This Is Your Job!

"Desire is the key to motivation, but its determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal--a commitment to excellence--that will enable you to attain the success you seek." --Mario Andretti

Recently I started working with a new client. This client had been in business for approximately five years and had a handful of salespeople in the field selling the company's innovative technology. However, there was a significant gap between the business results they were achieving and the value of the technology.

When I started to work with the sales team, I had a pre training conference call to help them prepare for our work together. I gave them an assignment: prepare and deliver their "best" formal business presentation to a prospective customer.

Through my initial research, I had identified gaps in both sales productivity (not enough of the right activity) and sales effectiveness (moving a prospect through the sales cycle). Sales productivity can be all about accountability to a plan, but sales effectiveness issues can have a lot more areas to fix once diagnosed, including building customer rapport to a persuasively delivered presentation.

The biggest mistake a lot of companies make, including this client, is that they thought they had hired "trained" salespeople with "industry" experience. But many times the people who are available in the marketplace are average performers at best. I would much prefer to add an individual with the "right" attributes such as attitude, motivation, and accountability (because they will be motivated to train themselves if the company doesn't invest in them) than someone with industry experience. Now the team I was training had a wide range of tenure with my client from a couple years to a few months. Please keep in mind, though, that these salespeople had been in the field selling this application (or for many, not selling anything!).

When it came time to deliver their presentations in our training, I wanted to make sure the senior management had a good understanding of the talent I was working with. I pulled in my client's executive team, including the CEO, and asked the sales team to deliver their presentations. Remember, it is important to note that these salespeople had been in the field selling and that they also had had two weeks to prepare their presentations. The outcome: The presentations were beyond AWFUL! They were all over the place. Some told us exactly how the technology works (boring), while others just stammered facts about the company. There was no method to the madness, and the executive team was shocked. I wanted to create awareness for this management team that regardless of the talent you think you have, you still need to provide a road map.

But the biggest issue of all is that these people had been in the field for some time and they hadn't even thought about the best way to present their solution to the customer. No wonder their close ratio was atrocious. Also, they all knew they would be presenting to me as part of the training pre work, and yet not one had practiced in advance (they actually shouldn't have needed to practice since I was asking them to do what they should have been doing every day). This is their job, and they couldn't even get to a value proposition with this great technology.

Here are just a few of the most unforgivable sins these salespeople committed:

They were poorly prepared: If you are poorly prepared, it indicates to the prospect exactly what to expect when they become a customer. In large complex sales, it is hard to separate the seller from the product. Essentially, the customer figures if he is getting a poorly prepared sales resource, then the company will most likely poorly execute on the product/service as well.

They did not tailor their presentations to the audience: At a minimum, you should understand your prospects' industry and what is happening in their environment. Top performers not only understand the prospects' objectives and strategies but tailor their presentations to that understanding.

They told me more than I wanted to hear: Don't tell me how to build the application. Instead, tell me the value of the application to me and my operation.

They apologized in advance for not taking the time to rehearse: The biggest insult to the customer who is parting with his or her valuable time is when a salesperson apologizes in advance for being ill-prepared. If you haven't had time to prepare and rehearse your presentation, I really don't have time to listen.

They had unclear presentation direction: No presentation objectives, agenda, or action steps. Please provide a road map for the customer so he can understand how long he has to be attentive and listen.
They had weak closings: These "experienced" salespeople didn't know how to end the presentation by putting forth strong action steps. It amazed me how many presentations ended with, "So what do you think?"

In conclusion, delivering an effective and persuasive presentation is all about confidence. Confidence is all about knowledge and preparation. Presenting to the customer is the moment of truth in the sales cycle. This sales team had not committed to effectively delivering their company message, and the results could be seen in the company's bottom line and in the salespeople's individual pocketbooks. Lastly, the company made the mistake of empowering a seasoned sales team that did not deserve to be empowered.

Question: How much time have you personally invested to prepare yourself for success?