If your product or service requires an investment of $10,000 or more, it’s usually worth it to sit down with them for a in-person sales presentations. Here’s how not to blow it!

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Transcript  – Compelling In-Person Sales Presentations

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In Person Sales PresentationsAnnouncer: You’re listening to Aviation Marketing Hangar Flying, the community for the best sales and marketing professionals in the aviation industry. You can’t learn to fly just from a book. You learn from other pilots who know the tools, the skills, and the territory. Your hosts, John and Paula Williams, are your sales and marketing test pilots.
They take the risks for you and share strategies, relevant examples, hacks, and how-tos. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes so you won’t miss a thing. [SOUND]

Paula Williams: Welcome to Aviation Marketing Hangar Flying Episode 106, In Person Sales Presentations.

John Williams: Good stuff.

Paula Williams: Good stuff, [LAUGH] so I’m Paula Williams.

John Williams: John Williams.

Paula Williams: And we are ABCI, and ABCI’s mission is.

John Williams: To help all you ladies and gentlemen out there sell more products and services in the aviation world.

Paula Williams: Right, which sometimes requires in-person sales presentations.

John Williams:  In-person sales presentations.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Dun, dun, dun, all right. Okay, so if you have any questions, comments, or anything else on this episode, or any other, use the #AvGeekMarketing, and we will reply to every tweet.

So today we’re going to talk about three things. One, how to prepare, how to present, and how to follow up. So first of all, before we even get into that, why do we have to do in-person sales presentations in this day and age when we’ve got GoToMeeting and all of these other fabulous things?

John Williams: Well if you bump into somebody in the streets, you don’t want to say, wait a minute, let’s get GoToMeeting going.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Well, there’s that. [LAUGH] And also we belong to a bunch of different mastermind groups and other kinds of things. And I was doing a hot seat, which is a thing-

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: That is not a lot of fun, but actually very, very valuable with the incomparable Dan Kennedy, who has a reputation for being pretty irascible and telling it like it is, right? Which is great, that’s what we pay him for, right?

John Williams: Irascible and telling it like it is, are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Paula Williams: Right, [LAUGH] that’s true.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: So he does not pull any punches and I was telling him about all of my problems in this [LAUGH] hot seat. And I was sharing our sales numbers and bearing my soul and everything else. And he said something that really stuck with me.

And that is you’re selling aviation products, or you’re selling aviation services and sets of services, that run in the tens of thousands of dollars a year, right? How in the heck do you expect people to commit to that if you don’t go see them in person? Do you remember that?

John Williams: I certainly do.

Paula Williams: Yeah, he’s just like you’re sending them emails and some letters in the mail and everything else. And you’re expecting them to spend $10,000. These are people that have never even met you, or maybe they’ve met you at a trade show or something like that.

But you have never gone to their business, you’ve never gotten on a plane to go see them. What the heck do you think you’re doing?

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: If you are selling things in that bracket, you really need to go see them. You really need to present to them in person.
That is the way things are done at the $10,000 and above level, right?

John Williams: [LAUGH] Yeah, I remember that.

Paula Williams: So he read me the riot act [LAUGH]. That was years, and years, and years ago, and we have been doing that ever since. And I do have to say that the people that we have gone to see, we close sales pretty irregularly.

And granted we only go see clients after having done some pretty good qualifying and things like that of the folks, and we’re going to talk about that in the process of this. And we also have a couple of podcasts on our website about qualifications or how to qualify people, so that you don’t waste your time and money-

John Williams: And ours.

Paula Williams: Chasing the wrong fools [LAUGH] in this game. You really want to make sure that you have a pretty good chance to success if you’re going to get on a plane and go see people. But this is aviation, [LAUGH] it is about reaching out and touching people.

And it is about the expectation, often, that you will go see people. If you’re serious about it, if you’re serious about making a sale in the dollar amounts that we’re talking about, you will get on a plane and you’ll go see them, right?

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: So that’s all fine and good, but what the heck do you do?
How do you prepare for that, and what do you do once you get there, right?

John Williams: This is why we talk about in-person sales presentations.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Exactly. [LAUGH] Okay, So first of all, the vast majority of the presentation should not be just trotting out your product and giving a product demonstration, right?

John Williams: Mm.

