Selling UP THE LINE
So your strategy presentation is ready. Problem identified, solution proposed, tactics planned. A masterpiece of storytelling.
Then you think about your audience, the Board. You know what they want. Sales, profit, growth.
So you have another look at your big reveal, the brand positioning, and panic starts to rise.
It could be written old-school target, need, category, benefit, support, personality. Or new-school insight, opportunity, purpose, beliefs, values.
Maybe you were feeling brave and added an archetype to spice it up. Or the purpose is a social purpose the business has yet to find out about.
And the thinking could be a perfect blend of rock-solid logic and eye-watering emotion.
But you keep thinking sales, profit, growth. Sales, profit, growth.
That’s when you realise you have to position your positioning. What works for the marketing and agency gang isn’t going to work with the Board.
So start with their needs. Say upfront this is about getting your brand chosen, by more people and more often, now and in the future. That’s why you did that research on how and why people make the choices they do.
Say you know this is driven by multiple factors - price, promotion, availability, prominence, as well as the customer’s situation and motivation. So this is about making choice more likely, improving the odds.
Say this is about giving your brand an advantage, so people don’t choose the competition. Differentiation plays well in boardrooms.
Show how the thinking all stems from the product. It’s the truth. That’s why people’s experience of the product is so important to creating a predisposition.
And how everything comes back to the price. What’s the value people are going to get for their money?
Above all, make sure your objectives are S.M.A.R.T and F.E.W. Brand building and sales activation in equal measure.
That’s the explicit stuff.
Of course, board members have their implicit goals too. Let’s hazard a guess at that Need Map - Authority? Control? Affiliation? Discernment? Stimulation? Reassurance?
What do you do about that? Identify the key players. Find out what you can about them, then tailor your presentation to their deeper needs. If that means one chart, one chart it is.
Then on the day read the room, especially the body language. As a warm-up, watch the 2012 film Margin Call about a bank not unlike Lehman Brothers, particularly the 4am boardroom scene when Jeremy Irons, playing the CEO, says to a nervous young analyst who’s discovered the depth of the mess they’re in:
“Oh Mr Sullivan you’re here, good morning. Maybe you could tell me what you think is going on here. And please, speak as you might to a young child or a golden retriever. It wasn’t brains that got me here, I can assure you of that.”
And note how Irons flicks the cover of Sullivan’s unopened report in front of him with a mixture of impatience and menace.
Don't worry, it'll be fine.