Getting People To Listen

I heard a quote the other day that “Selling should be a transfer of enthusiasm”. And as sales people, it’s our job to talk about our company or product to our customers (whether they be end-users, channel partners or alliance partners) in a way that transfers our enthusiasm.

So why is that so many product presentations fail to hit the mark? Why do so many corporate messages fall on deaf ears? This article looks at how to make a sales presentation compelling, and what you can do to keep your listener engaged long enough to “get it”.

One theme

Whether the “presentation” happens to be in a formal setting in front of a large audience, or over a coffee, one of the main reasons that presentations fail, is that the presenter does not have a clear picture of why they are presenting. Ask most people (who are just about to deliver an important presentation in a high-stakes situation) what they hope to achieve, and they will almost always say “I just want to get through it”! What does that say about the speaker’s enthusiasm if the best that they are hoping for is that their listeners don’t leave half way through?

An effective sales presentation should be about influencing what you want your listeners to be feeling, thinking or doing after your presentation. It means having a clear objective for the outcome. Do you want them to buy your product, or switch from a competitor, or invest in technical certification, or make you a preferred supplier, or stock up on inventory, or run a test pilot, or, or, or, …

If you aren’t crystal clear on what you want to achieve, then your message will be inconsistent, and you may surprised if your listener has their own agenda, which is contrary to what you wanted. Make sure everything in your presentation guides your audience towards your objective.

Strong opening

Ever been rung up by a telemarketer, and spent the first half of the conversation wondering “who is this person, and what do they want?” Or sat through a presentation, and thought “why am I here?” That’s often a symptom of a sales message without a context. Context is about answering the big questions in your listener’s mind:

  • Who is the person speaking to me and what’s their credentials?
  • Why am I listening to this?
  • What is the outcome of this conversation?
  • How do we achieve the objective?

Making sure that you cover these points in your opening statements will help your listener understand what you want them to do, and get their buy-in.

You might even want to try using an anecdote/quotation, or a rhetorical question about current issue to capture their attention. The more relevant your opening is to your client’s hot buttons, the more chance you can establish rapport, and get their undivided attention.

Good examples

A strong message without specifics is an empty message. Examples help your listener see exactly how a feature can benefit them, and help provide proof and credibility.

Don’t just say “it will save you money”, or “it will increase your productivity”. How does it save money? Will it save money in the long-term, or the short-term? Will it lower the capital expenditure, or the operating expenses? Can you give an example of another client who has experienced a similar benefit?

Too often, we use examples in the form of case studies, research, sales results, or white papers. But the most powerful examples often come from personal experience. A relevant anecdote, delivered with integrity and conviction, will often make more of an impact than most case studies or white papers.

Logical flow

Why is it we can watch a movie for hours, yet we start twitching after minutes in a presentation? The difference is that one tells an engaging and flowing story, whereas the other is often a series of disjointed ideas or concepts. And when these ideas don’t flow in a continuous manner, the momentum is broken, and our brain drifts off.

Making sure that each point on your agenda flow naturally into the next will help your listeners feel like they’re on a journey. Connecting each point to the next will also help them see the bigger picture. So, focus on making smooth transitions from one section to the next, and make sure that each section ties into the One Theme.

Conversational language

It always amazes me that people who are engaging, articulate and entertaining suddenly adopt an entirely different personality when they’re presenting. The eyes glaze over, the voice becomes monotone, and their speech pattern becomes disjointed. They stand up in front of a group, and go into “Presentation Mode”.

Don’t think that every time you stand up to say something, you are making a speech. Just because you are presenting to a group, don’t feel you have to talk to “the group”. If instead, you think of them as many individuals, and you are talking to each one them individually (albeit for only 5-10 seconds at a time) you will find it much easier to connect with your audience, and speak more in your natural style. And that is when we are at our best … when we are ourselves, speaking in a natural conversational style.

Strong finish

So many great presentations have been ruined by a poor finish. The speaker finishes with words to the effect of “well, that’s it”, receives his applause, and walks off. But if these are your last words, surely you want to leave your listener with something memorable.

Your finish should be a summary of your presentation. You don’t want to introduce any new concepts at this stage – this is simply a time to highlight the key points that have been discussed, and restate your key theme.

Remember that the purpose of your presentation is to impact your listener in some way. It may be to change the way they think, or feel, or behave regarding your product, service, company, or something less tangible. In any case, you’ve delivered your message, summarised the key points, and restated your key theme. Now help them move forward, and ask them to do what you want them to do. After all, if your message is a valuable one, they will want to take the next