How to Make a Persuasive Sales Presentation
by Brian Jud
Corporate buyers do not buy books to resell off the shelf. They purchase content that can help them meet a specific objective. Specifically, they want to know how your material can make more money for their companies. And they will know that only when you tell them.
The way to tell them is with a persuasive, professional sales presentation. That involves steps 6 through 8 in the special-sales process. For the earlier steps, see “Make Large Sales to Corporate Buyers” (September 2010), “How to Find Potential Buyers in Special Markets” (October 2010), and “Preparing for a Sales Presentation” (January 2011).
If you prepared your proposal properly, as recommended last month, your presentation is already written. Now you simply deliver it to the decision makers. Your first delivery (Step 6) may be during an informal one-on-one meeting with your initial contact. But a decision is rarely made right after that. Other people at the company will want to investigate your proposal’s impact on employees, sales, brand image, competitive position, customers, salespeople, and budgets (Step 7). The more of these criteria you addressed in your proposal, the less time all that will take.
Depending on the results of your prospects’ research and the size of the potential order, your recommendation will then be accepted, rejected, or subjected to further scrutiny that will mean you have to repeat your presentation to other people involved in the decision process (Step 8).
Here’s how you can present your proposal most persuasively.
Keep Your Eye on Objectives
While you are standing at a conference table facing an array of corporate executives, your objective may simply be to survive the ordeal. Instead, a successful presentation should meet one or more of these objectives:
• Show that you understand your prospects’ business and that your recommendations are based
on this knowledge.
•Present your proposal as the best way to get from where they are now (As Is in current jargon) to
where they want to be (To Be).
•Build positive, sincere relationships. People buy from people they like and trust. Your sincerity and
belief in your proposal can establish those feelings.
•Show that you meet the prospects’ buying criteria. The marketing manager may want to increase
sales, revenue, or profits. Each objective would entail a different strategy. Or HR may want to
educate or reward employees, or perhaps make them more productive.
• Close the sale.
•Remember your own company’s objectives. A negotiation may yield terms that work well for the
prospects but are not in your best interests. Sometimes, you need to recognize that it is time to
walk away from a deal.
Your performance should be professional. Not entertaining, but upbeat, confident, and friendly. Your success will depend not only on what you say but on how you communicate vocally and visually.
The maxim “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you told them” has been used for many years—because it works. Summarize your case, give the supporting information, and summarize again before asking for the order.
There are four general ways to organize a presentation. You probably won’t use just one, and you may use each of them at different times in the same presentation.
Chronological. Use this if your data is best presented sequentially.
Geographical. If you propose a test market or a local introduction with a national rollout, organizing data in terms of geography may best suit your needs.
Enumerative. When you propose a number of topics (such as price, delivery, payment terms, or nonreturnability), deliver them one at a time.
Narrative. Short and simple stories can help you make your points and get your audience involved. Use succinct case histories showing that your books have succeeded in meeting objectives.
No matter what format or formats you will be using, begin your presentation with the executive summary from your proposal. Do not read it, but use the information in it as the overview of what you are recommending, and why.
Project your voice in a way that gets attention and interest quickly, confidently, and optimistically by controlling your VOICES:
Volume. Project your voice so everyone can hear you at all times. Do not let your voice trail off at the end of a sentence.
Others’ perspective. Talk about how your proposal will meet their objectives—not yours.
Inflection. Accent important words and be careful not to speak in a monotone.
Confidence. Maintain a self-assured voice even under stressful questioning.
Enthusiasm. Keep passion in your voice, expressing your belief in yourself and your proposal.
Speed. Initial nervousness may cause you to speak too quickly. Strive for a normal tempo, and be sure to enunciate properly.
You are more likely to keep participants involved by asking than by telling. Early in your presentation ask questions to which you already know the answer, such as, “During your last campaign [with a different publisher] there was a problem filling the pipeline with books after the initial order, right?” This demonstrates that you have done your homework, addresses a decision criterion, and leads into a discussion of how you will avoid that problem by carrying sufficient inventory.
Adept use of verbal skills can build camaraderie and a feeling of “us against the competition.” When you sense this feeling, get your prospects to “discover” your solution with broad questions that begin, “What if we . . . ” or “If you could wave a magic wand . . . ” to create a mutual vision of success.
Visual clues convey more than half of what you communicate. Use smooth hand gestures that appear spontaneous to reinforce your points. Combine facial expressions with hand and arm movements to enhance and support what you say. Make friendly eye contact with each person, and particularly with a person whose question you are answering. But do not lock onto anyone’s eyes for long. Use your fingers to tick off points or emphasize major topics. Point your finger only to direct attention and never at a person. It is helpful to rehearse beforehand in front of a mirror and/or a friend.
Your posture should be erect, yet comfortable. Move about smoothly, without seeming to pace. Relax and be yourself, because in the end that’s what people will respond to best.
Visual communication works both ways. Read the participants’ body language to find out whether they are accepting your concepts, questioning something, or objecting to what you are saying. Then support their acceptance, answer their questions, and/or allay their skepticism by offering proof.
Materials that prospects can look at should include a one-page summary that you give out before you begin speaking, and a package much like a press kit that you hand out after your presentation. The package should include your proposal, bio, detail (a fact sheet for your book), spreadsheets, supporting data such as reviews, case histories, and testimonials, and a copy of your book.
You may want to use other visual aids such as PowerPoint or a flip chart for large groups. If you do, come early to make sure everything is set up correctly and in working order.
Wrapping Up, Moving On
Finish your presentation with a summary of why your recommended course of action is the best choice for this company. Get agreement that you have sufficiently addressed the right criteria. Then review the page in your proposal about your requested compensation and ask for the order.
Do not present your plan’s results as a fait accompli; present your plan as the way to achieve what it describes as the most likely scenario.
During the Q&A session that follows, decision makers may question your assumptions and recommendations. A question does not necessarily signal opposition to your position; it may simply reflect a need for clarification or more information, or an attempt to barter for a better deal. Now you are in the negotiation phase, which is the subject of the next article in this series.
Brian Jud, the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books, now offers commission-based sales of books to buyers in nonbookstore markets. For more information: PO Box 715, Avon, CT 06001-0715; 860/675-1344; 860/270-0343 (fax); firstname.lastname@example.org; premiumbookcompany.com; or twitter.com/bookmarketing.