(One of my personal #SalesFails)
I cannot count the times I’ve watched a salesperson spend hours laboring over a presentation–packing in the details, pictures, statistics, graphics…and hope. Yes, a great amount of hope that in the end the presentation will be so stellar, and cover every possible objection or variable, that the prospect will fall madly in love and just sign on the spot.
Okay, truth be told, I’ve been that salesperson.
I have confidently strode into a buyer’s office and given my 237-page PowerPoint presentation, which in the end delivered the same effect as hospital grade anesthesia.
Being prepared and paying attention to details were always, and still remain, my best advantages. I did discover early in my sales career, however, that over-preparation did not have the effect I thought it would. Instead of the enlightenment and education I was attempting to bring my buyers, I watched them become glossy-eyed and tune out by the end of my lengthy presentation. There were not many questions, not a lot of “next steps, and certainly not many signed deals.
Being prepared was a good thing. But when it become overselling and over-presenting, it had definitely taken a wrong turn.
Being so focused on hitting all my points–which I felt were totally necessary to communicating my product’s value–had the unintended consequence of my missing many buying signals. I neglected to note posture or body language. I didn’t check comprehension or consensus by stopping every so often and asking key questions. I became so engrossed in demonstrating my knowledge of both my product and their business that I didn’t demonstrate my capability for listening, and what a responsive and collaborative partner I’d make for their business.
After scratching my head in confusion as to why my leads were not progressing to closed contracts, I went on some sales calls with a more senior account executive, “Mike.” In retrospect, Mike could be a whole book with about a dozen examples of “What Not To Do In Sales” but in this instance, he taught me something I truly needed to know.
On ridealong day, we came to the office, Mike got his coffee and flipped through his calendar and said, “OK, let’s go.”
That was it. There was no preparation, no research, nothing. He knew his leads well enough but he hadn’t prepared anything to bring to them, to leave them or, from what I could see, to present to them.
He strolled into his first appointment and sat down and after a bit of chit chat . . . He started a conversation.
What I didn’t know was that Mike really had done his research and knew not only his product, but his customers’ business intimately and the competitive environment in which his customers competed.
I was baffled as to why he didn’t have all this knowledge packed perfectly into an illustrated PowerPoint presentation. But as I watched the conversation unfold, I realized that –
“Presenting is not the same as Selling.”
My presentation, my pitch and my proposal – was all a one sided deluge of information, whereas Mike was actually selling, which included listening, asking questions and collaborating to reach agreement with his customer about the best solutions to his problems.
What profoundly struck me from this exchange is that
“People, not presentations, PEOPLE earn business.”
Actively Selling requires many skills but those most critical face to face skills include –
- Listening – for comprehension, for buying signals, for potential problems or needs that need to be explored.
- Asking Questions – to understand where your customer is in their buying journey, to know when they are ready to buy or if there are others who need to weigh in on the decision and certainly to further prequalify and probe for objections.
- Collaborating – as in give and take of ideas to create solutions together – which are more satisfying to your customer and easier to implement and execute.
I am still hyper vigilant about preparing to meet with clients or potential clients. I research and plot details and prepare for every variable. However, the payoff of that preparation is in the in-depth knowledge I have to share, when applicable, throughout the sales conversation, for deeper understanding, more collaborative and customized solutions which rely less on price as a determining factor for closing business. Yes, read, that as less price haggling, and higher margins.
Preparation is critical to success but how you use that knowledge and how you demonstrate those insights is what truly earns your customers’ trust and their business.
Until next time, stop hoping presenting, start SELLING!
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