What is a story?
In business, a story is a joined-up series of messages.
It’s not “Once upon a time” or “Three men walked into a bar.” You don’t have to become a comedian. This is about structure.
In TV we spent huge amounts of time thinking about the best way to tell a story. Stories can be told lots of ways, and one of the things you get paid for in TV is working out the best way.
Of course the producer at the next desk will tell you after there was a better way, but that’s TV people…
How to structure an FM sales presentation
The vital ingredient is to start with a story. If you want to work out how to tell a story then it is absolutely vital to know what the story is. Which is the first point many people fall down.
Let’s say you are bidding to build a £10m contract. You know what the story is, right? The story is – you want to win this job.
Wrong. That’s the objective.
The TV equivalent is to say, this story is about filling 90 seconds of airtime.
We have a process when starting bids which works through the needs of the client, matches those to our strengths, identifies our win themes, but then we challenge the team with a question.
When we win this, after many meetings and an accumulated thousands of hours of work, the client will be able to answer this question in a single sentence…
Why did you chose FMCo?
Somewhere in our win themes and the answer to this question is our story.
It often isn’t earth-shattering. But it will be different EVERY time because every client is unique
So here is a real-life story:
A complex project where the client wanted a keen price but was most worried about delivery.
Our answer to the question “Why did you chose FMCo?” was, “Right price, and they have successfully mobilised another contract that has similar parameters.”
So now we have a story. How does that turn into a structure?
It’s not hard to start working out what we are going to be talking about. We will try to “kill” the price issue. We don’t think we have to be the cheapest, but we have a successful project to point to.
But the main thrust is about confidence of delivery. Their nervousness about the complexity of the project is where we are strongest. So our theme is confidence of delivery.
‘Confidence of Delivery’ Story
To be confident of delivery you need:
The right team. (Evidence our team is right and available. Use recent success as evidence)
The right methodology (Our ideas. Use recent success as evidence)
The right price (Evidence of delivery at price)
NOTE: A story is joined-up. A good structure should help you tell your story in a joined-up way. First you must have the right team, then you must get the right method, then you want the right price.
The opposite of a story is a list. Many, many dull, unmemorable presentations are lists. They have no logic, no flow, no story. All the stuff is there, but it has no shape.
That’s the story, and within that we are going to make sure we hit all our positive messages again and again, but there is one last stage.
Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them again.
It isn’t rocket science. Repetition of your core messages is fundamental to the audience being clear what you are saying and fundamental to their retention of your messages.
So you will open with your core messages, go into detail, and close with the same things you said at the beginning.
Now add some “you”
We have worked on hundreds of bids and do you know what usually is our greatest strength? You.
Experienced operators make the best salespeople. Why? Because they don’t have to sell, they just have to talk about what they are really good at.
A scene we’ve seen dozens of time: Project manager walks into room saying, “I hate presentations. I haven’t done one for 3 years.”
24 hours later they emerge from the client’s office smiling and being congratulated by their colleagues…
This is about structure, and structure is the framework that you put the beautiful details on. There are a million ways for you to add something great to what you say. Work really hard at that, but now you are hanging the bells and whistles on something really solid.