How to win business with a great presentation
Whatever you sell, you need to be able to make a persuasive case for your product or service. Often this is not just a matter of one simple meeting. An enquiry may set in train a whole series of communications: a telephone call and a letter sent with initial information perhaps starting the process. If this stimulates interest you find yourself at a meeting, then putting in a written quotation and then a message comes in inviting you to present your ideas to the potential customer’s whole board. If your heart drops at the thought of something formal – on your feet in front of an expectant group – then you are normal. Many people fear presenting. As the old saying has it: the human brain is a wonderful thing, it starts working on the day that you are born, and keeps right on – until the day you stand up to speak in public!
Presentations have been called the business equivalent of an open goal. They represent real opportunities. Of course there are skills involved, as with anything, but you can impress if you go about it the right way.
A well thought out and delivered presentation may be a vital link in the chain of events leading to a sale. It can impress. It can add something to the way in which you, and what you offer, are being judged. But make no mistake – this is fragile territory. People do not say “What excellent ideas, shame the presentation wasn’t better.” They say: “What a rotten presentation, I bet the ideas were no good either.” It may not seem fair, but it is life. Faced with making a presentation your only option is to make a good one. The question is: how?
The magic ingredient
So far as any magic formula is involved, the key can be stated in one word: preparation. You need to think about:
- what you are going to do
- setting clear objectives
- having a plan to follow
- how long you have (ask what they expect)
- what you will say first, second and third (a visible structure, which may need to be no more than a beginning, a middle and an end, is vital)
- how you will start. A good start impresses, getting their attention and making them want to hear what follows, and getting off to a good start will give you confidence.
The case you present must be logical and the logic must be apparent. It helps to signal what is coming: “first I am going to say something about timing, then installation and, of course, cost.” Make some notes, and link them to any visual aids you plan to use (and it is valuable to use some). Notes need not be elaborate – key words may be a sufficient reminder to you – but they must be clear, easy to follow and preferably allow some flexibility. You do not want to sound as if you are just reading something. You should sound as if there is, at least in part, an impromptu element. This moves what you do from being just a standard “pitch”, to being something tailored for the individual customer you are talking to – and that is one thing that impresses.
Putting it over
So, you are ready. Look the part. Stand up straight. Take a deep breath. And use your voice. Just speak naturally at a volume that is right for the person furthest from you. Remember to breathe, and do so where there should be a pause (the verbal equivalent of the comma and full stop). Speak just a touch slower than in conversation and exaggerate – just a little – where you need emphasis. Use appropriate gestures and do not be afraid to pause to reinforce a point. And try to create real variety of tone and avoid a flat monotone.
At this stage you must have the courage of your convictions. You should know it is the right length, and that it makes a good case – because preparation (and maybe rehearsal) has told you so.
Finally, always remember your overall intention. This focuses your thinking and rewards you when it goes well. It is the customer finally saying, “Yes”.
The key elements:
- prepare carefully
- have clear intentions and objectives
- organise your notes and visual aids
- get off to a good start
- go through a logical structure and sequence
- use your voice (and gestures)
- end on a high note
Patrick Forsyth is a consultant, trainer and writer. He is the author of many successful business books, and is about to publish his fourth eBook with Bookboon. Download his eBook “How to get a pay rise” right here.