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Sales calls come in as many shapes and sizes as there are products to sell. Some sales calls are just extended conversations, where both seller and buyer profit from the final result. For most salespeople, however, there are times when more formal sales presentations are required to close the deal.

If you’re wondering how to make your presentations more powerful and persuasive, you’ll want to take these five suggestions to heart:

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Before you make any presentation, complete a thorough needs analysis so you can determine the prospect’s hot buttons and address the prospect’s needs. Prepare notes on the most important things you’ll want to cover. (Don’t read directly from your notes, however-people get a much stronger message when it’s spoken from the heart instead of the page.) Do as much research as possible.

Peter Connolly, president and CEO of (a division of Tommy Hilfiger), says salespeople who show up unprepared have no chance of doing business with him: “Sometimes, people will come in with a presentation and tell me they have a great idea for my company. But when I ask if they’ve seen any of our new stores, they say no. And when I ask if they’ve seen our new ad campaign, they say no. If I were going to meet the head of marketing for a corporation, I’d certainly review their ad campaign. If they haven’t, I wouldn’t think much of their presentation.”

2. Follow the four Ts. Don’t launch into your solutions immediately. Start with a short introduction. Build rapport with the people in the room. Make sure everyone is comfortable, and that you know how much time you have. Then follow these four Ts of making presentations:

Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Let them know what to expect in the presentation, and why your solution makes sense. For instance, you might say, “I’m now going to take you through our new product line and demonstrate exactly how it will help you decrease production time.”

Tell them. Just go through your presentation following the outline you proposed.

Test them. Keep your prospects involved. Don’t just spit out information; ask questions that will let you know whether your presentation is hitting home and addressing their criteria. Ask “Is that important to you?” or “Do you see how this could help eliminate the service problem you had in the past?”

Tell them what you told them. Summarize your ideas and the most important benefits you covered in your presentation. Leave them with the knowledge that you’ve hit on the points that are most important to them.

3. Be yourself. Don’t worry about making your presentation perfect; instead, concentrate on making your content strong and powerful. Speak as though you were having an informal one-on-one conversation, no matter how many people you’re actually addressing. Once you’ve done your preparation and know the four Ts, you can relax and let your personality come through.

4. Present with passion and pizzazz. You don’t have to be a magician or an entertainer, but you do need enthusiasm and a positive attitude. Studies have shown that four factors are critical to business success: information, intelligence, skill and attitude. When these factors were ranked in importance, attitude alone overwhelmingly beat information, intelligence and skill combined.

If you lack enthusiasm for your presentation, it won’t matter how much you prepare or how many hot buttons you hit-you’ll lose your audience before you get anywhere near the close.

5. Remember that technology is just a tool. There’s a saying that goes, “If you can’t convince them, confuse them.” Sometimes salespeople get so wrapped up in fancy graphic displays and overloaded slides, they forget about relaying their core message. It’s fine to use graphics and handouts, but don’t overwhelm your audience with technologically perfect, but meaningless, information.

James Roosevelt credits his father, Franklin D. Roosevelt, for great presentation advice: “Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated.” Keep your presentation strong, concise and focused. Speak from the heart to get your message across. Then sit down.

Barry Farber consults with a variety of industries to help them grow and
expand their business.
He is the best-selling author of 11 books on sales, management and customer
service. His latest release “Diamond in the Rough” CD program is based on
his best selling book, radio and television show.
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