Too many people in the sales world spend four months trying to get an appointment, four hours driving to and from the appointment and forty minutes in the appointment. The problem is they often spend only four minutes preparing for that meeting and then wonder why nothing happens.
As you can see from my choice of time intervals, you have to spend a lot of time preparing for an appointment rather than just winging it. There is no such thing as winging and winning. You can’t keep that up unless you're very lucky, and if that’s the case you're doing a large numbers game and wasting a lot of people's time. Also, you're wasting your own time!
So, what is the best way to prepare for your sales presentation? Let me break it down for you:
1. Make sure that the people at the meeting are the right prospects to be going after.
I was given an assignment to visit large HVAC contractors and see who could work with a utility to meet their goals. In this case I thought, "Let's talk to the big guys.” I could spend all day making appointments with people that only have two panel trucks who say they do commercial contracting; however, talking to the higher-ups in sales or business development at the biggest HVAC companies covers much more ground per hour of outreach effort.
2. Once you have a meeting set up ask yourself, "What are we going to talk about?"
The first thing you should do is thoroughly research the company. Let’s use my HVAC example again. I would find out what lines of equipment they carry, how efficient those lines are, which ones are eligible for certain incentives, etc. I would also compare and contrast how many incentive dollars are available per unit of equipment sold for this year versus last year.Another important tip: know people’s names! That way you can walk in and address them respectfully: “Linda, the reason we’re meeting here is…” or “Brian, this is what I’ve discovered...” Having a personal touch shows that you’ve done your homework and that you care. And even if you don’t know everyone’s name walking into the room, take the time for introductions (and take notes!) so that you can address folks by name during the meeting as well as after.
3. The sales presentation shouldn’t be about you and your product; it should start with what the prospect is trying to achieve.
Outline how other customers in their space have achieved certain energy maneuvers and how you have helped those customers moving forward. Make it clear that they have a problem; you have a solution. They can hire you to solve it.
4. A lot of people think they need a PowerPoint for their presentation. You don’t need a PowerPoint.
In fact, in many cases the PowerPoint is an absolute distraction. It requires you to be locked to technology. You have to be careful about the projector. You have to find a wall that's bright enough and well positioned enough to be visible to everyone in the room. It can be a complete disaster.
Printing your PowerPoint slides is also a problem because people can get impatient and read ahead. What I like to do is go into a meeting with a sheet of talking points and say, "By the way, I have the notes on all of this. I'll hand them out at the end of the meeting so you don't get carpal tunnel syndrome struggling to take notes at the pace of my presentation."
5. If you have difficulty gathering everyone’s attention, hand out a printed copy of your agenda.
Gently violate each attendee’s personal space and place the agenda in front of them. They’ll inevitably look at it and stop talking to their friends about the sports, interdepartmental dysfunction, etc.
And of course, stick to your agenda. Keep time and remember it’s a precious and finite resource. Sit down, thank them for being there, and say, "We're glad we could sync our schedules for being together today. We started at 2:00. It's now 2:02. We have this meeting scheduled until 3:00. Is everybody here still good until 3:00?" You might find out that a top exec has to leave 20 minutes early to catch his private plane. If you ask, you’ll discover your window of getting the decision made has been shortened by 20 minutes (not counting the delay in starting!), and you’ll be able to adjust your presentation accordingly.
6. Remember it’s not all about what you have to say.
I’d estimate 75% of the presentation should be spent saying your piece and the other 25% should be fielding your prospect’s reaction to your offer. They’re going to tell you what their needs are. They're going to tell you what the potential objections are. In short: you're going to gain a lot of intelligence.
Most of the time this happens near the end of the presentation. Ask if there are any questions. If there’s nothing but proverbial crickets say, "What if you did have a question, what would it be?" As funny and strange as that sounds, 95% of the time, someone will speak up after hearing that second question! If that doesn’t happen, say, “Well, one question I thought you’d ask is…” and survey their faces for interest. You don’t want to end the meeting on a weak note, so keep giving them an opportunity to share their thoughts.
By the way, while our Selling in 6™ program contains a lesson on to hosting a productive meeting, the paragraphs you just read are a great step in the right direction.