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Better Customer Presentations and Proposals

Our research has show that companies with high sales productivity perform 38% better than low productivity companies on "quality and timely proposals" and this factor is positively correlated with higher sales performance!
But you can quickly and easily improve the quality of your presentations and proposals by following the guidance below. And these tips apply to internal present stations and proposals (such as a business case) just as much as they do to client presentations and proposals.

Presentations and Proposals
Like me, I’m sure you’ve through vendor presentations on their products/services, and assessed many more formal proposals from vendors and internal service providers (such as business analysts and their business cases).

Generally, these presentations force you to struggle to stay attentive, with the interesting bits (“what’s it mean to me” or “so what?”) not being revealed until the second half of the PowerPoint (almost invariably it’s PowerPoint) pack.   Not all are bad – almost give you something to learn – but most suffer from the same faults.

Similar faults abound in the formal proposals and business cases.  The major common flaw is structure.  Let’s take a closer look at how to improve first presentations and then proposals.Double click here to add content
Presentations are generally structured as if they are for in-house induction of new staff.  The flow of the standard vendor presentation to a prospective customer is:

  • Who we are
  • Where we operate
  • What we do/offer
  • Who our customers are
  • Who our partners are
  • What Gartner etc say about us
  • What our product/service does for you
  • Q&A
Basically saying it's all about the vendor, not the customer.
I've split my tips for improving these presentations in two to cover presentations made at differing stages of the buying-selling process:
  1. Early stages of the sales-buying process
  2. Later stages of the sales-buying process
Tips for Early-Stage Presentations
Don’t give one!  By that I mean don’t give a standard (or even improved, as described below) sales presentation.  This is a chance to show the prospect that you are a serious contender for their business and the way to do that is to be interested in them, don’t expect them to be too interested in you and your company.
  • This should take the form of “discovery”.  But come very informed about their business, industry and market – look for confirmation and differences - don’t ask them what, ask them why.
  • Confirm their problems and challenges
  • Check against those of your existing customers that you have already helped.
  • What is the impact of their problems and challenges (and hence what is it worth to them to have them addressed)
  • How do they usually go about addressing similar problems and challenges and any differences this time (and hence their buying process and decision process and participants).
  • Workshop – facilitated by you or one of your team (faciliataion must be seen as being “independent”, not pushing them to your offering)
  • Mixed media – PowerPoint only for process diagrams and other stimulants of discussion, whiteboard and flip charts for clarifying and recording key items from the discussion.
  • Discovery – it’s all about them
  • Have a facilitator and a note taker
  • Get the collated and typed notes back to them as soon as possible for confirmation (and a chance to talk with them again and elicit further information).
  • Prospect – broad representation; as senior as possible but people who “know” what is happening
  • Your team – sales person as observer (perhaps as facilitator), facilitators, solution specialists (sales and delivery).
Tips for Later-Stage Presentations
Make sure you have the opportunity to make such a presentation!
This type of presentation has the purposes of confirming with the prospect that you understand their situation, you have the capability to address their problem/challenge and you have the proof that you have done so for similar customers in similar circumstances.   Display your competence and confidence.


  • What is happening in the customer’s world (their customers’ demands, competitors’ strengths)

  • Why that should matter to the customer (the threat)

  • What can be done (options)

  • Why it must be done now

  • Your (the vendors’) solution and why it is the best option

  • Proof points for your solution (Gartner, references)

  • Next steps - from now to order.

  • Mixed media – PowerPoint, whiteboard, flip chart, video - keep them alert and interested

  • Keep them involved by asking for comment and confirmation

  • Keep note (on flip chart) of any challenges, unanswered questions and so forth

  • High quality graphics – no pixelation, similar size, no block backgrounds

  • No bullet points; images and grammatically correct text stylishly presented

  • Seamless flow from media to media (e.g. from Powerpoint to video and back)

  • Use the "B" and "W" keys to blank the screen when in conversation (any key to return to the slide)

  • Don’t keep turning to look at the screen – use a monitor

  • Don’t read from your slides

  • Don't stay anchored to the lectern - use a pointer tool to move on

  • Preparation - practise your writing and drawing

  • Get the collated and typed notes back to them as soon as possible for confirmation (and a chance to talk with them again and confirm their satisfaction).

  • Prospect – broad representation; as senior as possible including all possible decision makers

  • Your team – sales person as presenter, sales manager, solution specialists (sales and delivery) for support.

Proposals are often structured similarly to presentations:

  • Who we are
  • Where we operate
  • What we do/offer
  • Who our customers are
  • Who our partners are
  • What the newspapers etc say about us
  • What our product/service looks like
  • Quote (items, quantity, price)
Again, it's all about the vendor, not the customer and prompt the prospect to flick through to the quote!
Tips for winning proposals
A better structure
  • The customers situation (its world)
  • The difficulty of that situation
  • Your (the vendors’) solution and how it suits the customer’s needs
  • Call to action - solution options (always have three)
  • Call to action - what they must do now to seize the opportunity 
  • Proof points for your solution (Gartner, references)
  • Financial plan (benefits, cost, payments)
  • Detail of your solution
  • T&Cs
  • Hard copy
  • PDF
  • Visually pleasing, professional looking style (fonts etc), packaging (binding etc) – make people want to pick it up, read it, leave it on their desk
  • Use in-house, or third-party, production specialists
  • Hand- or courier-deliver a hard copy (or two) with cover letter
  • Follow up with an email and PDF (not .DOC!)

Top Image: Justin Lewis / Getty Images
All others from the source link.