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Salespeople: Are you still presenting like it's 1999?

Four key changes you need to make today


Hey kids, want to know what 1999 was like? Sit in on most sales presentations today and you’ll instantly be transported back in time. Boring company overviews. Long monologues. Forgettable messaging. The only difference between 1999 and 2015 are the disengaged prospects reaching for their smartphones.

We don’t live in the 90’s any more, and neither do our prospects. Consider this:

  • Attention spans are half of what they were a decade ago.
  • Buyers are better informed than ever. Two-thirds of them research your company before even contacting you.
  • Competitive differences are smaller and products and services are often bought and sold like commodities.

In the second decade of the 21st century, technology and prospects continue to change, yet too many salespeople are still using presentation techniques dating back to a time when fax machines and dial-up modems were state-of-the-art. Yes, they’re still around today, but if you use them, nobody will take you seriously.

While companies may invest in giving their salespeople new tools for social selling, leveraging trigger events, or prospecting, a startling few are arming their salespeople with the skills and tools they need to present their solution effectively in today’s changing selling environment.

In my book, Sales Presentations for Dummies, I explore the many changes you must make to stand out, be heard, and drive business in your sales presentation or demo today.  Here are four of those key changes:

  1. Tailor with a unique value proposition. 
    Today’s prospects are more informed than ever. A salesperson’s primary responsibility is no longer to provide information or even benefits, but to connect that information and those benefits to value for the organization or prospect. To do that effectively you need to understand what is of value to each individual prospect and tailor your presentation accordingly. This requires excellent discovery skills and an efficient system for customizing your presentation.
  2. Adjust for shorter attention spans.
    With attention spans half of what they were in the previous century and the siren call of technology never far away, taking your audience on a long, slow ride can spell disaster. It’s critical that you understand what drives a prospect’s attention, how often you need to regain attention, and how to structure your presentation around it. Too often key sales messages fall on deaf ears because the salesperson is not effectively managing the audience’s attention.
  3. Differentiate beyond your deck.
    Today’s buyers have grown up and grown bored with PowerPoint or other slide decks.  Awesome animations? Cool new graphics? Ho hum.  Prospects have seen it all. Relying on your presentation medium to set you apart is a losing strategy.  Yes, you want to have the best slides or medium you can to support your message, but how you deliver it and connect with your audience is going to have much more impact than all the zooming, swooping, and fades in the world.
  4. Leverage a persuasive structure.
    From a TED Talk to an informal conversation, there are as many ways to structure a presentation as Kim Kardashian has selfies, but if your goal is for a prospect to take some sort of action at the end of your presentation or conversation, you need a structure that is proven to persuade. A persuasive structure is easy to follow, addresses impact areas, and resonates on both a logical and emotional level in order to drive action.

The bottom line is this: No matter how great your product or service is, if you’re still using presentation techniques developed before the words “smart” and “phone” became a noun, you are at a distinct competitive disadvantage.  For examples, tips and tactics on how to adjust your presentation to meet the demands of presenting today, check out my new book Sales Presentations for Dummies. See you in the 21st century!


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Julie Hansen

Julie Hansen, author of Sales Presentations for Dummies, helps sales and business executives craft and deliver winning presentations and demos by applying today’s best practices from business, acting, improv, and storytelling. Julie’s techniques for leveraging proven performance skills in presentations have been adopted by Fortune 500 companies across the globe, including IBM and Oracle, as well as local Colorado companies. Learn more about sales workshops and keynotes at  PerformanceSalesandTraining.com, start a sales conversation at Julie@actingforsales.com  or connect with Julie on LinkedIn.

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