Book Review + Notes on Strategic Sales Presentations by Jack Malcolm

Estimated Reading Time: 3-5 hours, 306 pages

Strategic Sales Presentations by Jack Malcolm is targeted for sales professionals who give business to-business presentations that include high-level executives in the audience, but is beneficial for anyone who would like to improve his or her presentation skills. It is written in an easy-to-read, conversational style. Malcolm provides case studies for each chapter starting with chapter three. It would be best to read this book cover to cover since many chapters tend to reference previous topics.

Key Concepts

How a presentation is received by an audience depends on many factors. While there is no exact formula to delivering a perfect presentation, there are four recurring themes that should always play a part of any presentation strategy:

1. Outside-in thinking. It is important to understand and put the needs of audience members first. Once their needs are known, it is easier to figure out how to sell them the solution.

2. Clear thinking. Passionate presentations can only last so long with customers. It is important to give them the facts, which need to make sense and meet their needs. Not only will audience members appreciate this, but it shows that the presenter is competent and trustworthy when it comes to their business.

3. Preparation. Preparation is the time and effort put into creating a presentation. It also includes rehearsing and continuous practice. To give the best presentation possible, it is important to make sure ideas are clear and easily conveyed.

4. Being genuine. Presenters must be sincere. The presentation is not being given to an audience, but to people, and those people are the ones making the decisions.

Introduction

Creating and delivering strategic sales presentations is challenging because they are usually given to highlevel executives and must fit into a company’s defined sales strategy. In Strategic Sales Presentations, Jack Malcolm breaks down the sales presentation process into three easy steps to help presenters make the most of their time and effort. These steps consist of planning the presentation, crafting the message, and delivering the message to an audience.

<!––nextpage––>

Part I: Plan and Position
Capturing the Listener’s Mind: How Individuals Decide

The decisions of the audience will be based on more than just what is said during the presentation.

Audience members bring their own experiences to the table. They might miss some of what is said during the meeting, or they could just be distracted by events that took place before they even left their houses. Before a great presentation can be put together, it is vital to understand how the people it will be delivered to think:

• Our brains have two different processing modes. System One is run on auto-pilot and processes mostly subconscious information, it forms the basis of first impressions. System Two, however, requires conscious thought. It tends to be slower and more deliberate than System One, and when using it, more attention tends to be paid to what is being presented.

• We take mental shortcuts. Big decisions are important, and shifting through all the information is hard work. Because of that, System One often jumps into action and people take mental shortcuts. Often, which system is used depends on whether or not the other person seems trustworthy.

• Social cues affect our thinking. There are six persuasion cues that can be useful to presenters: reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. These cues will never replace strong reasoning, but keeping them in mind is important as they can often add or detract from the effectiveness of the presentation.

• We resist change. People prefer to stick with what they know or what they already have rather than make a change, regardless of whether they are happy with their current situation or not. Change is scary and often produces stress and fear in those who are faced with having to make a change.

• We miss or forget a lot of what was said. A week after giving a presentation, chances are pretty good the audience will only remember ten percent of what was said. Three mental processes are to blame for this: attention, working memory, and long-term memory. With attention, the problem is that rarely will a presentation have 100 percent of the audience’s attention at a given time. Working memory tends to get overloaded fairly quickly, so if the audience is still thinking about the last point made while the presentation moves on, their attention has already been lost. Information gets stored into long-term memory once a person’s attention has been kept and has not overwhelmed his working memory. There are six qualities a presentation should have in order to increase the likelihood that it will be remembered: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotion, and a story.

• Bad is stronger than good. If the goal is to get the audience to take action, the presenter should focus on the negative consequences of not taking action.

• Social styles. All people are unique, so it is important to consider the preferred way of receiving a message before crafting one.

