By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

Late in 2015 we started producing a radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which currently runs every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific.  It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests coming up. Our very first guest was Funnelholic author and Topo co-founder Craig Rosenberg.  Next we had Mike Weinberg, incredible writer, speaker, author, followed by Conrad Bayer, CEO & Founder of Tellwise.  Recent Guests: Jim KeenanJoanne BlackAaron Ross; Josiane Feigon, Meagen Eisenberg, and Trish Bertuzzi.

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes.  You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.

Our guest is Nadjya Ghausi, Vice President of Marketing for Prezi. They’ll take the topic of conversational sales presentations further. How a new approach to pitches can transform your engagement and results.

With a shift in approach, presenters can turn their presentations into dialogues, making them interactive and interesting enough to keep viewers tuned in while their pocket-sized screens remain in the pockets where they belong.

We will be touching on the recent study from Harvard University researchers, which sought to answer the question, “Does a presentation’s medium affect its message?” The full content of that study can be found here.”

Tune in for this conversation of ideas. Prezi would like to give you a gift for listening – their Conversational Presenting eBook.

About Nadjya Ghausi

As Prezi’s VP of Marketing, Nadjya loves building all-star teams with the power to drive global market leadership. One of the things she values most at Prezi is the ability to combine technology, data, and innovative storytelling to develop an authentic brand.

Before joining Prezi, Nadjya held leadership roles at E2open, Salesforce.com, Agile Software, and IBM, and was a management consultant at Gemini. She holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, with an undergrad degree in Industrial Engineering (BSIE) from the University of Michigan.

Nadjya believes the secret to staying motivated is having a list of dreams that’s always a little bit longer than her list of achievements.

Listen in or read on….

Matt:  Thanks for joining us on Sales Pipeline radio. We are here every Thursday at 230 eastern, 11:30 pacific. Mostly talking about B2B, best practices in sales and marketing, what’s working, what’s not. We interview some of the best and brightest minds in sales and marketing and BTB. With us today, I’m very excited to have Nadjya Ghausi, who is the vice president of marketing at Prezi and we’re going to be talking about conversational sales presentations. We’re going to talk about what that means and why it’s so important for sales and marketing professionals to really pay attention to some fairly recent data that’s coming out, not only from some research among sales professionals, but from Harvard as well, looking at what presentation formats work well.

So Nadjya, thanks so much for joining us today.

Nadjya Ghausi:  Well thank you for having me.

Matt:  Excited to have you here Nadjya. Really excited about this topic because I think that it’s something that everybody is dealing with. I mean, we all think about what we need to present, where are your slides, right? And we used to, you know, Microsoft’s done a nice job at making Powerpoint ubiquitous with a lot of companies, but there’s a lot of drawbacks to traditional slide deck.

Talk a little bit about what is conversational sales presentation mean to you? What does conversational presenting? How do you define that?

Nadjya Ghausi:  Sure. Let me first paint a picture for you of what it’s not. I think it’s always – how many of us have had the zombie-like experience where we’re sitting in a presentation, we’re at slide 113 and you’re still on ‘about us’ and you’re not really respecting the time of the prospects or the customers who have already done their research. They’re in that meeting with you and someone raises a question and the response is ‘I’ll get back to you on that. That comes later’.

The whole idea of conversational presenting was sort of born out of necessity. The reality is people want to have conversations where they’re presenting with the audience, not at the audience. That whole engagement model is really a critical part of the whole sales funnel and as you well know, one of the things that we, you know, sort of discovered, is it’s also a real blind spot in investment because all the effort that’s put into coming to that moment with that individual whether it’s, you know, live or remote, there’s so much investments that had been made and all the different tools and all the different channels and all the different people, just to get to that meeting.

