Should You Present First or Last?

This week’s blog is by Dave Sohigian, a senior sales engineer who provides tips and advice for sales engineers on his blog, Tech Demo Guy.

In a sales cycle, you often have the opportunity to decide whether you want to present before or after your competition. My experience is you need to answer some questions before you decide which position you want.

  • Does your prospect understand the purpose of your product? If they don’t, then go last and let the competition do the hard work of educating them.
  • Are there specific traps you can set for your competition? If you can say to the prospect after a demonstration: “Ask our competitors to show you how they handle that,” it is a good trap. If you have lots of these, then going first is a good idea.
  • Is the prospect open to talking about the competition? Some customers are secretive about their selection process and won’t talk about the competition during the sales cycle; others are an open book. If they are willing to talk, going last is a good choice because you can get the dirt on what your competition blew.
  • Are they using a rating scale? If the prospect is using a rating scale (”rate the vendor’s functionality for x on a scale of 1-10″) you should go last because the natural tendency is to rate more conservatively early in the game. How likely is someone to give you a 10 when they know there are five more vendors they will need to score afterwards?
  • Do you need more time? If you need more time, go last because being prepared will trump any of the other factors.
  • Are all the vendor sessions in one day? If they are having all the sessions in one day, you probably don’t want to be last; 2 p.m. is typically the worst time of day to present because it is the natural low in people’s daily cycles.
  • Is your product better than the competition? If not, you should go first because throwing around FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) is probably going to be a big part of your strategy.
  • Are there LOTS of other vendors? If there are more than three other vendors, going last is probably a wise move because of information overload. Going last will keep your product in their short-term memory during discussions and, if you do well, they might ascribe qualities to you that were actually brought up by your competition.

Of course, deciding where in the lineup your presentation or demo will fall is not nearly as import as doing a great job during the sales cycle. But every little edge helps.

One thought on “Should You Present First or Last?”

  1. Insightful post, Dave.

    The order of presentations makes a difference in audience
    responses. Researchers who studied this concluded that, when
    buyers listen to sales presentations from multiple sellers, presenting last, especially if it’s close to the time of the buyers’ decision, confers a powerful advantage. Your ideas gain influence from the “recency effect,” meaning that the information people hear last makes the biggest impression. The study also found that sellers who presented between the first and last sellers were the least likely to have any advantage over the others. Whenever possible, avoid being the presenter in the unmemorable middle.

Comments are closed.