WAS it a comedy? A tragedy? A hit? Or was the show cancelled?

We are not talking about the latest effort from Hollywood, but your last sales presentation.

There are three ways to evaluate the success of any sales presentation. Let's continue for a moment with our movie example.

Before the script finds its way to your local movie theatre, there have been hours of planning and organisation, preparation and execution and the actual filming.

In every profession, whether it is a doctor preparing for surgery, a builder building a house or a parent planning the next meal, there is always some degree of planning, preparation and then execution. The success of the outcome or finished product depends on the effectiveness of all three.

The sales process is no exception. The planning or organising is the research, investigation and general information gathering stage. The organisation is deciding the strategy for the call, not planning the information that will be delivered, but the sequence of events.

The execution is what you say and do once you are with your prospect. The focus of this article is on the execution.

Have you ever had a prospect say to you: "You have 15 minutes to convince me that I should give you any more of my valuable time."

Even if they don't say it, you can bet they are thinking it.

Let's assume that you have what you believe is a good prospect, and you are now in the prospect's office ready to begin.

It's show time

The goals or objectives of the first 15 minutes are:

* To build a positive rapport;

* To establish an atmosphere of trust and respect;

* To gain control of the sales process;

* To fill in the gaps of specific prospect information that you have not learned up to this point;

* To confirm the accuracy of previous information gained;

* To uncover prospect prejudices, needs, desires, attitudes, opinions, problems and potential resistance;

* To discover the dominant emotional buying motive;

* To determine the urgency and their willingness to proceed now;

* To determine whether you are in the presence of the decision maker or to discover who the additional people are who should be involved; and

* To sell them on the need for additional time to deliver the balance of your presentation.

In addition, remember these three rules:

* Never cover price until you have had an opportunity to build value. Price will always seem high, if value is perceived as low.

* I would rather leave early in the process with a no, than go through the entire process and get a maybe. With a no, I know where I stand. With a maybe, I have only false hope.

* Timing is everything in selling. Remember, people buy when they are ready to buy, not when you need to sell. Attempting to force a prospect to buy when you need to sell is what we commonly call "the hard sell".

Back to the presentation

Your opening question and your follow-up questions will determine how much more time your prospect will allow you.

Ask poor questions, and you'll be out of there very soon. Ask good questions and you can stay as long as you need to determine whether you have a prospect that is worth more of your time.

The critical thing to remember is that you are not selling your product or service at this early stage. You are earning the right to take more of your prospect's time later.

Let's relate this entire scenario to that of visiting your doctor for stomach problems. If he prescribed a treatment right after you informed him of your symptoms, I doubt if you would take his advice seriously.

If he checked your patient history, examined you or required additional tests and only gave his diagnosis after he was sure of the big picture, you would be more receptive to the prescribed treatment.

What if the doctor spent the entire time telling you about his education, experience, successes and personal philosophies? You would probably look for another doctor!

Similarly, talking about your sales success is not why you are in the prospect's office. You are there to get information, not give it. There will be time for that in the second segment of the sales process.

The first 15 minutes are like building the foundation of a house. Get the foundation right and the rest of the construction will be successful.