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September 27, 2022

A Capabilities Presentation Is a Waste of Time

I was having a conversation last week with two senior-level contacts at a client (a large MR agency) about their capabilities presentation. We were talking about some ways to improve their current presentation, when one of them interjected, “We’re trying to do less presentations and have more conversations.” I just about jumped out of my seat! Finally… somebody that gets it!

And she is absolutely right. I have never understood why firms spend all of that time and effort putting together a presentation for a potential buyer that already knows what you do. Hint: they’ve been to your website! If they don’t know what you do, you wouldn’t have been invited to meet with them.

In my role here, I have seen scores of capabilities presentations over the past 10 years and they are all virtually the same. A 40 (or 50 or 60)-slide PowerPoint presentation that is nothing more than a regurgitation of their website. Important: You were not granted a meeting with the buyer to tell them what they already know… you were invited in for one reason and one reason only. And that is to help them solve a problem.

So, rather than waste their time with a rehash of your website, don’t even open your laptop. Sit down across the table and just talk to them. Talk to them about their current business environment, about the challenges they’re facing in the marketplace and – most importantly – about the problem that they need you to help solve. And drill down. Make sure you understand the context of the issue and the root cause. Then, when you think you’ve got a pretty good handle on it, spend a little time sharing with them how you can help them solve that problem and how you’ve done the same kind of thing for other companies. And by ‘share,’ I mean ‘talk.’

Yes, it’s possible that early in the conversation, someone who isn’t all that familiar with you will ask, “Tell me about your firm.” When that happens, give them a 30,000-foot, 30-second recap. And that’s it. Keep the focus on them and on addressing their problems.

Follow the path outlined above and you’ll stand out from your competition for two reasons:

  1. You’ll be the only firm not boring them to death with slide after slide of “All about us.”
  2. You’ll be the only firm not focused on how awesome you are. Instead, you’ll be focused on them… on solving their problems… on helping them to be more successful.

Bottom Line

While your firm and mine are different, I will tell you that in the 10½ years since I started Harpeth Marketing, I have never given a single capabilities presentation. My sales process follows the ideas outlined above: lots of conversation… lots of questions… understanding the issues… proposing a solution. That’s it.

I wonder if, in the future, we will ever get away from a Capabilities Presentation and, instead, have a Capabilities Conversation. I can dream, can’t I?

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