It has taken a lot of work, from the initial high-pressure pitch to the second exploratory meeting, leading ultimately to The Presentation.
For many organisations today, the presentation stage has already soaked up a lot of the sales budget and now the whole investment rests on a 10 to 15 minute PowerPoint to secure what could be the difference between the sales team grabbing that double digit bonus or booking another summer break in Blackpool!
Yet Barry Holmes, CEO of Zoom Creates, believes not enough thought is being put into the crucial presentation stage and has launched a series of oneday seminars designed to help sales teams hit the target audience right where the money is.
SI caught up with Holmes at one of his seminars in London’s trendy West End to find out more about the man, his company and the unique approach to upskilling salespeople.
Holmes said his ideas sprung from some early training he had received as a young sales executive. He said: “There has been two phases in the development of my company: The first one was when I had some quality selling presenting training. The effect it had on my earnings, my career and my confidence were literally as nightandday.
“That experience some 16 years ago transformed my own situation – inside 12 months I was earning twice as much as I had been and then left the company to set up my own organisation.
“Then, over the last 14 years having delivered a lot of selling, pitching, presenting for my clients of about 70 companies all around the world, it struck me that, if anything, the skill of doing it well has been diminishing. This is because so much of comms is now done through email technology and social media that the art and science of actually connecting with somebody and not just following a script has diminished.
“If you contrast that to the fact that everyone’s sector has become more complex, faster paced, with more ambiguity, being able to convey a coherent message in a very short period of time is not being catered for.”
Holmes has identified a growing need at all levels for quick effective presentation skills in a market place that has never been higher paced.
He said: “That need and that demand has escalated across all of our clients but what makes me really excited and passionate about in developing this as an open programme is that everyone needs these skills. To walk in a room, to have confidence to quickly connect to a person or people – whether it’s for students trying to get their first job or sales people trying to get inthedoor and engage their prospects or if it’s senior people in companies trying to gain influence to get a project off the ground – they all need these skills. Everyone is trying to do the same thing: to get other people to think and behave differently based on what they have said.”
From identifying the demand, Holmes entered a period of development, which ultimately, led to the creation of his Presence model of training.
“I’d describe it as four or five rivers converging,” Holmes explained. “Part of the thinking has come from enormous research, reading people like Jung’s study around archetypes involving what type of people are influenced by different things. Even stuff about Derren Brown working in the modern world and how he captivates people and how people work in a certain way.
“And thinkers such as Einstein talking about making things as simple as possible but no simpler. We have done a lot of research around these kinds of people to contribute to the body of work.
“But the real test has been seen in that our company gets paid by our clients for delivering value to them. So if we go into a company and they don’t see a return on investment, with their sales team becoming better, smarter, faster, they wouldn’t re engage us. That demand for us to actually deliver value has been huge.
“Having that tension and pressure from clients including Starbucks, Marks and Spencer, 3Mobile, Virgin and British Airways, to go into them and deliver value has had a huge influence on what we do. It’s almost as if our clients have paid for this huge laboratory over a number of years where we can test this stuff. The people we work with are intelligent, experienced and capable so not only do we have to deliver on it, we have to add something to what they already know.”
But Holmes admits that no amount of science can make up for the human touch in what remains a peoplebased industry.
He said: “So there’s research, there’s experimentation and I think the third piece is that myself and all the people working with me really care about this.
“We worked with a charity called Hypnotic, which develops kids living in inner city deprived areas, providing a route out to a more positive life. An opportunity came up for them to bid for them to be housed at the new Wembley site – a prestige location, beautiful facilities plus a grant – and this was nationally advertised. They won that bid because the feedback from the council was that they were headandshoulders above the rest. We helped them to put in the best possible bid and they nailed it.
“We care about this because I don’t want some university graduate going to six interviews and not landing any because they don’t know what they are doing. Just two or three principles in the way somebody attracts someone else can change the result completely.”
He said that we all possess the tools to communicate effectively with others but few maximise those attributes enough to guarantee results.
Holmes explained: “Everyone has the inherent ability to connect with others; it’s either they’ve got the ability and forgotten to employ it or there’s a lack of confidence and they need the affirmation that they can do it.
“This is less about bolting on a set of skills because one of the risks is that they can almost end up looking like a puppet, trying to manufacture these behaviours. We worked with a pharmaceutical company with their drugs reps and what we found was that when they went to a meeting with a doctor, rather than looking at the doctor and thinking ‘he looks tired and a bit stressed’ they’d literally just start reading off their script. They were so drilled about their proposition without taking into account the person they were talking to.
“These were really intelligent people who had just become conditioned so we got them to ask themselves ‘what would you want somebody to do with you?’ We observed them and did videos so we could analyse the situation because it’s more about reflection, noticing, thinking and being mindful of what you are doing.”
Holmes said there are three things that accelerates someone’s performance and they are:
- selfawareness, because without that there is no possibility
- of change;
- capability improvement, and that comes from techniques,
- practicing things and trying new things, and;
- confidence, through seeing the results, which then encourages the person to become more selfaware, and then you can create and accelerate the aspirational cycle.”
He added: “We condense these things and get people to do it in a very specific and immediate way. So all the people at the Presence seminars will in the next four weeks go into a meeting, a presentation or a pitch and there are big consequences at stake.
“But it doesn’t matter to me if it’s a graduate getting his first job or a CEO winning a billionpound contract, everything is about context and if it enables them to be more effective and gets the result then it’s valuable.”
Holmes emphasised that these skill sets can be effective at all levels of the sales industry.
“Part of the process is that we provide coaching before and after the seminars, which is about us understanding that person’s world. Are they selling computers, are they on the phone or do they have a oneyear leadin or a oneweek cycle? If we don’t understand their context and work within that then they will detach themselves from it.
“But the bit in the middle is, as with these Presence seminars, where we bring them in for a day to interact with people from all different organisations and they go through a learning process together. The support is huge with personal coaching plus generic learning as part of a community and also the followup coaching.”
Now Zoom Creates hopes to roll out a series of oneday presentation skills seminars, spreading through the country from its inception in London.
He concluded: “The plan is to run one a month in London and then start running them in Birmingham because there’s a huge hub of business around there and then we have relationships with people in Australia, India and the US who are already talking to us about creating hubs to run this programme in those locations.”
For more information, visit zoomgb.com.