5 Steps to effectively use case studies in your sales presentation


By Steve Woodruff, {grow} Community Member

How many times have you walked away from a sales presentation muttering “I still don’t have a clue what they do … or why I should care.”

The biggest culprit is usually a sales pitch too dense with words, graphs and images to make any sense. That’s why the most powerful explanation can be a story – particularly, a case study.

I was with a client a few months back and we were having a very difficult time defining their key client offering and message. They did so many different things for their clients that narrowing it down to something simple and memorable was a thorny challenge.

As they described the work they’d accomplished over the years, a key theme began to emerge – the fact that competitors may supply this or that, but this company actually provided the outsource capacity to get large projects accomplished. They were all about implementation. So we used a case study about a successful implementation to highlight what they do,

To stand in front of a potential client and say, “We do this list of 15 things” is to invite confusion, even if it’s true. But if you say, “Let us tell you the story about how we took on a similar big initiative for one of other clients …” now, I’m all ears.

I think the case study is an under-used sales technique in many situations. Instead of receiving a resume with a blizzard of buzzwords, wouldn’t you prefer to hear a story of what a person can do?

Instead of being overwhelmed by product reviews, wouldn’t it be more effective to hear a story about what sets a product apart?

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to get case studies in search results instead of just product descriptions?

So how do we make the most effective use of our case studies? I believe there are five key things to remember:

  1. Be sure the story is precisely tailored to the audience you’re trying to reach. If your prospect wants to know how your platform is going to help them launch a small startup, don’t go blathering on about how IBM is using it to cover all of Asia.
  2. Talk about the deepest client need, and how your solution can ease their pain. Connecting on a pain point will immerse  listeners in your story.
  3. Be sure to emphasize specifically how your company uniquely addresses those pain points. You want the case study to reinforce your sweet spots.
  4. Results. Always highlight results.
  5. If possible, include an actual customer quote or testimonial.

It’s always a challenge to present engagingly in a short window of time. So if you’ve got case studies – use them!

What other tips would you add to my list? How are you using case studies in the marketplace?

steve woodruffSteve Woodruff is the world’s only Clarity Therapist, and a builder of business opportunity networks. Interact with Steve on Twitter (@swoodruff) and get your regular dose of clarity at SteveWoodruff.com.

Illustration courtesy of Flickr CC and Paul Downey.

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  • Such great points! I see people going ‘social media’ crazy where I am and I think that people need to get back to basics, meaning strategy and actual results.

  • Steve Woodruff

    Tiana – it really is easy to jump on the latest fad, isn’t it? Sometimes that makes it even more difficult to figure out what a company is truly good at!! :>}

  • Jenny Brennan

    Great Post Steve! I started telling my stories in client meetings since September and as a result starting closing more business 🙂 As you rightly point out its important to recognise the pain points and provide examples of how you have solved the problem for other relevant clients. 🙂

  • Steve Woodruff

    Humans latch onto stories (and analogies). Some of the most under-utilized tools in our sales and marketing toolbox, no?

  • Good points Steve. I think you also highlight one of the key issues with case studies: case studies can quickly become irrelevant. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how marketers in particular can address this, in your search example for instance.

    This is one of the key reasons marketing keeps coming back to features or solutions rather than cases and stories – it is “relevant” (even though it bores us to sleep and we completely miss the message).

    Interestingly, in my work, I often get sales calls that attempt to sell with stories and cases. Unfortunately, they don’t take the time to understand my business first, so the cases aren’t relevant. I often push back towards a solution discussion in order to get information I can actually use.

    Back to my question: for your search example, how do we create experiences that let visitors quickly find the stories that are relevant to them?

  • Steve Woodruff

    I like Hubspot’s example here: http://www.hubspot.com/customer-case-studies – punchy, personable, up-front summaries with business results; well-categorized for searching; and the opportunity to dig deeper into details.

  • Jenny Brennan


  • I definitely appreciate the power of the story. I do generally try to get some of the pain points outlined either before the presentation or at the beginning of the presentation (which is a great way to get that 2-way dialogue going, anyway). Then I weave in customer anecdotes as I show product functionality…to show how other customers felt the same pain points and eliminated them with the product.

    It definitely presents a more comfortable, limited scope when presenting our products. Otherwise, we do have so many service offerings it can be easy to get wrapped up with trying to convey WE DO EVERYTHING. Sometimes I will still show our products to demonstrate how all of those “service offerings” are built into the successful deployment of the product. Basically, it’s our own case study/success story.

  • Steve Woodruff

    “We do everything!” – the bane of my existence. I was just railing on that again today during my vendor selection workshop. I shudder every time I see a big list of bullet points instead of a clear, focused statement (backed by a case study, of course!)

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