Conceptual Concrete

I once heard a sales guy say to a room full of soon-to-be-ex-prospects, “Our product is like an amoeba with functional extremities that you may choose to engage or disengage as your proforma dictates.”  ……. Great idea! ….. Lousy Execution.  Great idea you say? What could be right right about anything that guy did? Well, he tried to make a complex product relateable to a concrete image.  He just didn’t use a very good example.

Rule #1 Use simple visually stimulating analogies to make complex concepts understandable

Let’s look at a better example. I was at a dinner party the other day and one of the attendees explained why his second marriage was so successful. His first marriage was like a batter warming up with a heavily weighted bat. Now he equated his second marriage to stepping up to the plate without the weight and hitting a home run. You see his new wife was more fair and reasonable. Dealing with the expectations of a reasonable partner was like taking the weight-off his bat and therefore enabled hiim to swing his bat with less effort. In other words he found it so much easier to please his new wife.

Neuroscience (see this post) says that the part of our brain that makes decisions does not understand complex concepts.  Flexible means nothing to the part of our brain that drives our actions.  That part of our brain has no understanding of language and therefore a person that takes a complex concept and relate it to a simple visual analogy is more likely to drive their audience to a desired action.

#2 Address your audiences self-interest

I often coach executives who are developing presentations for potential investors in their businesses. Typically these entrepreneurs are so deep in the weeds of their business that they spend too much time explaining the nuts and bolts of their business instead of addressing the main need of their audience.  You see another element of the part of our brain that makes decision is that it is constantly tuned into radio station WIFM (What’s In-It For Me). Investors are in business to make money and the first thing they want to know is how and why you are going to be able to get your customers to reach into their wallets and empty them for you.

Your story line must address the pain that you address in the market and why people are going to throw money at you to solve the pain.  Once you made that case, a potential investor can see that you might have solved a unique problem that could make them look like rock stars.  Until investors believe you have addressed a pain that can make money, you won’t get their attention (see post: No Pain No Gain).  Once they understand that you have an idea that can print money they start thinking this could make me famous, this could buy me a Tesla, this could put my kids through college…. the investor becomes selfishly interested.

#3 Build your market case from the bottom up instead of from the top

Imagine that you are selling a product to schools that helps them improve the reading levels of its students.  Which of these two methods tells a more compelling story.

a) 40% of America’s 4th graders do not meet grade level reading standards.  There are over 35,000 public and private high schools in the United States with almost half of the students underperformed federal guidelines.  That’s an incredible large market for our products that makes reading more fun and available for those students.

b) Imagine that you are the principle of an under performing school.  You’re school’s budget and your job are dependent on your students meeting national reading guidelines.  Now imagine that you have a $2000 annual library budget with which you usually buy 200 books each year to make available to your 1400 students.  Books that get lost, damaged, and can only be used one at a time.

What if you could invest $500 dollars of your library budget on an online reading service that enabled you access to 10,000 books in addition to your current library. What if with the remainder of your your budget you could still buy 3 quarters of the physical books you normally would.  With this service you can purchases 50 times the amount of books you could normally afford and with these books, your existing library and the 150 books you purchase this year, your library would rival that of a major university.  This service would allow multiple students to simultaneousness access the same books.  The online books feature interactive programs not available in traditional books that are proven to increase reader engagement, comprehension and raise reading levels.  Would that sound interesting?

Well there are 35,000 principles in the US with the same problem feeling the same pressures.

Which of those two examples sounds like an interesting company?  The trick is to put the audience in the hot seat of the prospective client and have them understand the pain of the client.  Start from the bottom, and build the use case up to expand to the entire market.  Again neuroscience tells us that personalizing the problem in an easy to understand form makes the presentation more actionable for the decision making part of the brain.