Eight top tips to prevent outsourcing providers committing harakiri in the sales process

"Go ahead... just one more slide". HfS' Esteban Herrera saves you a fortune with some free advice

My word, if I get one more spam from someone claiming to help outsourcing providers “get outsourcing leads” through delivering dodgy webcasts (which are probably only attended by other equally desperate outsourcing providers, with similarly deficient sales capabilities), or get invited to take part in a workshop to improve the “velocity of my sales pipeline”, where a paltry $10,000 investment can help my firm meet its $1,000,000,000 target, I think I may throw my Mac out the window and join the Occupy Wall Street demonstration rumbling on down the road.

So let’s save you nice outsourcing providers the time, trouble and expense of getting advice on how not to sell yourself, and give you all the advice you need, right here, right now – and for absolutely nothing.  Plus, you can re-invest that time you just saved by filling a bag with foam pies and hurling them at unsuspecting investment bankers.

Esteban Herrera, along with most of the team at HfS, has gone way further than “Death by PowerPoint” on so many occasions that we can now prescribe your very own Exhumation after PowerPoint… over you, Mr H:-

An open letter to Outsourcing Providers: It’s time for your exhumation after PowerPoint

Dear Providers,

We love you. Without you there would be no outsourcing industry and we would not have jobs. More than anything, we want to see you succeed. Why, oh why, must you insist in compromising your own success by practicing death by PowerPoint on your prospects?

I’ve come to believe that business, and our business in particular, really wants audiences to tune out. Through thousands of “orals” and analyst “briefings” I’ve concluded we actually want to put each other to sleep. We don’t care if the audience retains anything we’ve said, and thus bombard them with a slide per minute. Of course, almost none of us talk that fast, and almost all of us leave the good stuff until the end so we rush to it when nobody is paying attention and everyone is bleary-eyed and exhausted.

In my view, providers are the worst offenders, especially when attempting to woo new clients in competitive situations. The presentations and styles often do exactly the opposite of what is intended: they frustrate and alienate potential clients. In the last fifteen years, I’ve seen lots of sales pitches, some very good, most not so. In an effort to help our industry and keep my sanity during my next round of orals with a buyer client, I’ve put together a few tips, which I am sure most of you will ignore.

  1. Ditch the PowerPoint. Clients are so used to “slides” that what will stick out in their mind the most is someone who came to have a conversation with them, not talk at them. In a recent set of orals, one provider had three of six speakers not use slides at all. They finished an hour early of their allotted time, to everyone’s delight, and communicated just as much as anyone else. Engagement, discussion, and relationship-building banter ensued. To say they won the day would be the understatement of the year. More importantly, everyone in the room, including this jaded advisor, remembers them and their story. If you know what you are talking about, you don’t need the damn slide. Plus, you know all your competitors are going to attempt PowerPoint murder, so why not stand out in the crowd?
  2. Ditch that innovation funnel slide. You know which one I’m talking about. Everybody has it. Everybody claims it as their own. And nobody believes it. Kill it.
  3. Start with the “answer.” How about this simple message to start the session: We are going to save you $X million per year, starting in June, while maintaining or increasing all your existing service levels, while absorbing x% of the risk. If your FIRST statement/page/slide doesn’t follow that pattern, you’ve squandered your best opportunity to differentiate and create a lasting impression. Whomever taught this “build-up” to the punch line method of presenting should be sued for malpractice.
  4. Ditch the sales person. Don’t get me wrong, salespeople play a critical role in any pursuit, but they should be seen and not heard. Clients want to speak with subject matter experts and content people. At an intensely competitive pursuit I led last year at a global manufacturer, the sales guy never spoke during presentations, and wasn’t even in the room for the last round (he was outside the door). But I knew he was quarterbacking the effort every step of the way. His team won. I’m sure he didn’t mind being out of the room when his commission check for a $125 million TCV deal came through.
  5. Slides are aids, not crutches. If you must use slides, you should be able to speak at least five minutes per slide. They should help tell the story, not remind you what the story is.
  6. Bring a Customer. That’s right, there is no more powerful marketing than what an existing, happy client can say about you. Persuade one of your happy clients to come and speak on your behalf. Nobody else is going to do it. Fly them first class and put them up for the weekend at a great resort nearby. The good will in the existing relationship alone is worth it. But how impressive will it be to the prospects? Priceless! And existing clients, before you dismiss this thought, think about the favor you will be able to cash in when you need it! This is a win-win and I don’t know why more buyer/providers don’t do it. Sit your customer down in the middle of the room and let the prospect ask questions. Let the customer answer honestly. Your prospect will remember it forever, and probably hire you on that alone.
  7. Engage. These meetings are opportunities to converse. The more one-way the communication, the less likely you are to be successful
  8. Personality counts. One of the most successful providers we see in the market has the uncanny ability to match their delivery/account manager to their prospective client very well. Their delivery capability is no better or worse than anyone else in the market, but prospects tend to fall in love with the lead, and more often than not, buy because of that individual.

I have lots more tips, but eight is a good number to start with. I did not want to be critical without offering some suggestions! I genuinely hope you find these helpful. I’m no presentation coach, but I’m happy to recommend a great one (thanks, Ron D.).  Remember, we love you, and we want you to win. And if you don’t curb these bad presentation habits you are going to start losing.

