Category : Presentations

A Template for Effective Customer Pitches and Presentations

As with many things, a template can be very helpful when it comes to effective customer pitches and presentations. Obviously, some level of customization will always be needed, but a solid template can help you pull together your presentation faster and help you get your key points across more effectively.

Here are a few general points to keep in mind:

  • Rank the points you want to make and start with the most important—this is common-sense advice, but it’s not common practice
  • Try to convey only one idea per slide; use more slides instead of jamming each slide with too much text/information. Text-dense slides are hard to read and psychologically daunting.
  • Use fewer words and graphics, and more white space. If you need to convey a lot of detailed information, write a summary and distribute it AFTER the presentation. Also, tell people upfront that you will be doing so, so that they don’t feel compelled to take a lot of detailed notes.
  • On each slide, get to the point…quickly
  • Remember that customers are distracted, and are frequently called out of pitches and presentations for various emergencies (sometimes, they simply leave because they’re bored). Because a scheduled talk can be interrupted at any time, do your best to convey the most important information within the first 10 minutes—people’s attention is most focused then, too.

Here is a template for your presentations that will help you save time and add some consistency to your presentations (which is very important in branding and marketing):

  1. Introduction: Who you are, why you’re here, what you’re going to talk about, and what you’d like from your audience (the customer) in return
  2. What you know about your audience and their problems: Talk a little about what you believe/understand about the audience’s situation and ask them if they agree. If they bring up anything new, tell them you’ll address it at the end of your presentation—and don’t forget to do so!
  3. Top 3 points: “Here are the most important things we want you to know—and why.” For example:
    • Top point #1: “We’ve developed a new way to process widgets that increases yield 400-fold for X kinds of customers/products.”
    • Top point #2: “These white papers, written in conjunction with our customers, show the data that proves Top point #1.”
    • Top point #3: “Customers who have purchased our product have seen these results and [if true] are ordering more products.”
  4. Discuss the investment (price) range of the product(s) you’re talking about, and why that range is fair and makes sense relative to what the customer gets in return. For example: The product costs between $A and $B depending on delivery, specifications, terms, timing, and so forth. This price range represents between 10 and 20% of the return on investment (ROI) you’ll receive. In other words, for every dollar you spend with us, you’ll get eight to nine dollars in return. You want to discuss price ranges (rather than specific prices) during pitches in order to ensure you and your customers are at least in the same ballpark on pricing. If not, discovering that key fact early on means that neither side wastes any additional time.
  5. Risks to consider and problems that might occur: No solution or product is without risks or potential problems; it’s much better to bring these up and address them before customers do. Doing this sends the message that you are an honest and straightforward company that wants potential customers to have all the info before making a decision.
  6. FAQs: 5 at most. Your objective is to answer common questions BEFORE the customer asks them; this sets minds at ease.
  7. Tell the prospect (in a polite way) what you need from them to continue the process. What’s the next action they need to take (develop specs, get budget approved, place PO, etc.)? Whatever it is, the next action should be clear, and the prospect should own it.
  8. Closing remarks. These may be brief or more extensive, depending on the situation, but they should always include thanking your prospects for their time—sincerely.

Trade Shows: Wrong Answers and Appearances

I recently attended a large capital equipment trade show in Chicago. As I walked around and spoke with people in the booths, two things struck me as items you might want to look into before your next trade show.

The first is that very few people I spoke with were able to provide a satisfactory answer to a very basic question: “What is it about your company and products that separate you from your competitors?”

The most frequent answer I heard was something along the lines of “I would have to say our quality”. I would then ask what it was that made their quality better, and frequently heard “We build most of our equipment in-house”. Well, it turns out that the vast majority of the companies in this industry build most of their equipment in house. So, my next questions were “How much better is your quality?” and then, “How does that quality transfer into better performance or results for your customers?”

Only a handful of people, in the more than 100 booths I visited, were able to give answers that were even somewhat precise and backed by some kind of evidence.

This is sad, and points to a very real need for the marketing people in these companies to clearly articulate compelling and well-supported reasons to buy specific products from their companies. Those reasons almost always exist; you just have to find them and then work to define, quantify and support them. This work needs to be done, and marketing needs to do it.

The second item that struck me was how casual and tired many of the booth-dwellers appeared. Some had apparently borrowed clothing from people half or twice their size. Others were sitting and playing with their computers, pads and phones, not even bothering to look up when a person wandered into their booth and stared at a machine. I saw one guy sitting on a platform and leaning back against the machine his company was paying to exhibit at the show. His eyelids at half-mast, I decided not to disturb him. I’m sure potential customers felt the same way I did.

