Business Articles - Sales

Know the Purpose of Your Sales Presentation

A question for you: What's the purpose of a sales presentation? Were you quick to say, 'to get the sale'? How about to earn money? To get the customer to do what you want?

No, no, no. The purpose of a presentation is to provide solutions for your customer for specific needs and problems uncovered during the sales call.

Well, you ask, isn't that just a long-winded way of saying 'to get the sale'? Only if you truly understand that you're there to meet the customer's need. You use the sales call to identify the need and, once that's done, you use a sales presentation to offer the products and services that are the right solution for that need.

As you get into the meat of your presentation, this is your chance to show what you have to offer and to explain why you and your company have exactly what your prospect has been looking for. While doing so, there are several important factors you must keep in mind.

1. Time and the 60% Rule. Have you ever listened to a presentation that started off great and then went on and on for so long that your mind began wandering? Your audience's attention span is no greater than yours. If you go on for too long, you'll lose any interest you gained with your warm-up and catchy opener. So keep it short and simple.

Find out in advance how much time your prospect has set aside for your meeting. Then, you should adjust your presentation to take no more than 60% of the allotted time. Your prospect's decisions to act typically occurs at the end of a meeting, so you want to allow enough time to resolve any remaining issues and reach an agreement. So if your prospect says, 'I've got one hour,' then you'd best be wrapping up the presentation in about 40 minutes.

2. Technical Jargon. Whether your audience is made up of CEOs or a group of grandmothers, too much technical jargon is a turn off. Don't use industry buzzwords without qualifiers or you risk making your audience feel stupid (or bored) and probably lose the sale. A certain amount of tech-speak is required to explain your products and services. This gives your audience confidence in your knowledge and abilities. Just be careful not to speak over prospects' heads.

3. Speaking Style. Listeners who have to struggle to follow along with what you are saying typically give up quickly and will just quit listening. Match your prospects' tempo and rhythm of speech, and go very slowly when making an important point. Speak in a nurturing and helpful tone.

4. Body language. Most people spend about 75% of their time communicating their knowledge, thoughts, and ideas to others. However, we fail to realize that much of our communication is non-verbal instead of oral or written. This includes facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, body posture, motions, and positioning within groups. It may also include our clothes or even our silence.

The way you hold yourself and your mannerisms can either reinforce or contradict your presentation. In general, hold eye contact with a single person for at least a full thought, phrase or sentence, and for Heaven?s sake, smile. If you're nervous, turn that energy into enthusiasm. Your audience will only become excited about what you're selling if you are!

5. Visual Aids. Research has shown that high-quality visuals can promote powerful influence in a presentation. They increase retention, reinforce your message, create a unique, lasting impression and reduce misunderstanding. But remember that your visual aids should be just that, aids, and not crutches. Do not overwhelm your audience with them.

6. Involvement. Interactive presentations keep prospects more involved and interested, so craft your presentation as an interactive experience instead of a stage show with you as the solo performer. Invite your prospect to participate in the entire process by asking questions, demonstrating the product and allowing them to hold and/or touch the product if possible. Let prospects experience the product with all their senses. This begins transference of ownership.

Throughout your presentation, you need to get reaction from your prospects in order to gauge their interest and 'ready to buy' level. 'Take their temperature' and make sure you are on track at about the halfway point. This is a trial close.

7. Cliches, weak phrases, overused expressions. When you depend on these crutches, you risk losing your prospects' interest quickly. Be careful not to dilute the message of your presentation with:

* Cliches like 'Nobody can beat our service' or 'We're the best' cause a mental challenge in the prospect. You must back statements up with facts.

* Pet phrases that are used as filler: 'You know,' 'To make a long story short,' 'What I'm saying is'

* Trick phrases like 'I'll be honest with you.' (The prospect wonders, 'Were you not being honest before?')

* Weak words that can decrease the significance of your presentation including 'Maybe,' 'I guess,' 'I assume.' (You're the expert. Be confident about your expertise.)

* Lazy language like 'uh-huh,' 'yeah,' and 'naah.'

* Power words like 'fantastic, terrific, superb, outstanding and spectacular' are fine if you limit them. If they're said every few minutes, their power and your credibility sinks rapidly.

In contracting, effective sales presentations are the key to your livelihood. Understanding their importance and learning how to deliver them effectively are essential steps to your long-term success. To draw a clear distinction between you and your competition, deliver a comprehensive, yet brief, sales presentation that builds confidence and trust in you, your company and your recommendations.

By Adams Hudson

Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a creative marketing firm for contractors. Readers can get a free marketing newsletter by faxing their letterhead with the request to 334-262-1115. Call 1-800-489-9099 or check out for other free marketing articles and reports, including a free 16-page booklet 'How to Double Your HVAC Sales in 90 Days.'

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