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Recently in a training session a participant asked the question: “Should I leave my presentation with the prospect after the meeting is finished?”
As you might expect there is no simple, clear-cut answer. There are a number of factors you need to consider.
Presentations are a vital part of your marketing and sales strategy, as people only retain about 25% of what they are told (via verbal communication). So you cannot rely simply on ‘telling’ clients, you must also try to ‘show’ them. Therefore using a visual presentation is a valuable tool to enhance understanding and retention.
First, consider what will actually be in your presentation. What is the purpose of your presentation? There are a few different types of presentations.
This presentation gives a ‘big picture’ story of what your company does. It is often used when meeting clients for the first time. Sometimes this is a separate section within a larger presentation. It contains background information not related to a specific decision.
This information is usually created to communicate definite information, specifications, or usage details to potential clients. Typically the content of the presentation will include details that focus on the product/service, not the client. Due to the product focus, this type of presentation may alienate the client if the information is not directly relevant for them.
This type of presentation is focused on opportunities for the client (or prospect). It is not focused on the product/service but may mention the product/service as a means to achieving the outcome. Using examples and success stories the information in this presentation is written to address client specific opportunities and motivate clients to want more. Information presented is often aspirational in nature, designed to stimulate and create desire for the outcomes/benefits.
This type of presentation is often used internally, such as senior managers reporting to their superiors/Board members. It can also be used for high-level meetings with clients when the audience expects to see factual, business-case data on which they can base decisions. The information presented in this presentation is designed to empower the audience/client to make their own decisions.
Next, think about if the audience will want to keep a copy of the presentation. Does it contain reference material or special information they will want to refer to at a later date?
If your presentation does contain special data your client will probably want to keep a copy. And it would usually be in your interest for them to have the copy, because you want them to know/remember the information (or at least have easy access to it).
If your presentation only contains general information such as in the Corporate Overview or the Benefit Driven type of presentation, then maybe there is not much use in the client keeping a copy, as the information, once explained, is not detailed enough or relevant to keep in a presentation format. On the other hand it wouldn’t harm your interests to leave a copy… but it may not serve any specific purpose to do so.
There are some occasions when your presentation may contain confidential or exclusive proprietary data — information unique to you that you don’t want available to the public. In this case you probably don’t want the client to have a copy, unless you can trust them not to share or lose the material. As an alternative, you could show them a separate document created for this purpose that contains the special information, but retain it as being ‘confidential’.
Whether you should send the presentation in advance depends upon the setting of the meeting. Many executives would expect the information to be sent in advance so they have time to review it before you meet with them. This enables them to be more effective with their time and come to the meeting prepared to make progress.
Sometimes your presentation may be required in advance to enable the client to decide if they will meet with you. In other words they will use the information in the presentation to ‘filter out’ irrelevant presentations, saving them time.
In other situations clients may not have time to review anything in advance, and they will consider the meeting/appointment as the place to receive the presentation. Sending it in advance is not necessary.
You may also find that in some cases you have certain information that is new to the client or that will not be easily understood on its own — you must explain it in context. In this situation it may be better to keep the presentation until you meet. Sending it in advance may confuse the client. Or they may misunderstand the information, possibly leading to initial confusion at the meeting that you must then clear up before you can proceed.
There are a number of options you should consider when evaluating whether to leave your presentation with the client, and whether to send it in advance.
In most cases you will probably want the client/prospect to have a copy of the presentation. However in a few situations (such as with proprietary information) you may want to withhold certain elements of the presentation, and consider leaving a copy of the non-proprietary content.
Be aware that if you do not leave a copy of your presentation with your client they may feel you don’t have confidence to be held accountable in the future (because you are taking away the ‘evidence’ of what you presented).
Keep in mind that while we usually think of a ‘presentation’ as being a PowerPoint slideshow (and printed copy of slides), as an alternative you could also create a separate document as a summary (or ‘leave behind’) that presents the content from the presentation in a document format (not PowerPoint slide format).
This way you have control over having a good visual presentation (using PowerPoint) and also have a suitable printed document to distribute.
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