Insights from the field
This marks the 17th year I've worked in the training and development industry. I've really loved teaching people how to sell, how to build relationships and how to articulate their value. I've especially loved teaching people how to present. But as it relates to those who participate (present) in the finals process, the standard touch, turn and talk just doesn't cut it.
They've seen it all before
If you're lucky, you're the first team to present in the process. At least then you'll have fresh eyes on the standard 80-page deck. Companies in concert with their consultant put a great deal of effort into the finals process (in addition to the consultants fee) and are thirsty for better outcomes. The presentation process is getting so predictable that I've even heard finals evaluation teams joke about picking the firm that made them sit through the least number of slides. But there's more to this. Companies are being more intentional about the stakeholders assigned to finals evaluation teams. They expect more role and industry-related information related to their industry, their company, their job and their plan.
Zero to 80 will get you a ticket
The stakeholder teams to which salespeople present have already seen the RFP. If they've used their best Evelyn Wood speed reading skills they've reviewed the areas pertinent to them. By the time they visit your site or invite you to theirs, they are looking for different things. There is no need to power through every slide in every capability area. The RFP took care of that. Rather they are looking at how you interact as a team and what it would look and feel like to work with you.
Practice defining moments, not the whole deck
Rehearsing content and who's going to present what will always be important. But today, that's table stakes. Instead, what really impresses stakeholder teams is how you open, advance and close the finals "experience". Here's what I mean. As for openings, the team leader needs to present the collective asset called the team, and then segue to individual intros. I recommend the I/WHAT/YOU format - an introduction that shares who you are, what clients find valuable in your contributions and why the stakeholders might be interested in that. POINT - you must nail the meeting opener. You never get a second chance to open. Advancing the dialog is about getting the meeting off to a good start by connecting the content to the audience. After each section, the best team leaders check in with participants to see if they'd like to add any of their insights or if they'd like more information. The team leader should let both teams know where they are in the process and work the agenda collaboratively. As it relates to transitions, teams have a choice. They can have the team leader drive hand offs or the team can rehearse transitions so everyone knows who they follow. I prefer the latter since it provides for greater impact.
The Close in the finals presentation is typically a review of what you've already told the audience, several statements about why the selling team is qualified and then an "ask" for the business. These are the right steps but good can be the enemy of great. The team leader must be the note keeper, being sure to track stakeholder comments and reactions to the agenda and the value provided by the selling team. The real art to the close in a finals presentation is the team leader's ability to summarize the 4-5 key points that fell out of the dialog, recap the spoken words of the buying team and to ask for greater clarity or input. After that, I love to hear salespeople of all types say "Based on what you shared with us and what we've learned, I believe we can uniquely support you and your participants." What should follow are the reasons why and an offer to connect post-meeting for additional questions and support.
This approach makes it feel different to prospects while staying true to your firm's message and platform capability.
Bill Walton Sales Training has over 60 years of collective Fortune 500 company experience in Sales, Sales Training and Field Sales Management. Our specialty is preparing individuals and organizations to present their value propositions in a way that results in higher close ratios. Our team are un-blurring the lines of differentiation between their client's fiercest competitors.