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An interview with Steve Cummins, Director of Marketing for Panasonic Electric Works


Q:
Tell me a little bit about Panasonic Electric Works and what type of clients you generally call on?

A: We sell electronic components – the widgets in the back of your TV or thermostat that click on and off when you hit the power button. Our customers are the engineers who design these products. They generally work on a lot of projects, and have little time to talk, so we need to be able to grab their attention quickly.

Q: Now tell me a little bit about why you wanted to redefine how your client meetings went?

A: Often times we find that sales calls revolve around a Powerpoint presentation – even if there is only 1 other person in the room.  The reality is that the prospect is then staring at an image on the wall and the sales person isn’t creating any personal connection through eye contact during the call.  There is a place for Powerpoint but we tend to forget the real power of a sales call is the people, and we were looking to make a more personal connection with our prospects during the sales calls – especially when it is only a handful of people in the room.

 Q: So you decided to go a little “old-school”?

A: Yes, I like to call it “social media, the old fashioned way”.  I took a risk and decided for a new product release to create printed flipbooks – essentially a Powerpoint presentation built in a hard copy format.  It is a simple piece with about 10 leaves and a built-in stand.

Now during a sales call our salesperson gathers customers around a table and goes through the pages, taking time to connect with those he’s presenting to.  The prospects are now all focused on the sales person (who is only a few feet away) instead of the wall.

Q: When you presented the idea what was the reaction?

A: I’m not sure if people really thought I was serious or not – after all, I’m constantly preaching social media and the importance of it to our sales and marketing team.  When we launched this I had the pleasure of training our sales people on how to conduct sales meetings with the new flipbook – there were definite mixed reactions at first. Nevertheless, they decided to humor me on this and test it out.

Q: And the result?

A: Incredibly Positive!  After trying it out the sales team loves it and has  jumped on board with it.  Our customers are now more engaged in the presentations and the sales people can really begin to make those subtle connections through eye contact and reading body language that was harder when everyone focused on a screen.  They also like not having to power up a laptop or find a projector; and it sets up in seconds, so if a customer says they only have 5 minutes – that’s OK because that’s all they need.

Q: So they don’t look at you like you have two heads anymore?

A: (Laughing) No.  At least, not about this project anyway.

Q: Do you have any tips on how to best create a flipbook like the one you did?

A: For it to really work you have to get away from the 20 bullet point slide in Powerpoint.  You want the pages of the flipbook to be visually stimulating, to draw in people’s curiosity. I’m a big fan of the “Presentation Zen” idea – base the pages around a few compelling, relevant graphics. Keep it clean and uncluttered. Don’t say it on the page –  have your sales people do the real talking and let the flipbook engage the customer visually. It’s tougher to develop than a list of bullet points, but way more effective.

You also need to strategically think about how it will look in print – what size to make the flipbook, how big to make the images and fonts, where to place the logo – all pages or on the base, how heavy of a stock should it be and how durable do we want it to be?  These are all important questions and ones that we relied a lot on Action Graphics to help us work through.  They helped provide insightful advice and provide different samples to make our decision easier.

Q: Thanks for your time – in closing, do you have any last comments to share?

A: Just one warning – there will always be at least one salesperson who asks “why don’t you just buy me an iPad, and I’ll use that for my presentation”.  That’s a subject for a different day, and I think there’s advantages to both approaches at different times.  But I personally think you lose the individuality and tactile advantage of the printed flipbook.

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© Action Graphics, 2012

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