In Part 1 of this series we saw how important team presentations are for today’s B2B complex sales. In this part we look at how to plan the team presentation so that it is more than just a collection of mismatched parts bolted together.
The first thing to remember is that you are planning a team presentation, not a group presentation. Any collection of individuals can form a group at a moment’s notice, but it takes time and care to mold a team. They call it teamwork for a reason. That’s why there is a big difference between a group presentation and a team presentation.
A group presentation is a series of individual presentations that might or might not have a strong connection with each other. Each one could probably stand on its own. A team presentation, by contrast, is a single presentation with several participants. This is a critical difference, because it changes how you plan it, practice it, and deliver it.
Because a team presentation is a single presentation, there is one plan for the presentation, and one person is in charge. As the USA Olympic basketball team has demonstrated on occasion, even a Dream Team of superstars is going to lose if you just have a collection of individuals trying to do their own thing. People have to keep their egos under control and see their part as a contribution to the big picture.
It does not mean that one person writes the entire presentation for all the participants. They can still craft their own individual parts, just as long as they do it within the agreed-on architecture. Their specialized knowledge only makes sense within the big picture, and that is what the account manager brings to the table.
The good news is that most of the process that you use to prepare an individual presentation is exactly what you need for a team presentation. Because it’s a single presentation, the same principles apply. The additional complexity comes from meshing the individual contributions into a seamless whole.
Who does the planning? That’s up to the sales team. The Account Manager could decide on the overall structure and then ask participants to build their presentation to fit. However, best practice is to have the team come together for at least an initial planning meeting. This brings several benefits:
First, as the old saying goes, “none of us is as smart as all of us.” The combined input should result in a better presentation, especially as some team members may have specific information not known to the whole group.
Second, when everyone knows what everyone else is going to say, it helps them build references and links to other parts of the presentation. It also avoids the potential trap of having someone contradict a teammate.
Third, it provides a greater sense of ownership. Team camaraderie of the sort alluded to earlier in this section can’t be faked or just turned on for the presentation.
A team presentation is just an individual one on steroids
Everything you have to do for an individual presentation applies to team presentations, but the addition of others adds another level of preparation. Let’s review the required steps for a successful strategic sales presentation, and see what adjustments must be made for a team presentation.
Analysis: One of the benefits of a team sale is the diversity of connections, perspectives and information that each team member has. The challenge is to get all that information out on the table so that the team has the information needed for effective analysis. The important task here is to connect the dots between the various collections of information that each team member has.
During the planning phase, the presentation team should have a common document so that all members of the team can see it. Besides the obvious benefit of “being on the same page”, this process can often spark new ideas as knowledge is brought into the open and combined.
Shaping the conditions: The entire sales team should be working from a single opportunity planning template or document which details the buyer’s decision making process, with the relationships and influences clearly mapped out and understood by the entire team.
Core message: One of the most important reasons to have one clear theme in an individual presentation is to keep your presentation from being rambling and unfocused. Imagine how much more important that is with several people being involved.
It’s absolutely critical to have the discipline of one message that everyone supports and sticks to during their portion of the presentation. Buyers will get confused if they can’t connect all the threads, and even more so if presenters appear to contradict each other.
The reliance on a single clear theme was probably the most common denominator among the top team presenters interviewed for my book. One company called it the Central Question, another called it the Win Message, but nearly all insisted that this is the critical first step in all their team presentations.
Military planners use the concept of commander’s intent to ensure that subordinates can respond to the unexpected while still furthering the purposes of the operation. In team presentations, the one clear theme serves the same purpose. Because the presentation will never go exactly as it’s drawn up during the planning, it’s all the more important to ensure that when things go off track, the person speaking at the time can adjust and adapt, within the boundaries of the original intent.
Structure of the presentation: The main points that support the theme remain the same; the only difference is that each main point may actually be the complete presentation for individual team members. By having a clear structure, individual presenters see their piece as a part of the whole presentation. That main point then becomes their core message for their own specific piece, and the process is taken from there. This way, when the pieces are put back together, everything works the way it’s supposed to, as a seamless whole. It’s like the way Boeing built the 787, with different contractors working on a major assembly such as the wings and tail, working to exacting specifications so that when it was all bolted together the thing would actually fly.
It’s also important that each individual piece include references to previous and upcoming speakers, such as “As Chris mentioned, one of the root causes of the problem is the fluctuation in density from one batch to the next, and our solution addresses that by…”
Evidence: The supporting evidence portion is put together individually, and then brought back to the team. It’s not up to the team to parse the evidence, because the person putting it together is the recognized subject matter expert. However, it’s useful to have the team review what will be said to reduce redundancy or avoid contradiction.
Introduction and close: The team leader is probably going to be the person delivering the introduction. Besides the standard ingredients of an individual presentation, the team leader should also introduce the individual presenters and briefly explain their roles. The emphasis here is on brevity, because he or she will want to say a little more about each person just before handing off to them for their part.
The team leader may also take over for the close, or leave it to the last speaker to tie everything together. Since team presentations may be longer than individual ones, a brief summary at the end is a good idea.
Visuals: The only difference on visuals is just to ensure that the entire deck, if one is being used, should have a common look and feel. It should look like one presentation, not a patchwork.