They bought dozens of companies, turned around operations and improved balance sheets. Many of these buyout professionals were mentioned weekly in the Wall Street Journal or Forbes. But they were often scared to talk to potential private equity investors.
These men and women were my clients. My task was to prepare them for meetings where they would ask for money. I told them that their chemistry with the money manager would be as important as their business discussion. Oh, yeah, they got that. But then they pulled out thick flip charts or lengthy business videos. So the presentation surgery began. Here are a few points that we worked on which apply to any sales meeting, especially ones involving services.
• Eye contact is critical. How can you develop a rapport when you’re reading a flip chart? If the meeting is with just a few people, make it intimate, not formal.
• Presentation materials keep you on point. Nevertheless, less is more. Use the rule, no more than three bullet points per page, no more than five words per bullet point. Many presenters use the book as a crutch; instead, they should memorize their presentation so fewer words need to be on the page. Even if you leave a copy of your presentation, don’t feel that it needs to include every salient point; the customer’s decision has most likely been made before you leave his office.
• Be flexible when you present. If your audience wants to ask questions or change the direction of the meeting, that’s ok. You are trying to make a sale and the customer is always right.
• This is your one shot. You may not be offered another chance to sell so win over your audience in the time you have, even at the expense of excluding some business details. If your customer grants you the second meeting you can cover the details then.
• Leave time for questions. If you have been given an hour, 30-40 minutes should be your target presentation length. The likely buyer will have plenty of questions and the one-on-one interaction will help you win the sale.
Some of these points apply to job interviews as well- the toughest sale of all.