Why what you think works does not… and what to do instead
Practical sales advice based on conversations between experienced training consultants Fred Copestake and Clare O’Shea
Fred: So, in this episode of the Don’t Series, we’re looking at Don’t Present, and this is one that you brought to the table Clare. So, let’s just establish, what do we mean by ‘Don’t Present?’
Clare: Basically, I do a lot of sales presentation courses and the very first slide I ever put up is, this is the number one tip that nobody ever tells you, which is basically as a salesperson, Do.Not.Present.
What do I mean by that? I say, ‘do not present’ because the situation behind it is normally that we’ve approached a customer, we’ve done some warm prospecting and we’ve managed to persuade them we might be able to work together and they eventually say to us something like, ‘Okay, come and tell me all about your company’s capability’; or ‘Come and tell me all about your company’s capability in this particular area.’
When they say come and tell me all about, the customer never, ever means ‘Present AT me for 30 minutes and do the whole company presentation’. And that’s the issue. If it’s a sales presentation the real purpose of a sales presentation is to influence and educate the customer. We want it to be interactive because we know that selling is not telling.
Fred: Okay, so thinking about it then, people are going to think presenting is a good idea, because they’re going think, ‘Well my stuff’s really interesting. The customer wants to hear it. They want to get all this information, all my golden nuggets of stuff’, and what you’re saying is the customer probably doesn’t want that at that stage.
Clare: Absolutely. I think the salesperson thinks they’ve got a pitch, it’s ready made. It’s the standard company presentation, they might’ve tailored it a tiny bit. It’s got logos in it, it’s got the company history (the classic first slide is ‘We were founded in’), its got a map of the world… but the customer doesn’t care. They really don’t care about this stuff. And salespeople go into this natural transmit mode when they hear the word present or tell me about. They think they have to talk at the customer.
Now, of course, some presentations, formal board level, closing presentations, maybe that type of structure is the right thing to do. Here though I’m talking about sales presentations, where the purpose is to influence somebody. And if it’s early in the sale, what we should be doing is getting some discovery from that opportunity, so it must be interactive.
Fred: Okay. I’m just imagining that a salesperson will be thinking, ‘Well, I want to present because it’s very quick to get ideas across and I’ve got so much good stuff people want to hear. Here it is all the logos and the history and all it’s ready to go, that’s what people want’
So, this is where they’re making the mistake?
Clare: Correct. Yes. What they’ve done is they’ve become sales led and they’re using their sales tools without thinking about the client. What I’m saying is let’s think about the client more, and be client led when we have to go and talk to the customer rather than just present to them.
Fred: Right. So, this is why the thinking is flawed, it sounds as though that if you’re not careful, you’re going to bore people pretty quickly.
Clare: Yeah, absolutely. I often say to people just think about this, have ever had a customer who says on the eighth or ninth slide, that last slide was really interesting?
Well, what they’re actually saying to you is the rest has been complete rubbish or ridiculous. What they’ve said, is finally you’ve got to something that’s useful and interesting. Because what we tend to do at most of these standard sales presentations is, we start off and basically what you’re doing is you’re weeing all over the customer.
We are this, we are this, we are this. What the customer wants to hear is okay if you have got something, talk to me about my situation. Now, the challenge is of course if salespeople don’t really know about the customer’s situation. That’s lazy selling.
You’ve got to do your research. Find out the company, the industry, the title of the person you’re going to speak to. Tailor it. What you could do is something like this. When someone says to you, ‘Come and tell me all about or bring your company presentation’ remember they don’t really mean come and present at me.
Don’t present. Instead say to them, ‘Do you actually want a formal presentation, or would you prefer a round table discussion?’ So simple, and immediately 99.9% of customers will say a round table discussion is what they meant. Then treat it as a meeting and have an agenda (of course) and feel free to have some slides if you want to support the discussion.
Then at the beginning of the presentation or the meeting, say something like this. ‘Thanks for meeting with us today. The objective is to give you an overview of our capability, with a clear purpose to see if we might be able to help you in this area’.
There must be an objective. We’re never just presenting for the sake of presenting. It is usually to see and discuss the possibility of becoming a supplier. For example. you can say, ‘Look, I’ve got some slides here ready to talk to you about, but before we even go to that, what I understand about your company so far is this’. Then check that’s correct. What are their challenges in this area? If you can understand that first, you can tailor the rest of it, so you’re focused on the areas that the customer particularly concerned about. So, we can tailor it on the go as well, which then becomes a two way conversation. It’s interactive and it’s very, very consultative.
Fred: Brilliant. Let me just repeat a couple of those things. So, the first thing is, is not to have your happy ears on to go ‘Oh, they want to hear all about me’. They might have said present, but stop, collect yourself and just clarify exactly what they mean. They probably mean round table, and if I can set it up as the that, that’s actually going to be a far more interactive and a better quality discussion. People, can label it a presentation or whatever it doesn’t matter too much. It’s about doing the right thing
Then do your homework. Which hopefully you would have done anyway. But if not just really make sure there’s a lot of good stuff about them in there. So, when you’re presenting the actual bit where you are giving information, you’re giving information to them about them.
Clare: Yes, and make it obviously relative to them. For example say ‘You said this earlier’, or ‘Because I saw on your website this, I thought this might be interesting’. They could say, ‘Oh well, actually that’s wrong on our website, we don’t do that anymore’. In which case we adjust. It makes it more interactive and once you get that mindset about it the whole way you operate and communicate with customers changes
As you know, I’m quite big on mindset. And we can use this approach to relax. The salesperson doesn’t need to panic as much because it’s not a formal presentation anymore. Yes, take presentation slides along with you, but make sure they’re tailored and make it as part of the meeting, as opposed to; the presentation, is the meeting.
So basically, in those situations, particularly when you’re early on in the sales cycle, when you’re trying to present your capability, don’t actually present it. Don’t make it one way communication. Quite often as soon as we hear present or PowerPoint, we go into one way communication mode. Really we want it to be interactive and two way.
Fred: So, in summary ‘Don’t Present’ means just check what they’re meaning and try to make it as interactive as possible.
It could actually be a presentation but I’ve double-checked and I’m going into tell mode because that’s exactly what is the right thing to do here. But more often than not, it’s just about structuring the conversation a little bit differently Don’t kind of trick yourself that they are sat there waiting desperately to hear all the stuff that you’re talking about.
Clare: Totally. And of course, if the customer does want a presentation and it’s a formal presentation, and it’s an ROI or cost benefit analysis or proposal presentation, that is a formal presentation and then you need have some really good presentation skills.
Fred: And that’s a different story. That is ‘Do Present’ and be great at it!
Clare O’Shea is Founder of Marlow Sales Academy
She was instrumental in the design of the first ever Qualifications in Sales back in 1998 with the first Institute of Professional Sales and continues that interest as Course Director for the CIM Certificate, Advanced Certificate and Programme Director for the Post Graduate Level 7 Diploma in Strategic Sales Practice
Clare specialises in helping salespeople to be more consultative and consultants to be more commercial, by developing the right mindset, process, tools and skills.
Fred Copestake is founder of Brindis, a sales training consultancy.
Over the last 22 years he has travelled round the world 14 times visiting 36 countries to work with over 10,000 salespeople.
His book ‘Selling Through Partnering Skills’ looks at the evolving world of sales and sets out what salespeople need to do to refine their approach. It explores how to take things to the next level through understanding partnering intelligence and using the innovative VALUE Framework.