Like all public speaking activities, many have an edgy feeling before a sales presentation. Various studies have proven that over three-quarters of the world population have difficulty with public speaking, and so it is not utterly awkward to feel nervousness prior to making any sales pitch.
The essential thing is your ability to ride those emotions and be able to deliver what should come across to everyone as a captivating story that highlights your value proposition in a manner which is consistent and appropriately addresses the needs and desires of your audience.
However, a presentation that is pedestrian in outlook and lacking in substance will fall flat and invariably create an adversarial reaction from your listeners. Entire companies will crumble if their sales men and women are ill-prepared and ineffective in engaging prospects. A further consequence of that would be a morbidly low sales presentation success rate – significantly diminishing your chances at acquiring key accounts and winning big business deals.
A confident and productive engagement is often the outcome of having deep and incisive knowledge of your audience and a presentation structure that adequately expatiates the prospects’ key pain points and offers cogent solutions.
Your audience will typically include people drawn from various units which either decide or influence the organisation’s choice of the vendor to go forward with. In her book ‘Speaking with Strategic Impact’, Kate Levan delineates four (4) key points of inquiry that will be relevant in your engagement with an audience: namely the rational bucket, emotional bucket, decision-making process and communication styles.
The rational bucket relates to specific information the organisation is required to know and how you address those directly; the emotional bucket refers to the nuanced but profound issues which could have a definitive impact on how members of your audience individually and collectively make decisions. The decision-making process is concerned with the structures and procedures involved in arriving at decisions, and the communication style has to do with their use of language in internal and external interactions.
While a lot of sales people would be inclined to focus their attention on the rational bucket, various scholarly works affirm that an overwhelming majority of decisions are 60%-70% based on emotional, political and cultural reasons.
It is important to adequately address your audience’s logical and specific matters of concern – but it is also critically relevant to reflect on the political, emotional and cultural worldviews of your key audience members.
This could be things you already know about them or what you find out from talking to third parties about them. In many cases when several vendors may be pitching for a business, decision-makers are often looking for a cultural fit and would much prefer to align with who make them feel most comfortable.
Again, your knowledge of the audience’s political dynamic guides who you give attention to during the pitch; determines how you make strategic eye-contact; and how you carefully court the tacit endorsement and affirmation of key and influential people in the audience. Conversely, any inappropriate and antagonistic political, cultural or emotional allusions could immediately generate disfavour and lead to an automatic rejection of your proposition.
Your knowledge of their communication styles helps you shape the language of your delivery; allows you to engage them in the right way; and to use expressions that reverberate deeply, strike vital cords and emphasise the right things.
The starting points of this knowledge include the prospects’ website, social media handles, press releases, speeches by key persons of relevant concern and any other publicly available communication. In all your delivery and presentation, you aim is to inspire the audience’s confidence in your ability to deliver on the solutions being sought; assuage any doubts regarding your knowledge of the problem, your competence and credibility; minimise their sense of risk; and ultimately have them consider you a trusted source of counsel on all their pertinent concerns.
Also keep in mind that verbose presentations can get mind-numbing for audiences, and so the most important point of distinction will be how you summarily demonstrate your stern command and deep knowledge on the subject matter.
Structure of a Presentation
Tell a Story
A good presentation is organised along the lines of a narrative that is based on your knowledge of the audience and what they desire to achieve. The storyline should therefore vary in tandem with the mood and mental states of your audience. A start-up, for example, would appreciate a storyline that affirms their aspirations and illustrates of how your solutions could propel their business journey. A struggling business would appreciate stories of business revival and reinvigoration. Your audience must also have an opportunity to learn about how efficacious the solutions you offer have been for other businesses. Telling a story allows a natural flow of the presentation and minimises the tendency of constantly looking over slides, presentation material or appearing like a sales person who has a list of information they want to hurriedly put out.
Keep it Short and Convey Clarity.
Give a clear and concise sense of what you know to be the expectations of your audience based on your preliminary interaction with them. It is best to actually list these expectations and ask your audience to either affirm or make any alterations to what you put out. This allows you to remain exactly within scope and not engage in endless rigmarole that delivers nothing in the end. Additionally, your presentation becomes tailored to the unique specifications of your audience while avoiding the monotony of rehashing a presentation that must have been delivered a dozen times to other audiences.
Cautiously Build Rapport
Rapport is best defined from your audience’s perspective. Your delivery should match the disposition and temperament of your audience. An analytical audience would most likely prefer a presentation that delivers facts and seeks to clarify their doubts, and is likely to be astounded by a gung-ho style presentation. Cautiously ask questions without crossing the line; create a conversation and aim to make a substantial part of the presentation about your audience. Avoid delivering a memorised speech and rather be calm and in your interaction, then seek to convey passion and an image of being deeply perceptible on the subject of your presentation.
Minimise Resistance and Close
Prospects always have cogent reasons why they should not buy the solutions you offer. It is important to anticipate what these reasons might be and address them comprehensively even before they come up. Prospects are likely to ask questions bordering on: Why should I change? Why now? Why you?
Offer a proposition that demonstrates the prospects’ loss should they decline to make a change; create a sense of urgency and illustrate what any delays might cost them; and show by example and track-record (if any) why you are the one to deliver what they need. Close by asking questions which elicit commitment responses and answers that affirm their need and preference for what you are offering. Again, be calm, factual and sincere in responding to questions or addressing any curve-balls that emerge.
Selling is an enduring life-skill with several facets of trying to bring value and offer veritable solutions to designated audiences, and your ability to present these solutions in the most compelling format will yield the most desirable outcomes.
The writer is a Marketing Strategist and lecturer
Email: [email protected]