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 then and now are the disengaged prospects reaching for their smartphones.
We don’t live in the 90’s anymore and neither do our prospects. Consider this:
- Attention spans are half of what they used to be a decade ago.
- Buyers are better informed than ever. Nearly 2/3 research your company before they even contact you.
- Products and services are being 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 techniques to present their solutions that date 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, it’s startling how 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 new book, Sales Presentations for Dummies, I explore the many changes you must make to stand out, be heard, and drive business with busy prospects today. Here are a few of the key changes that must be addressed in your sales presentation in order to be successful:
- 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 drive home benefits, but to connect that information and those benefits to value for that organization or prospect. And to do that effectively you need to understand what is of value to each specific prospect and tailor your presentation around that. That requires excellent discovery skills and an efficient system for tailoring your presentation, both of which are outlined in the book.
- Adjust for attention deficit disorder.
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 trigger that attention, and how to structure your presentation around those realities. Too often key sales messages fall on deaf ears because the salesperson is not effectively managing their audience’s attention during the presentation.
- Create differentiation beyond your deck.
In the last century there was more novelty associated with PowerPoint presentations, but today’s buyers have grown up with them as near constant companions in school and work. 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.
- 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 with in a competitive market. A persuasive structure is easy to follow, memorable, and ties in logic and emotion, which is necessary to drive action.
The bottom line is this: No matter how great your product or service is, if you’re still using presentation techniques and skills developed before the words “smart” and “phone” became a noun, you are at a distinct competitive disadvantage. For more 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!