A long, long time ago, I remember learning a critical communication skill; I’m sure we’ve all learned it at some point at least once. For me, the first time I learned this skill was in the sixth grade – it was when us youngsters very first learned how to write a persuasive essay.
The topic of this skill was covered again several times throughout my educational years in many different writing classes. That topic was to always understand who you are speaking to, either in an essay, in a formal publication, or in a sales presentation.
This seems to be a skill that many people have put on the back burner of their minds as they have joined the workforce because there have been a few buyer interviews I have analyzed recently where the buyer has mentioned that the sales team did not present in the most efficient way – that they did not understand the audience.
The most notable example that comes to mind included a post-interview debrief with the sales team, and an interesting detail emerged from the debrief that I think many people in sales could benefit from.
One Detail Makes a Difference
The context of the ambiguity requires you to know that the buyer is a large corporation with a multitude of smaller companies under its wing. The leadership of this company recently decided that it would be beneficial to have the main company and all of its subsidiaries covered under the same product.
Our client had serviced the main company for several years while the subsidiary companies sourced their own solution, and when the renewal came up for our client to bid on the business for the main company as well as all the smaller companies, there was one detail in the presentation that could have made a difference in whether our client won the business or not.
Treat Renewals as Brand New Opportunities
The buyer stated that the sales team did not present the solution as a sales pitch; rather, they presented it as a renewal like they always had, which did not allow the subsidiary companies to fully understand what the product actually was, what it did, and why it was a good solution.
When asked why the respondent felt that the sales presentation wasn’t as strong as it could have been, and why the respondent felt that the presentation was focused too heavily on the renewal instead of on selling the solution, the sales team explained that the buyer had expressed a distaste for a repeated sales pitch in past renewals.
Your Audience is Always Changing
As a result of that knowledge, the sales team went into the presentation exactly as they had in the past – to outline the product, the new proposal, and any changes that have been made since the last bid. What the sales team failed to account for was that representatives from all of the subsidiary companies were in the presentation as well, and none of them had any idea who the vendor was, nor what their product was, so they were unable to fully understand the value proposition and our client ultimately ended up losing the business.
The buyer indicated that the presentation wasn’t the key decision driver because there were some pricing issues that our client could not overcome in regards to the location of the subsidiary companies, so the subsidiary companies saw a much stronger value proposition in the competitor’s offering, which ultimately led to a strong preference for the competitor.
Whether or not changing the presentation strategy would have made a significant difference will remain unknown, but it does make one wonder if the outcome would have been different had our client understood the target audience better in order to fully demonstrate the value proposition so those subsidiary companies could see that our client’s solution would be worth the higher price.