Turbocharge Your Sales Presentation – Open With a Grabber and Close With a Win

According to scientific research, an audience gives a presenter between 15 seconds to 2 minutes before deciding whether or not it is worth paying attention. If that’s true–and we have no reason to believe it is not–we must wonder why so many presenters waste their most important minutes looking and sounding like everyone else.

We’ve all heard the standard lacklustre opening that goes something like, “Thank you for inviting me. My name is fill-in-the-blank and I am here to represent fill-in-the-blank.” Then follows a lot of boring and inconsequential background trivia. Indeed, it is a shocking reality that most presenters willingly and foolishly fritter away their golden moments. Perhaps they fear looking different. Maybe attracting attention raises an alarm. Then too, it could simply be a lack of imagination and smarts.

Whatever the reason, if you want to differentiate yourself from the competition–and rise above them–don’t you dare do it. First grab your audience. Then, when they are paying rapt attention, you can tell them who you are.

Imagine you sell privacy software. You could open with a story about a deep sea photographer who survived his last dive because he was saved by a shark cage. Then you might say something like: and that’s what we do for you. Our software is like a safety cage that protects you from predators. Or imagine you are an investment firm hoping to convince an audience to invest with you. Your opening could be a newspaper report about a farmer who won the biggest pumpkin contest at the state fair because he knew precisely what it takes to make pumpkins grow big. “And that’s what we do for you,” you would say. “We know exactly what it takes to protect your investment and grow it bigger than anyone else.”

Of course, you don’t have to open with a story. You could open by teaching your audience a simple musical round–and conducting them. Then you could say, “That’s what we do when we consult with you. We make things work in harmony.”

Clearly, the number of ways to begin is limited only by your imagination. The key to a high-impact opening is to conclude it with a big point that leads smoothly to your Big Message. Your Big Message, of course, is the most important thing you want your audience to remember about you. It is that strong statement that conveys your brand promise to the world.

No matter how you choose to open, do not give your opener any preamble. Do not start by saying, “Before I begin I want to tell you a story,” or anything remotely similar. Be bold. Be confident. Simply stand up and plunge in. Once you have completed your opening and stated your message, then you may do the “Hello. My name is…” routine. And not before.

A great opening should take no more than three or four minutes. And please be fearless. Any and every audience is delighted by a well conceived, charming or entertaining opening–no matter how stuffy or conservative you may think they are.

So, here are 21 ways to grab your audience right at the opening.

  1. tell a story
  2. show an interesting quote from an interesting person
  3. read a news report
  4. post a startling statistic
  5. play a game
  6. do a magic trick
  7. show a video clip
  8. conduct a group musical introduction
  9. do card trick
  10. display a stunning visual
  11. use a toy
  12. announce a little known fact
  13. demonstrate a mind-reading trick
  14. sing a song
  15. use a puzzle
  16. take photos and display them
  17. build something
  18. recite a poem
  19. assemble a pie
  20. play an instrument
  21. talk about the weather

You’ll notice I do not suggest opening with a joke. Very few people tell jokes well and they are usually called comedians. Besides, most jokes are sure to offend someone–so it’s best not to tell jokes.

When you open with a grabber, your audience pays attention. Keep them interested with good organization, engaging slides and appropriate stories. (See my article: How to Organize a PowerPoint Sales Presentation – 7 Easy Steps For a Perfect Pitch.) Then close by circling back to your opening point and restating your Big Message.

Chances are good you’ll get a standing ovation. Chances are even better you’ll win the sale.

10 Tips for Successful Presentations

Presentations. Love them or hate them, at some point we’ll all have to do them. So here are our top 10 tips for successful presentations.

1. Your audience may have preconceptions so do your best to manage their concerns. You do this by reassurance and empathy with the audience and demonstrating your understanding.

2. Put key points at the start and end of each section. This is what we’re most likely to remember about your presentation.

3. Introduce each concept as if it’s an elevator pitch; 30 seconds to summarise will be enough to establish interest and set expectations.

