Last week I accompanied a client to a presentation by an IT consulting firm they were looking to hire. My ostensible reason for being there was as part of the evaluation team. However, throughout the presentation by the company's representative, whom we'll call Barry, I just couldn't resist slipping into observation/evaluation/coaching mode. So in addition to being a second (actually, third) pair of eyes and ears, I was later able to provide my client with several teachable moments.
So what did I observe Barry doing?
After some initial ice breaking small talk, Barry began his presentation by warning us that there would be "a lot of bullets" on "a lot of pages" but that in the interest of time he wouldn't take us through all of them. He then proceeded to take us through a half dozen slides describing his business, how they'd grown over the years, who some of their marquee clients were, and some accolades they'd won. He then went on to describe the various product offerings they had, how they worked, some of the aforementioned clients who were using them, and what kind of success they had. He then launched into a story about how one client used one of their solutions to solve a particularly sticky problem they had (but which wasn't the one that my client had). After 40 uninterrupted minutes and 23 slides in which he covered every bullet, Barry wrapped up his presentation with, "And that's it".
How would you evaluate Barry's presentation? What did he do well? What do you think he could have done better (or done/not done at all)? Before reading further, take a moment to reread the previous paragraph carefully, looking for clues. Then take out a pen and paper and jot down two or three suggestions.
OK, here are my thoughts:
I like that Barry built credibility in his company by listing some name clients, and by providing some third-party validation. And he did a thorough job of informing us of their capabilities. What do I think could Barry do in the future to make his presentations more interesting, more engaging, and more effective at persuading his prospects to buy what he's selling?
- Do his homework. If Barry had picked up the phone to speak with any one of us, he'd have learned what exactly we were looking to accomplish and why. This would have allowed him to tailor his presentation to our specific needs, and avoid boring us with lots of irrelevant material.
- Present only those aspects/features of his offering that align with the expressed needs of his prospects - at least until he gets further into the presentation/discussion when, if he uncovers additional needs that could be met with other aspects of his offering, he'd introduce that feature. It would also lead to a shorter presentation (contrary to his assertion that he wouldn't take us through every bullet, he did!).
- Ask questions throughout the presentation to make sure he's on target, that his audience both gets what he's showing and saying, and "buys" it (if they're not, this will surface objections right then and there, giving him the opportunity to address and resolve them, rather than have them lingering in the prospect's head after he leaves, perhaps never to be revealed to him).
- Scale back the focus on his own company. A couple of slides are OK, but don't let your company be the focus of the presentation.
- Wrap up with something more powerful, such as a trial close question ("So what do you think?"
Now, to be fair to Barry, he is not a salesperson; his business card says, "Senior Program Manager". So I'll cut him some slack. And his colleague's title was, "VP, Operations." But that begs the question, "Why didn't they send a sales person to meet with us?"
Your goal with a sales presentation is to gain commitment to either buy your product or service, or to advance the sale towards closure, whichever is appropriate for the type of selling you do. To do so, you need to know what problem the client is trying to solve, or goal they're trying to achieve. Determine this in advance by asking questions, then craft your presentation so that it highlights and focuses on the features that will provide the benefits that align with the prospect's needs or goals. Mix in questions so that the presentation is a dialogue, not a monologue. And conclude with one that allows you to take the prospect's temperature. Practice these simple steps and you'll see fewer eyes glossing over during your presentations, and more presentations leading to closed business.