Some people say that as evidenced by its popularity as a format for selling ideas, a sales presentation should be as long as typical TED talk. TED curator Chris Anderson is quoted as saying - 18 minutes is "short enough to hold people's attention, and precise enough to be taken seriously.”
So is 18 minutes the ideal? Some of you may be thinking, “Hey wait, the last sales meeting I had introducing a new product, I spend over an hour and a half with my prospect.” So that’s 90 minutes.
First let’s clarify what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about just the formal, prepared presentation, where you have the floor. Not including the social chit-chat, or the question and answer, or the negotiation. Just that formal, prepared presentation bit, how long should that be?
My opinion is that it should only be as long as
1. how long you can keep your stage presence up
2. how long you can keep your prospect’s attention on you given you presentation skills
3. how interesting your material is
And that’s not very long for most sales people. Over the last 10 years I’ve given a lot of workshops where I’ve asked participants across multiple industries to create sales presentations on the current products they are selling. Then I give them build up drills and practice rounds before their final presentation. And I’m there to observe how long they can keep their stage presence up, and how long they can keep their audience interested.
Most can keep the presentation energy up for 4-5 minutes. So for most sales people, I would recommend scripting their presentation for 5 minutes. So go over you presentation and time it. Edit it to last 4-5 minutes. Then practice repeatedly to the level where that the end of the presentation, you stop on a high. Your audience is not yawing.
As you get better, you can extend this to a few more minutes, but start at 4 up to 5 minutes.
It takes effort to listen. Especially to new ideas leading to a new course of action. That’s what we communicate when we sell.
The prospect’s brain is unfortunately, a voracious energy burner. As his or her brain takes in new information, millions of neurons are working, using energy and leading to exhaustion. So your prospects brain will eventually fatigue. That’s why we need to plan out what we have to say, and keep the duration within a range where we can keep interest.
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