I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
When presenting a proposal to senior decision makers, they most appreciate directness, clarity and sound thinking, so the most important step in putting together a strategic sales presentation is to be absolutely clear about what you want your listeners to think and do at the end of your presentation. The second most important step is to clearly structure your material so that it leads your listeners exactly to that point. A clear message and structure make your strategic sales presentation more persuasive.
Step 1: Write the headline
Be absolutely clear about the message you want to get across to your listeners. While this may sound obvious, think back to the number of times you’ve sat through a presentation that was rambling, unstructured and unclear. What impression did you form of the speaker? How likely were you to do what you thought they were asking?
No one remembers every detail of a presentation. At decision time, each of your listeners will have a headline in their mind that will guide their thinking, so don’t leave it to chance. You control the headline by being absolutely clear about it before you craft your presentation.
The headline depends on where you are in the sales cycle. Early on, it may be that they have a problem and must act now. For a closing presentation, they might recognize the problem but must be convinced exactly why your solution is the best.
Step 2: Structure the path
Structure makes it easy for your audience to follow you, which maintains their attention and carries them along with your logic. Structure makes you look organized and competent. Finally, structure exposes potential weaknesses in your own thinking before you get in front of a tough audience.
There are a number of structures you can choose from:
First, there’s the tried and true “3 Ts:” Tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you told them. For an executive audience, leave off the recap and have a call to action instead.
An excellent structure for solution selling is the problem/solution structure. Describe the problem and its impact, criteria for a solution (weighted in favor of your strengths), possible alternatives, why your alternative is the best choice, and close with your implementation plan.
If your audience is skeptical or opposed, the USE structure (understand, small agreement, explanation) can bring them around to your way of thinking. First you must build a bridge by showing that you understand their point of view. Next, you must start turning them in your direction by getting a small agreement on a position halfway between theirs and yours, or to see an aspect they had not considered. Once you have opened their minds slightly, you close with the explanation of why your approach is the best.
There is a lot more to a successful presentation than just these two steps, but with a compelling destination and a clear path, the rest falls into place much more smoothly.
Jack Malcolm is President of Falcon Performance Group, an organization dedicated to improving the professionalism, preparation, productivity and effectiveness of sales professionals through training and consulting in sales, influencing and communication skills.