Have you ever spent all night – or what seemed like all night – putting the finishing touches on that perfect presentation? You arrive the next day, deliver your message with conviction and flair, and leave for home feeling great, only to discover later that they decided not to buy. It bugs you a little, doesn’t it? Chances are, they started thinking about your product, then they thought about the costs, the risks, the time it would take to implement, and they forgot why they were interested in your product or service in the first place.The truth is, if you’re reading this article, you’re probably already a very accomplished presenter. Your visual aids are probably breathtaking, your delivery skills: impeccable. But, have you been presenting your audience with a vision of what you are – telling them all the facts about your company and describing every salient feature of your product? Or have you been giving them a glimpse of what they can be – by painting a vivid picture of them reaching their desired goals? After all, nobody really wants to buy your product or service anyway. Do they?

What they really want

Last year there were millions of electric drills sold in America, and not a single person who bought one wanted the drill. What they all wanted was a hole. Your prospective clients don’t want office equipment. What they want are more profits, which they hope to attain by reducing indirect labor costs as a result of making their office personnel more productive. Likewise, they don’t want software. What they want are increased revenues, which they expect to produce by providing their customers the ability to place orders online. And they surely don’t want consulting services, but they do need to be able to service more customers at higher order fill-rates without building another new warehouse, and they’re probably going to need some help re-engineering their distribution processes to accomplish that.Most products and services are not ends unto themselves; more often they are a means to an end. They enable your clients to do something that will move them closer to their desired goals and objectives. Our goal, our objective, is the transaction itself: the sale of the product or service. But their goal or their objective is to use your solution to get something else they really want. So, how can you know what it is they really want? You’ll probably have to ask.

Ask, listen, and learn

We don’t always have the luxury of spending time with our prospective clients before we present, but we should try to whenever we can. Adopt a policy that provides you the opportunity to meet – or at least talk on the phone – with each member of the group you’ll be presenting to before you show up to present. This isn’t always practical, depending on the size of the audience, but please catch the spirit of the suggestion. Ask each one about their expectations, their concerns, and what they hope to get out of the presentation. Ask the simplest and most powerful of all questions: Why?You might also try some of these:

  • How do you see our product or service helping your company?
  • Will it make your own job any easier?
  • Who else within the company would this impact?
  • If everything worked out as planned, what would be the net effect a year from now?
  • What is the ultimate goal you’re trying to accomplish?

The answers to questions like these will tell you what you need to know to present them with their own vision, in their language, using their terms, and with their goals in mind.

Make their vision your message

Once you understand what it is they really want, you can show them how your solution will help them get it. Whether you are selling a product or service, or presenting a self-improvement program, it’s painting a picture of the way things are going to be that will keep your audience tuned in and get them turned on. If you present on nutrition, for example, please remember that none of us wants to eat healthily; we would all rather eat the stuff that’s bad for us. What we want is to feel better and look better and to live longer and healthier lives.So the next time you stand in front of a group and give it your all, make sure you talk in terms of outcomes, results, and of achieving their goals. At least that way, if they decide not to buy, you’ll know it wasn’t you, your product, or your service they said “No” to. They simply decided that the cost of achieving their vision or goal was more than they were willing to pay.

About the authors Sales Excellence, Inc. is a consortium of world-class sales management consultants, sales trainers, and personal coaches who help business executives and sales professionals grow their client base, increase revenue, and keep more profit. They can be reached at 1-800-524-1994 or by email at [email protected].