This essay is a critique of a recent commercial air conditioning system sales presentation. These commercial systems are manufactured by a Japanese company and are sold in the United States directly to building owners. Consulting engineering firms are also targeted by this HVAC manufacturer because these firms must specify the system to be used in their new building construction projects and because the engineers within the consulting firm usually have some sway and influence on the building owner. This sales presentation was conducted by a Regional Sales Manager for the HVAC manufacturing company.
His name is Dennis and he is a mechanical engineer by education who has spent his fifteen year career in outside sales. Dennis’s audience consisted of a dozen consulting engineers who have the ability to specify and help promote these expensive, high-quality HVAC systems to commercial building owners. Dennis and his company chose a very nice, spacious, well-lit conference room within a Marriott hotel to conduct this sales presentation. This two-hour presentation was a prelude to a day-long presentation that would follow later. It began at 10 a. m. nd was followed by a lunch for the attendees at noon. Dennis used two large projection screens; one was for a PowerPoint presentation and the other was for a laptop computer display that demonstrated a software design program for the company’s HVAC systems. Dennis had his room and supporting materials ready by 9:30 a. m. in case some members of his audience arrived early. Dennis was dressed in crisp slacks, dress shoes and a polo-type golf shirt that had his company’s logo on it. His audience of consulting engineers was mostly conservatively dressed.
A couple of them wore golf shirts, but the others had dress shirts with ties or dress shirts with blazers. Based on his known audience of consulting engineers, Dennis should have dressed more formally and conservatively. He began his presentation as all good presenters do, with an attention-getting device or anecdote. He told a short story about his earlier days in minor league baseball. He pitched, and could reach 90 miles per hour with his fastball. But, his fastball lacked movement and he had no other pitches that he could throw consistently for strikes.
To keep their attention, Dennis said he would pitch golf balls to audience members throughout the presentation. Dennis is a middle-aged, stocky, well-groomed sales professional with good posture and good enunciation. He varies his tone, cadence and vocal volume to good effect. He regularly moves around his stage area and sometimes walks among his audience, and he uses hand gestures and varied facial expressions frequently to hold his audience’s attention. A southerner, his speech is grammatically correct and nicely formal.
He has a booming voice, and uses it every once in a while when he senses a lull or when he wants to enthusiastically make a point. Apart from saying the phrase, “you know,” every once in a while, his presence and content are professional and non-distracting. Dennis’s presentation was interesting and informative for his audience of engineers because his company manufactures an expensive, state-of-the-art system that is capable of simultaneous heating and cooling. The audience’s interest was confirmed because they asked many pertinent questions.
Dennis used his dual screens and handout materials to make and reinforce his product’s attributes and advantages versus their competition. The engineers even worked on their laptops to get a brief feel for the software program, but were firmly told to close their laptops after trying the design program. Open laptops throughout the presentation would have been very tempting and distracting for the engineers, and Dennis did not allow it. And, as every fine speaker does, Dennis ended his presentation with a dramatic, memorable closing summary and statement of his product’s virtues and his company’s commitment to quality.