I’ve been in the sales and marketing game for my entire publishing career. Recently I was faced with managing a turnaround for a 75-year-old classic medical journal. In just over a year, my ad sales team took the journal from #28 on the list of the top medical publications to #12, measured in terms of ad revenue and pages sold.
This is an extraordinary accomplishment in light of the fact that our industry is suffering from a three-year decline of 20-30% in ad revenues. Naturally I’m very proud of my sales team’s performance, but you may be wondering, “How did you do it?” The simple answer is that we made better sales presentations than our competitors. Here are a dozen sales presentation tips that my team practiced successfully. Try them next time you go to pitch that big company on buying 100,000 copies of your book. Use them when you negotiate with a vendor (or your spouse!) or whenever you’re eyeball to eyeball trying to get someone to see things your way!
Tip #1: Dissect your sales pitch.
Take time to think deeply about the way you currently pitch your book or other product, both face to face and over the phone. It helps to break your pitch down into the basic elements and look at each part in detail. Examine what you say and how you conduct yourself as if you were looking through a critical microscope. Ask a close friend to critique your analysis to insure a balanced view.
Tip #2: Remember when someone did a good job selling you something.
Have you ever been sold something by a professional salesperson? This is someone who covered all the bases and walked you through the sales process positively, professionally, and expertly–holding your hand all the way. I try to imprint this picture in my mind and keep going back to it, using it as my yardstick. I think about how I was persuaded to buy what I needed and sometimes even “up-sold” to buy more than I originally wanted.
Tip #3: Give yourself a “check up from the neck up.”
Buyers who see a lot of sales reps and hear a lot of pitches make up their minds fast, sometimes even before you’ve made your presentation! They base their evaluations on your nonverbal messages: your appearance, your attitude, how you look at them, how you smile, your tone of voice, and more. So make sure that everything is working in your favor.
Tip #4: Be early.
Why is being early so important? It takes the pressure off your meeting. It allows you to set up your materials in the meeting room. It gives you time to discover someone doing something well or to talk with subordinate staff. It allows you to go to the rest room and check yourself in the mirror. Look around the office. See what’s new. What displays are up? What is being emphasized? Pick up some ideas for creative opening lines.
Tip #5: Check your attitude.
We all carry our emotions and problems with us wherever we go. But you must be cautious not to carry them into the sales call. If you do, you are likely to blurt out what’s swimming around inside your head. This is an instantaneous presentation killer!
Tip #6: Make your appearance the best it can be.
I don’t believe that you have to be gussied up or have to wear a tailored, $800 three-piece suit, but a poor appearance hurts you from minute one. If your hair is mussed, if there’s a spot on your shirt, if your makeup is not on straight, it will be noticed. The buyer naturally fixates on what’s out of place and not on your presentation.
Tip #7: Remember that the impact of your sales presentation is 55% visual, 38% vocal, and only 7% content.
These percentages are common knowledge among people who sell and write about sales for a living. We instinctively know this and yet where do we spend our time? We concentrate on the content. Try to focus more on how you look, the visual clues you present, and the way you manage your voice.
Tip #8: Shake hands.
Never miss an opportunity for a handshake and use its power to transmit nonverbal warmth and energy. Make sure that you get a full palm-to-palm grip. Simply look at the other person’s hand as you prepare to shake it and aim your hand for his or hers. I realize this sounds obvious, but how often do you miss and get a four-finger grip?
Tip #9: Say something smart to start.
“Hi, how are you?” Now, there’s a creative start to your sales pitch! If you want to make a powerful one-on-one sales presentation, try “It’s nice to see you again!” (Be sure to mean it when you say it!) Another option is “It’s nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you.” Whatever you say, try to start with something that’s fresh and original in your first couple of sentences. What you don’t want is to start off with a regular, old, routine greeting. (You’re not a regular, old, routine salesperson, are you?)
Tip #10: Maintain eyeball-to-eyeball contact.
I once had a sales rep call on me and close her eyes every time she started to make a point. This was so unusual that I actually started to count the number of times she closed them! I never listened to what she had to say and I don’t remember what she was selling, but I certainly remember counting the number of times she closed her eyes! Obviously no sale was made. You must look your prospect straight in the eyes. This demonstrates that you have confidence in yourself and in your presentation.
Top #11: Keep on smiling.
Your smile sets the stage for your pitch and how your prospect is likely to feel about you. A strong smile allows your positive attitude to show through. A warm smile establishes the context for your meeting. And your smile can immediately put a smile on your prospect’s face. Many of us smile when we first meet, but forget to keep on smiling when we launch into the serious part of our presentation.
Tip #12: Stay cool under fire.
Being nervous at the beginning of a sales call is natural. But how do you stay calm and cool, especially if the discussion heats up? Being well prepared helps, but there are times when even the best sales reps can’t know everything in advance. A good salesperson must know how to wing it. There will be times when you have to jump into the “white-hot spotlight” and perform. To control the willies, take deep breaths, concentrate on speaking slowly, stay on point and focused, sit back in your chair, and relax your hands, arms, and torso. And rehearse your presentation again and again until it slides off your tongue without thinking.
I have a staff member who is bright, articulate, and intelligent. She is always exceptionally well prepared. She is very well spoken, but every time she has to make a presentation, she has white knuckles from squeezing her hands together so tightly and she talks a mile a minute. What’s your reaction to this picture? Control your nerves or you will never get to the close.
That’s it! Each of these 12 tips is very simple to understand and practice, and if you put them all together, you will make powerful one-on-one sales presentations and reap rewards far greater than your highest expectations.
Robin Bartlett is the Director of Sales and Corporate Relations for the American College of Physicians in Philadelphia. He is a former member of the PMA Board of Directors and is the PMA University Chair. Bartlett contributes frequently to the “PMA Newsletter” and to PMA University. You can contact him at email@example.com.