“What happens when not every one has something to contribute to the presentation?” my new prospective client asked me. “We send our key people so the client can see how committed we are but they aren’t really the team that will work on the account and don’t know as much about the account as some of the lower-level associates. It’s a mess.”
Yes, it is. Here are 3 key reasons why this scenario is guaranteed to lose the business:
#3. Clients aren’t stupid. When the high level folks have nothing substantial to add, they know you’re trying to show commitment. But really, you aren’t. They see it for what it is – a manipulative trick to fool them into thinking that you really, really care about their business. If you did, the key people would take the time to know everything about the project (which isn’t always realistic). Every person on a presentation team needs to be active in helping the client feel confident and comfortable. That means every person needs to be an active participant in the team presentation.
#2. Clients will ignore the others. When I was ready to buy my first new car, I asked the man I was dating to come with me. I didn’t want to be talked into anything I didn’t really need (and I had no idea what I needed or didn’t, other than tires and a cup holder). The car salesman talked mainly to my date while he showed him around the car (not that I cared because I saw the car had 2 cup holders – cool). We did mention that the car was for me and that I was buying it. No ding of recognition. When we get to the “negotiation” part, the salesman continues to talk to my date, not even bothering to look at me. Even when I would answer (yes, this is true!), he would respond to the date. My exasperated sighs and increasingly sarcastic responses were totally ignored. Finally, the date says to the salesman, “You know, I’m not the one buying the car. She is. And if I were you, I’d not only start looking at her, I’d start talking to her. I’d smile at her too. I’d make her feel like you actually knows she exists. You know why? Because I know her and you, buddy, are just about to lose this sale.”
Even though your client may be aware that the younger associates are responsible for the success of the project, they will still tend to talk to the top dog (or the perceived top dog) when the best thing that can happen for the sale is to get them to engage with the vibrant, knowledgeable team.
And the most important reason why sending in the A-team is guaranteed to lose the business:
#1. Your organization has too many B team players. You hand picked the “best” for the presentation but how will the work get done with that bunch of losers back at the shop? If you assemble a team based on the client’s needs, tell them that. If you assemble a team based on the experience within your firm, tell them that. But don’t imply that you employ anything but the A-team.