Paula Williams: Most people when they do an in-person sales  presentation they spend most of the time talking about,  “this is me, this is my product, this is my company, this is why you should buy this,” right? What it really should be about-

John Williams: Them.

Paula Williams: It should be about them, him, or her, or it, or whoever you’re presenting to.
It is almost always a them, right, especially above the $10,000 amount.

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: And that’s kind of the, I would say, auto break-point for deciding to get on a plane, or deciding to get in the car.

John Williams: [LAUGH] Whatever.

Paula Williams: And go interstate to see people. Then it’s almost always more than one person involved in the conversation, and almost always those folks are going to have different motives.

So you’re sitting there at one end of the table, and they’re sitting there at the other end of the table. And I guarantee you they are not going to be smiling at you like the people in this picture.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: All right, they are not all going to be happy to be there.

There are going to be some that are more enthusiastic than others. But there are going to be some people who are going to be resistant to the idea of changing things as you are about to suggest, right?

John Williams: Yeah, but I also remember a particular company when we were standing in front of the Board of Directors.

And I introduced you, and you had them eating out of your hand in the next 15 minutes, for the next two hours.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] And we were there for an hour and we ended up taking three, that was a fun presentation.

John Williams: Uh-huh.

Paula Williams: Almost-

John Williams: But the point is.

Paula Williams: Yeah.

John Williams: It was about them.

Paula Williams: Yes.

John Williams: And got them involved in the conversation, asking your questions.

Paula Williams: Right.

John Williams: And you explained to them how the benefit would be to them.

Paula Williams: Right, and it’s actually easier now than it was then. Because by the time you arrive in this room, you should have already had a week or more to figure out who every one of these people is that is sitting around this table.

And have some time to, even if you haven’t reached out to them personally on the phone, which is not a bad idea if you can do that. But at least have reached out on LinkedIn and found out as much as you can about each of these people, what their role is, what their role is in the organization.

There’s usually one person whose idea it is to bring you into the organization. And sometimes that somebody has a high place on the totem pole, sometimes they have a low place on the totem pole. Either way, you can work with it, but you need to find out from that person who all’s involved in this decision and-

John Williams: Invite them.

Paula Williams: Tell me what their role.

John Williams: [LAUGH]

Paula Williams: Yeah, tell me what everybody’s role is, and help me understand what their concerns might be. And that’s a perfectly legitimate question to ask. And perfectly irresponsible if you don’t ask that question, right?

John Williams: You bet.

Paula Williams: Yeah, you’re just looking out for their interest and you’re doing your best to make good use of their time, right?

John Williams: Anyway-

Paula Williams: Mm-hm.

John Williams: I watched her make this presentation, let me tell you, it was impressive.

Paula Williams: Thank you, wow, you’re not easy to impress. [LAUGH] Cool, but you know the main thing is not to have a brilliant show, dog and pony show with dogs and whistles.

[LAUGH] With bells and whistles, I’m mixing metaphors here. And having a fabulous animated in-person sales presentations, although that can help. If you’ve seen some of the Shark Tank, or some of these other shows, where they have the two minute pitch, or whatever. There’s a lot that you can pick up from those things to get people’s attention and to make it more interesting, and other kinds of things.

But the main thing is just that you make a connection with every single person in the room. And usually there’s, what, six, seven, some number, five, six, seven, is usually the number for the presentations we’ve been doing.

John Williams: Right, three to five, three to seven, somewhere in there.

Paula Williams: Yeah, exactly, and then you need to know if this is a board, or if this is a hierarchy, or if this is a committee that’s designated to do things. You need to understand who does what, what role everyone has in this committee. You need to understand if the guy who is second from the right, if he’s the CFO, [LAUGH] you need to look at him when you’re presenting [LAUGH] your numbers.

It’s really important to engage these folks in the examples that you give, in the problems that you present. You get their feedback on, is this a problem for you, and how are you handling it now? Make sure you get them to participate in this conversation and not just talk at them, right?

John Williams: Yeah, and in your case, it was not just the board, the CEO, or the chairman, whatever he was, was there as well. And we’d had an intro from the chairman of another large company to go down there and do that.

Paula Williams: Right, and if you’re referred, that is even better.
And if the person who referred you can be in the room, that’s even better than that.

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: We didn’t have that at that time.

John Williams: We didn’t have that one.

