In “12 Tips for More Powerful One-on-One Sales Presentations” (November PMA Newsletter), I talked about things you need to do before you actually open your mouth, including being on time, polishing your appearance, shaping your attitude, making your handshake and smile work to your advantage, and keeping eyeball-to-eyeball contact. These pre-presentation tips are worth a whopping 55% on the decision-making scale.
When the time comes for you to talk, having a creative, attention-getting opening line is worth another 10-20%. In all likelihood, you’ve gone well past the “buy/no buy” decision point and your buyer is already predisposed either for or against you. So, if the buyer is smiling, nodding his head, and leaning forward in your direction, the fair weather flags are up, and it should be smooth sailing from this point on… as long as you follow these additional, 10 simple tips!
Tip #1. Be creative in breaking the ice. Start with a compliment about a staff member or employee who was cheerful, helpful, or “alive.” Or start with a compliment about how the office looks–its décor or a display in the lobby. Perhaps the buyer you want to hook recently hired the employee you’re complimenting or perhaps the buyer had something to do with the selection of décor or display. If so, you’ve just started your presentation by indirectly complimenting him or her! Indirect compliments are a creative way to break the ice.
Tip #2. Change the buying environment. Evaluatethe environment where your sales presentation takes place. A desk with visitors’ chairs across from it is a bad environment and you need to change it. Move to a conference room or the cafeteria if you can, or take a walk outside. Get away from the typical direct confrontation posture with you on one side of the desk and the buyer on the other, and remove the two of you from possible interruptions at the same time.
Tip #3. Start the buyer thinking differently about you. What does your buyer like at coffee breaks? If you’ve taken the trouble to call the buyer’s assistant ahead of time to find out, you can bring in coffee and a bagel or a soda to get things started more socially and with less pressure and confrontation. A brief word of caution: If you like to talk with your hands, as I do, be very careful where you place your coffee cup or soda! (I speak from experience!) You can also present a simple and inexpensive gift. (I like the new Starbucks gift cards.) Everyone likes to get presents and bringing something to the meeting is likely to start your buyer thinking about you in a different light.
Tip #4. “Let me tell you a story.” What happens when you say these magic words? They take us back to our childhood and–just as we were trained in kindergarten–we all stop talking and listen. We all like to hear stories. So be ready with a cute, humorous story to tell. Also, look around the buyer’s office for something to talk about. Does he or she have children? They’re a natural focus for storytelling.
In my office, you’d see fishing pictures everywhere. It’s easy to know that I love to fish and will be happy to tell you about the 37-pound King Salmon I caught in Tillamook, Oregon, or the 40-pound catfish I caught in Texas. Again, a word of caution: If you ask me about fishing, I’m good for about 20 minutes of one-way conversation. If your meeting time will be 20 minutes, perhaps you’d better hold off with that question!
Tip #5. Pick your spot. Try to position yourself at right angles to your buyer or on the same side of the table or desk. Why? For one thing, it’s easier to gesture and point to sales literature from these locations. Also, sitting side by side establishes a helpful mindset–you are both heading in the same direction and working toward the same objective; you are not on opposite sides!
If you’re standing for your presentation, stay natural, but straight, with the weight on both feet. Don’t pace or walk around while you talk, but do pause, take a step, and gesture after finishing a point to add emphasis.
Tip #6. When you want to point, don’t use your finger. The best way to point to sales literature is with a pen, not a finger (which might be ink-stained or need a manicure). When you place a pen tip on the point where you want the buyer to focus, the buyer looks at it. How about walking around to the buyer’s side of the desk and then pointing to the item to emphasize your point? Try it… it works!
I also use my pen and highlighter to write on the sales literature that I’m leaving behind and to emphasize the key points that I want my buyer to remember. Then, after I’ve left the office, if the buyer picks it up, my handwritten notes and highlights continue to sell for me. Be cautions about clicking pens, though (or playing with jewelry or repeatedly touching your hair); this can become a total distraction and detracts from your presentation. (I’ve heard horror stories about buyers who stopped listening to presentations and started to count the number of times a salesperson played with rings, hair, or repeated a certain phrase.)
Tip #7. Ask a question, and another, and then another. It’simportant to ask questions partly because you want to make sure that your buyer is doing some of the talking. Otherwise, how do you know if he or she is listening, paying attention, and caring about what you’re presenting? Try asking questions to ascertain the buyer’s limits, reaction to your product, and degree of interest in buying it. When you see that the response is positive, start pressing for the close.
Tip #8. Listen up. Good salespeople almost always have trouble listening. It’s one of the hardest things for us to do because we all tend to be Type A personalities who have to tell the buyer everything about our products! But the best one-on-one presentations are interactive, with lots of give and take. You need to give the buyer plenty of opportunity to express likes and dislikes. Listen carefully and then rephrase the point the buyer is making as a question: “Did I understand you correctly when you said…?” The only way to make sure you understand the buyer is by closing your mouth and listening–really listening. (Because I have great difficulty in remembering to listen, I frequently hold my finger across my lips when the buyer is talking to remind me to “keep my mouth shut!”)
Tip #9. Expect curve balls. A good one-on-one presenter keeps the agenda flexible. If you’re probing and asking questions for confirmation, then you’ll probably start to find out what criteria are most important to the buyer. At this point, you may need to change your presentation so that it addresses the buyer’s needs, concerns, or objections. Don’t be so rigid in your pitch that you can’t roll with the punches. If you anticipate sharp curves in the road, you won’t be surprised when they happen.
Tip #10 Remember WIIFM. What is the buyer’s agenda? Keep that thought in your mind throughout your presentation and you’ll be successful. Keep looking for the issues that are important to your buyer–not to you. You must first satisfy the buyer’s needs in order to satisfy your own. This means that you have to select the best features of your product and express them as benefits that will be appealing to the buyer. Above all, you must answer the question every buyer always asks, although not necessarily out loud: “What’s in it for me?”–or WIIFM.
Although it’s a challenge for any salesperson–new or experienced–to practice all these tips at one time, they’re easy to understand and you can always tell when they’re starting to work. Your buyer smiles more, you see more positive head nods, more leaning forward, and more enthusiasm for what you’re presenting. Your buyer starts to participate, ask questions, and make plans for exactly how to use your product. Having made the real decision to buy about 20 minutes ago; the buyer has now watched your sales presentation and confirmed his or her initial decision. Start writing up the order and calculating your profit!
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. His third article in this series will, he reports, “help you polish your presentation so brightly that your buyer will need to put on sunglasses!”