I took a bit of a hiatus the last couple of months because I started a new job, and then I got really sick (which sucked ass. It’s like, “Hey, I just started, and even though it’s less than a month in, can I please take some sick days?!” Nice first impression.) Side bar–If you don’t know me very well, then you might not have heard that the new job I started is on the distribution side as a brand manager. So far I love it.
Each week in my new job revolves around a sales meeting that happens every Monday afternoon and generally lasts for an hour or two. During that time, we go over sales numbers, new items, upcoming releases and any important information that needs to be shared. We also have suppliers visit and make presentations to our sales staff.
Which has reminded me of a time in my past when I was living in Chicago, dating a guy who worked for a huge, national distribution company. He used to tell me about the hellish marathon sales meetings he’d have to attend every Friday from 7 in the morning until 5 or 6 at night. I remember a time when he came home super psyched up, wearing a ridiculously hideous, tie-dyed t-shirt from some new “lifestyle” winery (the brainchild subsidiary of a mega-corporation’s marketing department, of course). He excitedly told me about how the man representing the brand was super cool—he wore casual “surfer” clothes, and even had long hair (I think I remember that it was later revealed to be a wig). This “dude” was completely out of place in a room filled with guys wearing bad pleated slacks, dress shirts and mandatory ties. Instead of discussing what the wine tasted like or, as was the usual case, numbers and sales projections in a powerpoint presentation, the salesman wanted to promote the bohemian attitude of the wines and winery (completely fabricated, of course). The pitch at the meeting completely won over my former boyfriend, and probably got the attention of many of his counterparts as well (for my part, I mercilessly teased him about drinking the kool-aid, which probably explains the direction our relationship took–the fast train to Nowheresville).
While I have always felt that the “wines” my ex-boyfriend sold might as well have been widgets, and that the two of us were basically in only mildly-related industries (my opinion was that I sold “real” wine, and he just shipped cases of meaningless, industrial crap, which might make me a snob, but I’ll live with it), it certainly made me recognize that a well-planned sales presentation can do wonders for a brand. Though I was unimpressed with the pitch and quality of those “lifestyle wines,” the guy I was dating seemed to love them, and was more than happy to promote and sell them. While I thought the presentation sounded ridiculous and fake, to the people there it was real, relatable and made an impact on sales.
So, after sitting through a number of them in the last 8 weeks, I have found that a few things consistently make a presentation stand out:
- Know your audience
Who are you talking to? In my company, most of the sales reps are extremely passionate about wine. They see through the bullsh*t. The things they care about and want to know are things like: what makes you and your winery real? Why do your wines matter to this market? and most of all, what makes them worth selling? Of course, there are other companies like the one my former boyfriend worked for where the reps care much less about authenticity and are more interested in gimmicks, flashiness or packaging. It really helps to understand what gets the mojo going when you’re talking to different sales teams.
- Why are you here?
You should make this abundantly clear, to show that you have a very good reason for the time you’re taking up. Are you: Launching a new brand or product? Pushing for sales improvements on a certain wine? Re-introducing a wine with a new vintage? Offering new pricing or discounts?
- What are your expectations?
Have clear and concise information about how much wine you made, how much you have available to sell, and how long it will be around.
- Why should I sell your wine?
What makes it unique? Who are the competitors and why does this wine stand out? So many suppliers these days seem to know very little about their own wines, and even less about their competitors. The reps I work with are pretty knowledgeable about winemaking and wines from all over the world. If you say your California Tempranillo tastes just as good as one at a similar price from Spain you better be sure you can back it up, or the staff (though, maybe not to your face) will call BS on you.
Be succinct, don’t take more than 20-30 minutes, and make sure you are straightforward and genuine.
Finally, I’d wager that 99% of Power Point presentations are a complete waste of time.