If you’ve ever sat through a presentation that went around the block a few times before finally arriving at its destination, you understand the need for a clear, comprehensible structure for your message.
Structure isn’t just for keeping you, the presenter, from getting lost in the weeds. As a salesperson, you need to organize your message in a way that has the greatest impact on your audience and ultimately encourages them to take action.
Almost any structure will help you get your arms around information, prioritize, and organize it. However, the right structure can set you up for success and increase your odds of winning the business.
The Basic Three-Act Presentation Structure
Breaking content into an opening, a body, and a conclusion is the basis of most presentations, movies, TV shows, and speeches. This basic three-act structure was invented by Aristotle and has stood the test of time. It’s familiar to audiences, digestible, and easy to follow. In fact, if you’ve ever felt uncomfortable or confused watching a movie, it’s often because the writer has broken the three-act structure (Memento and Inception are two examples).
A three-act structure is a great place to start for just about any presentation. But within this framework there are several variations. For instance, you could sort information chronologically, by process, or priority, and so on.
If your goal is to educate or inform, these variations are fine -- but they're not optimal for persuasion. To do use, that the Situation, Complication, Resolution framework.
SCR: The Best Sales Presentation Structure of All
Situation, Complication, Resolution is really just a way of identifying:
- Our present state
- The problem
- What should we do about it
First identified in Barbara Minto’s book The Pyramid Principle, the SCR structure is an effective way of establishing a persuasive case and will be familiar to anyone who consumes movies, TV, or books.
Here’s an example of the SCR structure in a story:
Situation: A girl is kidnapped. If a steep ransom is not paid by midnight, a bomb will explode.
Complication: The girl's family can’t get the money together. No one knows where the bomb is except the hero. The hero is stuck on a remote island.
Resolution: The hero jumps on a plane, finds the girl, detonates the bomb, and saves the world.
If that sounds like the framework of most movies you’ve seen, there’s a good reason. The SCR structure organizes content in a way that takes people on a journey that leads to a natural conclusion. It builds up tension in the audience which increases their attention and their desire for a resolution.
By following this proven structure in sales, you can produce the same effect on your business audience. Let’s look at how you can leverage each act in your sales presentation.
To take someone on a journey, you must first know where that journey begins. In this first act, define the status quo. What is the critical business issue or challenge your prospect is experiencing, how is he addressing it, and what is the impact?
This act lays the groundwork for why your prospect needs to change and assures him you have a clear understanding of his situation. Ending this first act by painting a brief picture of where this journey can lead (i.e., current state versus potential future state) creates an uncomfortable but necessary disparity between where your prospect is and where he wants to be.
In this act, introduce complications or consequences that are likely to arise as a result of your prospect not taking action, or choosing an inadequate solution to his problem. Create tension which will make sticking with the status quo or putting off a decision less desirable.
Because most people are uncomfortable with indecision, tension taps into our innate human desire to solve the problem. Widening the gap between pain and relief increases your prospect’s urgency to take action.
Finally, when tension is at its peak, relieve that tension by providing a clear solution to the problem and making it easy for your prospect to act upon. While many structures require the presenter to deliver a heavy handed close at this point, in the SCR structure, the resolution comes as a natural conclusion to the journey.
The SCR Presentation in Action
Let’s look at how you might use the three-act SCR structure in a business example.
Situation: An HR department is doing most of their reports manually. This currently takes 1.5 days per week of each HR person’s time.
Complication: The company is growing at a rate of 20% per year. Projected HR workload will escalate to two days per week if nothing changes and the chances for errors will increase. Employee satisfaction will decline and turnover rates will go up.
Resolution: Deploy an HR workforce application that will reduce time spent on current processes from 1.5 days per week to .25 days per week, resulting in greater efficiency, fewer errors, increased satisfaction, and a lower turnover rate.
In sales, you need every advantage you can get. Following the Situation, Complication, Resolution structure gives you a jumpstart on presenting a persuasive case for why your prospect should choose your solution and make the desired change.