Focus your presentation to improve your sales pitchIssue theme: Presentation skills/Sales process

Salespeople love to talk.  It’s the nature of the beast.  And when it comes to their product (or service), most believe that if they tell you enough about it, you’re going to buy.  Unfortunately, that leads salespeople to create PowerPoint presentations that are an endless succession of hackneyed claims and mind-numbing minutia.

These sorts of presentations are not only boring, they’re ineffective.  The most compelling sales arguments are lost if they are swimming in a sea of banality.   The strongest presentations are those that focus on a few relevant points and cover them in as brief and succinct a manner as possible.  As they say, "always leave them wanting more."

Know your prospects' real concerns

Audiences are not created equal.  A mid-level manager has different needs and perspectives than a CEO.  As a result, a presentation that is geared to the former will be ineffective with the latter.  Powerful presentations are audience-centered. In professional communication circles, this is known as being “rhetorically sensitive” and it is key to effective communication.  While it is human nature to dwell first and foremost with our own needs and concerns, the first step to creating a persuasive presentation is to view the world through the prospects’ eyes.

Taking the time to analyze a product or service in relation to each prospect’s chief concerns may be daunting initially.  But positioning a product or service in light of real issues and concerns is both powerful and refreshing.

Let’s be clear.  Developing this type of sales presentation takes time and preparation.  But the results are worth it

If you prepare properly, you will know at least some of the prospect’s chief concerns such as:

  • The market forces posing challenges to the company
  • New regulations that are affecting the industry 
  • Effect of increased domestic or foreign competition
  • Workforce skills and/or knowledge gaps which may be creating problems

In other words, you will have proved that you have attempted to “walk a mile in their shoes.”  Preparation of this type will earn you the right to have a different, more productive dialog.

Adapt the sales message

Taking the time to analyze a product or service in relation to each prospect’s chief concerns may be daunting initially.  But positioning a product or service in light of real issues and concerns is both powerful and refreshing.  The competitive advantage when put in these terms will truly stand out.  So it is well worth the required time and effort.

When talking to executive-level prospects, the primary concerns will fall into areas such as increasing productivity, decreasing costs, expanding markets and improving competitive positioning.  This is why it is important to determine how the product or service will help the prospect address these issues.  A value-based argument using hard data is the most effective way to support contentions. Consider including data such as:

  • How much money the prospect will save (or be able to earn)
  • The cost of doing nothing
  • The anticipated ROI
  • The break-even point

A case made in these terms communicates that you are a serious business person who understands the prospect’s chief concerns and offers potential problem-solving options worthy of further investigation.

Keep it short

Let’s face it.  Everybody’s stretched thin today.   The goal should be to complete the presentation in less than 20 minutes.  If it is well-prepared and focused, that should be plenty of time to cover the key points and still leave time to agree on the next step.

Include references to similar problems that have been solved and value that has been created for customers that “look like” the prospect. This presentation is not about product or the company you represent. It’s about three things:

  • The business issues facing the customer that are creating a problem or opportunity
  • Confirmation that the executive cares to address these issues
  • How these same issues have been addressed with other customers
  • The value possible if these problems or opportunities are addressed
  • An agreed upon next step

It’s great if the product has some shiny new feature that has just been rolled out, but if it doesn’t help the prospect save money, earn money, be more competitive or solve some other real business issue, it’s not relevant.  Leave it out. And finally, if you feel compelled to include something about your company, put it at the very end.  In the first meeting it’s not about you, your product or your company. This is a presentation about solving problems. It’s about them!

Reap the benefits

A well-prepared, rhetorically sensitive and solidly delivered presentation demonstrates respect for the prospect’s time and a clear understanding of their needs.  The quality of this presentation can differentiate your company from the competition and ultimately be the difference between winning and losing.

"This article was originally published in SOLD magazine, a monthly digital sales magazine for sales professionals."