A sales presentation is strategic when it delivers the right content to the right people at the right time to advance or close your sale.
Right content: The majority of sales presentations are really talking brochures, in which the salesperson verbally delivers content that is easily available to audience members on web pages or in promotional material. It usually talks about the features of the product or touts the virtues of the company selling it. Right content is about the customer: how their business outcomes can be improved through their decision to buy your offering. How will their current processes be improved, what problems will be solved, and what will be the financial impact of these changes? One simple test is to look at your content and calculate the percentage that talks about your customer versus about yourself and your solution. In addition, calculate how much of the content is specific to that one customer at that particular time. You can take this even further by ensuring that content is targeted to the needs and concerns of specific individuals.
Right people: Very early in the sales cycle, you may need an executive to be present to ensure the project receives the priority it deserves, and of course you want them there for the closing presentation. But be careful of imposing on their time when you’re not directly adding value to them. In the evaluation stage of the customer’s buying process, their presence may be unnecessary and even counterproductive.
It’s also a natural tendency to want to pack the audience with your supporters and avoid detractors or opponents. If you have identified opponents in the decision process, it is crucial to have them there when you present, even if it adds another level of stress. This will at least give you a chance to answer their objections. If you exclude them, they will just voice their objections when you’re not there. Or, if they feel the decision was forced on them, you’re going to have a tough time during implementation even if you do make the sale.
Right time: You have to understand where your customer is in their buying cycle and tailor your content accordingly. If they haven’t fully recognized their need, for example, it would be premature to focus on the superiority of your solution.
There’s a saying that nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come, which implies that the idea will fall flat if the time is not right. If what you are selling is a radical departure from status quo or challenges long-held beliefs and attitudes, it’s unlikely that you will succeed in one shot. In such cases, the quiet behind-the-scenes selling and lobbying you do will shape the conditions for success.
Advance the sale: A sales presentation is still a sales call, and one of the most fundamental—and ignored—steps in sales calls is to specify up front your purpose for the call. The call purpose must be viewed within the context of the sales opportunity plan, and thus must include a measurable advance in the sales cycle. It does not have to be a close; in long complex sales cycles closing calls are in the minority. But it should add value to the seller and the buyer. (In fact, you could profit from changing the wording to “advance the buying decision in your favor”.)
For example, a purpose could be to “gain agreement on the cost of the problem”. This purpose adds value to the seller by increasing the buyer’s urgency to make a decision and potentially shortening the sales cycle. The buyer benefits by recognizing the scope of the problem and possibly by gaining insights that will help them improve the potential solution.
To ensure that your sales presentation is strategic, then, use this short checklist:
Do I have the right content that targets your listeners’ unique needs and concerns?
Are the right people in the room?
Is this the right time for this presentation?
Am I crystal clear on what I want to achieve and why?