The printer in my virtual office was working overtime, spitting out multiple copies of the presentation for the next day’s meeting. It had been a long time in the making, years, in fact, of strong no’s and unanswered calls. The prospect had resisted our products and services for what seemed like an eternity, and now, at last, I was going to get to meet the prospect. Not just any meeting, I was getting the whole kit, and kaboodle: CFO, Senior Vice President of Operations, Senior Vice President of Marketing, and others would be present for the hour. I was making sure that I had enough copies of the presentation, all 44 pages of it. I was not going to miss a trick. Now all I needed was for the printer to run out of ink, and I would be really screwed.
As I touched down at the airport in the prospect’s city, I was confident that I was on my game. I had rehearsed in my brain every page in the deck, every page transition, every fact and number. I could sense the objections that might come my way and was ready for battle. The settings for these sales calls are very similar throughout the country. We would be in a large conference room with an audience of senior executives. I was led upstairs after I had time to thoroughly scan the various plaques and awards in the company display case in reception. I was picking up a few more clues, just like every good salesperson does, on the inner workings of the organization they are visiting. The slow, meandering walk to the conference room was filled with breaking-the-ice chatter that probably commented upon the glorious weather that part of the country was experiencing in February.
The sales call began like many before, there were introductions and pleasantries and a little bit of banter from me to soften up the room. At the head of the table was the key decision maker, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). He was surrounded in descending order by those reporting to him. This CFO was a tall man, a rather imposing figure, and the room clearly respected him and deferred to him on all matters. I sensed this, and as I was taught, I made sure to direct a lot of the presentation to him directly with gestures and eye contact. At about page 12 of the presentation, I noticed that the CFO started to nod off despite the obvious coffee stains on his company-issued golf shirt. His caffeine consumption had fallen victim to the half of a dead tree that camouflaged itself as a sales presentation that lay in front of him.
After the call and as the wheels on the plane lifted off the runway, I conducted my post-call analysis in my head. The good news is the CFO woke back up about a minute later. I took his clue that the content was way too long and pivoted to much further in the deck, leading to a shortened, more productive session. As salespeople, we are sometimes conditioned to “show up and throw up.” Our organizations provide us with sales presentation templates that we feel compelled to or are required to use. It can be difficult because I have had sales leaders come on calls with me and ask, “Where is your Presentation? “The question we need to ask ourselves is, "How will I know what to present" until I first talk with the prospect to learn about their business and potential needs. Too often, we seek the one-call close in a rush to secure the sale. Slow down and take the time to interview your prospects. If they have given you the courtesy of a meeting, explain to them what you would like to do and how you conduct your process. More times than not, this is refreshing to the prospect. If they are not willing to play the game, they will usually tell you.
When my CFO friend fell asleep, I started to adjust my sales process. To be sure, there are times when a presentation is necessary. For an hour-long meeting, a prospect cannot digest more than 15-16 pages. When acting more like a detective at a crime scene than a salesperson, I found that the core issue I faced with my product was perceived cost. Unless I first dealt with that aspect of the sale, everything else appeared to the prospects as smoke and mirrors, and this can be a salesperson’s greatest adversary. Using what you are most comfortable with to make the sale is key. For me, that was a single sheet of paper that dealt with the cost perception. For more seasoned, established salespeople, this process of finding comfort may be easier than for those less established salespeople, where there is more pressure to follow a process. For sure, there is no silver bullet. It is a balance between comfort and serving your management. Having sold a few deals in my time, I can’t recall a prospect ever saying,” Yeah, it was that presentation that did it for us.” And besides, a few more trees still growing out there is a good thing.
So, perhaps this story of the sleepy CFO and the dead tree will convince you that Less is More!
Roger McNamara Bio:
Roger is a 25+-year veteran of the Payments Industry, most recently as the Director of Business Development with American Express in the US. He has worked on the largest Acquisition targets for acceptance across multiple industries and across the globe that include Airlines, Communications, Technology, Cruise Lines, Entertainment, Fractional Jet, Freight, Government, Healthcare, Insurance, Oil & Gas, Residential Rent, Restaurants, QSR’s, Retail, Services, Supermarkets, Travel, Vehicle Sales, B2B and Wholesale. Over that time, he has sold more than $300 Billion worth of Card processing and became an expert in Bankcard Interchange and Discount Rates, how they are calculated and what merchants pay to accept Credit, and how this is dramatically different from what they believe they pay. He is an expert in Merchant Statement analysis and payment processing and the rules and regulations associated with payments and associations. Roger has also developed the insight for Merchant Services Salesforces and salesforces, in general, to be able to better position their products and gain share, particularly in B2B. Let him show you how you can too. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.