Too often our presentations for winning government contracts have TOO MANY WORDS. You may think you're making all the points you need to get a government contract by packing tons of words your slides. But, you're probably just wasting words and everyone's time.
Slides work best with very few words, maybe some high-level diagrams used to help emphasize a simple point made by the presenter. But, we're often sucked into writing tomes. That's not good, but let me get to the point: In this episode of Myths of Selling to Government, we talk about the landmines of busy slide presentations and where your focus should really be. It's a key to how to sell to the government, taught by Government Selling Solutions and your host Rick Wimberly (who would welcome your LinkedIn connection requests).
Agony of Too Many Words in Government Sales Presentations
A few of you are fortunate enough to have the support of a crack marketing department capable of creating beautiful sales presentations, directed by James Cameron and narrated by James Earl Jones. Many of you will receive a standard corporate template to fill-in and modify according to your needs. And some of you will be using a hand-me-down slide deck, originally created when Lynard Skynard was playing wedding receptions and Bill Gates was wearing braces.
In all but the rarest of cases, you as a salesperson will have a great deal of impact on the look and feel of your slide presentation. You always have final edit rights since you’re the one giving it. If you’re practicing Valute Portfolio Selling, canned presentations simply won’t do. You’ll need to tailor the information..
While turning you into a graphic design expert is beyond our scope, there are some basics to think about when developing a presentation. First, the presentation won’t likely win a deal for you, although it could lose one. More important than the presentation, you’ve got to ask lots of questions to understand their true needs and their processes. Often, this can’t be done in a presentation.
Remember Episode 19, the Inside Scoop on Government Sales Presentation Shoot-outs. That’s where we told the story about our time sitting on the other side of the table, and listening to presentations for the government. The upshot of that one was that you’d better be better in all aspects of accelerating a government sale, because it sure is hard to make a difference in a shoot out with your competition.
While other things may be more important in the grand scheme of things, you might as well do everything in your power to tip the scales in your favor—including ensuring your presentation is a notch above the rest.
One of those things involves the order in which you present. Got back to Episode 10, the Freebird Way to present. We talked about doing your presentations in the same format as a rock concert. After building anticipation, hit them hard up front. Play some ballads in the middle...and leave the best for last. Ya know, Freebird.
You should focus on strong images and diagrams to help tell your story. Words themselves should be sparse. Studies have shown that verbal retention is enhanced most when the listener is presented a single, large image that relates to what the speaker is saying.
Sales rely a good bit on emotion...even in the government space...the emotions that help decide whether someone or a company can be trusted as a good partner, do what they say they will do, and provide good value. Think there might be some emotion in those decisions...try as folks may to keep the emotion out?
I’ll never forget a presentation I did for a group of mostly engineers. I placed a lot of engineering-type charts in the presentation, thinking they would like that. I finished the presentation, fully expecting these right brained guys to ask me specific, detailed questions about the slides. But, the only slide...the only slide...they asked me to go back to was an “effect” slide I had inserted (and glossed over) that showed rocks lined up in a pool of water. They wanted to discuss the symbolism of the slide, of how we needed to move forward together to get our feet from getting wet….or something like that.
The big boss, an engineer himself, said it was the best presentation he had ever seen. (Imagine that!) It was the emotion, not the information, that impressed them. Ya know, like Freebird. And, yes, I closed the deal.
One of the most common presentation mistakes salespeople make is cramming too many words on a slide, and getting too technical. Everyone knows it’s a mistake. Everyone does it anyway.
For some, the problem stems from a lack of confidence—a fear that some key point will be missed or an important feature will be described inaccurately.
For others, it’s basic laziness or a lack of preparation. It’s easier to write a bunch of words, than boil it down to a few. Right? Slides become a crutch for those unwilling or unable to spend the time rehearsing and polishing...or a crutch for not truly understanding the nature of the pain they are trying to relieve or how they can do it. If you lack understanding, you may be just throwing a bunch of spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks.
Whatever the reason, filling the screen with words is not good. Every word must fight for its right to be on the page. You may need one sentence to provide clear context or introduce a concept, but most bullet points should consist of only a few words. Show only three to five main points per slide. If you need more room, create another slide.
In all honesty, we know this can be a real challenge, especially when following our advice on presenting pain, cause, solution and benefits. It’s a lot of ground to cover for one slide. While this information can be split across multiple slides, we tend to like it on one. With a little word-wrangling, or an infographic, you should be able to condense your message and still make your point...perhaps make it better.
And, unless you’re creating a commercial for a monster truck rally, you should keep the animations and transitions to a minimum. Just because your slide software is capable of doing something does not mean you should do it. No one wants to see your slide build one letter at a time or fly in like confetti in a wind storm. It’s distracting and will hinder your message from getting through. Besides, it’s just not cool anymore. Even fifth graders don’t use those effects these days.
In conclusion, well, there is no conclusion on this topic. We have more to say...but, like Mitch Hedburg said to the wino eating grapes. Dude, you have to wait.