It’s all in the presentation

Last updated on May 9th, 2022 at 02:17 am

Think about the last time you went to a movie. Or out to dinner. Here’s one thing I can guarantee: You didn’t call up the theater, ask what the price of their tickets were, and then pick a feature at random.


You didn’t randomly quiz a restaurant hostess about the menu choices and then make a split-second decision to eat there.

Instead, your selection process may have looked a bit more like this. For a movie, perhaps you thought back to recent trailers you saw at the theater or on TV. You remembered some reviews. Or maybe you watched out for the new adaptation of that book you couldn’t put down.

With a restaurant, you and your dinner companion probably thought about what kind of food you were in the mood for – steak? Asian fusion? Fish fry? Good old pizza? And you recalled the place your best friend was praising the other day.

The point is, even for just a two-hour investment of your life, you probably gave some real thought to the choice – and made a selection based on much more complex criteria than just the price of the meal or the show time at the multiplex.

Why should your customer be any different?

Presentations, not proposals

One of the core lessons I teach my clients is that, when it comes to selling the value of your organization to your prospective customer, the most important step isn’t the proposal. It’s the presentation.

In picking the movie or the restaurant, you gathered and processed – however haphazardly – a collection of bits of information about your choice. And you made the selection because you found a good fit – for your tastes, your mood, your personality.

You didn’t realize it, but you were on the receiving end of a presentation – only one that was a random product of a series of chance encounters. Through that process, you arrived at your choice and could easily commit to it.

Now let’s think back to the sales cycle. Your real job is to give the prospective customer the information needed to show your company and theirs are a good fit for each other. The way you do that is through the presentation.

And unlike the hit-and-miss, self-generated process of collecting information on a movie or restaurant, the presentation you create will be organized to communicate your story in the most powerful way possible – and you’ll deliver it with the polish and finesse that drive home the message effectively.

A solid presentation doesn’t focus on how many widgets you’ll provide at what particular price by what date.

It goes much deeper – and it truly is tailored to the people you’re presenting to. It will show that you really understand what it is about the customer’s particular business issues that is driving the need for widgets and make it stand out from any other widget users. And it will demonstrate why your company’s approach to making widgets is so well attuned to the way that customer does what it does every day. Try a presentation design agency for a well made presentation.

Ultimately, it is an emotional interaction – an opportunity for you and the customer to get heart to heart. It is a call to action.

That’s why presentations are such a powerful sales tool. And it’s also why I say that the proposal is really just a confirmation tool – the step that ties up the bow on the package you’ve already wrapped up with the presentation.

Keep it simple

Presentations that work demand skill in putting them together and practice in delivering them smoothly.

But they also work best when you remember that less is more. You might assume that PowerPoint is mandatory for presentations these days, but I typically counsel against it and in favor of simpler materials – like a prepared flip-chart or even a bare-bones chalk-talk with a whiteboard.

Despite today’s better and more reliable computers and software, technology can still go bust on you. Even if it doesn’t, it will distract your audience – and you. And it can make you lazy: How many times have you sat through someone’s PowerPoint and come to the dim realization that the sum and substance of what they had to say was no more than the words on the screen?

Instead, you need to study your prospect’s company thoroughly, understand for yourself how your own company really offers them a good fit, and absorb that information so deeply that you can talk about it without detailed notes. You also need to be able to listen fully, and to know enough that there’s no reasonable question you cannot answer in a manner that’s complete and to the point.

And if you really must use PowerPoint, go through it and cut the number of slides and the amount of information on each slide in half.

Proposals will never go away. But as you attend more to presentations, you’ll find that the proposal’s role will change significantly. They’ll become shorter, faster, and more basic.

And better yet, they’ll probably be accepted a lot more often.

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