You can check my math, but according to Toastmasters, listeners only retain 10% of what they’ve heard one week later. This percentage increases to 67% when visual aids are added to the equation. This is a strong message to sellers that if you want a prospect to remember your sales presentation, demo or conversation, adding a visual or sensory component can be extremely valuable in increasing your prospect’s retention of your message.
Here are some quick tips on how you can use props effectively during sales presentations:
A Prop should support your message: Think of Wilson, the soccer ball in the movie Castaway. The movie wasn’t about Wilson, but it furthered the story. Similarly, your presentation should not be about the prop, but the prop should help add to the story.
Choose a prop that’s relevant to your message. The first thing sellers think of when I say visual support is PowerPoint. Yes, it counts, but when everyone’s using something (as they are) the effect is significantly watered down. I encourage you to think outside of the box. Whiteboards, flipcharts, samples, video, sound bites, can all be effective in creating message “stickiness.” Just make sure it’s relevant. If a clown on a pogo stick crossed the stage during your sales presentation, your audience might be equally surprised, but if you can’t make a connection to your sales message, they’ll just be confused.
Consider your audience. Are they sophisticated, C-suite types accustomed to professionally produced multimedia presentations, or are they seat-of-the-pants buyers who respond best to something more off-the-cuff and casual?
Know when to reveal your prop. Leaving a prop exposed until you’re ready to introduce it might be distracting. Likewise, frantically searching in your bag for a prop can take your audience out of the moment. Try keeping your prop covered and off to the side until ready to present it to add an element of intrigue and expectancy.
Use dramatic pauses. A well-planned moment of silence before unveiling a prop can build anticipation and add drama, just as pausing afterwards to let the audience take it in and react can add impact.
Handle your prop with care. If treated with proper reverence on stage, a plastic crown can seem made of gold. Conversely, a worn-looking sample can reduce the impact and value of your prop (and by association, your product) in your audience’s mind. Even if your prop has traveled from Boise to Boston, treat it with awe and respect and your prospect will endow it with greater value as well.
Rehearse with your prop. Adding a prop requires adjustments in the timing and delivery of your presentation, so don’t wing it. Rehearse with your prop to avoid embarrassing prop malfunctions.
Not only do props improve audience retention, they can help emphasize key points and keep an audience engaged. The appropriate prop can help any sales professional create a memorable audience experience and move a presentation from good to “sold!”