WHAT EVERY STARBUCKS TELLS US ABOUT THE STATE OF SALES PRESENTATIONS

Friday, July 22nd, 2016 by Simon Morton

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‘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 totem pole you may sit, it’s become a universal reference point for the rough and tumble of sales and a way of demonstrating that this career path is not for the faint hearted.

In the world of sales presentations, it’s taken on a second meaning. Caffeine hits and sales presentations have, for the wrong reasons, become synonymous. How? Because every morning in every coffee shop in every major city across the globe, there are legions of sales people furiously tweaking PowerPoint presentation design’s moments before their sales pitch. Manic, caffeine fuelled changes to presentations (updating prospect names and logos, adding new slides, deleting old slides and, on occasion, reordering the whole caboodle at the very last minute) are commonplace.

It has to stop. And it has to stop for two reasons.

The first is a purely selfish one – as a sales professional, you’ve put too much into this to let it fail for the sake of a slapdash approach at the final hurdle. Every sales opportunity is the culmination of a hell of a lot of work and investment. From the purgatory of cold calling, late nights evaluating the opportunity (and competition), expensive marketing campaigns, investment in advanced PowerPoint training and professional development and, lest we forget, the pain of dragging yourself out of bed at 5am to ensure you get to the prospect’s office in time. No matter how you calculate it, businesses and their sales people invest a huge amount of effort and money in order to get in front of the prospect in the first place. Yet despite this, Starbucks are filled to the gunnels with sales professionals, Americano in hand, making changes to their most important sales tool MINUTES before going into the meeting.

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

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The second reason is one of commercial reality. 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 that bears all the hallmarks of a woefully generic and unconsidered presentation 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: slide upon slide stuffed with overly detailed content (just in case the prospect asks a question about an obscure feature of product), 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) and a distinct lack of any clear message.

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

This is a crying shame. Sales presentations should be viewed as a ‘moment of truth’ – the opportunity to take an interested prospect and turn them into a valuable and loyal customer. A tipping point between a wasted journey and a success. Get your sales presentation design and messaging right and the future looks bright…mess it up and all that investment (including the coffee) goes out of the window.

And now for the really scary part…

None of what I’ve just shared will come as a surprise to any sales professional. In their heart of hearts, they know they’ve fallen into the same traps time and time again. Yet the issues persist. And if you don’t believe me, pop along to your nearest coffee shop around 9am on any 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 the person next to you is 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 as well.

Enjoy your coffee…

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