Thanking your audience in any presentation is a bad idea, and a hard one to resist because it’s counter-intuitive.
I just coached a winning sales pitch in the multiple hundred million dollar category. It was a team of professionals in the boardroom of decision-makers. There were oodles of dollars on the table and our client was feeling really fortunate just to be one of the three or so firms competing for this job. They wanted to say, “Thanks for the opportunity to present ourselves for this project.”
And we said, “No.” It was a hard sales presentation skills concept to sell, but it played a role in winning.
They thought our perspective was disrespectful to the client, and a one-eighty from their instincts. So I’m going to distill the forty-minute heated conversation to a few hundred words so you can grasp it now, when you’re not in the hot-seat like they were.
We spent some time talking about who this day was about – the day of the pitch. “It’s about them,” they said, wisely… well, almost wisely.
The wise part was the statement, “It’s about them.” That was spot on. The “almost” part was that they didn’t really mean it. They were there for themselves.
When your entire year of sales goals can be achieved in March, you’re sitting pretty – if you land such a big fish.
If you do, you’re set in the first quarter, and the entire rest of the year is gravy. This is a sweet project and you’re going to look great for reeling it in. It probably means a promotion. It certainly means a bonus. And everyone on the team wants to do this work… badly.
So how can this not be about you? It’s psychologically very difficult not to walk in wanting the job. Just like it’d be hard to go to a job interview not wanting the offer. But this is exactly what I’m saying, hard as it may be to grasp.
Don’t go to a sales pitch to get a job!
Go to a sales pitch to help the client make an important decision.
We asked our client a few questions to get them to understand this:
- “Who has the problem that led to this sales opportunity?” (The prospect does.)
- “Would this problem have existed for your client regardless of whether or not your company ever existed to serve such needs? (Yes, their problem would exist regardless.)
- “Does the client have any stakes in the game regarding getting this need met?” (Yes, they do.)
- “Are the stakes bigger for you, or for them?” (It’s bigger for them. We’re only a portion of the budget, and they face politics, and business issues that hinge on this being successful.)
- “Would you go out of business without this opportunity?” (No. We have other possibilities.)
- “Who has invested more at this point in the project? Your prospect, or you?” (The prospect. This affects their whole business. We have 3 weeks in preparing to win the contract.)
If you can get behind the very idea of being there for them instead of yourselves, you can be in an entirely different state of mind. They have the problem, and you are there to help them solve it. That is a better mindset for selling. That’s more like consulting, instead of begging. “Please-please-please-please-please pick me! I’m the best. I’m the BEST!”
The classic sales scenario has the prospect in an “up” position, relative to the suitor for the job, who’s in the “down” position. Consulting puts you at a more equal position with the prospect. “We’re here to help you by sharing our expertise so that your project can succeed.” That’s better for your mindset, and it’s hard to resist if you’re the one choosing.
As far as I know, I’ve never hired a house-painter because I thought he really needed the money. I’ve never hired a lawyer because I thought my case would help his year-end bonus. I never hired a financial adviser because it was a tough economy and my dollars would help him put his daughters through college. I hire people because they can help me and because they seem passionate about overcoming my obstacles with me, and for me, and helping me get to the place I want to go.
Which brings us back to “Thank you.” What does that mean?
Thank you for the opportunity to be one of the firms chosen to interview for this project…
– means –
This is about me possibly getting your money, and I’m grateful because I need it.
I don’t want you to think that I’m only here because I want your money. And I myself don’t want to feel desperate. I want to be here for you, to help you with your challenge, by sharing my expertise.
I go to presentations honored to be a part of this important decision. I go to the presentation excited about how unique, or critical, this project is. I show up passionate about sharing my insights and recommendations so that they can make the best decision for their project, and so they succeed.
At the close, I may “admit” that I really hope to be selected – because I want them to know that I do want the job – however I will definitely stress that this is not what is most important today.
Today is about them getting all the information they need to make a good decision. And I might pledge to continue being available to them to share insight and expertise regardless of how they decide to go on this project.
These things altogether say that I am here for them and want what’s best for them. I may benefit, but I’m here today for them.
How could you not want that if you were the decision-maker?
Don’t thank your audience of decision-makers. Be excited about helping them. Express your honor to be part of their important day, and pledge that you’re there for them regardless. Don’t allow “thank you” to place yourself in the down-state below them, needing them. Instead, your excitement, you’re honor, and you’re desire to help them will level the playing field, and increase your odds of being favored over your competition.
Please share this post with others, and give SagePresence your opinions and experiences in the high-pressures of sales presentations.
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