14 Rules of persuasive storytelling for pre-sales consultants

Know your audience, Adapt your vocabulary to match your audience, Make client care, 4. Structure your story - Minto’s Pyramid Principle, Demonstrate competence & Establish your credibility Be Specific with a flexible framework in place, Appeal to the head, heart, and hand

14 Rules of persuasive storytelling for pre-sales consultants
Effective stories speak the language of the audience, are rooted in facts, and take advantage of compelling artifacts.

How to make your message persuasive and change the way your clients think?


Effective stories speak the language of the audience, are rooted in facts, and take advantage of compelling artifacts.

Having raw data/facts/recommendations is not enough to convince stakeholders of what needs to be done. A narrative makes a connection between our data/facts/recommendations and why other people should care about it.

1. Know your audience

This seems so basic, yet, most of us are mostly insensitive to this fact: it’s not about you, it’s always about the client. The client is the Hero of your story.

The client is the Hero of your story
  • How long is the talk?
  • How many people?
  • How informed are they?
  • Is the talk first thing in the morning (before coffee), or right after lunch?
  • Is it the end of the quarter when people are nervous about hitting sales targets?
  • Who are the opinion leaders in the room? Who will disagree with you? What will be the objections?
  • What is your storytelling range? Can you communicate differently – as needed – to different people and in different situations? If not, you may want to expand your communications toolkit. Do some improv, and listen to other great speakers. Get feedback. Practice.

2. Adapt your vocabulary to match your audience.

Our goal when telling stories is to resonate with our audience, but it’s difficult to do it when we do not speak in their language. Understand the industry and terminology of your audience and incorporate these words into your story so they can put themselves in it. For example, if your audience is a client in the manufacturing industry using an assembly-line process, you should know about the machinery being used, the steps of the assembly line, and any product-specific terminology. Without using vocabulary that applies to your audience members, you risk losing their attention and your credibility.

3. Make client care

Make them care about what you are about to say

Attention spans are short at this age (more than 1/2 of the blog post readers will have abandoned this post already).  Are you more interesting than a TikTok influencer with a funny video? Doubt it. Why should the client pay attention to you? Why is this relevant to his life? why it matters to him?

Every word and every space in your slide should be helping the client in some way or another, if it's not helping your client, remove it.

4. Structure your story - Minto’s Pyramid Principle

You must structure your thinking. This is the only way to present your complex and new ideas clearly to clients. One excellent tool is the pyramid principle by an ex-McKinsey consultant by the name of Barbara Minto.

The presentation logic looks like a pyramid. The main recommendation is on top. It is built on mid-level recommendations, each of which is supported by smaller facts, data, analysis, benchmarks, etc . . .

In the graphic below you can see that the top of the pyramid (executive summary) has 3 recommendations. Each of those recommendations has supporting pages.

Pyramid principle - Structuring Presentations - Consulting blog

Exercise #1: Find the best presentation you did and saw and see how well used the pyramid structure was?

5. Demonstrate competence

Deeply understand and know what you are talking about. Do the work, do the research. Read 2-3 industry analyst reports:

  • What do Mckinsey, Accenture, and Deloitte, say about the issue?
  • what are the industry insiders' arguments for/against this case?
  • What are the economic drivers pushing supply/demand?
  • What does the value chain look like (suppliers, buyers, complements, rivals)? who are the other stakeholders?
  • Do you know this stuff as well as your client/boss/customer?  If not, you are faking it.

6. Be Specific with a flexible framework in place

Executives hate general recommendations that lack specific action plans or opinionated solutions to a problem. Your recommendations need to be directionally right, and in the same order of magnitude, as the “right answer"

How to send complex technical proposal to a prospect within 5 hours under extreme uncertainty
I will give you a framework on how to engage clients with minimal effort, it’s quite normal that you have to send the 1st proposal to a client with very limited information. The proposal needs to be directionally right and open-ended enough to incorporate new details at a later stage.

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