioned for their excellent use of their Instagram page by Zoominfo, Telepathy, and Digital Authority Partners; Deloitte was featured by Digital Authority and Xeim Econsultancy; IBM was featured by Vidyard and Zoominfo; Cisco was featured by Digital Authority, Telepathy, and Zoominfo; HP was featured by Zoominfo and Digital Authority; and Salesforce was featured by Telepathy and Zoominfo. Although we found many examples of great B2B visual storytelling highlighted by two to three companies, this was not enough data to make the assumption that the practices utilized by these companies are considered best practices.

While our strategies described above did not allow us to definitively find any best practices for visual storytelling by B2B brands, we were able to find several excellent examples that were utilized to provide helpful findings.
Part
03
of four
Part
03

Case Studies of B2B Companies that use Storytelling in Sales

Cisco, Intel, and State Street Global Advisors are three business-to-business (B2B) companies that have successfully used storytelling in their sales and marketing initiatives. Cisco uses storytelling to explain the value proposition of its technologically complex products, Intel paints a picture of an exciting future through its stories, while State Street drew attention to itself by sharing a story about a hot-button social topic in a unique way.

Cisco

  • Networking corporation Cisco is frequently regarded as being one of the best B2B storytelling brands in the world.
  • The company develops networking and telecommunications equipment which is very complex and rather esoteric to potential buyers and end users. Because Cisco's products and services are hard to explain, the company has a major challenge of describing how it can add value to customers.
  • To overcome this challenge, Cisco produces a lot of content describing its services, and most of that content is based on stories and case studies that attempt to humanize the advanced technology they offer to businesses. The overarching themes of those stories include the concepts of collaboration, efficiency and productivity.
  • One example of Cisco's storytelling is a documentary series that the company produced, titled "The Network Effect." This is a series of short, relatable stories that detail the history of networking while also pointing out Cisco's contribution. The company uses historical stories to explain how the services it provides change life for ordinary people, like those living in Brazilian favelas.
  • Another example is the Sea Change story. This is a story of a racing yacht that collaborated with Cisco to gain an advantage over its competitors. Cisco installed sensors that collected various data on the yacht. It then enabled the sailing team to visualize this data. The crew was able to optimize the ship’s equipment based on insights provided by Cisco's equipment, which ultimately allowed the yacht to shave seconds off its race time. By using pictures, video, and a written narrative, the company was able to present a concrete benefit it provided to a customer.

Intel

  • Intel is another technology company that has a similar challenge to Cisco — explaining the benefits of its complex products and the impact they have on users.
  • To showcase how the company helps improve the world and the lives of its users, Intel tells stories of how the near future will be shaped and changed by its products.
  • The website of Intel's RealSense brand, for example, highlights how its products will improve current technology in remarkable and unique ways. It shows how the lives of regular people will be enhanced by its solutions. The RealSense website explains what people will be able to do in the future, like drawing with fingers in midair and using 3D printing in novel ways.

State Street Global Advisors

  • State Street Global Advisors is one of the biggest investment management firms in the world. The company works with businesses, corporations, educational institutions, and governments, so it was aware that gender inequality is a very important topic in the corporate world.
  • State Street wanted to communicate that gender equality is one of its primary values and they've done so in a very unique way — by inventing the Fearless Girl.
  • The firm created a bronze sculpture of a little girl and placed it in front of the New York Stock Exchange, directly opposite to the well-known statue of the Raging Bull, a well-known symbol of Wall Street.
  • "It’s a powerful statue, a commanding image, and in an incredible setting, which was quickly embraced as a symbol of female empowerment and gender equality," Salesforce's marketing leader Ashling Kearns explained.
  • A small plaque underneath the statue read, "Know the power of women in leadership/SHE makes a difference", followed by the State Street logo.
  • The Fearless Girl massively increased brand awareness for State Street, amassing over 6.5 billion social media impressions. However, it also incited social change. Stephen Tisdalle, CMO of State Street said that over 300 companies have added a female director since the installation of the statue.
Part
04
of four
Part
04

Sales Best Practices - Pitch Deck Examples

Three best practices found for creating a pitch deck for B2B sales include knowing the target audience and market, personalizing the pitch to the client, and being sure to introduce the presenting company. Two outstanding examples of company pitch decks that tell a story are from Pinmypet and Copper Cow Coffee.

Know the Target Audience and Market

  • Instead of focusing on the product being sold or the company itself selling it, it is best to concentrate on the niche and target audience and providing clients with knowledge of what they will get out of the deal. In order to be successful at all, pitch decks must answer that question specifically based on knowledge gained on the client.
  • It is always best to take time to research and get to know the potential customer by gathering information and asking questions such as: what their brand identity is, what their brand values are, what their main pain points are, who their customers are, and what product or solution are they using? With answers to these questions a “big picture” insight will be provided, allowing for an even more effective sales pitch.
  • According to an authoritative blog, a new app known as Front (similar to Slack) does a good job of modeling this best practice in their pitch deck, as it does a great at initially describing the targeted market and competitive landscape, uses data and client testimonials showing success, and "brilliantly and clearly demonstrates" how soon the company expects to be profitable, showing how serious the company is about investor money.

Personalize to the Client

  • Personalization is a key best practice to consider even when selling to other companies and businesses, with a survey by Deloitte finding that 36% of consumers were interested in personalized products or services, and that personalization alone can lift sales by over 10%. Once information on the client is gathered through research, it will be easier to create an effective personalized pitch deck to generate sales.
  • For example, knowing a company has a certain social media presence, a pitch can be developed to encourage them to continue their good work on that platform. If it is known a prospective client does not run advertisements and that they may not have a large budget, it may be best to avoid expensive ads as part of the pitch deck and instead recommend low-cost options.
  • Social media agency Vulpine Interactive, knowing the spending limits of their prospective customer, presents a good example of providing a list of price options in their pitch deck as shown below:

Introduce the Company

  • Even when pitching sales to another business, it is important to remember the fact that they are still human as well and desire personal relationships, the foundation that most sales are built upon. In order to build solid relationships it is best to introduce the agency to the prospective client, giving them opportunity to know who they will be working with. It is always best to put faces to names behind emails, especially when interacting on a daily basis for business.
  • If everyone is not able to be included, other ideas to build personal connections are telling a story about how the agency started, sharing personal experience as the founder, for example, or taking photos of team members with their names, job titles, and fun facts about them.
  • It is crucial to introduce such members as account managers, since daily communications primarily go through them. If they are unable to be included in the pitch itself, it is best to be creative with ideas such as making a song and dance about them in the pitch.
  • IMPRiNT, a digital agency in the U.S., has a shining example of this best practice below, as well as the full pitch deck.

Storytelling Pitch Deck Examples

  • On this list of "Top 25 Business Pitch Decks That Raised Over $2.2 Billion," the full pitch deck for number 11 Pinmypet is a good example of using visual overviews to tell a story of the problem the company aims to help solve, and how they will do it.
  • Copper Cow Coffee's pitch deck tells a compelling brand story without overloading the slides with too much. The company was applauded for being able to weave in unique selling points of their story such as the founder’s connection to Vietnamese culture or the company’s sustainable practices, in a subtle manner with "sweet and simple design."
Sources
Sources

From Part 01
From Part 02