Yours truly,

Esteban (and the HfS team)

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22 Comments

  1. Mrunal Moghe
    Posted October 10, 2011 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Thanks. This article is very insightful

  2. Posted October 11, 2011 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Bullseye! Good Article. Will not be surprised if powerpoint fade away in near future business meetings.

  3. Ed Rogers
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    It’s amazing how much money providers invest on ridiculous graphics to mask the insecurity of their presenters. Some consultants (the original offendors) are finally realizing it’s time to tone down the powerpoint, whereas most of the providers insist on increasing the slideware to insane quantities.

    Do they really think prospects are going to be impressed?

    Ed Rogers

  4. Paul McCullough
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Very good advice. If only they trained the presenter, as opposed to the graphics person designing the fancy funnel. There is no substitute for passion, enthusiasm and connecting with the audience. Hiding behind PowerPoint does very little to win over a client. I dare providers to read this and actually do something about it,

    Paul

  5. sharv_j
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    You’ve hit the nail on the head here, Esteban! I think the culprit is the business education (especially in the countries where outsourcing service providers come from) that unfortunately trains us very well as PPT makers, but not as communicators.

    I’ve seen in most cases (that includes senior sales/marketing people) the thought process goes by what “should be done in these situations” and not what is the best way to connect and start a relationship.

  6. Terry
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    While offshore providers are definitely culprits of the PowerPoint-suicide, they’re not much worse than the US and Europeans – it’s a marketing disease. These providers insist on hiring armies of marketing staff with no idea how to connect with customers. Their literature, collateral, entire communications strategy is focused on jargon and fancy models that turn the reader off before they’ve made their way past the title – if they’ve even got that far!

  7. Subash Choudhary
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Very insightful. In fact on some of the aspects, it had challenged the thought process adopted by us.

  8. Kevin Judice
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    As a recipient (target) of these excruciating presentations…I thank you. Esteban and I have sat through a number of these together and I sincerely hope the providers take this to heart. You typically have a good idea in the first 15 minutes whether the provider has a shot at the deal. Is that fair? Perhaps not, but if you don’t click in a 1 – 2 hour presentation – it’s not likely that it’s going to get better from there.

  9. Posted October 11, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Priceless stuff….. I think we all need to learn from Apple, simplicity has its own beauty and conviction…

    Mrinal Singh

    twitter: mrinalasingh
    http://about.me/mrinal.singh
    Blog: blogs.ittoolbox.com/emergingtech/trends/
    LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/mrinalsingha

  10. Posted October 11, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Thanks for all your comments folks. I knew this would hit a nerve with many of us. Full disclosure, I’ve been guilty of many of the sins herein described, as a career-long seller of services of one type or another. Let’s hope a new generation of communications is indeed around the corner, where people in our industry focus on relationships and content

  11. Max_Luvecce
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Excellent article !! It would be almost funny if it didn’t turn out to be so incredibly hard to razzle dazzle those would-be buyers who are not only fep up with Power Point presentations, but are also hardly impressed with anything that does not slash tons of zeroes…. the name of the game is what they call it. Prezi.Com is a good alternative to dozy .PPS’s !

  12. Posted October 11, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    All fair points and accepted Esteban. Maybe I would add “Outcome” to relationships and content. You have to wonder if service providers are putting their A Team on a bid to win it and the lack of empathic thought is that evident what will happen when they bring in the C and D teams to deliver it…??

  13. Gabby Quiroa
    Posted October 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the article, hope this helps lowering the PPT crime rate.

  14. David Poole
    Posted October 12, 2011 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    I love it! A great contribution to the industry. Perhaps we could also ditch the Multi Simultaneous Y Pad Sessions requiring 30 people to get on planes and the printing of 3 trees worth of documents to submit an RFP. If only to save the planet let alone the BPO industry.

  15. Posted October 12, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for restoring my sanity. Having just endured (actually everything described in these eight points – on point 4 – we had 7 present!!) all at the same time from the same provider, we thought we must have done something very bad in a previous live to be singled out for so much punishment. Needless to say we were not impressed and actually gave similar feed-back to the provider – hoping the next customer will be spared.
    In this particular case a live demo of the solution totally turned around our perception (point 6).

    Steffen

  16. Paul Singer
    Posted October 19, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Spot on. Start with the answer and tell a compelling story backed up with data and a customer’s perspective and you can not lose.

    I will share this with all the colleagues I fight with on every presentation.

    Thanks,

  17. Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t have written this better myself…

  18. Posted November 14, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Colossal insights!! Couldn’t agree more.
    Pl do not stop at eight… not a good number!

  19. Priya Pereirra
    Posted November 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Easily the best post on horsesforsources. Great write, Esteban. Te deseo lo mejor.

  20. Ravi Shankar
    Posted December 8, 2011 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    Perfect. This is exactly what we need. Having spent 10 years in this business (first four on the other side as a recepient of Powerpoint firing squad and the next 6 as part of the firing squad), I see that the story telling has gone beyond the point of being credible. The best ppt I have ever received was a 5x5x5 for 90 minutes – 5 slides, 5 lines to a slide, 5 words to a line. None of the star wars type of graphics and SFX. Needless to say that provider won the deal!

  21. Posted January 4, 2012 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    Superb advice Esteban. I’m sure I am not the only one who wants you to progress from 8 to 20 at least. I echo with Priya above.One of the top 3 articles on HFS if not numero uno. Please please the readers appetite.

  22. Posted December 6, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    As a representative of a ‘provider’ (in the marketing function, no less!), I can tell you that I enjoyed reading this article.

4 Trackbacks

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