Decision Making in Organizations

The primary focus of a sales presentation should be on the person who makes the purchasing decisions for the company. However, the decision maker is not the only player involved in the decision process, so it is important to keep in mind what the others involved in the decision care about. The presenter should find out as much as possible about each player and focus on what the audience needs to know and the two or three things that differentiate the solution being presented from the competition’s.

When it comes time to present to high-level executives, the presenter should not waste his or her time with fluff, but instead get straight to the point. The presentation should be relevant, concise, simple, strategically focused, interactive, and relaxed.
Shape the Conditions for Success

Perhaps the most important step in shaping the conditions for success is making sure to have a champion in the audience—someone who will directly benefit from the solution and who can then “sell” it to the decision makers. A champion also helps to reveal insider information and can be an ally during the presentation. When setting up a presentation, the presenter should make sure the key people will be in attendance, especially the decision maker and major problem owners. However, to the presenter should not focus solely on these players; it is also helpful to have top-level executives attend as well as any opponents to the solution being offered. Veteran presenters learn as much as possible about those who will be attending and make sure to read the company’s annual report and check the news for any last minute headlines concerning the company. As part of preparing, the presenter should anticipate questions that the audience might ask and consider any and all questions to keep from getting caught offguard.

<!––nextpage––>

Part II: Craft Your Presentation

Choose Your Message

In order to give the kind of presentation that will get results, it has to have a clear theme. The theme gives a presentation focus, and focus provides three critical things: brevity, clarity, and impact. The first step in choosing a theme is to decide what the goal is. Is the goal to close the deal, teach the audience about the solution, or provide them with information? Second, it is important to answer why they should listen to the argument being presented. Lastly, presenters should take all the information gathered from the first two steps and use it to create a clear theme.

Structure Your Argument

Once a clear theme has been constructed, it is time to begin structuring the argument. Structuring the argument ensures the thinking behind the solution is clear and key points are not missed. This makes it easier for the audience to follow and keep up with what is being said. When it comes to structure, the presenter should remember two things:

1. The power of three. People like things in threes, so the presentation should be divided into three parts. If there are five main points, they should be condensed down to three main points.

2. Always make the strongest point the first part of the presentation. The beginning is when the presentation will have the most attention from the audience, and they will be more apt to remember information presented during this time.

In many situations, a persuasive structure for the argument will be warranted. When dealing with hostile or skeptical audiences, though, make sure to start out with something held in common. It will be impossible to change their minds right away, but if they can begin to listen a little bit, there is at least a chance. The best structure for a hostile or skeptical audience is USE:

• Understand/soften
• Small agreement
• Explanation

Support Your Main Points

Presenters should use as many verifiable facts and data as possible when supporting main points. This does not mean that the audience will automatically jump on board, but it does strengthen the argument. Malcolm gives some basic principles to follow when it comes to choosing facts and data:

• Get the facts straight
• Never confuse assertions or opinions with facts
• Have sufficient backup
• Use detail judiciously
• Be concrete
• Try to be original

There are numerous ways to support an argument, the top five being:
1. Facts/statistics/metrics
2. Personal observation
3. Appeal to authority
4. Social proof
5. Examples
For the audience to remember the facts, they need to be compelling. Presenters can use the SAVE tool to  help the audience remember:

• Stories
• Analogy and metaphor
• Vivid details and visuals
• Examples

Variety is key when choosing which tools to use during the presentation—it will keep the audience from getting bored.

Polishing: 

Polishing a presentation is what will take it from good to great. Presentations should be clear, so presenters must pay attention to the words being used. If big, complicated words can be avoided, they should be. If the audience does not understand what is being said, it will be impossible to persuade them. Using verbal outlining will make the presentation easy to follow for the audience. It is also important to be as concise as possible. This allows for short attention spans, leaves time for questions, and even shows confidence.

