In a Series of Vendor Presentations, Which Time Slot Would You Want?

At Comcate we were recently strategizing about an upcoming one hour sales pitch/presentation. The prospect invited a series of vendors and emailed all the possible time slots. First come first serve. The choices: First thing in the morning, right before lunch, right after lunch, mid-afternoon, and end of the day.

Which slot should we have chosen?

Right after lunch always sucks, since the audience is sleeply. The end of the day people may be tired and blur everything together (but you do benefit from the recency effect). First thing in the morning people can be sharp and ready, but will they remember anything after all the other presentations?

Anyone have any tips on the psychology of order from the sales trenches?

7 Responses to In a Series of Vendor Presentations, Which Time Slot Would You Want?

  1. Sacca says:

    If it is a truly interactive presentation, meaning, they will be asking questions, I like to go near the end. The reason is that the hosts will be asking questions based upon ways they have seen other folks distinguish themselves (whether the hosts admit this or not) and you then get the chance for what is effectively a rebuttal.

  2. Zoli Erdos says:

    I agree with Sacca, but conditionally. Interactive conversations are always better than canned ones, but a lot depends on your level of preparedness, specifically:
    – do you know how the other 3 competitors are
    – do you know enough of them so you can prepare for questions that result from the prospect’s exprience with these other 3?

    If yes, than take the last slot. If not, either the first or the last one.

  3. Dario Abramskiehn says:

    I don’t have any great new light to shed on this sort of business psychology debate, just a few questions that might be worth asking yourself, if you haven’t already thought about them:
    Who are the people you’re speaking/presenting to? How old are they? Do they enjoy their jobs (a.k.a. will they be engaged in your presentation, or is more or less just part of the tedium of work, before they can go home)?
    How does your product stack up against your competitors? Will your (relatively young) age and appearance help or hurt the presentation (a.k.a. are they going to think: ‘This teenager’s a genius; I want to hire his company.’ or ‘Teenagers are irresponsible. I don’t trust this guy to help me reorganize government ecommerce.’)?

    Food for thought.

  4. Ben Casnocha says:

    Dario — Thanks, though I’m not personally doing these pitches anymore. We have full time employees. As Comcate has established itself as the #1 on-demand CRM provider for local governments, my age is a non-issue.

    Chris and Zoli — I agree with your points.

  5. John says:

    Ben –

    Always go last as long as you can be assured that all of the principals in the buying process will still be there. Then, hit them with a brilliant, engaging and meaningful pitch. You’ll be prepared of course, and hopefully you will know who your competition is (you better!).

    ASK them to give you, without naming names, the best ideas they have heard already. Then, weave those ideas into your discussion. Also, ASK them about any FUD left behind (items of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) that previous presenters have left out there.

    If you do this right, you will nullify any of the advantages and FUD that came from the prior presenters. The after lunch slot (2nd to last) can actually be good UNLESS you plan on running a lengthy (>10 slides) presentation. Hands-on demos, etc. are best when you think they may be a bit sleepy after lunch. DO NOT stand behind the lecturn or your laptop for any time slot – but be particularly vigilent about this one after lunch.

    NO MATTER WHAT – DON’T BE FIRST. Everybody after you will be able to detect your pitch from the questions asked and will put you in the hole…

  6. Tim Taylor says:

    It looks like some good points have already been made.

    If it were me, I would ask the person who is scheduling the meeting:

    “If you were me and you wanted to have the best shot at winning the business, what slot would you take?”

  7. I’m not a professional sales person and I have no scientific research to back my beliefs up, but here they are:

    I’d choose to go right after lunch. For exactly the reason you stated: post-food coma. I see it as a kind of hypnotic state: if you can *just* keep people from falling completely asleep, I suspect they’ll be at their most suggestable state right after lunch.

    The times I’d avoid most are right before lunch and at the end of the day: people are going to be more actively focused on getting away (to lunch, to home) than to your preso.

    I might go with first thing in the morning because there was recent research showing people are supposedly more “agreeable” after having coffee. However, not everyone drinks coffee or consumes caffeine …

    Mid-afternoon is probably best if your preso requires interaction. However, the people who have real work to do will want to get out of your preso so they can get back to work. The people who are happy to sit through your preso in the mid-afternoon (when most work gets done) are likely to not be worth having in your preso, because they’re the ones who don’t do the work. I certainly hope those people aren’t the key decisionmakers, etc.

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