Paula Williams: Yeah, but that’s an ideal situation, I’ve heard of those. I’ve not actually done one where someone has made a referral and has actually come to the meeting.

John Williams: Uh-huh.

Paula Williams: But you take what you can get. And ideally before you show up, you want to know who’s going to be involved in this decision. You want to prepare materials for each of these people. I like to hand everybody a binder with their name on it that has the relevant data highlighted for that person.

They all have the same presentation or copy of the slides that we’re going to present. But each one has maybe some different sticky notes in it based on who they are, what their concerns are, what they’re likely to want to know about. That really makes them feel special.

[LAUGH] Which is part of the deal, and it also makes them feel like you understand their organization, which you should by the time you get in the room with them.

John Williams: Yeah, and in this case that I’ve referred to, was a Fortune 100 company or something, I don’t remember.
I mean, these people are used to feeling special [LAUGH].

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Yeah, exactly.

John Williams: So you have to [LAUGH] [CROSSTALK].

Paula Williams: You have to go over and above the specialness that they’re used to.

John Williams: Right, uh-huh.

Paula Williams: Right, exactly, so in aviation we’re expected to have attention to detail and to treat people well, so you want to do that if you can.

Okay, so that’s about preparation, knowing about the people. Another thing you want to do before you get in the room is to confirm assumptions. So almost every salesperson on the planet is guilty of making this first assumption at one time or another.

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: That saving money is the primary concern for most of the people in the room.
And it is almost always not true for the majority of people in the room.

John Williams: It certainly wasn’t the true on that one.

Paula Williams: No it wasn’t, and for most of the in-person sales presentations that we’ve given, or for the sales presentations we’ve prepared for clients, it’s not their money.

They would rather spend more of it, and have the problem solved right.

John Williams: Yes.

Paula Williams: Than to have their lives complicated and save some money.

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: Right, so money is not always the primary factor. In fact, for most of the people in the room it is not going to be a factor at all.

The only person in the room that’s going to care about this is the CFO, if he’s there, or accounting person, whoever that is.

John Williams: Right.

Paula Williams: And or the person with the fiduciary responsibility, which might be the CEO or whoever the ranking-

John Williams: But not everybody else is going to care.

Paula Williams: Exactly, so that’s information you can actually even take out of the presentation and put that into a separate little document that goes in the binder for those two people, saying, ask me if you have any questions.

John Williams: [LAUGH] Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: And they should know that before you even get in the room, I think.

John Williams: Right.

Paula Williams: You’re not reviewing any numbers at the time.

John Williams: No.

Paula Williams: Okay, second assumption is that you’ve looked up their competitors, you assume that the competitor that you think it is, is their biggest concern, right? We’ve made that assumption a couple of times and found out that these guys are, one, not competitors, they’re actually cooperators.

John Williams: [LAUGH] Well, there’s a word.

Paula Williams: They make referrals to each other, that happens a lot in the aviation industry. So don’t assume that they want to squish the competition. Their competition might be the status quo, people are doing nothing as opposed to buying their product or service.

So if you assume, if you go in there saying, here’s how you’re going to beat the competition, that may or may not be a motivator for them. So you want to make sure that you have that really clear in your mind before you end up in an in person [LAUGH] sales presentation with people, right?

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: Okay, and then the last assumption that most sales people are guilty of at one time or another and that they really go overboard in the in person presentations, is that more features equals better, right? So they get out their Swiss Army Knife and they say it slices, it dices, it juliennes.

But wait, [LAUGH] there’s more. Here’s another thing that it does. Everybody in that room is going to be concerned with probably one or two things, at the most.

John Williams: And that’s it.

Paula Williams: And if you over complicate your  sales presentation you are not helping, you’re not helping yourself. If they don’t understand it, they’re not going to buy it.

So you really want to simplify this to the two or three things that are going to be the most important to the people in the room, right?

John Williams: You bet.

Paula Williams: So even if your product does more things, or your service does more things, you only want to present the two or three most powerful things that it does for this particular client to solve their problem, right?

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: Okay, cool, so how do you get all this information, how do you prepare? You [CROSSTALK].

John Williams: Nowadays it’s easier than it was when we did that.

Paula Williams: Yeah, [LAUGH] absolutely, at the time it was just basically you do a lot of time in the library, and a lot of guessing, and a lot of research, and-

John Williams: And trying to talk to people who might know them.

