Presentations: Denouement after 3,000 words

In a 40-45 minute sales presentation you may speak 3,000 words in your pitch, give or take a few. Your customers may speak another 2,250 words for questions and statements (and of course you don’t speak twice as much as your customers, do you?).

Add another 750 words of mutual small talk and a stray silence or two — and there’s your Showtime.

All that’s left now is for you to sum it all up at the end: the denouement.

In normal conversation we speak at about 150 words per minute (sources differ from 120 to 150), and in slideshow presentations we may slow down a bit.

That means after about 3,000 words you’ve got to distill it all down to your final summation – that’s all you’re left to seal the deal.

If you’re only spewing features and pricing, 3,000 words may seem enough. However, if you’re interested in making a sale, you’ll be presenting a solution. And there’s a lot of ground to revisit in your wrap up, such as:

  • Showing your customers you understand their problems
  • Describing their desired outcomes
  • Presenting your solution and how it solves their problems and makes measurable improvements
  • Providing proof you can deliver your proposed solution

This complexity lives to some degree in all sales presentations, whether you’re pitching a hair product to a consumer in a retail store, or leading a team presentation for a multimillion dollar B2B contract.

This is the denouement of your sales presentation. The point in the sales process when all complexity must be brought into a concise summary and presented persuasively to end your pitch.

In a team presentation this task falls to the lead salesperson, and only the lead salesperson. If there are too many voices at this point, it’ll only confuse and distract customers from your final narrative. And this is the compelling story you want to leave in their minds after you’re gone.

While the following steps describe a team presentation, they’ll also work if you’re the only salesperson in the room.

Beginning the End

5-10 Minutes before the end

The lead salesperson watches the elapsed time from the beginning of the presentation and at five to 10 minutes before the allotted time ends, they step in to start the beginning of the end.

Here’s how:

  • Notify customers you’re close to the end and want to respect their time constraints
  • Ask if they’d like to continue beyond your allotted time
  • If yes, get a new end-time and pick up the conversation from where it left off — and work to that new end-time
  • If no, begin the next steps

Clearing for Questions

Begin the wrap up by asking for unanswered questions

During the presentation the lead salesperson has been observing which customers are sitting silently and which are asking questions. Now that the end is near, the lead salesperson asks each customer, naming them by name, round-robin-style, if they have any unanswered questions.

The savvy lead salesperson will alter each request so that customers are not hearing the same question, such as:

“Andy, have we covered your questions regarding sustainability?” -or-

“Jessica, did we address the financial impact of delaying phase one implementation?” and so on.

Whatever questions arise, make the answers succinct and short because the time remaining is limited. And once answered, politely move on to the following step.

However, if answering any of these wrap-up questions looks as if it’ll take more than one to two minutes, capture it in writing and add it to the “Confirming Follow-ups” step.

CAVEAT: The rare exception to not answering a customer’s question now is if a question shows customers are fatally confused about what you have presented in the last 45 minutes.

If that’s the case, stop right then and use your last precious minutes to answer them. Unfortunately if this happens, your chances of being chosen are seriously in doubt.

Confirming Follow-ups

Reconfirm follow-up actions you’ll take afterwards

At some time during the presentation, a question or request for a demo may arise that requires an action after the presentation.

If that happens, the lead salesperson reiterates the desire to schedule that demo or provide the researched answer, and asks customers for a future day/time to schedule the demo or return with the answer (Hey, this is the time to really live up to one’s commitments – especially in front of all the customers’ decision makers).

Narrating the Short Story

Summarize the dramatic narrative of the presentation

This is the final summing up of your business case to persuade customers to buy. It’s the lead salesperson’s closing argument, and like a great trial lawyer, the lead plays to, and reads customers’ levels of interest. This is the true performance, the last one that counts before the curtain comes down on the presentation.

Not too long

This summation must be short because it’s a monologue performed by the lead salesperson — consider no more than four to six minutes maximum as that’s a long time to listen to one person speak at the end of a meeting.

Not too short

However, if the summation is too short there won’t be enough storytelling to engage the audience — consider no less than three minutes minimum, as the lead salesperson will need to pull customers into the story through the drama of the narrative.

The Narrative Outline

The narrative outline comes from your written proposal, which is based on your pre-presentation/proposal due diligence.

Include numbers that highlight before and after improvements, and wherever possible use words that paint your solution in pictures, sounds, smells or even tastes.

The narrative must contain these three elements in this order:

#1 Describe the customer’s desired future

This is their pot-of-gold awaiting them under a rainbow somewhere in their attainable future. This is what their world looks like when their problems are solved and goals achieved.

#2 Describe what could go wrong if your customers make a poor decision

These are their perils if they make a bad choice, or don’t take action. Use language that shows the possible or likely negative impacts — but always be sensitive to, and avoid sounding threatening or manipulative.

#3 Describe the key points of your solution

This is your proposal, but only its high points. Include a word picture of your solution in action along with numbers describing the measurable improvements your customers can expect.

Your Last Word

Commitment

There’s only one thing to say after you finish your narrative summary and that’s to state your personal and professional commitment.

Although this may seem obvious, it’s a major unspoken reason customers want you to present in-person. They want to find out if they like who you and your company are, and whether they can work with you on a personal level.

It’s this human need get to know you that drives customers to buy on emotion and justify with fact. Your proposal provides customers facts; your presentation provides them the emotions to buy.

Time to Go

When it’s time to go, go

Once you’ve made your personal and professional commitment, thank them for their time, and pack up and leave.

Engage in small talk with customers if it occurs as part of normal conversation. And they may really want to because you’ve just taken them on a journey to where they want to go.

If they do, remember this post-presentation small talk is a continuation of their sniff test of your likeability — so balance out their desire to chat with the recognition that you may want to get out of their office before something detrimental is inadvertently said and you break the spell your presentation has cast over them.

But now the formal presentation is done; your business case has been presented with drama and numbers. Nothing left but for a graceful exit.

Summary

  • Beginning the end — the lead salesperson alerts customers the wrap up is beginning
  • Clearing for questions — one last check-in to see if customers have unanswered questions
  • Confirming follow-ups — letting customers know you’ll get back to them with outstanding answers
  • Narrating the short story — the final summation of your compelling business case
  • Your last word — commitment, give yours explicitly
  • Time to go — pack up and exit gracefully
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