One of most common dilemmas people have when they’re up against a presentation deadline is how to actually open it: “How do I structure the opening?”
I have a client I’ve been working with the past couple of weeks who has taken the reigns as the business development partner in a company that services pipeline companies, but in a different way than you might think.
They provide software, expertise, and resources to help major pipeline companies mitigate the risk of ageing pipelines – you know, the ones underground that keep rupturing and devastating the environment around them. The software tracks the pipeline infrastructure and risk across the system so that the pipeline company can concentrate on preventive maintenance — honing in on the lines with the highest probability of having problems in the future.
My client has been working on a presentation to sell their services to potential clients who don’t use such a service.
Our second meeting was a check-up on how he was doing with the presentation structure. The simple structure I teach is “start with the problem.”
As he led into the body of the presentation, though, he hadn’t done that. He started and ended by talking about their service company and how they had technologies and resources to keep pipelines safe, identify potential problems, and provide necessary resources and expertise to make sure they met all regulatory requirements.
But he hadn’t talked about the problem. The problem in the inevitability of pipeline leaks. They’re going to happen; it’s only a matter of time. Everybody knows this. That’s because nobody’s kept track of what’s actually going on underground. Eventually, pipelines rot or rupture.
That’s the problem, but he wasn’t addressing it. It was the elephant in the room. By avoiding it, he wasn’t connecting with his audience. He also wasn’t identifying a compelling reason to act sooner, rather than later. His presentation became a “nice-to-know” event, rather than time-sensitive information requiring immediate action.
In our subsequent discussion, it came out that he was worried about beginning his presentation in a negative manner by criticizing the industry, and perhaps the company, by extension.
Bad idea. This is business. Most high level decision-makers don’t have time to listen to a sales pitch. They have problems; they want them solved.
The best relationship you can have with a client is one of “partner.” The worst is that of salesperson.
You become a “partner” by discussing the problem right off the top. Get them to agree on the problem. Then offer a solution. And then tell them why it’s the best solution.
Finally, focus on the timeline for acting.
Set yourself up as their partner for solving the problem.
Remember, your presentation is always about your audience and their problem. It’s never about you. You’re just the vehicle to help them get to a better place.
Your presentation opening? Concentrate on the problem. It’s the core of your persuasive presentation.