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Greatest Sales Deck

The Greatest Sales Deck You've Never Seen

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My business was about to go under. It was September of 2021 and I’d just lost my only 2 clients. 

My savings were running low. I had zero revenue on the books. I had just a single prospect in the pipeline, and if I didn’t close them, I’d have to shut the business down and get a job.

Which would’ve devastated me. I’d struggled for seven years—the entirety of my career at that point—trying to drive hypergrowth with strategic narrative. I’d attempted it at both my full-time jobs and failed. I’d been on the cusp of selling one of these projects for over a year to a well-regarded FinTech client. 

Somehow, I always came up short.

And so when suddenly it felt that my long desired storytelling business might be a failure, I have to admit—I was scared. My entire self worth was about to take a nosedive. I’d have to re-enter employment with my tail between my legs, telling my dad and my colleagues and the big bad shame committee in my head that I hadn’t been enough, and would now need to start all over.

But that’s not what happened.

What happened was something that’d never happened before. I finally sold a strategic narrative. And not only did I sell my first strategic narrative, but shortly after delivering it, I was able successfully deliver my second strategic narrative as a first-time VP of Marketing at a tech startup. 

These were two of my biggest career victories to-date. I was ecstatic. My ego was riding high and mighty. Seven years of hard work and self doubt finally paid off, and I owed it all to one single project that completely changed the course of my life and career. I call it…

The Greatest Sales Deck You’ve Never Seen

It’s a riff on Andy Raskin’s 2016 article. It’s a crazy ridiculous sales deck I’ve used to sell my StorySeer strategic narrative consulting, and is easily my most prized creation to-date. 

I’ve used this deck over a dozen times now, and nearly always the effect is the same. Nodding heads. Rapt attention. A palpable sense of understanding and alignment between myself and my audience, quickly followed by a push for next steps. 

This deck played a crucial role in landing my first strategic narrative project, and has since put me in the running for over a dozen Head of Marketing roles.

Today, I’m going to share with you that deck. I’m going to walk you through it act-by-act. I’m going to share with you the insight that informed its creation, with the hope that this will inspire you to drive career success with your own story-based sales deck.

Ready to jump in?

Act 1: Seize Their Attention

Sales pitches are won or lost in the first act (oftentimes on the first slide). In order to dazzle your prospects, you need to capture and hold their attention. You need to immediately earn their respect and position yourself as an authority.

As a snot-nosed 30 year-old upstart selling to startup CEOs, I knew this was going to be doubly important for me, so I pulled all the stops and reached deep into the collective subconscious to…

Frame the Prospect’s Ordinary Life

The world’s fucked up. Everyone feels it. And so whether my prospect was selling life-saving medical devices or simply a better way to send emails, I knew invoking those feelings would be a good way to catch their attention.

I did some pretty crazy sensemaking here. I studied the 3 major generator functions of existential risk. I spent hours combing through newspaper archives to find headlines related to each of these generator functions, then came up with a snazzy name for our lovely modern predicament: The Maddening.

I wanted also to invoke the feelings of a darkly epic tale where the fate of the world hangs in balance... because it kind of does. Crazy times we live in.



A rapid pace of change no one can keep up with.

These are characteristics of a new era we’ve entered called The Maddening.

I felt quite vulnerable going through these first few slides at first, but after seeing how literally everyone reacts to this pitch, I've gained a ton of confidence that this section does what it needs to. Which is to set my prospects up for the next technique...

Disrupt the Status Quo with a Paradigm Shift

I've got my prospect's attention. Now, before they even have time to wonder what they've gotten themselves into, I want to blow their mind with that lightbulb epiphany moment that suggests (using a dirty little film trick called the Kuleshov Effect) where this Maddening they're experiencing comes from.

This is the big big sensemaking moment. I want to construct a narrative that rings immediately so fucking true that they don't even spend one nanosecond considering its merit.

I had in the times I'd pitched story services before learned that everyone resonates with a statement about how noisy our world is today, so I knew that was the paradigm shift my narrative would center on.

With the advent of the internet, social media, and smartphones, each of us now has the power to impact millions of people. 

This power was supposed to bring us together and usher in a golden age of human-to-human connection.

But ironically, it’s done the opposite. 

Because when you put this power into the hands of 8 billion people, what you get is a lot of noise. There is so much signal, so much distraction, and so many voices clamoring for our attention that it can be really difficult to get through to people – let alone motivate them to act.

