Turning Presentations into Conversations
After teaching sales for the past 20 years, as well as implementing processes I developed in my own companies, I’ve found that certain trends are critical to sales success in today’s environment. I believe one of those trends – turning presentations into conversations – is one of the keys to closing more business.
The process I developed is a collaborative process and philosophy called “Sitting on the Same Side of the Table as Your Customer.” I’d like to share more about the process and its impact.
“Sitting on the Same Side of the Table as Your Customer” is both literal and figurative. The literal part is you actually do want to sit on the same side of a table as your customer whenever possible. What I mean is this. Let’s say you’re in a conference room and there are two or more of you representing your company. Traditionally, what would happen is you’d all sit on one side of the table and your customers would sit on the other. You’d then present to them.
My recommendation is that you split up so you have representatives on both sides of the table. This would also encourage your customer, should they have more than one person present, to split up as well. By doing so, this inherently creates a conversation. It also helps to eliminate the feeling of “us vs. them.”
You may even get a strange look or two from your customer since they aren’t used to this. What you will find, though, is that they’ll appreciate the change and a more relaxed conversational atmosphere.
Instead of traditional selling, you will find that you have put yourself in a position to sell collaboratively; you can have a high-impact conversation instead of presenting to your customer as you usually do.
The figurative part of this philosophy is that your customer should feel like you have an arm around their shoulder – though I wouldn’t recommend actually doing that unless that’s a natural part of your relationship with them. They should feel like you’re working together to see if there are opportunities that are good for both of you.
I’d like to share a story of how this process can work. I was working with a client, a former VP at Safeway, who had started her own company. She had a couple of retail locations with ready-to-eat meals, and customers could prepare their own as well. She wanted to launch her meals in upscale grocery store chains around Northern California. She asked for my help to get this new division of her business off the ground.
One of the first things to do was to meet with potential distributors. We set up a meeting with one who said they work only with established companies who already had distribution. We said that was fine, we’d just like to meet so that we did things properly and, when my client had distribution, they would want to work with her.
My client and I went together for the meeting. We were escorted into a conference room. Using my process, she and I split up and sat on opposite sides of the conference table.
When the distributor came into the room, she smiled and relaxed. By us splitting up, she felt more as if we were going to have a conversation, instead of us trying to sell her on becoming my client’s distributor.
For an hour, we asked the distributor questions. Those questions included both what my client needed to do and why the distributor would be the right choice once my client gained distribution. We never once tried to sell her on becoming my client’s distributor.
At the end of the hour, she asked my client if she could be her distributor. We just made her feel like we were sitting together having a conversation instead of us presenting to her.
By our taking this tact, the distributor was both inspired and motivated to work with my client. She never felt sold. She did most of the talking. We did most of the listening. We communicated and had a conversation. There was no presentation, no slides, just interaction that led to a mutually beneficial outcome.
Sitting side by side with your customer is incredibly powerful. Having a high-impact conversation instead of a traditional presentation not only closes more business, but more profitable business.
Michael Levin is President and CEO of Custom Solutions. He has launched numerous companies and built them into multi-million dollar entities. He is a consultant, speaker, and a three-time #1 International Best-Selling author. His books include his #1 inspirational best-seller Let Them See You Sweat, and Sitting on the Same Side of the Table: The Art of Collaborative Selling, and is a contributor in Jack Canfield’s, The Road to Success. Learn more at www.michaeljlevin.com.
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