6-3. The Sales Presentation

Have you ever stepped out of a “new business” meeting and been completely unsure of what just happened? These are the ones where you return home to your significant other, who asks, “How did it go?” and the best you can do is reply, “Okay, I guess.”
“Well, did they like your portfolio?”
“Oh sure.”
“Do they have any work for you to do?”
“Sure, they have stuff going on.”
“Is there anything you can help them with?”
“They’re going to call me.”
“And when they call, what are they going to be calling about?”

Don’t let this happen to you!

Did you make your phone calls? Do you have appointments with qualified prospects? Let’s review “qualified:”

1) Your prospect is in need of a graphic designer now or in the very near future.

2) Your prospect has a deadline for the work he needs done.

3) You know what the prospect’s budget is (the best); or, you know approximately what his budget is (2nd best); or, you have at least discussed money (barely acceptable).

“Seeing people” is the part of the sales curve where you start to spend real time; if you have failed to qualify your prospects you will be wasting real time. Think of it; with the phone you can call 60 companies a day. With face-to-face meetings, even if you’re a real animal, you can only see five or six prospects per day. I never schedule more than two. Spending your time with unqualified prospects is a lot like discovering typos at a press check — don’t put yourself in that position.

A lot of sales trainers emphasize “closing” techniques. This is the part of the sale when you “go in for the kill.” Some salespeople find this moment so intoxicating that they learn little else about sales. Their entire presentation is merely a thinly disguised string of “closes” designed to beat the prospect into submission. This is the mark of an amateur. Naturally, you will need to learn how to close, otherwise you just become a professional visitor, but closing is only the “period” at the end of a successful sales process.

I am going to teach you about opening. A properly opened sale will virtually close itself, and it is so simple to do. Please understand that this is YOUR meeting. You called it, so you will be expected to control it.

Your Objectives:
1) Determine whether or not you can help this company.

2) Determine whether or not you would like to work with them.

3) If the answer to the first two questions is “yes,” then your objective is to set up a second meeting where you will present your proposal.

With rare exceptions, a prospect will never buy your work until he buys you. Once he buys YOU, other graphic designers can send him promo packages and call him on the phone and woo him all day long — YOU are his graphic designer. Your first meeting should be designed to start building the foundation for this type of relationship from the first minute. Your time is very limited. You only have about 20 minutes to get your prospect to open up and tell you about his company, himself and his graphic design needs while at the same time building rapport, trust and credibility.

Given these parameters, and when you are dealing with anyone other than an art/creative director, you can understand why it is such a bad idea to show your portfolio at the top of the meeting. This prospect doesn’t know you. The chances are good that until a day or so ago, he has never even heard of you. Opening your portfolio at this stage will give him the exact same feelings as if you were to show him photos of your kids. “We bought this little outfit for him last March; this was taken on our vacation to Tahoe…” That’s right, he doesn’t care! Bring it, but keep it zipped. It’s a prop.

So there goes THAT crutch, right? Here is how you do it: There are only three main parts to a successful sales presentation, all of which will be controlled by you. If you screw up the order, you may still make the sale, but it will be in spite of your efforts, not because of them.

1) Impersonal, easy-to-answer questions (5 – 7 minutes)

2) Personal questions. (5 – 7 minutes)

3) Your presentation. (2 – 5 minutes)

This is so easy! If you can just remember these three parts, no matter how weird the meeting gets, or how nervous you get, or when you’re not sure what comes next, just think…! “Am I in step one, two or three?”

Your job is to ask questions, LISTEN, and keep your meeting on track. You will talk no more than 20% of the time. Let/encourage your prospect to talk the rest of the time.

Within the first 20 seconds of the meeting, I have reached into my small, flat leather bag and taken out a fresh yellow pad of paper and a pen. It doesn’t matter what the prospect is saying or not saying at this point. At the first available opening, I politely say, “I only need about 20 minutes of your time; is that okay?” Of course it is. “Is it okay if I ask you some questions?” It is important to get permission to ask questions, otherwise your prospect will feel as if he is being interrogated. You want to put him at ease.

