When my dad was in sales, he didn’t have to compete with a steady stream of “urgent” texts or emails for his prospect’s attention. He was rarely rushed along, asked to stick to the “script” or sandwiched in between competitors. My father had the luxury of building rapport and transitioning into his presentation organically. I don’t have to tell you that times have changed and so have buyers! So why are so many sellers still using the same old presentation techniques from the seventies, eighties and nineties?
If you want to connect with today’s busy prospects, stand out from your competition and be remembered when buying decisions are made, you need to start carrying some tools from the present in your “present”ation kit.
In today’s fast-paced world, you may have your prospect’s eyes and ears at the start of your presentation, but don’t be fooled – you have yet to win his mind! Like an actor at curtain’s rise, you must quickly gain your audience’s attention and give them a compelling reason to come along with you on your journey. This requires a whole different approach to your presentation, and your opening in particular, unless you’re willing to risk losing your audience. And as any good actor knows, once lost, it’s nearly impossible to win them back…
Here are 5 new tools you can put to use now to win the audition for your buyer’s mind:
- Ditch the corporate overview
Remember getting cornered by “that guy” at a networking event who went on and on about himself immediately after being introduced? Bad news: You may be “that guy” if you’re still opening with a corporate overview! Your prospect likely already knows – or has access to -much of what you think you need to tell them. Sure, there are key points you want to highlight for your audience, and there’s a place for that, but it is not in the first few minutes of your presentation. Sprinkle in relevant facts or accomplishments throughout your presentation. Place your overview at the end or have it available as a leave behind. Trust me, it won’t be missed.
- Start in the middle
Think about how we communicate today: Texts are 160 characters, Twitter, 140. Even commercials have been reduced from 30 seconds to 10. Are you taking this into account in your presentation? Today’s buyers are short on time and attention. They want you to get to the point…fast. Yet, like the rest of us, they will sit through a two hour movie. Why? Sure, it’s entertainment, but think about where movies begin. Do they start with a lot of backstory about how the characters met or where they grew up? No! They start with the car chase or the lovers meeting. Identify the most interesting part of your message and jump in. Trust that your audience is intelligent enough to connect the dots.
- Rehearse your opening
The opening is a great place to show your personality and build rapport. It is not, however, a great place to try out new material. What first comes out of your mouth should not be a surprise to both you and your audience. Yet salespeople often tell me “I like to wing it.” Unless you’re Robin Williams, I highly recommend leaving “winging” it to professional improvisers! There’s too much riding on those first few minutes to start down a path that may take you down a rabbit hole. Invest some time crafting a compelling opening, editing it down to an ideal length (45-90 seconds) and practicing it until it shines. Having a rehearsed opening in your back pocket will give you a powerful boost of confidence and set the tone for the rest of your presentation.
- Know your “One Thing”
Imagine your prospect is telling his manager about your presentation the next day. What is the one thing you want to be sure he gets across? Of course we all have many things we’d like our prospect to remember, but if you had to pick one, what would it be? In their book, Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath state, “if you attempt to say three things, you end up saying nothing.” Make it easy for your audience to recall what’s really important by summarizing your “one thing” in a simple power-bite, then put it up-front in the opening and call back to at the end. It will make your message, as the Heath brothers like to say, “sticky”.
- Tell a story, add a prop
In one of my workshops, a student began his presentation with a quick story about a “Kodak moment” he’d experienced. He then pulled a nickel out of his pocket and showed it to the audience. “This,” he said after a dramatic pause, “is what Kodak’s stock is worth now.” A simple prop that cost him – I’m guessing a nickel – and a story (which illustrated his “one thing”: the danger of resting on past successes) made a lasting impact on his audience. A well-framed, well-told story and the right prop, whether it’s slides, video or spare change, can give a creative punch to your presentation and re-ignite waning interest.
Step into the present with your presentation. Make the most of hard won time in front of busy prospects and leverage the power of a contemporary new tool set. Your daddy would be proud!