Why Your Slide Deck is Killing Your Sales

Oct 20

Last week, a colleague told me about a drive-along she did with a sales rep who was meeting with a new prospect. The rep invested time asking some good questions at the outset of the call and gained some valuable insight about what was important to his prospect (profit margins).

However, afterwards, he fired up his PowerPoint and walked through a canned presentation that focused on his company including a slide that showed a photo of their Sweden plant (the sales rep was talking to a locally owned business with one location!). Not once did he address profit margins during his presentation.

Walking into an initial discovery meeting with a prepared slide deck is killing your sales because it prevents you from discussing what is really important to your prospect. Yet, so many sales people feel compelled to review a 20-30 slide presentation because they (or someone in their company) feel that prospects want or need to know that information.

I worked with a client last who adamantly stated, “The most important slide in our deck is the one that shows our global client list.” Regardless of how much I tried to sway his opinion otherwise, he refused.

Want to improve your sales efforts?

Leave the fancy PowerPoint show in your car. And instead, have a conversation with your prospect.

Ask her questions about her business, her goals and her challenges. Then, talk about potential solutions. When you have that worked out, schedule a follow-up meeting so you can present the best options and save your slide deck for that meeting. But…focus those slides strictly on the solution, not the marketing hype about your company.

I guarantee you will save time AND capture more sales.

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Be Grateful

Oct 13

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada.

For my readers in other parts of the world, it is a national holiday intended as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Therefore, I thought I would look at some of the things sales people should be grateful for.

Also, for my American friend, colleagues and readers, I know your celebration is on November 27th; however, I still thought this would be an appropriate topic as your holiday approaches.

When you get down because selling is a tough career choice.
Be grateful that your earning potential is only limited by your personal efforts (assuming of course, you earn commission).

If you spend a lot of time behind the wheel of a car or in an airplane.
Be grateful that you have this opportunity compared to people who are confined to working in an unpleasant environment (toll collectors’ jump to mind).

When you face those challenging and difficult customers.
Be grateful for these opportunities to improve your skills and keep learning.

 Competition gets tougher every year.
Be grateful that you have so many resources (books, blogs, YouTube, newsletters, etc.) that can teach you how to stand out from the competition.

It now seems like price is more a focus.
Be grateful when you engage a decision makers in a conversation about the value you can bring to their organization rather than a price discussion.

 It’s stressful striving for sales targets every month or quarter
Be grateful you have this challenge because there are many highly-qualified people who would just love to have a job. 

And now, on a personal note…

 I’m grateful that I have a career that I absolutely love.
I’m grateful that my clients push me to learn more and improve my own sales knowledge and training skills.
I’m grateful to have a network of great friends and business colleagues.
I’m grateful that I have a terrific wife who supports me and gives me a different perspective with the business challenges I encounter.
I’m also grateful I have two terrific daughters who love me unconditionally.

What about you? What are you most grateful for?

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How to Stay Relevant When You’re 88

Oct 06


I was fascinated to hear that singer Tony Bennett broke his previous record and recently became the oldest singer to top the Billboard 200. Not bad for someone who is 88 years (young) with his first “record” being released in 1952!

Although he has been singing for more than 60 years, he has found a way to stay relevant and still sell music. Something he accomplished by teaming up with Lady Gaga.

What about you?

Are you staying relevant with your prospects?

If you’re doing the same thing you did two or three years ago, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant and losing sales to a competitor who is more current and relevant.

Business now evolves in the blink of an eye and what was effective just a few years ago, often doesn’t work. This means you need to change your approach.

Here are a few questions to consider…

  • Are you up-to-date on current business trends, changes in your industry, and in your customer’s company?
  • Are you using a variety strategies to connect with hard-to-reach prospects?
  • Are you upgrading your sales skills (prospecting, presenting, negotiating, etc.)?
  • What are you doing to stand out as an industry leader or expert in your field?
  • Can you speak your prospect’s language and do you know what issues they are struggling to resolve?

Take a lesson from the oldest crooner and look for ways to stay relevant, regardless of your age and experience.

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How To Make a Prospect Feel Icky

Sep 29

I recently attended a webinar that was hosted by a software company. The webinar was followed by a product demo which I did not watch because I was only interested in the content, not the software.

The next day I received a call from one of their sales reps who was “following up.” I give the company credit for making these calls because one of their goals was to generate new leads. However, the caller made a fatal mistake…

In a 45 second call, he used my name six times. Six times!

