How to Prepare for the Big Sales Presentation

Even if you don’t follow politics, you probably know that there is a Presidential Debate this Thursday evening.  Both candidates are preparing for the debate – albeit it differently – and you could say that because the debate will not have a live audience, there are similarities between the debate preparation and the preparation for an important sales presentation to land a big client.

The most important thing to remember about the debate and the big presentation is this: Debate moderators and buying committees have more to do with your success than your competition.  The people in the room are either for you or for someone else.  Those who are champions for the competitors are the actual competition.

On the debate side, CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, have a very well-documented anti-Trump bias which is quite similar to those on buying committees who are biased against you and for your competitor.  Neither group will come right out and state their bias, but if you have experience in those conference rooms, then you know it’s their loaded questions with which they are hoping to eliminate you. One of my all-time favorites personal exchanges went something like this.

Them: “You said that your clients experience an average sales increase of 28%.  Are you willing to guarantee that we will achieve a 28% increase and give us a full refund if we don’t achieve that?”

Me: “No.”  [I knew it was over after the first question and there was no coming back from the answer but I still answered. I asked, “When you asked the other companies if they would guarantee their average sales increase what did they say?

Them: “See everyone, he’s lying.”

Me: “I’m curious – how do variables that are out of my control equate to me lying?  How about this? Double our fee, give us hiring and firing authority, pay us 20% of every dollar you you generate over 28% and I’ll guarantee it.”

Them: “We can’t do that!”

Me:  “And neither can we.”

And be warned. The absence of a gotcha question doesn’t mean they are on your side; it simply means they will advocate for their preferred choice internally instead of during your presentation.

As with the debate, the goal of the big presentation is to differentiate but that requires knowing your competition’s strengths and weaknesses and being able to point out where you are superior.  Assuming that your price will be higher, you must be awesome at representing your value and it must be your value that stands out above and beyond everything else.  How can you be the value?

The key in understanding how to sell to a buying committee is that you can not actually persuade a buying committee.  You sell them by conducting separate discovery meetings with each individual member/participant/buyer. The purpose of the presentation to the group is to get everyone on the same page by talking about the things you learned from your one-on-ones that were important to them.  This is where your value can shine through.

Finally there is the preparation itself.  We know that for the debate, Biden has been and will continue to be in lockdown until Thursday, talking with his 14 strategists and consultants.  Trump has been testing messaging at his rallies in blue cities that typically don’t favor him.  We’ll see how both sides perform  on Thursday.  For your preparation, there are obligatory slides, but slides turn you into a one-to-many presenter and that is not a winning strategy.  It would be more effective to have slides but not use more than two or three of them.  It would be helpful to say, “I’m anxious to share our capabilities with you but, from experience, it’s more meaningful if I give the capabilities some context.  Is it OK if I ask you a few questions first?”  A discussion where you don’t have enough time to present your slides is a winning discussion!

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