Conversations vs. Presentations


I used to work alongside many sales reps on their accounts during my days at Terramark, but there’s one trip in particular that sticks out in my mind. It is the perfect example of how personable customers should expect salespeople to be.

As you’re reading this, think of it on a more global scale than the boardroom. You can draw similar parallels between this and the sales door, or even the task of getting yourself a new deal. It’s always important to know when you should put away the slides and engage your audience one-on-one.

Have you ever been in a meeting where the presenter has made an art show of their PowerPoint slides? They have all the bells and whistles—moving animation, a strategic color scheme, and so many slides you wonder if they’ve considered writing a book. It can be exciting at first, but once you’ve sat through the first hour, or maybe even the first fifteen minutes, you are so inundated with information that you’re ready to fall asleep. Even the most disciplined among us will start to wonder what else is going on in the world. You check your phone, you lose focus, and finally, you zone out.

It is the knowledgeable salesperson who relies on slides as a tool who will be able to make a deal in a hot tub, on an elevator door, at a steakhouse, or on the hoods of cars because he or she has a deep and intrinsic understanding of what he or she is selling. My hope for you is that you will take the time to really study every inch of your business so that when the customer asks you a question, you will know your facts so well that they come out in a casual, convincing tone. I believe in conversations over presentations because it’s been my observation that many business professionals use presentations as a crutch.

In my experience, I’ve learned that about 80 percent of my customers prefer to have a conversation over viewing a presentation. I am not very good at creating presentations and will be the First one to admit it. However, I am very good at presenting at meetings. It’s not that I couldn’t pull a presentation together if prompted; it’s that I don’t believe in them. So I am not motivated to create them.

My belief is that the artful PowerPoint is a crutch for weak salespeople to lean on. It may sound harsh, but I’m not here to lie to you. A good presentation that includes PowerPoint will allot twelve to seventeen minutes for the slides; the rest of the time will be devoted to actually presenting, which consists of conversation and fact sharing. My presentations typically focus on two or three main pages which I use as a visual reference tool for the audience. e slides are for the audience, not for me. Most of the time, I end up turning the presentation into a conversation anyway. I let my customers ask me questions, and I take the time to go over the responses in detail.

So, remember your PC: know your product, know your competition. And exhibit customer empathy while selling the dream, not the reality. Presentations can be useful tools to have in your arsenal, but they are not a substitute for the organic process of meaningful conversations with your prospects and customers.

Benjamin Von Seeger is an entrepreneur, frequent C-suite member and telecommunications veteran with twenty years of global business experience. His book The RiVal: Play the Game, Own the Hustle, Power in Competition, Longevity in Collaboration (out now) draws on vast personal experience and proven philosophy to inspire a new generation of businesspeople and students. Visit his website and follow Ben on Twitter @benvonseeger.
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