Powerpoint Presentation: The Devaluation of Sales

It seems that almost every sales rep nowadays can’t do his job anymore without the ‘aid’ of some kind of presentation on his laptop, net-book or tablet PC  And I am not just talking about presentations for a group of decision makers. No, even in one-on-one meetings too many sales reps make use of some kind of presentation software.

It violates almost every ‘rule’ in the book:

  • Selling is not telling, selling is listening.
  • Every customer has unique needs, wishes and desires. Get those to the surface and act accordingly.
  • Specs don’t sell, tailor-made solutions do.
  • Build rapport by showing a genuine interest in the customer, not in yourself or your organization.

These ‘rules’ are as old as mankind. And they haven’t changed all of a sudden because of newly available technology.

Most of the presentations I have seen are precooked by the marketing department of the organization. And it proves again and again that marketing people in general have no clue when it comes to sales. It is beyond me that organizations let their marketing department interfere with their sales department in that way. Marketing and sales are two different disciplines; stay out of each other’s play ground!

We have all seen examples of the ‘Corporate Presentation’. Slide after slide about what a great company it is; the growth in annual turnover, the worldwide coverage, all the important customers they have already, their USP’s, the great line of products, etc.

Apparently, the customer is not important anymore. It is all about us; about how great we are, how big we are, how important we are…
In other words: this - new – customer is just there to add to our greatness.
Happy selling…

Every customer wants to feel important, not just one of many, not just a number in his supplier’s automated system. And here comes the sales rep with a presentation that he shows to everybody, regardless of the specific needs, interests and desires of the customer. In the presentation the supplier brags about the numerous offices and plants they have throughout the world and the gazillion customers they service. That will make the prospect with his one mid-sized plant in southern Alberta jump out of his chair of excitement, won’t it? Now he feels very special and important, all of a sudden!

Many sales reps don’t realize that certain pieces of information that are valuable to one customer can backfire when presented to another. One of the most important rules in sales is that you don’t start giving out information before you know if it is of interest for the customer and in what context. Most presentations blatantly violate that rule.

Is every PowerPoint presentation useless?

Certainly not. But there is a time and a place for everything. If you want to (or have to) use presentation software, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Know your customer’s needs, interests, wishes and desires before you show him your presentation.
  • Make sure that your presentation is tailor-made for his customer. At least, remove slides that might work against you.
  • Do the selling yourself. Presentations are there to confirm, explain or add information, they will not sell for you. Don’t make yourself obsolete.
  • Trim your presentation as much as possible. I have seen presentations with dozens of slides. I can guarantee you that no customer is interested anymore after about  dozen slides tops.

There is a lot to say about the quality of the material and – maybe even more importantly – the quality of the presenter. I will make another post about that subject shortly.

Conclusion

Sales people, marketing people and others spend a lot of time developing PowerPoint presentations. It is a shame that so many efforts are in vain or even counter productive. If you decide to create a presentation or review an existing one, answer for yourself at least these three questions:

  1. Does a Presentation indeed add value to the sales process?
  2. Is the presented information of value for the customer?
  3. Is there information in the Presentation that can jeopardize my relationship with the customer?

Have a good look at your presentation. Put yourself in the shoes of a customer and see if you really couldn’t do without.

Never forget: People do business with people!

Happy presenting!