Sam is stuck in a grind. He works for a large software company, delivering web based sales presentations day in and day out. Like most large organizations, this company has specialized roles in the overall sales process. His role is to present his solution, and then, if the prospect is interested, he hands the lead to a field rep. . His company has a well developed marketing automation solution so he gets plenty of appointments for sales presentations. He could deliver them in his sleep and often does. He told me he dreams about delivering sales presentations as a recurring nightmare. He’s bored, feels like he’s got more potential than this assignment, and worse, the conversion rate for these prospects is trending down so the answer seems to be to do even more of the same just to keep up.
When Sam related his story to me, I conjured up a vision of one of those dystopian movies filmed in sepia tone where dozens of other young, smart and talented sales professionals are chained to their desks enduring the same grueling process day after day.
We talked about his career goals and what would make his current assignment more fulfilling. Then we reviewed his current sales presentation. It was supplied by the marketing department, included very slick looking graphics and followed a familiar pattern:
- Let me tell you about my company…
- Let me impress you with the logos of our Fortune XXX customers…
- Now let me tell you how this product works…
- And, lets end by talking about next steps.
I was tasked with delivering this format as a young sales person, have witnessed it in full swing at dozens of companies around the world, and just this week, subject to it when I expressed interest in a new technology solution.
It reminds me of the quote attributed to many including Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein (while neither probably actually said it), “The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
I suggested we turn his grueling process into a more engaging dialog and have fun experimenting with different ways to implement it. Here’s what we did to the format:
- A discussion about the problems and challenges the customer has getting the job done with the current solution. (The variation was starting with a blank slide to have the buyer lead the list, versus a partially filled out list to let the seller lead the dialog and encourage the buyer to add to it.)
- A discussion about how these problems roll up to create executive level headaches. (Which I call “business issues”) For example, how a broken process delays the time to market for a new product or increases development costs. (Again, varying having the buyer lead or having the seller lead and guiding the buyer to supplement the dialog.)
- A discussion about how these problems are impacting the business in terms of time or money. With the dialog lead variation option as well.
- Segue to how the seller’s solution addresses the identified problems. Specifically tailoring the presentation to the problem list.
- A short overview of a similar customer with similar problems and the resulting outcome. (Try the logo slide here as another variation.)
- A dialog about who else is impacted by the problems identified.
- Next steps.
After the first day, Sam called to tell me the results. Some of his observations included how the day flew by, how he was looking forward to each new meeting, and how much more dialog oriented the meetings were versus monologue centric.
After about 30 days, Sam noticed that his choice to lead each diagnosis subject with examples or let the buyer lead was most productive based on the apparent presence of even keel attitude or lack thereof. If they were even keel he would lead, if they sounded like they had done their homework and were really serious about a purchase, he would encourage them to lead.
Now came the interesting part. Sam reported that after 90 days of this experiment, his conversion rate (from interest to purchase) almost doubled, he was told he was on top of the list to take on the next open field assignment, and he no longer experienced recurring nightmares about sales presentations!
If you’re one of those people stuck with a marketing presentation that doesn’t fulfill you, or a sales leader trying to get more performance out of your team, try this and let me know how it goes.