I have sat through my fair share of presentations. I’ve been on both sides, the presenter and the person being presented to. While I do not claim to be an expert, far from it in fact, I think I have come up with one simple suggestion to anyone presenting to a client or potential client: SHUT UP!
In the last couple months I have had the privilege (sarcasm) of sitting through a number of presentations from people who wanted us to hire or use them or wanted to be a vendor to us. In each of these that I’m talking about, I got almost all the way through the presentation and realized that we (our team) had barely spoken five words the entire meeting. We sat through hours of meetings to listen to people’s resumes and qualifications and they never once asked us what we were looking for or needed. How do they know what we want or need if we don’t get the opportunity to talk?
It made me think about how we present to potential clients. I think back to the early days of IDEAS when people would come to a meeting and say to us “so what do you guys do?” That was 10+ years ago. Now, we have come to realize that if a potential client is coming to see us or willing to have us come to them, they know enough about us to allow us to take some of their time. They usually know who we are and what we do. It has made me understand that people aren’t as interested in listening to me/us give the “who are we and what do we do?” presentation as they are in telling us about how we can help them.
Which leads me to our 2012 sales strategy: SHUT UP! Our goal in 2012 is to concentrate on listening to our potential clients talk to us instead of us talking to them. I’ve realized that the less we talk, the more likely we will be to really help the client. Our clients don’t want to be sold to but I do believe they want to buy something from us. The less we speak, the more they tell us exactly what it is they want to buy. If we talk too much, we miss what the client is telling us while we’re busy giving our credentials. When that happens, we miss information that changes a buying situation into us doing a proposal that tries to sell something. Time is precious so it’s important to use our time wisely and if we have an hour with a potential client, it’s a much better use of that time to hear their problems, challenges, needs.
The challenge is that we are proud of who we are and what we do. And we’re storytellers so we have a story for just about everyone and every situation. When a client says here’s our challenge or this is what we need, our immediate reaction is to say “well, here’s how we helped this client in the same situation.” I’ve realized that there’s a time and place for that story in a meeting but it’s after the client has (as they say in storytelling circles) “told first”. Employing the SHUT UP! doctrine makes meetings a little more like therapy sessions than pitches. We sit with a client and say “tell us about you and your challenges” and a little while later you can see how relieved the client is to be able to get what he or she said off their chest. If you listen closely, most times a client will tell you exactly what they want you to talk to them about by the challenges they present.
It’s counterintuitive sometimes to think about a company of storytellers and sales people not talking, but I can assure you by shutting up you can make more progress with your business. Get them to buy more by selling less.