Episode TwoHundredTwentyFour

Put Your Customer at the Center of Your Storytelling

Guest: Paul Shortley, SVP of Global Sales, Marketing Effectiveness at Nielsen

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About This Episode

Everyone is cost-centric right now — but especially CFOs.

When your product or service is priced at premium, how do you use storytelling to sell at a time when the phones are uncharacteristically quiet?

I recently got to dig into tactics with Paul Shortley, SVP of Global Sales, Marketing Effectiveness at Nielsen.

But first things first — Paul has worked from home for years before COVID-19 and never wears his pajamas to the office. “It gets me in the right frame of mind,” he said.

Paul shared his sales theory and tactics about doubling down on his sales platform and promoting the customer as the hero of the sales story.

A strong messaging platform starts with…

Paul has been in the middle of a journey of creating a strong messaging platform. Now that it’s a season of less sales activity, major changes are taking on a new importance.

His role is in analytics practice and marketing effectiveness practice. “We analyze and help our customers figure out how best to optimize and spend their marketing dollars,” he said.

There are a lot of competitors who do similar things that are probably “good enough” for many clients.

Paul is helping to counter the cheaper or faster solutions with a renewed emphasis on sales rigor.

Here’s what he tells his sales teams and delivery teams: “There is no black magic in sales. It’s a process that can be taught.”

Let’s get tactical.

Tactic #1 – Don’t talk about your greatness

Often, the approach that we take as salespeople is spending too much time early on talking about how great our stuff is.

Instead, Paul suggests focusing on what the clients are facing, the risk that’s involved in their environment, and the changes they may have to make.

“If they don’t consider making changes, what is that going to mean? What is the risk to their business?” Paul asks.

Making the client the hero of the story is a foundational part of Paul’s messaging strategy.

Tactic #2 – Storytelling as an art form

An illustration of NOT putting the customer at the center of the story is a sales presentation that begins with a slide of “logo soup.”

“Essentially, you’re beating your chest in terms of how great you are versus making the client the center of the story,” he said.

Only after you talk about the client’s current risks have you earned the right to talk about how you can help them solve their problems.

“We’ll do a lot of our analytics in advance to understand our client’s situation — even before they understand it — and point out the risk to their business,” Paul said.

Tactic #3 – Understanding psychology

A quick word on the NASCAR slide:

Don’t put your “NASCAR slide” at the beginning of your PowerPoint presentation.

Put it at the end.

If you have an hour meeting with a client, your audience’s attention span will do this:

  • First 5-7 minutes: really paying attention
  • Middle 30-45 minutes: zoning out
  • Last 5-7 minutes: paying attention again

“I would rather hold the client’s attention to make sure that we’re delivering our messages and that our messages are really sticking,” Paul said.

That particular slide shows your experience and credibility. But it doesn’t need to open the presentation.

Sell benefits, not features

Another aspect of psychology that salespeople often overlook is too much emphasis on features.

“We spend too much time selling a feature and not really paying it off with an advantage or benefit,” Paul said.

This ties right back into talking more about the client than what you are selling.

Recap of Paul’s sales philosophy:

  • Use data analytics to examine the client’s situation for risks or problems (downplaying your prestige versus their needs)
  • Focus on identifying the problem to the client (making them the center of your storytelling)
  • Suggest how you can help solve the problems (explaining benefits rather than technical specs)

Premium is better than good enough

With its proprietary data and technology, Nielsen is positioned as the premium in the industry.

In an era of belt-tightening, it can be difficult to persuade clients that something apparently free will cost them money.

“Our competitors are positioning things as a good value, and our clients are perceiving that as good enough,” Paul said. “Our data actually says otherwise.”

An example is that clients who work with ad agencies will see that competitive services are built into their contract. Their viewpoint is that they are already getting a data service, so they don’t need to spend additionally to solve that problem.


Some of their data is questionable. Some of their models are flawed.

“Our argument is that free is actually expensive,” Paul said.

Good decisions based on poor data are actually bad decisions.

“The reality is that the decision making can be so skewed that they’re not optimizing their media spend at all,” he concluded.

Contact Paul on LinkedIn or by email at paul.shortley@nielsen.com.

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.

About The Podcast

The Sales Engagement podcast is the #1 podcast focused on engaging your customers and prospects in the modern sales era. This show features real-life stories and best practices from revenue leaders doing the job day in and day out, in a casual, radio-like talk show.

Each episode features modern tactics, strategies, hacks, and tips to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy and help you navigate the next generation of sales. You’ll find energetic talks that will provide you with real actionable value around building meaningful connections and creating a better selling experience through authentic conversations that you can measure.

The Sales Engagement podcast is here to help B2B sales leaders, customer success leaders, and marketing leaders innovate and usher in the next era of modern sales by building pipeline, up-selling customers, and ultimately generating more revenue with more efficiency.

Hosted by Joe Vignolo, Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach, and Mark Kosoglow, Vice President of Sales at Outreach.

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