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Presentation versus Conversation

15.3 billion trees are cut down each year across the globe. I dare say a number of these wind up being used for business presentations that quickly make their way to the paper shredder. Like me, you have probably sat through that massive deck or presentation; you know the one, 60-plus pages where your eyes gloss over at about page 6. And where the presenter is hell-bent on getting through it in an hour. I worked for a firm that was all about the presentation. The bigger the better. At one point, we were taught to memorize it, complete with specific page transitions. It was a one solution fits all, and we were delivering it whether you wanted to hear it or not. As I look back, it was probably this that created my disdain for a presentation for all occasions. Let’s face it, some people need a presentation as a guide for their thoughts, not having a presentation would be like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. For others who have the enviable skill to speak extemporaneously and in detail without the assistance of notes and slides, a presentation is like a straitjacket that needs to be avoided at all costs. For the latter, Irish people call it “The Gift of the Gab,” others have a few choice names for it as well.


Having been on thousands of sales calls over the years I was often joined by my key linkages at meetings. A few days before the meeting, I would get that e-mail that would say, “Hey can you share the presentation for the call?” Most of the time I would be responding that there was none. I would have loved to have been in the room when they read the e-mail, as I am sure it was a mixture of disbelief and worry. No presentation, what are we going to do? What will I tell my leader? Where is the proof that we are working on this account? With the product that I sold; it was rarely a one-call close. Much had to be done before we got to that point. Usually, we needed first to have a conversation, build rapport, learn about the prospect's business, and ask lots of questions about how they did things. Who their customers were and what their thoughts and perceptions were about our organization? What were their financials like, how was their business run, and finally were there any technical hurdles that needed to be overcome to make a deal work?  After that conversation and with the answers we received, we could then and only then begin the process of putting together what we wanted to present, fitting their needs with our services. On occasion, clients would tell us they had no interest in marketing, and right there, we could eliminate upwards of twenty pages. Simply put, to present before we asked the right questions would be like slinging, you know what, on the wall.


Still, it never ceased to amaze me how many salespeople within organizations think differently. I am not sure if these salespeople are just uncomfortable or afraid to have a conversation, but they seemed to always have a presentation as a crutch. There is a propensity, as we say, to show up and throw up. Too often, salespeople are afraid of the “No.” To head that decision off, instead of asking the right questions, we go right into telling, selling, and presenting. Despite good intentions, this is a turn-off for the prospect. In companies today, particularly larger organizations, standardization is normal, and it takes a brave individual to stand up if this is the case to buck the need for sales presentations at every turn. A good salesperson following on from asking the right questions will get to the presentation if needed, once they know what they need to sell.


Some of the largest deals sold in my career were accomplished with a single sheet of paper. In my case, I liked to listen to the client to hear what the true objections were, and it was usually cost, not price. There is a difference. Once I could establish that cost was somewhat neutral and more about return, the conversation shifted to enablement and growth. Without addressing this major issue on calls, no number of pages telling them how great our brand was would change their mind.


Salespeople need to lead the sales process. Do not be led or influenced by what others think should be done. Trust your judgment and instincts with your customer. Be bold and assertive about what needs to happen in your sales process, and you just might save a few more trees along the way.


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

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