Obviously he had been taught that it is important to use a prospect’s name during a conversation but his approach backfired. After stating my name for the third time, I started focusing on how many more times he would use it. Plus, I couldn’t wait to get him off the call. 

In forty-five seconds he managed to alienate me and come across as sleazy and slimy. In short, he made me feel icky.

When you’re making calls to new prospects, it is important to use their name. However, reciting it repeatedly during your conversation will NOT create rapport. In fact, it will actually cause people to mentally retreat and make it more difficult to move the conversation forward.

 

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The Cardinal Sin of Selling

Sep 22

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During a sales training workshop I conducted last week, we discussed the worst way to open a sales conversation, meeting, appointment or call (cold or warm) and that is to talk about your company.

This includes your background, history, number of locations, how long you have been in business, your client list, awards you may have won or anything else that is self-serving.

The same concept holds true for your slide decks. Most companies insist that their logo is prominently displayed on every single slide in the deck. And, it’s not uncommon for marketing departments to insert up to a dozen slides in the beginning of the deck, all of which focus on your organization.

Needless to say, this was a tough concept for some of the participants to swallow. I heard a lot of “Yeah, but…” comments such as:

“Our marketing team says we have to open with those slides”

“Our prospect’s don’t always know who we are so we need to tell them right away”

“It shows how diverse we are”

“My boss says every presentation has to start this way”

But, here’s the deal…your prospects don’t care about that stuff. They don’t want to know about your company or your business.

They only care about THEIR business and THEIR problems which means the faster you laser in on key business issues they face (related to your solution), the quicker you will get their attention and stand out from your competition.

Sounds simple, right?

I will be the first to admit that it can be tough to get others in your organization to change to this approach. One company I used to work with started every sales presentation with a slide titled, “The Four Reasons We Exist” and no matter how much I encouraged them to eliminate this slide, the Sales Manager refused, stating, “This is really important and our prospects need to know it.”

But, I can say that during my 12 years of private practice, I have never had a prospect say, “I didn’t see anything about your company in this presentation” nor have I lost a sale because I did not include my company background, client list, etc.

Here’s a suggestion that might help shake you from this habit…

Ask a few of your existing clients if the detailed information about your company influenced their original buying decision. Unless you are dealing with a highly analytic individual (who ALWAYS wants more info) the chances are that client will tell you that your corporate marketing slides, brochures or review of your company’s awards, history, etc., did not affect their decision.

If you need more persuasion, here is what happened after last week’s class.

One of the participants in last week’s workshop decided he would put this idea to practical use to see if it actually worked.

That night, he reached out to a prospect who he had been trying to connect with unsuccessfully for several months. His previous approach had been similar to one above, but this time, he changed his strategy. Once he introduced himself, he asked the prospect a few questions about his business, and after a short conversation, he secured an appointment with that prospect for the following week.

He admitted that he was surprised but he said, “I now realize how difficult I’ve been making it for myself to get appointments and meetings.”

I encourage you to focus more on your prospect the next time you need to give a sales presentation or make a sales call. I guarantee they won’t mind or object!

Discover what else you can do to create and deliver a dynamic and compelling sales presentation that will motivate your prospect to take action and buy from you. Check it out here.

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You Had Me At “Welcome”

Sep 15


During our trip to Boston and Washington in August, my wife and I took advantage of the hop-on, hop-off bus tours. I enjoy these tours because you get to see most of the major highlights and points of interest in a large city.

Interestingly, it was the driver that made the difference in the tours. Over the course of four days in the two cities, we had seven or eight drivers, and one individual stood out from the rest.

He quickly caught my attention when he welcomed the bus load of people to the tour and explained his nickname, “Muckah.” He used self-deprecating humor and made fun of his Boston accent and immediately endeared himself with the people on the bus.

This is a critical skill for sales people, too.

If you can get prospects to like you as well as respect you, you increase the likelihood of moving that sales conversation forward because they will be more open and straight-forward with you.

Don’t forget the impact of first impressions.

Using appropriate humor can break the ice and reduce tension. A great smile combined with good eye contact can make the other people feel good. Your appearance, attire and body stature deliver unspoken messages to your prospect. And, your overall communication skills greatly affect your results.

The key is to ensure that you do everything possible to demonstrate that you are a professional and to capture the other person’s attention in a positive manner.

BTW: The driver explained that he enjoyed “mucking” around in the dirt and mud when he was a kid and when asked for a nickname he automatically said, “Mucker”. However, with his Bostonian accent it sounded like, “Muckah” and the bus company engraved that on his name plate.

