You might be competing with far larger companies, including global ones with deeper pockets, impressive stories and polished presenters. How will you excite prospects to engage with you – and not them?
First impressions are critical
This is hopefully your first presentation to a prospect, so you must make a strong, positive, first impression.
Assuming your presentation skills (how you present) are OK, this is about what you present, so prospects are happy to take the next step with you. At this stage, your goal is to stay in the game and move to the next stage, regardless of what happens to competitors.
Hopefully, this corporate presentation is part of your first in-person meeting with the prospect organisation. It may be with more than one person, so make it short and impactful: 10-15 minutes maximum, allowing 45-50 minutes for the meat of the meeting. Your presentation is the appetiser that gets them hungry for the rest of the meeting. It’s not the reason for it.
Here is how to make your initial corporate presentation exceptional.
1.Start at the end
What do you want prospects to feel at the end of presentation? Ideally, impressed, excited and keen to know more about your company, products and services.
isn’t the reason for the meeting. It’s a glimpse of what’s possible for them, designed to encourage questions about how you can help them, which
you want to answer there and then. Questions are buying signals.
That’s why we never suggest presenting to a prospect you hardly know.
To be confident of success, you must know the prospect’s industry and typical problems, the specific problems the prospect organisation has, and what has been tried before without success. You won't know this unless you've had a targeted qualification call beforehand; another reason why face-to-face should never be your first contact.
You also need to be clear on the next steps in your sale process, so you can gain agreement in principle, there and then after the presentation. If you miss this step, you may never get back in front of them all, so they may never take the next step - well, not with you anyway.
Conversely, if the next step isn’t immediately obvious, this may not be the right time to be making a corporate presentation.
By the way, the next step has to be an easy, logical one, not a huge leap of faith from ‘who we are’ to a 'let's do a Proof of Concept'. Read more in How to Win Product Trials and PoCs.
2.Step into their shoes
None of your prospects actually cares about your killer slides or flashy videos. They’ve seen hundreds like them. They’re only interested in two things: themselves and their problems.
These are the burning questions they want your corporate presentation to answer:
- Do you understand us and our problems?
- Do you have the right solution (product/service/people)?
- What results have you achieved for companies like us?
- Why should we consider you and not other providers?
- How easy are you and your team to work with?
- What is the next step?
Your slides should sequentially build, so prospects are guided to the next step and feel comfortable about taking it. Confirm at each stage that all the audience is following and agreeing, and note any questions along the way.
3.Establish your credibility
You have to establish your credibility ‘right up front,’ says Michel Theriault at Forbes. The most effective way to do this is to focus on the audience, not you, from the start.
That definitely means not showing how many offices you have, how long in business you’ve been, how big or successful you are or what industry analysts say about you. That is exactly what all your competitors do.
Be smarter: use your corporate presentation to show upfront that you understand their problems and how to solve them.
It’s the fastest way to establish your credibility, because it shows you’ve done your homework and you’re thinking about their company, not yours. And there’s an added advantage: ’When you show the problem,’ marketing guru Seth Godin says, ‘selling the solution becomes easier.’
One of our clients, is a specialist in Oracle Fusion Middleware, a critical element in Oracle enterprise software deployments. Its customers are major organisations with complex Oracle deployments – like governments, banks and major retailers. To grab the attention of enterprises with similar problems at the start, they use a slide that shows the complexity in a typical banking environment (see at right).
Even if you don’t understand the terms, the numbers clearly show the complexity.
4.Prove your Results
The next slide shows the results of using our client's product to automate the deployment of Oracle environments:
You don’t need to know about Oracle environments to know that these results are impressive. That’s the whole idea. The numbers must speak for themselves. You could add a customer quote to your corporate presentation here, too, that will show that these figures weren’t plucked out of thin air.