Numbers will most likely be part of every sales presentation. There are a few ways to present numbers effectively. First, presenters should use comparisons and context. Numbers mean different things to different people and should not be allowed to stand on their own without context. Numbers must also relate to the business and be presented in a way the audience can understand. When it comes to explaining technical information, the presenter should only tell audience members what they need to know. The audience is most likely going to be more interested in what the solution can do for them and why they need it rather than how it works.

Add the Opening and the Close

The introduction is the most important 60 seconds of a presentation. The audience will be forming their first impressions and that will affect whether they hear or even remember what is being said. There are three common mistakes that speakers make: starting off slowly and predictably, not giving the audience a clear reason to listen, and making the presentation all about the presenter. The opening needs to accomplish four things:

1. Get the audience interested in the presentation
2. Build rapport
3. Establish credibility
4. Tell the audience what the presentation is going to provide them

Just as the opening provides the first impression to the audience, the closing provides them with their last impression. The closing should amplify the message, summarize information, rouse the appropriate emotions, and include a call to action. It is not mandatory to do all of these things, but it is important to let the audience members know what their next steps should be.

Visual Persuasion
Visuals during a presentation can be very helpful, not only with selling the solution, but with getting the audience to retain the message. Visuals make it real for the audience—they stir emotions, say a lot in a short time, and clarify the message. However, they have to be used the right way, otherwise overloading the visual and auditory channels of audience members is a real risk and will do more harm than good. The presenter should craft the theme and message before beginning to craft slides. This will ensure that when it comes time to create the slides, they will be clear. Slides should not be able to give the presentation on their own—they should be used as support. If there is something on the slide that does not add value to the presentation, it should be deleted.

In order for slides to be beneficial during the presentation, presenters must stay in sync with them and know what is coming next. Presenters should not get ahead of or fall behind the slides. The best way to do this is through practice.

<!––nextpage––>

Part III: Stand and Deliver

Executive Presence

Executive presence is hard to define, but it comes down to the audience’s perceptions based on reputation, behavior, and appearance. It is important for presenters to be competent and know what motivates the audience. They should come across as genuine without being fake, and their attire should be professional.

Dealing with Nerves

Nerves can be a good thing when a presenter’s nervous energy is focused on making the presentation better.

There are 12 techniques Malcolm provides in order to deal with the pressures of presenting:
1. Remember that you are the expert and that is why you are giving the presentation
2. Be well prepared
3. Practice in situations that make you nervous, this will make the actual presentation easier
4. The audience is not trying to make you to fail, nor do they want you to fail
5. Build connections with the audience
6. Do not focus on the outcome, instead focus on how to get there
7. Think about other things besides nerves
8. Embrace and welcome nerves instead of looking at them as something negative
9. Identify what you are feeling
10. Breathe
11. Act confident and your mind will follow
12. Start strong

Performing: From Rehearsal through the First 60 Seconds

In order for the presentation to go smoothly, there are a few things that should be done. First, presenters should make time to rehearse. This is a chance to fix any gaps or unclear thinking before it is too late. The conditions of the rehearsal should be as close to the real presentation as possible, including the number of people who will be there and the time allotted. Second, it is important to arrive early. This allows for time to fix any issues encountered during setup and also makes it possible to get familiar with the room. It is also great to have time for greeting guests as they arrive in order to begin building a rapport with them. Third, presenters must open strong. They should start the presentation on time and memorize the introduction. If it is not possible to have a strong start, then it is vital to avoid creating a negative impression. The top three things that create a bad opening are: starting late, apologizing, and telling an inappropriate story. However, if the audience is skeptical, the goal then is just to get them to listen.

Platform Skills

When the time comes to finally give the presentation, in addition to remembering the presentation, it is important to pay some attention to four non-verbal skill areas:

1. Voice: Speak a little slower than normal and make sure to speak clearly.

2. Face: Eye contact is incredibly important. Making eye contact with the audience automatically begins to persuade them. When it comes to facial expressions, the best one is a smile.

3. Gestures: Gestures are a great way to add energy to a performance, and they improve the ability to think while speaking.

