BY BOB MIODONSKI
Of CONTRACTOR’s staff
PALM DESERT, CALIF. — The biggest mistake committed by mechanical contractors in making sales presentations is this — they always start at the beginning.
“Don’t start there; start at the end,” advised Steve Liggett, who spoke March 5 at the Mechanical Contractors Association of America annual meeting here on how to make winning sales pitches. “The primary purpose of a presentation is to get a decision. So ask yourself what decision do you want?”
Answering that question can help a contractor sharpen and define the presentation, Liggett said. By organizing a sales pitch successfully, a contractor can lead with the points of the most interest to a customer. Another important question to ask is: Who is going to make the decision?
The two types of decision makers that contractors encounter are results-oriented and process-oriented. CEOs want results, Liggett said, so contractors should tell them right away they are going to fix the CEO’s problem. They can explain the process later.
Middle managers and others in an organization may want to know more about how the contractor plans to fix the problem. So, contractors have to explain the problem-solving process in great detail.
“You listen to figure out which is which,” said Liggett, who also suggested finding out about an unfamiliar potential customer from one of his suppliers or employees.
Regardless of which type of person is the ultimate decision maker, the contractor must go to see him. This not only shows that a contractor may be more aggressive than a competitor, it also gives him the opportunity during the visit to ask two more questions:
1. What’s the one thing about this project that keeps you awake at night?
2. What will happen if I can solve this problem?
“If you know what the itch is, and you know how to scratch it, you’ll be OK,” Liggett said.
In making the presentation itself, contractors always should involve their audience so that the communication isn’t just one way. After a brief introduction that can be as informal as discussing sports or the weather, a contractor then should move to the promise, which is the hook he needs to get the business. It’s another way of stating the decision that the contractor wants the customer to make.
“The promise has to be provocative. If it is, the more likely your audience is going to listen,” he said. “The best way to be provocative in your promise is to get specific. Put numbers in it. The biggest problem is plain-jane promises.”
Contractors should conceive of their promise as a movie title. Would customers cross the street to go to a theater if a movie was playing there with the same title as the contractor’s presentation?
Of course, the contractor has to prove during the presentation that he can deliver on the promise. Contractors should structure their sales pitch so that three proof points support the promise.
Prove you can deliver
“The proof points permit your audience to believe your promise,” Liggett said. “So, you have to craft the proof points so they support your promise.”
Studies show that people remember a list of three items more than they do one or two, he said.
“When it comes to presentations, three is a powerful number,” Liggett said. “Three distinct reasons can carry any arguments. There is a magic in the power of three.”
Contractors should conclude their presentation by restating their promise.
Other tips in the “Win More Business with Winning Presentations” workshop included:
- Present an agenda because audiences want to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there;
- Use your hands when you present to make yourself bigger and to use more energy;
- Lean forward in your chair to emphasize certain points, but pick your moments so you don’t overdo the body language;
- Don’t let PowerPoint drive or prop up your presentation but use it as a tool to present charts or graphs;
- Use no more than seven to nine words per PowerPoint slide;
- Use boards or gizmos to physically show your presentation; and
- Involve your audience by asking questions.