Following are nine key areas of information that you need to tailor your sales presentation to your prospect and examples of how to apply them on short notice.
Identifying the challenge or opportunity
You may have a good idea of what your prospect's business challenge is but it's important not to make any assumptions at this early stage. Often times what the prospect thinks is her problem is really part of a larger problem. Be as specific as you can when defining the problem or opportunity.
Uncovering the trigger event
People don't typically wake up and say "Today I'm going to solve this problem." Usually some trigger event or catalyst has brought the problem to their attention and motivated them to address it. Knowing what that event is can help you evaluate and gauge the prospect's real desire to solve the problem.
Recognizing the status quo
Unless the problem has just occurred or completely shut down your prospect's business, it's likely your prospect has developed some work-around solution. You need to find out how your prospect is currently dealing with the problem. Discovering how your prospect is coping with the problem can help you define the status quo, which may turn out to be your biggest competitor.
Defining the impact
Recognizing impact is key among today's decision makers. Knowing how the problem currently is affecting your prospect and her organization, and the potential impact of your solution can help you to develop important metrics around cost and value. Not having this information places you in a weak position against a competitor who has done their homework in this area. Here are two types of impact questions you want to be sure and explore with your prospect:
What's the impact of the problem? How much does it hurt and can your prospect quantify the pain? In other words, is your prospect just a little bruised or is she spending a thousand dollars a week on physical therapy? Understanding the answer to this question can help you establish value in relation to cost and assess your prospect's motivation to change.
What's the impact of the solution? Knowing the results of solving the problem or taking the opportunity can help you develop a sound value proposition — a clear statement of the results that your prospect can expect to receive from your product or service — for your prospect. Just like quantifying the impact of the problem, quantifying the value of the solution is just as important, especially if you're presenting to an executive.
Agreeing on clear goals
How does your prospect spell success? The goal may be obvious, however many companies use some type of key performance indicator (KPI) to track and assess their business processes. It may be year-over-year growth in sales, return on investment (ROI), customer satisfaction, or retention rates. Whatever it is, define that measurement so that you can address performance in terms in which your audience can relate.
Identifying key players
Although smaller sales may involve only a single decision maker, most larger sales today involve multiple decision makers as well as key influencers and stakeholders — people who have an interest and/or influence in the product or service being purchased. Knowing who all these players are and what their role is in the decision-making process is important because you need to address each of their unique needs and interests to make sure your deal doesn't get stalled somewhere along the way. Most of the individuals involved in your presentation fall into one of the following three categories:
Problem owner: These are the people affected by the problem and typically the ones who will be using your product or service or be directly impacted by it.
Problem solver: This is the person who is seeking a solution to the problem and may be your point of contact at the organization. This individual may be the same as the problem owner, or she may be a manager, a consultant, or a buying committee who has been tasked with evaluating and vetting vendors.
Decision maker: This is the person who is ultimately going to write the check to solve the problem. The decision maker may not be at your presentation, but it's important to address her needs and expectations, especially providing financial validation and alignment of your solution to company goals to avoid your sale making it all the way up the ladder only to get vetoed at the top.
Getting a read on urgency
Having a prospect excited about moving forward only to be unable to meet her deadline is disappointing. Clarifying your prospect's expectations and timelines up-front can save you a lot of frustration later. Finding out about any time issues, deadlines, or objectives also gives you a good handle on your prospect's level of urgency. If she tells you there is no real timeline, take note. You may want to re-evaluate the opportunity, dig deeper into the impact of the current problem, or find out what would have to happen to make it a greater priority.
Understanding your competition
Even if you think you know what other vendors your prospect is talking to, asking the following questions is a smart practice because your prospect's answers may surprise you and affect your messaging dramatically.
What/who else is the prospect considering to solve the problem?
Why is the prospect considering them?
What is their buying history?
Gaining an edge with logistics
Who, what, where, and when are basic questions that every vendor will ask, but some finer points you can use to your advantage include the following:
Who can you contact?
What is the format?
Where and when will it take place?
If you're one of several presenting companies, always ask to go first. That way you get to set the bar, and the prospect will compare everyone else to you.
Applying the information on short notice
If you have to do a presentation without much time to plan — you're responding to a web lead or referral, or simply a prospect who has an urgent need that can't wait — you can still use this information to quickly get what you need to adapt your presentation on the fly.
For example, assume that you're a real estate agent and you receive a phone call from a homeowner who wants to list her house. She is interviewing two agents that evening and only has a few moments to talk on the phone. Here's what you would quickly find out in your conversation using the preceding eight points:
Challenge/opportunity: The homeowner and her husband want to sell their condo.
Trigger event: The husband works at home and now the wife's office is closing so she'll be working at home as well.
Status quo: They live in a two-bedroom condo, with one room designated the husband's office. It's been recently updated and has great views of the city.
Impact: If they don't sell, the wife will be working out of the living room, they'll be cramped, and frustrations will grow.
Goals: She would like to get $400,000 for the condo. She recognizes this is above-market price, but they've added $50,000 in upgrades.
Decision makers: The wife is the problem owner, problem solver, and co-decision maker with her husband.
Urgency: Her office is shutting down in two months so she would like to be in new place by then so she can set up her office.
Competition: She is also meeting with her co-worker's cousin who just got his real estate license.
Logistics: Presentation scheduled for 7 p.m. today. You received the address and information necessary to research the property online and prepare a competitive market analysis. The homeowner also agreed to allow you to present first and come 30 minutes early to tour the property.
Now you have enough to adapt your listing presentation to meet your prospect's needs and gain a competitive advantage. Based on what you uncovered, you know to focus your presentation on the benefits of going with an agent who has a proven track record and the pain of delay that improper pricing and marketing can result in.