That meeting is such a critical juncture on the move forward that how do you sort of adapt a presentation to make it into an engaging moment where you’re able to sort of zoom in onto what topics that people want to hear about. You’re able to engage them as the conversation evolves. And you think of it in terms of a non-linear approach, you know, you’re able to adapt the conversation to your customers and from a sales perspective, have real value because at that point, you get your faster speed to ah-ha, you qualify faster, potentially get to discovery sooner reducing sales cycle time and it’s also acknowledging a lot of the research that people do coming in to the presentations.

Conversational presenting, we believe, is a really important skill that the best sales people, the best marketing people, will be, you know, using that kind of an approach when interacting and engaging with their customers. I’m super excited to share all on the Harvard details with you as well because this is a very important research recently that was published on how the medium – does a presentation’s medium affect its message?

We have a lot of interesting insights from that as well.

Matt:  Yeah. I’m excited to get into that for sure. We’re talking today with Nadjya Ghausi who’s the vice-president of marketing for Prezi and you mentioned at the beginning of your last answer, just people who feel like, ‘Oh, I’ll get to that’, right? And if you’re really a slave to the presentation you had prepared that may or may not be what your prospects are interested in. It may or may not reflect what they want to lean in on or double down on. I think sometimes, the flow of the conversation is more important to keep people engaged and to really, truly qualify and get to next steps and then following whatever trajectory you had initially planned.

I feel like that resonates a lot with me. I feel like sometimes when I present even if it’s in a one to many format like on stage, sometimes I’ll sort of just naturally bring something up and you’ll feel like you want to say, ‘Well I’m stealing my own thunder because I’m stealing from a slide that is yet to come’. But why couldn’t that come earlier? Especially if you’re in that kind of a sales format. One thing this does is for sales people is, you know, I think a lot of people when they create a deck, so to speak, they use it as a crutch, but that crutch leads to less effective presentations. To be able to do conversational presentations, you really do have to understand your content better and be listening more to your customers and to your audience so that you’re keeping them engaged and customizing the conversation to what they’re really keying in on.

Nadjya Ghausi:  Absolutely. That ability to adapt your conversation – you can have your material all there but it’s the way in which you zoom in on what information they want to discover. You’re respecting their time because the one thing that you have at that moment is their attention and attention is one of the most scarcest commodities today just to get to that moment and get to the most relevant points quickly that they want to interact or get more information about. There is a lot of science that goes behind it.

Conversational presenting is, it’s a combination of how the information is communicated, but also thinking about, how the information is shared. For example, storytelling is something we talk a lot about and that is a very important way in which people engage and sort of perceive information and retain information in context. So having that visual storytelling, understanding – and thinking like a Director, how the space is being used in a presentation to tell your story, break it up into chunks that you can address and be able to move amongst that information freely, is really an important aspect, and the technologies today, for example, in Prezi, you’re able to zoom in and zoom out so you can then get to the point and then still see the broader context at a higher level. It’s almost like you’re starting with a visual agenda. People know what you’re going to present and that creates some context before you actually get into the details. It’s a really important way to think about how your presentation is structured as well as how it’s being communicated.

Matt:  So when you’re within the presentation itself, making sure that is customized to the audience is important. You guys have been busy this year. I want to talk about the Harvard study and we’ll probably get to that after the break but I also want to talk about what you guys have described as the blind spot. The blind spot of the sales process that people haven’t been looking at but through your data, has really indicated a significant disadvantage for organizations that are ineffective at presenting.

Can you talk a little bit about the sales blind spot, what that is and why that is so important?

Nadjya Ghausi:  Sure. There’s a couple different ways. First of all, there’s the sunk cost from the tools that people are investing in today that just get to the point of finding the lead, finding the channels, the events, the nurturing, the scoring. Everything just to get to that moment. Then if you use a metaphor or look at the example of the online example, there’s also the leaky funnel. If you think about the click through rates that exist today on social, even if you’re top of the page for Google or banner ads and then kind of condense that down to the next page, which is click throughs on websites and blogs and e-mails which are in the single digit. You get to that critical moment and that is why that moment matters. When we did some research with Heinz Marketing as well, what management attributed to missed goals and 66.7% in the survey we ran, sort of attributed and this goal to a poor presentation at that moment. So we found that those focused on creating engaging presentations had 60% achieved sales goals and had 57% increase in year-to-year growth performance.

