Five ways to stop wasting time…
“Why are you wasting my life?” Can you imagine a client saying that to you after you delivered what you thought was a pretty good, on target business presentation? Jeff Bezos did exactly that after one of his engineers delivered a complicated, boring presentation to the outspoken founder of Amazon. I don’t know if that engineer still has a job at Amazon, but one thing I do know: If that were an outside salesperson, he or she would have left without a sale – and not even qualified for free shipping!
While it’s rare that prospects or clients express themselves quite so bluntly after a presentation that misses the mark, I am sure there are times when they have wanted to stand up and join Jeff in demanding, “Why are you wasting my life?!” Whether you’re selling a product, service or idea, you can’t afford to waste a moment of your prospect’s time or let the seeds of doubt take hold. Of course, no one consciously sets out to take their audience on a long, rambling ride to nowhere, but there are many small things you may be doing that can add up to a negative perception.
One of the requirements of my first job was to sit through hundreds of sales presentations, meetings and calls. While only a handful could be labeled a complete waste of time, the majority were filled with moments where my thoughts ventured into the dangerous territory of: “Didn’t we cover that?” to “So what?” to “When is he going to get to the point?!”
As a salesperson, I was determined not to let those thoughts take hold of my audience. This was more difficult to accomplish than I realized. One of the reasons was that I had a deck to present that was better suited for a brochure than a live presentation. I was expected to include certain information in a certain order, including a detailed corporate overview slide and customer references long before I got to any value for my audience.
It was how things were always done. I learned very quickly that I could do things “how they were always done” or I could win more business by presenting my message in a way that quickly connected with my audience and delivered value, but not both. I chose the latter. Today, I’m going to share five of those techniques with you:
Five ways to stop wasting time and start winning business:
- Start on time. Waiting for members of your audience to show up? Avoid letting boredom take hold or penalizing those that are on time by having two short openings prepared. One for the executives that jumps into the high-level benefits you’ll be covering, the other for end users that focuses on how you can improve their job performance. That way you provide something for everyone in the audience without repeating information once everyone has joined the meeting.
- Quickly provide value. With attention spans dangerously low to begin with, starting off with long introductions, company overviews or discourses on the traffic or weather will have your audience tuning out before you even get started. Start with value delivered in an interesting package, like a story, fact or analogy. Don’t give it all away up front (see #4) but let them know that they are in good hands and that you will be addressing their needs right out of the starting gate.
- Sprinkle in company information. In this day and age the odds of your prospect meeting with you without knowing something about your company are pretty low. Of course there are key points and client success stories you want to highlight, but don’t start blowing your company horn before you’ve earned the right. Ditch the corporate overview slide and find creative ways to sprinkle in credibility-building points throughout your presentation.
- Create suspense. Turn to any television channel and you’ll see suspense used in almost every type of programming, from drama to comedy to the local news. People love to figure out the puzzle and used sparingly in your presentation, suspense can go a long way to holding your audience’s attention. For tips on how to keep your audience tuned into the end of your presentation, go here. (Yes, I did just use suspense!)
- Organize your message. Many times a presentation appears more complex than necessary simply because it’s poorly or inconsistently organized. Having a formula that takes into account what grabs and maintains an audience’s attention and how they digest information is critical. If you make your audience work too hard to follow along, you will lose them and all your efforts will be wasted. For tools on how to organize your presentation in a unique and memorable way, go here.