The last time I failed to do discovery (Or how I ended up with Jell-O on my face)

Discovery for a presentation

I confess:  I haven’t always done discovery before a sales presentation.  Even when I was working at The National Enquirer years ago where their tag line was “Enquiring minds want to know!” Like many salespeople, I was often running fast trying to make quota. And on those occasions where a prospect seemed like a natural fit, or the situation was similar to something I’d encountered previously, I would take some shortcuts (read: make assumptions). Jell-O changed all of that. I was selling advertising for The National Enquirer and although it had one of the largest print audiences in the country at that time, people – especially advertisers — had very strong opinions about the publication.  But love it or hate it, we had a core group of advertisers who used us as a primary vehicle for efficiently reaching a very specific audience: mothers with average or below household incomes. The Read More

What to do when your prospect only has a few minutes

What to do when your prospect only has a few minutes

You: Spent two weeks preparing to deliver a ninety minute sales presentation. Prospect: “Sorry, I’ve only got a few minutes. Can you just give me a quick overview?” Aargh! Disappointing to say the least. Everything rides on your reaction when your prospect cuts down the time you need to deliver a well-thought out sales presentation. Unfortunately, the knee jerk reaction of most salespeople is to go along with the request, racing through the presentation like an over-caffeinated auctioneer, dismissing slides right and left. Resist the urge. Here’s why: Rushing through your presentation is dangerous and counter-productive. People retain very little when it’s delivered at them from a fire hose. Audience interaction is completely tossed aside in the interest of time, and almost any solution sounds unnecessarily complex when not presented in a strategic manner with associated context and benefits. You need a better strategy when your prospect only has a Read More

The Anatomy of a Boring Presentation

boring presentation

You’ve probably sat in a presentation that made you long for a fire drill or a burst pipe to release you from the tedium. A boring presentation can be the result of many factors: unimaginative or irrelevant content, poor execution or lack of preparation, but often the problem starts with structure. Most salespeople still follow a presentation structure that has been around since the seventies. And while we might smile nostalgically when we see someone sporting bell bottoms or tie dye, there’s nothing for your prospect to smile about when confronted with this tired old structure. I write a lot about how to create and deliver a presentation that engages and persuades today’s busy business audiences, so I thought it would be helpful to turn the tables, and look at the anatomy of a boring presentation through the eyes of a prospect. The  Elements of a Boring Presentation The Introduction Audience Read More

4 Personality Types that can Derail your Presentation (and How to Stop Them in Their Tracks!)

4 Personality types that can derail your presentation

While you may never experience an interruption of Kanye proportions during your presentation or demo, you’ve probably encountered one of these 4 personality types who consciously or unconsciously seem hell bent on derailing your presentation. Handle it poorly, and you can find yourself back at square one with your prospect or out of the running entirely. If you present for a living, you need to have a plan for addressing potential derailers so you can keep your presentation from veering way off track and meet the goals of your audience. 4 Personality Types that can derail your presentation – and how to stop them in their tracks: *  The Kanye Just like when Kanye interrupted Taylor Swift as she accepted a VMA award, the Kanye has no problem letting you know anytime they disagree. Right in the middle of your opening or making a key point? No problem. Kanye is only Read More

How to Create Urgency by Raising the Stakes in your Presentation

How to Create Urgency in your presentation

Why you Need to Create Urgency in your Presentation Longer sales cycles and busier prospects dealing with multiple and often conflicting priorities make the need to create urgency during your presentation, dare I say, “urgent?”  I am not of course referring to the manufactured “This is the last one we have left!” type of urgency.  I am talking about authentic urgency:  the desire to solve a problem that a customer has perhaps dismissed or put off because other issues are competing for his or her attention. Too many salespeople miss opportunities to create urgency within their presentation by glossing over or discounting challenges. Here’s an example from an actual presentation: Version 1:  Low Urgency  “As you mentioned, expanding your business into multiple states and navigating the many requirements associated with managing the Compliance, Tax and Employee Administration requirements within the various states where you’re doing business can be very difficult.  Read More

