Does Your Sales Presentation Fit the Customer?

The Situation

Ava has been selling commercial plumbing supplies for five years and knows her products well. She got a call from Jeremy, who operates a successful inn with his wife.

Jeremy is upset because he has had to replace three hot water heaters in five years. While that has been covered by warranty, he can’t afford for guests to run out of hot water. A cold shower usually translates to a customer who won’t be staying at his place again.

To understand his problem fully, Ava has been doing a thorough job probing in Step 2 of the Structured Sales Call Format — exploring customer needs. Jeremy insists that whatever Ava recommends, above all else, it must be reliable.

Jeremy: I’m done fooling around with this. I’ve been pennywise and pound foolish. I just need hot water heaters that are dependable!
Ava: That’s coming through loud and clear. Anything else I should know about your situation?
Jeremy: No, I don’t think so.
Ava: Okay, Jeremy, let me ask you, have you ever heard of a tankless hot water system?
Jeremy: Tankless?  I don’t know anything about that.
Ava: Yes, it heats water without needing any storage tanks. Tap water passes through a heating element right to the faucet or shower head. You never run out of hot water. And there’s no tank to get rusty or wear out.
Jeremy: Hmm. Sounds too good to be true. Something new, huh?
Ava: Not that new. I’ve got a brochure that makes it clear. Let me show you.

The Perfect Solution — or Not?

While Jeremy seems to understand how the system works, as Ava continues explaining it, he becomes more non-committal. He appears more troubled than assured by Ava’s idea. He takes her information and says he’ll have to think about this alternative.

Ava has a solution for Jeremy’s problem, but what happened in Step 3 of her presentation that has hurt her chances for a sale?

No Tanks!

On the surface, tankless water heating may be just what Jeremy ought to get. However, from her Step 2 probing, Ava should have realized that at this point, Jeremy’s personal need is to feel confident about a solid and reliable solution. He’s not interested in signing on to what he perceives as an experimental system. He will just end up continuing to worry about his guests having enough hot water.


So, while a tankless system may fulfill this customer’s tangible needs (limitless hot water), it doesn’t fit Jeremy’s personal needs.


Tailor Your Presentation to the Needs You Discover

Ava actually does a good job of probing so that Jeremy articulates his personal needs. Her mistake is the disconnect between Step 2 (probing) and Step 3 (presenting). A sales solution should never be a formula or something straight from the shelf. Step 2 should shape the content of the Step 3 presentation. The point of presenting only after listening to the customer is to tailor the benefits you present as closely as you can to the customer’s unique situation.


Most likely, Jeremy wants to hear about traditional commercial grade hot water heaters that are virtually failsafe. Even if tankless hot water may actually be more reliable, for Jeremy, his personal security need to feel reassured by his choice is at least as important as the product’s actual dependability.


Always think of the Step 2 results as the content for what you will say in Step 3, customized to each person. After all, if you listen, your customers will tell you what you need to know to make the sale.