Sell The Hole, Not The Drill! How To Make A Successful Sales Presentation

Man makes a sales presentation at work

As a sales trainer and observer, I have watched many sales presentations.

Inexperienced sales professionals often tell customers everything they know about their product as if they were being examined at school. The problem is customers don’t want to hear everything. They lose interest. Then they buy from a different vendor.

They key is to focus on the customer, not on the product.

Sell The Hole, Not The Drill

Woman makes sales presentation at work


Unless you’re selling a luxury product, such as a Rolex watch or a Ferrari, customers do not really want your product. They want what the product can do for them. This is why we say customers buy the hole, not the drill. So how do we apply this to making sales presentations?

The “Hook”

Man give a sales presentation to potential clients


Unless you have been recommended, or you use advertising, you need to attract your customer’s attention. You do that with a “hook.” Mention what your customers usually want, then offer to tell them how they can get it.

Why do most people buy broadband packages? They want to call relatives in remote locations, consume entertainment through streaming services, or work from home.

Ask your customer something like this: “Mr. Jones, how much does it cost you to call your daughter in Alaska? How about if we could cut that down to only twenty-five dollars a month?”

Suppose you’re selling speech analytics to a bank. Start by asking the contact center manager: “Do you worry about compliance?” Then ask: “What percentage of calls do you monitor in an average month?” Follow that up with: “And how many non-compliant calls do you think you miss?”

Find Out What They Want

Woman gives a sales presentation to potential clients


Now you have your customer's attention. You need to find out what they really want. Look for your customer’s top three requirements. Prepare your questions in advance. You should be able to identify her needs with three or four open questions.

For the broadband scenario, you can ask: “How many people live in your house other than yourself?” Follow that with: “What do they like doing with the internet?” Your final question will be: “Suppose you had the best internet connection in the world. What would you use it for?”

For the speech analytics scenario, you can ask the contact center manager: “How many contact center agents are there?” “What kind of calls do they handle?” “How do you monitor compliance now?” and “What would you investigate if you could listen to every single call that is handled?”

In both cases, your questions will reveal the current situation, the desired future situation, and the size of the solution required.

Now it’s time to tell the customer what you have to offer.

Keyhole Surgery

Woman gives a sales presentation to potential customers


Surgeons often killed their patients in the past. They made massive incisions into their bodies. The shock and trauma they produced were often deadlier than the problem they were trying to solve.

Inexperienced sales professionals kill just as many deals by telling their customers more than they need to know about their products.

Before starting your presentation, restate their top three needs and confirm your understanding.

Tell the customer “This is how you can <<insert first need here>> with our product.” Then tell, or show, the customer how they can meet the first need with your product. At this point, ask the customer if they have any questions. Stay silent and give the customer a moment to think, and respond.

If they have doubts, it’s better to get them out into the open where you can talk about them.

Questions show interest and engagement. If a customer isn’t asking questions, he is probably not interested. This works slightly differently in Asia, where you may find that the questions come later, and from a third party.

Move on to the second need and repeat the procedure. Instead of asking if the customer has any questions, ask what their thoughts are at this stage. Once more, give the customer time to think and respond.

Use the same procedure to talk about the third need. Once you have shown them how your product meets their needs, you can ask them: “Have I met your needs with our product?” Give your customer time to think and react.

The close and objection handling stage are beyond the scope of this article.

Monitoring The “Patient”

Man gives a sales presentation to potential customers


When talking to customers, don’t forget to watch them carefully. Don’t just listen to the words that they say; listen to and watch how they feel.

How closely are they paying attention? Is the customer listening or looking at his phone?

How would you describe the expression on the customer’s face? Does she seem interested? Does she seem friendly?

Is the customer asking questions? In most parts of the world, an unengaged customer who does not ask questions is not a good sign.

If you are dealing with a “poker-faced” customer, look at how closely she is paying attention to you. Is she taking notes? If she is going to ask you detailed questions later through a third party, she will need to listen very carefully to do so.


Do you present your products or services to customers? Do you present your ideas to your colleagues? Either way, I hope this article will give you some food for thought. Tell me what you think. How do you present your product/service/ideas?

Further reading...

Learn how to improve your persuasive skills by writing: Why Writing Is The Foundation Of Persuasion

Learn how to build business cases: “What’s In It For Me?” The 3-Stage Guide To Answering This Question

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