Improve your sales pitch with these 5 tips!

At Georgetown University, we are in the RFP stage for a number of key IT projects.  This week, I sat through about 6 different vendor presentations in response to our requirements for these projects.  It was amazing how much each presentation, and the people presenting them, differed.

This is brief, but here are my take-aways and recommendations:

  • Be human.  Mix in some humor and rotate presenters.  I’m not talking about cheesy jokes, but keep the conversation light by mixing in witty humor.  No one wants to listen to a presentation that drones in monotone.  Take every opportunity to connect with your audience personally.  Don’t be afraid to mix in a brief story from the day-of to show that this presentation is geared directly to the audience.  I observed that it is also nice to rotate presenters as this helps to naturally break up the presentation and make it more engaging.  Some groups had up to 4 presenters during an hour-long presentation.
  • Demonstrate with examples and make it real.  People like to understand that you’re an expert in the solution that you are providing.  Make your examples as real as possible.  If you don’t have a direct example, mock up an example from the requirements for the project.  Help the audience understand how you are going to help them and break the solution down.  Visuals are always a good idea.
  • Be transparent about some of the key challenges.  No one is perfect.  Seeing a number like 99 or 100% always raises my eyebrows.  We don’t live in a perfect world.  Be open and share challenges from past experiences.  Help the audience understand your experience and how you would work to mitigate these risks and challenges.  You rarely see a 99.99% up-time guarantee or success rate.  And, even when you do, it seems like more of a marketing plug.  Just ask Amazon about their failure on Christmas Eve that sent Netflix users in a fury.   The point here is not to slam Amazon.  Amazon is a great company with fantastic services.  The point is that no one is perfect.  I bet they learned from that Christmas Eve mistake and have measures in place to prevent it this year.  If you were a company similar to Netflix and seeking Amazon’s services, wouldn’t you want to know how they addressed that issue and the preventative measures that they have put in place moving forward?
  • If possible, show the solution.  We all love PowerPoint, right?  I like PPT visuals and pretty charts and graphs, but I also want to see where the rubber meets the road.  It is great to see something like workflow presented in PowerPoint, but it brings an entirely new dimension to the presentation when you can show how the system handles workflow in real time.  If you’ve done your homework, you can align these demo “bursts” with the requirements in the RFP.  I realize this isn’t always possible, but it is a very nice touch!  If you are scared of internet connectivity, pre-record the demo bursts and save them on the local laptop.
  • Be interactive.  We had one vendor actually video conference references during the presentation.  Not only was it great to connect with someone that is in our position, but it was helpful to hear them talk about the solution and how it has directly benefited their business.  In other sessions, we enjoyed engaging conversation and impromptu requests to provide a requirement and the vendor would demonstrate how that requirement would be met in the solution.  This goes so much further than talking about the “possibilities” in the solution.  Take action….show us!