As a sales and marketing consultant, I often hear the question, "How much of a company's corporate overview should we include in a presentation?"
It's a good question, and the answer I always give is: as little as possible.
This may seem a bit unfair, since many salespeople and technical staff feel comfortable opening a presentation with a - brief - overview of their company. Unfortunately, this overview often seems ill-placed, and it can quickly become a stumbling block where you lose any momentum from your introduction.
The truth is the audience is only interested in how you, the presenter, can address their wants and needs. I call these wants and needs Critical Business Issues (CBIs). Why make a customer wait and listen to three, six or even 10 overview background slides when they want their CBIs addressed now?
That's why I recommend starting a presentation with what I call a situation slide or multiple situation slides.
What you need
The situation slide simply recalls the information you as the presenter have gathered from qualification/discovery discussions you - ve had with clients or audience members. You have researched your audience, right? If anything, the situation slide forces you to consider the wants and needs of the audience.
To create your situation slide, you will need:
Identifying the CBI
A CBI is a problem that the customer or audience sees as important enough to invest resources to address. As you gather these, try to use the customer's words, such as, - I - m concerned about our ability to achieve our forecasted revenues this year. - These quotes strengthen your credibility and show you have listened to what the audience has to say.
So, on your situation slide, you can begin with the company's concern for forecasted revenues, then begin listing the reasons this CBI exists.
The reasons are the issues behind the problem. In our example, a typical reason might be the client has realized that their sales force is having difficulty closing the technical sale, mainly due to a miscommunication between sales and the support engineers. In addition, an important piece of software to aid communication has not worked out as planned. Both of these reasons should be listed on the slide, and you can even engage the audience at this point to ensure you are on the right track.
After you have described the CBI and the reasons behind it, it's time to list the current ideas being put forward to address the CBI. For example, the company's vice-president of sales may be lobbying hard for more training for the sales team, while the director of operations wants a new communications protocol implemented.
These ideas should be briefly discussed as you move towards the final piece of the situation slide, summing up the short-term effects of the CBI. It could be this audience knows that because of this CBI, the company is current $150,000 behind their monthly sales quota. The situation slide should end on this note, as it drives home to the audience why this is a pressing issue, and should be dealt with sooner than later. You can then transition, how you intend to help them with the CBI with your product, strategy, etc.
Situation slides enable an audience to recall the facts and start the meeting with their issues, front and center. There is another advantage to using situation slides: they allow the presenter to confirm whether the information on the situation slide is correct and accurate.
But what about…
But is there ever a time to present the information in the corporate overview? I believe it should only be done when the customer asks for it specifically. Once you have shown that you have capabilities to address the client's business issues, only then will the audience begin to form questions about your company, and you should make the answers available to them.
Creating situation slides has several advantages in the sales arena, but in reality it can help just about every presenter. Situation slides force you to see the corporate overview from a customer's perspective, and to answer the question, - What information really captures their interest? - The results will add new momentum to your presentations, and a new level of success as well.
Peter Cohan is principal of The Second Derivative, a consultancy firm that works with software organizations to improve their sales and marketing demonstrations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his Web site at www.secondderivative.com.