Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Great Sales Sins - Opera Singer Syndrome

When I go to my dentist, I wear an Ipod.

For the record, yes, I do consider myself clever for this innovative solution to the problem of having dental professionals practically "fisting" my mouth, while simultaneously being overwhelmed by the desire to be "chatty".

This is the typical scenario that happens in the chair:
"So Sasser, hows that golf games of yours? Whoops, holy smokes, I cant believe my whole Rolex fits in there! Wow. Hang on....we need to give you another shot for no darn good anyway, your short game?"

The real problem is the assistant. Nice as she can be, but her lord has put her on a mission to share her life story, especially the tragic parts, with anyone in pursuit of good oral hygiene.

During a two hour session in which an old crown was being removed and a temporary put in its place, I learned the unabridged version of how her son-in-law had a series of unfortunate career turns. For the sake of screen space, here's an "abridged" version; he's a under-achiever who flunked out of welding school, impregnated her daughter, dumber than a stool sample, and couldn't find a job if it leaped up and bit him on the butt. But I'm paraphrasing.

A month later during the follow up visit to have the temporary removed and the replacement crown fitted, I wore an Ipod. An audio book loaded and I was set. The great thing about headphones, it tells the world to shut the heck up in a very direct, yet somehow polite, way.

While the plan was working flawlessly, there was one 15 second window of opportunity when one of the ear buds slipped out. As I reached up to replace it, the assistant seized the moment and screamed at me "I have three distant cousins with cancer!!!!".

A lovely woman really. Here I am, nervous as everything having more drills in my mouth that you find at Home Depot, and she needs to share this nugget with me.

Me....Me....Me......information without context or empathy is simply noise - just like an opera singer or a poorly planned sales presentation.

In that light, your favorite competitors should be your biggest ones. Especially those with the long histories, the great brands, and the customer list a mile long.


The odds are higher that in smaller deals they will not bring their "A game" to the table. A 100k deal a sales presentation their sales teams will spend the majority of the time talking about the greatness of the company, their "platform", their vision for the future, and then, in the twelfth hour, actually start talking about the reasons why the prospect met with them in the first place.

My team was competing against the big guys at a flooring manufacturer in North Georgia. We walked into a group of people who were very professional and friendly but whose body language cried "If I see one more mission statement I am going to take a swing at someone". They were viewing all vendors back to back to back. Two days, four vendors, each with half a day. We were in on the second half of second day.

We started our presentation with one slide that listed the major objectives of the project - lower costs, increased productivity, expanded branding, etc., followed by one slide each with a succinct description of how we would achieve each of the goals. We followed that with a practical demonstration, showing them what we discussed in the slides, followed by a brief overview of 3 clients with similar projects in the same industry as them.

Done - Start to Finish - 1.5 hours.

Vendor 1 took 6 hours, Vendor 2 took 5 hours, Vendor 3 took 2.5 hours and got into a fight with their technical expert.

One of the most common flaws made in presentations today is focusing so much on who you are as a company, your vision, yada, yada, yada, and you wind up burning the attention span of your prospects.

As recommended in a previous post, go through your sales pitch with a non-company person. At the end of each slide, ask yourself "Why would the prospect care?" or the shorter "So what"? If you don't have an answer remove it from your slides.

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