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Unforgettable Sales Presentations

By Mike Wicks | Apr 14, 2011

A sales presentation can be anything from a one-on-one pitch to a full-blown affair with some form of visual presentation, delivered to a board of directors. However, the goal is always the same — to get the sale.

Present to just one person, and you have greater control over the situation and a good chance of making the sale there and then. On the other hand, with a lot of decision-makers in the room, chances are there will be a discussion about the veracity of the presentation and the benefits of the offering once you leave the room.

It is also likely that competitors will have had an opportunity to make a presentation and build a case for their product or service. So, how do we ensure we stand out from the crowd? Well, there are many ways to answer that question, but the short answer is that our presentation needs to be more memorable than those of our competitors. Let’s look at five key ways to deliver an unforgettable sales presentation.

› Understand what it is they want to hear. Too many salespeople focus on bragging; they talk on and on about how great their product or service is and often denigrate the competition. They focus on all the bells and whistles they can offer with total disregard to what the prospect might actually want and need. Sound familiar? All the sales courses tell us to understand the needs of the customer, but at the formal sales presentation, we seem to forget the lesson completely. So, do some research and find out what the company or organization you are presenting to is hoping to achieve by hiring you, or purchasing your product, and then tailor your presentation specifically to that need.

› Capture their attention. A few years ago, I had to present to the board of directors of a non-profit organization and I was scheduled second last in a day of presentations. It occurred to me that by the time they heard my shtick, an hour or so after lunch, even the most enthusiastic in my audience would be dozing off. Recognizing this challenge, and realizing that they were not Fortune 500 executives, I decided to take a risk. Instead of a highly corporate theme to my PowerPoint presentation, I chose several incredibly beautiful images and opened by saying, “I realize that you must have had a very long day, so I thought we’d open with a few tranquil but inspiring images.” I let them just play for 30 seconds. Every face in front of me was now watching the screen and paying attention. I then started my presentation.

› Speak with passion and inspire belief. You don’t necessarily need to be a good speaker to walk away with the order, but you do need to inspire belief. Most people who are nervous about public speaking over-prepare. They plan their presentation to the nth degree, even to the point of putting every word they want to say onto PowerPoint slides, which they then proceed to read to their audience. By all means put the key points, briefly, into PowerPoint, but only use them to keep you on track. If you know what you are selling, the rest of the words will just come to you. After all, you should be passionate about what you are selling. If you are not, then you have bigger problems than making a presentation.

› Prepare a memorable ending. On the occasion I used the inspiring images to capture my weary audience, I knew that I had to not only win them with a powerful opening but also leave them with something big. In this case, I went to the organization’s website and studied their mandate and then read their mission statement.

It occurred to me that their mission statement didn’t really capture what it was they were trying to achieve, so I wrote a new one for them. I didn’t present it as an alternative; I just made it the last slide of my presentation and stopped talking — no ending, no thank-you for listening, just “I think this last statement encompasses what your organization is all about and I believe my company can help you achieve your goals.” You could have heard a pin drop as everyone read, and re-read the statement. The silence extended for several moments until one of the board said. “Wow, you really understand us.” Bingo! The connection had been made and they were now more awake than ever.

› Leave stuff behind. However good your presentation, after a day of listening to people talking, there’s confusion about who said what. This is where you need to remain in the room well after you’re driving home. Leave behind a professionally produced sales presentation package. It should contain a photograph of you and any co-presenters (you want them to put names to faces), a copy of the presentation in colour, and any other supporting or technical information. Oh, and don’t forget your business card. Remember, in any group there will be people who look at the big picture, those who go with their gut, and those analytical types who want to dissect every last statement and fact.

These five key elements will make your presentation unforgettable, but I can hear some of you asking, isn’t PowerPoint a little old now and doesn’t everyone use it? And do I really have to use it? The answer to the last question is no. You can speak and make your points without visual aids, but it is a little more difficult to keep your audience focused. Everyone drifts off now and again when people are talking, so a visual guide to the progress of a presentation is useful. Plus, some of us are visual learners and having the written word helps us to absorb the message.

Fairly recently, a new presentation tool has come on the scene, and it is well worth checking out. It is a “zooming presentation editor.” Instead of page after page of bullet points and images with PowerPoint, imagine one infinite page you can travel around and zoom in and out of to visit notes, bullet points, photographs, video clips, or just about anything else you care to add. Sound interesting? Let me introduce you to Prezi. It is huge fun and you can try out the basic version for free at www.prezi.com. Why be confined to linear presentations when this new software gives you the opportunity to impress your audience with not only your state-of-the-art technology but also your imagination and creativity?

Whether you plan to stand and deliver your message without the use of visuals, or expand your horizons with Prezi, remember: People buy from people they believe in, so keep your presentation true — true to the product, true to the prospect, and, above all, true to you.

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