How to Supercharge Your Sales Presentations

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 09, 2012 @ 15:10 PM

I grew up in the 1960’s, when a roof antenna that could rotate 90 degrees was the big thing and cable television was yet to be introduced.  We had very limited viewing choices on our televisions.  We could watch only what the three major networks, NBC, CBS, ABC and their local affiliates, were broadcasting, plus PBS which offered primarily academic shows.  By the late 60’s, we also were able to receive the relatively weak signals of two UHF channels.  It was no wonder that back then all were watching the same shows - there wasn’t anything else from which to choose!

Yesterday, on a domestic JetBlue flight, and again today, on an international British Airways flight, I had the ability to see the seat-back television screens of ten other passengers, making my sample twenty in total.  How many passengers do you think were watching the exact same show?  After all, there aren’t as many choices on the plane as we have at home today with our cable, satellite, internet and FIOS.  Not surprisingly, each of the 20 passengers on those flights was watching something completely different. Yesterday, I saw people watching Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, The Food Channel, The Discovery Channel, USA Network, A&E, CNN, ESPN, a movie, and HGTV, all representing unique interests, experiences, backgrounds, moods, ages, genders and schedules.  Today, I saw more people watching movies, but they were all different films.  It’s also worth noting that for every two people who were watching television, there was one person reading and another sleeping.   

I’m sorry it took such a long introduction to get to the part where I make a sales connection but here we go…

Despite the fact that most effective, consultative sales processes feature the presentation or demo in the final stage of the process, most salespeople jump to that event as early as possible.  Why?  They are most comfortable, capable and effective when presenting!  They just aren’t that interested or effective at the really important stuff, like listening and asking good, tough, timely questions.  One thing, which you surely have noticed about presentations and demos, is that the prospects are given essentially the same ones.  Don’t you have a standard PowerPoint® slide deck or template at your company?  Perhaps it has a few slides which you can edit, but doesn’t every prospect get essentially the same message, story, history, value proposition and explanation of capabilities?

For a moment, let’s put aside the debate on the ideal timing of a presentation or demo, and instead, let's simply discuss the content of the slides, walk-through or tour.  Why is it essentially the same for everybody?  Based on their viewing preferences, everyone is different and they have very different interests.   When you or your salespeople begin their presentations, aren’t there some prospects who would prefer to sleep?  Aren’t there others who would prefer to read something rather than watch or listen?  And wouldn’t the rest prefer to internalize your information in different ways?  Based on what we have discussed, wouldn’t it be fair to conclude that different prospects might be more interested in one of the following formats?

  • Graphs
  • Movies
  • Pictures
  • Bullet points
  • Tables
  • Narrative
  • Cartoon
  • Hands-on
  • Self-guided
  • Audio
  • Through music
  • With background music
    • Classical
    • Jazz
    • Blues
    • Rock
    • Pop
    • Rock & Roll
    • Rap
    • Disco
    • Big-Band
    • Easy Listening
    • Country
    • Rhythm & Blues
    • Animation
    • Comedy
    • Drama
    • Mystery
    • Action

What would be required to create a presentation or demo for various audiences?  You would certainly need to know to whom you were presenting and that would preclude a presentation or demo that occurred too early in the process, wouldn’t it?  Salespeople would be forced to save this step for much later, after they knew what would work best!  Would you give the same presentation to a:

  • Twenty-something and sixty-something? 
  • Male and female?
  • High-tech company and manufacturing company? 
  • Financial company and widget maker? 
  • CEO and plant manager? 
  • Finance executive and marketing executive? 

Obviously not!  But that’s what most salespeople are doing and it’s just plain stupid.

If you and your salespeople recognize the value of my point, it would require Marketing and Sales coming together to create multiple versions of a standardized slide deck so that a salesperson could choose the one which would best captivate and retain their prospects’ attention while catering to their tastes and preferences.  There is probably a business opportunity here too, if anyone is interested in running with this idea.  A company could purchase a bundle of 192 customized slide decks which deliver all of the versions and variations listed above.  Talk about differentiating from your competition!

But enough of what I think.  What do you think?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Coaching, sales presentations

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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