Sales arguments that build presentations


by Peter Watts

At the core of a sales presentation are logical arguments that lay out why your product benefits the customer.

Those sales arguments need the force of mathematical logic.

1 + 2 = 3

The best way that I can demonstrate the two routes to achieving this sort of math-magic is by sharing with you the slogan from a TV commercial that I often hear when I’m traveling in the Middle East. It’s for a tax planning company. Their sales argument is:

“Successful SME’s value our tax advice,

If you’re a successful SME

You’ll want our tax advice today”

Approach #1: The syllogism

That argument above is in a structure called a syllogism. It works in three parts:

  • Premise 1: “Successful SME’s value our tax advice.”
  • Premise 2: “You’re a successful SME”
  • therefore Conclusion 3: “You’ll want our tax advice.”

1 + 2 = 3

Whenever I hear that commercial, I want to vault across my hotel room to change the channel. It grates on my every mental synapse. Why? Because the argument is so damned obvious. The sales message is being laid-on with a trowel and I resent being treated like a child.

That’s the problem with syllogisms. They attempt to do all the thinking for the customer, and in the process treat them as idiots.

Approach #2: The enthymeme

An enthymeme is a syllogism with a bit chopped-off. Rather than pureeing your sales argument in the liquidizer and then spoon-feeding it to the audience as if they were enfeebled, an enthymeme asks the audience to do a little of the chewing for themselves. Result: better digestion.

Let’s go back to the math:

1 + 2 = 3

Let’s say that entire sum represents a syllogism. It’s all laid out for you on the page.

Now I’m going to take away a number:

1 + ? = 3

Within moments you work out that ? = 2

That’s an enthymeme. The audience is invited to deduce the missing piece of the argument, and therefore to feel just that little bit clever about themselves!

How to apply this to sales-world?

Your first base, is to start with a full-scale syllogism. Imagine that your company is renowned for environmental business practice. You win prizes for it. The syllogism for the customer presentation might look a little like this:

Premise 1: “Responsible organizations see protecting the environment as important”

Premise 2: “You are a responsible organisation”

Conclusion 3: “Protecting the environment will be important to you.”

So far, so cheesy. Well, it’s a syllogism! 1 + 2 = 3

Now let’s create a sales presentation enthymeme by chopping out sections:

Enthymeme A: ? + 2 = 3

“As a responsible organization, protecting the environment will be important to you.”

Audience fills in the missing premise and concludes: “Responsible organizations seek to protect the environment”

Enthymeme B: 1 + ? = 3

“All responsible organisations seek to protect the environment. Protecting the environment will be important to you.”

Audience fills in the missing premise and flatteringly concludes: “We are a responsible organization.”

These little mini-structures might be sounding vaguely familiar to you. If they are then it’s because you’re recognizing the pattern from some of the better examples of television advertising. Advertisers who want to sell products recognize that by coding sales arguments as enthymemes, they are more likely to win over the audience.

That same coding will work for you. Sales presentation arguments are at their most persuasive when we invite the customer to be involved.

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