Modify the 3 Ts for a Strategic Sales Presentation

Probably the oldest piece of advice for presentation structure is the 3 Ts: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you told them.” It’s been around for a long time because it’s very effective. However, in this article, I’m going to tell you how and why you need to modify the 3 Ts for a presentation to senior executives.

The first T, tell them what you’re going to tell them, is even more important for strategic sales presentations. Executive decision makers are decisive and busy, so they want to know up front what you want them to do and why. They will then evaluate everything you say against those two bits of information as a marker, and will listen until they’ve heard enough to make up their minds. So, for a sales presentation, your introduction should say something like: “You have a problem with _____ that needs to be addressed immediately, and we have the best solution; at the end of this presentation, I’m going to ask for you approval to move forward with _______.”

Just make sure that the why is relevant to a high-level audience by referring to profit, process, or problem. It’s not about you or your product.

Say it clearly, directly and succinctly—just like a headline. In fact, your first T is the headline of your entire sales presentation. Just like a newspaper headline, if you’re too busy to read the article, you still get the gist of the story.

Why should you ease into it? They know you’re there to sell something, so cut to the chase. The only reason not to tell them what you’re going to tell them is when you have a hostile or skeptical audience, but that’s a topic for a future article.

The second T, tell them, is not one we have to cover much here. Just be sure to avoid a bait and switch. If you got their interest with the first T, your second T has to tie directly to what you said. Don’t tell them you’re going to show them how to solve a problem and then spend the body of your presentation with a schematic of how your product works.

The third T is totally different for a strategic sales presentation. Do not tell them what you just told them. They are quick studies, (or at least see themselves that way), so they will find it unnecessary at best and possibly even insulting. Don’t summarize; use the third T to test them. They are decisive and respect decisiveness in others, so ask them for a decision or action. This will be the true test of whether they have bought in to your premise that you promised in your first T.

So, what will you do differently for your next strategic sales presentation?

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