In my November and December articles, I talked about many of the things you need to think about and do prior to making a powerful one-on-one sales presentation. This third installment deals mainly with tips for the actual presentation. As you read these tips, see which ones spark an “ah-ha” in your mind.
Tip #1: KISMIF. The “Keep It Simple, Make It Fine” rule of thumb for powerful presentations is to cover only one or two important points per topic. That’s all your audience is likely to handle and remember. Of course, we all have more than one or two points to make, so let your collateral literature continue to sell for you after you leave the prospect’s office. I like to underline and to add lots of stars and arrows in order to draw attention to the most important benefits. This technique will allow you to verbally address the most important points and still leave a half-dozen or more behind.
Tip #2: Avoid truth statements. When buyers hear “truth statements” such as “Let me be perfectly honest with you…,” or “To tell you the truth…,” they may think, “Well, if he says he’s being honest now, was he being dishonest before?” Don’t even put this thought in your buyer’s mind!
Tip #3: Ban “uh, um,” “basically,” and “like you know.” Presenters with these kinds of verbal tics strike buyers and decision-makers as people who are unable to complete the thoughts they’re trying to express. When you use them, you are, in effect, telling your listener: “I don’t have the verbal skill to finish my thought, so you fill in the conclusion!”
Next time you rehearse, count the number of times you use these words (or have a friend count for you). If you find that you used any of them more than once or twice, you have a serious problem that you need to fix.
Tip #4: Prepare, prepare, prepare. The more familiar you are with your topic, the more confident your presentation becomes. To insure that you’re as prepared as you should be, ask yourself: (1) Do I know my material so well that I don’t have to refer to notes?(2) Am I able to manipulate my emotions and presentation style to ebb and flow with the content of my presentation? (3) Am I flexible and confident enough in my topic to adjust with any question I am asked?
I once made a presentation in front of 65 senior managers in my organization about a three-minute video commercial I had designed. When the time came to play the video, the taping equipment wouldn’t roll (of course!). I sweated it out for about 30 seconds to see if the hardware would cooperate, and when it wouldn’t, I simply talked my audience step-by-step through the content of the commercial. Of course, it wasn’t as good as seeing the real thing, but everyone got the idea, and I was able to proceed with my presentation. No one likes presentation glitches, but they do occur; so a powerful presenter needs to expect them, plan for them, and be prepared to work around them with a minimum of fuss.
Tip #5: Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Professional speakers say that they have to rehearse an average of 8 to 10 hours for every one hour of face-to-face presentation time. That’s a ton of work, but in the professional speaking game, the payoffs can be tremendous.
As you practice: (1) Write down your beginning and end paragraphs and memorize them. (2) Give your presentation in front of the mirror, then your spouse, and then a small group of colleagues before you give it to your prospect(s). (3) Anticipate questions and rehearse the answers. (4) Always compliment a person asking a question on the quality of their question (especially if it is one of the ones you have rehearsed!). (5) Make sure your conclusion packs a big, strong, memorable verbal punch. (6) Rehearse again, and again, and again!
Tip #6: Use sales collateral efficiently. If you have a lot of sales literature, try using the “drill-down concept” as an organizational tool. Arrange your literature in a pile before the meeting with the first item to be presented on top, followed by the second item, followed by the third, etc. (Word of caution: Don’t drop the pile!)
Tip #7: Control speed and emotions. Even when you have prepared and rehearsed, it is likely that you will get a good case of nerves before a big or important presentation. The trick is not to let it throw you. You may not know it, but your buyer or audience is almost always rooting for you to succeed. They can see that you are trying and will usually overlook simple mistakes as long as you keep the ball rolling and don’t fall apart. So, don’t apologize for gaffs… just keep on talking!
One of the most important things you can do to keep control over speed and emotions at the beginning of a big presentation is to consciously relax your arms, neck, and upper torso before you begin. If possible, give your arms, neck, and body a big shake before you go in to meet “The Prospect.” If you can’t do that, then take several deep breaths and begin your presentation by starting to speak very slowly. Your audience or buyer is likely to regard speaking fast as a sign that you are nervous. Seeing you nervous makes them uncomfortable too. I remind myself to start slowly by writing the words speak slowly at the top of my notes.
Tip #8: Change volume and tempo for emphasis. Your voice is a marvelous presentation tool, so be sure you’re using it to maximum advantage. If you have an important point to emphasize, be sure to raise your voice and use strong gestures to reinforce it. Or lower your voice to a whisper to capture attention. Change the tempo of your presentation to keep the listener’s interest high, sometimes pausing for added emphasis. Lastly, repeat statements to help people remember them.
Tip #9: Manage your body. If you must make a presentation from a sitting position, lean forward in your chair, keep your hands above the table, and gesture more vigorously than usual. Also, make maximum use of visuals (charts, graphs, pictures) to keep the buyer’s attention focused. Make and keep eye contact. And above all, be sure not to swing your legs, fidget, or play with pens or hair.
Tip #10: Don’t read your notes but do take notes. It’s OK to read quotes or technical information (be sure to say you’re only going to read a short passage). However, to make a powerful one-on-one presentation, you must be able to look your buyers in the eyes and speak directly to them. Reading notes is an automatic deal killer.
On the other hand, it’s smart to take notes when the buyer has something to say. This is a sign of respect. Also, write down anything you promise to do or to send to the buyer. Star these items in the margin for rapid retrieval after a meeting.
Tip #11: Watch the buyer for signs. Don’t press on blindly if you’re getting negative signals. Is the buyer looking at the clock? Yawning? Fiddling with items on the desk? Recognize that this means it’s time to conclude… fast! Do not say, “I only have one more item to present.” Your time is up when the signals are being given.
Tip #12. Respect the buyer’s time. If you make an appointment with your buyer for 20 minutes, be sure to wind up and conclude on the stroke of 20! If the buyer invites you to stay on for some additional time, it’s OK to say yes, but I recommend you spend the extra time building rapport and not on making a longer presentation.
These tips are among the most important ones in my sales bag and hopefully yours as well. Each one is easy to understand and practice. The real challenge is pulling them all together and maximizing their synergy! If you practice these tips regularly, you will be successful in making powerful one-on-one or group presentations.
Robin Bartlett is Director of Sales and Corporate Relations for the American College of Physicians in Philadelphia. A former member of the PMA Board of Directors, he is the PMA University Chair and a frequent contributor to both PMA U and the “PMA Newsletter.” You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.