You’re feeling fantastic! The presentation of your sales proposal went really well.
Not only that, but your team was on top form and the client was really listening.
You can’t count chickens but the business is as good as in the bag.
“Thank you.” the chairman says and turns to his colleagues. “Have you any questions ladies and gentlemen?”
The first few questions are OK – just asking you to elaborate on some technical points.
But then there’s a difficult question, one of your technical guys gets a bit confused answering it.
Your technical director steps in to correct his guy.
This seems to worry the client’s project manager who starts asking increasingly aggressive and challenging questions.
Your team is now under pressure and it shows.
Three of your team look worried and start arguing between themselves.
You try to calm it all down and bring the focus back on you, but the client’s technical director chips in with, “I really would like to hear what your designer thinks about this.”
As the Q & A session ends you try to pull it all together with a few comforting words but you know you’ve lost a significant contract and with it, big profits.
The strong position you were in at the end of the presentation has been totally eroded in just a few minutes.
Q & A sessions like this are high risk because we have handed over the initiative to the client.
It is astonishing that we put time and effort into preparing and rehearsing the presentation but never think about the risks posed by the Q & A session.
Remove the risk from Q & As with 4 planning rules:
- Brainstorm questions the client could ask
Look at your proposal critically and from many perspectives – the business level, the technical, the commercial and the operational. Focus on the weaknesses and problem areas. Invite your team to be negative and encourage criticism. From there, you can develop the most difficult and challenging questions you can.
- Develop robust answers
Once you’ve got a set of questions, put the team to work at developing good robust responses. Collect the facts and figures you need to support your answers. Prepare additional slides or hand-outs if it will help.
- Decide who will answer which questions
Decide in advance who will take care of which questions and make sure team members rehearse the answers. This way questions will be answered in an authoritative, knowledgeable and relaxed manner.
- Have a brief (30/45 second) conclusion ready
You want to end the whole thing on a positive note. As you sense the questions have dried up take the initiative. “Thank you ladies and gentlemen for the opportunity to present to you today. If there are no more questions…”Let your voice trail off and scan the room. If no one shows any sign of asking another question continue smoothly and naturally, “…then I would just like to briefly summarise our key points.”
Once you’re prepared in this way, Q & A sessions no longer become a risk and instead, provide you with yet another opportunity to showcase your ability to completely take care of the client’s needs.