Are Your Sales Presentations Putting Prospects to Sleep?

Imagine you’re a business leader, and you’re considering buying a new technology that could help your business succeed. You log in to the web presentation and, after a few pleasantries, the presenter starts in, “We started in 1978 by John Doe and have grown into the market leader in the space. We provide efficient effective solutions leveraging a unique combination of people, process, and technology to help you achieve results…Here’s a sample list of our clients…Now let me log in to the software. It’s all hosted online so you can login from wherever, whenever you need to…Over here is where you control admin rights of the users…”

Boring. Unfocused. Unhelpful.

At some point the time comes for every sales person to deliver a presentation. For some this may be early on in a demo of your product or capabilities, or to share a new approach to solving a problem. For others it may be later in the sales process as you present your proposed solution. In any case, delivering engaging sales presentations is a key to success.

Why, then, do so many professionals and sales people put prospects to sleep during their presentations?

In our opening scenario, not once does the presenter ask about what’s going on in your company, why you’re looking for a service or product such as this, or what you’d like to come away with from the presentation. They don’t ask you about your goals, your decision criteria, or what a success looks like – all information that would help the seller deliver a more relevant presentation. About 2 minutes in to the dog and pony show, you zone out and start responding to emails.

Too many sales presentations are just unbearable, leaving prospects wondering, “How long can this possibly go on?”

Here’s what you can do to deliver winning sales presentations. 


Before the Sales Presentation

Prospects want to know your presentation has been tailored for them. To do this, you must do your research and prepare ahead of time. You should:

    1. Learn your prospect’s goal for the presentation. What is the prospect hoping to achieve as a result of the presentation? Do they want to learn something new? Evaluate your product or service? Make a purchase decision? Even if it’s a first discussion and you’ve never spoken with them before, often your prospect will share detailed thoughts about why they’d like to speak with you.


    1. Understand your goals for the presentation. What do you want the prospect to do? Should the prospect be ready to sign an agreement? Take a follow-on meeting? See the impact of solving particular problems. Something else?


    1. Know your audience. Who is attending the presentation? What are their roles? Are you going to be speaking to decision makers? Technical experts? Influencers? A mix? Have you read their press releases, blog posts, and tweets? Each person may want something different out of the presentation. For example if you know a technical expert is going to be in the room, you may want a technical consultant on your end to join the call to field any questions they may have.


  1. Prepare for objections. Unless you are new to sales, you’ve delivered these types of presentations before. What issues do prospects usually bring up that stop them from moving to the next step? Be ready with answers.


During the Sales Presentation
    1. Focus on the prospect from the beginning. Ask a question like, “If you looked back after the 30 minute presentation was over and said, ‘Now that was time well-spent,’ what would we have covered?” Throughout the rest of the presentation refer back to what they said. This not only engages the prospect right away, it allows you to customize on the fly, and sets you apart from other presentations they see.


    1. Do a time check. Before you begin, confirm the amount of time the prospect has for the presentation. This does a few things. 1) It sets the expectation for how long the meeting should run. 2) It allows you to plan accordingly and use your time wisely. You don’t want to be chasing the prospect down the hall at the end of the meeting because you didn’t have time to cover a few of the key points.


    1. Open strong. Nothing says, ‘prepare for a nap’ like the typical, “Here’s our background information…Company started in 1977 by Betty Doe…” 5 minutes later, “We’ve worked with 300 of the Fortune 500 companies…” You have about 30 seconds to capture the attention of your prospect. Use this time to wow them. Share a story or a startling fact. This is one part of the presentation you don’t want to wing. Know your opening is a winner.


    1. Build credibility. While you don’t want to overdo the opening with a long biography of yourself and your accomplishments, you do want your credibility to come out. Set the stage right with an appropriate overview, and weave in your accomplishments and background as you move along.


    1. Keep it conversational. Just because you’re the one giving the presentation, doesn’t mean you should be the only one talking. Balance advocacy (your talking) and inquiry (your asking questions). Too often we see sales people who lead great sales conversations, building rapport, uncovering needs, and talking about impact, but as soon as it comes time to “pitch” their solution, they revert back to the talking head walking the prospect through a 57 slide PowerPoint deck. If your prospects have questions, it means they’re engaged. Keep it conversational and encourage participation throughout the presentation.


    1. Focus on benefits and outcomes. It’s tempting, especially when our product or service methodology is right in front of us, to talk all about product and service features and how great they are. Don’t overdo feature talk. Prospects are buying benefits and outcomes like revenue growth, increased productivity, improved customer satisfaction, and so on.


    1. Keep it simple. You’re an expert in your products and services and want to demonstrate to the buyer that you know what you’re talking about. But experts can fall into the trap of rambling. Focus on no more than 3 or 4 big topics in your presentation or demo. People can’t absorb everything you might be ready to tell them.


    1. Attend to the basics. Dress for success, make eye contact, don’t read off of slides, stand up straight, project your voice, and so on. Don’t forget these presentation basics – they do make a difference.


    1. Give examples and tell stories. Stories inspire. Stories are memorable. Stories demonstrate to the listener how he can take the information you are sharing and apply it to real life scenarios.


  1. End strong. You want to leave the prospect wanting more and feeling like they’re ready to take the next step. Of course, to do this, you must prepare well and know what the next step is so you can guide them to it.

Your ability to succeed with sales presentations is a key element in your overall success. Follow these tips and you’ll find your prospects will become more engaged, and you will move more of them along in the sales process (and keep them awake at the same time).

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