Insights from the field
If your firm wins and loses business as the result of a prospect-driven finals process, this note might be for you.
I very rarely run into salespeople that high five me because they’re on the way to prepare for a finals presentation. Finals are stressful, take a lot of time to prepare for, and often fall under the control of a consultant. So why all the stress? What I’ve found is that the trepidation around finals presentations may be unwarranted. Because the finals presentation shouldn't be about “presenting” at all. So many sales and support people say that they feel pressure to present a standard deck to some unknown mosaic of needs. They often struggle with not knowing what connections to make – what to say, and what to ask for from the stakeholders in front of them. But there is a solution.
Plan hard, present easy
I recommend finals teams (and I mean well-orchestrated, dedicated and trusting teams) plan hardand present easy. I coach them to engage in so much “sleuthing” that they’re prepared to be spontaneous in handling any concern or question. Done the right way, your research and discovery will guide you in your effort to assemble the right presentation based on the agenda provided. Most often, a finals presentation follows an RFP submission, so the prospect has all the nits and grits. Give them the stuff that lies between the lines – your knowhow and the tireless effort you put forth in providing insights, and thus value, to existing clients.
Present to PEOPLE
The folks that attend your meetings all have day jobs and pressing concerns within them. Your job then in preparation is to tell your firm’s story through the lens of the individual prospect role. Share with them the benefit they can derive from their participation in the selection process as well as what you can provide once you’re hired. A CFO will care about different elements of a plan than a Benefits Specialist for example. Play to that dynamic. While discovery can be challenged with the addition of a consultant in the process, it’s critical that you get the information you need to address individual prospect and client needs fully and uniquely.
Finals are hard
In addition to time, it takes a commitment from all those who participate in the finals process. For your team, take the time to really get to know their role, who they are as individuals, and how to promote their unique contributions. This part of preparation is a key piece of the collective asset you will build which is a well-rehearsed presentation.In addition, finals teams need to bring an unrelenting and authentic curiosity about:
– Each stakeholder’s strategy (CFO, VP of HR, Benefits Manager, consultant, etc.)
– Where each participant is in relationship to their view of perfection
– What they want to accomplish with their Retirement or Health plan(s)
Finals are hard - you must convey so much value in a short amount of time so that all stakeholders are convinced and committed to work with you.
Elevating your personal status in the finals process
The mindset of today’s finals teams has to be one that shifts from delivering the “deck” to conveying your thought leadership. It’s a shift from “here’s what we’ve got”, to “here’s what we’re seeing.” The best teams comply dutifully with the RFP response, but add even greater value by conveying to the client in the finals presentation that the team works well with one another. Whether you like it or not, the prospect is projecting what it will feel like to work with you. So give it to them. If your team is not in synch or not aligned, re-staff it.
As a trusted partner you are playing the matching game, bringing stakeholders and their organization the expertise they don’t have, coupled with the capability for producing value from it. In all cases, you should think of your role as a business consultant that comes with ideas for the stakeholder’s business - ideas even their own people aren’t providing. Get them to feel that your value transcends the plan.
Most teams allocate most of their effort on rehearsing the finals presentation. What often gets left out is what happens before and immediately after it. Every visit by prospects, clients and their consultants should be seen as an experience, not merely a presentation. The logical thoughts, emotional feelings, and short and long-term memories that these visitors take away will depend on how they experience the entire interaction. Since the buying decision rests on those takeaways, the opportunity that the finals presents is measured directly in client retention and closing ratios.
Steps to a Value-Creating Finals Experience
At ProDirect, we look at the finals experience as seven separate steps, each with a focus on what you are trying to achieve during each step, and what the visitor should experience:
The experience you orchestrate by delivering these series of highly coordinated tasks should yield a value-creating experience with your firm that feels different. So forget what’s on slide 73. Remember you’re selling an overall experience. You shouldn’t need that many slides anyway to convey your team’s value and if you’ve done your sleuthing, you can speak to it like the pro that you are anyway.
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.