When You Walk in Empty Headed, You Walk Out Empty Handed.

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Jeffrey Gitomer Sales Training Presentation

How much of your presentation is “standard”?

Whether you sell a product or service, whether it’s simple or sophisticated, how much (what percentage) of your presentation is the way you usually present it? Void of personalization? Void of customization? Void of interaction? And all about you.

What kind of presentation do you think your prospect wants?

• They want to know what the value is to THEM.
• They want to know how this fits into THEIR business or life.
• They want to know how THEY benefit.
• They want to know how THEY win.
• They want to know how THEY produce.
• They want to know how it affects THEM.
• They want to know how THEY profit.
• They want to know how easy it will be put to use in THEIR environment.

And NONE of those elements exist in your standard (canned) presentation. Rats.

Why are you giving a “we-we” presentation (all about you and how great you are), when the customer only wants a presentation in terms of them?

HERE’S THE REALITY: When you walk in empty headed, you walk out empty handed.

IDEA: Take all the boring crap you were going to say to the customer, and send it to them in an email saying, “Here’s my presentation for the part you could find on Google or on our website, so that when we’re together I don’t bore you. Rather, I’ll be prepared to give you ideas that lead to (state how they win). Fair enough?”

Now you’re a real salesperson. Now you’re forced to go in with ideas and information about THEM that they can use for their own productivity, enjoyment, use, and profit.

And you now have a better than 50% chance of making the sale.

CAUTION: Unless your presentation is customized and personalized for the customer AND in favor of the customer, there will be a disconnect. Their dominant thought will be, “this guy doesn’t understand me and/or my business.”

Here are some keys to understanding whose favor your presentation is geared toward:

WE-WE – Statements about you that boast rather than prove.
WE-WE – Unfavorable statements about the competition.
WE-WE – Comparing yourself to the competition.
WE-WE – Self serving questions. “What do you know about us?”
WE-WE – Qualifying questions about who decides, budget, or payment.
WE-WE – Non-specific testimonials that praise you, but give no reason why.
WE-WE – Excuses about why you don’t have Twitter activity or a YouTube channel (they searched for it before you arrived).
WE-WE – No social media recommendations from customers.

THEM – Questions about THEM that reveal their history, their situation, and their motives – their past experience, their wisdom, their opinion. True engagement.
THEM – Testimonials that overcome specific objections – price and quality.
THEM – Any third party media that supports you or your product – articles or interviews.
THEM – Great (current) social media presence (your reputation that helps put the buyer at ease rather than on guard), including direct interaction with customers.
THEM – Ideas you created that they can use. Proof you did your “homework.”

KEY POINT OF UNDERSTANDING: Features are about you and benefits are in the middle. They can be stated either way. But value is about them. And value, customer perceived value, needs to be the focus of a “them-based” presentation.

WARNING: Don’t be defensive. I can hear you telling me that you give a customized presentation. I can hear you telling me that you’re different than all the other people on the planet. And I can hear you telling me that customers love your presentation, and all about the fact you can close three out of four people once you get in front of them.

I hope you can hear me say, “That’s a bunch of crap!”

Here’s how to measure your customization reality:

1. Amount of time spent on pre-call research. How well do you know the person and the company you are visiting?
2. The two great ideas you are walking in the door with will benefit them whether they buy or not.
3. The variations that you made in your presentation that adapt to their company, their present situation, their needs, their productivity, and their success.
3.5 Your knowledge of the customer’s buying motives are as good or greater than your selling skills.

Them-based are the most difficult sales presentations of all. Marketing departments have no concept of them, and most salespeople aren’t willing to do the work to prepare them.

That’s great news for the 5% of salespeople who are willing. They’re easy to identify. They’re always the highest performers and the highest earners.

Want more? Read How Are You Using the Power of First Impression?

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  1. Jeffrey, you could not be more bang on. My company received an RFP for a complete computer system up-grade from a large law firm. Although the RFP stated “no phone calls”, I happened to know one of the lawyers from our pool league. On our next game night I asked if I could call him or come in to see him about the proposal and he agreed.

