The Art of the Whiteboard

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Elizabeth Saury


Jun 10, 2020


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Ask anyone not in our industry about “whiteboarding,” and you may get some interesting answers:

“Whiteboarding? Do you mean, like, a new software?” (um, no).

“Oh, yeah, we sometimes use it for brain-storming ideas, or for figuring out lunch orders.”

“We used it for our fantasy football tracking, and it pretty much takes up the whole wall.”

Whiteboards are an often-overlooked tool in the sales toolkit. Done effectively, whiteboard sessions open up to more creative solutions, garnering larger deals with bigger problems to be solved. But using it without understanding some basics and, well, you might just end up talking to the wall…literally.

Currently, most meetings are happening over internet, and the dynamics that make a good whiteboarding sessions in real-life may have to adjust. Virtual meeting tools are now capitalizing on this idea as well, to help collaborate and capture ideas. Tools abound in the space, with mobile options, and most screen-sharing tools like Zoom now come with built-in whiteboard collaboration.

Now that we know we can have a whiteboard on-demand, let’s discuss why you might want to use this humble tool at your next demo.

Being the Trusted Advisor

Getting to “trusted advisor” level with a customer is truly the “nirvana” of the sales hierarchy. People like to say they are the trusted advisor, but really, how do you get there? In many cases, it might take years of consultative selling to attain this status. But most current sales cycles might only allow us in PreSales to engage once or twice with a prospect. Thus, making the greatest impact at this demo is imperative. A fantastic pair of shoes can be both memorable and make an impression, but a rather short-lived one. (PS. always ask ahead of time if a whiteboard can be made available at your on-sites, it sets the stage for being consultative. And you can always use it to take lunch orders).

At some point during your demo, you identify the moment that a whiteboard moment is needed. I suggest you simply walk over to the whiteboard, or open your virtual tool of choice, and allow for a pause, a moment of understanding for what is about to begin. Do not

be surprised if laptops close, and jaws open. In fact, sometimes, it will be the jaws of your account executives whose mouths are agape. Changing up the same, tired dynamics of the expected powerpoint will instantly grab attention. Using your silence thoughtfully, and for dramatic effect, you can bring up an image or quote you perfectly selected ahead of time for this meeting.

You can also simply and thoughtfully, wipe the board so it is fresh, and ready for the collaboration to begin. Keeping your body turned to the audience as much as possible while you are wiping, explain that you feel that to really address their challenges, a collaboration would be best. If you are unable to wipe while facing the client, wait until you are finished to speak. A common error is speaking while facing the board, and well, consultative, trusted experts just don’t do that. The dramatic stand and wipe is also a great chance to show off those shoes.

Commanding the Room

The one who brandishes the whiteboard marker is always the center of attention. I cannot prove this empirically, but trust me, it must go back to being children and paying attention to our teachers and professors. People do not interrupt the holder of the marker, it is simply rude. And incidentally, always pack your own fresh markers. Get company-branded ones if possible.

Selling to the Emotional Side

We are modern-day storytellers. We paint the art of what is possible. But what does that mean, really? When I try to explain this idea to people, they need a moment to understand how technology and software can connect to stories, to win people’s hearts, to be memorable. This idea of story-telling has been touted as the new business currency. Simon Sinek has pretty much built his brand on this idea. Whiteboarding helps to concretely fill the gap from the abstract of the desired state and the now. The brain starts to light up on the creative side, accessing more of the client’s attention, grabbing and harnessing different areas of their brain, their hearts and thinking. If you are lucky, your thinking, your idea stay on the board for a few hours, reminding those that participated about that demo. About your solution. Your story. People will often take a picture and ask about it. Take one for your own records and subsequent meetings.

Simply stated, the whiteboard creates a visual permanence, a term I am making up right now but running with for this blog, to make it easy to recall images. Building the whiteboard diagram together means you are telling the story together, with your prospect. You are now connected and probably slightly loopy from Expo vapors, but bonded nonetheless. It’s probably time to eat some of that lunch you ordered.

Elizabeth is a strategic, proven, story-telling PreSales Engineer with 9 years of SaaS experience, looking for the next great opportunity.

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The Leadership collective is a group designed for PreSales leaders in a management capacity (Manager+ title) who are looking to network, grow professionally, and actively participate.

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