Five Steps for Better Sales Presentations

currencyWhen I started out in selling, I thought that it was all about presenting. I’d get up in front of my customers, give a great speech, and they’d be reaching for their checkbooks before I even finished. Well, suffice it to say, I learned. In fact, I’ve learned a lot since then. When I speak, one of the most commonly requested topics is on giving great sales presentations – but I’m always a bit reluctant to speak on that topic.

You see, a sales presentation is only as good as the discovery and information gathering that preceded it. That’s why much of my writing and teaching is dedicated to understanding your customers. Still, there is a place for understanding how to give a great presentation, and as long as you promise to keep it in context, I’ll give you five great ways to optimize your sales presentations. You promise? Great! Let’s get started.

Have the Right Content: One of the reasons that so many sales presentations fail is that they have too much junk in them. By “junk,” I mean “Anything that the buyer doesn’t care about.” If you’ve done a good discovery, your buyer has already told you what they care about, and that’s where your presentation centers. The best presentations simply have three elements:

  1. The Observation of the current situation. Recap the customer’s situation, needs, and desired result.
  2. Your Plan of Action to address the customer’s desired result. This should be your recommendation of products, services, and other actions.
  3. The Advantages of adopting your plan. Let the buyer ‘see’ the result of adopting the plan. Use Achievement Statements and other verbiage to paint the picture.

Be Present: One of my speaking mentors, Darren LaCroix, says that he always asks himself this question right before he speaks: “Am I present?” What he means by that is, “Am I in the moment and focused?” If you want to use a presentation to persuade, your mind needs to be on what is being said and communicated, not on your weekend plans, your dog’s trip to the vet, picking up your dry cleaning, or anything else that isn’t presenting and selling. If you are not in the moment, your customer will know – and they won’t be in the moment either.

Test Your Demos: True story. The day before I wrote this, I was interviewing a candidate who was anxious to demonstrate his marketing skills, and he indicated that he had designed a website (which, he said, was ‘pretty awesome’) for a small business he owned on the side. He said, “Here’s the Web address; go see for yourself.” So I did. And what I saw was, “This page is currently parked by GoDaddy.” I looked at him, and he just chuckled and said, “Well, I guess I need to pay GoDaddy.” Really? Nothing looks worse than having a demonstration of any type that doesn’t work. He’d have been far better off had he never mentioned the website – or if he’d cared enough to check its functionality before he came upstairs. Full disclosure – I once drove 180 miles to perform a demo with a failed piece of equipment that I hadn’t tried. But I learned from it.

Use Visuals Appropriately: I like PowerPoint. I like it a lot. I use it a lot. I also like videos, pictures, and other visuals. HOWEVER – when it comes to a presentation, it’s important to know what to use and what not to. As a general rule, when you are one-on-one, limit your visuals; use them when you are presenting to larger groups. In a one-on-one environment, the premium is on the conversation you are having, and any visuals you present can distract. However, in a larger environment, visuals can help keep everyone up to speed and pace, and illustrate your points.

Give It the “So What” test: When I was 16, I stood up in front of my speaking class for my first practice of the Original Oratory that I planned to give at a tournament that weekend. About two minutes in, my coach shouted, “So what?” Startled, I looked up at him, open mouthed. He continued, “Who cares?” By this time, I was dumbfounded – and speechless (for those of you who know me, that probably comes as a shock). He finished, “What’s in it for me? It’s all about me!” He then explained that these four questions were likely what were in the judge’s mind (or the audience’s). “Anytime you’re presenting a point,” he said, “Imagine your audience saying, ‘So what? Who cares? What’s in it for me? It’s all about me!’” Too often, sales presentations are about the salesperson and not the customer. Hint: the salesperson shouldn’t be doing the buying. Give your presentation points the “So what” test, and you’ll be a lot more powerful.

Remember – it’s important to keep these points in perspective. Without a great discovery preceding the presentation, your presentation will fall flat. It’s possible to ‘win’ the presentation and lose the sale, but it’s not possible to ‘lose’ the presentation and win the sale.