presentation excellence

What’s the Most Important Point?

How sad.  All too often, clients come to Presentation Excellence after they’ve been presenting a pitch to raise money and/or sell a company for months and not receive the level of interest they wanted. They blame market conditions and keep trying. Then, someone recommends discussing the presentation with us. We then review the material (in one case it was version 46!) and reach a completely different conclusion: the presentation that the external banker/consultants created is a poorly constructed data-dump of all the material available, with repetitive long-winded text.

Instead of producing a succinct, easy-to-grasp, exciting-to-follow presentation that highlights a key value proposition with a few mutually reinforcing ones that lead the buyer to the conclusion that “this is a deal you shouldn’t miss!”, they force the audience to navigate (or falling asleep on) page-after-page (or slide-after-slide) of clutter: too much text and numbers that don’t drive home a powerful conclusion. It’s not surprising that the “buyers” decide to pass or low-ball their offer.

Let me give you two recent examples:

  • As you may know, there are over 10 Million American business owners thinking about “retiring” from their business in the next few years. They enjoy their work, the income and the perks. Not having a plan for the next 7-10,000 days of their lives, selling for “too little” isn’t attractive. Therefore, they need to find a way to convince a buyer what the real value of the business can be, and make the “sales price” reasonable for her/himself. In this case, the presentation for selling the company placed a value on the company that seemed fair to the buyer and seller, until the buyer understood the tax implications and how much less money he’d actually get to take home. In the initial acceptable proposal for the seller, he achieved his goal of walking away with $7.6M on a total sales price of $18M. Then, the seller showed the buyer how a change in paying out for the sale could reduce the total price to only $15M and still allow the seller to net out the $7.6M. The conclusion: the seller is a savvy business person who could structure a deal that benefits both parties; imagine how much more his company may be doing that for its customers. Buying became a no-brainer.
  • As we all know, retail businesses are being hurt by e-commerce from companies like Amazon. So if you’re a supplier of apparel who mainly sells to retail stores, a buyer will look past current sales trends, even if fairly positive, and worry about the future. In this case, the company sells a unique woman’s product line. The initial presentation focused on the numbers – current and projected future sales; buyers reviewed it and screened the deal based on future retail trends. We were invited to re-frame the presentation to make the most important point – the uniqueness of its product line stand out. We did so in three ways. First, we used supportive data to show that the product was evergreen – would always be purchased by customers who would really want to try on the product: the market share of this product hadn’t dropped in years!  Second, we focused on the explosion of the market: the increased presence of baby boomers (e.g., the number of people over 65 will double to over 80 Million by 2050) and the increased use of this product by Millennials – the largest generation alive (another 80 million). Finally, given that all the bankers, consultants and buyers were men, and this is a woman’s unique product, we recommended that the head of the company, a woman, sandwich the presentation with an opening and closing of these two points by focusing on women’s usage patterns – as evidenced by their wives, daughters and mothers!. Stay tuned for the outcome.

So, before you produce a boring presentation that doesn’t compel the audience to buy into your proposition – identify the most important point and build your case around it. Attend our corporate and open-to-the public workshops or ask for one-on-one consulting so you, top, can close more deals!

Create a Culture of Execution

The hardest part of strategy is execution. To implement a strategy, people need to change their behaviors and/or values and consistently act in support of the strategic priorities. In other words, you need to create a culture of execution to support individual’s implementation strategies. Recently, I was asked to contrast two approaches to execution, and realized that both “operating systems” complement each other very well.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) is a new and popular approach to achieving corporate goals. Developed by three consultants, Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling, it’s founded on the premise that the greatest distraction to adopting new goals is the need to cope with the “whirlwind” of activities and responsibilities of ongoing activities. Thus, the four disciplines are:

  1. Focus on the Wildly Important Goals (WIGs). Since the whirlwind keeps you from doing all the things you might want to do, focus on a few WIGs and leverage their achievement to accomplish more.  o
  2. Act on Lead Measures. All actions aren’t equal; therefore focus your energies on those that lead to the goals (e.g., prospecting leads to sales presentations which leads to closing sales), rather than lag indicators which report on the final result (e.g., total sales).
  3. Keep a Compelling Scorecard. People need to see how they are doing to stay engaged in achieving a goal. Create a scorecard to give them feedback on how they are doing.
  4. Create a Cadence of Accountability, which means hold people accountable for the actions they commit to do by reviewing progress regularly, such as at brief weekly meetings. Otherwise, you’ll get be distracted by the normal whirlwind of activities, and use that as an excuse for missing the goals.

Evaluate To Win was developed by a CEO (Lee Benson) who wanted to increase the extent to which all employees focus on and achieve corporate strategic priorities. Articulating corporate strategy isn’t enough; effective execution only takes place when corporate values and goals are translated into specific employee behaviors that can be measured, and when reviewed, used for spur continuous improvement.

The heart of ETW is a computer based tool used by managers and their employees to identify, create scoring criteria, measure achievement (e.g., 1-10 scale) monitor and evaluate improvement over time when it comes to those things that will:

  • Increase alignment with the company’s value system and mission
  • Improve employees’ performance in taking actions which will achieve the strategic priorities
  • Enhance leaders’ skills in getting people to focus on and achieve the strategic priorities

Each manager-employee identifies the best criteria and scoring system for evaluating employee’s actions. Progress is monitored regularly (e.g., monthly, quarterly, annually), so each employee knows what’s necessary for improvement, and then reset the scoring system. Since data are computerized, it provides senior management with benchmarks for judging teams and people for future job positions.

The result has been six consecutive years of 20%+ plus growth. Jack Welch (former GE CEO) endorsed the system, and Lee decided to make it available to others. (

4DX focuses on implementing new strategic priorities (WIGs) management wants the company to achieve, in the face of the whirlwind; ETW focuses on ongoing day-to-day execution of strategic priorities whether they are new or ongoing. But from there, they share similar perspectives of what’s necessary to execute effectively:

  • Both with senior management identifying the strategic priorities of the company and articulating what behaviors will be needed to achieve the goals.
  • Both require that the employee’s behaviors (lead indicators) that produce desired consequences be identified and criteria and a scoring system for measuring them..
  • Both recognize the importance of constant communication for accountability and improvement( 4DX has weekly meetings; ETW has formal reviews and projections of changes needed in the future which are documented.)

What’s your biggest challenge with execution? Is it introducing a new set of strategic priorities while maintaining the business? Is it getting everyone from top to bottom, focused on how they can improve on meeting the strategic priorities and adhering to the corporate values?  Share your experiences with us?

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