Sharpening your Team’s Presentation Skills to Make a Major Sale by Bill Rosenthal
More often than not these days, to make a major sale you have to make a group sales presentation — and compete against the other group presentations being made. Here are some tips for making your presentation the winner.
You’ve created a unique solution for the prospect. Make it clear that it’s unique and not another dog and pony show by putting the prospect’s fingerprints all over the presentation: Use the language it uses for its functions and processes, the terms used in its industry, and its logo and other company graphics. Prospective customers are always concerned about how long it will take a supplier to get up to speed and whether there will be a culture fit. By speaking its language comfortably in the presentation you’ll help allay its concerns about both of these issues.
Building Your Team
Learn the makeup of the team that will be hearing the presentation. You should have as many people there as the prospect has. Match their functions as well: If their CEO, IT director or financial executive is there, your should be too. Their specialized knowledge may be needed. Plan to have your proposed account executive lead the presentation. Most team presentations are led by senior member of the team — but for a sales presentation it should be the person who will be the account executive. This will give that person an opportunity to demonstrate leadership. Organizing the Presentation Start the presentation by introducing the team members and briefly describing what they’ll cover. Then show you understand the prospect’s goals by describing how you learned them. Segue on to how and why the training solution you’re offering will meet those goals. Then describe the particular advantages your company offers. Never describe your company’s credentials before you talk about the prospect.
As you create the presentation, review the list of customer people who will be there. Be certain that what you’re offering will meet the needs of everyone — and of any others who will be influencing the sale.
The document you leave behind should use a design that matches the presentation’s visuals. It should be detailed and thorough — but the presentation itself should describe your solution in broad strokes, focusing on strategic issues and your main points. Among the most common mistakes seen in presentations is providing so much detail that what’s essential gets lost.
Determine in advance whether the presentation will be delivered standing or sitting. Standing is better because it allows for movement that can demonstrate leadership and energy. If it’s a sit-down meeting, be certain that everyone can see your visuals — particularly the prospect’s key decision-maker.
Each presenter should introduce the next one so the transitions are smooth. The handoff should link what was said with what’s coming so the prospect can follow the presentation’s development easily.
Sharpening the Team’s Presentation Skills
The better the visuals, the better the presenters have to be because the team, not the visuals, must be the center of attention. It isn’t the visuals that will distinguish you from the other presenters; it’s how well your team communicates on a human level. It must project warmth, integrity and an emotional commitment to helping the prospect meet its goals.
Your team can’t communicate on a human level if they’re reading from scripts. The presentation should be rehearsed so well that team members can deliver it while looking at the audience in the eye, one person at a time. Warm and steady eye contact is essential for building trust. Encourage everyone on the team to turn on the full force of their passion for the solution you’re offering and to deliver the presentation with a high level of energy. This will help demonstrate commitment and keep the audience involved. There should be changes in voice pitch and timing, and constant movement of the entire body, hand gestures, head turns and facial expressions that help underscore important points.
Be certain that team members avoid leaning from side to side, fussing with hair or jewelry, or using “keep away” signals like crossing arms or backing off from the group. They also should avoid using non-words such as um and ah or rushing through their parts, both of which are common errors of inexperienced speakers.
Alert the techies and numbers-crunchers on the team to avoid talking over the heads of the people listening or using their own jargon. These team members also may be the ones most likely to feel that “the facts speak for themselves,” so they may have a particularly need for presentations skills coaching.
Presenters often rehearse their part of the presentation by reading the script silently to themselves — and as a result fail to show the dynamism a successful presentation requires. Advise your team members that when they rehearse their roles they also should rehearse the body movement and voice changes they’ll use to emphasize important points. Bringing it all together this way will help them get their roles down pat and eliminate their need for a script. Be sure to have one or more team presentation rehearsals. Having an audience present at rehearsals will generate valuable feedback on how the presenters are coming across.
Delivering the Presentation
The speakers must keep ”reading” the audience to determine how they’re being received and be ready to adjust their presentations if needed. Maybe the prospect’s people are becoming inattentive. That calls for the presenter who’s speaking to shake things up, perhaps by asking a question, either real or rhetorical. Maybe puzzled looks show the audience doesn’t understand what’s being said. The speaker should backtrack, explaining better with an example or an analogy. Maybe the audience is really excited about something. The speaker should delve further into the topic. You want the presentation to stay on course — but you have to make detours when needed.
You can anticipate some of the questions that will be asked. Agree in advance about who will answer which questions. Prepare answers that are compelling and concise — and which tie into one of the major points the presentation makes.
That All, Folks! Finish with a flourish.
Untrained presenters often pull together their papers and mumble a thank you, relieved that the ordeal is over. In contrast, the proposed account executive who’s leading your presentation should take the floor to sum up the major points that were made, express appreciation for the opportunity to present and make it clear, with voice and body movement that signals energy and commitment, that your company wants the business.