Preparing for the final presentation, Part 1
By John Edward Love, CPCU
It’s your moment—the final presentation on the biggest account you’ve ever pursued. For some producers it is the opportunity they’ve dreamed about; for others, it’s nerve wracking. How will you perform in the moment of truth?
If you are counting on the presentation making up for weeks of poor management of the sales process, you had better be the Bill Clinton of interpersonal communications. And even the former president prepared for his public speeches and interviews. Ronald Reagan rehearsed extensively. But no matter how good you are or how many run-throughs you do, it’s better to have managed the process leading up to this moment.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s assume you’ve learned enough from other articles in Rough Notes to do a great job of managing each of the prior steps that led to this opportunity to shine. The critical component of the set-up process was determining: 1) who will be in the audience; 2) whether the decision will be made by an individual or the group; and 3) what the major points of “pain” are that the buyer(s) have with their incumbent program. Your focus in preparing for the final presentation is to use a style that speaks to 1 and 2 above with content that addresses the third point.
Here are the critical steps to take in planning your presentation:
• Communicate with everyone on your team about the proposed presentation time frame and hold a review meeting or set up a conference call, including underwriters or other partners involved in/contributing to your presentation.
Try to assign at least one item of preparation to each member, with a due date. This could include researching success stories with similar clients, developing examples of specific risk management programs you will develop for the prospects, or analysis of current policy forms.
• Confirm the ground rules with the customer: date of presentation and length of time you will be given; how soon you can arrive to set up; how many people will be in the audience; the layout of the room. And please, confirm the specifications of the audio/visual systems you will use! Stop winging it when it comes to assumptions about whether or not your PowerPoint will work or if the speakers in the room are adequate (if your presentation uses audio). Bring your own extension cord and, when possible, your own projector. Arrive early to set up!
• List the criteria for the decision as explained to you by the prospect, and then make notes about: a) the solutions you have available; and b) the value each solution will provide. I mean this literally: Create a spreadsheet and list each of the criteria revealed by the decision maker as well as other problems you see in their program. Then list the solutions you can offer and—this is critical— the exact benefit(s) your solutions will provide.
This is the “brains” of a great presentation. If you don’t visualize the list of key points and begin forming the actual words you will use to explain them, you will wind up rambling on about every possible solution and fail to connect with the audience about the “why” they should do business with you.
The longer you have been an insurance professional, the more likely you are to focus on technical issues that would impress an underwriter but might, frankly, mean virtually nothing to the prospect. Try explaining “claims-made” vs. “claims-made and reported” as a concept to an overworked CFO. You are not there to prove you are smarter than the incumbent agent—you are there to succinctly demonstrate the value of doing business with you.
Get used to selecting three to five key points of value you will produce for the client and explaining them in three sentences or fewer. You may have 10 or more advantages in your program—I understand that, and it’s okay to list them in your presentation materials—but no one walks out of a business meeting remembering a top-10 list. They may walk out remembering three to five things, which, coupled with their subconscious receptivity to your team, helps steer their decision in your favor. But please don’t take the time to explain verbally every conceivable reason they should do business with you.
The next step in your preparation is to determine the tools you will use in the meeting and the materials you will distribute. In the years to come, I think top brokers are going to put more time and money into a variety of presentation methodologies. These approaches might include: video of testimonials from other clients or key members of your staff; higher quality color printing and better use of graphics in both your proposal and PowerPoint; and examples of systems you will provide them (e.g., a customized Web site for claims reporting).
Plan a rehearsal with your team and don’t wait for the quotes to come in (if you are presenting actual pricing). There are plenty of other sections in your presentation that you can review with the team ahead of time. Assign each section to a member of the team and rehearse his or her explanation (the three to five sentences).
Example: “I’m Bob and I’ll be your claims manager. I see that you have had a couple of liability claims in the past and I know these can be stressful. I will be your liaison with the insurance company and serve as your advocate. This will reduce the demands on your time and increase your satisfaction with the entire process of settling these types of claims.”
Your team members can add examples and success stories, but they need to be specific and really quick. Keep it short or you will lose the prospect on this topic.
If you choose to use PowerPoint, you need to lay out the proposed slides and assign a team member to each slide. “Death by PowerPoint” is common in business meetings. The greatest reason for this is that presenters read the slides to the audience. I’ve had someone next to me in the audience criticize a speaker for doing this and then get up and do the exact same thing (more than once). So, don’t use a lot of text and, instead, use 10 or fewer key words and more graphics.
Example 1 (top left) represents a typical (boring) slide from a broker’s presentation.
Example 2 represents a slide that makes use of graphics and fewer words.
I guarantee that the second slide will be more interesting to the viewer. Bob can provide the verbal filler on why he’s a great claims manager, blah, blah, blah, but now he’s not reading the slide. One of the reasons most brokers use a lot of text in their PowerPoint is that they don’t have a separate proposal. You should still prepare a Word document proposal and the PowerPoint should be a summary of the highlights of your competitive strengths listed in the proposal.
If you really want to “wow” the audience, use photos and videos. And the more personal to their account the better. I once had to handle the dreaded 2:00 p.m. (post-lunch) presentation to a mid-sized government contractor. I knew the CFO was a low energy-type personality. I arrived 90 minutes early and took a picture of their headquaters building, where more than 150 people worked. I inserted the photo into my PowerPoint and then spent 30 minutes animating the graphic so a bomb dropped on the building and it blew up into fragments. The image dissolved to the words “Disaster Recovery Planning,” and I explained our experience helping similar clients develop DRPs.
Mr. Somnolence suddenly sat up in his seat, leaned forward and said, “That’s cool!” while giving me his undivided attention. He had never mentioned crisis planning in our interviews (so I took a risk), but I needed to capture his attention and this was the best idea I could come up with. Yes, we got the account and, no, he never asked us to do the DRP for him.
Key points to remember:
• Meet with your team ahead of time to assign responsibilities for each section of the presentation.
• Prepare a summary of the prospect’s pain points and your solutions.
• Create a Word proposal with more detail, but use PowerPoint as your visual means to keep the audience’s attention—and use more images than text.
• Give the prospect 3-5 key points to remember about your value for their company.
Part 2 of this series will cover tips and techniques to use during the presentation.
John Edward Love, CPCU, is president and executive director of TechAssure, an association of insurance agents and underwriters who specialize in managing risks for technology and life sciences companies. TechAssure members serve more than 4,000 technology companies worldwide. For 18 years, Love was a leading producer at Armfield, Harrison & Thomas (AH&T) in Leesburg, Virginia, and was a founder of AH&T Technology Brokers.