4. Posture and movement: Stand up straight, take up space, and make sure to be open. Any movements should have purpose outside of being nervous.

Make It Interactive

In order to bring the presentation to the next level, it is important to be interactive with the audience, reputation, behavior, and appearance. It is important for presenters to be competent and know what motivates the audience. They should come across as genuine without being fake, and their attire should be professional.

Dealing with Nerves

Nerves can be a good thing when a presenter’s nervous energy is focused on making the presentation better. There are 12 techniques Malcolm provides in order to deal with the pressures of presenting:

1. Remember that you are the expert and that is why you are giving the presentation

2. Be well prepared

3. Practice in situations that make you nervous, this will make the actual presentation easier

4. The audience is not trying to make you to fail, nor do they want you to fail

5. Build connections with the audience

6. Do not focus on the outcome, instead focus on how to get there

7. Think about other things besides nerves

8. Embrace and welcome nerves instead of looking at them as something negative

9. Identify what you are feeling

10. Breathe

11. Act confident and your mind will follow

12. Start strong

Performing: From Rehearsal through the First 60 Seconds

In order for the presentation to go smoothly, there are a few things that should be done. First, presenters should make time to rehearse. This is a chance to fix any gaps or unclear thinking before it is too late. The conditions of the rehearsal should be as close to the real presentation as possible, including the number of people who will be there and the time allotted. Second, it is important to arrive early. This allows for time to fix any issues encountered during setup and also makes it possible to get familiar with the room. It is also great to have time for greeting guests as they arrive in order to begin building a rapport with them. Third, presenters must open strong. They should start the presentation on time and memorize the introduction. If it is not possible to have a strong start, then it is vital to avoid creating a negative impression. The top three things that create a bad opening are: starting late, apologizing, and telling an inappropriate story. However, if the audience is skeptical, the goal then is just to get them to listen.

Platform Skills

When the time comes to finally give the presentation, in addition to remembering the presentation, it is important to pay some attention to four non-verbal skill areas:

1. Voice: Speak a little slower than normal and make sure to speak clearly.

2. Face: Eye contact is incredibly important. Making eye contact with the audience automatically begins to persuade them. When it comes to facial expressions, the best one is a smile.

3. Gestures: Gestures are a great way to add energy to a performance, and they improve the ability to think while speaking.

4. Posture and movement: Stand up straight, take up space, and make sure to be open. Any movements should have purpose outside of being nervous.

Make It Interactive

In order to bring the presentation to the next level, it is important to be interactive with the audience. Instead of getting in front and them and speaking, presenters should attempt to create a dialog. By asking the audience questions, presenters can get audience members to reveal what they want to hear. Slides are helpful, but using a whiteboard can help record information in the moment, such as flow charts and pros and cons. The question and answer session after the presentation is almost as important as the presentation itself. Questions from the audience help highlight what is important to them and allows for bolstering the message in those areas.

Effective Team Presentations 

Often times, strategic business-to-business presentations will be given by more than one person.

This is a great opportunity for the customer to see the team interact and decide if they can work with that team for the long term. A team presentation differs from a group presentation in that a team presentation is a group of people making one presentation, whereas a group presentation is a group of people each making his or her own presentation. The preparation is still the same as an individual presentation, with a little additional work. For one thing, everybody has information that is vital to the presentation, but it can be a challenge determining who will present what information and in what order. With a team presentation, it is also important to make sure that there is one core message and that everything else is planned from that. Because everything has to work together and flow smoothly, rehearsing is even more important. Everyone who is giving the presentation should be participating in the presentation at all times, even when they are not speaking.

How to Get Better

In order to get better and master the skill of presenting, it is necessary to practice. Presenters should study previous performances and find the areas in which it is possible to improve. It is also helpful to seek out other opportunities to speak. Presenting will become more natural as individuals take part in more public speaking opportunities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Built with Love :)