How to create a compelling credentials presentation.

Whether you’re the agency crafting a compelling credentials presentation or the client about to meet an agency for the first time, both sides are trying to assess whether there’s a potential fit.

And telling – or listening to – a credible story in a sea of sameness is the all-important difference between hearing, ‘looking forward to seeing you at our next meeting’ and ‘best of luck with your future endeavours…

So what are the secrets to creating or reviewing compelling credentials presentations?  Here are ten worth remembering:

Credentials happen all the time

While most people think of ‘credentials’ as a formal presentation or a carefully crafted leave-behind, the truth is a credentials overview can also happen as quickly as a sixty second elevator ride.  A succinct and compelling answer to ‘why’s your agency so good…?’  or ‘how do you differentiate yourselves from others…?’  can sometimes open more doors than pages of Powerpoint.  So if you don’t have that killer, thirty-second pitch – it’s time to get one.

Credentials aren’t history lessons

How you got where you got to may be interesting to you, but unless you can articulate it in a minute or two, chances are it’s not interesting to whoever you’re talking to.  The history of your business and the struggles you went through to build it into what it is today, likely aren’t relevant to how or what you’ll be doing to help the client you’re talking to.

It’s not a check-list

A popular misconception is that credentials presentations should be delivered as a check-list of services rather than a conversation about how you could best help your prospect. 

To avoid the ‘check-list’ approach, tie your messages together with a narrative that’s compelling, distinctive and something clients will remember after they’ve left the building.  As you ask questions along the way, you can either expand on particular areas of interest, or point to further information in your leave-behind document.

Detail in the leave behind

One of the biggest mistakes agencies can make is to dig into details that take away from other areas that may be more relevant.  If a client has asked for a credentials presentation and asked an additional twenty questions around process – cover off the questions at a high level during the presentation, but put the detail in your leave-behind.  That way you get to spend more time talking with your prospect rather than presenting to your prospect.

You’ve got half the amount of time

As a general rule of thumb you should allocate half the amount of time available to present your credentials and leave the other half to discussion.  If you spend the whole time presenting, leaving just five minutes for questions at the end, your client will likely feel left out of the ‘conversation’ and you’ll learn little or nothing about what their true needs are. 

Case studies shouldn’t be an afterthought

Case studies can be incredibly powerful in credentials presentations – provided they’re delivered properly – in short bursts at the right time.  Generally speaking, case studies need to demonstrate a recognizable client name, a succinct problem and solution, and an eye-popping result. When used to demonstrate a point, they can be much more powerful than out of context facts on a slide about your agency’s capabilities.

Don’t engage too early

A first meeting or credentials discussion is an opportunity to evaluate both capabilities and your team’s fit with a prospect.  Asking tough questions of your prospect before you’ve had the opportunity to assess some sort of fit can sometimes backfire – simply because your prospect doesn’t feel comfortable in sharing the information you’ve asked, and possibly make you seem too ‘pushy’.

Be careful with your assumptions

During a first meeting, sharing assumptions or insights you’ve gathered from preliminary research can be risky because it may be those are the very assumptions that are proving to be a challenge for your prospect.  It’s always better to stick to facts and capabilities and let the client share their insights and challenges first.

Test it on those who know you

One of the best ways to evaluate your own credentials is to present them to those who know you – your own employees or incumbent clients – to get their opinion on your story.  Chances are your own team or clients are going to be much more forthcoming on what resonates and what doesn’t, and you can hone your key messages accordingly.

Process is boring

While many clients may ask for process information, describing the details of that process isn’t interesting.  Sorry, but it just isn’t.  We’ve seen charts, circles, boxes, arrows, venn-diagrams, and dotted lines in every shape, size, colour and pattern you could imagine.  The best way to tackle process is to provide an overview but support it with an example or case study.  Again, expand the detail in a leave-behind.

Credentials typically have one single purpose:  To get your prospect engaged enough to want a follow-up or deeper discussion about their business.  If your story isn’t coming together or you think your credentials could use a competitive tune-up, we’re happy to come take a look.


Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc  offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

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