By Alice Heiman
In sales, it’s common to confuse giving lots of presentations with success. If you spend lots of time presenting but aren’t getting enough deals closed, there are probably some very simple things you can do to correct course.
Here are seven of my best tips for sales presentation success.
Tip #1: Aim for an interactive presentation. Selling should always be more about asking and listening than about telling. That’s why presentations need to be prepared in a way that makes them interactive. Planning questions to ask throughout the presentation gets the prospects talking. This is what will move the sale forward.
Tip #2: Give your presentation at the right time in the sales cycle. Where does a presentation fit in your sales process? How early in the sales cycle and what information is required from the prospect before presenting? It’s great to be excited about your product and even greater to be fired up about your presentation. But remember that a great presentation is wasted if it’s delivered at the wrong time in the sales cycle.
Tip #3: Don’t present to the wrong people. Presentations need to be made when all of the decision makers can be present. This is another thing that speeds up the sales cycle. Making the best presentation in the world rarely leads to a sale when it’s presented to the wrong people. Make sure you’re talking with a decision maker before you go to the trouble of presenting.
It is best to make sure you have the information you need by talking to the decision makers in advance of a presentation. You get what you need and come back with a solution to fit their needs. (Much of the time preliminary questions can be asked over the phone – especially when people may need to be reached prior to a presentation and they are not available to meet in person or all at the same time.) Once you have the information, create a customized presentation pulling from whatever good general presentation your company already has prepared.
Tip #4: Tailor your presentation to each prospect. Steady, consistent sales come when you learn about your customers: their goals, their problems, and their vision for growth. After that, you can determine if there is a fit between that and your product and service. Who are they, what do you know about them, what do they need? Your presentation should be focused on that.
Remember, prospects want to hear about their company and know you understand their problems. They don’t want to hear a pitch – and the best way to avoid pitching is to listen. Information on your company may need to be shared at some point, but you don’t necessarily need to lead with this information.
Tip #5: Prepare to ask questions. Often I see salespeople spending hours and hours getting every word they are going to say onto a presentation deck. What they should be doing instead is practicing and preparing to ask questions.
A salesperson might react by saying, “Now wait a minute, I finally get a chance to present and you are telling me to ask more questions?” That’s right. When you present a solution, you need to check in with the prospect to determine if that works for them and if they have any questions about it. Often when people hear ideas fed back to them it helps them clarify even further and develop new thoughts and directions. This may happen during your presentation and you will learn even more about your potential customer. You can address these things as they arise even though they may not be in your presentation. And it’s a good thing you can – because that may be the decision point and you won’t need to go through the rest of your slides.
Tip #6: Take notes. Taking notes will help you give your full attention to the person speaking rather than sitting there thinking of what you’ll say next. Notes will also 1) prevent you from interrupting the speaker, 2) help you prepare follow-up questions, and 3) be invaluable at the end of the meeting when you need to sum up.
Tip #7: Go with the flow of the conversation. If the prospect starts talking during your presentation, interject only briefly and, if relevant, with a clarification question or benefit that fits something the speaker mentioned. Don’t worry about finishing your presentation or getting to all your points. If your prospects are talking, they’re engaged – and that’s a good sign. Most people love to talk about themselves and their company; allow them to do that and ask good questions to keep them on track so you get the information you need.
For examples of great presentation decks, go to www.duarte.com.
Alice Heiman is founder and chief sales officer of Alice Heiman, LLC. She regularly co-hosts the Sales 2.0 Conference with Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO of Selling Power. For more information on retaining, hiring, training, or managing salespeople, call Alice at 775/852-5020. You can also join her at the next Sales 2.0 Conference on November 14 in Philadelphia.