    I learned a lot from him, including that the RFP had been sent to thirty-five competitors. I then spent a few hours with our senior tech to get his opinions and mostly his support because he would be doing all the work. I invested six weeks in preparing a PowerPoint presentation showing them, in plain language, our recommendations, along with photos of the hardware and brief explanations of why it was needed. I did a hand-out for the lawyers I was presenting to and invited questions as we went through the presentation. My senior tech was also at the meeting, which was something my manager could not understand, but he answered technical questions I could never have handled. At the end of the meeting the senior lawyer said he had never seen such a thorough presentation or one that spoke to them so clearly in language they could understand.

    A few days later of course I called my friend to ask if he had heard anything. Although he was not on the selection committee he did say he had casually asked a couple of the lawyers who were and they said it was down to two and that we were one of them.

    A couple of weeks later I was called to a meeting and I was a little unnerved that it was before the entire thirteen lawyer committee, but I was confident in my proposal and prepared to deal with any questions. I anticipated questions on pricing because I had gone in at full margin. Sure enough, the chairman said it was down to ourselves and Dell, who I knew were quoting absurdly low prices hoping to break into the local market. He said Dell’s hardware pricing was substantially lower than ours and asked if we would support hardware from Dell. Without a second’s hesitation I said no. After a minute of total silence and looks around the table he then asked how much of a deposit we wanted to start work.

    When I returned to the office with the contract and the cheque my manager freaked that I had not called him when they asked about supporting Dell, but he was happy that I had secured the largest contract in their seventeen year history, and at full margin.


  2. Good notes to proceed with and all great sales people should be doing this as a part of their presentation. We all have the ability to look up people on LI and google companies for information and their websites for applicable news. More probing and developing a relationship and trust is needed for them to be challenged into looking at themselves and what is really keeping them up at night, then if you are lucky they will share that information with you to then come back with a more tapered personal approach. I agree with David on the part that information key “true needs assessment” to that particular account the sales person is going after has to be listened for and determined during and after a 1st meeting but we as sales reps can start off with the correct “them” approach in all meetings from inception to final sales and win the account not just the 1st sale!

  3. Bradley Cole says:

    I have a presentation tomorrow morning and here are three things I know about THEM. 1) Why are you not the dominant vendor in our market? 2) Why is your price the lowest? 3) We may not be considered a prestigious higher learning institution, but by choosing you, will we lose face with our peers? Tough obstacles, but the important thing is that I know their pain points and a few deal breaker features. JG is right I have to remind myself to stay focused on THEM and give myself a legitimate chance to make an impact for them by delivering on the services that matter to them and most importantly ease their concerns. Wish me luck!

  4. George Grieve says:


    I just read “Empty Headed, Empty Handed” and as I regularly do these days, I forwarded them to my to college age daughters who are about to graduate and start to make their way in the world.

    I consider the advice you give to be much broader than “just for sales people”. I consider the content of your columns a major advantage for my kids as they build their own brand and learn how to sell themselves in the business world.

    Which prompt’s the reason for my note, outside of the heartfelt thank you. You should write a book for young people launching a career. There is nothing that I have found that provides practical, useable advice of the sort you regularly dispense. Given the current economy, and your customer base of folks like me I’m sure you ;d have another best seller on your hands.

    I’ve been a customer and a fan for years and my company has benefited from your advice. Now you are helping me with my kids’ careers! Thank you.


    George Grieve

  5. Love it. I definitely learnt this after a few years of firing off all in the quiver hoping some would hit the mark. During a recent sales meeting that a potential client had called my team in for, they paused and said “Hang on, it’s been 30 minutes and we don’t know anything about you, all we’ve done is talk about us!” What a perfect lead into tailoring our response to them!

  6. John Kochka says:

    The my first job out of college was with a major consumer foods company as a retail sales representative. The company had rebates on a per case basis if the grocery store advertised on the radio. When I presented this advertising bill back to the store manager I would say, “I was thinking about your store’s unique strengths and I wrote the following commercial for you.” The buyers were always on the edge of their seats and leaning forward because it was about them. The commercials were well written, succinct, and humorous. While the buyers did not always go with radio advertising or my commercials on the first call, I had their attention because I proved I was thinking about them and I differentiated myself from all the other vendors. Several buyers came up with their own commercials and they got additional sales/rebates and I got the additional volume.

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