Winning Means Doing Whatever-It-Takes

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As you prepare to deliver a presentation, how do you identify what’s on your audience’s mind? When we discuss our winning presentation formula- ADAP – (Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations), this question often arises. Here are some of the answers.

● Do your homework. Remember, when you pitch someone, you have two “buyers” to address: the individual member(s) of the panel who will decide whether to engage your team and the company for whom they work. Today, with Linkedin, websites, and social media, it’s easier than ever to get an understanding of both parties. Remember, the FRP is limited in what it tells you. Your ability to ask questions may be limited. So you need to focus your questioning fire-power by understanding your buyers’ motives and framework.
o What are their major concerns about the project, and the bigger picture into which it fits?
o What’s their value system by which they’ll make decisions? (For instance, people say they want “lowest-price” but what they usually want is “greatest value”.)
o What’s the relative importance of expertise, trust and confidence for them? What’s really driving them?
o How have they made similar decisions before? What’s been the impact?
o What outside fears do the buyers’ have about the project and the presenters’ team?
o Is there anything about this deal that’s different (e.g., last two contractors failed to deliver as promised…)

● Get to know the buyer(s) when you make your presentation. When a client makes it to the final review, you can assume all three are competent, and in the same financial ball-park. Therefore, it’s even more important that you ask questions to know something about each of the decision-makers, because it’s intangible factors that related to the “real” value of the job. (In one case, there was an unexpected panelist; the presentation explicitly introduced each other to the panelists in order to find out who he was. He was the Vice-Chairman, someone who usually doesn’t show up. Why was he here? Because this would be his legacy project before retiring. So the team knew he was the ultimate decision-maker and focused on making him feel very comfortable – and won the deal.)

● Be prepared. Most stories can be told from different perspectives. For instance, a value-engineering solution demonstrates a concern for saving more money and having the expertise to do it; arriving at the innovative solution demonstrates a commitment to creativity. In the presentation you need to use the case-history to tell the story from whichever perspective will have the greatest impact.

● Position your presenting team to be a well-integrated, thoughtful team that collaborates to develop superior solutions. Listen, take notes, have each member contribute – not sequentially but as part of a group conversation with the client. When it comes to final presentations, the “medium” – how the team interacts with one another and the client – is the “message”. (McLuhan)

● Adapt quickly. If you see that the client is limited for time, cut the small-talk. If trust emerges as the most important thing, focus on relationship-building. If the client trusts your expertise but is looking for future directions, be a thought-leadership strategic partner.

In sum, when you’re playing in the major leagues, you won’t win with a hastily put together presentation delivered by people who aren’t passionate about doing “whatever it takes”.

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