Top 3 Problems of Sales Presentations

By: John Honovich, Published on Nov 18, 2008

Sales presentations are critical yet are routinely ineffecitve. While an appropriate sales presentation can quickly and effectively convince a potential partner to do business, many sales presentations are wasteful. This report examines the top 3 problems I see in sales presentations and how to resolve them.

The problems:

  1. Show up and Throw Up
  2. Pitch Generalities
  3. Steamroll Objections

Show Up and Throw Up

The most unproductive way to start a meeting is to just start talking and delivering a standard pitch. If you are giving a presentation to a specific group or small number of people, it is critical to understand their issues. A generic presentation will waste people's time and, worse, generally fails to address the few issues that make or break the deal.

I always want to know:

  • How familar is the audience with the video surveillance? If they have never heard of it, that's one presentation. If they go to ISC West, that's another.
  • Has the audience attended a presentation from a competitor? Who? What did they think? Figure out what their concerns or interests were from that and adjust the presentation.
  • What type of system do they have currently? Who is the vendor? If their current system is incompatible with mine, I have to address (or perhaps DQ the opportunity).
  • What are the main security concerns? Are they dealing with insider threats? What type of crimes occur? Where do they most likely occur?

Not only do people feel better when you actively take an interest in their business, this gives you a far high ability to qualify and to persuade based on their actual experience. There's a whole cottage of books on this topic - questioned based selling.

Solution to showing up and throwing up - Spend the first 10 minutes asking questions (or if possible do a phone call ahead of time and ask these questions). Then tailor, your presentation or deck to those key issues that are most important to the audience.

Pitch Generalities

I am amazed at how frequently companies pitch their category rather than their product. For example, let's say you sell video analytics. Unless your audience has never heard of video analytics, it does not make much sense to talk about operators zoning out after 20 minutes of live video and how video analytics alerts you to threats without having to watch video, etc. This establishes no differentiation and wastes your audience's time. However you see this pattern in every segment. Sales people spend their time talking about abilities that all of their competitors support. This is what creates confusion and encourages users to think all products are the same.

Solution to pitching generalities - Focus on your specific differentiators, citing functionalities and capabilities that your competitors do not.  An example of this is how I define unique capabilities in my About page. By clearly and concisely identifying what's really unique and differentiating, the audience will be much more likely to remember and understand why they should choose you.

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Problem 1: Most companies lack differentiators: A real problem with my recommendation is that there are dozens of companies in each segment. Inevitably, most companies have no meaningful differentiator. Their key difference is they have a sales call with you and the other vendors do not.  If you have no differentiators, then pitch generalities and buy dinner.

Problem 2: Most companies are poor at understanding their differentiators: I am surprised how frequently this happens but even really good companies tend to bury their key differentiators from the dozen of functionalies that everyone has.

Steamroll Objections

Most people receiving a presentation are reluctant to strongly object to what a speaker is saying. People generally do not want to be confrontational. Also, they generally lack expertise in the presenter's field so they are reluctant to challenge.

Ironically, most presenters are insensitive to the potential objections or concerns of a customer. With optimism for their offering and confidence in themselves, they tend not to hone in on potential concerns. It's almost comical how often presenters fail to realize that the audience was simply being polite and not strongly interested nor convinced.

This creates an inefficient and unproductive scenario where objections are brushed aside.

The reality is video surveillance is a long sales cycle. The concerns of most prospects do not go away. If anything, they tend to increase in time as the prospect gains more information and brings in other parties to review the system/product.

The solution to steamrolling objections - You need to uncover and handle objections as quickly as possible. If it's not a good fit, pass. If you can handle the objection, flush it out and explain to the prospect.

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