Have you ever sold anything while presenting?
I’m serious. You are on stage, the spotlight is on you, you are talking. Can your client buy your product or service while you’re speaking about it?
You would have to stop talking (and presenting) in order for your prospect to interject a word or two. At that point, they could express how they feel: they are in, they want to buy.
If you don’t stop presenting, they can’t tell you that they want to buy.
This creates a bit of a conundrum. You must explain what your product is all about, but they need the space to express their feedback. And only one of you can speak at the same time.
I wish there was a way to seamlessly integrate your sales presentation and your customers’ feedback.
But wait, I’m a presentation coach. I should have the answer.
Why Sales Presenters Are the Best Presenters
I love sales. As a freelance coach, that’s an important part of my job. Still, if I’m completely honest, I find sales presentations and pitches the hardest sort of presentation.
TED speakers, technical presenters, and keynote speakers have it easy. It’s the sales people that need to pour “blood, toil, tears and sweat” into their presentations.
These other presenters can afford the luxury of starting low and ending high. They can narrate a story in a linear way, from start to finish. They can afford to have their big revelation towards the end of the presentation.
Sales are a completely different storytelling beast. You can’t wait till the end to drop your 1,000-pound gorilla in the room. You’ve got to lead with the 1,000-pound gorilla.
How to Start a Sales Presentation
Sales presentations start from the end. They start by connecting deeply with the pains of the sales prospect.
These pains are immediately presented with the solution: a response to the discomfort of the prospective buyer.
Your prospective customer is the protagonist, their pain is the high point of your presentation. What’s next? You can now head towards what interests you: the emotional and rational aspects that will help your prospect become a paying customer.
There is only one issue: not one moment will be more incisive and more powerful than the moment when you match the pain your prospect is feeling with your solution.
Any angle, any talking point, any slide that comes afterwards will lack the power and potential that this moment ensures.
A sales presentation starts from the end. It starts high up on the top of Mount Everest. And the job of a skillful salesperson is to help their prospect descend the mountain to sea level, where they will find the safety of your product.
Usually, in your presentations you have the luxury of building up your argument from the sea level and climbing the mountain with your audience so that you both enjoy the beautiful view at the peak (of the mountain and of the presentation).
In sales, you don’t have that luxury. You have the perilous task of starting on top of the mountain and gently nudging your prospect to descend with you, so that when you reach sea level, they are ready to sign your contract.
That’s the whole point. You start with the pain. You declare your solution to the pain. Then you slowly head in the direction of the buy.
This is when you start giving away all of the reasons why your solution fits the pain of your prospect.
Your Sales Presentation Is Not About You or Your Product
Your job is to create a narrative in which the rational, factual, and technical aspects work hand in hand with the emotional, ephemeral, instinctual feelings of your prospect.
You descend the mountain by providing both the rational (follow me to the right, step on the black stone, then turn left and follow the path) and the emotional (you can do it, just one more step, I feel your pain).
The final outcome should be absolutely clear: Your presentation ends with your prospect becoming your customer.
If your presentation works, you can expect your meeting to immediately become less about you and your solution, and more about your customers and their pain.
They will see themselves in your narrative. And they will start stopping you in your tracks. They’ll have questions for you. Not just that: different people have different questions.
How do you react?
The sales presentation is the only presentation where, ideally, you don’t want to be able to reach the end of your Powerpoint deck. You’re happy to drop your slides, your flow, and your narrative as soon as your prospect is compelled to start asking questions.
From now on, it’s all about them: about their worries, their stakes, and… their egos.
What about all the work preparing the slides and the narrative of your presentation? Is that all wasted? What do you do?
You jump ship, you let your presentation sink, and you start something much more productive. A conversation. A sales conversation.
From Sales Presentations to Sales Conversations
That’s where you wanted to go anyway. Remember: As long as you’re talking, your prospect can’t say “yes, we’re in.” You need to shut up and let them express their views, their concerns, and their feelings.
You’re already used to this. Every sales meeting has two moments: the boring presentation and the fun discussion.
What I’m suggesting is that you intertwine the presentation and the conversation seamlessly. If you set up the beginning in the correct way, there is no right or wrong order of arguments to get to your desired outcome: the sale.
Let the prospect choose the timing, let them choose the agenda, let them ask the questions, let them frame the problems with their own specific language. Listen and learn from them.
You can pick a slide here, a document there, to respond to factual questions in a more professional way. But your objective is to leap from fact to emotion.
You want to give your prospect enough rational reassurances so that they will be willing to take the emotional leap into the unknown of buying what you sell.
They need to identify themselves with your solution. You know how they feel: You’ve felt that way many times before. You don’t own an iPhone; you are an iPhone. You don’t drive a BMW; you are a BMW. You don’t own a Rolex watch; you are a Rolex watch. That works the same way if you switch the brands in this example to Huawei, Toyota, and Casio.
Your prospect needs to feel exactly the same way. They need to be your solution.
That’s not a linear path. Fortunately (you’ve guessed it), I have a guide to tread on this difficult landscape. It’s my presentation training called Presentation Hero. It embeds all the moments of the sales process. In particular, to end this article with even more useful information, I want to focus on 4 moments of the sales presentation:
- going from facts to emotions
- overcoming objections
- giving gifts
- assigning to-dos.