Whatever your technology, you’ll have ideal customers (size, vertical, complexity, applications) whose problems can be visualised - and results that show a dramatic, positive change. Use them up front. By the way, if you have clients whose names can’t be shared in print, this is the ideal time to mention them by mouth.
Another reason to do your homework before presenting, is to select a client example that best matches the problem you know the prospect organisation has. That will really grab attention.
5.Show your experience
Once you’ve shown you understand the problem and the impact of your solution, then you can slip in a slide with a bunch of instantly recognisable client
This slide will tell the audience: ‘We’ve done it lots of times before for companies that you know’. Very compelling.
Obviously, you can only use household names if they are clients of yours. If yours aren't that well known, use logos of those you have. No need for hundreds; 6-12 will be fine.
6.Define the problem
Now is the time to define the problem in terms that are relevant to the audience.
If we use our client example again, the problems in complex software deployments are shown in the graphic. These all point to two things: major cost and embarrassment to the business.
Just imagine a bank releasing a new initiative which has been advertised for months, and it fails on day one. It does happen and not just in banking. And, in the case of our client, the cause is always human error: humans building or changing vital Oracle environments by hand, and not leaving clues to where and when.
7.Frame the alternatives
So, now you have the audience’s attention: these problems are familiar as is the pain they cause. Now it’s time to show some solutions - but not yours yet.
This slide is where you show the alternatives and their pitfalls, but be objective and brief and don’t name and shame your competitors. Make it clear that these are recognised ways to solve the problem, and why they don’t work. Cite external references if you can, and add them to the end of the presentation for validation.
Back to our client example, the pitfalls of one alternative solution - DIY - are shown below. There are 3 other options which they show similarly.
When you present all these slides, use fewer words and more graphics for impact, and provide the detail in spoken words. As Seth Godin says : ‘Slides should reinforce your words, not repeat them.’
While the slide showing alternatives is up, you could talk about specific customer examples, especially if they tried the alternatives and they didn't work and, later, you solved the problem. Use the slide to reinforce, but you tell the whole story.
8.Use industry backup
Claims made by you are never as powerful as claims made by industry sources who support your stance. The next slide in your corporate presentation is where to use the most powerful sources you have.
In our client’s case, it was a quote about the critical role of automation in ensuring consistency, and it was made by a recognised industry expert.
Also, for our client, there are two goals that most of its prospects want to achieve which, happily, both depend on automation:
- DevOps - alignment and co-operation between Development and Operations teams
- Continuous Delivery – rapid, repeatable, reliable software updates.
Showing all of these three ideas on 1-2 slides makes a strong case for automation, validated by others, not just claimed by you. But, make sure you
also explain why, don't leave them guessing.
9.Introduce your solution
By now the audience has felt both the pain of the problem and the added pain of choosing the wrong solution. For our client's audience, this means big costs and wasted time; significant sources of business pain. Now is the time to show how your solution:
- Solves the original problem
- Avoids the pitfalls of the alternatives
- Supports industry-leading opinions.
Our client has 2 solutions:
- Automation tools for DevOps and Continuous Delivery – for organisations which have Oracle expertise in-house
- Automation tools for DevOps and Continuous Delivery + whole stack Oracle expertise - for organisations which don't.
So, these would be shown as above. Note the orderly alignment of the solutions compared to randomness of the problem and alternative solutions. The choice of colour is deliberate too: green for 'go' and grey for 'undefined'.
This won’t be enough on its own, but it shows how the problem is solved, relieves the tension, and leads to the next slide: how your solution works.
10.Show how it works
This is the ideal time to show in words what your products does, with a link to a simple, short video (less than 1 minute) that shows how your solution does it. If you can’t do this, use a slide with simple bold graphics.
In our clients case, the words are simple but compelling:
Their solution is astonishing, when you consider the complexity of the technology behind the simple words. From a single dashboard, Oracle Project or Environment Managers can create, duplicate, combine and deploy Oracle environments in minutes. They can also troubleshoot and fix them in real time.
