Structuring Your Presentations – Connect With the Audience!

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All too often, when a client calls us to help close more deals, it’s because the client is using a “one type fits all” presentation, rather than a focused series of presentations that address specific needs within each stage of the sales process.

A sales strategy typically calls for identifying prospects’ needs, and demonstrating how the company’s solution meets them. But to connect with the audience, an effective presentation should take into account the client’s receptivity needs: the ability to absorb the information and make a decision. Studies have shown that people’s sales attention spans generally last about 20-25 minutes. So don’t overload the presentation if you want the desired impact.

For this reason, sales presentations often consist of several coordinated pre-planned, two-way conversations in which you identify the client’s product and buying needs, including:

  • what benefit does the product/service provide?
  • how does it fit into the clients’ bigger business picture
  • what cost, value, and risk taking issues will affect whether they will buy an appropriate solution from you?

The first presentation, therefore, focuses on building confidence. You need to demonstrate:

  • your product/service will meet the client’s needs
  • your company has the capabilities to meet and exceed these needs by adding additional value and reducing related risks
  • you, as the sales representative, will also add value and reduce risks to make sure the client gets what he/she needs

Given that the goal of the decision is whether or not to proceed to a second presentation, the first will need to be succinct and powerful.

Subsequent presentations, which may include new parties with more detailed concerns, build upon prior presentations, but shouldn’t duplicate them. We had a client who, knowing this rule, was about to board a plane for an important sales meeting, and felt something was wrong with his presentation. He asked us to review it while in the air and give him our analysis when he landed. When he called us we reminded him that this was his third presentation to the group (and the first designed to close), yet the initial set of slides were the same ones from both prior presentations!

Another example. Imagine you’re selling an investment opportunity. In the first presentation you’re focused on the nature of the investment product, the track record of the sponsor, and (most importantly) “the secret sauce” – how management uniquely uses proprietary decision-tools to achieve excellent results. The second presentation should focus on demonstrating in-depth how the managers have made excellent decisions in the past (e.g., picking and managing prior portfolio companies) and how they will do the same in the future. But spending time going through all 25 portfolio companies in the initial presentation would be distracting.

If you have only one meeting at which to present your entire story, consider breaking the story into two parts. Have the initial sales presentation focus on demonstrating your Unique Sales Proposition. Then, offer a second presentation booklet, that the prospect can read later, to reference the details.

In sum, today more than ever, it’s not what you say, but how you say it that counts. You must structure the presentation process to connect to the audience’s decision-making process, which includes a readiness to accept different types of information over time, and the ability to conclude that they want to work with you to get your solution.