We’re sitting in the large conference room of a Fortune 500 company in a small town somewhere in the Northeast. The company has filled the room with their best thinkers — the president of industrial products, their CIO and CMO and the VPs of marketing, product development, IT, innovation, and consumer insight.
We’re here to present and discuss a new product and partnership opportunity that my client is pitching to the Fortune 500 group. And our team is no slouch, either. We’ve got the two founders of the company—who each have more than 20 years of entrepreneurial success in the market—our system designer, our carefully selected celebrity spokesman (who’s name and photo you’d recognize in an instant if I included it here), and me.
The best part is that the Fortune 500 team loves the concept. They understand how it makes sense for their business: They see the clear connection between what our product offers and what their consumers are looking for, and they’ve already figured out the value proposition and how it will both enhance customer loyalty and generate a brand new revenue stream.
In other words, they’re ready to buy.
There’s only one little problem: My client won’t shut up.
She’s so excited about her business that she feels the need to explain every detail of the plan to the group — even though they’ve already told us that they get it. And she’s so wrapped up in her unfolding rap that she’s not glancing in my direction or at her partner. If she did, she’d see that we’re both vainly trying to signal her to be quiet.
Finally the meeting ends, a good 45 or 50 minutes later than it should have. The folks from the Fortune 500 team are very polite and friendly as they walk us out and promise to be in touch. And when we pile into our rented mini van, the client high fives everyone on the team for a great presentation. On the way to the airport we stop for a celebratory dinner and a few great bottles of wine.
Of course you know what came next. A whole lot of nothing. The buyers didn’t call back when they said they would, and after some gentle prodding, the head of the Fortune 500 team told my client that they’d decided to “back burner the project for a bit while they prioritize their activities.” That’s corpspeak for “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
What happened? Simply put, it was a classic case of talking the buyer right out of the sale. What had seemed like a good idea at first got more and more mundane and more and more complicated as the sales pitch meandered on and on. My client had violated the cardinal rule of sales: “always take yes for an answer.” Her prospect wanted to buy until she convinced them that they didn’t.
“Yes” is the most you can hope for in a presentation. “Yes” is what you’re working towards. “Yes” is what you want. Who cares if you spent weeks perfecting your presentation and you have to cut it short? Who cares if you’re only up to point four of a 17-point outline? Who cares if you flew halfway across the country to make your pitch? When your buyer is ready to sign on the dotted line, cancel the PowerPoint and turn the projector off. After all, showing your full dog-and-pony show isn’t the goal — getting to “Yes” is what you’re there for in the first place.
Decisions — no matter how large — are often made without all the facts. And once the decision has been made to purchase, more facts can only do one of two things: enhance the decision or kibosh the deal. But when you’re already got a “Yes,” how much more can you enhance it? Why press your luck and risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?
The simple solution in sales presentations — especially the ones that are going well — is to let the buyer talk as much as possible. And to do that just remember the two most important words in sales: “Shut the @#$%!! up.
There. I’ve made my point and I’ll take my own advi…