The Ultimate Checklist for Mission Critical Group Sales Presentations
“Mission critical” is a term that you see in many different activities, up to and including military operations. When mission critical aspects do not go well, barring an extraordinary piece of luck, the mission fails. If your group sales presentation does not go well, barring an extraordinary piece of luck, your sales effort will fail and you will not get the contract.
What follows is the structure of virtually all group sales presentations — the phase for which you have to prepare.
- Preparing for the presentation
- Arriving at the presentation
- The opening
- Going over the agenda with the audience
- Confirming client needs and interests
- Body of the presentation
- Summary of the presentation
- Questions and answers
- Closing the meeting
- Following up
Preparing for the presentation — The first step in a presentation is preparing for the presentation. You carefully research the potential client. You use this information to prepare a written proposal and other documents for use during the meeting. You also plan your approach to the presentation, basically outlining what you are going to say and when you are going to make the various points.
You should remember that any slides or projections are best done in outline form. This is not a teleprompter, so plan to add the details verbally. The members of the audience will know how to read, so don’t read to them.
Bring a backup media system. Even if you have presented to this company before, their system may not be working.
Arriving at the presentation — You do not “beam in” to the meeting, like the captain on Star Trek, and just begin talking. You are not announced to dramatically enter the room like the President of the United States addressing a joint session of Congress.
No one would think to arrive just at the time scheduled for a meeting. If nothing else, this allows no time for unexpected transportation problems. But most people might think they just need time to use the restroom and go over their notes. Logical, but wrong. Arrive earlier. This allows time for more than the basic necessities. One highly advisable point is to check who is going to be attending. Find out if anything else has changed. Take the time to introduce yourself, one on one, to each attendee. Exchange business cards. One idea is to arrange the cards in a seating chart — yes, like our teachers used to do — to let you know who is sitting where. The clients won’t mind; it just shows you are trying to get to know them.
A side benefit of starting your presentation before the meeting is that it can help to overcome jitters.
The opening — In the first few minutes of the presentation, clients form a general impression of you. During that time, they may be so busy trying to “place” you that they may not listen to what you are saying. By understanding what the opening is really about, you can make yours more effective. The opening will probably not “make or break” the presentation, but it can set the tone. Think of it as scoring runs in the first inning of a baseball game. The game is by no means won, but being ahead is better than being behind.
Use the few minutes of the introduction to:
- Establish rapport and begin to build credibility.
- Introduce yourself, your company, and your team members. Don’t assume everyone at the meeting already knows you
- Thank clients for the opportunity to be there.
- Present your objective — why you are there.
- Discuss your purpose — why they will find it useful to be there.
- Try to address talk to each person individually during the meeting, rotating among them. Try to learn their names before the meeting.
Going over the agenda with the audience — This is what it sounds like. Go over each point you plan to discuss. Ask if this is what everyone expects. A printed agenda, based on the table of contents for the proposal, can be useful to distribute at this point. You can also distribute the proposal at this time, but a person’s natural tendency to look at printed material when they get it might be distracting.
Confirming client needs and interests — Checking the agenda begins this process. The best way to do this is to ask the client representatives about the points you should stress, to be sure your presumably well prepared presentation is on point. Thank the client representatives, and be sure to mention there will be time set aside from questions at the end. Also, be sure to invite clients to ask questions during your presentation.
Body of the presentation — This is where you make your case.
- Organize the key elements of your presentation, with an eye toward what the client wants to achieve.
- Use a logical but sales-oriented and client-oriented sequence — for example, features and benefits/value are discussed before price.
- Rehearse the presentation beforehand. If you will have colleagues with you, define their expected roles in the meeting.
- Use but do not read your proposal (except for figures and technical information). Bring enough handouts to give one to everyone attending, plus a few for safety if more people show up. Consider bringing separate copies of the executive summary to have something to leave each client representative if you need to revise the proposal.
- Use projected PowerPoint slides, but not as a teleprompter. Don’t read them.
- Create a dialogue with your audience.
- Make sure the amount of information fits into your allotted time.
- It is worth repeating — position/personalize the information to your client’s needs. Be sure to state benefits to the client.
Summary of the presentation — This can be described as a verbal executive summary. Go over, very briefly, each point you have made. Be sure the summary mentions each benefit to the client of what you are offering,
Questions and answers — Be sure to leave enough time for questions at the end of your presentation. Make it clear that you welcome questions at the end and during the presentation. Answer them concisely, and invite follow-up questions. Try to anticipate questions in your preparation because you might not have time to get back to the asker with an answer you do not have. Offer to be available for any questions the client may have later.
Closing the meeting — This is the last memory clients will have of your presentation. Ask the client for what you want them to do. Ask for the business. Show that you really want their business and want to work with them.
Following up — Get a personal thank-you note out that day or the next via e-mail to everyone who attended the meeting. Your contact can confirm everyone who attended and how to reach them. You will already be calling the contact to thank him or her for their assistance. Your contact can brief you on any changes since the meeting. You can use these notes to clear up any questions you have about your own presentation.
Be sure you can be reached. If you don’t want to give out your cell number, let everyone who might answer your phone, even a “press 0 for an operator line,” know to forward the message immediately. Be sure to brief your boss and your close subordinate, on how the meeting went in case they get questions. You may also find it valuable to write a memo to yourself, listing what seemed to go well and seemed to go not so well in the meeting.
Group Sales presentations can seem like fearsome prospects. They can be complicated. However, with proper presentation, they can be done and done well.
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