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Presentation is nice, but... Featured

9:44am EDT July 22, 2002

What is the secret to giving an effective presentation? My presentation skills are unmatched, but I have colleagues who close more business than I do. I don’t understand it.

Most people are very comfortable talking about their products and services because that is what they know the most about and because of childhood conditioning.

As a result, most salespeople are anxious to do demonstrations or give proposals. It’s the adult version of show and tell.

As children, we were always rewarded for making a good presentation, whether it was to our teachers or our parents. It makes us feel good to do a presentation that is well received, and in this way, we get our emotional needs met.

However, selling is not about making presentations or getting our emotional needs met. Selling is about gaining commitments and winning business. Too often, we walk away from a presentation with nothing more than applause.

Business is not won or lost at the presentation. It is won or lost based on how well you have diagnosed the prospects’ needs and problems and how you set up the presentation.

Before you submit proposals, always gain the prospects’ commitment to make a decision at the time you conduct your presentations or review your proposals with them. Done right, the proposal itself should be nothing more than the fulfillment of what has already been agreed to.

If you aren’t able to obtain this commitment from a prospect in advance of the proposal, consider it a red flag — the prospect is either looking for a free education or simply looking to validate a decision that has already been made in your competition’s favor. Another red flag is a prospect who won’t let you present your proposal in person.

Unless you are in construction, you should never submit a proposal in any fashion other than face to face. Sending a proposal via fax or mail is usually a waste of time.

Don’t rush into a proposal. Spend the bulk of your time uncovering the essential needs and concerns of your prospects and discussing the investments that they will have to make and the obstacles they will have to overcome before you do a demonstration or proposal.

The sale is usually won or lost in the diagnosis, not in the presentation.

Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm specializing in sales development and training. Send comments and questions via fax to (724) 933-9224 or e-mail at LTLewis@totaldevelopment.com. Reach him by phone at (724) 933-9110.