I get more sleep during capabilities presentations than I do some nights at home. The first five slides usually do it for me. That’s where all the corporate overview stuff normally goes (“and here’s a map showing the locations of our offices in North America”). There must be an unwritten rule that you start every presentation with your least compelling slides. I think there’s a better way.
How many slides does it take to put a prospect to sleep?
(If you’re an old hand at this, you can do it in as few as five.)
Sales and marketing executives always ask, “What keeps our prospects up at night?” Even though I don’t know your prospective customers, I can almost guarantee that they aren’t lying awake worrying about one of these fives issues:
- The number of years your company has been in business
- The location of your corporate office, plus other offices/plants
- The number of employees in your organization
- The unabridged list of your 487 products and services
- Your mission statement about providing solutions with excellence
So why are these slides (or slides like these) the first five in every presentation?
These facts can be relevant. But, they don’t exactly kick off your presentation with a bang. Maybe the idea is to get the corporate stuff out of the way as quickly as possible? What if you started off the meeting as a trusted advisor, not a capabilities presentation deliverer? You’ve got valuable insights on your prospect’s business, and you’re here to share them.
Here are five great ways to kick off your capabilities presentation.
You can try one or any combination of the five.
1. A meaningful story. Tell how your company (or division or service or solution) came into being. Show them how this was done to solve the kind of problem they’re facing right now. Don’t just list the milestones – make your story interesting and human. Describe the struggle you went through and risks you took to solve this problem.
2. A big frustration. Say, “What we’re seeing in a lot of companies like yours is ….” Then, go on to describe an issue that you know your prospect is facing. Talk about the costs. Talk about the implications. Describe how other companies are handling it successfully. Then ask your prospect what he or she thinks about all this.
3. A change in the wind. Prospects sit up and pay attention whenever you point out something that’s changed in their world: industry changes, market changes, technology changes … anything that might disrupt the status quo. Whether or not they were aware of the change before, you’re here to highlight it and help them navigate it.
4. A reality check. You get to see things that your prospect doesn’t. You work with a lot of companies like theirs. So why not kick off the presentation with some facts, best practices, or statistics that your prospect needs to face? Use these to shake up their status quo and create a greater sense of urgency.
5. A simple diagram. Can you illustrate your point somehow? It doesn’t always have to be on a presentation slide. People wake up when you walk up to the whiteboard. It changes the dynamic of the meeting. Just remember to keep it simple (no wildly complicated process diagram with 47 carefully labeled chevrons).
Is there any place in the presentation for your company information?
Sure. It’s helpful to know that you’ve been in business a long time, that you offer a lot of different solutions, or that you’ve got locations all over the globe. You can weave these facts into your presentation at the most relevant points. This way, they’re more meaningful. You can even line them up at the end if necessary.
It’s not that company facts aren’t important – it’s that they aren’t very exciting or attention-getting.
So you don’t want to start with them. You wait until the prospect needs to know them – that’s when they become more valuable. And then, if your prospects really need to catch up on their sleep, they’ll just have to do it during someone else’s presentation.
Ryan Bonilla says
Great article, John! Very relevant to what I’m working on right now, and you’ve got my gears turning on how to continue to find a better way.
John Reed says
Thanks, Ryan. Glad it’s helpful. I’ve created some pretty predictable presentations in the past, just because I didn’t take the time to do what you’re doing right now. It’s great to step back, think about what’s really going on inside your prospect’s head, and find that “better way”.
senour reed says
Brilliant John, as usual thought provoking and offers actionable suggestions.
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John Reed says
Thanks so much, Senour. Appreciate the comment.