Deal yourself in

Zest of a Salesman: Tips for Putting It Together

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Pssst, buddy, have I got a hot prospect for you.

You’re gonna love it.

Industry newcomers might cringe at the thought of such a sales tactic.

Veterans remember the here-again, gone-again euphoric times in the business when this is all it took to cut a deal, but today it requires a focused professional presentation.

Honing your selling skills is a must.

Steve Brachman
Steve Brachman

“A prospect presentation is a sales pitch,” said AAPG member Steve Brachman during a talk focused on prospect selling that he gave at the Playmaker Forum in Houston earlier this year. “You’re selling yourself and the prospect, play or whatever.

“To sell yourself, be yourself and present it as if to your best friend,” said Brachman, exploration manager at Petro-Hunt LLC. “Even if your delivery is bad, you can show integrity and technical competence – you can convey the prospect better than anyone.”

Brachman presented “Three Rules” for selling your prospect, which he reiterated several times during his presentation:

  • Know your audience and their agenda (not yours).
  • Get to the point – keep it simple.
  • Listen.

He noted that you must keep in mind that a prospect is not a science project but rather an investment vehicle – people are willing to pay for it. It has present value to you and the potential for great future value.

Brachman pointed to two key audiences:

♦ Backers – These folks are behind you from the get-go. You can’t promote to them but must convey risk and economics.

♦ Investors – A sophisticated lot who expect to be promoted. Investors look at risk from their own view, their internal parameters.

Prospect selling can be a tedious challenge, as Brachman demonstrated via a summary of prospect selling within one’s own company. Different audiences require different presentations.

This is where the first of the Three Rules comes into play.

“Before you give your presentation,” he cautioned, “think about the agenda of the audience and what type of presentation you have to give just within your company.”

The Art of the Deal

Here’s a brief guide.

Your initial spiel will be directed to the supervisor whose agenda is technical excellence, such as whether the prospect is technically viable and competitive.

Your agenda is approval, in order for you to go to the next level to make the pitch.

At the second level, your presentation is directed to the exploration manager who is looking for technical excellence and all the other things, such as whether the prospect makes economic sense and fits into the budget.

Once again, your agenda is approval so that you can move along to the next audience.

In a company where the exploration manager doesn’t make the decision to drill, your next gig will entail company management, e.g. CEO, president, etc. Senior management’s agenda is IMPACT, according to Brachman, and the presentation must be decidedly different from what you gave to your supervisor.

He emphasized that while you’re standing there making noise, these higher-ups want to determine how the prospect fits into what the company is doing. Maybe constructing a pipeline overseas better suits its needs.

Your agenda here is both prospect approval and personal approval.

Provided you get the go-ahead, your next step up places you in front of the board of directors who have an agenda of basic comprehension and assurance.

You, however, want personal approval.

You can put a map on the wall, but most of this audience won’t understand it and won’t care.

“They’re looking at the president of the company while you’re talking, and if he’s nodding, that’s good,” Brachman said. “They’re getting basic assurance the person standing up there knows what (she’s) talking about.

“Your job is to look like a normal human being, don’t drool, and don’t look like an alien,” he quipped.

The Sixth Sense

Moving on to the need to “get to the point and keep it simple,” Brachman focused on two key elements.

One of these is the Five-Minute rule.

“Most experts say you’ve got five minutes to get to the point,” he said. “I once listened to a presentation where the presenter talked from a map for 45 minutes about a certain field before he said ‘and now way over here, we want to drill something just like that.’

“I said to myself, why not just say that way back,” Brachman said. “I had completely lost interest; you can only pay attention for so long.

“For my five minutes, I use what I call the ‘Talking Map,’” he said. “Every seismic line, every cross section, everything you’ve got rotates around this map that stays in front of the audience.

“You want this map indelibly etched in their minds when you leave,” Brachman emphasized. “This is your home base; it has everything about your prospect on it.

“But it can’t be cluttered,” he cautioned.

Segueing to the listening rule, Brachman noted that the most important thing is to listen to verbal and visual (non-verbal) clues.

“When you’re giving a presentation, you must also listen to your sixth sense about where you’re going and stay on topic,” he said. “This is not related to technical merits.”

Don’t Do This!

So much for the DOs.

The DON’Ts are equally important.

Brachman summarized presentation don’ts:

  • Not listening.
  • Forcing your agenda – If you show two seismic lines and are told that’s enough, don’t insist on showing 12 more. The audience is either good with it or doesn’t care, so don’t antagonize.
  • The “bedtime” story – A prospect presentation is not a story.
  • Details, details, details – The audience is not as in love with the details as you are. Forget about how many bags of cement were used on a well.
  • Not listening.

When it comes to prospect expos, Brachman said he prepares three presentations – a 30-second presentation, a five-minute presentation and the full, entire presentation.

“At the end of 30 seconds, you give out your card, the executive summary, shake hands and ask if they would like to see more,” Brachman said. “Some say yes, but others move on, not because they’re not interested but they may have a hundred others to look at.”

There’s a handy tool to help you give your presentation.

“That’s the dreaded-but-very-useful montage,” Brachman noted. “It’s got all you need in close proximity and one place.

“You can talk 30 seconds, five minutes or two-and-a-half weeks on this,” he said. “It helps to convey succinctly, precisely and briefly what you’re trying to do.”

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