There’s a saying among sales people that goes, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

But when you’re one of two or three firms delivering a presentation for a big project, I don’t think it’s quite right. I think it should read, “In a beauty contest, no one cares how much you know. They only want to know how much you care.”

In other words, when you’re on a shortlist competing for an opportunity, your expertise is irrelevant. Everything in that final presentation needs to be focused on one thing: showing that you care about the client.

Your Expertise is Irrelevant in a Beauty Contest Presentation

Let’s say that you’ve made the shortlist to present for a chance to represent a bank in a lawsuit. At stake for the bank are millions of dollars and months of horrendous publicity.

You should not include in your presentation a discussion of your experience with these types of lawsuits. If you’ve made the shortlist, the client already knows your credentials.

“You don’t even get in to see us if you’re not qualified,” one general counsel told me. “In the final stage, we just want to know who we like the best.”

And to make your prospect like you, every move should say, “We care.”

Speak Directly to the Client’s Key Issues

The first way to say “we care” is to customize your presentation around your client’s challenge. If you’re competing for a chance to represent a bank in a major lawsuit, every word of your presentation should be about your plan to help this client win.

One general counsel told me about hearing several presentations from firms competing for a chance to represent the company. The winner presented a detailed, heavily researched, litigation strategy. “They told us their plan for winning our lawsuit,” she told me.

By contrast, the firm’s long-time counsel took the client for granted and only presented a list of qualifications. The general counsel told me, “When they left, I looked at my colleagues and said, ‘Well that sucked.’”

Giving a detailed plan for the prospect takes work. But it shows that you care.

Your Passion for Their Work Needs to Show in Your Voice

“Our work should speak for itself. How we say it shouldn’t matter.”

I hear comments like that all the time. But it’s not true. Great firms look the same from the prospect’s perspective. Passionate delivery can separate you from the competition by showing how much you care.

I once watched four construction firms compete for a chance to build a new elementary school in Boca Raton, Florida. One project manager talked about growing up down the road from where the new school was to be built. He seemed excited about the chance to build a school in his old neighborhood.

The listeners could see that he truly cared for the project. His firm won.

How Much You Care Should Show in Your Rehearsal

Your actual performance during the presentation screams whether your care or not. To perform well, you need to rehearse. Did you care enough to rehearse transitions between team members? Did you care enough to keep your presentation tight? Did you care enough about them to leave enough time for Q&A? Did you care enough to make sure that everyone sticks to a common theme?

If you really want to win, show you care.

Joey Asher

Joey AsherJoey Asher has worked with thousands of business people helping them learn how to communicate in a way that connects with clients. His new book 15 Minutes Including Q&A: a Plan to Save the World from Lousy Presentations” is available now. He is also the author three previous books including “How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You from the Competition”, “Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers” and “Even A Geek Can Speak.”