December 18, 2008

Sales presentations - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Over the past 16 weeks I have had the opportunity to sit through 36 sales and marketing presentations from technology vendors and professional services companies. After the first presentation I decided I would take note of the presentations that got an enthusiastic response and those that hit a low note. If you happen to be one of the 36 people who presented to me you should know what I am going to say.

The bad

Lets start with the bad.  Why do 70% of vendors start their presentation with an ABOUT US slide?  Why not just call it the PLEASE YAWN slide.   Maybe it is interesting to the salesperson but it is not for the prospect.

Next why over 50% of presenters try to use humour to kick off their presentations? Nobody asked for a stand up commedian and that is not what the salesperson turned out to be.  Most of the attempts I have seen simply fell flat, because they weren’t funny.  It is time for salespeople to play it safe.  Trying to break the ice with a joke is a nice idea, but it does not work in most cases.

Vendors who tell buyers they can do everything…… yet experienced buyers have been around a long time, they have heard all the promises a million times, they don’t believe vendors who claim they can do everything

Have sales people forgotten they need to take notes during presentations, its amazing to see how many people present their offering, ask a few questions during the presentation (supposedly trying to identify client needs) and forget to show the buyer on the other side of the table the respect to take note of the answers they give

Eye contact – if you keep looking down at your notes, people begin to think you don’t really know your stuff

Bluffing answers – the old saying goes know what you don’t know. If you don’t know the answer admit it. Bluffing rarely works and buyers can see through 9 out of 10 bluffs

Ok please listen to this – if you have a slide with 5 bullet points and you put it up, guess what, the audience will read the five bullets and stop listening to you until they have gone from bullet 1-5 – a suggestion either use a slide build and bring one bullet in at a time or put the slide up, take a sip of water and let the audience read the slide and then make your point.

The really ugly

These things really happened I am not joking:

- Slouching in meetings with arms crossed – I felt like asking the guy if he wanted a pillow!!!!

- Checking mobiles & texting – I wouldn’t have believed it only for I witnessed it with my own eyes!

- Interrupting colleagues when they have been asked a question

- Asking what products my company sold – do your homework!!

- Answering questions without letting the buyer complete his questions

- Clicking a pen when talking

- Leaning on a lectern looking like he was about to fall over

- Telling the audience who are risk averse that the company is small

- Wandering around the top of the room speaking at the slides

- Rocking back and forth while talking

Ok here is the good

- The presentations that went down well told stories – they used client stories to demonstrate the value they deliver, they asked questions as they were telling stories, they showed they cared

- The presenters who knew their stuff and showed they were experts earned the right to ask probing questions - people like to talk to experts especially experts who show they know the challenges faced

- The presentations that work best had a really good opening and a really good close and yes it takes practice. Over a three week period I saw 6 IT vendor presentations and only one started and ended well

- The number one presenter amongst the 36 was the one person who spoke slowly, showed confidence, smiled, used his hands to illustrate key points and asked interesting questions

- Another simple thing that goes along way, clarifying the agenda and meeting expectation before launching into a slide show

-The guys who sign-posted where they were made it easy to follow – you knew where you were। When you know where you are it is easier to pay attention and interact

- Interaction – key to every successful sales meeting. If you have been around a while you will know the questions you need to ask and you will know that the more interaction the more likely people will feel you are trying to understand them, I was in a workshop recently that lasted about 6 hours, the time flew because the vendor got us to interact for at least 50% of the time, we were asking questions एंड openly answer questions.

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