You have great products and services, often complicated and technical, which require trust in order to sell them. Even if you’ve made a compelling presentation, it often takes weeks before you get a response. Therefore, you must burn vivid examples and key ideas into the prospect’s mind so they cannot forget how you’re different from your competition. This is critical if you are one of several individuals or teams competing for the same business.
The structure of your presentation is the skeleton under the flesh of your words. You must design and deliver your presentation to be remembered and repeated. What is the typical structure?
“Hi, I’m Fred Smith. Let me introduce my team: Tom, Dick and Harriett.
Thanks for your time.
We’re from the ABC Company . . .
This is what we do . . .
This is how long we’ve been in business . . .
This is what we’re known for . . .
These are our clients . . .
We would like to work with you . . .”
That is a dreary presentation at its worst. What’s an effective structure? This simple, eight-step process frees you to make a seamless argument.
1. Sincere compliment
Start with something they’re proud of; that shows you’ve done your homework:
- “Congratulations on your recent product launch.”
- “Your latest advertising campaign is spectacular.”
- “Your stock price is up three points while most of the market is down. Your strategy is on track.”
2. Introduction to their challenge or problem
Do not mention your product or solution now. Instead, talk about their current responsibility, challenge, or opportunity. Then, follow up:
- “This is the time to make a bold move and . . .”
- “Your board of directors has challenged you with . . .”
- “Your competition is increasing in . . .”
3. Differentiate from your competition
Everyone else thanks prospects for their time. Don’t. Instead, say, “Thanks for the opportunity to discuss how our company (be specific with your service or product) can . . .
- “help you accomplish your goals.”
- “minimize your risk in . . . ”
- “expand your markets in . . . ”
- “demonstrate how our technology will be able to . . . ”
4. Make heroes of your contacts
If you have a champion or if individuals have helped prepare you for the meeting or have taken you through the discovery process, thank them now.
- “Thank you, Mike and Theresa, for your time and knowledge to help us understand the ABC Company’s goals, commitments and challenges.”
- “Mike tells us that your vision is to . . .” or “that your priorities are . . .”
- “In the next 30 minutes (60 minutes, three hours), you will hear (learn, discover, see demonstrated) how our solution (company, technology, unique methodology) can help you achieve that goal.”
- Never say, “I’m going to talk about . . .” or “What I would like to do . . .”
5. Provide examples, experience, and social proof
Knowing your product or service isn’t enough. Your prospect must understand how it could improve their business and that you are not just a salesperson but also a trusted advisor. Tell stories and case histories about satisfied clients.
6. Review key ideas
Do this with a rhetorical question or a simple statement based on your premise:
- “How is ABC Company better off by doing business with us?”
- “As you heard, we would help you accomplish your goals by . . .”
- “Our technology would increase your efficiency by . . .”
- “Our training would improve your . . .”
7. Head into the close with confidence, not a question
Many of your competitors close on questions. No. No. No. Close on a high, and let your last words linger. Make sure they’re yours. The warm-up to that is a question: “Based on what you have heard, what are your specific questions?” After you answer questions (and possibly objections), drive the sale forward. Depending on the complexity of your offering or how many people are involved, you may want to say,
- “At this point, our most logical step is . . .”
- “At this point, may I recommend we . . .”
- “At this point, our best clients elect to . . .”
8. Reinforce your key idea
Your last words are the most important you’ll say, so never introduce a new idea that you have no time to develop. Good copywriters often write the P.S. of a sales letter first, because it confirms the key idea in the letter. Your approach might sound like this:
“Again, thank you for the opportunity to demonstrate how our approach could be what you’ve been searching for. We look forward to our next meeting. In your discussions, remember the results of [other successful clients]. Be secure in knowing we pioneered this industry.”
Depending on the situation, you could also say you “are more nimble than our competition,” “can get started as soon as you say yes,” or “are a one-stop shop.”
Most professionals are fairly smooth in the body of their presentation. Very few, however, open and close effectively and memorably. Take these eight steps, and apply or adapt what is appropriate to your situation. Script your opening and closing for specificity and brevity. You won’t read it, but work from an outline. In the middle of the night, if your spouse asked, “How will you open and close next week’s presentation,” your automatic response should be exactly what you will say.
For 25 years Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE, has taught individual salespeople and sales teams how to speak more powerfully and boost their sales beyond expectations.