Ditch your slide deck, to win more work

Ben Paul
June 12, 2020
Business Development

You’ve secured that all important first meeting. After months of trying, you finally crack it and get to have a meeting with the target client you really want to work with. Or you may have been lucky and had a request come in via your website, with another business wanting to find out exactly what it is that you do. Your mind races and you start to do your all-important preparation. For many, that means honing your pitch and refining your PowerPoint. However, is a well-crafted slide-deck really going to impress your dream client? I’d say it is highly unlikely that it will. Now is the time to ditch your slide deck.

For many who operate in the B2B world the mere thought of ditching your slide deck might have you breaking out in a cold sweat. After all, most business owners and sales reps start to think about their messages, what they want to get across to their prospect, and how they want to get it across. In most cases since their prospect hasn’t met them before, they feel this is their shot to educate their client all about what it is that their company does. This means they will reel out the PowerPoint presentation to wow them. And this leads to…

Death by Powerpoint

If you’ve been on the receiving end of one of these presentations, you really will agree that it is death by PowerPoint! If you really do think that this is the time to bring out the big 50+ page slide deck, pause for a breath. Take a different tact and imagine yourself in your client’s or prospect’s shoes. Would you really want to stare at a screen and be talked at for what would probably seem like an eternity?

Of course, the answer is no. You don’t hear people talking about ‘death by PowerPoint’ for no reason. However, perhaps because of our need to feel confident in what we’re talking about, the use of brochures, slide decks, etc is rife in first meetings.

So why is it a good idea to ditch your slide deck?

It’s a barrier to human connection. 

Pretty much every study from leading institutes or sales leaders agree that people buy based on emotions, rather than facts. While your slide deck might be a lovely ‘comfort blanket’ for you, it is a barrier to you building a connection or rapport with your prospect. They’ll stare at a screen or brochure and will actually take in a lot less of what you are talking about.

You’re likely to just talk about your offering. 

In your mind, you might think this is the point – after all, they don’t know you, so now’s your chance to make sure that they do. But this is a flawed strategy; mainly because it’s way too early for you to be pushing your message, as it will be only be based on an assumption that you know what they want, and how you can solve it.

It’s far better to use this time to find out what’s happening with their business and what they are trying to achieve. It may be that right now they don’t need your product or service, but instead need help with something else, which is a great place to start. You can really build trust by working with them to find the answer to what is holding their business back. 

They won’t want a repeat of your website. 

Even if you’re a small business, entrepreneur, solopreneur etc with no instantly recognisable brand, if someone’s agreed to meet with you, they will almost certainly have done one of these three things:

  • Looked at your company website
  • Looked at your LinkedIn Profile (so make sure it’s up to date, tips on that here) and possibly your company’s LinkedIn profile
  • Googled you.

Chances are they will have done all three. So, they won’t want a talking repeat of what they already know.

You won’t be listening. 

Many years ago, I used to sell eLearning to organisations across London. At some point my prospects would ask to see a demo of the product. Through this process, I realised that doing a demo and listening at the same time is a very tricky skill to master. It was far better to let the prospect take the controls, talk them through it and have a conversation. You’ll be listening more, and they’ll have a better experience.

It soon became commonplace in these meetings to just have a conversation; the laptop was never opened. And it was these meetings which led to relationships being formed and deals being closed.

It’s too early. 

It’s a bit like telling someone your life history on a first date, complete with a 100 photo slide show of the main moments in your life. If you did this over your first dinner or causal drink, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t get a second date! It’s the same in business; it’ll fall flat. It will also feel generic and all about you, not tailored to them.

I once coached a sales rep who confided in me that she felt she needed to change her presentation as her current one wasn’t working – she was using the same one no matter who the client was! Instead of just updating her slide deck, we changed her whole approach to asking questions and being curious. Since then she hasn’t looked back.

So, in summary, ditch your slide deck. After all, what’s the point of the meeting if you’ve already produced a document that they can read themselves? This approach is generic, invariably of little interest to the client, and may also prevent genuine dialogue – and therefore opportunities. If the initial conversation goes well, this is the perfect time to create a document customised to their specific needs.