By John Holland, Chief Content Officer of CustomerCentric Selling®
A seller receives an inbound call from a mid-level buyer requesting a one-hour presentation on one of her company’s offerings. The seller’s knee-jerk reaction is an emphatic, YES! The session is scheduled for 2:00PM the following Thursday afternoon. It’s a large account, so the salesperson enlists a product specialist and support person to participate. The slide deck has been delivered many times before, so prep time amounts to inserting the prospect’s company name on the first slide. It looks like a great opportunity has fallen into the seller’s lap. Could this be her first “blue bird?”
The presentation is delivered to an audience of eight people that are all mid to low level within the organization. The first fifty minutes is all about the vendor and its offering. There is mild interest and the last ten minutes are used to address fairly detailed questions about the offering. The seller and her team are thanked for their time before hearing the dreaded response from one of the attendees:
“Interesting presentation. We’ll get back to you if this initiative is deemed a priority for next year’s budget.”
After the presentation, attendees shuffle back to their cubicles. The seller never hears back from the account.
There are many reasons that companies invite vendors to present to them. Some are interested in getting a free update on markets and offerings. Others are trying to determine a short list of vendors to consider or want to pick vendors’ brains with the intent of developing their own offerings in house. Whether making a call on an individual or presenting to ten strangers, a core concept of CustomerCentric Selling® applies: No goal, no prospect.
Let’s rewind the tape and think about some of the opportunities the seller missed by blindly agreeing to deliver a presentation.
Asking some qualifying questions would have allowed chances to optimize the ultimate outcome:
• The buyer was clearly in the driver’s seat when the seller committed resources to come on site without making any “quid pro quo” requests.
• The number of potential attendees and their levels in the organization were unknown.
• Without understanding the prospect’s current environment, the seller was limited to a “spray and pray” generic presentation that was more about the vendor than the prospect.
• Connecting the dots regarding potential value of the offering was left up to the audience.
• There was no logical follow-up as it is difficult to qualify ten different “buyers” after a one hour presentation
Here are suggestions that might have improved the outcome and/or might have meant the presentation would never have been delivered:
• The seller could have asked why the account or the person calling was interested in the offering and what the attendees wanted to take away.
• The seller could have asked the buyer for a roster with names and titles of the people that were interested and would be attending the session. Absent executive representation, a discussion could have been had about getting higher levels to attend. When a buyer asks for resources, it is logical that the seller can ask for things in return.
• A request to talk with at least one person (hopefully at a fairly high level) would have enabled the seller to identify goal(s), diagnose the reasons they could not be achieved in the current environment, create a vision and establish potential value. If there were pushback, the seller can state that in order to customize the presentation, it would be necessary to understand potential outcomes the account would like to achieve. If not granted, the seller could elect not to go ahead with the presentation. Depending upon the situation, it is possible to ask for access to a higher level in exchange for making the presentation.
• As a way of customizing the presentation to be less about the vendor and its offerings and more about the prospect, one of the first slides could be the goals, reasons, and capabilities that were determined in the meeting or phone interview(s) with one or more of the attendees. The presentation could then be focused on the outcomes the company is looking to achieve and only the relevant parts of the offering would be presented in the slide deck. In a way, the presentation can be analogous to a demo for a buyer that has a vision rather than a generic “spray and pray” demo.
• After the session, there would be a logical follow up with the person or people that were interviewed over the phone.
Executive buyers recognize that the world would be a better place to live if “spray and pray” were based upon previous experience. My hope is that presentations to groups of people should be tailored to the prospect company whenever possible. It’s better for everyone in the room, including the seller.