What an Effective Sales Presentation Can Do

By Julie M. Hansen

An effective presentation in the past typically meant closing the sale. In today’s more complex market, a successful presentation can be more like a play in football; it advances the sale. No matter how you spell success, all sales presentations today must meet the following requirements in order to be successful.

Tailoring to meet your prospect’s needs

One size doesn’t fit all. Today’s prospects want to do business with salespeople who have a clear understanding of their needs, their challenges, and their goals. Tailoring your presentation to fit your prospect’s unique needs and establishing a customized value proposition is the price of entry in today’s competitive market.

It requires discovering how the problem is impacting your prospect’s business and how he’s currently addressing that problem. Tailoring for today’s well-informed prospect often means delivering insights by recognizing areas of improvement or identifying gaps that can shed new light on your prospect’s business and tie back to your solution.

Tailoring forms the basis of a customer-focused presentation that allows you to show your prospect how you can meet his needs better than your competition. With the commoditization of many products and services, this kind of laser-sharp focus is what will separate you from the competition and turn you into a preferred solution.

Today’s presentations must be structured around value, and answer one or both of the following two questions that are in every prospect’s mind:

  • Why buy? Many prospects are hesitant or afraid to change. Selling against the status quo is a much different strategy than the next question.

  • Why buy from you? Making a case for you over your competition in your presentation requires clear and concise differentiation — not always easy when differences are slight.

Gaining attention

Your prospect invites you to give your hard-fought presentation. You have all the decision makers together in one room at the same time. Quick reality check: Do you have their attention? Don’t bet on it. Like you, prospects have other things on their minds. Perhaps they just got off a call with an unhappy customer or they’re worrying about how to handle an unresolved issue.

Your first goal is to pull your listeners into the present and break through the mental clutter and physical distractions that plague today’s business audiences. Understanding what drives attention and applying that knowledge to your presentation can give you a huge advantage over your competition:

  • Attention spans fall: It’s not just your imagination. Studies show that people’s attention spans are falling faster than the Russian ruble — dropping an incredible 50 percent in the last decade — wait, is that a new LinkedIn request?

  • Attention bottoms out. Attention isn’t something you get once in a presentation and then you’re done. Attention starts off high at the beginning of your presentation and drops to its lowest point in ten minutes, just when you were getting to your good stuff.

  • Multitasking is a myth. Finally the truth is out. People can really only focus on one thing at a time. That has loads of implications for your presentation. For example, talking about one thing while an unrelated text-heavy slide is on the screen? Waste of your breath.

Knowing how to make adjustments in your presentation for these changes in behavior is critical.