Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Sales Presentation Is Like Fishing

Writen by Marlene Chism

You are invited to speak on the new product your company just launched. You deliver a killer presentation. You receive questions from your audience. You get a standing ovation. Then nothing happens. You didn't get a lead. You didn't get a referral.

When you speak at a professional or trade conference you have the opportunity to build brand awareness, expand the database, get a referral, attract another client, or close a sale. However these opportunities often vanish like vapor from a fog, and when the fog clears you walk away thinking you aren't a very good presenter after all. This is a false assumption and an unfair judgment about your own abilities.

If you aren't getting the results you hoped for it's not because you aren't a good presenter. You aren't getting the desired results because you haven't learned how to distinguish a hope from an intention.

You hope you will get interest. You hope to brand your company. You hope to build your database, attract a new client and close a sale. These are your hopes. Unconsciously you have another agenda, your secret intentions. You intend to impress the audience with your knowledge. You intend to get a standing ovation so you can feel warm and fuzzy and tell your friends how you "nailed the presentation." You intend to re-live your war stories about the difficult product launch, how you worked with no sleep and how you emerged the hero.

How do I know? I know because I've experienced it myself, and I've watched people just like you, therefore I know how to identify the red flags. Let me explain.

When you invited your audience to ask questions, (whether that audience is one or one thousand) you missed the buying signal and instead blathered on about "back stage" stuff. What is back-stage stuff you ask? Back stage talk is when you start speaking about what is behind the curtain instead of focusing on the performance.You have forgotten you have an audience and the conversation has reverted to your favorite topic—you.You talk about your dream, your company's history, your great website, your struggles to get the product launched, your process for delivering the product and everything else except solving the customer's problem.

Come to think of it, giving a good sales presentation is a lot like fishing.The problem happens when you become the fish instead of the fisherman. With a single question your prospect baits the hook, casts the line and you swallow the bait, hook, line and sinker. Without noticing you just got reeled in with your potential customer's question. You forgot that you are the fisherman, not the fish.

Don't feel bad. There is a way to become a better fisherman. Here are some steps so that you don't take the bait.

1. Get clear on the outcome you desire.
2. Transition, answer briefly then redirect the question.
3. Listen to uncover problems.
4. Step up to the next level.

Here's an example of how it works.

Step one: you become clear that you want to attract new customers. Now that you know your intention, you have to match your actions. This means you stay focused on solving a problem rather than sharing back-stage information and overwhelming to your customer. All your customer cares about is how he benefits from your product.

Step two: when you open for questions, you must recognize the bait. A customer's question is your opportunity to transition, briefly answer, then redirect the question back to her.For example, your customer asks, "So tell me how you came up with the idea for this product?" You recognize your initial tendency to want to give a dissertation and instead you use the redirect. You transition, "I'm so glad you asked, then you answer briefly, "We noticed customers having problems with…." then you redirect by asking, "what kinds of problems do you currently face?"

When you redirect, it means you have cast the line and it's your turn to listen and take notes. After your prospect has finished talking, your presentation at this point needs to be directed toward the next step in the sales process.That may mean an appointment, another presentation, a trial offer, a demonstration or signing the dotted line. Happy fishing.

Marlene Chism, M.A. is a professional speaker who works with individuals that want to go to the next level personally and professionally. She can be reached by e-mail at or through the web at

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