A Guest Post by Scott P. Dailey
You’re losing business because your presentation sucks, not because your fee is too high or someone else is smarter, more creative or more accomplished. You’re going in scared that you won’t compete and that same fear drove your preparedness and your crappy presentation.
… I’ll explain in a minute, but for now, wanna see 200 photographs of my recent business trip to Indianapolis? It’s loaded with killer shots of the thoroughly unremarkable office building I worked from. No? OK. Well what about video of surgeons removing the deceased section of my sigmoid colon? No!? Man, you’re tough to please. Oh I got it! How about I talk to you for an hour about how awesome my six-year-old son is at soccer? …
Seriously. How many of you are remotely interested in any of these topics, let alone eager to view, watch or listen to me carry on about them for an hour?
Now to be fair, maybe if some of my readers work in Indianapolis, they may take an interest in my trip to their fine city. They may, for instance, want to know where I stayed, or if given the right time of year, had I taken the time to catch a Colts or Pacers game. Maybe some among you have also been diagnosed with chronic diverticulitis and like me, had to have abdominal surgery to remove a damaged part of your colon. I bet that segment would want to engage me, if only to relate their experiences to mine. Or possibly your child rocks on the soccer field too and you’re dying to ask what position my son plays, so that you can tell of your child scoring the winning goal as time expired.
So what I’m getting at is that if I’m not able to relate on a visceral level that reflects directly on what’s important to me personally, I’m not likely to care very much about what you want to share with me.
If we know this and somewhere deep down most of us do, why then would we care about your long-winded, one-way presentation? Or an over-detailed dominating PowerPoint presentation?
These pitches, sadly often aren’t about the prospect at all. It’s about what you think of your ability to do a thing or even worse, all things. It is nothing more than what your prospect sees all the time from potential vendors: an overtly talkative brochure, peppered with gratuitous look-at-me platitudes. But what specifically is it doing apart from forcing people to pretend to be enthusiastic about you purely because they’re trapped in a room with you?
Reinvent the presentation experience
In which of your 100 slides do you get me emotional? I ask because that’s actually where I want your presentation to begin. Flip to that slide right now and please begin. I’m listening. Oh your presentation doesn’t have a slide that stirs me? Well in that case, here’s your hat, there’s the door and have a nice day.
Everyone has an unnecessarily verbose and egocentric PowerPoint. I know of no capabilities presentation that is ever justified in being as long as it is. The problem with most of them are that they’re authored by our fear of failure, not our ability to solve the audience’s problems. And so I challenge you to be the anti-presenter! Be the salesperson who goes in there and kills it because fear of:
* leaving something out
* not being good enough
* not getting money
did not color your pitch. If you’re not going to win the business, lose it because you suck, not because your awful presentation messed you up. Here’s five things I do on sales calls that have helped me not lose the business.
- Never bring a presentation to a sales pitch.
I bring a business card and the team that will steer the project and that’s it. If I’m responding to an RFP, my response honors (to the letter) the RFP guidelines and requirements. Nothing unsolicited is ever included. I never voluntarily talk about business needs nor present business solutions that fall outside the prospect’s requirements or curiosities.
- Research your prospect.
I focus on key players and read up (on and offline) on what is available on each stake holder. I research their successes and failures and because what I do is Web related, I look at the BBB information, along with sentiment surrounding the company’s social and emotional footprint.
It’s important to memorize these fundamentals because the people you’re meeting with are sure to be emotionally invested in the outcome of the gig, as well as their business in general. Exhibiting a good degree of knowledge out the door will help them see you more as an ally, then a vendor.
- Shut up.
This one’s tough, because I yap a lot. But yes, I do shut up. I close my mouth and listen to the prospect talk about themselves. This is always the best of all available opportunities to sell yourself too because this is precisely the stage in the sales process where the prospect shows you their cards. If they’re talking about their stuff, you can be assured that they’re going to get excited talking about it.
This is where many perfectly qualified vendors lose the business and never understand why they did. As the prospect is talking about their stuff, the manner with which they exhibit enthusiasm may be foreign when compared to the way you get excited. Doesn’t mean they’re not pumped. So don’t just match their enthusiasm or overdo it. Rather, replicate it using the tone and mood they’re using to convey it. Again, guide them toward seeing you as an ally, not a money-grubbing vendor. Be similar to them, not dissimilar.
- Ask Questions.
Ask them questions that force them to talk more about the stuff that gets them excited. Try, when possible, to limit your questions to only those that relate to the topics they are most passionate about. If you’ve been doing great listening, then you already know what turns them on. Taking this specific action has won me more business and gotten me more jobs than any other sales method I use. And for the love of all things holy, be patient. The longer you wait to add your own anecdotes, the more you’ve got them telling theirs. The more they’re busy telling theirs, the more they’ll want to hear yours when your chance comes. Prematurely grasping for the microphone, or worse, snagging it before it’s been handed to you will kill any momentum you’ve been building in the previous steps. simply put: if you see what got ’em hot and bothered, well hell, sex sells! Make ’em talk about it more. Well done. No go cash some checks.
- Relate to them.
Suggestion #5 is last on purpose. Offering anecdotes and casual social banter in the earliest stages of a pitch is a stupid decision. Imagine we’re at a party and you and your friends are conversing about the NFL. You’re a club. A clan. All equally vetted by the other. Now imagine I walk up to your group, unknown to you all, and dive head-long into a rant about the NY Jets losing their season opener. What are the odds you’ll dig me?
Relating to the client is really all you’ve been doing to this point, but you’ve been the guy or gal humbly listening, eventually asking questions as you and your friends talk about pro football. After I have demonstrated my interest in you and most importantly, on your terms, you may then be ready to hear my take on a Jets loss.
The time to crack jokes and secure social common ground isn’t when you first sit down. I’ve seen this over and over. Sure you’re a cool dude or chick. Sure you can slay ’em, but earn your seat at that table. Earn the right to be casual.
How do you relate with your prospects? How do you sell customers? Do you use a presentation? Does it work? What separates you from the thousands that do use a capabilities presentation?
Scott P. Dailey is a Web designer, copywriter and network administrator. Recently Scott launched ( http://scottpdailey.com ), his social media blog that makes connections between social networking etiquette and the prevailing human social habits that drive on and offline business engagement patterns. You can connect with Scott via Twitter at @scottpdailey.
Creative Commons License photo credit: Geetesh Bajaj
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