Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Presentation Tip: Case study/Success story slides

In any presentation where you are selling ideas, products or services, your audience will want to know that you can actually solve their problem. Just stating that you can solve the problem is not enough, you have to provide proof. One of the best ways to prove your capabilities is by sharing examples of past situations where you were successful solving similar problems. I call these case studies or success stories. In today’s article I want to share a four-part formula for creating slides that illustrate these powerful stories.

Before I get to the four steps, I want to emphasize the reason you are using case studies. It is not to brag about the work you have done. Too often I see presenters use case studies as a way to boast about the big name clients they have worked for. Remember that the focus of the audience is not on being impressed by who you have worked for, it is on trying to find the best solution to their problem. This means that all of your case studies need to be selected because they illustrate your ability to solve a problem that is similar to the one this client has.

The first step in creating a case study or success story is to describe the problem. Make sure you show how it is similar to the problem the client is struggling with. In a recent consulting assignment, I suggested that my client choose a case where they had dealt with a significant grade on a piece of property, since that was a major concern for their client. If the case study does not directly relate to the situation they face, the client is confused as to why you are sharing it.

The second step is to measure the size of the problem that the case involved. Every organization has more problems than they have resources to solve. The ones that get attention are the ones that are big enough to solve. Provide a measurement of what this problem was costing, what difficulties were being encountered, or the significance of the challenge. This shows the client that you have experience dealing with the size of problem they have.

The third step is to provide an overview of the solution you provided in the case. Do not think that you need to go in to a lot of detail with this explanation. Keep it at a high level so they do not get overwhelmed by detail. The details of the solution for this client will, of course, be different, so keep the discussion to the major activities or approaches you used. If you feel it necessary, have hidden backup slides with additional detail in case the client asks for more details on the solution.

In the final step, provide a measurement of the impact of the solution. Show how it benefitted the organization who was having the problem. As much as possible, show the difference using the same measures as in step two, when you described the size of the problem. You can talk about cost reduction, revenue increase, increase in measures of customer satisfaction, or any other relevant measures for the situation at hand. The client wants to see that your solution actually made a difference, so make that clear.

In summary, the four steps are:
1) Describe the problem and how it is similar
2) Measure the size of the problem
3) Provide an overview of the solution
4) Show the benefit of your solution

By following these four steps, you can show the client that you have the experience to solve the type of problem they have, the size of problem they have, and provide a solution that has a positive impact on results. You can recap the case study or success story on one slide or on multiple slides in your presentation, depending on the level of detail you feel necessary to share for this client and their problem.

Once you have created a number of these case studies, consider collecting them in a single slide file so that they can easily be accessed for future presentations. Think about the top five or ten problems that you solve, and make sure you have a case study story that shows your expertise in each situation. By effectively using case studies and success stories, your presentation will be much more powerful.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Presentation Tip: The one question a sales presentation must answer

Last week I was reviewing a sales presentation someone sent me. They are pitching their services to a major prospective client and they know that their competition will be strong. So how do they start their presentation? With slide after slide about their firm, with text and graphics copied from their web site. In this article I want to talk about why this type of presentation will likely fail, and what a sales presentation must answer in order to be successful.

The presentation I describe above is typical and it suffers from the one problem that will doom a sales presentation to failure: not answering the one question a prospect absolutely needs to have answered. What a prospective client really wants to know is, “Can you solve the big, hairy, ugly problem I have?” Until you answer that question, they don’t care about the rest of what you have to say.

You may argue that they need to know first about how great your firm is so they will trust you to solve their problem. I don’t think so. Trust doesn’t come from hearing how great you think you are. Trust comes from seeing proof that you understand their problem and can solve it. Your capabilities and experience only matter as a support for your claim that you can solve their problem.

Here is how I suggest you structure your next sales presentation. Start by showing that you understand their problem. Demonstrate that you know how much that problem is costing them in dollars and reputation. Confirm with them the source and level of pain. Now that you understand their pain, you can outline the solution you provide and how it solves their problem.

Next, use case studies that show how you have solved similar problems for others in the past. I will talk more about including case studies in my next newsletter. The only reason to include an example or case study is to demonstrate experience with the type of problem they have. Select these examples carefully so that they address the specific issues that this client is having.

Only after you have shown proof that you have solved these types of problems in the past should you start talking about your firm. And when you do talk about your firm, it is not to brag about how great you are. When you include information about yourself, it should focus on the skills, experience, expertise, capabilities, machinery, facilities, etc. that you will use to provide the specific solution to their problem. They only care about what will help solve their problem.

After presenting a clear understanding of their problem, a summary of your solution, proof that you have solved similar problems for others, and how you will bring your experience to solve their problem, you can open up for further questions and discussion.

Don’t make your sales presentation all about you and your firm. Make your sales presentation about how you can solve their problem. Only include information about you when it relates to proving that you can provide a good solution to the problem. Structuring a sales presentation in this way would improve a large percentage of the sales presentations done each day.