Channel News

Getting Your Message Across

Monday, June 05, 2006

Author: Moheb Moses
As I talk to resellers and vendors, I'm constantly astounded at the disconnect that exists between how these two groups view reseller sales training. Vendors often complain that resellers never remember what they learned. And resellers complain that vendors come in to talk about "speeds & feeds", and refer to that as "sales" training.

Having worked both in the channel and in vendor-land, I can attest to the fact that it is impossible for the average channel partner to understand all their products to the extent that their vendors would like. And I have sat through many product presentations that left me more confused afterwards than I was at the start. So here are 10 Tips to make your next sales presentation a more effective one, and to ensure that you actually do get your message across.

Minimise your use of PowerPoint

PowerPoint can be a very powerful tool to explain complex or detailed information. But don't feel that you have to use it for everything you say. Tap the "B" key during your presentation to black out your screen - you will have your audience's undivided attention, and create a far greater impact. The rule of thumb is … "less is more".

Anticipate and address objections

Most vendors only talk about the positive aspects of their product, as if their product has no faults at all. This usually means that the reseller is completely unprepared to handle customer objections. If you want your channel partners to be effective at selling the product, warn them about potential weaknesses, and shows them how to address objections.

Be careful of "autopilot" mode

Just like we can switch off while we are driving home along a route we have travelled many times before, sales people can go into autopilot when talking about a subject they know very well and use the same anecdotes and examples for completely different audiences. I remember seeing an account manager who completely alienated a group of Acer resellers, by constantly referring to his Compaq notebook. Be careful that your language is appropriate for the audience.

Use examples to explain the benefits of features

The sheer volume of products that the channel is exposed to means that it is impossible for an account manager to comprehend every feature. Yet vendors constantly talk about their products using stream of acronyms, which assume everyone knows what they mean. A simple way to make a product presentation infinitely more compelling is to provide specific examples, or applications, of how customers have used a certain product feature, and the benefit that they derived. If the reseller can picture it being used, they can sell it.

Show off your product

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the original article is probably worth a lot more than that. More often than not, vendors simply talk about a product, or show a picture of it in a PowerPoint presentation. But it's amazing how actually having the product there can increase the retention of your audience.

Tailor your language to the audience

We all know that resellers, unlike end-users, don't buy a product because it's the best, fastest, or the latest - they buy it to resell it as quickly and profitably as possible. Yet vendors often talk to resellers as if they were talking to an end user; namely, about power, performance or the fact that it's a new release. If you really want to make an impact on your channel, don't talk to them about your product, but rather about how to sell it. Make sure you address the questions that are important to them, such as your target end-user markets, your competitors, what makes you different, the profit opportunity, the risks and how to overcome them, etc. You can find a more complete list of questions on the Resources tab of our web site to help you become an IDEAL vendor.

Adjust the Commercial/Technical balance

Different audiences have different requirements - technical staff need to understand the benefits of your product's capabilities, whereas executives are more interested in the business impact. Truly great sales people are those that can adapt and adopt a commercial or technical emphasis as required. That means knowing the key differentiating features of your product, and knowing what applications your customers are using the product for, and the business impacts they have achieved.

Set the context

Too often, sales presentations ramble on with no clear objective. The result is that your listener is sometimes unsure why they should pay attention, or discovers halfway through the presentation that it is not relevant for them. You can avoid this by making sure your audience knows the purpose of your presentation, and also what will not be covered (eg. Say up front that "this is not a technical presentation")

Involve your audience

If you want the support and commitment of your channel partners, make sure there is a "place" for them in your presentation. Help them understand, by using vivid examples, what problems your product solves for their customers, how their technical staff can quickly pick up the skills needed to support the product, how you can help them close business, and how they can easily identify sales opportunities. If your resellers can actually see themselves talking to their customers about specific problems they can solve, they are more likely to promote your product to the end user.

Listen to your channel

Your resellers attend a lot of presentations and see a lot of customers. They get to hear what your competition is saying, as well is what customers are saying, about your company and products. So don't just talk at them. Ask them what they want to know. Find out what they want to learn about your products, and what the need to address the objections they face. And when you have this information, give them the answers they want. That might sometimes mean that you have to close your notebook, forget your pre-prepared PowerPoint presentation, and deliver the sales message they want to hear, rather than the one you were planning to give. In the end, you'll have earned their respect and become one of those few channel managers that resellers genuinely value.

Giving a compelling sales presentation to is not easy. Resellers are busy. They've got targets to meet and clients to visit. They don't have the time to listen to another sales pitch that sounds just like the last one. But following some of these principles will make your next sales presentation stand out, and ensure you get your message across.

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