How to Make Your Sales Presentation Dance
Months of calling and convincing and cajoling and — if we’re being honest here — pleading has paid off and you are finally given the opportunity to make a sales presentation to that big fish account you’ve been coveting ever since you started in sales. This one is a game-changer. Land this and you reach the next level, one that dramatically boosts your sales and income.
When you get word they’ve accepted your request for an audience, you let out a shriek in the tradition of Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) in the movie “Wall Street,” when he “bagged the elephant” and scored an order from Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas). Then, once the dust settles, you get down to the business of preparing for the call itself … and that’s when you get a little stuck.
Dogs who chase cars have a plan. But if the car ever stopped, the dog would blush with embarrassment since there was no consideration given for actually catching it. Salespeople, however, do not have the luxury of stopping at the end of the chase. There needs to be a plan for what comes next.
So, let’s talk about that sales presentation. If Stephen Covey were writing this column, he would advise you to, “Begin with the end in mind.” He would have you think through where you want to end up in what you want to accomplish during this selling opportunity. That’s a good start. A list of presentation accomplishments would include:
- Learning more about the prospect’s needs,
- Educating the prospect on your company, and
- Leaving with, at best, an opportunity and, at worst, an agreed-upon next step.
In addition to going through that mental exercise, here are a few other thoughts:
Preparing for the Meeting
Once upon a time, a client appointment was not such a rarity. Now, it needs to be seen as a lottery-winning occasion, one that should be celebrated and maximized. So, the first step is to double down on your research. There are three areas of focus:
1. Study the company — Review their website and garner as much information as you can, paying particular attention to potential soundbites, things you can include in your presentation that will scream, “I came prepared!”
Read their press releases. Read up on their background (generally found on the “About” landing page). Check out any upcoming events that are listed. Take note of their primary message. That is, what are they promoting right now, if anything?
And, finally, get a general sense from their website as to who they are. A website is a window to the soul of the company. Read between the lines. In addition, Google the company name and check out any pertinent links that come up.
2. Study the industry — Most vertical markets have trade associations. Find one that serves your big fish, click on their website, and read everything you can in order to get a general sense of where companies in this field are headed, what their challenges might be, and where the opportunities lay.
You might even consider picking up the phone and calling the association directly. You can be completely honest, saying something like, “I’m making a sales call on one of your members and would like to know more about what’s going on in your industry. Can you help?”
3. Study the individual(s) attending the meeting — Look them up on LinkedIn and take notes. How long have they been there? Have they written any articles? What was their background? Yes, they will be able to see that you have checked them out, but that’s not a bad thing. It shows preparedness and initiative.
Next up, you will want to think through the call itself, starting with an understanding of its goal. Simply put, the goal of the first sales appointment is to get a second sales appointment. That’s it. That means you have said something they are interested in and they have said something you are interested in.
Finally, create a flow or an outline of how you expect things to proceed. Make a list of “must make” points. Make another list of key questions to ask.
Consider bringing in a second set of ears. There is value in the four-legged sales call, although it can also bring complications, such as a boss who takes over the conversation or another sales rep who gets a case of oral diarrhea and commands the floor. But, anywho …
Arrive. On. Time. No excuses. No exceptions. Do whatever you need to do to ensure that you are there at the agreed-upon time (oh, and make certain that any appointment made at least one week out is confirmed. It’s the sales rep’s responsibility, not the client’s).
The Sales Call Itself
When the appointment was set up, the client said she would give you 30 minutes. Obviously, that means that you have 30 minutes, right? Actually, no ... or at least, not necessarily.
The client had a 30-minute window when she agreed to see you, but that is not automatically true. Very early in the call, make certain that you confirm the appointment’s length. You don’t want to spend five minutes shooting the breeze and building rapport only to suddenly find out she has a hard stop at 15 minutes past the hour.
The call itself can go in a number of different directions. What’s important is you start with an agreed-upon set of expectations. This requires you to make some sort of general statement as to what will be covered, and then confirm it with the customer. Thank her for her time. Talk about what you hope to accomplish and what will be discussed. Then, stop. While, technically, this meeting is a presentation, it’s also a conversation.
As such, you need to check in with the client and say something like, “Is there something in particular you want to talk about today?” This opens myriad possibilities. Perhaps they are interested in a specific aspect of your business, such as your digital printing capabilities. Or maybe someone made a request about wide-format printing just that morning. Salespeople go into presentations with blinders on and their head down. Open up the floor to discussion and you open up new potential.
While you are presenting, take careful note of body language. A quick frown or a surprised look can be all it takes for the client to show their interest or concern. Stop and investigate. Also, be sure to include some questions so the room is filled with more than just your voice droning on and on. Keep track of your time. Be careful not to get sidetracked. Find the balance between, “Sure, I’d be happy to give you more detail,” and “Perhaps we can talk about that off-line.”
At the end of the call, understand one important reality: there is a very good chance this customer will go dark on you, regardless of how well the appointment went. Today, you are the shiny object but, the minute you leave, there will be another mole that needs to be whacked. As such, you need to ask questions like, “When can I follow-up with you and how?”
Your parents likely instilled in you the importance of writing thank you cards when gifts are received. An appointment is a gift. Make certain you acknowledge it appropriately and in writing.
Good first sales appointments are predetermined. It’s the preparation that happens before you walk in the door that makes all the difference. The call itself flows like a well-choreographed dance when you have done your job correctly. The bigger the elephant you are trying to bag, the more important it is to think the steps through carefully and run the call correctly.
And lunch is still for wimps, Bud.