How to make effective sales presentations?

At Cogno AI, we work with some of the really large Enterprise clients. Think of clients like the State Bank Group, ICICI Group, HDFC Group, Kotak Group, and Aditya Birla Group, to name a few. These are all companies with tens of thousands, or even hundred thousand+ employees, and are among the leading brands in India. Over the years, we have spent time learning about how these large Enterprises work and how to make an effective presentation to a C-Suite Executive at one such company.

We have clients, individually paying us over $200k per year. That’s a relatively big account size in a country like India for a 4.5-year-old Startup.

First, I will summarize some of the observations based on our selling experience:

  1. Decision-making happens at the top level of management only. Typically, Vice Presidents and above can take decisions regarding the purchase of any product or service. Below the VP level, it is extremely difficult to sell at a large Enterprise.
  2. Most people care about loss aversion rather than a benefit. Obviously, there are a lot of exceptions to this. Having said that, we have observed that people want to make sure that a new product purchase should not damage the company negatively to the extent that their job is in danger.
  3. People want to see benefits and outcomes as against features and efforts.
  4. Deals take a lot of time to close. Typically 3 - 6 months.

Now, let’s look at each of the above points in detail and work towards building an effective sales process.

First, the decision-making happens at the top level of management. Now, this means that you need a lead-generation process that catches the attention of top management. How do you do that?

  1. Go via advisor referrals. We made sure that early in our journey, the advisors we onboarded were specialists at opening doors for us. They could call up C-Suite Executives and set up a meeting for us in no time. That helped us get the initial traction.
  2. Reach out to people on LinkedIn and Email. C-Suite Executives are active on these platforms. For us, Social Media marketing hasn’t worked. We don’t expect CXOs of $50B companies to spend too much time on Facebook or Instagram. Accordingly, our lead generation efforts have been focused primarily on LinkedIn and Email only. Lately, we are experimenting with WhatsApp-based manual reach-outs.
  3. Referrals from existing clients. There is nothing better than a VP at ABC Limited calling another VP at PQR Limited and referring your products and services.

Many CIO magazines have also reached out to us. We haven’t tried them and we don’t see us trying them in the near future. We’ve seen that in the Enterprise space, mass-marketing efforts don’t work effectively. Maybe we are wrong. Anyway, I am merely summarizing our learnings so far. We are open to learning new thoughts and ideas and exploring areas of improvement in our lead-generation efforts.

People care about loss aversion rather than a benefit. Specifically while working with startups and smaller companies, Enterprises always have a fear of them getting shut down. So, it is a big risk for them. You need to make sure that you give them enough comfort that you won’t wind up your shop next week because of cash flow issues. How do you do that? There are a few things we did:

  1. Get a stellar set of advisors and put their names in the presentation, especially to early customers. We got ex-CEO of ICICI Home Finance as our advisor. He had spent almost 3 decades as a part of the ICICI Group. Needless to say, ICICI Group is among our early clients. Knowing that he is a part of our advisory board gives a lot of comfort to our clients that we are not just a bunch of youngsters fooling around.
  2. Get a couple of large clients early on. Do anything it takes to get the category-leading brand as your client. Nothing gives more comfort to our prospects than seeing the name of, say, Kotak Bank among our early clients. They know that if Kotak Bank has bought the product, that means that they would have done thorough due diligence about the company and the promoter’s background. They know that Kotak Bank won’t work with an unstable startup.

People want to see benefits and outcomes as against features and efforts. 

Features and efforts are things like:

  • “AI-based...”
  • “GPS-enabled…”
  • “Integrated with…”
  • “We provide the best service”

If you talk about features and efforts, your client would have to spend time thinking about the impact of these efforts on them. For instance, the client will have to think about how “AI-based...” is going to be beneficial for them. This is a tricky situation because they might misinterpret something, or they might not even understand why you’ve put that point in the first place.

Rather, talk about benefits and outcomes like:

  • “AI-based platform helps you reduce human efforts by 30%
  • “Our GPS-enabled technology helps you track <something> in real-time, thereby reducing churn by 24%
  • “Integrated with the top CRMs so that your agents get a single view of the customer and provide them a resolution in 33% lesser time

You get the idea.

The outcome is what the client actually wants. The features and efforts describe how you deliver the outcome. Your first focus should be on establishing the outcome clearly to the client and then describing the features and efforts. To get a better sense of it, take an example of a product that you yourself use - Facebook (okay, Meta). Facebook doesn’t provide you with a news feed. It rather provides you with a mechanism to connect with your friends. The news feed is a feature. Being able to connect with your friends is the outcome here.

Specifically in the BFSI space, one of the key deciding factors is the safety and the security of a solution.

Deals take a lot of time to close. Typically 3 - 6 months.

A large Enterprise deal involves navigating through several decision-makers. You should know what to sell to whom. Typically, you will interact with the following teams:

  • Business - they are the ones who want your solution.
  • IT - they evaluate the technical feasibility and also are involved in the implementation of your solution.
  • Information Security - they evaluate your solution from a security perspective.
  • Legal - they are responsible for signing agreements with you. Typically, the agreements involved are a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and a Service Level Agreement (SLA).
  • Compliance - they are responsible for evaluating your solution from a regulatory approval perspective.
  • Procurement - they will negotiate the best price from you.
  • Finance - they will manage your purchase order and invoice payments.

We’ve written in detail about how to navigate across these teams and sell to large Enterprises.

Because there are so many stakeholders involved, a deal closure typically takes 3 - 6 months of time. Anything better than that is usually an exception, irrespective of how low your product is priced. To reduce the deal time, focus on how to move fast with each stakeholder. The idea is simple - show the stakeholder exactly what they want:

  • Business - don’t talk about the technical aspects of your product. Show them that the product will help them move the needle for some metric. Show them that they will be able to use it easily and you will provide them the best support. That’s it.
  • IT - show them that your product is easily integrable with their existing systems. Show them that your product architecture is flexible and is compliant with their architecture guidelines. Show them that you will be able to deliver the project on time.
  • Information Security - show them that your product is secure and meets the Enterprise standards.
  • Legal - show them that you provide a high-quality support level.
  • Compliance - show them a list of similar clients you’ve worked with. Nothing makes a compliance person happier than seeing that some other company is already using your solution for the same use case. This is because they can quote that as a reference when providing approval.
  • Procurement - show them that your price is most competitive.
  • Finance - show them that you will file taxes and GST on time.

Obviously, showing the benefit to each of them is quite difficult. Therefore, focus on the most important team - the Business team. If they are sold on you, they can talk to procurement and get you moving even if your price isn’t the best.

Learn to tailor your pitch for each buyer. Avoid making generic pitches because that is only going to extend your deal closure time. No point in showing business outcomes to an IT person or showing technical stuff to a business person.

Hope that this will help you improve your sales processes. Check out our other blogs.

  1. A structured approach to getting more revenue from existing customers
  2. We went from an almost bankruptcy to $1M in revenue in 2.5 years
  3. How we built an effective Incentive Structure for the Client facing Teams
  4. How to build for Large Enterprises?