Recipe for Success: 4 Essential Ingredients to a Winning Sales Presentation
There’s that old cliché that, when you’re nervous about giving a presentation, you should picture the audience in their underwear. We’re not sure about you, but being in a room full of prospective clients in their underwear wouldn’t make us feel more at ease. Is that something that comforts people? If anything, we’d lose our train of thought and start pitching promotional T-shirts instead of the signage the customer actually wanted.
Anyway, there are a lot of elements to a successful sales presentation. And, luckily, none of them involve imagined undergarments. Here, we’ll look at four of them to help you nail your next meeting and bring home the sale.
1. Product Knowledge
Seems pretty basic, right? If you’ve managed to set up an appointment with a potential customer, you want to be able to answer all of their questions and provide all of the necessary details about what you’re selling.
You’ve probably seen (or been) the kid in school who had to present a book report for a book they (or you) didn’t actually read. You fill time by repeating plot points you do remember, or maybe you try to lean on the movie version a little bit too hard. Regardless, the teacher could always see through that scheme from a mile away. Your clients will do the same.
“To me, I’d rather buy something from someone who’s very knowledgeable about the product versus someone who just seems like a slick salesperson,” said Brian Stidham, director of business development for EMT, the supplier based in Indianapolis. “They know they can get it done, they know what they’re talking about—that’s who I think customers gravitate to.”
One way that you might turn your clients off is relying too heavily on price as part of your sales pitch. Yes, it’s a crucial part of the transaction, but if you lean too heavily on how great of a deal this would be, rather than the way the product fulfills your prospect’s need, you miss an opportunity to set yourself apart. If you don’t know the product inside-out, you also look foolish in front of the customer (just like the kid who couldn’t answer the teacher’s question about the book they supposedly read).
There are plenty of ways to demonstrate that you understand how a product can be used. One of the best ways to convey that is through case studies from previous customers. This allows you to show what the product looks like once it gets into the end-buyer’s hands, while giving details about those previous customers’ budgets and project needs and how the product you’re selling worked for them.
2. Prospect Research
Beyond doing your homework about the products you sell, it’s smart to do a little, shall we say, recon work on the customer. No, do not stalk them on Instagram so you can ask about their recent trip to Yellowstone or congratulate them on their kid getting into Dartmouth. That’s a good strategy if you have a relationship with the customer already, but it’s a little creepy if they’re only a prospect.
Instead, use the online tools at your disposal to get a feel for their company. Try to match the energy they put out and understand when to go over the top versus more minimal with your presentation.
“If I haven’t talked to the person, I’m going to go onto their website, go onto their LinkedIn page, look at how complex things are versus how simple they are,” said Nathaniel Bettinger, director of sales for Blue Sky Marketing Group, a distributor based in Northbrook, Ill. “... I like to have my presentations mirror what the vendors are putting forward. So, if they’ve got a lot of bells and whistles, I will put more bells and whistles in the presentation. If they’re more nuts-and-bolts, then I will be more nuts-and-bolts. And [I] try to kind of mirror their go-to-market strategy in my communications to them.”
Right now, “meeting” with someone means a few different things. Maybe you’ve had 20 conversations with them, but they’ve all been via Zoom. Those video calls have taken their toll, and the way we want information delivered to us has gotten even more direct, if that’s possible in this very instant-gratification world we live in.
Bettinger said that rather than going in with a ton of possible samples for the meeting, he brings few (if any at all), opting instead to use meetings as educational conversations that he can use to get exactly what the client wants on the first try. And it turns out that a lot of his clients appreciate that approach.
“What I found is most successful now is [at] the first meeting, plainly communicate to them, ‘I’m just looking to understand better—I want to build a presentation based on what I learn from this call,’” he said. “Most customers actually prefer that. So, if you say something like, ‘I’ll get you something in 24 hours. I don’t have anything for you today, but what I want to do is understand, because I don’t want you to spend your five or 10 minutes of your time looking at a presentation that’s irrelevant to you. So the questions that I’m going to ask now will help me guide my presentation so that it’s more relevant to you.’ And, most of the time, that is received with a ‘thank you.’”
3. Plan of Attack
Product knowledge and prospect research will go a long way, but you don’t want to just improvise the actual presentation. You’ll want to have a plan going in, and while you should definitely experiment with different approaches until you find the one you’re most comfortable with, there are some best practices here. Bettinger, for example, starts with a broad idea and narrows things down to a particular product, which helps both parties reach their end goal faster and more efficiently.
“I would say, in general, when building a presentation, I see it as sculpting,” he said. “You start with more, and then as you learn more about the customer, the project, the budget, you whittle stuff down. You slowly get fewer and fewer offerings until you have the one product they like, and then you just remove obstacles. That’s how I generally like to present—starting from more and whittling down to fewer.”
4. A Little Help (If You Need It)
If you’re new to a particular product line, or there are just aspects of this promotion that would be beyond your scope, Stidham said that suppliers are often glad to come along to fill in some informational gaps.
“I’ve been invited to many end-user sales calls, and it’s helped out tremendously for them in getting the sale where they’ve struggled in the past, because they weren’t as knowledgeable as myself on capabilities and things like that,” he said. “I think having a relationship with the supplier partner and whoever their sales rep is—[someone] they feel comfortable with and they know personally that the sales rep is going to present the best of them—that’s who you would reach out to. Obviously, you can’t ask an inside rep that you work with, but whoever the outside rep is, I’m sure they’d be thrilled to go on a sales call with you.”