In the July/August issue of Inc, columnist Geoffrey James lists "Three Reasons Most Presentations Fail". His big three reasons are:
- Too much information about you, and not enough about what your solution can mean to your customers.
- The wrong point of view by presenting a laundry list of clients and business success instead of trying to make a connection from the customer's point of view.
- Presenting the "same old, same old" story instead of articulating what you do better than anyone else and why they should pick you.
During my career, I must have made over 500 new business presentations, and thousands of day-to-day "sales" presentations for creative, media plans, new product ideas, etc. with current clients. Some were successful, some not. But along the way, I got better by following a few simple guidelines:
- Less is more. The K.I.S.S. principle is critical in both the planning phase and the presentation. I always go by this philosophy "Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you told them" when planning.
- Get to the point early and often. Most clients and prospects have a busy schedule. They want to get the answers to their problems as quickly as they can, so don't waste their time, or yours.
- Involve your audience. Plan for ways to get your client involved. Some of my most successful new business presentations demonstrated our strategic thinking process by taking the client through the same steps we had taken and asking for his opinion along the way. By the time we got to our conclusion, it was practically impossible for the client to disagree because he had intellectual and emotional equity in the answer by helping to develop it.
- Know when to shut up and listen. I had a client once say that agency people were "always on send and never on receive". Unfortunately, he was right. Too often, we are so caught up in the selling process that we not only dominate the conversation, but fail to hear an important clue from the client or prospect that can mean the difference between winning and losing.
- Don't over-answer the questions from the prospect. I had a strict rule in new business presentations that when a client asked a question, only one additional person could respond. This grew from a well-intentioned desire from a CEO to add "just one additional thought" to the answer provided by the department head or account person.
- Smile. Prospects want to do business with people they like and trust. It never hurts to be likable.