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Achieve Visual Storytelling (and Sales) Success With Whiteboards

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According to Forrester Research, 88% of executive decision-makers want to have a conversation, not a presentation, for sales-related pitches. Accordingly, as a marketer, you should be asking yourself two important questions: What content tools am I going to give to those in the field to tell our company story? And what important insights do my field reps have to share?

To solve the critical issue of executive buyer engagement, the answer—despite today's new technologies and modern advances—actually goes all the way back to cave people, but today it's called "whiteboarding."

Whiteboard imagery relies on the simplicity of an ancient communications medium to convey powerful meaning, and it creates contrast that appeals to the "old brain" (the decision-making part) to get your customers and prospects to do something different—and to choose you.

In short, whiteboards are an essential visual storytelling tool that marketers can help create for salespeople to differentiate their company from the competition.

Whiteboard Selling Methodology

Whiteboarding enables you to create and deliver an effective visual story. Using a whiteboard has an impact on message development, the deployment of that message, and the delivery skills necessary to bring your story to life.

Developing your organization's capability to use a pen instead of relying on a PowerPoint presentation, and instilling confidence in using a pen as your communications weapon of choice, requires a purposeful, repeatable, and structured approach.

whiteboard selling methodology is not like a typical sales methodology in the sense of sales processes like opportunity management or account planning. Those methodologies help salespeople to structure a deal, including where to show up and whom to meet with.

Whiteboard selling methodology, on the other hand, focuses on what you are going to say when you get there.

Incorporating visual storytelling into your company's approach to executive decision-makers is great, but it needs to be treated like a systematic process if you want to ensure the consistent quality of both the message and the delivery.

Getting There: Three Steps

If you want to implement whiteboards throughout your organization, here are three essential steps to help you get there.

1. Develop

As a marketer, you need to work with salespeople to create solid messaging, and you also have to know what objective you're working to accomplish. One whiteboard does not fit all. The key to a great whiteboard is that it needs to be simple, yet powerful. You also need to show contrast in order to move prospects toward a decision.

There are multiple objectives in the buying cycle, and the creation of whiteboards needs to be an on-purpose effort. You must make use of your company's unique point of view to solve the challenges of your prospects to create an early-stage disruptive whiteboard. You should also create a middle stage differentiation whiteboard to lock out the competition. And, third, create a later-stage whiteboard to explain implementation processes so it's approachable and doable for your prospects.

2. Deploy

Whiteboard deployments need to be easily adoptable and usable for salespeople, so marketers need to package whiteboards into a toolkit that contains coaching and customer-facing content.

As you might suspect, teaching a salesperson to deliver your whiteboard is like helping an actor learn her part. As the director, you must provide a script and a detailed explanation of the storyboard. It's also about providing these materials in a customer-facing form (PowerPoint micro-builds, videos, etc.) so that salespeople can use the material in a simulated fashion.

Overall, there are four deliverables for each whiteboard: a coaching guide, a coaching video, a presentation, and a customer video as a follow-up. The key is to give your salespeople the tools to succeed throughout the buying process.

3. Deliver

Here's where the rubber meets the road. Salespeople need to understand both the art and the science of whiteboarding. That means receiving sufficient training on the use of a pen and a writing surface, and getting comfortable with the approach of having a conversation versus giving a presentation. It also means understanding the principles behind why the story needs to be told the way it's been developed, including storytelling models that target the old brain, and the objective for each whiteboard.

And don't forget, practice makes perfect. Many whiteboards fall apart because of the lack of practice. Salespeople need to practice delivering the whiteboard until they can deliver it naturally while demonstrating complete control of the content. It's not just about eliminating errors. It's about building confidence, taking ownership, and making it their story.

* * *

Whiteboarding is a complete methodology. It entails knowing how to create a solid message, deploying it in a way that salespeople can easily adopt and deliver, and practicing it so that they can deliver the technique with confidence and command.

By implementing the above-noted three steps, you enable your sales team to become world-class storytellers—and, ultimately, help your company close more deals.

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Tim Riesterer is chief strategy and marketing officer of Corporate Visions Inc. He is the co-author of Customer Message Management and Conversations that Win The Complex Sale,

LinkedIn: Tim Riesterer

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  • by Kristin Zhivago Thu Dec 13, 2012 via web

    The enterprise-level buyers I am interviewing for my clients tell me the same thing: They want a RELEVANT conversation, not a pitch. A pitch delivered via whiteboard is going to be just as disappointing (and maybe even somewhat tedious) as a pitch delivered via slides. What I am now recommending to my clients is that they employ people for "sales" positions who are technically astute and who can answer the client's specific questions.

    It is an absolute fact now that, by the time the enterprise-level buyer contacts a company, they are already well into their buying process - to the point where as much as 95% of their questions have been answered other ways (websites, yes, and editorial, but mostly via their contacts - other people like them - who have given them advice, either online via reviews and discussion groups, or directly). They totally beyond a "pitch," regardless of the medium used to deliver it.

    I am also advising my clients to train their salespeople to LISTEN first - to let the customer tell them where they are in their buying process, what they've learned so far, what their goals are, and the specific questions they have - before the salesperson starts to talk. This approach allows the customer to reveal what he/she is really thinking - which otherwise never happens in a sales call - and to provide the context the salesperson needs to then have a relevant, informative conversation.

    It's time to give up on the whole idea of pitching. A pitch is not a conversation, it is a monologue. A successful conversation between a "buyer" and a "seller" is not a pitch; it's two people exploring the opportunities and tradeoffs and coming to a joint, win-win solution.

    Kristin Zhivago

  • by Paul Griffith Thu Dec 13, 2012 via web

    This article, and Kristin Zhivago's comments, are spot on. Thanks for making the points so effectively.

    Being pitched at or sold to by powerpoint is just so wrong. It feels like you're being browbeaten by one of Alan Sugar's apprentices. At best someone will wait politely until you've finished spouting on and then ask THEIR questions (if you allow them).

    Drawing pictures is also a wonderful way of engaging with someone - just look at Rolf Harris or Tony Hart. I'm constantly looking for ways to explain things with pictures.

    I do wonder whether I am alone, though, in finding so many businesses (4 out of 5?) stumble before these hurdles - they're just not very clear what story they want to tell. Ah well: more good stuff to chew on when looking at how you grow your revenue.

  • by Nichole Fri Dec 14, 2012 via web

    I love this post! I recently finished reading "The Back of the Napkin" by Dan Roam which is about problem solving and selling ideas with pictures so this post immediately piqued my interest. I'm currently working to implement it into my own business and hope to help other businesses implement it as well.

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