I usually always see heads nodding on this slide—a telltale sign that my pitch is landing. My Maddening intro and the slides leading into this one build lots of tension. Here's where I resolve that tension with a nice nugget of insight that rounds out a complete narrative. The advent of exponential technology is at the root of so many of the world's problems, not the least of which is the Maddening and distracting din hitting the prospect from every angle.

Act 2: Compel Them to Action

I remember pitching a really cool VR startup right before I signed on with my video production client. They were selling into the enterprise, and their biggest challenge was driving urgency. And so when I saw on LinkedIn a year later that they'd been forced to sell their tech to a competitor, the hero-complex megalomaniac inside me fantasized about saving their company with the following technique...

Present Prospects with an Inescapable Choice

Act 1 is all about sensemaking. We frame the prospect within a narrative that something is happening.

Act 2 is about meaning-making. Something is happening, and if the prospect doesn't do something quick, some bad stuff is going to happen to them. In this case, they're going to continue failing to sell literal gold.

However, not every company is incompetent. Some are doing some really cool things. In fact, those same cool things are things MLK and Ghandi used to do. After tanking my prospect's emotions and putting them into an uncomfortable feeling, I need to shift the polarity and pull them into some positivity.

Which is something a lot of businesses struggle with. You could be selling the best solution in the world; the most game-changing technology; hell, what you’re selling could be as good as gold; but if your prospects don’t understand its true value - if they don’t internalize it in a way that gets them excited at how it can improve their lives – selling it is always going to be an uphill battle. And yet, there are some companies that don’t struggle with this.

You look at Elon Musk and what he's been able to do with Tesla.

Or Marc Benioff and what he’s done with Salesforce.

Then there's Apple, HubSpot, Drift, Gong… these companies seem to have a special something that galvanizes people and unites them into movements that reshape entire industries.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that that special something is actually the same thing history’s greatest leaders used to inspire their movements.

The social proof and invocations of humanity's best and brightest help me pull the prospect's emotions out from the pit, and propel them with energy towards yet another big epiphany I want them to feel.

Act 3: Ignite Your Movement

I might say Act 3 is the crux of my entire strategic narrative framework. This is where we orient prospects towards the new behavior they'll need to adopt to adapt to the paradigm shift. In this case, I wanted CEOs to communicate their visions (and thus strategies) through story, and use it to align their entire markets.

Inspire Their North Star Behavior

I have to be honest, as "CEO" of StorySeer, I don't think I ever really embodied this vision—maybe because I'd never actually experienced it done before, or maybe because I hadn't yet done the inner work to clarify what my vision really is. Still, I haven't done a single one of these pitches where this section didn't land for a prospect, so evidently I was failing in the right direction!

That special something is story.

You see, every movement starts with a leader or CEO with a belief.

They communicate that belief using a powerful story framework that speaks directly to the part of the brain that drives behavior.

That story instills the CEO's belief into the hearts & minds of their employees and early adopters, who align themselves behind the story and begin echoing it in sales conversations, through marketing, at conferences or slack channels or anywhere word-of-mouth is happening. The end result is this bubble or sphere of reality that grows faster and faster and faster until it takes on a life of its own. You get massive demand for your product, more attention from the media, and more interest from talented job candidates. In short, the story becomes a competitive advantage you can use to dominate your market.

Act 4: Sell Your Solution

There are of course several different ways to use this section. The emotional story structure is a vehicle which can carry a variety of messages. But the most typical way to use that "all is lost" feeling you get in all the Hollywood blockbusters at the end of the 3rd act is to present your pain points as these seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Create Tension by Invoking Their Pain Points

Here, we want to call forth the prospect's pain and frustration and root that into an embodied narrative that'll ultimately make them feel in their bodies why they need to buy your shit.

Now, since I am selling to proud CEOs, whose inner company dynamics are really a reflection of them, I didn't want to risk offending them by going too far into the doom or gloom. So I took a mixed approach—my voiceover would hit the low notes, while the design would help them envision the positive outcome I wanted to help them attain.

Now, of course, everybody wants that. But it’s not easy. Very few companies have really pulled this off.

