Improve Your Sales Presentations

Distributors offer their top tips for giving presentations a boost.

Marty McDonald

President of McDonald Imaging Solutions (asi/522770), Des Moines, IA


Consider yourself a consultant.

It’s very important to make it personal and consultative. Before the call, ask the client or prospect, What are you trying to accomplish? What’s the target demographic? The event theme? The budget? Don’t start with the product. Do company research first, listen more than talk, and then bring logoed samples on the call. I use them to generate ideas, as a lead-in. I’ll order in products that work for a particular vertical market and then have them on hand when I call on those clients.

Tap into your expertise.

Sales people sometimes try to sell the same products to a variety of accounts. But the same item won’t work for everyone. I’ll be showing Nike polos to a new customer that sells business insurance, but they aren’t for everyone since they usually come at a high price point. It’s important to go to shows and see what’s new. I present them with what’s out there so they’re not spending hours searching online. I’m not just pushing product, I’m pushing ideas.

Build rapport.

Sometimes, clients don’t share a lot about themselves in the beginning, so I start by giving specific examples of what I’ve done before. I’ll also find common areas to build relationship and trust. In just 25 minutes, you can build rapport. Then when they give you an opportunity, you have to come through for them. If you say, “I’ll have ideas for you this afternoon,” it has to be that afternoon, not the next day.

Ask pointed questions.

I’m not big on high-pressure sales. During the call, I have a list of questions to get the ball rolling, such as, Do you have any events coming up? How about company anniversaries? Do you give your employees recognition gifts, or clients thank you gifts? What do you like or not like about your current distributor? It gives you an opportunity to step in and say, I think we can do that for you. Then I’ll take them to lunch to say thank you for choosing us.

Be ready for impromptu pitches.

I was on a flight back from a tradeshow in Vegas and I started a friendly conversation with the woman next to me. When I told her about the show, she said, “I wish I could have been there. My current distributor is terrible.” After I told her what I do, she said she would call me that Monday from California. She’s now one of my largest clients and I only talked to her for a few minutes on the flight, mostly facing front anyway. Always network, always be ready to pitch. All you need is eight to 10 minutes!

Sean Burns

Partner at Team Phun (asi/342550), San Diego, CA


Engage in face-to-face selling often.

There are only three of us at our company, and combined, we go on about 50 to 60 in-person sales calls a month. We mostly target hospitality, bars & restaurants, construction and corporations. We brought a lot of expertise when we integrated our individual companies about a year and half ago, so we’re all experienced in the digital, product and decoration aspects.

Establish three goals.

I started in the industry at alphabroder (asi/34063) and they have a really well-put-together sales program. I was in the Mountain region, so I covered seven states around the Rockies. During calls, it was all about educating the client on how we can build value for them. Always go into the presentation with intention, and establish three things you want to achieve in that time. It could be pitching a popular existing product or introducing a new one; going over customization options; and getting a referral. And if you hit those three things, you’ve had a successful call.

Listen more than speak.

It’s a common mistake among sales people to talk over the client and not listen. Make sure you hit those three points you planned on, but keep an open mind and don’t force anything. And definitely don’t think that you know exactly what they want and should have—we’ve swung and missed a few times.

Be persistent.

We had a corporate client we had been chasing for a long time, and we finally got in front of the decision-maker. During the call, we wanted to 1) show how we were different; 2) present ideal products for them; and 3) get an idea of their marketing calendar so we knew when to pitch new products to them during the year. We showed them a lot of different products, including a customized Baja beach blanket. It was a slam dunk. We’re close to Mexico, so those kinds of things are huge here. They said, “No one else is doing that!” It was a unique look that closed the deal.

Offer customization programs.

Consider combining custom services with the products. We have a patch program and a pocket program, both of which are inexpensive ways for customers to differentiate their brand, and we’re making money on the patch or pocket as well as the product. If you’re just talking about one thing, like screen-printing for example, you get lumped in with all the other screen-printers out there. Find niches that offer opportunities to cross-sell. Added services bring more value to the discussion.