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Why Traditional Capabilities Presentations Don't Work

Updated: Jun 4, 2021

Presentation Mindset Quote
Presentation Mindset

I’m going to let you in on a little secret… I hate sitting through traditional capabilities presentations. We all know the ones that I’m talking about, and they have an agenda that runs something like this, from “Company XYZ".

Meeting Agenda:

  • Introductions (where everyone goes through their entire resume)

  • Who Company XYZ is, when they were founded, how long they’ve been in business

  • How many manufacturing plants Company XYZ has, pictured on a map

  • Pictures of Company XYZ’s spotless plants, lots of stainless steel equipment and people in lab coats and/or hard hats

  • Slides on why Company XYZ thinks they’re amazing

  • A list of Company XYZ products and services

  • More lists of Company XYZ products and services

  • Why Company XYZ thinks their products would be a perfect addition to any menu.

  • Samples of Company XYZ products they think are most relevant (not in application)

  • At the very end, Company XYZ asking if there are any questions and feedback and an expectation by Company XYZ to get some products

Do any of these steps sounds like a presentation you’ve recently been a part of? Do you notice anything important that is missing?

In the above example, Company XYZ is extremely self-focused, and there is very little to do with the customer, or to show that Company XYZ even understands the customer or their business. When I’ve been a part of these presentations, it’s almost like they are played on an old-school tape recorder, where someone starts the presentation by hitting the play button and then walks away for an hour while the presentation plays. The interaction is one-way!

Now I know that some people will tell me that presentations like this are a necessary part of a customer getting to know a supplier and how they might be able to help provide you with on-trend ingredients or finished goods. After all, the customer did ask for a capabilities presentation so they could learn more about Company XYZ. Well the customer may have asked for you to share what you do, but what they really mean by that is “show me what you do in a way that is relevant to me and my business, that shows me you understand my business and have put significant thought into how you can help me grow”.

So, what can be done to improve this approach?

First, you need to do your homework on your customer. This shows that you understand their business and cared enough to learn what matters to them, what will help them grow and how trends and needs are framed through their lens. Know what their strategies and vision are, know their customer, know their operations, visit their restaurants. Become a student of their business!

Next, I would advise you to ask more questions. In the example above, Company XYZ does not ask a question until the very end of the presentation. I recently sat through a presentation where the supplier did not ask a question until over 50 minutes into the presentation! Imagine being that customer. Imagine how bored and disinterested they were. If you want to be a supplier that sets themselves apart you have to move from a presentation mindset to a discussion mindset. Incorporate more questions throughout the presentation. Start by asking your internal contact for a short pre-meeting interview where all you do is ask questions. Then, you can incorporate what you’ve learned into the presentation. Additionally, during the presentation, when you want to discuss a trend or approach, frame it as a question. Instead of launching into how sustainable your company is – put a slide in there that asks – “Is sustainability important to your brand”? Of course, you already know the answer because you’ve done your homework, but it gives the customer a chance to verbalize it and for you to understand it more. Then, when you talk about your company’s sustainability program it will be all that more relevant.

Also, you will need to be sure to show products in-application. What does this mean? Well most customers might be really interested in your product or ingredient if they saw it in a form that made sense for their business. Ensure what you are showing is backed by data and share the culinary, consumer, and competitive trends that support your examples. You must test your products ahead of time in your target customers' application or products to ensure they taste great. Bring samples that you know will “wow” them and don’t wait too long into the presentation to get the food or beverage into their mouths! Ask more questions and get that discussion going. This is where you can work in your various capabilities and products in a very real way.

While not an exhaustive list of what constitutes a world class presentation, the three suggestions above will give you a great start. It’s important to remember that you need to be customer focused, do your homework, and showcase your capabilities and products in real applications. Remember to move from a presentation mindset to a discussion mind set and you’ll be well on your way to more compelling and impactful customer “capabilities” presentations.


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