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Learning about Your Prospect — A Deep Dive for High-Value Presentations

sales presentation skills training


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Successful business presentations are the result of careful preparation. your homework.

Preparing for a business presentation starts with knowing what the client needs. This is not just asking the client what he or he wants, though that is a very good place to start. Clients today demand relevant insights tailored to their needs. Your homework will let you understand your client’s needs and objectives and let you present the right ideas in the right way. For motivation, just remember that your service or your product can probably be matched by a competitor. Looking into client needs lets you put what you offer into relevant context and lets the client know you care enough to find a way to meet their needs.

For example, a client may be looking for enterprise software. Find out why. Do they just want to improve current productivity? Do they have specific new functions in mind? Or, do they want something that can easily be upgraded in the future? You can tell the client how your solution would benefit them right now or in the future. You can also come up with some logical ideas on future uses for the client.

How to find the information is up to you. You can even ask your client for suggestions as to whom you can talk within the company. Most clients will appreciate that you are making the effort to understand them and what they need. Just so I don’t forget to mention it, ask within your company for any information someone might have. Additionally, check out the comprehensive list we published in a previous article “Sales Call Preparation: The Ultimate Checklist to Cover your Bases.”

Once you understand the client's strategy, goals, needs and decision-making process, you will be able to develop and position your product in ways that make sense for the client.

Questions to ask your client, and to check in with your other sources, include several general types:

  • Decision-making questions — Organisational questions to find out who makes decisions and how they are made.
  • Relationship questions — Ask “How am I doing?” and “How are my competitors doing?” to find out where things stand.
  • Operational questions — Technical questions of how, how many, where and why.
  • Problem questions — Questions to identify what obstacles the client is facing.
  • Situation questions — What is the client doing?
  • Strategy questions — Big-picture, tomorrow questions to find out where the client is and where the client is going.
  • Interpersonal questions — Questions to get to know/understand your client.
  • Need questions — Questions to find out what is not working and what needs to be fixed.
Keep in mind that all clients have two need levels: business needs, related to organisational and product needs, and non-business needs, related to their personal goals/emotional requirements. Your objective should be to learn something about both, for all clients in the decision-making unit. To get at their personal needs, find out: what are their business orientations? What are their backgrounds? What stake in the deal does each have? Why? Who has an axe to grind? What role will each play? What are the attitudes, preferences and points of view of each player? What does each player know about the product being presented? What are their points of view? What are their areas of expertise? What are their personal interests/politics/sensitivities? What are their buying criteria? How do they like to be sold to? What are their preferences for sales presentations: proposals, slides, technical details, the big picture?

Determining the needs of the client and the decision-making structure within the client’s company should give you most of the information you need. But remember to be flexible and determine fallback positions. Some of the information you found might change quickly. Now, you can get your own act in order, so to speak.

What is your main idea? What solution will you present to the client? What is your ultimate objective? To the degree possible, quantify the objective — not just sell a lot of widgets, but rather, sell 10,000 widgets per year.

Determine your strategy to meet the objective and tactics to carry out the strategy. Find out what your competitors are doing and how you might deal with this. Pick your team for the presentation.

Being prepared means you know your client and what your client needs. You know what your company can offer and can place it in the context of what the client needs and the general market for what you and the client do. Being prepared means being willing to spend far more time preparing than the hour or two the presentation will last.

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