Case Study: Heineken


Forging Bonds:

When Connecting With an Audience is a Sales Essential

The Challenge

Every year, Heineken brand managers travel from Holland to the National Distributors Conference, a two-day, high-energy, multimedia razzle-dazzle event. It’s an essential moment for sales, the brand’s best chance to get ahead in the highly competitive U.S. beer market. Yet they have less than an hour to make a compelling pitch to 2,000 jaded beer distributors in the room. Brand managers needed to deliver key messages, to convince those assembled that their sales strategies will work. Their talk must be inspiring enough, gripping enough, to stand out against two days of thrilling music and attention-grabbing video. Their presentations must explain that discerning drinkers in America want an Old World-style, crafted beer. And they must somehow persuade distributors that Heineken has the sales power to make beer fly off the shelves so fast they’ll need to order more of it. If that’s not pressure enough, Heineken’s top executives are all there watching.

The Solution

Beer drinking is often about bonding, and I needed these brand managers to bond with the audience. The distributors had to feel a personal connection with an honest, likable speaker onstage. Not unlike the beer they make, the Dutch communication style is reserved and refined. An American audience, I knew, might read this as aloof, curt, or overly formal. To connect, the managers would need to loosen up a little, without sacrificing the dignity of the brand or their own European authenticity. The brand managers had exciting incentives to offer their distributors—tickets to the Super Bowl, ski trips—but they didn’t want an over-the-top, hyperactive hard sell to detract from the serious data and market analysis that backed up their sales projections. It also wouldn’t have been true to their own, or Heineken’s, identity.

My Approach

Working side-by-side with each manager, I started by refining their scripts, making edits to capture their own personal rhythm and style. We arrived at an authentic voice for each presenter, one that allowed the manager to come across with authority, enthusiasm, and ease—putting the audience at ease, as well. Confidence comes with knowing you have something valuable and authentic to share. I teach presenters to start with clearly defined objectives and end with a persuasive call to action. After we crafted a message in language that felt natural to each speaker, we worked on using voice and body language to project a relaxed yet powerful, commanding presence. As Heineken USA expanded to include Heineken Americas, I worked with the international team to tailor presentations to another set of audiences, in South America, and to the board in Amsterdam. Capturing their essential messages and strategies in a convincing presentation was a powerful mission.

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Heineken [box style=”rounded” border=”full”]

Building Confidence

A winning presentation stands on strong content. Confidence comes when you know you have something substantial to share.

  • Work from the inside out.
  • Understand your objective
  • Define your key points and keep them lean and clear
  • Add interesting stories, insights, and analogies
  • Finish strong with takeaways or call to action.


Listen to a Ted Talk

Amy Cuddy:
Your body language shapes who you are

Specific Tools used:

  • Individual coaching
  • Small group workshops
  • Videotaping and feedback
  • Individual coaching via telephone
  • Online speech editing
  • Interview Training
  • Retreat workshops
  • Role-play and practice sessions

Photo Credit: PtM 1985 via Compfight cc