Night and Day

A 1960 slide projector

There’s an old saw about only having one chance to make a first impression and it got to be that way because it’s true.  It never failed to surprise me when companies would come calling with their sales pitch and it was obvious in the first three minutes that they hadn’t done their homework.  It was also sort of surprising that in many cases they’d do a lame job and expect that you’d have them back another time to make amends after they got blown up in the discussion period.

This ought to be self evident, but since this still goes on (and I saw more examples of this just last week), here are a few tips from both sides of the desk – both buying and selling.

The Boy Scout motto is a great place to start:  Be Prepared.  Nothing will get you tossed more quickly than starting the meeting by asking me to “tell us about what you guys do.” You should know that before you walk in the door and with the vast amount of information available today there is NO excuse for you not to know about the company and our industry.  No, I don’t expect you to know everything but please make SOME sort of effort.

Send the A team, not some junior person who can’t answer questions, run a meeting, or represent you well.

Don’t give me the canned pitch. Do some research and integrate it into the presentation. Humor me – I think my situation is unique and I don’t want to be treated like the fourth call of the day even if I am.

“Not slick” is a plus.   “Inarticulate” is a big negative. Practice the presentation. Have someone ask you questions. Don’t say “um” and mumble.

Have a backup plan. Projectors don’t work, Internet connections fail. Watching you do IT work is wasting my time and yours.

Finally, when you follow-up, write a nice email. Frankly, I’d prefer a nice handwritten note but it is 2009. Spell everything correctly. Don’t ask me to call you to follow up – tell me what you’re doing as follow-up and when I can expect to hear from you.

Seems simple, right? But the difference between a professionally done and delivered presentation and one that’s amateurish is really night and day. Have you seen both? Any more tips to add?

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