Property managers, software developers, and bankers — simply everyone talks about how they work with processes that are customer-driven. Sure it’s a buzzword, and there are several reasons why many companies use it. And, when properly used, customer-driven processes and activities are golden eggs for your sales.

Studies indicate that buyers now have already completed up to 60 percent of the buying process before they contact a potential supplier. They have read and compared alternatives and discarded businesses and solutions that they do not believe can solve their problems. Our experience is that it has become harder for clients to commit to meetings, and that the requirements for the meeting itself have increased significantly. You need to be able to deliver your presentation according to the new expectations as an expert, rather than a “talking catalog.”

It’s not about you.

A customer-driven process is about meeting customer needs and expectations—and to answer the questions that they ask. It’s not only to find out what customers think, but why they think like they do, and then provide your solution on that basis.

Customer-driven sales presentations work the same way as qualitative research. Unlike quantitative surveys—where the goal may be to get as many YES or NO answers as possible —the purpose of a qualitative study is to go deep and find out, in detail, what a person wants, thinks, or feels. Seen in this light, authentic customer-driven presentations address the prospect in the same way a market research company asks during random phone calls—with detailed-focused questions that require thought-out answers.

Simply stated: the purpose of a customer-driven sales presentation is to find out what is important for your customers, and more specifically, the current customer in front of you—right now. Instead of conducting a sales presentation based on what you think is important for the customer, let the customer take part and control what he wants to talk and learn more about.

Quick updates and evaluations of the solution.

To get closer to your customers it’s required that you introduce a structured process to capture what buyers find missing in the presentation – and then quickly add it. The more meetings you perform, the more knowledge you will gain about what the buyers are looking for, and what the sales presentation should contain.

Within the software industry, this approach is called agile development—short development cycles with frequent evaluations. It leads to immediate feedback so that any mistakes can quickly be corrected before too much time and money have been wasted.

This means that a customer-driven sales presentation is actually never finished. The faster and the more often you update your presentation with materials that are closer to the customer’s actual needs, the better it will be. Perhaps you can even ask for feedback directly after the meeting— find out what your customers thought could be added or enhanced, and then report back to your marketing group.

Dynamic navigation is a must.

Customer-driven sales presentations always follow the conversation—instead of the other way around. Therefore, they must have a different type of navigation compared to traditional linear PowerPoint-style presentations. We call it ”dynamic navigation”—where the salesperson can quickly and easily present the relevant content that provides answers to customer questions, no matter where they are in the presentation.

Since customer-driven sales presentations contain significantly more information than traditional presentations, more demand is put on the sales people. They need to devote more time to learn and use the presentations. At each update they might need to view short, interactive examples that explain what has changed since the previous version.

We have experienced that navigation plays a bigger role than we expected. The customer may never notice that the sales person skips certain parts or that there is content that is never shown. The discussion needs to seamlessly focus on customer needs and problems. Therefore, it is only the sales person who knows what content and interactive elements the presentation contains.

It’s all about trust.

Customer-driven, interactive presentations provide great opportunities to achieve a closer and considerably more open and relevant customer relationship, and of course, a more profitable business. To get as close to your customers as possible, establishing a level of trust during the first meeting is essential. A bad experience during a presentation, like cluttered navigation or a feeling that the sales person is hiding information, will effectively prevent that trust from developing.

A sales person’s skills and personality will obviously continue to be an important factor, but the content and how it is constructed is getting more and more important. The response that the salesperson provides to the client’s issues needs to be supported by the presentation. Otherwise, the risk is that the buyer feels that the rep answers YES to everything, without being able to demonstrate facts and concrete information—and is therefore dishonest about how good the product or service actually is.

Customer-driven processes and sales presentations can definitely change the way you and your customers conduct business. They can be an opportunity for both parties, but the presentations must be designed to respond to the customer’s needs and desires—not what you want to show and tell the customers.