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Are you Drowning Your Prospects?

Terri Sjodin

In today’s competitive marketplace, everybody sells something—whether it’s a product, a service, a philosophy, an idea or, most importantly, themselves. Your success often depends upon your ability to deliver a polished and persuasive presentation.

Consider all of the different types of presentations a business professional might deliver: promoting an idea at an offi ce meeting, delivering a three-minute elevator speech at a networking event, giving a sales presentation to a prospect or selling oneself in a job interview. All require the ability to deliver a solid professional performance! Salespeople spend a signifi cant amount of their time verbally communicating, and yet many suffer from common shortcomings in their sales presentations that adversely affect their results.

One of the most common mistakes is the presentation that is far more informative than persuasive. Of course, every solid presentation requires a certain amount of data and support, but many professionals spend too much time informing and not enough time persuading. It’s easy to deliver a presentation that’s more informative than persuasive. Why? A prospect typically won’t say no when you’re only disseminating information. The problem is they don’t typically say yes either!

Data Dump Syndrome

Here’s a slightly painful and honest story: A young woman I recently worked with reluctantly confessed to me she suffered from the overly informative data dump syndrome. She was too easily intimidated to be persuasive, she didn’t know how to pull out the best selling points, and felt more comfortable in the information zone—until she realized she had been spending a great deal of time sharing and consulting with her prospects without completing any transactions.

She believed that if she provided her prospect with more information than her competitor had, the prospect might like her more or at least feel obligated to buy from her because she had invested more time in the process.

Eventually, she realized that several of her prospects were using the information and education she was providing to negotiate deals with competitors. Yikes! And, while she was educating her prospects, she wasn’t making any money! FACT: Prospects don’t typically feel guilty—though I’m sure they appreciate the education. Of course the best presentations are a combination of both solid persuasive arguments and quality information. If you are like most sales professionals, you don’t get paid for disseminating information; you only get paid for completed transactions! Remember, it’s a teacher’s job to be informative, while a salesperson must be persuasive.

This story has a happy ending. Our fine young sales professional had an “aha” moment, made a few adjustments to her presentation, and now she is a consistent top producer within her organization. For your consideration, if you have been meeting with a substantial number of prospects, but haven’t been completing a signifi cant number of transactions, maybe the big question you need to ask yourself is, “Has my presentation become far more informative than persuasive?”

Making the Persuasive Case

Prepare like a debater or an attorney. Debaters and attorneys win cases based on persuasive arguments and supporting evidence. Focus on your most compelling arguments with each client or prospect. Many salespeople try to give too much information and hope prospects will figure out the intended persuasive argument on their own—or worse, they assume that with all this information, of course the prospect will buy! It is your responsibility to craft a clear, creative, engaging message.

Once you have identified what your prospect’s needs are, do you also deliver a presentation that creates a true need for your product or service that your prospect may not even be aware of? When on a job interview or when seeking a promotion, can you build a case for how you can truly contribute to the organization? If you are in management and you are trying to hire the most desirable candidates, do you build a strong presentation for why a talented individual would want to become part of your team?

Don’t just deliver a standard analysis and provide a list of features and benefi ts. (Side note: Remember, a feature is what something is. A benefi t is what that something does.) Ask yourself, “Now that I have done my homework, what are my top 10 most persuasive arguments as I walk into this opportunity?”

Think like an attorney and build your case as to why a client should work with you or your company and why she or he should do it now. Think proactive versus reactive. Design a presentation that anticipates common objections and overcomes them within the body of the presentation before they become reasons not to buy. Don’t just wing it; think through your strategy and build a compelling case, show your creativity and then deliver it with savvy in your own authentic voice! Nice! Now we are getting there!

Don’t Forget to Close

It’s hard to believe, but often salespeople don’t close at the end of their presentations. After almost 18 years of listening to and critiquing and coaching professionals on their presentations, it is amazing to see how many people conclude at the end of their talk but do not close. The close is the action you want your prospect to take as a result of your message. A conclusion is a wrap-up of what you have just said. The reason many people don’t close is their fear of hearing the word no. Many believe without a close, there is no chance for rejection. Delivering a persuasive presentation requires the ability to close. What would you do if your attorney didn’t present closing arguments to the jury at the end of a trial? Remember to ask for the job, the order, the next appointment or the commitment; that is what you are there for.

Evaluate Your Presentation

The next time you meet with a prospect to deliver your sales presentation, you might consider bringing along a tape recorder. A small micro-cassette recorder in your pocket can help you identify the areas where you need improvement. (Remember to disclose to your listener that you are taping, and turn it off after your talk.) Then, later, when you’re relaxed and ready to hear the playback with an unbiased ear, you can begin your self-analysis. Once you learn to identify common mistakes associated with overly informative presentations, you can correct them. Then you will be well on your way to generating incredibly positive outcomes from all of your presentation opportunities!

Post date: 
Jun 30, 2008

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