Sales gift the gift of the gab

MAKING a presentation? In sales reality, you’re trying to persuade someone to buy from you. You may call it a sales presentation, but in my opinion, that’s the worst name for it because it sets the wrong thought process in your mind. You’re not presenting, you’re persuading. You’re uncovering needs. You’re trying to build value. You’re trying to reduce risk. You’re trying to differentiate yourself from your competitor. You’re trying to gain the prospect’s trust by being likeable and believable, while transferring confidence. That doesn’t sound like a presentation to me. It sounds more like a concerted effort that takes a ton of preparation combined with an extraordinary level of presentation skills. Presentation skills make up one-fifth of the sales process. The other four are selling skills, product knowledge, knowledge of the customer, and attitude. Most salespeople study presentation skills and positive attitude skills the least, when they should be studying them the most. So, why aren’t you studying presentation skills? If I said to everyone reading this column, "Put your hand in the air if you are a member of Toastmasters", not many hands would go up. (Yours included.) I recently read a book on ‘presentations’. (I’m not going to mention the name of the book or the author.) Although the book was expensive, the content was pathetic. The presentation process was from the author’s point of view – certainly not what’s necessary in the sales world. Tips offered in the book included: "It’s good to be nervous", "Don’t try to be perfect", "Know your subject", and "Practice, practice, practice". Yes, those lessons are in a book – and they’re silly. They have nothing to do with making a presentation. They have nothing to do with making a successful presentation. A dynamic presentation. A winning presentation. If you go into a sales presentation feeling nervous, in my book, that’s not ok. You go into a sales presentation exuding confidence. Nervous salespeople are unprepared. And when you’re unprepared, you’re more likely to lose a sale. When you’re making a presentation to a probable purchaser, "knowing your subject" is a given. The rule should be "know your audience" or you will die a thousand sales deaths. Knowing your own subject (AKA: your product) in today’s sales world is a given. What you need to know is how your customer uses, benefits from, and profits by owning your product. When an expert tells me to "Practice, practice, practice" – the first question I want answered is: "Practice what"? In the real world, the best way to build your presentation skills is to give presentations and record them – every day. After you record your presentation, play it back – immediately. If you want a dose of reality, I promise you that listening to your sales presentation will be the funniest, most pathetic thing you have ever heard. For most people, it’s the grimmest dose of reality. Recording your sales presentation will reveal every blemish, every error, and every weakness. Consider it a report card on your effectiveness. The average salesperson (not you, of course) is "presentation-weak". This is caused by lack of study, lack of preparation, and lack of recording. Here are a few more major clues that will make you "presentation-strong": 1. Develop a belief system that’s so strong, you assume every sale before you walk through the door. 2. Do your homework in advance regarding preparation and ideas. Being ready will breed your confidence. 3. Make friends with the person or people you are presenting to before you begin your formalised talk. If they aren’t smiling, if they aren’t friendly – leave. You’re not gonna make the sale anyway. Why waste your time? 4. Create points of value and areas of differentiation as you’re speaking. It’s like a prize fight. You have to win each round so you can win the contest. 4.5 Don’t "need" the sale. If it’s the end of the month, if it’s a big customer, and it’s a "must" sale, it’s likely you will telegraph this fact to your customer. Your sales presentation is the heart of your selling process. It’s where personal preparation meets selling opportunity: you are in front of someone who can say "yes" to you. With all of this at stake, wouldn’t you think that sales presentation skills would be one of the highest priorities in a salesperson’s life? Well, lucky for you, the average salesperson doesn’t feel that way. After work, the average salesperson is hunting around for the TV remote instead of hunting up new facts for tomorrow’s presentation. The average salesperson is hunting for a can of beer instead of hunting for a Toastmasters meeting. If you would like to rise above 95 per cent of all salespeople in the marketplace, begin now by studying presentation skills. Book a few speeches at your local Rotary or Kiwanis Club. Try to speak at your trade show instead of just exhibiting. And here’s the best part: If you want a report card, all you have to do is look at your sales numbers. As your presentation skills improve, your number of sales will go up proportionately. They may even go up disproportionately. Wouldn’t that be a nice present? Want more about presentation skills? I’ve got a few more tips. Go to – register if you’re a first-time user – and enter PRESENT in the GitBit box. Jeffrey Gitomer runs annual sales meetings, and conducts Internet training programs on selling and customer service at He can be reached by e-mail: © 2005 All Rights Reserved

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