Now, I know from experience that as a show heads into its third day, the energy and enthusiasm of booth-dwellers and show-goers tends to wane. But always remember that the people who staff your booth at a trade show are the face of your company. The way they look, their level of enthusiasm, their knowledge about your products and company, and the way they engage visitors to your booth are all extremely important.

So, before your next trade show, put some thought into the marketing messages you want your people to convey to your prospects. Make sure the messages are clear, really differentiate you from your competitors, and are backed up by customer testimonials and performance data. And to address the fatigue issue, consider rotating some fresh faces into your booth every day.  You’ll increase the odds that your people will successfully engage visitors who could turn into prospects and then into customers who buy your products. Which is the main reason why you invest your money to exhibit at a trade show in the first place.

Eleven tips for a more captivating presentation

sleepy crowdGot an upcoming presentation on your calendar? Here’s how to make sure your audience stays interested and engaged. The next time you’re tasked with developing and giving a presentation to colleagues, customers, or investors, try the following tips:

  1. Determine what you want to accomplish. What do you want the audience to remember and do as a result of your presentation? Whether it’s selling, buying, investing, or behaving differently, develop an interesting and simple story line that clearly highlights the key points you want the audience to remember.  If there is a “call to action”, make that crystal clear as well.
  2. Make your points memorable. If you plan to use PowerPoint, use pictures when you can, and less-and- larger rather than more-and-smaller text. We’ve all heard presenters say “this is an eye chart” when introducing a slide that no one, including the presenter can read. Please don’t say those words and don’t use anything that even resembles an eye chart. If you have very detailed information to deliver, put it in a handout to be distributed after the presentation.
  3. Limit the number of slides. Don’t use more than 10 slides per half hour of presentation time. Your message may be lost if you show and talk about more than that. And plan for some time to answer questions during and after the presentation.
  4. Have a “no slides” version. Projectors break or don’t show up, bulbs burn out and some people don’t like PowerPoint and would rather just talk with you. Make sure you can deliver an effective presentation without using slides.
  5. Practice and rehearse the presentation. I’ve seen people give presentations they’ve been handed at the last minute, and the results are pretty much what you’d expect; they stutter and stammer their way through them. Don’t try to give an important presentation without first rehearsing and getting critiqued by people who know what your audience will look for. Have a private, friendly and knowledgeable audience ask the tough questions in a rehearsal, before you have to answer them in public. Also, work on your ad lib skills, as no presentation goes exactly according to plan.
  6. Introduce yourself to your audience. (If you’re Oprah Winfrey or someone equally well known, you can probably skip this step).  I’ve seen quite a few people start right into a presentation without introducing themselves; don’t be one of them. In addition to the introduction, mention something relevant about yourself and explain why you’re there. If others from your team are with you, introduce each of them as well.
  7. Clarify the purpose of your presentation. If you’re presenting to a customer or investor, see if they agree on the purpose and if they have anything else they’d like you to address.
  8. Confirm how much time you have for the presentation. Be ready to deliver an abbreviated but effective presentation if you have to (as opposed to a high-speed version of the original that many people try and jam into the smaller time slot).
  9. Specifics are powerful, fluffy adjectives are not. Under no circumstances should you use the terms “paradigm shift”, “on a going-forward basis”, or ‘no-brainer”. Someone in the audience will cringe if you do (if I’m in the audience, I’ll cringe). Instead, use numbers, data, specifics, evidence, and real-world examples to show how what you’re talking about (a product, a service, a business) can help the audience. For example, if you’re presenting to a customer, show them how your product or service can help them earn or save money, and if possible, how much money. If that’s not possible, cite other customers who have earned or saved money using your product or service. And if you don’t have any customers yet, simply say so and why, and what you’re doing about it.
  10. Listen closely and answer questions directly. If you purposely give an evasive answer, or an answer that doesn’t make sense, your audience will know it and you will immediately lose credibility. Think about how you feel when a politician avoids answering direct questions and you’ll have an idea of how your audience will react if you do the same. No matter what, do not stretch the truth or say anything that you can’t back up, prove or at the very least, have a good reason to believe.
  11. Follow up quickly and completely. It’s ok if you don’t have a ready answer to an obscure question or the materials on hand to satisfy every request for more detailed information. It’s not ok to neglect to provide them within a few days. Capture every open question and request from your audience, send them an email that shows everything you captured, and then close the items on the list in a timely manner.

We’ve all sat through and sometimes delivered presentations that were less than captivating and that failed to get the hoped-for response from the audience.  We’ve all looked out at a sea of weary, yawning faces and knew that they wanted to be anywhere other than sitting or standing in front of us. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Use the tips I’ve suggested here, and if you like the results, please pass this blog along to the people in your world who really need help. You know who they are, don’t you?

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