This week, I’ve been one of the lucky listeners to four big vendors who are pitching for an all-in-one end-to-end Logistics and Freight Forwarding system to our company. It was a good chance for me to observe how each presentation (in)effectively wins the audience.

The attendees of each meeting are from the operations, the business development, the IT team and the management. The presenters came from different backgrounds. There are people from sales, from technical and from customer support. They came from different geography as well, one from UK, another from US, a couple from Germany, Korea, HK and Singapore.

The agenda of each presentation is simple:

  1. Introduce their company, its credibility and its ability to take the BIG project.
  2. Show us the capabilities of their system and how relevant it is to our business operations.
  3. Propose a project schedule and implementation plan.
  4. Give a rough estimate on the pricing and costs.

Eventhough the agenda is already lined up for them, much of their presentation still didn’t capture the audience’s attention; and if it did, they weren’t able to hold it for a long time. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Having English as your native language doesn’t mean you have a good command of it.
  2. It’s not bad to bring cue cards during your pitch, but if you’re going to bring a stack of paper and read them line by line while delivering your pitch, it becomes as good as doing a storytelling. Why don’t you email us the essay and we’ll read them before the meeting starts?
  3. Speaking little is as deafening as silence but talking too much is nagging.
  4. We all know that your company is the best–that’s the reason why we invited you in the first place. You don’t have to shove to our throat that you ARE THE BEST, HAVE THE BEST system, and the BEST-est among the BEST out there.
  5. If you know you have a thick accent, you may want to slow down on points that you’d like the listeners to remember.
  6. Don’t be too complacent on your company’s BIG three-letter name. The BIGGER they are, the harder the smack-in-your-face it will be when you present an incomplete data (or when you don’t meet the BIG expectation of the audience)
  7. Get your facts right and try not to show frustration when you’re being contradicted by the chair.
  8. It wouldn’t hurt if you give a brief, substantial and relevant information of yourself as a presenter. The last thing we’d like to hear is that you’re actually not a technical guy who is explaining the system architecture, but a BI consultant who has been dragged in the presentation unknowingly.
  9. It’s not bad to rehearse your presentation, but don’t do it in front of the client.
  10. We know the projector screen can’t ask you questions, but please look at the audience and don’t stare at the screen. In the same way, don’t look at your laptop 5/6 of the time while you’re speaking, for all we know, you’re holding a skype video conference while you’re delivering your pitch.
  11. Myanmar flag and a Taiwanese flag do look the same, but make sure that you’re writing in the presentation the right name ¬†of the country (since when did we have a subsidiary in Taiwan?).
  12. A system demonstration is indeed the most boring part of the presentation, but don’t make it more lifeless by speaking in a monotonic and gibberish manner.

There’s a few more but let’s keep the items to 12. I know some of these are very basic but some of the presenters still forgot to avoid them.

And yes, how can you win friends during/after the sales pitch? Give the chairman a nice gift, talk to as many people as you can during the 15-minute tea break, and bring snacks on the table. But this doesn’t mean you’re winning the pitch.