In that study, we also were able to measure a difference between PowerPoint and Prezi, about 35% increased engagement by using Prezi so having that right tool at that moment was a really critical part. So going back to the attention spans and the critical nature of that moment, there was a lot of detail done around to how important it was to achieving sales goals and having an engaging presentation in that, what we call, the blind spot, which was a shared handle between sales and marketing but probably one of the least invented moments in the sale cycle.

Matt:  We’re talking today with Nadjya Ghausi, who is the VP of marketing at Prezi, talking about this blind spot and how important it is. Boy, you invest a lot of time and effort in getting that lead and getting that prospect engaged. And if you don’t effectively present your idea and keep them qualified and clothed that is a huge missed opportunity. Sometimes we described that as part of our sales pipeline archeology, if you will, is uncovering where those primary problems are.

We’re going to have a lot more on conversational presentations. We’re going to be talking about this Harvard study which has some really, really interesting insights that you’re going to want to hear. We’re going to take a break, pay some bills and be right back on Sales Pipeline Radio.

*Break*

Paul:  Alright, let’s pick it back up now with Matt and his guests. And before you do that, can I ask one quick question here?

Matt:  Sure. Go ahead.

Paul:  I’d love to ask your guest is the rise of social media, like podcasting, or other sorts of social mediums out there, has it made us more conversational again? More storytelling? Because that’s really what I always say this medium is about; it’s a very conversational, story telling medium and I suspect that’s true with most social media. Has that influenced us back towards conversations and stories?

Matt:  Nadjya, how do you feel about that?

Nadjya Ghausi:  Well I think social media is a combination. There’s short form and there’s long form, right? So in some ways it’s made people’s attention spans shorter, things like Twitter with 140 characters. At the same time, people who yearn to have more detail, want to have conversations, they want to sort of understand the meaning behind ideas. So what we see is there is the value of having both. If you have the context you can kind of see what is available. At the same time, you can drill down and have the depth of conversation you want to have on any particular topic that you want to learn more about so it’s sort of that freedom of choice. At the same time, you’re right. The dialogue, one directional dialogues, don’t work anymore. People want to engage, they want to get feedback. They want to have some ability to influence the direction because time is so valuable now, so yeah. Absolutely. A lot of technologies are changing the way that people want to interact, millennials especially. We’re seeing that behavior, kind of the rise of this whole generation, that has bene used to using these tools on a daily basis, that they don’t consume information the same way that the prior generations have.

Matt:  Well and is it not just social media but it’s also just, we are living in a less formal culture as well, right? Where it’s acceptable to wear jeans and an open neck shirt to the office where we want to have more control as buyers of the conversation we’re having, we want to do our research on our own. We don’t expect someone to come in and pitch us. We don’t expect someone to come in and do a front-to-back presentation while we sit on our hands and listen. There’s an expectation that more informal environment is going to lead to more interaction which I think benefits both parties, but it sort of leaves a presentation format, like a PowerPoint deck, in the past as something that is maybe a relic of a previous time that really doesn’t exist anymore.

Nadjya Ghausi:  Yeah. In fact, one of the mottos we used last year was “Quit your pitching.”

Matt:  That’s a good idea. Well, hey, let’s talk a little more about this Harvard study. If you’re interested in learning more about conversational presentations overall, Prezi has a great e-book on that. If you want to learn more about the sales blind spot, there’s some great research and data and insights on the Prezi blog as well. Just go to blog.prezi.com. You can check out that information there but Nadjya, talk to us a little bit about this Harvard study. I took a look at this a couple weeks ago and was fascinated by some of the results and was impressed that an organization like Harvard picked this up and was spending time thinking about this as well. Give us a little bit of a highlight on this. I know this was just launched by you guys, I believe, earlier this week.

