Presentations and Communication

The Customer is the Hero, Not You!

Years ago , when I founded Brilliant Image, a computer presentation graphics company, I trained my sales people to understand our mission:  to help our customers (who make presentations to win over the audience) become heros.  It was a key part of our culture for 15 years, till we sold the company.  In Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer, identify the same approach in sales by noting the need to “keep the customer the hero of the story”.

Their concern is about the language we use. All too often a salesperson shows up, analyzes the situation proposes a solution, and then the customer adopts it and is a success.  The issue is whether “I/we” found the solution (meaning the salesperson is a hero) or the customer found the solution. Smart salespeople keep the buyer focused on their ability to execute great solutions so they can feel like heroes.
Great sales presentations focus on the customer and make him/her the hero directly. Good people in the company are trapped by a system or process in a world that changed and now isn’t meeting the needs of its people, and the customer is looking for a solution, found it and adopts it.  By saying “I/we are introducing this new element to you”, you’re stealing some of the thunder and that diminishes their role as the hero solving the problem.

For instance, a sales person would say “Since the world changed (e.g., entry of a new competitor, new regulations, new technology, etc. that interfere with the system that was working well), changes are needed. You need a new system that takes into account these changes. Companies come to us for the ways to succeed in the new environment, and when they do they’re able to identify the competitive advantage they need.”

As they note, you’ll still get the credit for helping them, but now they do so as a generous hero, rather than an obliging customer.

How do you help focus the customer on being the hero?  Share your approach with us!

Analyzing a Powerful Commercial

You’re probably familiar with the Geico tagline – “Fifteen minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance” commercial.  Have you ever thought of why it’s so effective?

Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer, in Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, make an interesting observation about it:

  • It talks to you, not at you.
  • It first addresses your emotional need – minimum time commitment – to increase acceptability
  • It focuses on your objective need – people know that insurance is a necessary evil, so why overpay, as you probably would if there’s a middleman who has to spend more time
  • It uses specific numbers (e.g., 15) which are more believable than generalizations
  • By using the number 15, twice, it increases memorability.
  • It simultaneously addresses two needs, not just one: the ability to make your life better (save money) and less stressful (15 minutes)

Think about some of the commercial company taglines – what makes them powerful?  Share it with us.

Your Customer Wants Strategic, Not Tactical Benefits

 

Identifying the customer’s real needs is critical to faciliate a sale. Matching it with your unique capabilities enables you to prepare for a winning sales presentation.

In Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer note that company sales presentations need to positioned from strength. They needs to stress the strategic need that your customer has, so he/she understands why it’s important; you need to assert your strength – why you are “uniquely” qualified to meet that need; and you need to defend that statement with proof.

Most importantly, these presentations cannot be based on facts alone – they need to be embedded in a story that evokes the emotions of your audience and drive them to the conclusion that your proposal is a competent business solution and that you and your team are a reliable, trusted partner.

The issue is what do customers really care about. Simply reciting the countless benefits that customers in general receive from buying your product or services will have little more impact that reciting all the advantageous features you’re offering.  Through proper discovery, the sales person’s job is to understand what the customer really cares about and then link the immediate benefits of specific features to the overriding benefits that the customer really wants.  A standard example of the former concept is the observation that when someone goes into Home Depot for a quarter inch drill, that’s not what the person really wants; he wants a quarter inch hole.  But the real benefit that the customer wants is to easily, safely and inexpensively put up the bookshelves.

Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer makes this point in Conversations that Win the Complex Sale when they note that sales people should (1) fully understand the context in which the customer lives, (2) explore what’s truly behind customer’s needs, and then (3) position the sales presentation on the core need and not simply react to the immediate response.

