April 18

How to deliver a successful presentation when your prospect is short on time.


You’ve been given ninety minutes to present and spent two  weeks (and countless hours) preparing to deliver a successful presentation.  Unfortunately, when you arrive, your prospect greets you with the following:

Prospect: “Sorry, I’ve only got a few minutes. Can you just give me a quick overview?”

Aargh! Disappointing to say the least. Everything rides on your next step when your prospect cuts down the time you need to deliver a well-thought out sales presentation. Unfortunately, the knee jerk reaction of most salespeople is to go along with the request, racing through the presentation like an over-caffeinated auctioneer, dismissing slides right and left and giving short service to value messages.

Resist the urge to rush. Here’s why:

Rushing through your presentation is dangerous and counter-productive. People retain very little when it’s delivered at them from a fire hose. Audience interaction is completely tossed aside in the interest of time, and almost any solution sounds unnecessarily complex when not presented in a strategic manner with associated context and benefits.

You need a better strategy for how to deliver a successful presentation when your prospect is short on time.

Here are three strategies for adjusting your presentation on the fly and making the best use of the time you do have with your prospect. If you prepare for each option, you’ll be in good shape no matter what is thrown at you. Besides the odd rotten tomato.

1.   Reschedule the presentation

Asking to reschedule the meeting when your prospect has more time is often the best option as it allows you to deliver your presentation at a digestible pace and make your most persuasive case. Most prospects will agree to reschedule if you give them a compelling reason to do so by providing an insight and showing value. For example:

“I don’t want to do you a disservice and rush through your proposal. I’ve uncovered some interesting things about your current efforts to increase your social presence – including how you can increase your campaign open rates by as much as 30% − and I want to be sure and give you the full picture. What does next week at this time look like for you?”

If this is your only chance or your prospect insists you just “Run through the main points,” move to strategy number three.

2.  Turn your presentation into an impromptu discovery meeting

The best use of time when your prospect is short on time can be to find out more about your prospect to further tailor or adjust a future presentation. Discover if anything has changed in the prospect’s situation since you last spoke that you need to address in your presentation, like a change in priorities, personnel, or strategy. Bonus: Prospects are often more willing to open up in an impromptu discovery setting.

3.  Deliver a preview-style presentation

If this is your only chance to present, you need to deliver an abbreviated version of your presentation. Think of this as a movie preview designed to get your prospect to buy a ticket to the movie. Previews don’t typically give away the ending or reveal the entire plot. They provide just enough of the story to hook the viewer. In the same way, you want to reveal just enough of your story to hook your prospect so that he wants to see the entire presentation. Here’s how to do a preview-style presentation using many of the elements from your prepared presentation:

  1. Deliver your opening hook.  You should have developed a strong opening for your presentation that intrigues your prospect, provides insight, and delivers some value. Don’t skip this step as it sets the stage for what’s to come and heightens attention and interest. Read here for tips on creating a strong opening hook.
  2. Pick the one or two (depending on time) topics to cover. You should have prioritized your agenda in your discovery. Take the top one or two challenges or objectives that are of critical importance to your prospect.
  3. Deliver the full arc of each topic. Don’t cut it short to try and cover more. Make sure you cover how the topic relates to their challenge, the impact it has on their organization, and the benefit of your solution.
  4. Finish with your value proposition and a clear and specific call-to-action, i.e. to explore the full agenda or move to the next step in the sales process.

Knowing how to deliver a successful presentation under any circumstances is vital today!


impromptu presentations, short presentations, time management

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