November 25, 2014

6 Tips to Turn Your Sales Presentations from Pathetic to Powerful

I’ve never held back making my feelings known about the word “presentation” – particularly when pronounced by excited salespeople with the long e –  preezentation. Last week I shared about the boardroom disaster that was the most painful (and formative) lesson in my sales career.  If you haven’t had a chance to hear me telling the story to Paul Smith, I’d encourage you to link over and let my pain be your gain when it comes to sales presentations. That particular podcast has been downloaded more in its first week than any Paul has recorded, so plenty of people are clearly being entertained and educated by my horrific experience.

This week, I’d like to offer up six practical tips to help turn the typical pathetic sales presentation into one that’s incredibly more powerful and effective:

1.  Stop Calling it a Presentation –  The very word puts you in the wrong mindset and messes with how you prepare. When you think you’re going in to do a “capabilities overview” or the dreaded “dog and pony show,” you’re screwed before you even begin. I offer some blunt perspective on this point in Part Two of my conversation with Paul Smith (you can link to it below).

2.  Stop Presenting so Early in the Sales Process – Just because a prospect asks you to come make a presentation, that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. By sales law, an initial meeting shall never be billed as a presentation, and if you do make a presentation without being able to specifically tie your solution to the prospect’s issues that you’ve uncovered, then you are committing sales malpractice.

3.  Turn Your Presentation into a Dialogue – No where is it written that a sales presentation must be a monologue. One of my strongest recommendations to salespeople is to create a slide very early in the presentation with bullet points outlining your understanding of the prospect’s situation (pains, challenges, opportunities, desired outcomes). It’s often the most powerful slide in the deck because it’s all about them while showing off the great discovery work you’ve done up to that point. Linger on that slide and engage the prospect in a dialogue. Ask their people to verify your discovery work, to edit your list, and to prioritize the issues. I promise you’ll be blown away by what this accomplishes for you.

4.  Change the Focus to the Customer/Prospect’s Issues (instead of your company and its solutions) – When you do what I suggest in the previous point well, it changes the entire dynamic of the meeting. Instead of cynical buyers sitting there with arms crossed trying hard to resist your “pitch,” they begin to see you as value-creators and consultants who understand their business. And that’s something that can’t be achieved doing a capabilities overview and running through self-focused slide after self-focused slide about how great your company is.

5.  Delete the Slides with Pictures of Your Buildings – It’s hard to believe I even have to mention this (again)! But you’d be amazed how many companies (big and small) and salespeople (old and young) continue to put slides with beautiful pictures of their buildings into presentations. It’s not worth the space to make the argument again here. Just stop it, please. You can hear more about this in podcast mentioned above, or read about how I lost my cool in a client’s sales team meeting when one veteran wanted to argue with me about this point.

6.  Remove the Awkward Physical Tension by Sitting with the Customer instead of Opposed to Them – There’s this odd dynamic and awkward tension created by how we usually sit down at the conference room table. It’s always bothered me that the sellers seat themselves, all together, on one side of the table, opposite the customer. Why do we do that? It creates this terrible feeling that we’re opposed to the people to whom we’re trying to sell. Wouldn’t it be better to physically communicate that we’re there to work with the prospect instead of pitching at them? Next time, get to the room early and spread your team around the table so you are sitting interspersed with the prospect’s people. Try it; you’ll like it.

There is nothing remotely difficult about any of these six tips. I’d love to hear which of these you’ve tried yourself and how they worked for you. And if you’ve got a presentation tip you’d like to share with me, please do. Just a reminder, because we’ve turned off the comments on my blog posts (you can read why here), I invite you to share your comments/thoughts on your favorite social media platform, and we can continue the conversation there. Feel free to use the buttons below to share this post with others.

And last but definitely not least, let me invite you to listen to Part II of my conversation with Paul Smith. It’s barely eight minutes long as I answer two pointed questions and expand on these presentation tips listed above.  CLICK HERE to get to that podcast interview.