On two separate occasions in as many weeks, I have seen prospective dream clients request or require that the salespeople sitting in their boardroom not present. They have asked that computers remain closed and that PowerPoint be eliminated.

In both cases, the salespeople were more than ready to present. In one case, they were prepared to not present. In the other case, they were lost.

Rejecting Presentations

There is a reason that these prospective clients refused to sit through a PowerPoint presentation: there was nothing in it for them, and they knew it.

In both of these cases, the buyers were sophisticated. They understood what they were buying, and they had seen enough presentations to understand what differentiation existed. In one case, they had let an RFP, and had already collected responses and determined who was worth interviewing.

These companies and their buyers weren’t interested in watching and listening to a presentation. They wanted something more.

A Dialogue and a Potential Relationship

In both of these cases, the buyers were only interested in a dialogue. They didn’t want to see what they company said about itself as prepared by the marketing department; they wanted to understand who the company was by exchanging in a dialogue with the people with whom they would later be working.

The fact that these two companies were at the boardroom table meant that their solutions were close enough to consider them. What these two buying committees wanted was to feel what it was like to work with them. They wanted to understand what these people believed and whether or not they were the right people to work with going forward. They didn’t believe that a PowerPoint presentation was going to give them the answer they needed . . . because it wasn’t.

Both buying committees wanted to engage in a dialogue and determine the relationship fit. Could we work together? Do we share the same values? What would a relationship feel like going forward?

No Crutches

In one case, the sales team was well prepared. They had rehearsed as a team. They had determined their roles, and they had decided who would answer questions about which topics. They also gathered enough information ahead of time to anticipate the questions.

Their preparation paid dividends during the sales call.

In the second case, the sales team making the call was caught flat-footed. They had prepared to give a PowerPoint presentation, and they were surprised when they were told that they weren’t going to be allowed to use it. Worse still, because they hadn’t done enough work in front of the opportunity, they were unprepared for some of the questions, and those questions made them appear to be nervous and somewhat evasive.

And this was an experienced group with great subject matter expertise and good sales chops. It didn’t matter; they were expecting to able to rely on their crutch—and their crutch was taken away.

More Than Anecdotal Evidence

I believe that these two stories provide more than anecdotal evidence. I have additional examples, as well as a number of examples of buyers sitting politely by, chomping at the bit to engage in a dialogue.

More and more, I am seeing buyers request to have the entire presentation time dedicated to dialogue, to questions and answers.

Because buyers have short-circuited some of the needs analysis and relationship building that used to be the normal course of business, boardroom presentations are morphing into an opportunity to determine whether or not there is a fit when it comes to the companies and their people working together.

Some salespeople thrive on this kind of give and take; they love to be blasted with difficult questions and the challenge of gaining rapport under pressure. Other salespeople crumble under the pressure, especially when they are asked questions to which they don’t already have answers.

As the great game of sales continues to change, you are going to have to be as prepared to not present as you are prepared to use your slide deck. As buyers are more sophisticated in knowing what they are buying and what they need, these presentation opportunities look more like needs analysis sales calls, with your dream client driving the agenda with their own list of questions.

Be a boy scout and be prepared to not present.


Do all of your dream clients really want or need a presentation?

How has the changing nature of buying changing the way we sell?

Why are some seller’s being asked to forego the presentation and to engage in a dialogue instead?

How does this change how you present for a boardroom meeting?

What is the best way to prepare for this type of engagement?

Sales 2011
Post by Anthony Iannarino on July 17, 2011
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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