Paula Williams: Yeah, a lot of talking to people who might know them. Which may or may not work depending on what their motives are.

John Williams: Right.

Paula Williams: In telling you whatever, or not telling you whatever they ask. So, thing number one, what’s on their website?

You should have looked at that pretty much in detail. And it’s amazing to me how many people have given us sales presentations that have not read our website. They have no idea what we do. Or if they do know what we do, they didn’t read our About Us page, because they are missing something that’s pretty key about us, or they’re asking a question that they should already know the answer to.

And that, to me, is an indication that they’re just wasting our time, and that’s insulting, right?

John Williams: Well, they can’t be serious if they haven’t done research.

Paula Williams: Exactly.

John Williams: I mean, that may not be the case, but that’s the way I look at it.

Paula Williams: Exactly, I mean, how do I trust you to say that you can solve my problem if you don’t even know what we do?

Or what our relationship is to other marketing companies, or what our situation is, and things like that. Second thing, what’s in the news about them? Often people will tip their hand and have,

Paula Williams: News about expansion plans, or they’ve made a bid for this, or they’ve announced a new product line, or other kinds of things.

You certainly want to know what’s public, so you should have that down pretty well. And then the next level is, what have they told you, especially if you’ve done some initial, and you should have done some initial conversations with them about why are you interested in us? What is your primary motivation at this time?

What brings you to our door [LAUGH] now rather than six months from now or three months ago?

John Williams: And to be a little more concise, and if you’re a hangar construction company you certainly don’t want to try to sell somebody a new hangar when the news said that they have already signed a deal to begin construction next month.

Paula Williams: Exactly.

John Williams: Then the news tells you that, their website probably will indicate something like that.

Paula Williams: Exactly.

John Williams: And they probably will have tried to tell you in their initial contact.

Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Yeah, here’s what you may have heard that doesn’t apply, here’s what is really going on.
But you certainly should be up on the news about that company. So you want to talk to your contacts both at that company and elsewhere about what’s going on in the industry, what’s going on with them. And what problems do they have and how can you help solve them, right?

John Williams: Uh-huh.

Paula Williams: Okay, so that’s how to prepare. When we get into the How to Present, I actually included the text on the slide here because I think this is really helpful for me to go through when we do a presentation. For me to make sure that we’ve covered all these points before we get into the bulk of the presentation.

I want to say, you know what, it’s fine to say no. If this is not a good fit, then this was still a productive trip for us because we learned more about you, we made a friend, we’re happy, we had a nice lunch. [LAUGH] But if it’s a no, we’d rather hear that now rather than three months from now, or six months from now, when we’re down the road and figuring out it’s not a good fit, right?

John Williams: Absolutely.

Paula Williams: Okay so, and here’s what we expect to have happen at the end of this hour or by the end of the day. And it might be the next steps in the process or it might be a decision, depending on where we are in the sales process.
But I do want some kind of an outcome for this, either a decision that we’re going to continue the conversation, or a decision that we’re not, which is also fine, right?

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: Okay, I want to let people know it’s fine to ask tough questions. We are here to answer tough questions, feel free to be impolite.

John Williams: [LAUGH] And to be more concise-

Paula Williams: Yeah.

John Williams: Your expected outcome is yes, no, or not yet.

Paula Williams: Yes, no, or not yet, absolutely.

Paula Williams: Exactly, so it’s fine to ask tough questions. You want to give them permission to be as hard nosed as they want to be.

We don’t have to be polite here, we’re getting down to business. We understand this is everybody’s livelihood so we have to be serious, we get that. Don’t be polite to us at the risk of not getting something answered, right?

John Williams: Right.

Paula Williams: Okay, you want to involve them whenever possible in the examples and the conversations.

So you can ask them questions that draw them out and get them to define the problem as well as you can. Have them do as much of the talking as you can. So you may already know that Jeff in maintenance has this problem. Get Jeff in maintenance to tell them this is the problem.

Don’t you tell them this is the problem, right? Have Jeff in maintenance explain the problem because everybody else in the room may not have heard it. You may be the only person he’s told that to, right? So hearing it from their own guy is going to be a lot more credible than hearing it from you.

