Your POC meets you at the elevator. After the standard handshake-and-hello, she guides you to the conference room—in which you find nine people. There were only four on the invitation, and you, of course, researched them thoroughly. So who are these people? What’s their stake in what you’re selling? And who’s really making the buying decision here?
No matter how good your pitch is, you’re not going to close a deal if you can’t read a room, keep your audience engaged, and adapt to curveballs.
We recently gave you some insights into what MarTech buyers really want from a sales pitch. Now it’s time to talk about how to read the room once you’re finally in it.
Before you can get any business you have to get attention. And our Emissaries from companies like Costco, GNC, and Cisco all agreed—shifting your focus from what you’re selling to who you’re selling to is the best way to get them engaged. Here’s what they recommend.
Ask questions to grab your audience’s attention
You’re pitching to a group of busy executives who only have so much time (and attention) to spare—and bursting through the doors and booting up a PowerPoint is the fastest way to lose them. It may not seem fair, but for enterprise buyers with other concerns on their mind, the decision whether to tune in or drop out is made fast.
“The folks who are probably least successful bring in some PowerPoint slides and roll through them,” said an Emissary who formerly served as senior director of marketing communications at Cisco. “Half the time, the technology doesn’t work, there’s no big screen anymore, and everybody’s on their laptops, which means they’re multi-tasking and answering texts and emails.”
Your sales deck is a useful tool, but it must be used sparingly. No matter how great it looks or how applicable the information is—it’s worthless if your audience has already decided you’re not there to listen and only there to sell.
“It was all about them,” our Cisco Emissary said, when asked about what made them lose interest in a presentation. “The salespeople never asked one question about what we were interested in or the value that we wanted to create with a partnership. They were all about selling their product off the shelf, not customizing it for our needs.”
Ask questions about your prospect’s biggest challenges and major areas of concern to keep them engaged throughout your presentation. Even just checking in every so often to make sure everyone is following along can help better maintain focus.
Listen and adapt
Let’s be clear: Don’t ask questions just to ask questions. You need to ask thoughtful questions and listen carefully to the answers. Your prospects’ responses will provide useful insight into what matters most to them.
Use the feedback to inform your presentation as you move through it. If, for example, a decision maker told you that Marketo integration was a key concern, bring that up when you get to your integrations slide, and provide real-world examples of customers who’ve successfully integrated your platform with Marketo. Your audience will be more engaged, seeing that your presentation is not just a one-size-fits-all script but a living, breathing conversation that adapts to their individual business needs and concerns.
This advice is doubly true for conference calls, where winning and keeping buyer’s attention is even more difficult. In these situations, where all you have are your words, asking questions of all parties involved is your best bet for keeping calls on track.
And to make sure you’re asking the right questions, check in with your advocate. While it may seem like they’ve done all they can by just getting you in the room, their insight into the company’s structure and purchasing process can help you identify who the major players are and what they need to hear in order to confidently sign a deal.
Engage by disengaging
Sometimes the most effective method to keeping your audience engaged is not saying anything at all. In these instances, as meetings start to run long and attention spans wane, the best way to pull your audience in is to let them go.
“Meetings should be short,” a former SVP of e-commerce at Costco told us. “Manage the time, but if you feel like you’ve just totally lost it, then it’s probably time to say, ‘Why don’t we call it a day. I’ll summarize and send you what we’ve talked about and we can set up another call next week to continue.’”
It’s a fine line to walk, and it’s not always easy. You don’t want to jump ship at the first wayward glance at the clock—but ending the meeting right when everyone’s attention has reached its limit will leave your audience feeling fresh and ready to continue the conversation at a later date.