Why a sales presentation shouldn’t be a lazy narrative

I’ve sat through hundreds of sales and management presentations, and I’m sure you have too. What’s the phrase you dread hearing in any presentation? For me, it’s a simple one:

“But first…”

Those two words mean just one thing: the speaker is going to delay the point of the presentation and start off with some “background”. And that’s probably going to be boring, irrelevant or even targeted at people who might not be in the room. Maybe all of those things.

When you write a press release, you do it like a journalist is taught to write a news story. You start with the most interesting bit, with as much of “who, what, when, where and why” as you can (briefly). Then comes the second most interesting bit. Then the third. And so on. It doesn’t matter when your reader switches off, you’ve got the message over.

The same should apply to a presentation. People come to hear about your blue widget, and what it can do for them. If you were writing a sales letter, you’d start off with the benefits, then the features, and finish with the stuff which would make the prospect feel good about you. The same should apply to presentations, but instead, things seem to work the other way around. “But first”, we hear (to mental groans), “I’d like to give you some background about the company”.

This is doubly wrong. Everyone gradually loses interest as a presentation goes on, so it’s common sense to get the good stuff in before anyone switches off. Worse though, by putting the boring stuff at the start, you bring forward the point at which the audience switches off in the first place.

People often think that the questions “Why this product?” and “Why us?” need to be answered before getting on to the “What’s in it for me?” part. They’re wrong. That’s just a lazy narrative. It’s harder to start with the climax. But it’s better, both for you and for your audience.

Discussion

  1. Ken Damsell

    I was blind and now i can see! You are absolutely right. I have done the preamble thing myself, many times because its easier. It is challenging and scary to get straight to the knitty gritty as choosing the right words is critical. I am converted and finding the process liberating. Thank you.
    P.S. We know that our web site needs a radical overhaul.
    Best regards
    Ken Damsell

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