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Tennessean Column- Sunday, March 8th

Posted on: March 09

Author: Tom Black
Tennessean Column- Sunday, March 8th

Secret to sales success? A killer presentation

Success in sales does not come from playing the good hands well. That is easy. It comes from playing the bad hands well. So how do you play the bad hands well? It comes down to practice and preparation. This week, let’s focus on giving “Killer Presentations.”

A Harvard study found that sales scripts (canned presentations) started in 1863. We have a long history of canned, planned sales presentations. They started even earlier in England. The most important element of a killer presentation is that it is prepared and practiced.

I can hear some of your objections already. “I don’t want to sound canned.” “I want to be flexible.” “Every situation is different.” And, “I like to wing it.” Sometimes I wonder if these aren’t just cop outs for not doing the work. Making these excuses is a lot easier than doing the work of a professional, which is preparation and practice.

Most salespeople would agree that it is better to meet a prospect in person than send a proposal or PowerPoint. If that is true, then it admits the fact that our presence and words have value.

The next logical conclusion is that we want to use the best words we can. Let’s call this the “Best Presentation Possible.” So how do we give the “Best Presentation Possible”? History tells us that a well-prepared, memorized approach is best. Best is an interesting word: It means, by definition, one and only one.

It is hard to believe that “best” can be accomplished by winging it. No other profession allows its professionals to wing it. Why would salespeople be different? Sometimes salespeople have to wing it, but even that is easier if we are well-prepared and well-practiced and it will not sound canned if it is really learned well.

Here are some advantages of a canned presentation:

1. A “canned” presentation allows you to be thorough. You never leave anything out. Every salesperson has left a meeting and said, “I forgot to tell the prospect this or that”. Leaving something out of a presentation happens less frequently when your presentation is practiced. The order of presenting the facts is guaranteed as well. There is a best way to present your case and that is what you are striving for every time.

2.It allows you to focus on what your prospect is thinking, doing and saying. You cannot focus on a prospect’s needs if you are worrying about what you are going to say next. For example, studies tell us that 60 percent of communication is body language. How can a salesperson watch their prospect’s body language when they are trying to figure out what to talk about next?

3. A third advantage is efficiency. I have seen lots of salespeople that let little non-relevant information creep into their presentation. Those non-relevant comments and information distract the prospect. Not only that, but in sales “Everything you say can and will be used against you.” An efficient, thorough presentation with no extraneous information is essential for peak performance. Speaking of efficiency, we have all been the prospect when a salesperson repeats himself. A practiced, planned presentation eliminates that. Also, we all have sat through sales presentations saying to ourselves, “get to the point” or “you have already said that.” It is hard enough to hold a prospect’s attention without torpedoing our own boat. Unplanned presentations can go on forever, leave important points out and in general waste a prospect’s time.

4. Finally, you cannot gauge your results effectively if you are giving a different initial presentation each time. A great salesperson can have bad days, bad weeks or even longer slumps, but using a planned presentation can help minimize the effects of these bad times. You can gauge your performance if it is basically the same every time. You cannot if your performance is not consistent.

It is simple: Pay the price and memorize your initial presentation to a prospect.


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