Impersonal, easy-to-answer questions are just that. There are thousands of them, just try to keep them focused on his business and his industry. I generally start with something like, “I know your company makes navigation equipment [or whatever], who are your primary customers?” This question will generally get a good response, but he won’t elaborate too much because he doesn’t know you. In this phase of the meeting, all you’re trying to do is establish rapport and lower his (natural) defenses. Make some notes, but be careful to maintain as much eye contact as possible; show the prospect you’re paying attention and you care about what he is telling you. You needn’t memorize long lists of questions or things to say; just remember what step you’re in ( 1. Impersonal Questions, 2. Personal Questions, or 3. Your Presentation). His answers will provide all the information you need to formulate your next question. LISTEN! Here are more easy-to-answer questions which you may ask during step one, depending on the direction the conversation takes:

— How long have you been in business?
— How many people does [XYZ Company] employ?
— Do you have other locations besides this one? Where?
— Is there a lot of competition for [his product/service], or do you pretty much have the market to yourself?

By the third or fourth question, the conversation should be flowing pretty smoothly and both of you should be on the same wavelength. If it ISN’T, you need to hang in there until you are getting good, free-flowing responses to your impersonal questions. It is necessary for you to earn the right to ask tougher questions.

The fear for many designers is that the prospect won’t answer their questions and, in fact, simply won’t stand for this sort of thing. It is quite the opposite, I assure you. The prospect is more than comfortable speaking about things in which he is both familiar and involved. Once every three or four years, you may run into someone who is difficult or agitated. Everyone has a bad day now and then; simply ask if it would be better to reschedule the appointment.

Step two — Personal Questions
When you determine the prospect is ready, move smoothly and without fanfare to the personal questions. A nice, soft approach is, “How long have you been with the company?” In step two you want to find out what is important to your prospect. This is where you discover that he is a human being as well as a President or CEO. If you have not established rapport, this question will yield a simple “Six years.” If you have rapport, and with a minimum of probing, he will tell you how he got there, where he was before, the obstacles he had to overcome to build his company and what his vision is for the next five years. Watch him grow more and more enthusiastic as he speaks to you. His wife, his advisors and his employees have probably heard this stuff a million times. You represent fresh ears and fresh enthusiasm for his business goals. It is right about HERE that he is going to start hoping that YOU can help him achieve those goals. He will generally move this meeting into step three with no prompting from you. If he doesn’t, you can nudge him by asking: “How does graphic design [or advertising, or web site development] fit into all this?”

“Ha!” he might say, “You tell me.” You would be happy to, but DON’T, not yet. You want to get this sale all the way opened up. Respond by asking “What types of things have you been doing, and how effective have they been?”

Again, if you have rapport, within 60 seconds you and he will be standing on the same side of the table looking at his company literature. He will walk you through a short critique. “This worked, this didn’t, we still have 5,000 of THESE in the warehouse; something like this is what I wanted to talk to you about…”

Ding! Ding! Ding! Is anyone feeling pressured? I don’t think so.

NOW you can talk about you and your fine services, and because you have been such a good LISTENER, you can relate your story back to him in terms that HE cares about; and you can leave out ALL THE CRAP that you were going to bend his ear with before you learned how to make a sales presentation.

Your story should take about 60 – 90 seconds: Cover how long you have been in the business, a very brief rundown of your credentials, name-drop a couple of clients if he is likely to have heard of them (skip this if they are not house-hold names or in his industry), highlight your specialties.

By this time, you will have already determined your first two objectives; 1) whether or not you can help this company, and 2) whether or not you would like to work with them. If those answers are “yes,” flip to a fresh sheet of paper and say, “[Bob], let’s figure out exactly what you need on this first project. I’ll prepare a proposal and we can meet again day after tomorrow. Does that work for you?” (this is a “closing” question.)

Oh yes. It works oh so well. This is not a rhetorical question, set a time to be back in his office. If the size of the project dictates that proposaling will take longer than 48 hours, break it down into bite-size phases. You want to be back in front of this man in no more than 48 hours.

Before you start writing, check your watch. “We’re going to be here another 10 minutes or so, is that okay with you?” Show him you are mindful of his time; in the future he will be mindful of yours. Continue to ask him questions and write down his project specs. Verify his budget and verify his time frame. You NEED these two numbers before you leave the building. If you leave without these numbers don’t bother to go home. Just keep driving until you run out of gas in the middle of the desert. Then you can WALK home and think about how your chances of landing this client just went from 80% to 20%.


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