Sales Presentation: Process
Preparing a presentation can be difficult, especially for a really important pitch. The process can be long and painful, and seem daunting. Where should you start? How should you handle the data to ensure that you make the most of your opportunity?
In the second part of our sales presentation series, we bring you advice on the process of creating a presentation. Contributions have been drawn from our own consultants and other experts in sales, marketing and presentations from around the web.
Don’t Act at the Last Minute
In Pitching to Win, David Kean bemoans the amateurism of the new business pitch – ‘we agree who is going to say what, and make last-minute amendments to the presentation on our journey to the client’s offices … Doing everything at the last minute is our disease. It is the work of the amateur’. The answer? Plan the process, prepare and practice thoroughly, and treat pitch presentations as critical, and not just something to fit in around the day jobs.
Prepare by doing your homework – before you get face-to-face to deliver your sales presentation. In How to Win a Pitch, Joey Asher suggests the following line – ‘”to make sure that your presentation shows you just how we can help, we’d like to spend a little time chatting with a few people at your firm before we come. Is that okay?”‘ If you can’t get genuine inside information, make an educated guess, using common sense, and the insights of your friends and colleagues.
Don’t be afraid to seek help when pitching for new business. As Lee Bowman writes in the now out-of-print High Impact Presentations – ‘the moment that a company knows it is going to be pitching for a piece of business, it should start planning the presentation, and taking whatever professional advice it feels is necessary… If the right advice is given at the beginning of the process, a great deal of pressure can be taken off the key players, and a lot of time can be saved.’
Start on Paper
One of the biggest mistakes people make when preparing presentations is in “going digital” too early. In other words, many people simply type slide headings and bullet points directly into PowerPoint without ever stepping back to ask important questions about the audience or about their own objectives. Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen recommends “going analogue” to write a presentation; don’t make the mistake of opening PowerPoint and writing a presentation directly onto slides. Instead, use paper and pen, whiteboards, or Post-Its to “brainstorm, explore ideas, make lists, and generally sketch out… ideas”. In this analogue stage, two of the most important questions to have in mind are “What is your core message?” and “Why does this matter?”
Although the idea that different individuals have different learning styles might be over-baked, some people do prefer to read, others to listen; and some love detail, while others focus on the big picture. For some sales presentations, it is possible to find out in advance what the communication preferences of the most important audience members are. In this case, suggests Andrew Abela this should be done, and the presentation tweaked accordingly.
Practise. Lots. Oliver Adria includes in his blog ReThink Presentations a quote from the film Shine, which encourages a student practising piano to learn the notes, so that he can forget all about them. If you practise enough that you know your sales presentation back to front and inside out, you don’t have to be constantly worrying about what will come next, and you can focus on making sure you present your material well.
Don’t expect perfection immediately. Tony Ramos demonstrates this in his post, Give Me Something to Hate: Delivering a first draft of a presentation is rarely a good idea. Don’t just use what you have: constantly reconsider to see if you can improve.
After a sales presentation has been delivered, David Kean then sees two more phases of work. Follow-up involves answering questions in more detail, getting feedback from supporters and acting on it, generating and sharing additional ideas, and generally just not giving up. Feedback should be sought whether one wins or loses – but after a loss, wait a few weeks, when feedback might be more open, and ‘the first cracks in their new relationship may have begun to show’.
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Adrianne Carter, General Manager, SBXL
The training course too exceeded expectations. Not only did we leave better presenters, but we came away understanding the actual psychology of presenting. I am confident that we can now use dual encoding and VCD to imbed whatever we choose into the minds of our audiences.