Every presentation and pitch ends with a Q&A session. It is an incredibly important part of the overall presentation and it should not be left to chance.
It breaks the format of the pitch. Your presentation has gone along a certain path with you and your team talking and, for the most part, the prospect listening. Now the tables have turned. That change in format will cause the prospect to tune in anew to what you have to say. He or she is no longer lulled into the predictable rhythm of your presentation.
I haven’t seen research on it, but I suspect that overall, prospect attention is very high during Q&A, surpassed only when you opened the presentation.
Attention drops during the middle section of most presentations, which is why you’ll often hear questions from prospects on things you discussed in the pitch but that they didn’t hear. When a prospect asks a question about something you covered previously, there’s no need to remind everyone that you already covered it. Simply, answer the question.
Many presentations assume that the Q&A will come at the end of the pitch. Don’t do that. You don’t want the pitch to just peter out after all the questions have been asked. Put your Q&A before the close; this way your prospects’ questions have been answered and their attention is peaked before you deliver your close, thank everyone, and ask for the business. I suggest you say something like “before we close the meeting, are there any questions you would like to ask.”
Make sure your prospect knows they can ask questions at any time; a presentation I attended recently started with the group leader saying they would take no questions until the end. It killed the connection between presenter and audience.
Taking questions as they arise says you are confident in what you are presenting. Somewhere in the beginning of your presentation tell the audience that there will be a Q&A session near the end, but they should feel free to ask questions at any time.
A couple other guidelines:
- Not everyone on your team has to answer every question. Don’t encourage piling on with additional answers.
- Get out of the habit of starting every answer with “that’s a good question”. Just answer the damn question.
- You might have a question for them based on what they’ve been asking. Now is the time to ask it.
Finally, at some point during a Q&A, you will be asked a question you don’t know the answer to. Look at this as an opportunity. Be 100% honest and say you don’t know the answer, BUT, you will find the answer and get back to them before the end of the day. This now gives you permission to call the prospect to discuss your pitch further.
Any further questions?