Follow this presentation formula for super success
by Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE
April 27, 2016

In your business, how long does it take for you to go from an inquiry to a serious sales presentation with the buyer? When the time comes, are you prepared? Do you know exactly what to say in order to customize your presentation to meet your client's interests? Or is your presentation the same no matter who the client is?

Sales presentation skills trainers are continually appalled to find that thousands of sales professionals are not adequately prepared. They repeatedly make the same serious mistakes. Sadly, throughout their careers they are often not trained to stop making mistakes.

Companies in all industries spend months training their sales professionals on product knowledge, company history and the reasons that their products and services are superior. The big void in this training, however, is the failure to teach sales reps how to ask the right questions of their clients and then communicate their messages from the prospect's point of view.

As one executive said, "We only hire seasoned sales professionals with at least 5 to 10 years of experience selling technology-related products. We naturally assume that they can tell our company story. We had a meeting where they had to present to our executives, and we were horrified at how terrible they were." Over the years, trainers have heard many different versions of the same exact problem.

So what is the mistake these knowledgeable sales professionals make? They all follow the same formula:

  • This is who I am.
  • This is who our company is.
  • This is what we do.
  • This is why we are the best.
  • This is who does business with us.
  • We would like your business.

Remember, if you sound the same as everyone else, you have no advantage.

Research clearly indicates that today's buyers are more educated about what they are looking for, and their expectations of a salesperson are greater. If you have an appointment, the prospect has most likely already researched your company. Often they know more about your company and your products than your newer sales associates do.

Selling is not about you or your products; it is about how your prospects will benefit from them. To be persuasive, you need to appeal to the other person's rational self-interest. People make decisions solely for their benefit, not yours. Here are five valuable, easily employed techniques to help them make those decisions in your favor.

  1. Forget your company history or industry jargon. This might be the biggest "who cares" of all. A bored mind gets distracted and will likely cut you short. Use phrases such as, "Based on 15 years of helping clients like you, I have discovered..." or "With the last five clients in your industry, I found..." Work this information into your presentation by focusing on client challenges, priorities or interests instead.
  2. Remember that the key to connection is conversation, and the secret of conversation is to ask questions. The quality of the information you receive depends on the quality of your questions.
  3. Take notes on what your prospects say. Feed their words back into your conversation. Prospects never disagree with themselves! When you are discovering if they have a need or how big the opportunity is, let them do the talking.
  4. For your initial conversations, even if you know your discovery questions backward and forward, write them down. If you are part of a team, collaborate with your teammates, because it is easier to be creative with several minds. There is no true quality without consistency. Your company and clients are best served when everyone on your team follows the same structure.
  5. Clarify how your prospects can benefit from your product or service. Based on their answers to your questions, structure your presentation around these points:
    • Thank you for the opportunity to present our solution.
    • You told us you are most interested in...
    • Here is how we can help you...
    • Based on what you have heard, what questions
      can I answer?

In the initial discussions, keep your sales questions conversational. During the presentation, answer the prospect's concerns in a way that brings in your past experience with other clients like them. Make sure you use more of a "you" focus than an "I" or "we" focus. Remember, they are more interested in themselves than in you. Finally, do not forget to ask for your prospect's business.