4. Use personal anecdotes and humour but don’t tell jokes! The punchline could just fall flat…

5. Remember to ensure outcomes are met, and recap on them.

6. Get feedback from the audience by asking questions. Interactivity is great in presentations and your delegates will leave far more satisfied than if they are just “talked at.”

7. Focus on your attendees; phrase points from their perspective, use their language wherever possible.

8. Prepare, prepare, prepare. But prepare to be flexible; questions will inevitably arise and you need to be confident enough to answer them.

9. If it goes wrong in any way; take it in your stride. What’s the worst that can happen? If your technology fails you, then you know your subject and can continue without it can’t you?

10. Have fun! If you have fun, your audience will too.

It seems to be something of a misconception that we must present with PowerPoint, give out handouts and follow a tried and tested formula. I have trained many courses over the years and attendees have expressed surprise that I have not used PowerPoint slides very much in the courses. PowerPoint is a fantastic tool for presentations, but only if the presenter is good too. Without a speaker who knows their stuff, we’re just left with a bunch of slides that may or may not mean something to us.

My favourite presentations are the ones that are interactive, where the presenter works the room and not just the laser pointer.

Ask loads of questions of your audience when you present, make them feel part of the proceedings and let them contribute. It’s such a nice feeling as an audience member to be a participant and not just a spectator.

If you are a nervous presenter, getting interactive with your audience will settle your nerves, and also means you’re not doing everything. This gives you time to breathe and think about what’s coming next.

Be yourself, enjoy, don’t read from your slides.

Negotiating – Why Am I So Afraid?

Picture the scene: You have a spring in your step as you follow the secretary into the conference room for your 9:00 meeting. You know this is going to be a perfect way to end the week. Today you will walk out with a signed contract worth millions. You are confident that after a few minutes of conversation you will have them eating out of your hands and that they will not only sign the contract, but be grateful that your company is willing to provide them with such an amazing service. Your eyes scan the conference room as you enter. You notice the freshly polished wood of the conference table. You see that the luxurious leather chairs are occupied by serious, well dressed and obviously uptight executives. Your attention is drawn to the huge clock on the wall which says it is 9:10. You are painfully aware that you are both late and under dressed. You thought everyone observed casual Friday. Your palms are sweaty, your ears are ringing and your heart is racing. Then, you wake up.

Do you have an unrealistic fear of negotiating? Most of you don’t negotiate with customers face-to-face and if you do, it’s rarely in a situation like I just described. A customer is calling you. You don’t know when the call will come or exactly what the customer wants to negotiate. You don’t know if the customer will be nice and understanding or if he will sound angry and make unreasonable demands. You need to be prepared for the unknown.

Recently, a customer asked a CSR why she was willing to lower his rate only after he said a competitor gave a better price for service. The response was, “I’m still new at learning how to um to um have people stay with us when people call and cancel. I’m still learning how to keep people with us. And I’m not exactly sure, from my higher ups, how to keep my people. So, I would just like to tell them I’d like to drop your payment so I can keep you with us.” Her statement was very telling. Are you expecting your team to negotiate without providing them a strategy and training? There is something worse than not negotiating at all. It is expecting your team to negotiate without any guidance. Bad deals cut into your profitability.

What you can do right now

• Determine what types of customer calls will involve negotiating for both existing and prospective customers.

• Sit down with your customer service and sales representatives and have them write down what they are afraid a customer will ask.

• Educate them on your bottom line. Your team should understand what is profitable and what is not.

• Give clear guidelines on what the first response should be to someone who is price shopping or wanting to cancel over price. Provide not just the concept, but the right wording to use which helps prevent misinterpretation of your direction.

• Empower your team to negotiate. That means they need to know what they can offer in the form of a free service, discounted rate or incentive.

• They need to know when it is okay to walk away from the negotiation. Be clear on the protocol to escalate to a manager or bring the sales representative into the negotiation.

• Role-play using the questions they fear customers will ask along with specific responses.

Good negotiation isn’t about being tricky, it is all about preparation.