So what?

Cian McLoughlin

The sales rep stood with an air of quiet confidence, as a hush fell over the room. All the key stakeholders were present, CEO, CFO and CTO, the head of the steering committee, the governance, risk and compliance team and a smattering of the user community. This was the final presentation from the three vendors who had been shortlisted, the culmination of a long and grueling week of workshops, meetings and presentations.

The sales rep paused for a moment, ensuring all eyes in the room were fixed on him, before clicking through to his first slide. A kaleidoscope of company logo's sprung up on the screen, wowing the audience with the vendor's customer base and depth of industry experience. An audible gasp rippled through the room as a 2nd logo slide replaced the first, with even more customer logos. Whispered conversations broke out as the user community remarked on how lucky they were to be embarking on a project with a vendor of this experience.

When the sales rep casually mentioned his company was 100% Australian owned, you could feel the excitement beginning to build to a crescendo.

"We've won countless awards for our projects" he continued, sensing the audience were now eating out of the palm of his hand.

"Did I mention we've got very low employee attrition rates and are regarded as one of the best businesses for employee satisfaction in our industry?" he concluded, with an air of supreme confidence.

The spontaneous burst of applause took even the sales rep by surprise, as the CEO jumped out of her seat, hand extended and pen poised, ready to sign the waiting contract.

At least that was how it was mean't to go...unfortunately even the best laid plans can sometimes go astray. What really happened went something like this:

  • Sales rep puts up first logo slide - an audible groan emerges from the back of the room and what sounds like the word 'Bingo'. This group have spent the past week sitting through PowerPoint presentations and have seen the same logo's represented again and again across all three sets of vendor slides.
  •  Sales rep puts up second logo slide - CEO looks at her watch, gives a disapproving stare to her key project sponsor, whose job it was to properly brief the vendors and makes a quick note on her iPad.
  •  Sales rep explains his company is 100% Australian owned - The entire room collectively asks themselves "So what?"
  •  presentationIn quick succession, the Sales rep highlights the awards, low attrition rate and high employee satisfaction which his company enjoys - By this stage half the room have zoned out completely and the other half are feeling bad for the rep, as they watch their CEO getting more and more irate.

For those sales professional who conduct dry-runs before an important customer presentation (and I hope that's most sales professionals) you could do a lot worse than taking 3 or 4 pieces of cardboard and a marker pen and writing the following:

During your presentation dry-run, ask your colleagues to play the role of the customer. Every time you make a statement, particularly one which relates to your business or your solution, anyone in the room should be encouraged to hold up their 'So What' card, if they fail to see how your statement is relevant to them as a customer. Let's look at a couple of quick examples:

  1. We've got lots and lots of customers, look at all their logos on the slide behind me

So what?

"I'd like to highlight 3 specific customers from this slide to talk about, due to the similarity in the business pains they were experiencing and the fact that these might represent good customers for you to speak, when we move into the reference phase of your review process"

  1. We've won lots of awards for our projects over the years

So what?

"We're incredibly proud of the industry awards that we have received over the years, because we have won them in conjunction with our customers and they recognise the commitment of teams in delivering an exceptional project outcome. I sincerely hope the project we're about to embark on might be nominated for an industry award also"

  1. We have a very low employee attrition rate in our business

So what?

"Our employee attrition rate is well below industry standards. What that means for our customers is far greater continuity in terms of the resources working with you to deliver on your project outcomes. It also means that we have built deep domain and industry expertise in our business, which we leverage to deliver an even better outcome for our customers."

Remember, as a prospective customer of yours:

  • It's not my job to care, it's your job to make me care.
  • It's not my job to search for the relevance, it's your job to highlight the relevance.
  • It's not my job to make the link, you need to ensure you create the link for me.

Add this 1 simple step into the way you prepare for presentations and it will transform the way your audience connects with your message. Oh and if you do try it, please send me a picture of your 'So What' sign for my collection!


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