Pre-call preparation for the team presentation is essential. You should each know what your respective roles are going to be on the call before you begin the presentation. Even if the presentation is one you’ve done together many times, rehearse it before you go into the meeting. This means everyone on the team, including your company’s CEO. And the practice must be a full dress rehearsal complete with the actual props you’re going to be using.
One of my most embarrassing moments occurred during a team presentation. It happened because we had not rehearsed with the actual materials we were going to use. There were four of us making a pitch that we had done many times together. Our presentations usually involved the top decision makers and were quite lengthy and detailed. We typically used a lot of boilerplate material, but the key points were always customized for the prospect we were pitching.
The climax of the pitch came when I would present our revenue projections for the prospect. I typically jumped into that page like a preacher at a revival, giving it everything I had. On this occasion, though, when I turned the page I saw the headings of the columns of figures carried not this prospect’s name but the name of the company we had pitched the week before. The figures were correct, but they looked like they belonged to another company.
We all saw the simple little word processing mistake at the same time and everyone in the room was embarrassed, including the prospect. But the damage had been done. This little mistake completely undermined the “personal attention to each client” benefit that was our primary selling point. It cost us a $6 million client. The material had been proofread by three people, including me. But we hadn’t used the actual materials in our rehearsal the night before. I’ll always believe that we would have caught the mistake if we had followed that simple little rule.
In addition to the pitch itself, you should also rehearse the answers to particular questions and objections that you expect to crop up. It’s important to know which person on the team is going to answer which question so that there’s no fumbling when it arises. If the prospect asks you about delivery dates, for example, you don’t want a long awkward pause followed by three people giving three different answers all at once. You also don’t want your team leader to “hand off” a question to someone who’s not expecting it.
You also need to organize your visual aids under the management of one member of the team. We’ve all seen blooper video where three outfielders collide under the same fly ball in short center field. You don’t want that to happen to you in front of a room full of prospects, so make sure each piece of equipment and each piece of hand-out material is one person’s responsibility. Your hand-outs, by the way, should be managed the same way they are in a group presentation—the one team member responsible for them passes them out with the order and flow you want.
Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.