I was working with the top three salespeople at a financial services company to build a sales training for new hires in the company. Part of the content for the training was a deconstruction of the top performers’ sales process.
One of the salespeople had separated his clients into categories, mostly by the structure of their entity. For example, was it a family business, a joint venture, a corporation, a trust, a fund…? For each type, he had identified a handful of issues that were relevant. When he sat down with the client he would start by exploring each issue. Usually, he’d find an area that his potential client was struggling with. Using that as a springboard, he would identify other stress areas and knock-on problems.
“Rule number one for me,” he said, “is to get them talking. I don’t want to be the one talking. If I am, it’s going to be a short meeting.”
The number two salesperson had a similar mantra: “Explore their reality, uncover all issues,” he said.
It was no surprise to me that both the top producers focused on identifying problems.
I mentioned to them both that I was meeting with the number three salesperson the next day to talk about her process. The two salespeople looked at me with raised eyebrows.
“She makes a presentation for every client. That’s the last thing in the world I would do,” said the first. The second concurred. “Why would I want to be talking to my slides?”
“She does seem to get business, though. I’ll never understand it,” said the first.
Kate did prepare a presentation for every client. It began with an analysis of some key statistics and indicators about their company, and her guess as to where they were headed. This was two slides and two minutes and theorized what their strategic focus was, if she could discern that focus. If she couldn’t, she guessed. Then she found a transaction; ideally one that Kate or the firm had worked on that seemed to exhibit the variables that were consistent with her client’s desires. And she would walk them through the details, especially those that were tailored to the needs that Kate anticipated her prospect might share.
“But why do you do a presentation?” I asked.
“So I can interrupt it.”
Here came the payoff insight. “While I’m presenting, I watch the faces of my client prospect, as soon as I see a flicker, a flinch, a sidelong glance, anything that indicates interest or disagreement, I ask. The presentation is just a platform. A platform for questions.”
Suddenly her method and the methods of the other two salespeople didn’t seem so different. Kate’s presentation created a structure for the meeting and gave her the credibility to ask questions about what was on the screen and her client’s reactions.
I asked her what happened if her assessment of their strategy was way off.
“If I’m wrong,” she replied, “it’s as good as being right. If I’m right, it indicates that I understand their business — I get credibility. If I’m wrong, they’ll explain it to me. They’ll say more when I’m wrong then when I’m right. Wrong means I get to ask questions and learn. If the whole presentation is right on, I actually lose. I need to be at least a little wrong to really understand.”
A presentation can be an effective mechanism for your meeting. It establishes credibility and it provides a platform from which you can ask questions. Just make sure you don’t spend your meeting presenting your presentation.
The ideas from this post come from Tim and Tim’s book Never Be Closing.