5 Great Reasons to Tell a Story in Your Sales Presentation

Oscar for best screenplay

Spotlight, this year’s Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay, proved yet again that a good story, well told can pay big dividends. Storytelling can pay big dividends in your sales presentations as well when you follow a few rules. The first rule is critical to the success of your story, and that is being crystal clear why you are telling a story. Why “the why” is key in your sales story Stories that are used solely as attention-grabbers and lead nowhere waste time and try the patience of busy prospects. While this may work in everyday conversation, a sales presentation is not an everyday conversation. It is a purposeful, heightened communication and every element, including a story, must be tied to the reason that you are there. Whether that’s to solve a business challenge, explore an opportunity or overcome obstacles to doing business. Should a story also grab attention and Read More

The 3rd Annual Oscar Best Presentation Awards

Chris Rock Oscars 2016

You already know who won the Oscar’s major categories, but do you know who won the award for Best…or Worst Presenter?  Or the Best “Addressing the Elephant in the Room?” If you look at The Oscars from a sales perspective, it’s a great collection of mini-presentations and monologues given in front of a live and virtual audience with short attention spans and high expectations. Which makes it the perfect setting to understand what works when presenting to a business, what doesn’t and why. Here are the results of my 3rd Annual Oscar Presentation Awards and the sales takeaways: Best “Addressing the Elephant in the Room:” Chris Rock With his first line, “Welcome to the white people’s choice awards,” Chris Rock took on the negative press about the lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominees. He handled a sensitive subject that had received major press the weeks leading up the Read More

How to use a presentation theme…and avoid going full theme park!

Disney Theme Park

A group of flight attendants in matching uniforms strolled through the boardroom handing out drinks and snack-sized peanuts to the executive audience in the boardroom. After some puzzled looks, one of the flight attendants announced: “Buckle your seat belts, you’re in for a ride!” Landlocked training program? Nope. Just an example of a sales presentation venturing into full theme park territory, thus defeating its primary purpose: anchoring their solution to the prospect’s goals or objectives. A theme can be a powerful unifying tool – especially for longer or team presentations — but there’s a fine line that can be crossed that can spell disaster for your presentation (as it did for this sales team in the above example) when you don’t have a good understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish and some of the traps that you can stumble into. What is a Presentation Theme? A theme underscores the Read More

Does your presentation pass the TED Test?

TED talks

Imagine having just 18 minutes to deliver your sales presentation. Could you make your key point, engage your prospect, and motivate him to take action? Thousands of TED speakers attempt to do just that with audiences each year — many with fantastic levels of success. Ted Talks are viewed about 1.5 million times a day and, fair or not, they have raised the bar on what your audience expects from a sales presentation. How do you stack up to TED? Odds are your prospect watches TED Talks, as do your competitors. So it’s important to know how your presentation stacks up to the comparison. Here are some important questions to ask yourself and tips you should consider applying to your presentation to stand out with today’s savvy audiences: Do you stick to one big idea? If you have a fairly complex solution, sticking to one idea probably sounds near impossible. Yet Read More

The Ten Rules of Good Slide Deck Design

Don't let a shabby slide deck reflect poorly on you.

A good slide deck is often the price of entry for serious consideration by today’s buyers.  Shabby slide decks reflect poorly on you, your company and your solution. However many salespeople don’t have the time or expertise to create a work of art. Fortunately, you don’t need to be an art major to create a good deck if you follow some simple best practices with these design rules: 1. Adapt to your environment Where and how your presentation will be viewed is important to the design. If you’re using your prospect’s projector, weak lighting combined with a bright room can make your images and text fuzzy and hard to read. Use more contrast between colors and shapes as well as a larger type size to combat this. Check the slide aspect. While most new projectors are 16:9, there are still plenty older ones out there using 4:3. Find out earlier Read More