Before sitting down to write a sales presentation, it’s first necessary to understand what kind of a change you want your prospects to make. To do this, you need to understand what they are doing now, and what you are asking them to do instead. This involves having an understanding of your own sales process and the prospects’ buying process. With this understanding, you can set clear (and SMART) sales presentation objectives.

  • Have they decided to change, or do you need to persuade them?
  • Do they know what category of solution they are looking for, or is that still open?
  • Have they got established decision making criteria, or can you shape their thinking?
  • Will they talk to other companies, or could you win this before anyone else notices?

Switch from competitor

Your prospect might already be doing – approximately – what you are selling, but with another provider. So in this situation, you are just asking them to change provider. An example of this might be a cleaning company trying to win a contract from another cleaning company, or a security company trying to win a contract from another security company. The sales presentation is about which company to go with. If competitors are promoting a totally different approach to the problem, then the category (or approach to solving the problem) must be promoted too. An example might be if a security company is attempting to win a guarding contract from another company providing security guards if a third company suggests a left-field approach that does away with guards completely and provides security with CCTV cameras and alarms only.

Keep your customer

Your prospect might be a current customer, and you might want them to stay that way. So, you are asking them not to change provider, or to change how they have their problem solved. This is essentially the same as the previous situation, in terms of the focus on which company to go with. Your sales presentation objectives are all around preventing any real change or examination of alternatives. Again, the category only needs to be discussed if someone suggests doing things in a completely different way.

Persuade to outsource

Your prospect might be taking a DIY approach to the area you work in. So you are asking them to outsource the activity, and then to choose you as a provider. They might take this decision in one go, but it’s essentially in two parts. A great example here might be where an IT services company persuades a prospect to stop delivering their own IT, or a cleaning company persuades them to stop doing their own cleaning. The cleaning will happen in much the same way, but there are big differences between contracting and delivering a service. The arguments for outsourcing – focus, flexibility, freeing up capital – are often very similar across industries.

Take a new approach

Your prospect might be solving the problem in a different way. In which case you need to persuade them to solve the problem using your kind of solution (category), and then if there are competing versions of this solution, you may then need to convince them that your solution is the best in the category. An example of this might be if you are the security from earlier, suggesting cameras and alarms instead of guards. Or if you are Google or Microsoft Bing persuading businesses to switch their magazine advertising spend to search advertising instead.

Pay attention to a new area

Finally, your prospect might not be doing anything at all in the area of your solution – they might have a problem but not even realise it, or be missing an opportunity to thrive without knowing. In this case, you first need to persuade them to want your kind of solution – to recognise the need to change. And only then do you need to convince them that your solution is the best in the category – if they are inclined to consider alternatives. This is the case when you have something completely new to offer, something that solves a problem that prospects might not realise they have, or might not know they can solve. An example would be Motorola selling the first handheld mobile phone.

Take concrete action

What do you actually want your prospect to do as a result of your presentation? Understanding who you are selling against (the status quo, competitors, different approaches) tells you how you need to position your sales presentation. But you still need to set specific goals. What do you want your prospects to do as a result of seeing your presentation?

What your sales presentation objectives are ought to direct the content. If you only want to be invited back to present again, you may not need as much detail, and you may not want to reveal all your strongest arguments. If you want to be allowed to help write a tender, you might want to focus on how the market works, not on why you are the best supplier.

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Joby Blume


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