Nadjya Ghausi:  Yeah, actually it was launched by Harvard researchers. It was just published in the academic journal yesterday and we just have been sharing out on social media and also on our site, the full research that as published. It was really born out of the interest that we heard from companies that we worked with that they were able to improve performance by using Prezi but we never had a good way to sort of understand or quantify what that difference was in using Prezi.

Harvard took an approach – they did a double blind study and they looked at how the medium affects the message. The difference between having a sort of, static linear approach, a non-linear approach via something like Prezi and then just a verbal presentation, how they performed and then what kind of insights they could get around engagement, persuasion and effectiveness. What was found from the research was, there was a big focus on meaningful movement so that was a very valued part – when they looked at the alternative, they looked at and found features like having a virtual canvas and zooming in and out, had a specific benefit because it enabled things like conversational presenting, which we’re talking about.

They actually found that through this research, that static slides, such as PowerPoint, rated no better than having no visuals at all. When you think about what were the key takeaways, the ability to have that dynamic nature to the presentation and being able to hone in on the key points during the presentation that was adaptable so it’s a non-liner, non-static approach, lead to a difference with Prezi having about a 16% better engagement rate, 21% difference between PowerPoint on persuasion and a 25% difference on effectiveness so this is all done with a double blind test where different groups had to present and the results were calculated.

We found that it was a very exciting piece of research because it sort of was one of the first ones with also a statistically significant score that actually could measure what that difference was. Harvard did it totally as looking at it from a very research-driven approach of quantifying that and that was a very exciting thing that just came out yesterday.

Matt:  And what’s exciting about that feedback you’re seeing is that the satisfaction rate, is we’re seeing that from both buyers and sellers. We’re seeing that on both sides of the table, the presentation, those being presented to feel like it’s more engaging, they feel like it’s more personalized, they feel like it’s a better presentation. Those presenting feel like they’re getting the feedback and the next steps they really want and that engagement sort of works on both sides. Help people understand how to balance that. I feel like there might be a little bit of a balance act between having that conversational presentation, making it customized and meaningful to those being presented to but not letting it get off track, right? Because as a presenter, especially if you’re in a sales role, you have a goal. You have an objective of where you want that conversation to go and if it gets too off track, you may miss that objective. How do you balance conversational presentations with still sort of staying on track for your objective?

Nadjya Ghausi:  First of all, I think it forces the presenter to think like a director. You know your story inside and out from the small details to the big picture and you have to structure it as a way that the conversation would flow. So the agenda, which is the top level, people can see what’s happening, what’s the progression, they’re able to sort of go a step ahead, but you’re always able to bring it up a level and show them what they’re talking about in context with the bigger picture. You can move up a level, you can move down a level.

You can manage – you can think about the questions you’re going to get and think about how you’re going to address that. You don’t get derailed by curiosity. You can zoom back in to what the relevant point is that addresses that question and you have to think about breaking up your conversation in a useful way. Every second of attention is hard won so if you think about delivering the content the way it’s consumed and breaking it into small chunks, you’re then adapting your conversation and have that flexibility to answer but then still show, again, what the relevant placement that is into your bigger story.

Those are just a couple tips about how to think about structuring your presentation from making it conversational, make it adaptable but make sure it doesn’t get derailed. There’s a second piece that I didn’t talk much about but, you know, at Prezi, we also think about not just the delivery, we think about the visually stunning creation, the delivery conversational part, but we also think about the analytics. Knowing what happens five minutes after you leave that room is really important because that helps influence your presentation for the next time that you give it to a similar persona or set of people or even the same account because you can know what people are interested in, where they spend their time and how you can improve your presentation.

We always like to think of it as a learning loop. It’s not just how it’s delivered. It’s also about how people interact with it.

