Perfecting Presentations

Power your sales presentations to new heights of success with these business-building tips.

Your strongest selling point just might be you.

Perhaps that is truer nowadays than ever before. When you view the competition as a faceless website, it’s the outstanding service, creative solutions and personal relationships you build with clients that keep them coming back.

“When people like you – when you’re relatable and trustworthy and come up with ideas that help them get the results they’re after – they want to keep working with you, even if you’re not the lowest on price,” says Steve Bove, a promotional consultant with NJ-based Active Imprints, which provides screen printing, promotional products and more.

With you being so crucial to the sale, it’s pivotal to score face time through a presentation with a prospect and make a positive impression. To help you do that, imprinted apparel sales experts offer seven tips for ensuring your presentations sing, hitting the notes that resonate and spur sales.


Understand the Prospect

A great presentation begins before you step into the conference room to present. It starts with performing research to understand a prospect’s specific business, promotional goals and pain points. “The perfect sales presentation isn’t cookie-cutter,” says David Blaise, owner of Blaise Drake & Co., a consultancy to ad specialty firms. “The presentation has to be specific to each client. And to do that, you have to understand their objectives and desires.”

Before presenting, Bove gets to the heart of a client’s needs through conversations held on the phone or in person. During these discussions, Bove learns about a prospect’s intended message, target audience and the mediums (apparel and/or hard-good products) in which they’re interested in investing. “Once I have that information,” says Bove, “I build my presentation around it.”

Taking a similar approach, Mark Ziskind identifies prospects’ wishes, goals and areas where they feel their current ad specialties provider is falling short. The chief operating officer at Caliendo Savio Enterprises (asi/155807) performs this information-gathering through a variety of means, from direct talks with decision-makers to interviewing a company’s employees or franchisees. “Almost everyone you’re going to present to has a current supplier, so you’re going to have to unseat someone,” says Ziskind. “We figure out the problems the competition isn’t solving, and we custom-tailor a presentation to show how we can alleviate those issues.”


Establish a Goal

While understanding a prospect’s needs is critical, it’s equally necessary to have your own specific goal for each presentation. You must know what you want to accomplish, develop a strategy for achieving it and have a secondary goal to reach in case you miss the mark on the primary target, says Barry Maher, a nationally renowned sales trainer and author.

Sometimes, for example, your aim may be to secure a sale on the spot, with a back-up goal of advancing the process toward closing the deal by setting up a date to present more product options. “You want to be in control of the next step,” says Ryan Moor, CEO of Ryonet (asi/528500), a screen-printing equipment and supplies provider.

Weston Cotton leverages product knowledge and astute understanding of each prospect to drive at his presentation goal, which, for example, may be persuading the many buyers he pursues in the yachting industry to partner with his distributorship. “I show them the benefits they would get from partnering with us,” says the owner of Florida-based Cotton King (asi/169201).


Present Solutions for a Specific Need

As Cotton alludes to, your best chance of attaining your presentation goal lies in using what you’ve learned about prospects to create presentations that demonstrate you’re uniquely capable of making their objectives a reality in a hassle-free manner. “The presentation itself is a tailored and interactive conversation about all the wonderful ways you can help meet their needs, solve their problems and alleviate their pain,” says Maher. “Anticipate common objections – the presentation should be structured to answer those objections before they’re asked.”

Such a presentation is just what Ziskind delivered recently to a telecommunications company that felt its promotional products partner was failing to deliver truly brand-powering solutions. Seizing on the company’s sense of being starved for good ideas, Ziskind built a presentation that focused on CSE’s creative capabilities. The prospect was also keen for stronger information technology services from its ad specialties partner, so Ziskind honed the presentation to highlight CSE’s robust tech support. “We matched our strengths to their needs, and in the end it was a win,” says Ziskind.


Start Strong

When the time comes to present, don’t beat around the bush. Snap prospects into focus with a powerful opening that’s immediately relevant to them.

Maybe you’re presenting apparel options to a school booster club that’s interested in selling logoed wearables to raise funds for the football team. Begin with a word about how you understand that to be the club’s main aim and have selected products that will appeal especially to likely buyers, such as students and parents. Then, says Blaise, delve deeper by extolling the merits of a primary item, explaining why it will sell especially well.

