Sales Management
8 Minute Read

Minute to Win It: The 60-Second Deal Review That’s Scary Accurate

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8 Minute Read

In just 60 seconds, I can tell you (with far more accuracy than your forecasting platform) if your business case (and therefore, deal) is going to get a decision — or get deleted.

Compared to the typical deal review and QBR conversation?

That’s about 59 minutes faster to make a closed-won-or-lost prediction. Because let's just be honest: the typical deal review, QBR, and forecasting meeting that forces reps to "defend" their deal is way too long, aimless, and unproductive.

Now, when people hear me say all this, they’re thinking something like:

“But Nate, you don’t know our product! You don’t know our business!”

Exactly. That’s the whole point.

Your prospects don’t either. So that executive you’re working to engage? That committee you’re working to sway?

They’ll spend, at most, 60 seconds entertaining your message. (Assuming it even makes it to their inbox or meeting agenda.)

How Hollywood Kills Screenplays (and Executives Kill Deals)

Thousands of screenplays are created every year. They take months and months to write.

But just seconds to die.

When a new screenplay’s submitted for review — and hopefully, a big studio’s investment to move into production — they’ll read the first and last pages first:

  • The first page sets up who the main character is, in the beginning.
  • The last page tells you who they’ve become, at the end.
  • Together, these pages show how much they’ve changed.
  • If there’s not enough change and contrast, it’s too boring.


The exact same thinking and review process happens inside your deals:

  • Is this character (project) interesting?
  • Is there enough contrast between today (current state, problem) and tomorrow (future state, payoff)?

If not… delete.

The Universal Structure to Make Your Message Stick

This is the universal structure built into every single framework you’ll ever use.

Whether your prefer something like the 1-Page Business Case, a Consulting-Style Summary, Value Story, etc… they all hinge on one big idea:

Creating contrast, to hook your audience. That’s what keeps deals from slipping and stalling. And it keeps your message front and center during the buying team's internal conversations. (Even if you're not there to tell it.)

Using the language Nancy Duarte popularized in her research behind Resonate, your message needs to outline:

  • What is
  • What could be

It sucks you in, and keeps you locked in.

It’s the universal “sparkline” behind every story that sticks with us:

Now, don’t miss this piece:

After you clarify the difference between what is, and what could be: “oscillate” back and forth between these two states.

That’s what keeps our goldfish-length attention spans focused.

The 5-Part Story Framework to Guide Your Next Business Case

Here’s how to do that. A 5-part story framework:

1/ In the Beginning:

Lead with a truth your buyers agree on. A priority they’re already sold on.

Then, describe their current reality in a way that feels crazy accurate.

One that shows that you "get it," and deeply understand their context and core values in a way others don’t.

2/ Turning Point # 1

Start contrasting "what is" vs. "what could be."

Make sure the difference between these is as wide as possible.

Your job is to create desire with an exciting vision of the future, then show how your ideas fill that desire.

3/ Middle:

Your storyline has to raise the stakes here.

What’s it all for? Why not just keep living life as it is?

Then continue to alternate what is / could be / is / could be, etc. Constantly creating and resolving tension in your emails, business cases, wherever you’re delivering your message.

4/ Turning Point # 2:

Make a clear call to action. What should people do? Beyond just “signing the contract,” what’s required?

Continue to outline the reward that’s waiting for them if they do.

5/ Ending:

Recap the big idea, and create a sense of calm confidence.

Not all of us see ourselves as strong writers.

So, if you need a little guidance while planning the broad strokes to your storyline, to guide how you craft the rest of the narrative behind your deal, check out this worksheet:

Notice how the first 3 bullet points above, the headlines, include each story element:

  • Beginning (what is)
  • Middle (buying journey)
  • End (what could be)

Also notice how this checklist is based the Sales Process 2.0 playbook and stages. Which lets you test whether:

  1. You’re aligning your sales process to the buyer’s journey.
  2. They’re actually making progress on that journey with you.

Clues to Look for In Deal Reviews

So, back to deal reviews.

Assuming you’ve actually documented the narrative behind your deal — vs. recycling the same template decks and case studies — then, deal reviews are radically simplified. Sales leaders, you’re looking for a couple points:

  1. The Big Idea:

Do your first and last sentences grab and hold attention? Can you understand why this matters inside no more than 3 sentences?

Is the big idea vague, unclear, or uninteresting?

  1. Edits:

How many edits did our champions make to our messaging? Is this still our storyline, or theirs? Are they building ownership in the deal?

Look for redlines, comments, and the amount of change between V1 and V2 of the message. No changes? No comments? We’re not there yet.

  1. Value:

What’s the size of the gap between current and future states? Are the stakes high enough to get above director level? For example:

  • Workflow efficiency = Manager
  • MQL’s Generated = Director
  • Qualified Pipeline = VP
  • CAC = CMO
  1. Numbers & Dates

How specific are we going? Are we using the customers own data?

Do we have dates in a go-live plan, and specific numbers inside our problem and payoff statements?

(Deals with numbers in a problem statement close at 3X the rate of those without numbers — Fluint data.)

  1. Unique Language

Who is this written to sound like? Are we using our language and stuff straight from a “brand guide” or “persona” chart?

Or, is the language so “native” that it’ll read as if our champions wrote it themselves? So specific that it’d be “weird” to send this to another account?

Review enough deals, and you can spot all this inside 60 seconds, with just a single page. What you’ll find, too, is that the seller who hasn’t…

…will instead forcing their buyer to do all that work.

And ultimately, they won’t make it out of the 60-second deal review and into the forecast.

It’s About People, not Products

One footnote I’ll add to this structure:

Good stories aren’t all “products.” They’re all people.

They're about who we’re becoming, because what hooks us is always a matter of identity.

Which is what the Heath Brothers describe in their book Switch. We all follow a “identity decision-making model.” Where we ask ourselves three questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What kind of situation is this?
  3. What would someone like me do in this situation?

Which goes something like this:

  1. I’m a leader who cares about my people.
  2. We’re expanding internationally, and acquiring more companies. Creating a clash between cultures and lots of people change.
  3. Listen deeply to employee feedback, directly from our frontline staff.

This third question is where your message comes in with:

  • Less, "send multichannel employee surveys via email, text, and social.”
  • More, "become a caring leader by measuring the human experience."

So, ask yourself:

  • Does your message sound like the first bullet point, or the second?
  • If your deal was a screenplay, would it make it out of the first-page-last-page test? Or would it die, right then, after a 60-second look?

Check out our library of free resources and templates

Our readers are using our frameworks to close more deals, and faster than ever. How? They are selling with their buyers. You can too.

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