Rule #35 – Develop an Executive Whiteboard

The sales rep was in the customer’s office for their first meeting. The rep had skillfully probed and qualified the account with questions that gathered quite a bit of data and useful information about the account situation and where problems and issues existed. The rep offered up a provocative statement about the state of the industry relative to new issues of compliance and security management control. Then he motioned to the whiteboard and asked, May I use your whiteboard?

The customer nodded and then further engaged with the rep over the next 20 minutes as the rep used the whiteboard as a powerful platform to describe the customer’s and marketplace challenges with a helpful framework for considering solutions. The meeting ended with the customer considering the rep of significant higher caliber than his predecessor and thinking to himself as he walked him to the door how helpful and enlightening this sales call had actually been.

Very few salespeople utilize the powerful tool of the Executive Whiteboard. The concept is simple. First, let’s define what it is:

• An executive-level “chalk talk”
• A physical diagram or drawn on a whiteboard
• A logical, visual guide of a conversation
• A vehicle to demonstrate thought-leadership
• A presentation of current state of challenges
• A method to draw out executive response

For example, one company selling anti-virus software to lower level people in IT departments decided to train the sales team to initiate higher level discussions by developing a “whiteboard” conversation. An easy to draw visual construct was designed that salespeople were trained to use as a sales call discussion guide.

The objective was to identify and discuss real business challenges (Security/Anti-Virus, Application Integration, and Legal Compliance) that current customers were facing. The visual highlighted various communication channels between companies and their customers and partners. The use of email, the web, and instant messaging (IM) were all channels of communications that presented new levels of business challenges. After physically laying the visual on a whiteboard (or piece of paper in front of the customer), the sales rep can simply ask the customer, “So what are the biggest challenges for your organization?”

Getting the customer to engage in “checking off the boxes” with you results in a very strong sales call that reinforces your consultative presence, business knowledge and sales professionalism. One will notice in a good whiteboard that there is really no major focus on the product offering, only on business challenges and a way to solve them. If you can establish your credibility and understanding of the customer’s issues first through effective probing and engaging on “big picture” discussions of high-level problems, then you are set up to steer the discussion to solutions that address them. A rep with a well-crafted Executive Whiteboard is a beautiful thing.

Can you conduct an Executive Whiteboard discussion?