In other instances, you may not be presenting specific items, but rather seeking to demonstrate generally how your services and capabilities make you a great promotional partner. To grab a decision-maker’s attention, begin as John Resnick does with a carefully conceived elevator pitch that succinctly shows how you’re able to best help that particular prospect. This approach recently helped Resnick – a partner at Boston-based Proforma Printing & Promotion (asi/300271) – set the tone of a presentation that resulted in him rekindling a profitable relationship with a company in the food industry – after years of dormancy. His lead-in pitch, he says, “set the tone to get the partnership going again.”


Show Samples and Use Visual Aids

When it comes to apparel presentations, seeing may be believing, but touching can prove the powerful clincher of a lucrative sale. “With wearables, you want to present samples,” says Blaise. “Many buyers want to see if it really looks and feels right.”

Phil Stumpf is a big believer in the power of samples. When the sales representative for American Solutions for Business (asi/120075) makes presentations for large apparel orders, he showcases samples decorated with the prospect’s logo.

Steaming and pressing the garments beforehand, Stumpf goes the extra mile by displaying the wearables on table-top mannequins that he sets up in prospects’ conference rooms. He even covers the tables in black felt cloth to enhance the visual effect. To maximize the sale, Stumpf exhibits items that complement the main product(s) he’s pitching. For example, he may show leather gloves to go along with a leather jacket. Significantly, Stumpf selects each item because of the appeal he believes it will have to the specific buyer and their intended end-users. “If I’m presenting to a company with a largely female workforce, then I might show ladies-cut apparel decorated with rhinestones,” he says. In this way, Stumpf has earned many orders. “There’s a ‘wow’ factor that wins them over.”

Beyond samples, successful sales presenters often use other visual aids – PowerPoints, videos, etc. – that position them as the solutions provider the prospect is looking for. When Ziskind was presenting to the telecommunications company that wanted a more creative partner, he showed a brief video CSE made that accentuated the distributorship’s passion and creative energy. “It hammered home that we have what they’re looking for,” Ziskind says.

Note here that Ziskind used the video to garnish his presentation; he didn’t make it the entrée of his pitch. Relying too much on videos and other visual aids can backfire, bogging a presentation down. Pepper them in, but let your personality carry the day


Tell Powerful Stories and Showcase Testimonials

By speaking to prospects’ goals and pressing problems, you get them emotionally involved in your presentation. This emotional engagement, which can prove a powerful determinant in whether a decision-maker decides to work with you, can be enhanced by sharing memorable client success stories and testimonials that punctuate your key selling points.

Some presentation pros take extra care to relate testimonials and tales of how they’ve helped clients in businesses similar to the prospect they’re courting. As Cotton seeks to grow sales in the yachting industry, he often speaks to prospects about how Cotton King has deftly met the decorated apparel needs of a range of well-known yacht crews. The tactic tends to strike the correct chord with buyers. “It’s an asset if you can show that you have a proven track record in the industry,” says Cotton. “When you can point to a catalog of people you’ve worked with, that increases your creditability.”


Go for the Goal

After dialoging with prospects about what you’ve presented and addressing any questions and concerns they have, it then comes time to accomplish the goal of the presentation.

If the objective was to clinch a sale that day, then take the simple but underutilized step of asking for it. You can ease into this by briefly recapping how the solutions you’re proposing will benefit the buyer. From there, choose the wording you’re most comfortable with and that makes sense given the prospect and ask directly for the business. If you’ve addressed all the objections you can at the moment and still the prospect isn’t ready to sign on, then be sure to set up the next phase of the sales process.

Regardless of whether your presentation ends with a sale, you should always leave something behind. In addition to catalogs and brochures, consider giving a branded gift or two. “People like receiving gifts, it increases the chance of recall and it could lead to an unexpected sale,” says Resnick. He would know. At the end of a recent presentation that concluded with a prospect asking Resnick to work up a few quotes, the sales veteran gave the decision-maker a Javalina combination pen and stylus. “The account was an hour’s drive from me,” says Resnick. “By the time I got back to the office, I had an order from them for that same pen.”