March 21

How to Create Urgency by Raising the Stakes in your Presentation


Why you Need to Create Urgency in your Presentation

Longer sales cycles and busier prospects dealing with multiple and often conflicting priorities make the need to create urgency during your presentation, dare I say, “urgent?”  I am not of course referring to the manufactured “This is the last one we have left!” type of urgency.  I am talking about authentic urgency:  the desire to solve a problem that a customer has perhaps dismissed or put off because other issues are competing for his or her attention.

Too many salespeople miss opportunities to create urgency within their presentation by glossing over or discounting challenges. Here’s an example from an actual presentation:

Version 1:  Low Urgency

 “As you mentioned, expanding your business into multiple states and navigating the many requirements associated with managing the Compliance, Tax and Employee Administration requirements within the various states where you’re doing business can be very difficult.  There are a lot of different forms and time tables to keep on top of.  We want to show you how we can help you simplify the onboarding process, implement state-compliant forms and decrease your liability and risk.”

O….K….A…Y…  I didn’t feel particularly moved to action by this.  Did you?  Let’s look at some of the statements she used:

  • “…doing business can be very difficult.”  This sounds only mildly annoying.  I’m sure the prospect has many  “difficulties” on his plate.  Why should this issue be given greater attention than the others?
  • “There are a lot of different forms and time tables to keep on top of.”  A lot of forms?  How many? Three?  Three-hundred?  What does a reduction in processing forms mean to me and my business?  Again, this lukewarm statement doesn’t convince me of the need to take immediate action.

The Raise the Stakes Technique

Raising the Stakes is an extremely effective technique to reignite a prospect’s urgency.  It simply involves making a series of associations that escalate the importance of making a decision and the consequences of either indecision or a poor decision.   Movies Raise the Stakes all the time to keep the audience engaged. Consider this movie scenario:

If the hero doesn’t find the bomb by midnight, the city will be destroyed.  If the city is destroyed, the country will go to war.  If the country goes to war…

We’ve all seen this movie, right? The stakes keep getting higher until the hero must employ every skill he knows to find the bomb and avoid a full out disaster!  We too want to explore the stakes and make sure they are as high as possible to support our case and help the  prospect realize that doing nothing is simply not an option!

Let’s take that same presentation and Raise the Stakes:

Version 2: High Urgency

“Navigating the many requirements associated with managing the Compliance, Tax and Employee Administration requirements where you’re doing business can be incredibly difficult.  Every state has different forms and dates, not to mention increasingly strict penalties for not submitting them on time. In fact, New York just raised the late fee for one common form to $500 per day!  Miss just a few of these dates in multiple states and the money you end up paying in fines can quickly cut into staffing and benefits and ultimately hurt your bottom line.  Today I’m going to show you how we can help you avoid unforeseen losses and reduce risk by implementing a solution that automatically produces timely, state-compliant forms.”

You can see where the presenter included some specific penalties and consequences to delaying this decision.  Do you think the prospect is more likely to take action with this version or the previous?

How to Raise the Stakes in Your Presentation:

  1. Brainstorm the consequences of not making a decision or making the wrong decision for your  prospect.
  2. Raise the stakes by asking yourself after each outcome: And then what would happen?
  3.      3. Create a “Raise the Stake” statement (like the one above) for your presentation and include it early on to increase interest.

Want to become a Virtual Presentation Master? 

For improving your confidence, credibility and connection with customers on video, check out the self-paced Selling On-Camera Master Class.

For workshops, keynotes, and events, get in touch with us here.

Photo by Pi.1415926535 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons


Creating urgency, Raise the Stakes

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