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Sales advice from the other side of the table

Sales advice from the other side of the table

I have survived many attempts against my life (and sanity) of ‘death by PowerPoint’. Thus, I am offering this free advice to my dear sales professionals on how to make their multi-flight, 36-hour, jetlag laden visit to our fair shores of Aotearoa more fruitful.

Make it interactive, casual and fun!

Chris Pope

I am not a salesperson. I am not a marketing guru. I am, however, a person who has sat through (umm.. “endured”) numerous sales pitches, RFI/RFP presentations; and am a survivor of many attempts against my life (and sanity) of “death by PowerPoint”.

So here I offer some free advice from “the other side of the table” to my dear sales professionals to make your multi-flight, 36-hour, jet-lag laden visit to our fair shores of Aotearoa more fruitful.

Make it interactive, casual and fun!

With a tip of the hat to the signatories to the Agile Manifesto, working software is always more convincing than comprehensive documentation (read: PowerPoint slide deck… mock-ups and screenshots…) If you have a product to sell, incorporate a live demo following the process/journey/ “day in the life” in which your potential clients can see… hear… touch…. taste… smell… how it will make their lives better! The more potential clients can experience the tools working, the easier it is for them to imagine in use in their own operations (especially if your audience is front line staff).

Chris Pope: "I have seen vendors stick to the agenda and script of what they want to cover and not necessarily what I, as the potential customer, needed to hear."
Chris Pope: "I have seen vendors stick to the agenda and script of what they want to cover and not necessarily what I, as the potential customer, needed to hear."

Don’t underestimate the power of good meeting facilitation!

I have seen vendors stick to the agenda and script of what they want to cover (not necessarily what I, as the potential customer, needed to hear) and then run out of time before their audience has time to dig into the topics that are important to them.

Strong facilitation of these engagements can ensure that these meetings hit the mark for the customer; and maximise the impact for meeting. A designated facilitator can:

  • Make sure that agenda meets the customer expectations;

  • Manage the flow of the conversation, using the “parking lot” to acknowledge items raised and ensure that they are addressed at the appropriate time);

  • Perhaps also doing a sense check halfway through longer meetings to confirm that the customer’s expectation of the event is [still] being met, identify other items that they want to explore, and re-assure them that their outstanding questions/interests will be addressed within the time remaining;

  • A competent facilitator will also keep a keen eye out for those items during the presentation that resonate with the clients.What features did they seem to like? What aspects did they want to discuss further? What topics got a negative response / elicited concern, confusion, or resistance? While the facilitator will ensure that any resistance is addressed immediately; he/she can also use their observations to craft follow-up material (screenshots, reiteration of key features that they liked, further explanation to overcome negative response) that is specific to the client’s response during the meeting.

    Chris Pope
    Chris Pope

Most IT departments are very busy. How can you, as a vendor, make the implementation and ongoing use of your product easy on my team?

Company context

A lot of the presentations that I have sat through are “much of a muchness” – going through similar slides – spending too much time on who they are, corporate office locations, clients logos (without context of what products these clients actually use – are they using your full suite, or a small subset completely unrelated to what you are here to talk to us about?) While this information is important to give context and establish credibility, it should be brief (and/or sent as pre-read). In fact, I probably have seen all of this on your website before our first email exchange – that is why you are here.

What makes your company and product different? No... really. I am interested in what genuinely makes you different from the competition. Are you the all-singing all-dancing luxury brand? The ugly-but-gets-the-job-done value for money brand? Easy “plug and play”? Also, what is your company ethos, and how will that be of benefit to me and my customers?

Avoid generic/vague benefits. I am not convinced by vague benefits or generic claims that are equally valid from your competitors (“Our high-visibility vests will help your staff see each other better and improve safety on the worksite”. Yep… don’t they all do that?) I much prefer to hear specific statements of tangible benefits proven at other clients (% improvement, $$ saved, how easy /responsive you are to work with, independent comparison with competition) even some customer quotes supporting this.

How are you going to make life easier for us? Most IT departments are very busy. How can you, as a vendor, make the implementation and ongoing use of your product easy on my team?

Sales is a tough game, and I admire the professionalism and resilience demonstrated by many in this field.  Hopefully, these tips will make it the next sales presentation a better experience for everyone around the table.

If you have a product to sell, incorporate a live demo following the process/journey/ “day in the life” in which your potential clients can see… hear… touch…. taste… smell… how it will make their lives better!
If you have a product to sell, incorporate a live demo following the process/journey/ “day in the life” in which your potential clients can see… hear… touch…. taste… smell… how it will make their lives better!

Chris Pope is a consultant who helps leaders clarify their strategy, solve complex business challenge, and deliver transformational change using a pragmatic combination of agile, project management, and product development and change management practices. He has spent the last 20 years leading complex projects and programmes, running a PMO, and improving practices in industries such as airline, local government, education, internet and healthcare in the United States and New Zealand. He can be reached at chrispopeconsulting@gmail.com or on LinkedIn http://nz.linkedin.com/in/chrispopepmp and Twitter: @chrispopenz

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