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22 JULY 2016

Simon Morton

‘Coffee is for closers’ is a film quote that many sales professionals will recognise with a wry smile.  No matter how high up the sales ladder you may sit, it’s become a universal reference for the rough and tumble of sales as well as a way of demonstrating that a sales career is not for the faint hearted.

In the world of sales presentations, it’s taken on a second meaning.  Sales presentations and Caffeine hits have, for all the wrong reasons, become synonymous.  How?  Because at the start of every working day, on the tables of every coffee shop in our fine land, you’ll find legions of sales people furiously tweaking PowerPoint presentation design’s moments before their sales pitch. 

These caffeine fuelled, manic changes include things like; updating prospect names and logos, adding new slides, deleting old ones and, on occasion, reordering the whole presentation at the very last minute.

It has to stop for two reasons. 

The first is a selfish one – as a sales professional, you’ve put way too much effort into the opportunity to let it fail, for a last minute slapdash approach.  Every sales engagement is the culmination of a hell of a lot of investment and work.  From the cold calling purgatory, late nights of evaluation, expensive marketing campaigns, advanced PowerPoint training and professional development and, lest we forget, the pain of a 5am alarm to ensure you get to the prospect’s office in time.  No matter how you analyse it, sales people, and the businesses that employ them,  invest a huge amount of effort and money in to get in front of the prospect in the first place.  Yet despite this, you’ll Starbucks are filled to the rafters with sales professionals, Latte in hand, making changes to their most important sales tool MINUTES before the meeting. 

This phenomenon is so common that we’ve given it a name – the Presentation Paradox.

The second reason is one of commercial reality. Whether you like it or not, the quality of your sales presentation will have a major impact on your success.  So turning up to a meeting with something unconsidered and woefully generic puts you and your business on the backfoot before you’ve even got into the rapport stage. 

The tell-tell signs are all too familiar: more focus on your business than theirs (unnecessary pictures of your HQ, a world map with pins stuck in it to show where you have offices and meaningless revenue and EBITDA charts) slide upon slide stuffed with overly detailed content (just in case the prospect asks a question about an obscure feature of product), and a distinct lack of any clear message. 

Which ultimately means, the sales presentation is no longer about meeting the needs of your audience and as such adds little or no value.

It’s a crying shame. Sales presentations should be viewed as a ‘moment of truth’ – they are a fantastic opportunity to turn an interested prospect into a valuable and loyal customer.  A tipping point between a success or a wasted journey.  Get your sales presentation design and messaging right however and the future looks bright… mess it up and all that investment (including the coffee) goes down the drain.

And now for the really scary part…

Sadly, to most sales professionals, this news won’t come as a surprise. In their heart of hearts, they know they’ve fallen into the same traps time and again.  Yet the issues remain.  If you don’t believe me, pop along to your nearest coffee shop around 9am on a weekday morning.

So how do you address the issue?  Well for sure, the cure isn’t making sales people better at PowerPoint.  It’s also not about releasing yet another version of the sales presentation to them (chances are that this would be bastardised within days as well). 

It’s about changing behaviour and getting sales people to recognise the privilege of presenting
Our response to this is The Sales Lab, a day dedicated to reengaging sales people with their presentation and ensuring that audience needs, not caffeine induced panic, come first.  You can learn more about this open course here.

So if you’re reading this in a coffee shop and see a person frantically tweaking a PowerPoint, please tactfully suggest they check out The Sales Lab.  Not only will they appreciate it, but you can be sure their audiences will too.

Enjoy your coffee…