Some claim with good reason that the power in a sales presentation is its ending. That's when it all makes sense . . . when the light comes on . . . when the audience says, `Wow!' Yet time and again we hear the same ending: the presenter runs out of things to say, then lamely adds: `Any questions?' I'll address the issue of taking questions in a moment, but first, let's deal with the best way to end your sales presentation.
We've all sat through, or delivered, the highly complex technical presentation fighting to understand one thing, anything, which is relevant to us. We can sense there are points of interest, but they're buried in the breadth and depth of detail (executive managers making strategic e-commerce and Web decisions may relate to this!).
Yet this situation can be salvaged when the presenter effectively closes their presentation.
The final five minutes of your sales presentation provide the opportunity for you to summarise all the key points you've made, then arrive at a conclusion that is so logical, so bleeding obvious, that the audience starts nodding in agreement.
And the key is in the lead-up to the conclusion. Great presenters summarise beautifully, reminding the listeners of one, two or three key points from each part of their presentation.
They draw together the background, the evolution of the plan, and the climax . . . and it makes sense.
There is no chance in hell that the audience will remember all the key points made in a two-hour presentation. But when you summarise for them, it all makes sense. It's the task of the leader in a team presentation to take notes as the presentation evolves, so that when the time comes to summarise, there are only a few crystal clear points to be made. If you are the sole presenter, do it yourself, but if it is a team presentation, then the bid leader should take responsibility.
The important thing about the summary and conclusion is that you do the work for the audience . . . let them relax and enjoy being sold.
Now, onto the issue of when to take questions. Handling questions is one area of your sales presentation that you can control, and in doing so, you can establish an appropriate tone for the sales meeting.
Do you take questions at the end? As you go? At specific times? The choice is yours, but be aware of the effect that each will have.
Taking questions at the end tends to cut the audience out. It makes the presentation one-way. I don't recommend it.
Taking questions at any time: I prefer it in most circumstances, but be aware that if time is of the essence, this can lead to loss of control.
Taking questions at a number of specific times works well too.
You tell the audience that you will take questions at the end of each of the main subject areas, so you have control during each section and can clarify matters at the end of each. It combines interaction with control.
If there is a final strategy, it is to allow no questions. I don't think it is valid. It only serves to antagonise.
So remember to think carefully about your objective in presenting; plan to leave the audience with the most important points FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE. Then you can build those points into a relevant conclusion proposing a logical next step or action.
Jeff Sheard is sales director for Asia-Pacific of Rogen International. Reach Rogen at: www.rogen.com.au