You want to get agreement as you go. So here’s what we’ve discussed so far, is everybody in agreement that here’s what we should discuss next? Make sure that you go around the room a couple of times during the presentation. I like to go around the room a couple of times an hour just to make sure.

Because there are people who won’t ask questions that are lurking in their head, right? So you want to give them every possible opportunity and not just be doing all of the talking, which I do have a tendency to do if I don’t make an effort to include everyone, right John?

John Williams: [LAUGH] I wasn’t going to say anything, but since you brought it up.

Paula Williams: Of course, absolutely, and then the last thing is you want to end the meeting with clear next steps. You told them you were going to at the beginning, then make sure you follow through with clear next steps of, here’s what we’re going to do after this, right?

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: Okay, now after the meeting, one of the most common questions we get when we talk to people is, well we gave them this big presentation and then nothing happened, right? [LAUGH] Everybody loved it, and it was great, and we were sure we were just about to start the project.

And we were all excited and everything, and we got on the plane, and we came home and we were ready to get started, and then nothing happened, right? They said they would call us on Wednesday and then it was Thursday. And then we called them, and then we got their voicemail, and dah, dah, dah, dah, right?

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: Okay, first of all, the more specific you are with those next steps, the better. So if it’s, okay, so by next Wednesday, you’re going to get approval from the code people, or from whoever needs to do whatever the next step is. The more specific you are in what those next steps are and what you’re expecting from them, by next Wednesday, the more likely it is to happen.

If it’s not just a, we’ll get back to you by Wednesday, right?

John Williams: Well you need to remain in control of that as much as possible. Don’t say, don’t ask them to call you, you say I will call you on this date to see how things are going.

Paula Williams: Right, and not just to see how things are going, to do X, Y, and Z.

John Williams: No, no, no, you’re missing exactly what I’m saying.

Paula Williams: Okay.

John Williams: You maintain control by you making the call.

Paula Williams: Right.

John Williams: Don’t let them make the call to you. And then you can say whatever the hell you want to, but you have to make the call.

And you have to let them know that I will call you.

Paula Williams: Mm-hm.

John Williams: Wednesday, and whatever.

Paula Williams: Yeah, and we’re going to proceed with X, Y, and Z, and you’re going to proceed with A, B, and C. And then we’ll get back together on Wednesday and we will do-

John Williams: Whatever.

Paula Williams: Yeah, [LAUGH], whatever, whatever you want. So you want to make sure that you are being very, very specific about who’s going to do what and by what medium. So if you’ve got project management software that you’ve already gotten placed by this time, which we usually do, you say, okay, well, we’re going to put the recording of this meeting in Basecamp and please review it before we talk again.

And these are the documents that we need to proceed, we need the agreement and we need the payment information, and we need an ACH form. And we need this, and that, and the other thing. And if we have those by Wednesday then we can meet the deadlines that we’ve set up in this meeting, right?

John Williams: Uh-huh.

Paula Williams: Okay, and we used this slide in one of our previous podcasts about most to least effective means of following up. And I’m adding it here because even when you’re following up after a meeting and you’ve got specific concrete agreements, you’re still going to have to sometimes make a phone call.

John Williams: Mm-hm.

Paula Williams: Because emails get lost, snail mails get lost, [LAUGH] snail mail’s too slow, and so on, so.

John Williams: Life gets involved.

Paula Williams: Exactly, and you can’t come back, typically, every week to do business with these people, especially if they’re in a different city. So the most effective way of making sure everybody stays on track, and unfortunately, still is the phone, right?

Paula Williams: So real quick recap, when you’re doing an in person sales presentation, we talked about how to prepare, how to present, and how to follow up. Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play, wherever fine podcasts are distributed. Please do leave us a review because the better people in the aviation industry get at marketing, the better it is for all of us.

Because what’s good for the industry really helps the health of the entire industry, and that means everybody, right?

John Williams: Absolutely.

Paula Williams: It’s a small ecosystem, so we need to take care of it, right?

John Williams: Yes, [COUGH] yes it is.

Paula Williams: So we produce a new podcast every Monday, make sure you listen in, and subscribe, and leave a review, but we’ll see you next Monday.

John Williams: Ciao. [SOUND]

Announcer: Thanks for joining us for Aviation Marketing Hangar Flying. The best place to learn what really works in sales and marketing in the aviation industry. Remember to subscribe on iTunes and leave a rating.[MUSIC]