Working with Volvo, he discovered that its sales people focused on the features of its tractor cabs which customers ask about – wider windshield size, placement of the engine block, and a list of creature comforts. This led to a “spec war” with competitors, and the need for discounting. While fleet manager-buyers want happy drivers, their real need was increased productivity; this is an industry where driver unhappiness generating high turnover and excess costs. So they focused on fleet productivity as their Distinctive Sales Proposition (DSP): driver satisfaction affects turnover, and turnover affects productivity and profitability. Driver dissatisfaction undermines these strategic results and threatens customer success. Volvo then measured the results of this approach; the length of time for a deal (sales rep cycle time) declined by 25-30% and pricing premiums went up 3%.

Similarly, they helped a commercial cleaning company switch from discussions on cleaning service features and prices to focusing on the customer’s strategic goals: increase their ability to market office space and grow rental incomes. They shifted clients’ focus from “cleaning spaces” to “cleaning for health”: by focusing on keeping the office space healthier, tenants would discover lower absenteeism and increased productivity – which translates into greater profitability for tenants – and an extra reason to be part of the building! Their power position was “Get a healthier clean at no extra cost”.

In other words, when you use our winning sales approach, ADAP (Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations), the focus needs to be on the buyer’s strategic goals, not just the tactical ones. So explore and discover the real source of the pain/gain driving the buyer, and then plan a thorough presentation to meet those needs.

What’s your experience?  What’s your power position?  Share with us.

Easy to Remember. Easy to Share.

The purpose of every presentation is to facilitate a decision by the audience. If you’re looking to raise money, your presenter strategy is to show that, for several reasons, the investment is has tremendous potential for success, will generate the desirable ROI and is relatively safe. However, since the person listening to the presentation usually will have to share the information with other decision-makers, the listener needs to remember what she/he heard and communicate it with some of the passion of the presenter.

Carmen Simon addresses the second issue in Impossible to Ignore. She notes fifteen variables people can use to influence other’s memory. They are: context, cues, distinctiveness, emotion, facts, familiarity, motivation, novelty, quantity of information, relevance, repetition, self-generated content, sensory intensity, social aspects and surprise.

You don’t have to use all 15, but if you develop a framework in which you connect some, you can use many to reinforce one another and therefore increase the power of recall.

Sales people have been taught not to focus on the features but the benefits. Features address facts; the benefits are the emotional satisfactions received when the goal for which you bought the product or service are achieved.  Focusing on the goal, creates a context in which the buyer can present facts (showing it’s a rational decision) and emotionally address fears, hopes, surprise, relevance, etc.

Given the neurobiology of memory (limited time for non-distinctive information) and neuroscience of choice (we want to feel we made choice), don’t forget that less is more: too much information will make it difficult to remember and relate well. Always try to keep the information concise and succinct.

What strategies and tactics do you use to help people pay attention to your message and remember it well enough to communicate it to others? Share them with us.

Storytelling: Are You Getting Better?

Delivering a business presentation involves telling a story – with the punchline designed help the audience to make a decision. All stories follow the same approach, focusing on:

  • The protagonist – which may be a company, a product line, now team members, etc.
  • The antagonist – what is our hero up against; e.g., competitors, insufficient funds, regulations, etc.
  • The critical moment – why now does the protagonist have to take action now
  • The transformation – what changes take place as action is taken
  • The impact – how is the protagonist’s change also affecting others.

In One Perfect Pitch, Marie Perruchet focuses on business presentations, and notes that the starting point is vision; where do you want the protagonist (which often is the audience listening to the presentation) to end up when they take the desired steps. She lays out many of the steps you should include in your pitch.

Most important, she recognizes the importance of being very succinct – and identifies a process of getting to the essence through questioning what’s the information, and then practicing and rehearsing to get it down to as short as necessary.

For instance, if you’re preparing to present to a Board or a public meeting (e.g., investor conference), you should always prepare two versions of your presentation: one for the time allotted (e.g., 25 minutes within a 30 minute session) and one much short (e.g., 3-5 minutes), which you can use if something changes and you need to be briefer. For instance, at one investor conference, a fire drill cut half the time. Rather than try to rush the longer presentation, the presenter delivered the shorter presentation and used the extra time to answer questions – which endeared him to the audience!

How do you build your stories and keep delivery succinct? Share your experiences.

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