Matt:  Absolutely. I can tell you from firsthand experience that the Prezi team has been generous enough to take a couple of my keynotes from earlier this year and convert them into a Prezi format and I will tell you that the impact on the audience, it’s not just the conversational format, but you referenced the visual nature, these presentations have been made far more beautiful than normal Matt Heinz set of slides and I think it’d have gotten a lot of great feedback afterward on the format, on just the engaging nature of the way that the images move around and sort of start from sort of a common place, go deep, come back out. It puts the whole thing in context and makes it look really good and I think that there’s many different elements that can make you look sharp when you’re able to adapt the conversation to what someone cares the most about. You know, your comment about seeing things afterward. You can post these presentations online. You can update them ongoing online and you can see where your prospects are engaged, you can see what parts of the presentation they’re spending the most time on so that your follow-up can be managed accordingly.

Just a couple more minutes left here with Nadjya Ghausi, who is the vice-president of marketing at Prezi. Where can people find more information? I know that we talked about the blog post. Where should people go to learn more about this Harvard study?

Nadjya Ghausi:  So we have a couple of things. We have a press release that has a link to it. We also have in our blog section, an abstract, and that also has more detail as well. You’ll find it on all our social posts as well, any of our Facebook, LinkedIn, you’ll see a million different ways that you can connect with the information on Prezi.com.

By the way, I wanted to mention something that on the Harvard study, is that there was also one element that people who delivered using the Prezi format were rated more knowledgeable and professional. There you go, Matt. That feeling you had translated to your audience.

Matt:  It makes a big difference, you know, because everybody’s getting up and doing their slides and we know that a lot of slide decks are quite terrible. I think that, you know, when you’re moving through kind of the same format, it just becomes a little monotonous. You come back with something different, a little sharper, maybe better looking, better designed, it certainly stands out.

Alright, one last question for you to appease my producer, Paul. We began the conversation today talking about the Mount Rushmore of sales. If there were three or four people on a mountain that were sort of from a sales and marketing standpoint, they were immortalized as sort of the – maybe not the founding fathers, but some of the really most influential people, kind of reach back in your years of doing sales and marketing, who were some of the people that have influenced you most; speakers authors, coaches, trainers? You don’t have to give four but one or two people that might be on that Mount Rushmore of sales for you.

Nadjya Ghausi:  I would probably put Philip Cotler just from way back when, marketing principles. I would put Seth Godin on that list from Marketing Tribes. I would probably put the challenger sales guy or whatever. I agree that whole initiative was something that I saw. And gosh, see the rise of CRM, you know, I don’t know if there’s one person, there’s a set of companies right in there. I’m trying to think of who else I would put in there but that whole idea of automating what was sort of a manual interaction. I’m trying to think. That’s a good question. I don’t know who as individuals I would put on for the fourth.

Matt:  Paul, I’m impressed. I threw that out of the blue. She did not know that was coming. Those were some great answers. We will post those and links to some of those authors and influencers in the comments. We will also, on the notes for this presentation today, we will post a link to the conversational presenting e-book as well as the Harvard study that was just announced this week, some pretty exciting stuff there.

If you like what you’re hearing today on conversational presentations and want to share these comments from Nadjya with your team and with others, you can always catch the on-demand version of these episodes, every episode at salespipeline.com.

If you want to make sure you never miss another episode, subscribe to our podcast. We are at the Google Play and iTunes store. Catch us there any time and always live right here, at Sales Lead Management Radio every Thursday at 230 Eastern, 1130 Pacific.

I want to thank our guests again so much Nadjya Ghausi, the VP of marketing from Prezi. We’ll be back next week. Next week, unless he has to reschedule again, we’ve got the infamous Grant Cardone, who very likely could be one of those names given his influence up on that Mount Rushmore of sales. We might have to ask him that question, who he would put up there and whether he would put himself up there as well.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing everyone next week. This is Matt Heinz. See you next week on Sales Pipeline Radio.

Paul:  You’ve been riding along as we explore the Sales Pipeline with Matt Heinz from Heinz Marketing right here in the funnel radio channel for at-work listeners like you.