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As the meeting began, the project manager of the buying committee told me that the key decision-maker would miss the first 20 minutes or so of my presentation. This was a very competitive sale that I was working on at the time. There were about a dozen or so business-people from the prospect company that I was selling to in this meeting. The presentation was scheduled to last about 90 minutes. During the first 20 minutes I had planned to cover my "persuasive arguments" (that is my company and product benefits).
So how do you think that I felt about this wonderful news?
The fact that this decision-maker felt it to be an efficient use of his time to avoid the beginning of the sales presentation speaks volumes about the reputation of salespeople and our sales presentations. He judged that, he had better things to do than sit through a PowerPoint presentation about how many years we had been in business, how we were so customer focused, and how we were absolutely the best choice for their business. He chose instead to attend only the product demonstration part of the presentation.
The advent of presentation software like Powerpoint has allowed many people to assemble information for presentation very quickly. Unfortunately it also reinforces the all too common sales style of delivering features and benefits in the effort to persuade. Most buyers are too nice to tell us that they are bored with this approach. And so on it goes.
Engage your audience by telling stories. Begin the story even before doing introductions, agenda review, etc. Use this to get their attention and take full control. What kind of story should you tell? The best stories are ones that the prospect can relate to. How? Tell a story about one of your customers who had a big problem and how they solved it by doing business with you. Make the story engaging by describing it in vivid emotional detail - who was affected by the problem, how was it impacting them, and how did they feel, and how did the solution change all of this?
Take your feature benefit points and weave them into the story. They will have 10 times the impact and will be remembered when delivered this way. You can even say to your audience for emphasis "you might want to write that down". And what should you do with those PowerPoint slides that someone in marketing spent hours developing? Print them out as a handout, and give it to your audience at the end of your presentation.
Dont' stop with just one story. Create multiple stories for an interesting and persuasive presentation that will generate discussion about the customer's business problems and how you can solve them.
As for that decision-maker who blows off the first part of your meeting? All objections, stalls, and problems should be handled in advance. If you haven't yet secured access to the decision-maker, give your sponsor an agenda with the first items being "Customer Successes", followed by "Live Product Demonstration". Save the "Company Overview" for the end. No one cares that you have 735 employees until you have proven that you can help solve their business problems.