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  • What Comes First? You or Your Prospect? In a Presentation, It Had Better Be the Prospect!

What Comes First? You or Your Prospect? In a Presentation, It Had Better Be the Prospect!


The chief information officer at a start up technology company asked me to sit down with Bill, his senior system architect, to talk about his presentation skills.   Bill was often called on by the company president to attend sales calls because Bill knows more about the software than any one else in the company.  Bill and the company president had been on a sales call the prior week that hadn’t gone the way they’d liked.  I asked Bill to tell me about it.

 Well we got there and Michael, the company president, started the meeting.  Michael’s got a British accent and is very charismatic.  Even so, I could tell we didn’t really “have” them during the presentation.

Tell me how the meeting started.

Michael started telling them about our company and where he and the previous management had come from and about the successes they’d had in their last company.  Then he started talking about the product and how much he believed in it.  Then he turned the meeting over to me.

Tell me what you did.

Well I logged into the software and opened the main window. [Bill showed me the software as he repeated what he’d said with the prospect.] I clicked on the first tab and showed them how the different reports worked.  [Bill continued on showing me the different features of the software, clicking through buttons sequentially on the screen.] Then toward the end, I pulled up the part of the application that their people would be using.  I’d done some prep work before hand and pulled down some screen shots from the prospect’s website.  I plugged those images in our software, and when I showed them how easy the tool was to use.  As they started seeing their information in the application, they started to get excited and ask questions.  For the first time in the presentation, I felt like we “had” them.  But unfortunately by that point, our time was up and the appointment was over.

That same scenario gets played out over and over again in businesses across American and across industries.  Sales people plan their sales demos with their agenda in mind.  They talk about their company and their products – without really taking into account the client’s needs, not considering how the salesperson’s product benefits the client (if at all), and without considering the players and the motivations going on behind the scenes that makes their problem worth solving.

So What Did I Tell Bill?

Bill had the answer all along.  He said it himself.  “As they started seeing their information in the application, they started to get excited and ask questions…I felt like we ‘had’ them.”  What audiences, particularly a prospect in a sales call, want to know first is, “What’s in it for me?”  No client is going to buy a product unless there is  a need or a want that will be satisfied.  When you start a sales conversation talking about what the client wants, you’re on your way to making a solid connection.

So I said to Bill, why don’t you start your next presentation at the point where they got excited?  Show me what that might look like.

Bill started again, but fell back into the same pattern, clicking sequentially through the software product.  I stopped him again and had him create with me a scenario that would play out how the prospect would use the software.

On the third try, he finally got it.  “Say you wanted to create…” and he went on to explain how the prospect would use the software for a specific business purpose.  He saw that he needed to start the appointment where the last appointed had ended.  He knew how important it was to have the engagement with the prospect and went on to apply the approach with new prospects.

But Don’t We Need to Tell Our Prospects Who We Are?

Sure, at some point, the prospect will probably want to know more about you before they do business with you.  They want to know that they’re not the first ones to trust you.  They want to know you’ve got some kind of track record.

But if you create a picture that reflects their business needs and the needs of their customers, if you start showing them how to solve their problems, then that will carry greater credibility in their mind than who you are and what you’ve done.  When they see that you “get them” then you’ll know that you “have them” with your presentation.

But that’s Not the Way We’ve Always Done It

It’s hard to break old habits.  Back before the days of the internet, sales people had to do more to educate their prospects.  Today, I can google you before I even accept the appointment.  Don’t do things the ways you’ve always done them.  Try addressing the prospects needs first and see if you don’t get better results yourself!

Do You Agree?

What has your experience been?  Have you tried to convince a client about how wonderful you are before addressing their needs?  How did that work for you?  Please add to the conversation in the comments section!