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Death by Presentation

Sales Tips: Avoid Death by Presentation

By John Holland, Co-founder & Co-author of CustomerCentric Selling®

sales training company

Buyers despise “spray and pray” sales calls. Executives often end these calls before allowing sellers to finish them. Reciting a list of features to buyers who don’t fully understand them, nor know if they’re needed is a barbaric way to try to start buying cycles at any level. Unfortunately this approach is not limited to sales calls.

Some of the most egregious “spraying and praying” occurs while presenting company overviews. How excited are salespeople when a large prospect calls to schedule an onsite one-hour presentation of the vendor’s company and offerings?

Typical presentations begin with a few slides saying how committed the vendor is to being customer-centric. The next 40 slides drone on about the company and its offerings. The final few slides reference how the company partners with clients, complete with pictures of smiling people shaking hands. Attendees that stay for the entire presentation leave wondering how and why they would use all the products they had just been shown.

Whether making sales calls or delivering overviews there is a common objective: discuss the buyers’ business goals that your offerings can help them achieve. Before agreeing to present, ask the person that calls (usually not a Key Player) what the objectives for the presentation are and the titles of the people that will attend. The answers can provide a quick sanity check of whether committing to do the overview is worthy of your time. If the audience is too low-level, suggest or request that other titles attend.

If Key Players will attend, ask to have brief conversations with one or more of them to allow you to customize the content to be relevant to the company’s specific needs. The buyer is asking for your time to prepare and deliver a presentation. This is a reasonable request and if your contact is unwilling or unable to provide access, a polite refusal of the invitation could be your best course of action.

When granted access to people you want to talk with (either by phone or in meetings):

learn what their business goals are
uncover reasons they are having trouble achieving them in their current environment
determine specific capabilities you can provide to allow them to improve results.
Follow up by documenting these items in a letter or email and ask the buyer’s permission to use them as part of the foundation of the presentation
By having one or more buyer visions, you can tailor presentations to address needs of the prospect. After a brief company introduction of one or two slides, you can bring all attendees up to speed by summarizing the discussions you had prior to the session. Share the business issues their company is facing and show the reasons they are unable to achieve each goal. You can then gear your presentation to providing the audience a conceptual understanding of how specific capabilities can empower them to improve business results.

Pro tip: Consider anonymously referencing one or more of your clients from the same vertical. Include a list of all Key Players, their goals and the results achieved after implementing your offerings. This can instill a sense of urgency for attendees to further evaluate your offerings. It may also cause them to realize there are people not attending the presentation that should be involved.

End the presentation by revisiting the goals and reasons you uncovered during your phone interviews. For each reason listed, offer the corresponding capability needed to address it. In wrapping up the presentation, allow time for questions. If appropriate, suggest initial steps as to how to proceed in evaluating your offerings.

Through experience, sales organizations learn painful lessons about poor ways to initiate opportunities:

Using a quote and hope approach

Responding to RFP’s without getting an opportunity to influence the requirements

Competing as Column B without gaining access to Key Players

Should delivering generic presentations be added to your list?

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