For starts, when you’re selling to B2B buying committees, your story has to impel a sense of urgency with several different stakeholders, each of whom might come into the sales process at different points with very different priorities. You might have one or two champions feeling urgency, but without a story that excites all the decision-makers, selling will be an uphill battle.

Further, to build a movement and achieve this sort of growth, you need everyone at your company to be in alignment. If you look at Salesforce or any of those movement-building companies, they had everyone from the leadership group down bought into the vision and moving in lock-step.

So your story needs to inspire your team, your investors, the media, channel partners, integration partners, and all the stakeholders of your buying committee. That’s a pretty tall order, but solving this problem is really what StorySell’s all about.

So I've presented the obstacles. The journey's going to be oh so hard. They'll need help. So finally, 22 slides in, it's time for me to start pitching my services.

Resolve Their Tension with Your Features & Benefits

Now, at this point, I hadn't actually come to real clarity around how my strategic narrative process would actually work. More pressingly, my design budget was running low, so I thought myself clever to speak about my process in broad terms while placing my deliverables into a little Hero's Journey framework. Sometimes a little showmanship can cover up your solution's shortcomings 😉

We’re a group of creative writers and marketers that, a couple years ago, stumbled across something really interesting. You look at ancient mythologies like The Odyssey; writers like Shakespeare or Hemingway; Hollywood superfranchises like Star Wars; great orators like MLK; AND finally, CEOs like Marc Benioff or Steve Jobs; and what you realize is that they’re all using the same powerful 5-act story framework to structure their messaging. So we’ve developed a process to help companies like yours do the same.

First, we help craft your story. We guide CEOs and their leadership teams through a series of workshops, customer interviews, and working sessions, with the goal of crafting your strategic narrative in the form of a new sales deck.

We then take that deck and validate it in real sales conversations. If our story hits home, we'll see prospects engaging way more. They'll be nodding their heads. They'll be opening up about their pain points. And the best part, by the time you get to the end of the deck, your prospects will near-completely understand what you do and why you matter. You'll have less objections, less questions, and overall less friction, which should translate into a shorter sales cycle and a higher win rate. 

With the story completely validated by your prospects, we can then roll it out to your whole company. You can use it to get your employees fired up and aligned behind your vision. You can use it in recruiting, or fundraising. Most notably, you can use the deck as a core document to guide your marketing message.

To support this, we offer a suite of marketing services to implement your story via website design, copywriting, content marketing, and brand strategy.

The crazy thing I realized after doing two of these projects is that the process actually does follow a 5 act structure! That "all is lost" moment at the end of the 3rd act always happens when the CEO and I present the first draft to the wider leadership team. Someone's emotions always go wild. I wasn't ready for it the first time, but now when this happens I know the project is close to completion!

Act 5: Overcome Their Objections

Here's where we prove that our solution actually works. There is a lot more nuance in how this act could be executed, and I think my instantiation comes up well short of its potential. After all, MLK's "I Have a Dream" section came in the fifth act of this speech.

Me? I just said thank you. I think this is where an inspiring vision statement is supposed to go, but I of course didn't know what that vision was yet (though I think I'm getting close to formulating it).

Eliminate Doubt with Case Studies & Social Proof

Now, we’re a very young startup early in our process, but so far our results have been compelling. We helped a video production company selling into B2B enterprises land one of their biggest contracts to-date.

We helped one of the players in the small business 401(k) space come up with a movement-building story and the marketing strategy to tell it.

And most recently, we crafted the strategic narrative for a sales consultancy selling to early-stage startups. Since they rolled out the new deck, they’ve more than tripled their revenue and nearly doubled their headcount.

And much as I did in this deck, I will end this blog post with a slightly underwhelming "thank you!" I sincerely hope you've enjoyed my little less-than-professional musings (I used to cover up my discomfort at sharing my creative work). Even more so, I hope you found the content inspiring. For more than one reason, this is a very non-traditional sales deck, but it's been a resounding success for me. It boosts my confidence every time I see it, and has provided my yet more inspiration to figure out what StorySeer's strategic narrative really is.

Towards that end, I invite you to reach out to me if you have any questions or there's anything I can help with. Engaging with your challenges will surely inspire me, and who knows... you might even end up as a character in my next deck. One love ✌️


About The Author

is the founder and CEO of StorySell. He leads a marketing consultancy specializing in content and storytelling. He combines analytical know-how with a love of good writing to drive measurable growth to your bottom line.
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