ICM Consulting and Media Corp.
March 11, 2014
Your prospecting efforts have paid off, and now you have an appointment booked with a qualified prospect for either a virtual meeting or a face-to-face visit. In order to succeed at this stage of the game you need to have a well planned out sales presentation.
It’s a fact that people don’t buy based on logic. They make their buying decisions based on emotion and then defend their decisions with logic. Taking the emotional factor into account, your sales presentation must not only capture and hold the attention of your potential customer, but you need to involve as many of their senses as possible to get them emotionally charged. Storytelling is one of the most powerful techniques to selling. It is an art form, that if mastered, and it can be learned, will make you a powerful selling force.
Since effective storytelling isn’t created on the fly, it takes time and careful planning to build the “perfect” sales presentation. In addition to storytelling, you need to provide your potential customers with value in the form of sharing insightful information about their business, their industry, and their competitors, which also takes time and preparation.
Here are a few tips to help you guide your customers through an emotional journey that will allow you to help them buy the solution that’s right for them:
Preparing for the Presentation:
Become an expert in your customer’s business and industry.
No longer are sales made by simply building a relationship with your customer, or by acting as a consultant. These days the single most powerful factor that drives buying decisions is the value that a potential partnership with you and your company brings to your customer.
It is still important to build a certain degree of rapport and provide a solution that solves your customer’s problem, but what’s more important, and what really will set you apart from your competition, is your ability to challenge your customer’s current way of thinking and shed new perspective on the status quo.
The only way to do this effectively is to be an expert not only in your product and your industry, but also in your potential customer’s company and industry.
Potential customers are so well educated these days that often times they know the your products, services, and those of your competitors as well as you do, so product and competitor knowledge isn’t enough to make a sales these days. You need to educate yourself and get to know your potential customer’s business, their competition, as well as you know your own product or service better than anyone else. Study your customer's industry, understand its problems and trends, find out who the company's biggest competitors are, what common challenges they face and how they are coping with them.
Read up on the company and industry using annual reports, newsletters, press releases, trade publications, and any other sources that can provide you valuable insight into your customer’s company, role, and industry.
Write out your sales presentation and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
Making a sales presentation isn't something you do on the fly. Always write out your presentation beforehand and practice it. You don’t need to plan it word for word, but having a solid, detailed outline of your sales presentation will make you more prepared, arm you with the knowledge and confidence you need, and help improve your closing rate.
Start by researching about the prospect’s company, personal employment history and achievements, and the overall industry. Then build your presentation outline based on the following five main elements of a basic sales presentation:
- Build rapport with your prospect.
- Introduce the business topic, share industry insights, your company story, and why you’re there.
- Ask questions to better understand your prospect's needs (Needs Analyses).
- Summarize your key selling points and the benefits they provide to your prospect.
- Leading into the close or finalizing the next step date and activity to continue the sales process.
Think about the three major selling points of your product or service and the major benefits that each one will bring to your potential customer. Prepare the leading questions you need to use to probe your customer's reactions and needs. I will cover this in more detail in next week’s post.
During the Presentation:
Before you start discussing business, build rapport with your prospect. To accomplish this, do some homework. Find out if you have a colleague in common. Has the prospect's company been in the news lately? Is he or she interested in sports? Get a little insight into the company and the individual so you can make the rapport genuine.
Introduction - Present the Business Topic, Share Industry Insights, Introduce Your Company’s History:
Summarize the reason(s) why you’re there and what are some of the problems that the customer might be facing based on the research you’ve done prior to the meeting. Share some of the key insights that you learned about their industry and how you’ve helped other businesses in the same industry or geographic location solve similar problems. If you don’t have any customers in the same industry or geographic location share insights on how other similar businesses addressed recent the common issues using similar solutions as you provide (don’t mention any of your competitors names, just give them an overview of the kinds of solutions used to solve the problems). Also, share stories of how your customers have had success using your services.
Listen More than You Speak:
As Stephen Covey said in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. This is the most important aspect of effective communication and is CRUCIAL to the success of ANY sales professional. Salespeople who do most of the talking during a presentation not only lose the prospect’s interest, but also usually lose the sale. The general rule is to listen 70 percent of the time and talk 30 percent of the time. Always let your customer finish speaking before responding or providing feedback to them. NEVER EVER interrupt! I see it all the time. Sales people finishing the propect’s sentences to show off their knowledge or interrupting the prospect mid-sentence to add a point they feel is vitally important. Don’t do it, no matter how tempting it is. I use a “5 Second Rule” when conversing with prospects. Before I speak, I count to 5 slowly in my head after the person in front of me or on the other line finishes speaking. Try it – it’s not an uncomfortable silence at all. Often times, the prospect will pause for 2 to 3 seconds and continue speaking and giving you deeper and more powerful insights into their business, industry and problems at hand. Had you started speaking the second after they finished, you’d be missing out on a whole world of information that you could use to help your prospect make a purchasing decision.
Also, take notes. Firstly because it shows your potential customer that you are truly listening and that what they say really is important to you. Secondly, I don’t care who you are and how good your memory is, you will never be able to remember everything that you need to and will eventually forget critical information that you could have used to help your prospect and help close the deal. Ask upfront if it's all right for you to take notes during your sales presentation, your prospects will feel important.
Ask Probing Questions. Once you’ve finished your introduction, don't jump right into a canned sales pitch or product demonstration. The most effective way to sell is to ask the right questions at the right time. These are questions that will encourage the prospect to open up to you with their core challenges and the implications they face if those challenges are not addressed in a timely manner. This will also allow your prospect to realize the benefits they will gain of solving their problem and will help them stay more in tuned with the rest of your presentation. This requires planning out what questions to ask and what information you’re really trying to get from your prospect. Of course some of the questions or the order of the questions will change based on your prospect’s answers, but having the main ones prepped and ready is essential to getting your job done.
Your questions should be comprised of mainly open-ended questions and only a few “yes” or “no” questions to lead your prospect into a specific direction and get confirmation of your understanding of their needs.
We will explore in-depth the Needs Analyses stage of the sales process in next week’s post.
Once you feel that you have enough information about the core issues that your prospect NEEDS to solve a.s.a.p., you’re ready to move onto the product/service demonstration. At this stage you will be focusing on aligning the features of your products to each of the core issues and tie them into the direct benefits to your customer personally and to the overall business. We will look at this in more detail in two weeks.
If you don’t close the deal on the spot, and in more complex solution cases you usually won’t, make sure you finalize a specific next step date and action(s). By this I mean if your prospect needs to meet with a committee to discuss your product or service, determine when that meeting will take place and try to be included at that meeting. If you can’t be included at the meeting, then secure a specific date that you will call your prospect back or meet with them again to discuss the results of their committee meeting. It’s important to do this so that both you and your prospect are at the same stage of the sales cycle and understand what the next steps are, who’s responsible for what, and what date the tasks and decisions need to be ready by. This way you always know at what stage of the sales cycle you are at and have more control over your process.
Links to previous posts of this series: