Sales presentations – bridging the aspirational gap

Sales presentations

If you’re not in the business of selling, then good is probably good enough when it comes to sales presentations. Unfortunately in selling, a good presentation that fails to win the business isn’t going to carry the day. Your presentation must persuade the customer to make a decision in your favor.

So how do you do that?   How do you go about crafting a winning sales presentation?  Let’s explore a couple of ideas that can help get the job done.

Get on the Customer’s Side of the Table. Since there are no generic customers, there are no generic sales presentations. At least there are no winning generic sales presentations. If you want to differentiate yourself from the pack, then every presentation must be customized to the customer. This is true whether it is an awareness level presentation early in the sales cycle or a final shoot-out.

In the age of PowerPoint slides companies are able to provide sales people with some great slide decks. There is, however, a dramatic difference between a deck of slides and a presentation. When building a customer presentation the talk track must be developed for that specific customer. This means their examples, their numbers and specific solutions to their concerns and challenges.

A winning presentation is not a “product pitch.” As a matter of fact everyone would probably be better off if that latter idea was lost to history.

This requirement of course is just the ticket to the dance.  Yes, unless you have a comprehensive understanding of the customer, you do not have the foundation for crafting a winning presentation.  But how do you present the solution in an engaging and compelling fashion.  How do you persuade the customer that the status quo is not good enough? Why will the customer select your ideas versus what the other guy is proposing?

Bridge the Aspiration Gap. In a winning sales presentation the customer must see with great clarity how your solution can help them move from where they are – to where they want to be.  You must help the customer bridge the Aspiration Gap.

This idea was recently addressed in a well-written HBR blog by Nancy Duarte.  Duarte noted how to get started:  “Start by describing life as the audience knows it. People should be nodding their heads in recognition because you’re articulating what they already understand. This creates a bond between you and them.”

Once this baseline is established, describe what you have learned about the customer’s vision for a more desirable future.  Finally show them how you, better than anyone else, can help them to make the leap from where they are – to where the want to be.

Final Note. Being able to deliver an effective presentation is only one piece of the puzzle for sales success.  The telling point, however, is you can do a whole bunch of things right during the discovery phase of the sales cycle and lose the business because of a poor job for just one hour in a final presentation.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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