“Oh no please NO!!!……not The Canned Presentation?!”

When the Spanish Inquisition (as reimagined by Monty Python’s Flying Circus) wanted to torture their victims into confessing to heresy there was only one thing for it….the comfy chair! “Oh NO”, Screamed the victim, “NOT the comfy chair!”.

In the modern selling profession despite all the courses, research, seminars and coaching over the past 40 years, most sellers still resort quickly to the selling equivalent of the comfy chair…..”the canned presentation”.

“Why ?…well it’s easy isn’t it? …it’s effective……I mean it looks professional”

These -majority of sellers- can’t wait to get out the laptop, or iPad and show/ tell their customers all about it. They don’t seem to realise that this is the point at which it all goes ‘pear shaped’. For every prospective client or buyer I’ve ever spoken to, sitting through the canned presentation is absolute torture; because it has nothing to do with the prospect.

For example a few weeks ago I was in buyer mode for an expensive piece of equipment and called up two or three suppliers. They all arranged for a sales executive to call round to see me. After a bit of cursory questioning and some quite sophisticated objection handling (Well done guys) they all eventually reached into their bags (Oh NO!!!) with a, “….OK Mr Etherington that sounds like a very interesting project…..Let me just show you how we…….” (and out came the laptop….and off they went into their parallel universe). In every case I tuned-out in about 30 seconds. All that is except one ….he got his laptop out…unfolded it on my table and began the spiel ….but after 20 seconds he caught my eye… (I was looking out of the window) ….so he stopped and said “You’re not interested are you?” I said “Not in the slightest….because none of this is about me” He stopped….and got back to talking about me. (He eventually got the contract)

After confessing to him that I earn my living by training and coaching business people to sell really effectively (Money back if not absolutely delighted) I told him another true tale of a client I had a few years ago. They were a soft drinks logistics (transport) company with an ‘exclusive’ wine storage business on the side (for investors in wine). They were very proud of their reputation in both market places but of particular interest to the MD was the wine storage part of the enterprise. So proud in fact that they had a very fancy sales presentation video made about the wine storage side of the business to show prospective clients.

So anyway, one day (with their soft drinks logistics hat on) they were given the opportunity to quote for the lucrative distribution contract for a company we’ll call ‘Bovine Rouge’ and did very well in the initial part of the bidding process. So well in fact that that Bovine Rouge’s MD asked to meet the logistics MD. The meeting went well until they said “Lets show you a bit more about us”…..brought down the blinds turned off the lights and ran the proud video. When it ended the lights went on and the logistics guys sat back and waited for the “Wow…that’s really impressive…..where do we sign?!” But it never came.

Instead the Bovine Rouge MD said “Ladies and Gentlemen thank you for showing us who you are….. it’s quite interesting…….very professional…but I’m afraid that’s not our business.”

And that was that.

I was even out with a salesman of financial services in NY once (who had been asked by a client to just, “Pop in and pick up a contract”)…..wreck the ‘top-of-the-range deal’ in an instant by, for some inane reason saying, “While I’m here let me just remind you about the service you’re buying” …and launching into full blown canned demo. After about a minute the client said “Just a moment …is that that crappy graphics package you had in the old version? I didn’t realise it was in this one too……we don’t want that…..take it out and give us a discount!”

The thing is a presentation has its place but only when you know precisely what the customer (the one you’re sitting in front of now) wants to buy. Then, when you prepare the presentation (never the canned one) for use late on in the process- you focus only on those specific problems and solutions requested by the client. Forget everything else….he’s not interested. In the crowd scenario at a trade show or when you’re speaking at a conference then you can produce and deliver a lively high level demo or presentation; that’s OK.

But face to face across the desk one-on-one never (never) ‘the comfy canned presentation’.

That smile on his face is a glaze….just before he falls asleep….eyes wide open.

Bob Etherington

“Europe’s Best Sales Trainer” :  [Voted by ‘Sales Innovation Expo’ 2015 and 2016, Excel London.]



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