Put Down That Proposal!


Put Down The Proposal And Step Away From The Table! If You Can’t Meet Their Needs, Stop What You’re Doing, Regroup, and Come Back

(By James Bahm) It took you seven visits, a few emails, and a post card in the mail to set the first appointment, and now you have the presentation. You’ve invested so much time, energy, and research into putting together the right schedule, frequency, a great audience match, and call to action. You’ve rehearsed it in the mirror and your spouse has even assisted you in perfecting your delivery.

Now that you’re in their office you’re ready to go: laptop/tablet at the ready, rehearsed potential objections, and you’re prepared to stop your presentation before it really begins.

My GSM brought this up in a meeting a few years back and it is now a permanent mindset when I’m presenting any recommended solution.

You must be prepared to end your presentation early in the process.

Here are a few times when you MUST end the presentation and reschedule.
1. Key Decision-Makers are not present.
Too many times I’ve seen colleagues just continue with their presentation (from Sales Managers to new Account Managers) and say something to the effect of: “Can I trust you to be my voice when you share it with them?”

Proceeding without everyone involved in the decision not being in the room is a huge risk. Why would you trust someone to deliver your presentation? To answer questions only you can answer?

The only time I’ve done this with success is when I had to convince a local decision-maker who then sent my recommendation to her boss in Nowhere, Kentucky for the sign-off. But in this case, the decision was made locally and needed final approval elsewhere.

2. They Answer Yes to a No-Oriented Question
Sellers love to hear “Yes” so they continually ask questions that elicit an affirmative reply. This is the wrong approach — after all, how often have you said yes to someone just to get them to stop talking and go away? Rather ask these questions along the way:

A. Is that recap incorrect?
B. Do you disagree with that?
C. Was I incorrect when I reviewed my notes from our earlier conversation?
D. What would you want changed in this recommendation?
E. Seems like you have an idea on how to proceed?

In his book Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss says that when you ask a no-oriented question your counterpart’s defenses decrease dramatically and they feel in control of the conversation. Yes questions actually cause their defenses to go up. Asking questions this way produces more honest responses.

When delivering your presentation to a client/prospect, it is essential that you begin with a recap of the needs you uncovered during your previous meetings.

If the client does not assent to the needs you outlined, stop the presentation immediately, apologize for missing the mark, and re-engage with the client/prospect in a continued C-N-A to correctly find out what the current needs are.

Client needs change more often than the weather in Spring, and something could’ve happened with their business causing a change since your last meeting. Find out what’s occurred and alter your presentation accordingly.

Also, as you proceed through the presentation, if you come to anything they disagree with, stop, find out why they don’t agree and correct it before proceeding. Clients/Prospects want to know that you are hearing what they’re saying, and listening to them, even when they’re saying it without words.

I’ve done this a few times when making a presentation, and wound up making the sale when I returned with something new. Have the integrity to admit you missed the mark — even if something changed in the interim that you didn’t miss — and then come back and make it right.

You may not make a sale, but your client/prospect will appreciate your humility and you will further separate yourself from your competition.

Bottom Line: Never move forward in the sales process unless you can gain agreement from your client every step of the way.

Questions to consider: Have you ever found yourself in a presentation like this? Were you able to rectify the potential roadblocks and make the deal happen?

James Bahm is a broadcasting veteran and owner of the Bahm Consulting, a sales and marketing consulting company in Las Vegas, NV. You can reach him at [email protected].


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