Sales tip: present last

  Written by Louis Gudema

Cartoon figures showing person last in lineRecently S. Anthony Iannarino blogged about “The Case for Presenting Last”.  He starts by saying, “It can be tough to be the last to present”, but I disagree – I relish that position. Whenever given several options on when to present, I always choose the last one.

Many companies stretch their meetings with vendors over several days, or even weeks. How much of what you did yesterday do you remember? And how much of what people told you? (I once saw a quote, that I can’t currently find, that said, “If you remember what you did yesterday you didn’t do enough today.”)

By the time people at a company have had presentations from three or four, or more, companies over several days or longer, the early presenters are long forgotten, or conflated. The last presenter will be freshest in their memory.

And I think that’s true even if all presentations are on one day. If you see three or four presentations in a row, you’re likely to remember the last one best.

Secondly, prospects are often still learning during the early presentations. They’re finding out what their options are, and drilling down with questions on the ones that are most relevant to them. They may also be doing reading on ideas that are new to them between presentations. By the time they get to the last presenter their ideas on what they need are far better formed and focused.

Early presenters are often facing buyers who are essentially doing early-stage research, during which they’re learning about the industry and solutions. But late presenters are talking to educated, later stage buyers who want to know how the vendor’s solution compares to others.

And if you truly have a differentiated offering, you’re really going to stand out when going last because prospects will know that they haven’t heard what you’re proposing from others. One time I was selling digital marketing services to a mid-market tech company and they scheduled all three finalists for the same day; I was able to secure the last slot. Neither of the other two companies even mentioned remarketing, one of the most effective and easy-to-implement digital marketing tactics. And remarketing was just one of the approaches our team proposed that others had not. When the prospect understood how unique our approach was, and how much it could move the needle for them, it was an easy decision. Instead of taking a week or two to decide, as they told us they would do, they called the next day to say that while we had come into the presentations in third place, we were the unanimous choice after the presentations.

Now, consider instead what would have happened if we had gone first. If the prospect was impressed with a particular aspect of our approach, like remarketing, and the next vendor didn’t mention it, it’s very likely they would have asked them about it. It would have given our competitor the chance to say, “Of course we do that…” But since we went last, they never had that opportunity.

If prospects have scheduled meetings with several vendors, it’s very rare for them to make a decision after the first one or two, regardless of how good they are. (How many times have you heard, “That was terrific, but we’re talking to a few other companies, too, and will have to get back to you”?) But they will be prepared to make a decision after seeing all vendors.

So just politely say to the competition, “No, no — after you. I insist.” Grab that last slot and close more deals.

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