When you’re presenting to a big account and need to wow them, try thinking about the presentation not as a sales presentation but as a planning meeting. At a planning meeting you’ve already got the contract and, in a dialogue with the customer, you’re working out how you’re going to fulfill that contract to the customer’s complete satisfaction – exactly the information most audiences are looking for at a sales presentation. Planning meetings also tend to involve several experts from your company, which communicates a joint interest in the project that will set you apart from your competition, says Danielle Kennedy, author of Seven Figure Selling (Thomson Learning, 2003).
Kennedy cites the example of David Steitz, president of Characters Inc., a computer typesetting business based in Houston that often uses a team-sales and planning approach to win over clients during tough presentations. In one case, Steitz was presenting a proposal to put together a catalogue for a prospect with whom his company had never worked before. Steitz put together a team of six people, including himself, the sales rep, the customer service rep, the technical computer specialist, the trainer and the software specialist. The first two people were there simply to facilitate the discussion and introduce everyone. The others each gave a presentation about his or her role in the project as if they were already doing the job. As Steitz hoped, it gave the event the feel of a planning meeting instead of a sales presentation. Indeed, most of the team members didn’t have any experience in sales. They were simply experts in their fields who did their jobs well and that fact came through in their presentations.
“We ended up going from what was supposed to be a sales presentation to a planning meeting, to scheduling with the prospect when we could actually start the project,” says Steitz. “It was magical.”
Even if your presentation doesn’t go that smoothly, you’ll be at an advantage simply having all those experts on hand. “The beauty of team performance is that there are enough experts in the room explaining their role in the project to handle bona fide objections by the client,” says Kennedy. Once you address those objections, you’ll be ready to get that planning meeting back on track.