October 6th, 2015

Make Your Sales Presentation a Tool, Not a Crutch


Improve Your Next Sales Call

Many people use slides in their client presentations but few use them effectively. Slides should be a tool to support your message — not a crutch to help you get through the talk. Anything you put up on the screen should be there to back up what you’re saying so that the dialogue continues and doesn’t go off track.

It’s important at the beginning of any sales presentation to put your remarks into context. Typically, your audience will want to know two things: 1) Who are you? and 2) Why are we here? So, you need to communicate these two points briefly, and then ask their permission to continue on the agenda that you’ve just laid out.

You also need to ask for input periodically, checking to make sure everyone’s questions and desired outcomes are being addressed. Even though you are the one making the presentation, no meeting should ever be a monologue. Whether you’re meeting with one person or a group, every interaction should be a dialogue.

To make sure it’s an effective dialogue, you have to know your audience. The conversation and sales presentation will differ depending on the level of people you’re meeting with because they care about different things. Front-line managers tend to focus on the day-to-day operations because that’s where they make their contribution. Senior executives take a broader perspective, considering how different functions can impact key areas like bottom-line margin expansion and top-line revenue growth.

The best way to make sure that sales presentations are effective is practice. I have a firm belief that anybody who is really good at something was probably bad at it at one time because that’s how you learn. The good thing is that there are alternatives to learning presentation skills while in front of clients. Training sessions can simulate sales presentations in a customized setting where salespeople can be coached in a safe environment without the risk of losing sales or clients.

These sessions become an accelerator of behavior change for those who might have little experience on the job or who want to refresh their skills. I often hear from my clients that listening for cues during a presentation is an important skill, and it’s one that younger or greener salespeople can easily miss. Often, it’s only upon learning that they have lost a deal that they realize that they missed an important cue about what the client really needed. This is a skill that also benefits from training and coaching through case studies, drills, and exercises that mirror specific selling scenarios.

I’ve always believed that sales and someone’s ability to sell is a two-part proposition. The first part is more of an art, coming from the person’s natural style, charisma, and ability to bond with people. The second part is discipline, taking the time for preparation, presentation, and practice.

For those who find that the art comes easily, it’s probably something that they were always good at. Maybe they were advised early on to go into sales because they seemed well-suited in temperament and personality. Even so, the only way to be effective and successful over time is to pair personality with the proven discipline of selling, learning the necessary skills in a building-block approach until the art and the discipline bond with your DNA. When that happens, presentations can be highly effective in establishing credibility and winning over audiences.

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About The Author: Anne Grason

Anne Grason has been in the field of learning and development for 17 years as a consultant, coach, facilitator, and business development executive with a strong focus on leadership development, sales, and communication skills. Anne’s approach to working with clients is to begin with a strategy and needs analysis, working within an account team to identify and implement solutions to achieve desired results.

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