Nobody does. Particularly if you’re in sales. But if only the modern sales executive would understand.
The modern-day sales cycle is becoming increasingly complex. Everyone’s busy (no, they’re damn busy!) despite their short attention spans, which seems to be getting shorter by a microsecond every year… around 10-20 minutes. (Wait, did you actually believe it’s 8 seconds? If you do, please unsubscribe from the blog right now! It’s BS, alright!)
Sorry, I digressed. But the point is exactly that — digression. The sales professional assumes a lot and instead of staying focused on the client’s agenda they default to their own agenda. And then expect an emphatic YES from the audience who essentially sat through the entire presentation having no clue or context about the presentation.
And here’s the kicker — every sales person starts off with “his agenda” before an unknown audience based on an assumption that his champion (the stakeholder with whom he has been a conversation for the past several months) would have communicated what his presentation is all about. This is exactly what breaks deals!
Here’s how I look at a sales process:
Build a relationship > Discover Needs > Explore Pain > Assess Fit > Presentation > Next Steps or Close the deal
When you penetrate into an account, you spend the most time with the stakeholder (an influencer or a possible coach or perhaps a champion, if you’re lucky) going through the process. Except that you don’t close the deal, but ask for the next steps. Which, in almost all cases, is a presentation to the decision makers. You can’t assume that a presentation is a continuation of your conversations with the stakeholder.
A formal presentation is an opportunity for you to make an impression but you will have to go over the process all over again by asking questions to build credibility, highlight the pain areas and get a sense of the implications of not fixing the “situation” is like for the decision makers. That’s the kind of conversation that most boardrooms rarely witness.
I’ve had instances where I have used these points to build an agenda that is based purely on the discussions! Is it hard? No, because I already had a sense of what’s coming, thanks to my conversations with the stakeholders all this while. But the notion that I am building an agenda based on their inputs is magical because it positions you uniquely as an expert and gets you their attention. Something you can use to close the deal.
The truth is we all know this but default to our own agendas because we assume a lot. In selling and business development, assuming is going to make an ass-out-of-you-and-me! Don’t be one.