How can you ensure that you perform to your best on the day? What is the best way to secure the sale? There are many theories and opinions on body language, choice of words, and ways of relating to the audience. Here we have picked some of the best from authors we like, and compiled them into a list for you.
As Joey Asher notes in How to Win a Pitch, a successful sales presentation should involve listening, as well as talking. Use active listening techniques to connect with your prospect. Listening isn’t the same as waiting to talk – so be patient, make good eye contact, use body language to demonstrate attention, clarify points where needed, and take notes as necessary.
Don’t feel that you always need to use a projector. In a small room, with a small audience, projecting slides can feel overly-formal and impersonal. Sometimes presenting from a laptop screen is the most appropriate option.
Ensure that you have your audience’s trust. Olivia Mitchell, well known blogger on presentation theory and practice, draws on the work of psychologist Robert Cialdini to explain the importance of social proof in sales presentations. People are strongly persuaded by what people who are similar to them do. So, to persuade an audience using social proof, ‘find an endorsement from a credible expert that your audience knows and trusts, use testimonials from people similar to your audience, develop case studies of people/organisations that are similar to your audience, [or] use statistics to show how many people are using your product’.
Olivia Mitchell also extols the benefits of what she calls ‘conversational presenting’. Present in a natural conversational style. One way to achieve this is to ‘talk to one person at a time… imagine that you’re having a one-to-one conversation with that person… [and] look for their reaction to what you’re saying before you carry on.’ Presenting in a conversational style actually helps an audience to take-in content better.
Don’t stray too far from your normal casual conversational style when presenting. But at the same time, don’t make the mistake of thinking that only “natural” presenters can pull this off. As Carmine Gallo notes in The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, hard work is the key – ‘Steve Jobs is an extraordinary presenter because he works at it’. In other words, practice presenting in a relaxed style. Being “natural” is a skill that can be learnt.
Conservative campaign expert Frank Luntz knows a thing or two about persuasion (Vader or Skywalker – you decide…). In his book Words that Work, Luntz examines the role of language in persuasion. Sales people should not be afraid to ask their audience to imagine things – ‘the word imagine is perhaps the single most powerful communication tool because it allows individuals to picture whatever personal vision is in their hearts and minds’.
Ask rhetorical questions. As Frank Luntz also writes in Words that Work, ‘When you assert … the reaction of the listener depends to some degree on his or her opinion of the speaker. But making the same statement in the form of a rhetorical question makes the reaction personal – and personalised communication is the best communication.’
It’s amazing what those writing presentations can glean from other disciplines, particularly those in related areas such as design, marketing, sales, and psychology. One website with a lot to teach about presentations is copyblogger. In one article ’12 Tips for “Psychological Selling”‘, Dean Rieck explains why claims in any sales material must be backed up with evidence – ‘People are naturally suspicious. It’s true that there’s a sucker born every minute, but most people are moderately skeptical of any offer. They seek to avoid risk. You can never predict the level of suspicion any particular person has, so it’s usually best to back up all claims with evidence, such as testimonials, survey results, authoritative endorsements, test results, and scientific data.’ Don’t just tell the audience what you’re capable of – prove it.
Answering Difficult Questions
Many a sales presentation comes unstuck when questions are fielded badly. David Kean recommends listing ‘the worst question the client could ask you’, then ‘the second nastiest question clients could ask’, and so on. The group should ‘work out what the answer is and who should answer’. It is far better to assume that the client will ask difficult questions and to prepare strong answers, than to be caught off-guard. We’ve written extensively about successful presentation Q&A on this site.
Don’t try to ignore possible weaknesses – address them instead. As well-known presentation blogger Jan Schultink points out ‘highlighting weaknesses does not mean shooting yourself in the foot… If you don’t address them, the questions will remain’. Don’t identify obscure weaknesses that your audience would never think of for themselves, but do ‘think what questions any intelligent human being would have when listening to your story’.
Turn case studies into success stories. As Joey Asher writes: ‘Success stories can give your prospect something that is very hard for them to get, a taste of the intangible thing that they’re buying – a satisfactory result.’ So, go beyond lists of client names or logo slides, and bring your successes to life by telling stories; they can be really memorable, particularly if an element of suspense can be introduced.
Ask for the Order
Don’t forget to ask for the order. As presentation coach and author Jerry Weissman explains – ‘if you’re a sales professional, how can your customer reach the point of making a purchase unless you ask for the sale? … Ask for the order! Call your audience to action!’