Without automation, creating one complex Oracle environment can take months, and fixing defects in real time is risky, with consequences like outages and downtime, not to mention potential trashing of reputations, if things go wrong.
11.Validate with testimonials
Hopefully by now, you’ve demonstrated your understanding of the problem, the pros and cons of the alternatives and the unique capability of your solution.
Now it’s time to show the people side of your company, answering the ‘how easy are you to work with?’ question. This is especially so, if you have competitors who might be global players but their regional support is limited or non-existent. When the tech experts they’ve flown out to impress your prospects have gone home, local support could take on a whole new dimension.
In your corporate presentation, it’s vital to have quotes about people, not just results. For our client, they had both: brilliant quotes from customers which backed up their people and their technology fabulously.
Our client isn’t able to openly name its clients, so it makes clear that the names are changed to protect privacy. It also states in web content, brochures, case studies and ebooks, that these clients can be contacted directly. This says to prospects ‘You know our clients; they’re big and they don’t like being named but if you’re serious, we’ll let you talk to them’.
12.Call for action
This is a very simple but important slide in any corporate presentation. It compels them to think and, if you’ve done your job correctly, it will lead to productive discussions straight afterwards.
And you just leave it there (inserting the company name for 'you') and ask for any questions, because questions are buying signals. Therefore, having no questions doesn’t mean you’ve made a great corporate presentation. It could mean they’re not interested – which you should have checked before you made the appointment.
Assuming you did confirm interest beforehand, be prepared to answer questions. If it feels natural to answer standing up, do so. If not (and this is better) black out the screen and join them around the table, eye to eye, to explore the opportunity further. This will build a comfortable co-operative, workshop-style atmosphere, especially if both parties have more than one person in attendance.
During the discussion, the prospect team will probably ask about next steps, which goes back to point 1: 'what is the next step in engaging with you?' You need to be ready with this and it must look easy and feel natural to do. Your slide could show:
- A graphic of the stages in the process (e.g. guided trial or sandbox followed by Proof of Concept) so long as it’s short, not a 10-stage process. (See below.)
- Graphics showing your Guided Trial or SandBox or PoC process on one or several slides, depending on complexity.
Below is our client's process, which explains the logic of each step.
This is a slide you’d bring up, once you’re comfortably huddled with the prospect team, and you can both look up at the next steps together.
You might introduce next steps with a question like ‘This is what most clients ask us to do next with us. How does that fit with the way you work?’ and make sure you note their body language, not just their words. If all are in agreement, then set a date for the next step. If not, ask ‘is there anything we haven’t covered yet?’ and don’t be tempted to gloss over the answers. If you ignore an objection, that person could torpedo the project once you’re out of the room.
Another useful question is ‘Who needs to be involved in this next step? Is it this group or will others be involved?’ If others, see if you can get an introduction to them (even if only by phone, while you are there). Keep up the momentum.
14.Give contact details
You might want to leave a copy of the corporate presentation, so make sure it has all your contact details, name of presenter, company name, website URL, email address, fixed and mobile phone. You can add LinkedIn, Twitter and other links, so long as you have high quality recent material there. There is no need to show this slide.
This is another reason not to use the names of sensitive clients in print. Mention them, use their logos with permission, but don’t use their names in
the presentation. You never know who may share your presentation with others.
15.Be ready with answers
From experience, you’ll know what questions prospects normally ask, so make sure you have the answers ready on slides or, if the answers are complex, on a USB stick. It really shows your preparedness and professionalism, and that sends a subliminal message about your performance as a provider.
Place these answer slides after Next Steps (slide 13), in case you don’t need them. You want to leave on agreement with next steps, not dive deep into
technical details which might raise unexpected issues or create diversions. In any case, technical discussions are sure to slow momentum; the
last thing you want to do at this point.
Remember, the presentation is to establish trust, gain clarity and help the prospect take the next step with you. Nothing else.
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