Are sales presentations dead? In this age of Sales 2.0, it’s easy to get that impression. We’re told that buyers are better informed than ever, that they have already gone through more than half the buying process when they first engage us, and that no one likes to be “sold”.
If this is true, then it would seem there would no longer be any need for a sales professional to know how to deliver a compelling presentation. Maybe it’s a far better use of their time to master social media instead.
On the other hand, that news would be extremely surprising to many top sales professionals who have made their year—maybe even affected the trajectory of their careers—by succeeding in those all-important strategic presentations. What does strategic mean? Quite simply, it’s improving your position (or clinching the deal) by saying the right things to the right people at the right time in the sales process. As an example, a top executive from a major technology firm told me that when a sales team from a major PR firm presented to their top management, within two seconds of their leaving the room, the president said: “Hire them.”
Sales presentations are still crucial to success in the complex sales for several reasons.
- It’s true that your buyers are getting a lot of information from the internet and other sources, and we all know that the information we get on the internet is 100% reliable, right? Whether your buyers are misinformed, or have missed some important insights, often the only way to correct the discrepancy is to gain the attention of the right people early enough in the sales process to be a part of their decision-making conversations.
- Most complex sales don’t end with a single transaction. The sales team must remain closely involved with implementation and ongoing support to ensure that the customer achieves the best possible outcomes from their purchase decision. The sales presentation may be the only way for all the people involved in the decision to get to know and gain a level of comfort with the sales team. You may represent a company that has billions of dollars in assets, but to them you are the company.
- If done right, the strategic presentation is definitely not a one-way transmission of information. It’s a superb way to have an interactive dialogue with all the relevant stakeholders and share insights that lead to better solutions.
- According to research cited in The Art of Woo: Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas, important corporate decisions involve an average of eight people in the decision. Major purchasing decisions will require at least that many, so at some point someone will have to present to all of them together. Why shouldn’t it be you?
- Other research by the HR Chally Group found that salesperson effectiveness accounted for 39% of the buying decisions of 300,000 customers surveyed. A presentation to a high level audience is the most direct and dramatic way of demonstrating your effectiveness.
- Another interesting insight from my interviews with senior-level decision makers is that while they are often not experts in the technologies they are asked to decide upon, they do pride themselves on their ability to read people. They welcome the presentation because it gives them an opportunity to “scratch the surface” in a presentation and gauge the competence of the person presenting to them.
Willie Sutton was a famous bank robber in the 1950s. When he was caught, supposedly a reporter asked him why he robbed banks. Willie replied: “That’s where the money is.” The same still applies to strategic sales presentations today, no matter what some pundits will tell you.