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What’s Your Warm-up?

Sep 08

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While in Boston on my recent vacation, my wife and I decided to take in a Red Sox game at the infamous Fenway Park. We arrived early and I watched the two starting pitchers (Joe Kelly, Boston and Collin McHugh, Houston) warm up.

Kelly spent time stretching and limbering up before throwing. And then, he stood about 60 feet away from his catcher and threw several dozen pitches. An average warm-up, I’d say.

McHugh’s took a different approach. He started about 40 feet away from his catcher and threw easy pitches into the strike zone. After each throw, he moved back a step or two and soon he was throwing from the standard 60 foot distance. However, he didn’t stop there.

He kept moving back, and eventually, he must have been at least 100 feet away from his catcher. That meant he had to throw harder and faster to reach his target. And he did! I was impressed how accurate his throws were from that distance.

His warm-up intrigued me because I knew that after pitching the ball over 100 feet, the 60 foot distance during the game would seem easy.

Houston went on to win the game 8-1.

McHugh’s routine got me thinking about warm-up routines in sales.

An effective warm-up can make the difference between a deal and “no- sale”. If we go into an important sales conversation without properly preparing or “warming up” we run the risk of losing that opportunity.

So…

What’s your warm-up before a sales call, meeting or presentation?

What actions do you work through to ensure that you are fully prepared?

What mental preparation do you undergo before an important call?

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Can You Disconnect?

Sep 02

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My wife and I just returned from a much-needed two-week vacation. We spent the first week driving to, and touring, Boston and Washington (that’s the Washington Monument in the background). Then we relaxed in Hilton Head for another week. It was a perfect mix of activity and rest.

Unlike previous vacations, I resisted the temptation to respond to emails and engage in work-related activities. I admit that I did reply to a few emails, but I simply advised the senders that I was on vacation and would follow-up upon my return.

This is a serious challenge in today’s business environment. Many sales people feel an overwhelming need to stay connected and respond immediately to emails and voice mails even when they are on vacation.

I don’t buy into excuses such as, “My clients expect a quick response all the time”. With rare exceptions, customers don’t expect you to be at their beck-and-call when you are on vacation, and if they do, I would seriously consider whether that client is worth keeping.

I believe that it is critical to disconnect from work even when we enjoy what we do.

We need to give our brain a rest from work activity. We need to see new sights, take in different experiences, try new foods and take a complete break. And that means disengaging from email and other work-related activities.

During the upcoming posts, I will share sales insights that were gained from our trip.

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Stop Spouting Off!

Aug 25

While I was having my car serviced recently at the dealership, I ended up speaking with the General Manager (we knew each other through recreational softball).

During our conversation he stressed how their company was changing their approach to selling cars by focusing more on relationships rather than “telling” people everything about the vehicles they were looking at or considering. He noted that people know all the “stuff” about cars so telling them about the technical aspects was a waste of time.

However, about 30 minutes later I watched a sales person lead a customer through the showroom. And, not surprisingly, he was telling the customer everything he knew about each vehicle.

Wake up!

Spouting off product knowledge or specs about your product is NOT going to compel someone to buy from you. People can get that information from the Internet and, in most cases, they do before they call or visit you!

As Linda Richardson once penned, “telling is not selling” so stop spouting off. You can close more sales, earn more credibility and differentiate yourself from your competition by asking deep, thought-provoking questions that get your prospects to sit up and think.

It’s much effective than spouting off.

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Are You Willing to Put in the Effort?

Aug 18

Last week I was conducting a post-training call with a client’s sales team and during the call we discussed what concepts the team had implemented since the initial sales training workshop.

I was not surprised to learn that several sales people had not implemented the concepts into their sales routine. I also wasn’t shocked to learn that these individuals had not made much progress in their sales results since the initial training program.

Improving your results takes effort. You can’t expect to implement something new and get great results.

New skills take time to master. You need to practice. And you need to put in the effort.

Think about your favorite hobby, pastime or non-work activity.

Whether it’s gardening, pottery, playing a musical instrument, doing puzzles, golfing, etc., I guarantee that you went through learning curve before you started mastering that activity. I play darts in a Division 1 league but it took many hours of practise and playing to reach that level.

It’s no different with sales.

Changing your approach takes discipline, effort and hard work.

Today’s sales environment has changed and if you have not changed and improved your approach, you are going to get the same results you always have. 

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