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Going From Facts to Emotions
The path from the peak of Mount Everest to sea level is a journey that brings your presentation from the technical, bureaucratic, financial aspects of your solution to the perception and emotions of your prospect.
You can’t avoid going through the numbers, but what will make or break your meeting is the emotion that they elicit.
To achieve this, you need to break down each of the important factual aspects of your solution and connect them either to a story that comes from them, an experience coming from your company, or a recollection of events that happened to another customer of yours.
Fact: “My solution streamlines a process, cutting the time by 20%.” How do we transform this into emotion? Emotion: “Acme Corp. boss, Mr. Coyote, was able to save so much time that they offered their employees four-day weeks instead of five-day weeks for the same pay. This increased productivity and employee loyalty.”
The moment you introduce proof (Acme Corp. is well known) and human stories (the CEO and all those employees staying home on Fridays), you directly bridge the gap between rational and emotional.
Overcoming Objections Like a Pro
If your prospect has done their homework correctly, they will have counterpoints to your proposal. They will criticize your solution. They will declare how it is incompatible with their way of working and how the deal is impossible.
Even if most of the room is with you, there will always be someone raising their hand and revealing an obscure reason why the deal can’t go through.
And what if the whole room is against you? What if you’ve been invited to pitch even though the company has already made the decision to move with your competitor?
A negative room is awful for all presenters. But it’s even worse if you’re selling. Your objective isn’t to deal with everyone’s objections. That would be impossible. You will need to focus on a number of strengths of your solution and bet that you will be able to convince some of your critics — one by one.
That’s right: when you’re dealing with objections, you can’t address the room as a whole. You have to start convincing people one by one (or group by group). This means dealing with the issues of accounting, of finance, of product, of marketing, and so on separately.
You won’t be able to change everyone’s mind, and you’ll never reach your goal all at the same time. What you can do is methodically proceed person by person. How? By giving them factual information and then transforming it into an emotional story, as we just explained.
Giving Gifts That Create Powerful Obligations
One of the most important tricks in the sales playbook is to give unexpected gifts. These in return create an obligation to give back.
I am not talking about bribing your customer with expensive objects. But rather providing them — free of charge — with lessons, learnings, tips that have helped other customers like them.
Sprinkle your presentation with a ton of these gifts. Show that your company values generosity and openness. Give an abundance of data that is usually paid for, share your top-secret research with them, show them in detail how you have solved problems in their industry step by step.
You will come across as generous and knowledgeable. You will look smart, experienced, and sage. And you will create an obligation in your counterpart, while remaining ethically sound.
You are not bribing them with an expensive gift. You are solving their issues for free, while offering a paid solution to connect and enhance the advantage you have already provided.
Let me go one step further. After you open your presentation with the pain of your prospect, why don’t you immediately give one of those gifts to them?
Assigning To-Dos Like a Boss
My top tip for a powerful ending to a great presentation is always the same: get out of the way quickly, but don’t forget to assign to-dos to your audience.
In this brilliant TED Talk, we learn how to dry our hands. I bet that after watching this talk, you will always fold the towel and spare some paper.
We can’t always be this practical. But what if, at the end of our presentation, we could change one of our prospects’ habits? What if we could persuade them to do at least one thing differently? That would make them remember us forever.
Let’s be realistic. You can’t always assign that type of life-changing to-do. You could do something simpler and equally powerful. Provide your prospect with all the next steps before the meeting ends.
Do you have a clear path forward to propose? In the movies, the prospects sign the contract or shake hands, and the deal is done. In reality, there are many micro-steps that need to be accomplished, before you can say the deal is sealed.
Show your prospect your clarity and your efficiency by proposing a definite and personalized roadmap and suggesting the necessary to-dos to each member of the audience.
Maybe Finance needs to share a data sheet for some final calculations. Maybe Marketing needs to share their asset library for a final demo. Spell out all of these actions so that they are crystal clear.
Giving clear and effective to-dos is important also because your audience will remember very clearly the beginning and the end of a meeting. Everything that happened in between? Not so much.
If you opened with their pain, you will be remembered as an observing, empathic, and understanding person. And if you ended by giving them to-dos, you would be thought of as a pragmatic, knowledgeable, and clear thinker. Tell me one business organization that wouldn’t want those traits in a business partner or a vendor.
What You Call Effective Sales Presentations, I Call Storytelling for Sales
This is what I call Storytelling for Sales. Storytelling is a very flexible tool, if you know how to use it. And you need to be a master of storytelling if you want to be effective at sales.
Maybe you’re a natural, and you’ve got that instinct. Then I will sit in the audience waiting for your excellent sales presentation. However, if you don’t have innate skills (just like me), this method will do wonders for you.
Become effective at sales by eliminating the boring parts in presentations and making all your sales pitches a sales conversation using Storytelling for Sales. I look forward to hosting you in one of my workshops and seminars in Berlin and around Europe. We can even spend a day or two together, refining your technique one-on-one.
Great insights on a highly interesting topic. Bravo Matteo!
Grazie Marco! It’s so great to hear your feedback.