Is your sales pitch in the snooze zone?
Solutions to the problem of boring presentations
You’ve probably sat through a few presentations that made you long for the welcome sound of a fire alarm. Why are sales presentations in particular so boring? More often than not, the culprit is this: Most salespeople are still adhering to a presentation structure that has been around since the seventies. And while bell bottoms and tie dye may be back in fashion, a presentation built on a tired, old structure most definitely is not.
I write a lot about how to create and deliver presentations that engage and persuade a business audience today, so I thought it would be interesting to turn the tables. Let's break down what happens to your audience during these predictable sections of your presentation and some quick solutions.
- The Introduction
Audience attention is at its peak during those first few seconds of a presentation. Critical first impressions are being made and expectations are being set. What can an audience expect from a presenter who starts off talking about himself? More of the same. Besides being self-focused, few people can introduce themselves well, making this an awkward moment for both presenter and audience. (Solution: Start with something of interest to the prospect, then provide an introduction. Better yet, have someone else introduce you.)
- The Company Overview:
Right after the presenter introduces himself, he talks about his company. That’s right, a double-feature of “All about us!" Research shows that today’s buyers don’t either care or are already familiar with this information. Predictable facts (company size, locale, clients, etc.) delivered in a predicable spot makes an audience ripe for distractions. (Solution: Dump the corporate overview or sprinkle in relevant facts as needed.)
- The Agenda
I encourage the use of an agenda, but an unimaginative list of bullet points focused on the seller’s product and delivered in excruciating detail seems to serve little purpose beyond keeping the presenter on track. The real problem is that attention is nearing a low point and the presenter still hasn’t delivered anything of value, addressed the prospects needs or given them a compelling reason to keep listening. (Solution: Make your agenda items customer and benefit focused.)
- The Description of the Problem
Here comes the slide revealing all that’s wrong which only the presenter can fix. Not only is this insulting to some in the audience, but it’s given by every vendor that walks in the door. Result? A prospect no longer feels the need to hide while looking at his smartphone. (Solution: Go easy on the blame. Focus on the improvements the prospect will receive with you proposal.)
- The Solution
Ten to 15 minutes into it and the presenter is finally getting to what the audience came to hear. But is anyone still listening? Attention spans are at their lowest point after ten minutes and the presenter has done nothing to stop this downward slide. In addition, this is where even good presenters get lost in a sea of features, making it difficult for the prospect to remember what matters most: how the solution will ultimately benefit them. (Solution: Deliver something of value upfront, building your case as you go.)
- The Proof
References and metrics are important to many prospects, however if this is the first time in the presentation that the salesperson is introducing evidence to support his claims, guess what? He’s too late. Prospects form opinions early and use the rest of the presentation to justify their position. (Solution: Deliver tangible proof that supports your case throughout your presentation.)
- The “Any Questions?” Close
If I never see a slide with a giant question mark on it again, it will be too soon. Instead of ending on a powerful note with clearly defined next steps, the presentation ends with a whimper. A weak closing and your message disappears from the prospect's mind like the previous night's dream. (Solution: First, get rid of that slide! Second, designate a specific time to take questions before you deliver a strong closing to maintain control of the final impression.)
Recognize any of these attention-killers in your own presentation? You can break free from the snooze zone by following a few simple guidelines. For starters, take a look at what a persuasive and engaging structure looks like.