How to Eliminate 75% of Your Sales Presentations

You know exactly what your product or service is going to cost your client. But have you ever thought about what your presentation is costing you? Have you added up all the costs involved in preparing and delivering a presentation to determine whether it’s worth the investment in time? Chances are you haven’t. If you did these calculations you’d probably eliminate about three-quarters of the presentations you give, asserts Anthony Parinello, The Wall Street Journal best-selling author and creator of Selling to VITO (

Before giving a presentation, Parinello says salespeople should know what that presentation is costing them and what the probability is of them winning the sale. To calculate the cost of the presentation, consider these factors.

1. Your time, in hours, to prepare and travel to and from the meeting site to deliver the presentation. Calculate the hours and multiply the total by your hourly rate (roughly determined by taking the sum of last year’s base, commission and bonus and dividing by 2,000).
2. Support time, in hours. This includes presentation preparation assistance from IT, administration and other support personnel. Multiply the hours by their hourly rates.
3. Management and expertise time, in hours. Will managers or product experts need to be present during the presentation? If so, multiply the number of hours they’ll be participating by their hourly rates.
4. Direct travel costs. Add up the costs that will be incurred, such as fuel, plane tickets, parking, and so on.

By now you’re probably looking at a pretty significant number that still doesn’t include the more incalculable lost-opportunity costs that are incurred when you’re preparing for the presentation. In other words, when you’re putting together all those PowerPoint slides, what aren’t you doing? You’re not out prospecting, you’re not researching the client in preparation for the meeting and you are not meeting with a key customer. These costs also need to be considered, though it’s much tougher to pin a dollar amount on them.

So now you know what the presentation is costing you, how do you decide whether or not to give it? Easy, says Parinello. If the probability that you will get the sale after the presentation is not at least 75% going in, don’t give it. If you’re not well positioned to win the sale before the presentation, he says, that single presentation is unlikely to change things, which means it’s not worth the enormous investment you just calculated to give that presentation.

“I would push a letter of intent before the presentation,” Parinello asserts. “What is the harm in saying: If everything goes well during the presentation, do you see yourself doing business with us?” If you get a lot of hemming and hawing, Parinello says its time to walk away and cut your losses. “Tell the prospect: Based on what you’ve told me, I don’t think giving this presentation is the right thing to do,” he says. “If sales reps started asking these questions, we’d eliminate three-quarters of the presentations we do.” After all, the cost of presentations is enormous. Doesn’t it make sense to invest that money only in opportunities that are likely to pay off?