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A few weeks ago, I was at an all-day technology workshop and saw several vendor presentations. I was struck as to how compelling each of the presentations could have been but weren't because the message was mis-managed.

Be a Challenger

Much of my comments have been spurred on by the book The Challenger Sale (Dixon, Adamson) The book is quite blunt in its assesment as to what a vendor (or any supplier) should say to a customer. Quite simply, start with the customer and not yourself.
My thoughts based on the book is that much of the presentation's content that I saw, was the right content, it needed to be re-arranged. As an example, let's assume a blessedly brief small room 10-slide deck and the mindset of the customer.

We get it, you're in business

Most presentations begin with "we've been in business...". Think of it this way, because someone has allowed you to present, the customer is making the assumption that your business is solid and you have customers. What is more important is to help them to understand the problems you solve, from the customer's point of view.
Action: Delete slide 1, the "we've been in business..." slide.

Show me you can help me

So, you understand the problems the customer faces. You have probably spent significant time and resources with other customers that have the exact same problems. Help the customer understand what they face is similar to other customers. So instead of a Logo slide as number 2, make a "we see customers similar to you and they are saying..." slide. That's much more important to the customer then who has purchased your product.
Action: Delete logo slide and make it a customer problems slide 1

Help me understand the problem

The customer understands you can't solve all the problems, so help them to understand which one you can solve. And how that problem might be impacting the customer. But don't jump to the solution because we're not there yet. Help them understand the context of how that problem the customer is experiencing can be solved and why it should be solved. Action: *These slides are typically 7 and 8, bring them to the front.

And what if I don't solve it

Here is a critical point. The customer is not interested in understanding how great things will be if they buy the solution. In fact, data shows 75% don't care how great things will be. What they want to know is..."what happens if they don't solve it". CEB likes to call this ROPE or return on pain eliminated". In other words, throw out that ROI calculator and give them a ROPE calculator.
ACTION: Change slide 5 (ROI) to ROPE.

Why you?

Now, you have the customers attention at about slide 5 in your presenation. They realize that the problem is worse than they thought, they believe it needs to be solved and they are considering solutions. But why you. What makes your solution the best solution for solving this problem. This is the big one. [More on this at another time.]

In summary...

The conversation flow goes like this..."We see a lot of customers similar to you. They are very concerned about this and that but particularly this. They didn't realized that not solving this problem is costing them upwards of $X a day. Not only that it impacts other aspects of their business as well. We've studied this problem and think we have a unique and compelling solution. Whaddayathink?" But slower.

Back to The Challenger

The Challenger Sale is a compelling way to look at sales and marketing. The point of the Challenger is to reframe the customer's reference point that they 1) see the problem, 2) understand the need to change and 3) realize that you have the best and only solution. Re-writing your small room pitches is a great way to begin to think effectively as a Challenger.

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Lief Koepsel


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