PRESENTATION

Giving a Sales Presentation? 6 Questions You Must Ask First

Here are six crucial questions to ask and answer, before you present your solution to the customer.
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When you're asked (or allowed) to make a sales presentation, you want to be certain that whatever you say helps the customer make the right decision.

That's only possible if you understand the decision-making context, according to Dean Brenner, author of the book Move the World: Persuade your Audience, Change Minds, and Achieve Your Goals.

Therefore, before giving any sales presentation, ask yourself the following questions and adapt your presentation accordingly:

1. What's your firm's history with the customer?

If the customer has worked with your firm in the past and the experience was negative, you'll need to do damage control before even trying to convince them to buy from you again.  ("First, let me explain what's different.")

If the experience was positive, however, you can't assume that the current set of decision-makers know about that, because it might have happened before their time.  In this case, you'll begin by summarizing the successful relationship.

2. How does the customer views your industry?

Because they're a collection of human beings, corporations tend have a "group mind" that holds opinions about other industries.  In many cases, those opinions will be positive, in which case you can build on the generally positive perception.

However, this is not always the case. For example, many companies are rightly suspicious of cloud-based computing firms who have cooperated with the NSA. If your industry is being tarred, your challenge is to show how your firm is different.

3. Where does the customer want and need to go?

This is the standard "solution selling" stuff.  Presumably, before you bother to present, you've asked the customer questions and figured out where your offering can help the customer achieve their goals.

If you've neglected this, and you're thinking that you'll get the customer interested by presenting "spray and pray" list of features and functions, think again. This never works, because it forces the customer to think too hard about where your stuff fits.

4. What might to prevent them from buying now?

There are two general areas of concern here.  The first consists of objections to your specific offering, such as "it costs too much" or "it doesn't do 'x'."  You overcome these objections by emphasizing what's uniquely valuable in your offering.

The second area is more thorny: the customer's spending priorities.  If the customer sees your offering (and the problem it solves) is less important than other spending, you must emphasize the negative consequences of not buying now.

5. What actions can this specific audience take?

In an ideal world, you'd like to get all the decision-makers into a single room and get them all to agree to buy everything you're selling and write you a huge check that you can cash immediately.

Since this isn't an ideal world, you're likely to be presenting to a combination of decision-makers, influencers, or seat-warmers?  If they're decision-makers, know what decision do you want them to make.  If they're influencers, know who you want them to influence.  If they're seat warmers, well, don't bother to present.

6. How does your customer make decisions?

Every decision-maker has a slightly different style of decision-making.  Some decision-makers need stacks of data, others need lots of handholding. Some need plenty of references, others like taking risks.

Early in the sales cycle--long before you present--find out how the customer has made similar decisions in the past.  Then model your sales efforts, and your sales presentation, around those previously successful sales efforts.

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IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Aug 8, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is "Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts that You Need to Know."

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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