A salesperson shouldn’t be the smartest person in the room

Step one in my nine step process for designing a persuasive sales presentation is to determine your objective. I find most salespeople spend precious little time thinking about how they want the prospect to think or act differently as a result of their presentation.

A few years back I joined a gentleman on a sales call who planned to sell his company’s marketing services.  He began this particular meeting with a power point presentation that meandered between the services his company offered and marketing in general.

The low point for me was when he drifted into a lecture on the four P’s of Marketing (Product, Price, Placement and Promotion if you’re curious). Marketing concepts are interesting in the right context, but not at all relevant to this prospect who had very specific problems to solve and concrete goals to hit.

After the call I asked the sales person “what was the objective of your presentation? What did you want to come about as a result?”

He thought about that for a moment (for the very first time no doubt) and responded “I was able to build my credibility. They know I’m a marketing expert.”

So the objective for his presentation, as far as I could tell, was to be viewed as the smartest person in the room. I don’t think he sat down and determined that this would be his objective. I don’t think he thought about his objective at all.  I think at a subconscious level (his default) he feels that impressing the prospect will earn him business.

It didn’t work.

The objective(s) of the presentation should be specific and should be focused on proving to the prospect that you can meet their needs, solve their problems or help them achieve their goals. This salesperson’s objective could have been to prove to the prospect that he could increase their direct mail acquisitions or he could have shown them how he would improve their online conversion rate or he may have focused on maintaining current results while reducing cost or even some combination of these things.

But he had not thought through what it was that he wanted the prospect to believe or do when he was done and so his entire presentation was about what he knew and what he was capable of doing. Unfortunately for him the prospect only cares about what you know and what you are capable of if it relates directly to their needs.

We will impress the prospect when we prove to them that we understand what they need and that we can provide it. This means delivering a presentation with clear objectives that are focused on the prospect’s needs…and not worrying about being the smartest person in the room.


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