True Sales Stories #1: The 10-Minute Scenario

10-minute_sales_scenarioThe following story is true.

A security guard firm was bidding on a large, $1 million contract. The firm had successfully completed the customer’s RFP process, making the short list from 15 bidders down to 4 finalists.

The customer gave each bidder 10 minutes for a presentation. A questionable and mysterious length of time for a large bid.

As strange, and unlikely, as the 10-minute presentation may sound to bidders, it probably doesn’t to many customers.

In this true story that strict 10-minute clock started when a bidder arrived in the lobby. One bidder was down to 6-1/2 minutes by the time they reached the conference room from the lobby.

Although you may not come across many 10-minute drills, things happen and presentation times are cut short. Your scheduled hour can shrink to half that time, or less.

Sales teams would do well to learn from this story.

What to Do when a 10-Minute Scenario is Dropped on You

Here are things that will help you do more than just avoid embarrassment.

Heads up: The points presented below are in reverse order. We’re starting at the end of the presentation and working towards the beginning. This is because we’re placing the part you don’t want to do-but have to (preparation) at the end!

#5 Stop Short & Ask for Questions

Stop about 5 minutes before the end of your presentation.

Put customers on the spot. Ask them for their questions.
If they have them, congratulations. They were listening. Answer them and you’re done for the day.

If they have none, ask them if their #1 challenge is important to solve (it will be important if you’ve done your homework). Then ask if their #1 goal will result from solving that challenge (it will). Now you connect the dots describing your solution in one sentence that solves the challenge and delivers the goal.

Only do this for the #1. You’re wrapping up the presentation here. This will be the last thing you say (other than Thank You) and you want to leave on a compelling note.

So leave.

#4 Only the Absolutely Critical Takeaways

This is your presentation.

With limited time you can only talk about important stuff. And not everything in your proposal.

What do you talk about?

There are 1 or 2 unique aspects of your proposed solution that will have the greatest impact.

Impact on what? On solving the customer’s problems and helping them achieve their goals relating to the contract service.

Unique to what? These are your differentiators, the aspects where you’re better than your competitors. No point in discussing something you’re only as good as another bidder.

Don’t start with your solution. Set the stage first. Start by briefly (1-2 short sentences if you’re writing this out beforehand) describing the most critical challenges facing the customer’s business. If you’ve done your homework you’ll get their attention.

Now, present only the top few points of your solution. You don’t have time for the full proposal story. Exercise restraint here or you’ll burn up time and blow the good will you’d already gained.

Finish up by briefly listing the goals your customer will achieve by implementing your solution. This is the feel good stuff. Make sure they hear this immediately after your solution. You want customers to realize if they choose you, these good things will happen.

If you’re using a slideshow, follow these 10 Tips for Great Presentations. They’ll enable you to more flexibly say what you need to say in the time you have.

#3 Create a Powerful Opening

I usually throw something at the primary decision maker to start off a presentation (No, that’s a joke).

But ask a challenging question right at the start and wait for them to answer. That’ll get their attention.

Often there is silence while they’re waiting for you to answer your own question.

Don’t give in. Use that uncomfortable silence to leverage an answer from one of the customers. Now they’re listening.

What question to ask? You’ll select that question from the #1 absolute takeaways.

#2 Limit Who Speaks on Your Side

With very little time, too many speakers are distracting and increase the stepping-on-toes factor.

There are no hard and fast rules for the number of speakers on your side. It will depend on the time you have to present, and how well rehearsed your team is.

If you have a short time and little team rehearsal, limit the speaking to only one of your members.

A well rehearsed team may have 2 or more members speak in as little as 15 minutes. This team will know how long 2-3 minutes is when speaking, get to the point, and hand-off gracefully.

#1 Recognize Context when Preparing

Customers that spring 10-minute presentations on bidders have either:

  • Already made up their minds and are just going through the motions, or are
  • Having to deal with something unexpected; fire alarm, illness, or a thoughtless bidder abusing their allotted time, or are
  • Really ignorant and/or inexperienced

That means customers may be distracted, tired, bored, or all three.

Plan accordingly.

#0 Prepare & Rehearse Before it Happens

Now that you know 10-minute scenarios happen, prepare for them.

This preparation makes your normal presentations better anyway, so make it part of every preparation.

And if it’s worth presenting, it’s worth rehearsing.

Conclusion –> Why the 10-Minute Scenario is Good to Prepare For

#1 It’ll force you to define your presentation into short but sweet specifics

#2 You’ll have practiced getting to the point

#3 When the 10-minute scenario does occur you won’t flop around on deck like a tuna that’s just been landed

Good luck. Go forth and wow ’em

Chris Arlen
President, Service Performance

Technorati: sales presentations, slideshows, sales proposals

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