Presentation Team Tactics for Technical Sales: Part 2

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Bryan Yeung


Aug 12, 2021


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In my previous article from earlier this week (“Part 1”), I covered tips on presentation preparation, content, and practice. In this article, I’ll go into the delivery and review stages of the presentation, plus I’ll provide a list of resources that I’ve found helpful.

Operating Principles By Role

These tips can also be applied to sales presentations consisting of one or two members. Leading up to the presentation, always be in lock step. The faster you go, the more coordinated you need to be.

For everyone on the presentation crew:

  • Communication comes in all forms: verbal, non-verbal, visual, and auditory – so be aware of your dynamic range, messaging, and demeanor
  • Remember that you're always communicating, even when you’re not saying a word
  • Be aware of fatigue levels on both sides, so be sure you are well-rested and functioning optimally
  • Craft your presentation so as to not require staggering levels of coordination and skill on the big day
  • Ask the exec sponsor or presentation lead what their guidance is for meeting time decisions – what should be your decision-making authority on content and articulation?
  • Solve for message comprehension
  • Everyone needs to align on the two to three key messages and be able to articulate them
  • Each message should be short as in a sentence or two
  • Your presentation and follow ups need to align with these messages; how you communicate or prove them on presentation day might change depending on the audience

For presenters:

  • Get warmed up by building repeatable practice environments while becoming familiar with demo assets as they’re being built
  • You'll be telling a narrative and taking your audience on a journey, so make it amazing
  • Journeys have growth, contrast, and imagery, and they may involve multiple people
  • Focus on connecting the dots in a logical sequence, while appealing to motives
  • As you work through your preparation, determine what your plan is to engage the audience
  • How will you bring the audience in to participate? When will you let them rest a bit mentally?
  • Silence is okay for a few moments, even if just to catch your breath
  • Look at your mindset and visualize that positive reception
  • The audience wants to hear from your experience in your domain – less so about what you've done, but more about how that experience lends credibility into your product positioning and recommendation
  • Customers also want to hear what you've learned about them, and how your domain expertise and your product offering uniquely apply to your relationship with them

For demo drivers (usually the SE):

  • Check all highlight and markup tools prior to the presentation, and keyboard shortcut them
  • Take your hand off your mouse or rest your hand on the heel of your palm often, so the mouse doesn’t reflect any movement or nervousness (a rule of thumb is if you’re talking or the presenter is talking, keep your hands clasped together)
  • Be ready to co-explain or clarify and practice transitions for parts where a conversational presentation is more compelling
  • Help presenters get in a durable yet flexible mindset
  • Watch for signs of fatigue
  • Be ready to swap out and support the talk track to let them recover for a few moments
  • During practice, ask the audience to comment about things you built
  • Keep the conversation going during practice (this can reduce tension, enabling one to detach from the outcomes and participate more in the experience)
  • Be sure to pause and “redo” whenever a talk track needs a rerun

For executive sponsors:

  • Have a game plan for derailments
  • Empower your team to make decisions on meeting flow: how should they prioritize completing the presentation with the need to drive customer understanding?
  • Help the audience understand the decision criteria on presentation day
  • Quick decisioning = appearance of smooth team to product integration = natural customer engagement

Immediate actions to take after the meeting:

  • Leave the meeting location first and head to a spot for food where you can recharge
  • Take a few moments and ENJOY what you did
  • While outcome-focused, these events are as much about the process than any final result
  • Take opportunities to point out small moments and talk tracks where customer behaviors changed or reflected positively
  • ALWAYS have some form of post-meeting review

Considerations for the post-meeting review:

  • Work virtually on a whiteboard if you can’t meet in person
  • Use Miro (the web app) as a possible way to whiteboard, with some sticky notes to move ideas around
  • Role and rank do not have a place in reviews if you want great, actionable critiques.
  • Managers should set an example and drive meeting safety
  • If a manager makes the comment that they could have teed someone up better (or volunteer some meaningful self-critique), it can go a long way in starting off the discussion without fear of repercussions
  • Managers need to be careful that you are not communicating defensiveness through your body language (note, you probably won’t get a comment on it, you’ll simply observe participants switch to providing positive but inconsequential feedback or none at all)
  • Conversationally, start first with observations and connect them to the timeline
  • Once observations are complete, you have two tasks: (1) identify actions you want to do more of; and (2) identify opportunities to improve
  • Fixing these issues or making updates is up to you; no matter what, start your next heavyweight demo prep session with a sheet or virtual whiteboard to record observations, or better yet, a consolidated list of lessons learned

Suggested Reading and Resource List

Presenting your product and presenting as a team are tests of skills integration and delivery. You’ll find an eclectic mix of influences and resources below, along with brief summaries.

Acceleration Leadership – Michael Ker

As a client, I’ve met with Michael bi-weekly since 2010. Working with an experienced executive coach helps me serve the crews I work with.

Power Base Selling – Jim Holden

One Sales VP with whom I worked got us into this technique, which aligns account executives and sales engineers on “the Who.” It provides clear techniques on how to improve the ability “to convince” and identify the right audiences to focus on.

Enablement Mastery – Elay Cohen

I have a lot of respect for Elay Cohen and his approach to building better sales teams. When I feel I’ve hit a wall in team sales training, I turn to his work. Elay and his crew at Salesforce really shaped my appreciation of the Sales Enablement craft when I started my first sales role.

Extreme Ownership – Jocko Willink

I turn to this book often for nuggets on how to develop myself and improve team culture, safety, and performance. I have deep respect for his organization, podcast, and vision.

Art of Negotiation – Chris Voss Very much related to non-verbal communications, how we navigate through a meeting has a lot to do with a great, collaborative presence which he explains here.

Mastering Technical Sales – John Care & Aron Bohlig

A must-read for PreSales team members. I use this as a reference manual for PreSales situations I encounter, and as a way to re-ground my thinking.

What Every Body is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People – Joe Navarro

The majority of communication takes place nonverbally. I turn to Joe’s writings frequently to help build awareness and intuition on what I observe in social engagements.

The Inner Game of Tennis – Tim Gallwey

This is a go-to resource to improve your mental game. For the higher level SEs I work with, we do quite a bit of mindset work before they go live with critical presentations. This book is indispensable.

Team of Teams – Stanley McChrystal

I turn to this book for tips on working with various groups, and ideas on how to break down barriers. I have a lot of respect for the McChrystal Group and their work.

Mastery – Robert Greene

More on the meta side, Mastery is a great read on what good should look like and how people get there. I flip through this on my Kindle when I need to get a grip on things.

Great Demo – Peter Cohan

A solid primer on how to skillfully present software products.

The Six Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers – Chris White

This book emphasizes that our role is “to convince” customers. Definitely a must-have for PreSales professionals.

Bryan Yeung has held leadership positions across PreSales, sales operations, and engineering. With over 20 years of experience in technology, he has successfully led teams presenting to executives across a wide range of industries. Lately he’s been involved in low-code industrial automation, customer narratives, computer vision, and MLOps. Connect with Bryan on LinkedIn!

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