Can you perform on the spot, under pressure? Your big chance to sell a major account may come when you’re not expecting it. I learned this from personal experience: the director of quality and training for a large organization was driving me back from lunch. Once we pulled into the parking lot, he said, “The Vice President of Sales is here and I want you to meet him.” I took a deep breath and headed for the restroom. I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any spinach stuck between my teeth.
I wasn’t exactly prepared—and my heart began to race. My mind drifted to a presentation I had recently attended. During the Q&A, the presenter stuttered and stammered. I knew that I didn’t want to come across like that, uncertain and unfocused. So I took a deep breath and practiced some tried-and-true presentation strategies:
- Set Expectations Up Front. Ask how long you’ll have to present and what the executive and audience would like to take away. Politely ask that all electronic devices be turned off before you begin.
- Focus Your Message. Choose two or three key points that show your value proposition based on what the executive wants to hear and how long you have to present. Weave these points throughout your presentation for reinforcement.
- Keep It Real. Your credibility will increase if you are the same person in front of an audience as you are in a small group or one-on-one. Executives don't want to listen to a speaker who “pretends” to be somebody else. If you don’t know the answer to a particular question, be honest and say that you will find out and get back to the person as soon as possible.
- It's About Them. Skip the history of your company and why you are better than your competition. Since you are presenting to the executive, he has already accepted you in some way. Promote your value by demonstrating that you and your services provide the solutions to the organization’s problems.
- Anticipate Questions. Have a backup plan. If your organization was portrayed negatively in the news, address that issue immediately. This allows the executive to move on from that topic and concentrate on your presentation. In addition, always carry a “contingency file” with favorable articles, testimonials and other material. It shows the executive and the audience that you have anticipated their concerns.
- Clear the Way. Make sure there are no barriers between you and your audience. Remove the podium, chairs and other clutter that could block communication. You want the executive to be focused on you. Move closer to the audience.
- Don’t Forget to Smile. Smiling naturally draws your audience closer to you and to your position. It conveys warmth and understanding. Some presenters are so intent on getting their message across that they frown or appear expressionless.
- End with Action. Before the executive or the audience leaves, make sure that you ask a key question, “Did I cover everything?” Address any additional concerns immediately. Ask about the next steps and when they will be covered, then get out your calendar and enter the date.
How did my impromptu meeting with the VP of Sales go? After our meeting I anticipated good news, but he threw me a curve ball. He asked, “Why should we hire you instead of the competition?” I took a deep breath, paused and replied, “Because I understand your challenges, bring relevancy from other industries and can deliver measurable value.” A smile of recognition spread across his face. He scheduled a meeting with his purchasing department the following week.
If you practice these simple techniques, I have no doubt that your presentations will be more meaningful, you’ll be invited back and you’ll make more sales.