I drew pictures at a sales meeting, and it worked

I made a public promise on this week’s telechat with Dan Roam, author of The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures. The promise was to use the techniques that Dan recommends at a very high-powered sales presentation that I was to give yesterday to a big potential partner.

Well, I did it. And Dan, if you’re reading this, all I have to say is, IT WORKED!

I am really glad and grateful to have been turned on to such a simple tool for crystalizing an idea and communicating it to other people in a compelling and inviting way.

The “pitch” was to offer a quick solution to increase their content and social networking offerings in a very rapid and inexpensive manner with minimal risk and resources required.

Transcribed onto a piece of paper at the end of the meeting (to be able to share it with you), here are the drawings I drew on the whiteboard:

First, a box – it represented their current website.

I drew a line below it and told the 11-person, multi-departmental group in the room to help me pinpoint some of the issues that have gotten in the way of making progress on their effort to add the features and functionality at their website.

Out of the gate, they said that it required a lot of internal resources and coordination between them. That was slowing things down. So I drew lots of bodies…

 Also, the estimates they’d recieved and/or developed internally were rather pricey. So I drew the universal sign for moola.

There were also concerns about limitations of the current web architecture. I drew a house to represent pre-existing architecture.


Next, they talked about how many layers of approval this was going to have to go through. Compliance was a big deal. I drew a whistle, as in a referee whistling to call a foul. 

Then I just added that all of these issues and realities take extra time. Here was my lame attempt at a turtle to reflect that.

And I threw in one additional drawing to represent their visitors’ expectations. Currently, their visitors come to their site expecting specific services (the butler) and products (the box). I talked to them about how much I respect their primary objectives, which ultimately are to sell more of those services and products and that I was well aware that the value of providing more content and connectivity between users was to serve these primary goals.

At this point in the meeting, I noticed that literally EVERYONE in the room was involved. They were talking to me, talking to each other, contributing – there was total engagement and attentiveness. I’d go so far as to say, they were having fun. Not a typical powerpoint meeting-type experience.

Next I drew what I thought we could provide for them, in two parts:


I started by drawing a much simpler scenario if they were to work with us. I explained that very little resource drain on their side would occur – just a relationship manager and a support person would be needed. That’s the two bodies. Probably should’ve drawn long hair on one to represent a female.

Then I added a circle representing StartupNation (SUN), shining brightly.

And last, a rapidly moving, uhhh, rabbit. Not a very good one. But they got it.

This all took maybe a minute and a half to explain. It was clean and simple. From there, I started illustrating how it would work and specifically what benefits would result.


And here’s the final suite of drawings, coming to life right there in the room, everyone still enrapt.

I hit hard on how we could foster connections between their site users. Thus the circle with all the interconnecting arrows between faces. This time I did draw men and women!

Then I added that we’d be able to use our thousands of pages of business advice to move people from confusion and fear to smart and empowered. I butchered the fearful face.  It was supposed to be sweat and ended up looking like tears. But the face with the light bulb overhead was pretty universal. That worked well.

I drew a heart next with their brand inside it. This represented the very positive brand association they’d enjoy if they did provide all of the StartupNation content and connectivity.

And lastly, I drew lots of happy faces, one with a graduation cap and one holding out out a stack of bills representing how the quality of their user base would be improved and that they’d be inclined to make more informed and more frequent transaction decisions.

When I sat down at the table after this and showed some additional pre-prepared materials, it was clear that the room had great, positive energy in it. We were all working together. The meeting went on for another 45 minutes and concluded with very aggressive action items that would move the opportunity forward.

My first experiment in using drawing to draw people in and create a unified vision was a MAJOR HIT.

Here are a few things I learned in my virgin effort that might be helpful if you want to try drawing a pitch, too:

1) Prepare. Do a lot of sketching before you walk into the meeting. Have a very clear idea of key ideas you want to communicate and how you’ll do that. This will help you look like you’re having fun and know what you’re doing and it will invite others to feel the same and join in.

2) Move it along. Don’t go off the deep-end with sketching intricate stuff. Keep it down and dirty – it’s just to capture ideas and to simplify them. So be quick.

3) Pull attendees into the process. The drawing is fun, so let other people join in, direct you, even take over the white board.

4) Mix in some words. I found that some selective, supporting text went a long way to emphasizing key takeaways.

Have fun drawing and winning business!

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