Presentations

First Rule of Strategic Sales Presentations: Be Clear About Your Message

If it doesn’t fit here, it won’t be clear

The first step in planning a strategic sales presentation is deceptively simple: knowing what your key message is. When you take the time up front to write a theme, it provides brevity, clarity and impact, which helps you and your audience. The theme gets right to the heart of the matter.

Have you ever come away from a presentation and had trouble figuring out or remembering what the speaker was trying to say? Usually it’s not your fault—the speaker probably did not have a clear idea in his or her own mind why she was there or why you should have been.

When that happens, a tremendous opportunity has been wasted by the salesperson, not to mention the valuable time of the high-level decision-makers in the room. How likely is it that they will be able to act on your message when decision time comes, or that you will be invited back?

The bottom line is that you want your listeners to be absolutely clear what you want them to do and why. If you’re not clear on that, why should they be?

The solution to this all-too-common problem is, rather than immediately creating an outline of your points or creating your slides, you should take a few minutes to crystallize a theme for your presentation. The theme is simple: what do you want them to do and why should they do it? To make it even simpler, complete the following sentence before every presentation:

You should __________, because __________.                                                                             

“You should”__________: What do you want them to do?

Always remember that a sales presentation is still a sales call. Any good sales call begins with a clear purpose: why are you taking time out of your busy sales day to go on this call? What do you intend to accomplish? How will it advance your sale or your position within the account?

So, the first part of the theme is to spell out your purpose in specific, output-defined terms. In other words, don’t have something mushy such as, “educate them on the benefits of cloud computing”. How will you know they’re educated? Will you give them a test? A better way to write this would be: “Gain agreement to form a task force to explore cloud computing”. (Naturally, if it’s a closing call, your purpose should already be pretty clear.)

Just the exercise of forcing yourself to be specific will clarify your mind tremendously and will make the rest of the presentation go much more smoothly.

“…because________: Why should they do it?

This is where you state your value proposition for this particular audience—not the generic one that says, “We are the nation’s leading provider of blah-blah-blah…” Based on your work before the presentation, you should a very clear idea of the specific reasons they should buy your solution. Although it depends on the audience, very rarely will those reasons be based on product specifications. At senior decision making levels, the why is generally expressed in terms of business improvements, solving problems, or improving processes.

“…because you need it to meet your goals of increasing flexibility and lowering your IT costs.”

Even better: “…it is the only way you will meet your ambitious flexibility and cost reduction goals.”

When you write your theme, it is for your use only, to help you organize the presentation, so you don’t have to write it down in marketing language. For example, your theme could be: “Buy our solution, because if you don’t there is a good chance your project will fail.” That’s probably not something you would say in exactly those words, but it very easily could be the impression you want to leave in their minds.

Think of your theme as the elevator pitch for a very short building. If it takes you more than about 25 words to craft it, you probably lack clarity.

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