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We are often asked, "How much of our company's corporate overview presentation should we include in a demo meeting?" Good question. The answer: as little as possible!

Many salespeople and technical staff feel comfortable opening a demonstration meeting with a "brief" overview of their company. Most customers refer to this as "Death by PowerPoint."

Why? Because at the beginning of such meetings, customers are not interested in vendor history—they only want to whether a vendor can help address their critical business issues (CBIs) or enable them to achieve their objectives.

Making the customer wait through and watch and listen to three, six or ten or more slides from a standard corporate overview presentation about the vendor is just cruel!

Instead, start the meeting with a "situation slide."

In the case of a technical proof demonstration, this slide simply recalls the information gathered previously from during qualification/discovery discussions. You should list the following:

  1. The customer's name and job title for each major player or department

  2. The CBIs, reasons, and specific capabilities needed for each player or department

  3. The desired change/result ("delta") for each situation (you may want to create a situation slide for each major player or department involved)

A CBI is a problem that the customer sees as important enough to invest resources to address. It is best to use the customer's words, such as "I'm concerned about our ability to achieve our forecasted revenues this year," which might come from a VP of Sales. In your situation slide, you would rephrase this:

  • VP of Sales, Acme Software
  • CBI: Concerned about achieving forecast revenues

A "reason" is the issue behind the top-level problem that makes it a problem. In our example, our VP of Sales might typically say, "The reason I'm concerned about making our numbers this year is that we are having difficulty closing the technical sale—there is miscommunication and misalignment between our salespeople and the pre-sales systems engineers, and their demos are simply not getting the job done!"

So your situation slide would now look like this:

  • VP of Sales, Acme Software
  • CBI: Concerned about achieving forecasted revenues
  • Reason: Not closing the technical sale due to miscommunication and unsuccessful demos

The "specific capabilities" are those that the customers say they need to address the CBI. Our VP of Sales might say, "We need training to improve the communications within the sales teams and to enable our demos to generate a 'Wow!' response on the part of our customers." The situation slide would then reflect this:

  • VP of Sales, Acme Software
  • CBI: Concerned about achieving forecasted revenues
  • Reason: Not closing the technical sale, due to miscommunication and unsuccessful demos
  • Specific capabilities: Intra-sales team communications and demonstration effectiveness training

Finally, the "delta" is a measure of the difference between the way things are today versus how they would be with a solution in place. In our example, the VP of Sales might share that this way: "Right now it looks like we are about $1,500,000 short of achieving our annual quota."

The complete situation slide would then look like this:

  • VP of Sales, Acme Software
  • CBI: Concerned about achieving forecasted revenues
  • Reason: Not closing the technical sale, due to miscommunication and unsuccessful demos
  • Specific capabilities: Intra-Sales Team communications and demonstration effectiveness training
  • Delta: $1,500,000 in annual revenues

Situation slides enable the sales team to "recall the facts" and start the meeting with the customer's issues. By presenting the situation slide, the sales team can confirm that (1) its information is correct and accurate or (2) determine whether there have been any changes since the previous meeting with the customer.

In the case of a vision-generation meeting, you would use the same format for the situation slide, but instead of listing the specific customer's situation you may need to list another, similar customer's situation (known as a "reference story," sanitized to remove any confidential customer information or specific names).

Once the facts have been recalled or the reference story presented, you have the choice to either drill deeper into qualification questions (particularly if the purpose of the meeting is vision generation) or proceed directly into the demo (in the case of a technical proof meeting).

When must you present the information in the corporate overview? When the customer asks for it, specifically. Once you have shown that you have capabilities that can help the customer address its business issues, then the customer will begin to ask questions about your company—and that is when your answers have relevance.

For example, if the customer is contemplating a deployment in three countries, then he may ask, "Do you have sales and support offices in the US, Germany, and France?" Providing the answer at the beginning of the meeting makes no sense (particularly if your standard presentation describes sales, customer service, customization, and training offices in 54 countries around the world—whereas the customer is interested only in the three regions).

Most corporate presentations are entirely vendor-focused. As an exercise, review your corporate-overview presentation from a customer's perspective. Ask yourself: "What information really captures my interest?" It is likely that the answer will be "very little!"

A final tip: for sales teams that simply must start with a corporate overview, work to reduce it to a single slide that focuses on the top-level business issues that your tools address.

Focus on the customer's interests first—and enjoy the rewards of crisper sales!

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Peter Cohan runs The Second Derivative out of Belmont, California. For more information, visit