5 Slides.

I've been working with clients on a new strategy for engaging clients on sales calls and navigating them through complex programs and offerings. From introduction to agreement in 5 slides.

If you're like many digital publishers, ad tech companies or other sales organizations, you're probably a little intrigued by the idea. You've probably seen first-hand the emotional and human cost of a PowerPoint culture run amok. Your marketing and product people labor over the perfect company narrative, generating dozens of detailed slides containing heavy images and intricate builds and animations. Your sales people feel the pressure to show all these slides to customers who not-so-surreptitiously check their phones and look at their watches. Wasted opportunity follows wasted opportunity. And the worst thing happens: nothing.

So here's the radical idea: run the entire sales call with 5 simple slides.

Slide 1: The Phrase Cloud. This is a technique I've been teaching over the last 4-5 years. Research the client's business online and put up 5-10 phrases (headlines, blurbs, quotes) that relate to important business and marketing issues they may have in mind. Your PC doesn't have to be perfect or even mostly correct. It just needs to be a credible effort at some homework. Let the client read the slide while you sit quietly. Then ask them what they found most interesting and valuable.

Slide 2: The Challenge. Write out a brief statement that answers the question "Why are we here today?" This is the moment where you clearly call out the unsolved problem you are prepared to tackle for the customer. Ask them how important they think this issue is and what other detail they'd like to offer. Listen to what they tell you.

Slide 3: Process and Values. On this slide are several statements and headlines that detail the process and values your company will employ as you work for the customer. You're establishing how it will be to work together before you tell them what they should buy from you.

Slide 4: The Solution Placemat. This is a simple schematic that visually depicts the elements of your proposed solution. Screen shots of products, phrases and numbers representing audiences and scope, visuals illustrating thematic ideas. (If the client's feedback on slides 1 and 2 changed things, you can simply cross out or add elements to this page.) This allows the rep to conversationally talk through the different parts of the recommendation without a lengthy trail of slides. (And if something needs immediate elaboration, you can take a detour for an additional slide or trip to the site.)

Slide 5: The Close. On this slide the rep notes the initial price estimate and specific ask of the client. "If we can execute this program and help you solve problem X, will you recommend/budget/green-light $X over the next X months?" (Tip: Many sellers are scared to death of such a direct question, but it's the only way to truly qualify the opportunity -- and the decision maker -- and shorten the sales cycle.) Be sure to include both a number and a verb on this slide.

If you're thinking "but what about my company introduction?" don't bother. Your sales people will define themselves and your company much more effectively by getting down to business and solving problems collaboratively with your customers. These 5 slides may be just the vehicle to let them do so.