Losing Sales To Inaction? It's Probably Your Presentation

After a hard fought sales engagement, there are few things that frustrate a salesperson more than words to the effect of “we’re just going to keep things the way they are.”

People in sales may find it a bitter pill to swallow, but generally can accept losing to a competitor.  Sometimes you just don’t have the best solution and no matter your relationship or pitch, the customer sees through it.

However, the scenario where the customer decides to do nothing is a different beast.  

In a former life, this infuriated me more than anything (which was ironic, because for whatever reason my managers seemed to be far more accepting of this as opposed to losing to a competitor.)

Don’t get me wrong there are times when budgets and priorities simply result in a “no decision” however more often than not, nobody “walks on the lot unless they are willing to buy.”  

So let’s explore why this happens.

Salespeople often make the honest mistake of thinking that “gain” is the biggest motivator for a decision maker.  Gain in profit, gain in revenue, gain in efficiency.  

Science however says you are wrong!

In fact, some studies show that losses are twice as powerful

So when you pitch the latest and greatest solution, most reps spend their time talking about the gains, which is fine, so long as you establish what the customer should expect to lose from not deploying your solution.  

A simple but profound example of this type of decision making process is insurance.  You don’t get insurance because of what you stand to gain.  You buy it because of what you potentially could lose without it.

This is where your presentation comes into play.  If you want to put the fear of god in your prospect that doing nothing will result in a cataclysm for the business, words are seldom enough.  You need:

  • A visual story showing the implication of inaction vs action

  • Industry specific statistics, case studies (or insights) proving this.

  • A compelling, relevant argument as to why you are best equipped to deliver the results necessary to avoid negative implications of inaction (and positive implications of action)

If you are relying on words alone, painting this picture is not going to be nearly as effective as 65% of individuals are visual learners

Or to put in real world terms, watch a horror movie with your eyes closed and see how scared you get.

Now, here’s the other reason why your presentation matters, and I’ll use the IT industry as an example.

You are selling the latest and greatest in security software.  Viruses, malware and phishing programs literally tremble at the sight of your software, and on top of that, it’s 10% cheaper than anything on the market because your’s is the only one with a self updating algorithm using the latest patented AI technology.

Because of the press coverage your software is getting, IT managers are falling over themselves to buy your product because duh, of course they are.  They know what’s at stake and get it.  $5,000 a month for your software is a pittance.

You go to speak to the prospect.  The conversation lasts an hour.  Five minutes of the customer praising the ground you walk on and the rest of it talking about how you [insert local sports team] will smash the [insert your sports team’s biggest rival].  

The prospect says this is a no-brainer they just need to get approval from the CFO.  You hi-five at the end of the meeting and walk out.

A week later your prospect emails you (they never call) saying the CFO hasn’t approved the request because “our cyber security is fine because in our 20 year history we’ve never been hacked and a $500 saving a month isn’t worth the cost of change.”  

So what went wrong?

Two things:

  1. When a sale is made, you are really making two sales.  One to the decision influencer and one to the decision maker.  Now of-course in an ideal world you would get the decision influencer to sanction you intro the decision maker and we can argue to death about the practicalities of this.  The reality is this is not always possible.  As such, your are relying on a non-salesperson to sell your solution to a decision maker who is illiterate in your product. Ha. Goodluck!

  2. You are giving a non-salesperson literally no support.  A good presentation with the aforementioned characteristics gives the decision influencer the tools to sell your solution.  This is not to say they need to present it themselves, but a good presentation can effectively tell a story without a narrator.  To put it bluntly, you may be able to sell ice to eskimos armed with nothing but your dry wit and a contract, but that’s why you’re a salesperson.  Others are not and without making clear the dire implications of inaction to a decision maker not literate (or willing to understand) the benefits of your product, you will lose deals.

All salespeople lose sales, and no matter how good you or your presentation is, you will continue to lose sales and it will be frustrating.  With a good sales presentation however, you will just lose much less.